The Traitorous Code Clerk, Part Ten
By David H. Lippman
The story began in Part One and continued in Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight and Part Nine.
In our previous installment, Tyler Kent's trial opened and he took the stand in his own defense.
Jowitt had baited the trap. He said he thought it odd that if Kent wanted only Americans to know about the messages, he had made them available to at least four others, all British subjects.
Kent could only feebly reply that he trusted them.
Jowitt reached for a Churchill-Roosevelt message and asked Kent why he showed it to Anna.
Kent said he did so to show Anna and Ramsay the political background of the war and the European situation.
“If it be true that you were giving documents to Captain Ramsay to enlighten him to the true origin of the war,” Jowitt asked, “this much is plain – that this document has no possible bearing on the origin of the war, and this document has no bearing on the Jews?”
“No,” Kent admitted.
“And it has no bearing on the Freemasons?”
“Then I ask you again: Why did you give this document to Anna Wolkoff?”
Kent answered feebly that the document was part of a group that had not been sorted.
Jowitt decided to move in on the relationship with Ramsay, asking if Kent intended to give Ramsay carte blanche to read through the stolen papers.
“To read through most of them, probably, not all,” Kent waffled.
“But as far as you were concerned, you left him free to roam at large through the whole lot?” Jowitt continued.
“That is more or less true,” Kent admitted.
Jowitt displayed correspondence between Kent and Alexander Kirk, the US chargé d’affaires in Berlin, asking for a transfer. Jowitt asked if Kent was intending to turn over documents from the US Embassy in Berlin to the Nazis. Kent said the question was hypothetical and would neither confirm nor deny. Kent was more interested in the governments of Germany and the Soviet Union than that of Britain.
With that, Jowitt closed his cross-examination, and Healy did some re-direct to confirm that Ramsay had only seen the Churchill-Roosevelt messages by accident.
But Justice Tucker was not satisfied, and asked Kent questions from the bench about the defendant’s relationship with Anna and Ramsay.
“Would you agree that revealing the contents of the documents was a big step,” the judge asked, “going a great deal further than merely taking them from the embassy for the purpose which you have described?”
“Yes, but it did not strike me as so at the time, although it does now,” Kent said.
“You say your justification for taking them was to enlighten the American people; but if that was so, why were you communicating them to a British subject in this country, because a British subject would not be interested in them from that aspect?”
The judge continued, “Captain Ramsay was not interested in the propriety of the conduct of the American ambassadors in Europe?”
“No,” Kent admitted.
“Or of America becoming involved in a war by reason of those matters?”
“No,” Kent admitted again.
“Then what was the aspect of the matter contained in those documents which interested Captain Ramsay sufficiently to cause him to want to have copies of them?”
“I do not know actually that he did want to make copies.” Kent added that it was a question of propriety – the correspondence was going from Churchill to Roosevelt, not through the Foreign Office.
“A mere matter of procedure,” Tucker said scathingly. “Not of substance?”
“Yes,” Kent had to agree, “A matter of procedure.”
Tucker had one more point to clear up: why Ramsay wanted the documents. Tucker did so with British understatement, asking about Ramsay’s political pre-war outlook. Kent said that Ramsay believed that the war could well have been avoided.
“And once started,” Tucker continued, “what then?”
“That nothing could be done about it.” So Ramsay didn’t seem to have much need for the documents.
Now came closing arguments, followed by instructions to the jury. Justice Tucker was hard: “You may hold extremely strong views with regard to (Kent’s) conduct, on his own showing, towards his embassy. You may think that it displays a shocking disregard for every principle of decency and honor and loyalty, and so forth. But Mr. Healy is right when he says that it is not what you are trying him for in this case . . . as far as the Official Secrets Act is concerned, you are trying him for being disloyal to the ambassador or being guilty of shocking breaches of confidence.”
