Date Of Execution: 9 Jul 1941
Execution Place: Wandsworth
Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint
George Armstrong was implicated in a Nazi spy ring in the USA and of approaching a German consul in the USA in 1940 whilst it was neutral offering to spy for the Reich. He was arrested in Boston as a spy and deported, when he returned to England he was questioned and arrested for spying, convicted and executed.
At his trial the court heard that on or about 19 November 1940 he did an act designed or likely to give assistance to the Naval, Military or Air operations of the enemy or to endanger life. Namely writing a letter to Dr. Herbert Scholz, German Consul at Boston, Massachusetts, USA, offering his services, information and assistance.
George Armstrong had met a German in the UK before the war called Dr. Carl Klein. At the outbreak of the war he had travelled to New York where he frequented a number of bars meeting a german woman called Alice Hahn. George Armstrong noted that Alice Hahn was in the habit of entertaining British seamen to find out when their ships and convoys were sailing between the USA and UK and other useful information. During the two weeks he was in New York Dr. Carl Klein also turned up at the bar.
In July 1940 George Armstrong was arrested in Boston and sent to Deer Island Camp where he met up with Dr. Carl Klein who explained that he and Alice Hahn and several others had all been arrested for being part of a German spy ring and were facing deportation back to Germany. To prevent the deportation they were dealing with the German Consul in Boston, Dr. Herbert Scholz. Whilst Dr. Carl Klein was being interrogated George Armstrong looked through his papers and noted correspondence with Dr. Herbert Scholz whom Dr. Carl Klein claimed had a list of German agents operating in the UK. George Armstrong then stated that he decided to write the letter to Dr. Herbert Scholz to feign interest in helping the Reich in order to find out who the German agents in Britain were and to expose them to the British authorities.
George Armstrong had also been involved with handling papers in Dr. Herbert Scholz's office including a sample of special tool steel from the Tungsten Steel Coorportation which he had swapped because he thought that if it was of interest to the Germans it would be of interest to the British. Other papers detailed a USA bombsight in Devon and a visit.
George Armstrong stated that all this activity, including the letter was carried out with the objective of identifying spys in the UK as well as along the USA and Canada ocean borders. However, the court didnt beleive him and he was sentenced to death.
Dr. Hubert Scholz
Dear Sir, 19 November 1940.
Please excuse this somewhat unusual method of address, this letter may come to you by messenger; or failing in his effort to do so, it will reach you by mail. I am an officer of the British Service, an engineer at recent date attached to the Inspection of Aircraft Dept. (AID) in England. Latterly I was transferred to the Marine Dept under control of the British Admiralty. My intention is to make German contacts here in the US which may be beneficially used on my return to England. Naturally in the various capacities in which I was employed in England, I have information which would be very valuable in the proper sources. You will no doubt agree with me that it is not advisable to enter into any written discussion upon this subject here at this time, but if you could have someone contact me, who was reliable then the matter could be more fully gone into. I was detained by the US Immigration authorities before I could make any such contacts here in the US and have been transferred from East Boston Immigration Station to Deer Island to be held pending deportation proceedings. I feel that the information which I have and the value of someone so placed in England in these times would be greatly appreciated by yourself or those who you would put in contact with me.
PS: My mail is censored by the Immigration Authorities but this letter will not pass through the official channels, a direct contact by visit would be the most advisable.
Name: GEORGE JOHNSON ARMSTRONG.
Address: Commercial Road, London, E14.
Occupation: Marine Engineer (British Merchant Navy).
My observations made at Halifax N.S Central Convoy base for British Ships crossing the Atlantic with war materials, have only served to verify the fact that this aforementioned Nazi (See Hichley-Cooke Statement) ring is operating in conjunction with agents in the U.K and Canada.
During the time I was in the Immigration Station in Halifax which is also being used as a hospital, a repatriation centre, and practically a dumping ground for foreign seamen all mixing together. I learned that it was common knowledge just when the convoy conferences were being attended by the various Captains of ships assembled in Bedford Basin to make up convoys. Further, it was known just what cargo each ship carried & how much, the name of the ships in the convoy, whether steam or motor ships, the speed of the convoys, the number of vessels, the Commodore ship, the armament of these ships & what is more important the sailing time & circle upon which the course was laid.
I was informed as to ship movements hours before some of them even arrived in Halifax. One particular instance was the Duchess of York was due to arrive with troops. Two days later this ship did arrive in Bedford basin as had been stated. It is little to wondered at that Halifax is full of survivors of torpedoes and sabotaged ships, and it is a matter which presents no difficulty whatever to plant elements of sabotage in the holds of ships which are taking cargoes in Halifax, New York, New Jersey and Boston, but more especially in Halifax where the officials are wantonly lax in their duty and speech.
Anyone at any time can procure information and access to ships in this port, and incidents such as that which led to the loss of the Black Osprey and others of quite recent date substantiate the fact that many torpedoings in convoy do not occur until some vessel in the convoy has become a beacon which discloses the position & course of the convoy at night.
Ships can be and are loaded at widely diversified points, may lay in Halifax for weeks & nothing occurs; but if is common to have explosions taking place in the holds or some other accessible part of the ship; when in convoy, after leaving Halifax. This is common knowledge among member of the Merchant Navy & is the subject of much discussion.
This condition can all be traced to information leaking out in Halifax while the ships are making up a convoy. Troop ships are known, the number of men and the regiment to which they belong. Few seamen are English speaking or of English descent in the Immigration Station & German is spoken by many. These men have the privilege of staying in the Station and visiting in the town of Halifax at their wish at night. Anyone without censure can telephone to anyone in the town, I have done it. Therefore, there is nothing to hinder and much to assist anyone passing information to whom they wish.
The fact remains that many lives are lost, thousands of tons of shipping and millions of dollars worth of valuable war materials simply by the gross carelessness & wanton neglect of the Officials responsible for the suppression of such conditions.
My interest is and has been solely from a Merchant Navy point of view, it is with this purpose in mind at all times that I have jeopardised my own security to produce some concrete evidence that would lead me to an investigation of the officials concerned and the apprehension of the agents who use the information so procured.
Furthermore, I am convinced that if permitted to do so that working along the lines as outlined in my previous statement through those executive agents, I should be able to procure the complete list of the agents residing & operating in England.
There is little or no check upon persons going aboard ships in Halifax while loading. Steverdores and others who are presumed to be officials but whom no one questions are permitted to wander at their leisure about the ships until the vessel is in the stream again at which time naval ratings check passes (sometimes).
Although I was not myself aware of the fact an acquaintance of mine called me by telephone wished me goodbye, told me I was sailing the following day at 3pm without convoy and such did turn out to be the case; and this particular person has no interest in shipping whatever; it is just another example of information being banded about by careless officials who are entrusted with this responsibility.
It is my sincere hope that responsible officials in England will be interested in repairing this condition & thereby giving such members of the British Merchant Navy who are willing & anxious to bring these ships & cargoes to England at least a fifty-fifty chance of survival; at all events closing off this source of information & sabotage.
If there is not some ulterior motive in it "Why are passengers permitted after being on ships permitted to change their mind & leave the ships in Halifax" some of them having spent more than a week aboard.
Signature GEORGE ARMSTRONG.
see "Various." Times [London, England] 9 May 1941: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.
see "Sentence Under Treachery ACT Upheld." Times [London, England] 24 June 1941: 6. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.
see "British Spy Executed." Times [London, England] 10 July 1941: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.