Letter: Memories of a master spycatcher

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The Independent Online
Sir: Phillip Knightley (27 May) quotes an anecdote concerning my grandfather, Colonel, later Brigadier General, Sir James Edmonds. From papers in my possession, I can supply the context in which the remark by Lord Esher about 'the large number of German waiters in this country' was made. Sir James had been appointed to MO5 in 1906. He states that he was more than suspicious of German intentions, and was collecting evidence to put before the Director of Military Operations and Intelligence, General Ewart, and says:

I myself had recognised, acting as head waiter at the Burlington Hotel, Dover, a German artillery captain whom I had met at the table d'hote at the Europeischer Hof in Metz. After I had spoken to him, he disappeared for good. I learnt that he had been addicted to long early morning walks.

My grandfather was a fluent German speaker.

In addition to William Le Queux's fictional cases mentioned by Phillip Knightley, my grandfather says he received useful evidence for his cause from the actions of F. T. Jane (founder of the Naval Annual.)

He was on the lookout for spies, and kidnapped in his car a Portsmouth German and deposited him in the Duke of Bedford's animal park at Woburn. He naturally got into trouble and publicity. After this, dozens of letters telling of suspicious behaviour by Germans were received.

The outcome of the 1909 sub-

committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence was their recommendation, leading to Cabinet approval, of the organisation of a counter-espionage system by MO5.

Yours sincerely,


London, SE21

27 May