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The spy from the sky

 

Gösta Caroli is a name probably no-one in Denton will know but he is, in fact, someone of some importance in his field who had a brief wartime encounter with the village of Denton.

 

Caroli (pictured below) was a Swede, born in 1902, who had travelled widely at a young age as a journalist  during which time he acquired good linguistic skills.

 

 In 1937 he got a job in Hamburg on the Hamburger Tageblatt, a Nazi newspaper.  In 1938 he was recruited by the Abwehr (the German Intelligence Organisation) because he was a fanatical Nazi sympathiser. He was sent to England

to work as an undercover journalist in the Birmingham area and was charged with feeding back information on industrial sites in that area.

 

War then broke out and eventually he managed to leave England and returned to Hamburg. He was then given full training to be an undercover agent’  including learning Morse Code, aircraft recognition and radio operation etc.

 

Once training was complete he, and another Danish trainee, were sent to Brussels for a final briefing and to await the chance to be dropped into enemy territory.

 

On 1st September 1940 Caroli climbed into a specially converted Heinkel He111 bomber used for spy missions. The aircraft was painted black, without any markings, and stripped of its bomb release mechanisms to reduce weight and increase its speed to a maximum.

 

He was flown from an airstrip in Rennes by Oberleutenant Karl Gartenfield  but having crossed low across the English Channel they were caught in searchlights and made a hasty retreat, landing in Brussels.

 

A few days later, on the night of 5-6th September, they tried again and this time crossed the Channel successfully then climbed to 20,000 ft. At around 1.30 a.m, over Northamptonshire, the bomber lost height and and Caroli jumped from 5,000 ft.

 

This is where things started to go wrong. Gartenfield had told Caroli to put his heavy equipment on a separate parachute and push this out immediately before he jumped.

Caroli, however, did not like the prospect of being separated from his valuable equipment;  so he strapped his heavy

load to his chest when he jumped and as a result plummeted to the ground much too fast.

On impact the strap on the radio snapped and hit him on the chin rendering him unconscious for 5 hours. When he eventually came to – still groggy – he dragged himself, his parachute and equipment to a nearby ditch where he fell asleep. Around 5.30 pm a worker at The Elms, the farm on one of whose fields he landed, saw his feet protruding from a ditch and reported this to the farmer, Cliff Beechener.

 

Cliff was a member of the Local Defence Volunteers and he went to confront Caroli taking his shotgun with him.

 

 He was surprised that he spoke excellent English. He told him he was Swedish and had flown in from Hamburg the night before. He showed him his German Automatic pistol and a wad of English banknotes.

 

Cliff Beechener then took him back to The Elms and contacted his superior, a Sergeant Smart, his landlord, who was Lord Northampton, and police Superintendent Frost who duly arrived and took Caroli off to Northampton.

 

Whilst Denton’s involvement ended there Caroli’s story was far from over.

He was handed over to MI5 for interrogation at camp 020 in Richmond. He could hardly protest innocence as he had been found in civilian clothes with a wireless transmitter, £200 in notes, maps of the area, a compass and a loaded automatic pistol!

 

He had a British ID known to be fake but he was neutral citizen, had a Swedish passport and a genuine UK Alien Registration certificate dated from May 1939 as he had been living with friends in Birmingham that year.

 

Maybe this element of his background led MI5 to try and ‘turn’ Caroli into a double agent which they successfully achieved (probably  by threatening execution if he did no co-operate) and in due course he operated under the covername ‘Summer’  transmitting false information back to Germany from a secure base in Hinxton, South Cambridgeshire which also housed other important double agents such as the famous ‘Tate’ who was a Dane called Wulf Schmidt.

 

However Caroli proved to be unstable, attempting suicide and later in January 1941 he became depressed and tried to escape, strangling a guard and stealing a motor-cycle and canoe! He tried to reach the East Coast but the motorbike broke down and he was recaptured near Newmarket. This was potentially hugely important to the war as, should he have escaped, he could have blown the whistle on the whole double agent system in the UK.

 

MI5 finished him immediately as a double agent but kept their agreement not to execute him and for the rest of the war he was held at camp 020R at Huntercombe, near Oxford.

 

At the end of war in 1945 he returned to his native Sweden and soon married and had a son. He died in 1975.

 

                                                                  o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

 

Around 40 years later, after his retirement in 1974 Cliff Beechener, told a local reporter how he recalled the events of that September night in 1940. The article is well worth producing in full as not only does it tell the interesting tale but also gives an insight into the character Cliff Beechener was!

 

It has not been altered in way although there are several differences between his account and the records from other sources as above. It is impossible to say which of the versions is the more definitive – probably a combination of the two!

