William Le Queux (1909) Spies of the Kaiser. Plotting the Downfall of England
Spies of the Kaiser was published in 1909, and raised spymania to new extremes. Again, Le Queux’s fantasies had their popularity massively boosted by the Daily Mail’s hype machine. And again the story was presented as non-fiction. [Graeme Shimmin, Le Queux: How One Crazy Spy Novelist Created MI5 and MI6]
Still, as fanned by Le Queux, Lord Roberts and the press, British suspicions of Germany reached its high-water mark upon publication of Spies of the Kaiser. Teeming with authentic and, if not evidence, at least well researched incidental detail, Spies of the Kaiser chronicled the discovery of all manner of German espionage activities, ranging from surveillance of England’s coastal defenses to attempted thefts of plans for advanced battleships, submarines, and airplanes. To lend further credibility to the narrative, Le Queux noted in the introduction: “As I write, I have before me a file of amazing documents, which plainly show the feverish activity with which this advance guard of our enemy is working.” [Brett F. Woods, War, Propaganda, and the Fiction of William Le Queux]
IF ENGLAND KNEW
No sane person can deny that England is in grave danger of invasion by Germany at a date not far distant.
This very serious fact I endeavoured to place vividly before the public in my recent forecast, The Invasion of 1910, the publication of which, in Germany and in England, aroused a storm of indignation against me.
The Government, it will be remembered, endeavoured to suppress its publication, because it contained many serious truths, which it was deemed best should be withheld from the public, and on its publication—in defiance of the statements in the House of Commons, and the pressure brought upon me by the Prime Minister—I was denounced as a panicmonger.
But have not certain of my warnings already been fulfilled?
I have no desire to create undue alarm. I am an Englishman, and, I hope, a patriot. What I have written in this present volume in the form of fiction is based upon serious facts within my own personal knowledge.
That German spies are actively at work in Great Britain is well known to the authorities. The number of agents of the German Secret Police at this moment working in our midst on behalf of the Intelligence Department in Berlin are believed to be over five thousand. To each agent—known as a “fixed-post”—is allotted the task of discovering some secret, or of noting in a certain district every detail which may be of advantage to the invader when he lands. This “fixed-agent” is, in turn, controlled by a travelling agent, who visits him regularly, allots the work, collects his reports, and makes monthly payments, the usual stipend varying from £10 to £30 per month, according to the social position of the spy and the work in which he or she may be engaged.
The spies themselves are not always German. They are often Belgians, Swiss, or Frenchmen employed in various trades and professions, and each being known in the Bureau of Secret Police by a number only, their monthly information being docketed under that particular number. Every six months an “inspection” is held, and monetary rewards made to those whose success has been most noteworthy.
The whole brigade of spies in England is controlled by a well-known member of the German Secret Police in London, from whom the travelling agents take their orders, and in turn transmit them to the “fixed-posts,” who are scattered up and down the country.
As I write, I have before me a file of amazing documents, which plainly show the feverish activity with which this advance guard of our enemy is working to secure for their employers the most detailed information. These documents have already been placed before the Minister for War, who returned them without comment!
He is aware of the truth, and cannot deny it in face of these incriminating statements.
It is often said that the Germans do not require to pursue any system of espionage in England when they can purchase our Ordnance maps at a shilling each. But do these Ordnance maps show the number of horses and carts in a district, the stores of food and forage, the best way in which to destroy bridges, the lines of telegraph and telephone, and the places with which they communicate, and such-like matters of vital importance to the invader? Facts such as these, and many others, are being daily conveyed by spies in their carefully prepared reports to Berlin, as well as the secrets of every detail of our armament, our defences, and our newest inventions.
During the last twelve months, aided by a well-known detective officer, I have made personal inquiry into the presence and work of these spies, an inquiry which has entailed a great amount of travelling, much watchfulness, and often considerable discomfort, for I have felt that, in the circumstances, some system of contra-espionage should be established, as has been done in France.
I have refrained from giving actual names and dates, for obvious reasons, and have therefore been compelled, even at risk of being again denounced as a scaremonger, to present the facts in the form of fiction—fiction which, I trust, will point its own patriotic moral.
Colonel Mark Lockwood, Member for Epping, sounded a very serious warning note in the middle of 1908 when he asked questions of the Minister for War, and afterwards of the Prime Minister, respecting the presence of German spies in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and elsewhere. He pointed out that for the past two years these individuals, working upon a carefully prepared plan, had been sketching, photographing, and carefully making notes throughout the whole of East Anglia.
With truth, he declared that this organised system of espionage was for one reason alone, namely in preparation for a sudden raid upon our shores, for “the Day”—as it is known in Germany—the Day of the Invasion of England.
The replies given by His Majesty’s Ministers were colourless, though they both actually confessed themselves unable to deal with the situation! Under our existing law it seems that a foreign spy is free to go hither and thither, and plot the downfall of England, while we, ostrich-like, bury our head in the sand at the sign of approaching danger.
The day has passed when one Englishman was worth ten foreigners. Modern science in warfare has altered all that. All the rifle-clubs in England could not stop one German battalion, because the German battalion is trained and disciplined in the art of war, while our rifle-clubs are neither disciplined nor trained. Were every able-bodied man in the kingdom to join a rifle-club we should be no nearer the problem of beating the German invaders if once they landed, than if the spectators in all the football matches held in Britain mobilised against a foreign foe. The Territorial idea is a delusion. Seaside camps for a fortnight a year are picnics, not soldiering. The art of navigation, the science of engineering, or the trade of carpentering cannot be learned in fourteen days annually—neither can the art of war.
In response, we have held up to us the strength of our Navy. But is it really what it is represented by our rulers to an already deluded public?
Only as recently as March 29, 1909, Sir Edward Grey, replying to Mr. Balfour’s vote of censure in the House of Commons, was compelled to admit that—
“A new situation is created by the German programme. When it is completed, Germany, a great country close to our own shores, will have a fleet of thirty-three Dreadnoughts, and that fleet will be the most powerful which the world has ever yet seen. It imposes upon us the necessity of rebuilding the whole of our fleet. That is the situation.”
Germany is our friend—for the moment. But Prince Buelow now admits that the Kaiser’s telegram to President Kruger was no personal whim, but the outcome of national policy!
What may happen to-morrow?
WILLIAM LE QUEUX
Full text at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33298/33298-h/33298-h.htm