Tucker told the jury that Anna was getting her own trial, so her guilt was not at issue – just whether or not Kent had been in communication with her. At 3:35, the jury retired to deliberate. It took them only 24 minutes to return with guilty verdicts on all counts. Justice Tucker said he would defer sentence until after Anna’s trial. Kent headed back to Brixton Prison.
Next morning, Anna’s trial began. The full transcript was placed under seal, but Muggeridge and Jowitt both kept notes and wrote descriptions of the trial. Anna pleaded not guilty, saying she was against the Jews, not the war. She blamed her family’s misfortunes and the downfall of the Russian Empire on them and the Communists.
The prosecution’s evidence was a repeat of the Kent case, complete with Helene de Munck and Marjorie Mackie. The latter told the court that Anna had openly stated that when Germany had conquered Britain, Anna would be the Julius Streicher of the new regime and occupy a post on the staff of the local Himmler. The highlight of the prosecution’s case was Joan Miller herself, who gave graphic testimony about Anna’s pro-Nazi propaganda work.
Anna was furious. From her defense dock, she threatened to have Joan Miller killed, which made an unpleasant impression on the court.
Anna’s main defense was a parade of character witnesses, most of them internees from the Isle of Man, and Sir Oswald Mosley himself. Muggeridge saw Britain’s leading Fascist, now imprisoned, as “bearded at the time, his suit crumpled, speaking with the vibrant voice of a wronged man who asked only to be allowed to join his regiment in the battle line to fight for King and Country.” Such statements made little impact on anyone.
Among the witnesses was Ramsay himself, who did not fare well on cross-examination: one of Ramsay’s letters was read out, talking about two German battle-cruisers that had just sunk a Royal Navy armed merchantman as being “those two lovely ships,” and how sad it would be if anything happened to them.
Another character witness, Christabel Nicholson, also fell foul with one of her letters about German warships, writing about the 1939 destruction of the pocket battleship Graf Spee, “Yesterday was a day of black despair. Such an end to that beautiful ship, and how one wished she could have accounted for at least one good shot into the Hood. The sneers and rejoicing all round were painful in the extreme.”
Muggeridge wrote, “Ramsay and the others were a woebegone procession indeed, as, one after the other, they held up a Bible and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, while outside their erstwhile heroes and putative allies tried to blow the Old Bailey, along with the rest of London town, including them, to smithereens.”
Anna took the stand in her own defense, describing her long history of extreme anti-Semitism, saying it had been bred into her. She admitted her “sticky-back” campaign, but claimed her brother, Gabriel, had pleaded with their father to persuade her to stop it. She had gone to the authorities to ask if they had any objection to the campaign, and they had given her a noncommittal answer.
But when it came to the letter to Lord Haw-Haw, she tried to deny everything, insisting that was a government plant. She claimed that a young naval officer friend had introduced her to a man who had asked if she would be prepared to do “something that would really help in the cause of anti-Semitism.” She was willing to do anything to injure Jewry.
Supposedly the officer had asked her to put help put his letter to Lord Haw-Haw into a diplomatic bag, and Anna had given it to Helene De Munck.
The Crown recalled Helene to rebut Anna’s tale, and Helene demolished it. Back on the stand, Anna changed her story, claiming she had been “indulging in a gigantic game of bluff,” and that she had planted the letter on Helene, never believing Helene could actually get it to Germany.
On the glass negatives, Anna claimed she had given the prints to Kent, but did not call him to testify to corroborate that. And the packet to Del Monte was part of a trap she was helping del Monte to set – the Italian diplomat believed someone in his official household was stealing press summaries, and wanted to get a similar one from Kent at the US Embassy, to see if that, too had been stolen.
Anna’s wild tales of spy novel espionage didn’t impress the jury. It only took them a few minutes to convict her on all three counts. Justice Tucker set sentencing day for both cases for Thursday, November 7.
David H. Lippman, an award-winning journalist
and graduate of the New School for Social Research,
has written many magazine articles about World
War II. He currently works
as a public information officer for the city
of Newark, N.J. We're always pleased to add his work
to our Daily Content.