Part Two. Conveying Information—Secret Signals and Warnings—Spies in War Time—The Pluck of a Spy—Traitorous Spying—The German Spy Organization—The Value of Being Stupid—Concealing a Fort in a Moth’s Head—Butterfly Hunting in Dalmatia.


On our side various methods were adopted of conveying information in the field. My spies employed native runners (especially the most astute cattle-thieves) to take their despatches to me.


These hieroglyphics contain a secret message which can be easily read by those who know the semaphore signalling code. This signalling consists of swinging two arms in different positions, either singly or together. The dots indicate where the letters join. For example: The semaphore sign for N consists of both arms pointing downwards at an angle of 90 degrees ^.

The letter
I is shown by both arms pointing to the left at the same angle >.

The next
N is shown again, and the letter is a single arm pointing upwards on the right at an angle of 45 degrees l.

In each word you start at the top of the signs and read downwards.

This form of secret message was frequently used in the South African War.


These were in every case naturally written in cypher or secret code, in Hindustani written in English characters, and so on. They were rolled up into pellets and pressed into a small hole bored in a walking-stick, the hole being then plugged with clay or soap. Or they were put into the bowl of a pipe underneath the tobacco, and could thus be burnt without suspicion if necessary, or they were slipped in between the soles of the boots, or stitched in the lining of the bearer’s clothing. These natives also understood the language of smoke-fires signalling by means of little or big puffs of smoke as to the enemy’s moves and strength.


The native despatch-runners whom we sent out to make their way through the enemy’s lines carried the letters tightly rolled up in little balls, coated with sheet lead, such as tea is packed in.

These little balls they carried slung round their necks on a string. The moment that they saw an enemy coming near they dropped the balls, which then looked like so many stones, on the ground, and took bearings of the spot so that they could find them again when the coast was clear.

Then there were fixed points for hiding letters for other spies to find. Here are some of the most frequently used:

This little mark, scratched on the ground or on a tree trunk or gate-post, was used by one scout for the information of another. It means "A letter is hidden four paces in this direction."  
A sign used to warn another scout that he is following a wrong direction. It means "Not this way."  
This is another sign from one scout to another and means: "I have returned home."  
The "blaze" on the tree trunk and the two stones, one on the other, are simply to show that the scout is on the right trail.

The other three sketches are to show the direction in which the scout should go. The arrow is marked on the ground. The upper Part of the sapling or bush is bent over in the direction which the scout should take, and the same is the case with the bunch of grass, which is first of all knotted and then bent.


The Japanese, of course, in their war with Russia in Manchuria made extensive use of spies, and Port Arthur, with all its defects of fortification and equipment, was known thoroughly inside and out to the Japanese general staff before they ever fired a shot at it.

In the field service regulations of the German army a paragraph directed that the service of protection in the field-that is to say, outposts, advanced guards, and reconaissances-should always be assisted by a system of spying, and although this paragraph no longer stands in the book, the spirit of it is none the less carried out.

The field spies are a recognised and efficient arm.

Frederick the Great is recorded to have said: " When Marshal Subise goes to war, he is followed by a hundred cooks, but when I take the field I am preceded by a hundred spies."

The present leader of the German army might well say the same, though probably his hundred " would amount to thousands.

We hear of them dressed in plain clothes as peasants, and signalling with coloured lights, with puffs of smoke ‘from chimneys, and by using the church clock hands as semaphores.

Very frequently a priest was arrested and found to be a spy disguised, and as such he was shot. Also a German chauffeur in a French uniform, who had for some time been driving French staff officers about, was found to be a spy, and so met his death.

Early in the present war the German field spies had their secret code of signs, so that by drawing sketches of cattle of different colours and sizes on gates, etc., they conveyed information to each other of the strength and direction of different bodies of hostile troops in the neighbourhood.

As a rule, these are residential spies, who have lived for months or years as small tradesmen, etc., in the towns and villages now included in theatre of war. On the arrival of the German invaders they have chalked on their doors, Not to be destroyed. Good people here," and have done it for some of their neighbours also in order to divert suspicion. In their capacity of naturalised inhabitants they are in position, of course, to gain valuable tactical information for the commanders of the troops. And their different ways of communicating it are more than ingenious.

In some cases both spies and commanders have maps ruled off in small squares. The watchful spy signals to his commander, "Enemy’s cavalry halted behind wood in square E 15, " and very soon a salvo of shells visits this spot. A woman spy was caught signalling with an electric flash lamp. Two different men (one of them an old one-legged stonebreaker at the roadside) were caught with field telephones hidden on them with wire coiled round their bodies. Shepherds with lanterns went about on the downs at night dodging the lanterns about in various ways which did not seem altogether necessary for finding sheep. Wireless telegraphs were set up to look like supports to iron chimneys.

