British Military & Criminal History:
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This page is concerned with the details about the case of Ernst Waldemar Melin, one of the spies shot at The Tower of London during World War One.
Ernst Melin was a Swede, aged 49 in 1915. Melin's Father was Olaf Melin, who had been a member of the Swedish Parliament for 30 years and owned a shipping company business in Gothenburg. Ernst Melin always claimed that his brother was a Colonel in the Swedish Army.
When the First World War started on 4 August 1914, Melin lost his job in a shipbroker's office located in the Russian town of Nikolaieff. He suggested to his Father that he was going to Hamburg, in Germany, as he had several long-standing friends living there.
When he arrived in Hamburg, his friends proved of little assistance in find a job for Melin. However, Melin's Father suggested a friend who was a Swedish commission agent based in Hamburg, a man called Gerdes. One day Gerdes asked Melin to have lucnh with him, as he had a proposition to put to him. After lunch, Melin was introduced to several of Gerdes' German visitors. Later in a private meeting one of the Germans suggested that Melin should go to London and find out naval and military secrets. The next day, Melin accepted the German's offer.
Melin then travelled to Antwerp, where he met Dierks. A meeting was held with a German Captain Lieutenant Larsson and another man called Schnitzner. They told Melin that he should go to various ports around England and Scotland. Melin left Rotterdam, later arriving in London and, on 12 January 1915, took lodgings in Hampstead near Belsize Park Underground Station.
After a fortnight of reporting various interesting items he had seen around London, Melin returned to Rotterdam, and on to Antwerp where he met his German contacts including Dierks. It was eventually agreed that Melin would be paid £50 per month. Melin then returned to England on 26 February 1915.
The British Security Services had been suspicious of Melin for sometime. Also Dierks was already known to to be one of the main people organising German spying activities.
However, things became much more serious when the security services intercepted two parcels address to Melin's UK lodgings. One was posted in the Tilbury area, the other parcel had been posted in Gravesend. One of the parcels contain an envelope of unused stamps. Another envelope contained a letter, which when examined, had some hidden writing in both English and German. The Gravesend parcel contained another innocently worded letter in English, but under examination yet more invisible writing, in English, was discovered. This invisible letter was discussing the movements of certain Royal Navy ships, and whether Melin would be able to find out more definite information.
At 10.15pm on 14 June 1915, Divisional Detective Inspector Thomas Duggan and Sergeant Askew went to Melin's lodgings and arrested him. One of the books in Melin's possession was a guide book with dots placed against the names of places like Glasgow, Norwich, Portsmouth and Plymouth. There was also a collection of writing nibs, and several dictionaries for working in German, Swedish and English. When examined, the nibs had been used to write invisible ink. One of the notebooks also contained notes about some of the soldiers, and their regiments, that Melin had seen on his journey in and around London.
Melin's court-martial took place on 20-21 August 1915 at the Middlesex Guildhall, with the President being Major-General Lord Cheylesmore. The Prosecution case was presented by Captain Wedderburn and Mr. Bodkin. The defence team were Mr. George Elliott and Mr. H.D. Roome. Melin was found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting.
It was observed that in the period between his trial and execution, Melin was a model prisoner who gave no trouble to his guards. At 6am on 10 September 1915, Ernst Waldemar Melin was executed by a firing squad composed of members of the Scots Guards. The execution took place in the Tower of London's Miniature Rifle Range.