 

‘THE DAY CLIFF CAUGHT A SPY

 

 

Retired racing trainer Cliff Beechener reckons he is still entitled to the £200 he took off a German spy he captured in 1940.

 

With interest the Government should owe him several thousand pounds for the man with orange leather shoes he entertained to tea.

 

‘Some years ago I saw Reginald Manningham-Buller (now Lord Dithorne, Lord of Appeal and former Lord Chancellor) and he told me I was entitled to the £200 but it would cost me at least £100 to get it’ he told me.

‘So I haven’t bothered to pursue the matter any further’

 

Mr Beechener, who is 76 and lives in a cottage in Denton, explained that his capture of the spy occurred on September 4th 1940.

 

‘We were harvesting barley and one of my men came back to the farm house to make tea’ he explained.

‘He saw this chap hiding among the undergrowth in a dry ditch, together with a suitcase. He was fast asleep.

He showed me where he was, and as I was a private in the Local Defence Volunteers I thought I’d better arrest him.

I had a service rifle but thought I would be better off with my 12 bore shotgun – so I took that. I put on my LDV armband.

When I came to the ditch all I could see was a pair of shoes sticking out from under some ash plants. The shoes were orange coloured leather – and it occurred to me that I would not think much of a chap with shoes like that.

 

It crossed my mind he might have been one of the parents of children who had been evacuated to the village who had found he was early for the train taking him back to London and was having a nap – then on closer inspection I saw he was laying on his parachute. He was wearing horn rimmed glasses and a green jacket.

 

He woke up and looked at me and I said ‘’What the hell are you doing here?’’He saw my gun and said ‘’Kamerad, kamerad, I surrender’’ He spoke good English.

He said he came from Hamburg, and he thought he was somewhere between Banbury and Stratford-on-Avon. He had maps, a revolver, a bottle of brandy and a box of chocolates in his bag. In his suitcase was a transmitter.

 

I took him into the house, and I had two students from London University helping me. They kept him covered while I made phone calls, and I remember the sweat pouring off him.

 

I got through to the police, and to my landlord, Lord Northampton – and then I gave him some tea.

 

I searched him and took £200 off him in notes, and an identity card with an address in Birmingham.

A police spokesman and a constable arrived to take him away at 6 p.m. I had the BBC news on the wireless. Stuart Hibbert was reading about the RAF bombing of the marshalling yards at Hamburg and the poor German put his head in his hands. He had a wife and family there.’

 

They all made their way down to the ditch where the German had been found, and after he checked the area had not been booby-trapped Mr Beechener fetched out the briefcase.

 

‘I looked at the maps and they were for the Stratford-on-Avon area. We all marched off and I came at the back carrying the parachute.

 

Lord Northampton turned up with his revolver and a camera but the superintendent wouldn’t let him take a picture.

 

The German said he had nearly hit the roof of the house when he had parachuted at

6 a.m. He had found this ditch to hide in. He was on his way to Birmingham to contact his pals.

 

We phoned the Warwickshire Constabulary – but they found the address he had was empty. He had been trying to get to Yardley at Birmingham and had got it muddled with Yardley Hastings.

 

Coventry had taken a pasting with the bombers but they couldn’t effectively get at Birmingham because it was surrounded by a smoke screen. He was going in to direct the bombers to their targets’

 

A year later Mr Beechener met the Chief Constable of Buckinghamshire at Ascot races, where he had a runner. After a drink the Chief Constable told him the German had been held in Aylesbury prison. The German had not been shot because he had given British Intelligence valuable information.

He also told Mr Beechener he should claim the £200 he had taken from the spy.

Mr Beechener duly wrote, asking for the money – but despite several letters had no reply.

A long time after, Superintendent John Frost visited him, and said he had been sent by the Chief Constable. He said that the Chief Constable had received the letter ‘but would not agree to your request’.

 

‘I wouldn’t mind the money now – plus the interest’ he added ruefully.

 

Mr Beechener quoted a High Court ruling of 1768 stating that ‘a subject was entitled to whatever he could he could take from the King’s enemies’

 

 

 

Thanks are due to Tommy Jonason from Vasteras,  Sweden who provided  information and the picture of Caroli. He is currently writing a book on his life.

 

 Also acknowledged is a book by Terry Crowdy called Deceiving Hitler. Double- Cross and Deception in World War II which gives an in depth insight into the subject including references to Caroli.

 

The photograph of the radio transmitter is reproduced by kind permission of NLIS.

 

The ‘Hamtune’ newspaper article is reproduced by kind permission of the Chronicle and Echo.

 

 

 

 

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