Tuesday, September 7, 2010


In August 1910 Royal Navy lieutenant Vivian Brandon and Royal Marines captain Bernard Trench were  arrested by the German police while undertaking a survey of the forts in Heligoland. They had already  completed one mission, to Kiel, the previous year, but on this occasion their photography of the fortifications
on the island of Wangerooge attracted the attention of the sentries, and they were taken into custody. Their arrest caused “rather a panic” at the War Office. The director of naval intelligence, Admiral Bethell, decreed that the Whitehall line would be complete disavowal: “We had ascertained that the two unfortunately were not military men, not connected in any way with any C.C. work. We knew nothing at all about them.” Bethell thereby established a position intended to protect the British government from the embarrassment of  association with officially sponsored espionage, and maybe offering the two defendants an opportunity to portray themselves as hapless, harmless tourists. However, the seizure of pictures of the Kaiser Wilhelm
Canal, Borkum, and Wilhelmshaven sealed the fate of the two officers at their trial in Leipzig in December 1910; they were each sentenced to four years of imprisonment. Although they admitted only to having been in contact with a naval intelligence officer named “Reggie” (actually the Naval Intelligence Division’s Capt. Cyril Regnart), Brandon and Trench were actually agents of Mansfield Smith-Cumming, code-named respectively BONFIRE and COUNTERSCARP. Brandon and Trench served their sentences in the fortresses of  Konigstein in Saxony and Glatz in Silesia, respectively, but were released in an amnesty to celebrate the marriage of the kaiser’s daughter to Prince Ernst Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, and resumed their  normal duties upon their return home.