In the South African Campaign a Dutch stationmaster acted as field spy for the Boers for a short time. It was only a very short time. His town and station were captured by my force, and, in order to divert suspicion, he cut and pulled down the telegraph -wires, all except one, which was left in working order. By this wire he sent to the Boer headquarters all the information he could get about our forces and plans. Unfortunately, we had a party of men tapping the -wire, and were able to read all his messages, and to confront him with them shortly afterwards.

Another stationmaster, in our own territory, acted as spy to the enemy before the war began by employing enemies as gangers and plate-layers along the line with a view to the destruction of bridges and culverts as soon as war was declared. There was also found in his office a code by which the different arms of the service were designated in terms of timber for secretly telegraphing information.


Beams   meant   Brigades
Timbers   "   Batteries
Logs   "   Guns
Scantlings   "   Battalions
Joists   "   Squadrons
Planks   "   Companies


Except in the case of the traitor spy, one does not quite understand why a spy should necessarily be treated worse than any other combatant, nor why his occupation should be looked upon as contemptible, for, whether in peace or war, his work is of a very exacting and dangerous kind. It is intensely exciting, and though in some cases it brings a big reward, the best spies are unpaid men who are doing it for the love of the thing, and as a really effective step to gaining something valuable for their country and for their side.

The plea put forward by the German spy, Lieut. Carl Lody, at his court-martial in London, was that " he would not cringe for mercy. He was not ashamed of anything that he had done; he was in honour bound not to give away the names of those who had employed him on this *mission; he was not paid for it, he did it for his country’s good, and he knew that he carried his life in his hands in doing so. Many a Briton was probably doing the same for Britain."

He was even spoken of in our House of Commons as being "a patriot who had died for his country as much as any soldier who fell in the field."

To be a really effective spy, a man has to be endowed with a strong spirit of self-sacrifice, courage, and self-control, with the power of acting a part, quick at observation and deduction, and blessed with good health. and nerve of exceptional quality. A certain amount of scientific training is of value where a man has to be able to take the angles of a fort, or to establish the geological formation, say, of the middle island under the Forth Bridge, which was shown by Graves to be readily adaptable for explosion purposes.

For anyone who is tired of life, the thrilling life of a spy should be the very finest recuperator!


Quite another class of spy is the traitor who gives away the secrets of his own country. For him, of course, there is no excuse. Fortunately, the Briton is not as a rule of a corruptible character, and many foreign spies in England have been discovered through their attempts to bribe officers or men to give away secrets.

On the other hand, we hear frequently of foreign soldiers falling victims to such temptation, and eventually being discovered. Cases have only recently come to light in Austria where officers were willing to sell information as regards a number of secret block-houses which were built on the frontier of Bukovina last year. Details of them got into the hands of another Power within a few days of the designs being made.

Apparently when suspicion falls upon an officer in Austria the case is not tried in public, but is conducted privately, sometimes by the Emperor himself. When the man is found guilty, the procedure is for four friends of the accused to visit him and tell him what has been discovered against him, and to present him with a loaded revolver and leave him. They then remain watching the house, in order that he shall not escape, and until he elects to shoot himself ; if he fails to do so, in reasonable time, they go in and finish him off between them.


The espionage system of the Germans far exceeds that of any other country in its extent, cost, and organisation. It was thoroughly exposed after the war with France in 1870, when it was definitely shown that the German Government had ‘an organisation of over 20,000 paid informers stationed in France, and controlled by one man, Stieber, for both’ political and military purposes.

To such completeness were their machinations carried that when Jules Favre came to Versailles to treat about the surrender of Paris with the headquarter staff of the German army he was met at the station by a carriage, of which the coachman was a German spy, and was taken to lodge in the house which was the actual headquarters of the spy department. Stieber himself was the. valet, recommended to him as "a thoroughly trustworthy servant." Stieber availed himself of his position to go through his master’s pockets and despatch cases daily, collecting most valuable data and information for Bismarck.

Somehow, on the surface, suspicion of the German spy methods seemed to have subsided since that date, although at the time widely known throughout Europe. But their methods have been steadily elaborated and carried into practice ever since, not in France alone, but in all the countries on the Continent, and also in Great Britain.


Fortunately for us, we are as a nation considered by the others to be abnormally stupid, therefore easily to be spied upon. But it is not always safe to judge entirely by appearances.

Our Ambassador at Constantinople some years ago had the appearance of a cheery, bluff, British farmer, with nothing below the surface in his character, and he was therefore looked upon as fair game by all his intriguing rivals in Eastern politics. It was only after repeated failures of their different missions they found that in every case they were out-intrigued by this innocent-looking gentleman, who below the surface was as cunning as a fox and as clever a diplomat as could be found in all the service.

And so it has been with us British. Foreign spies stationed in our country saw no difficulty in completely hoodwinking so stupid a people; they never supposed that the majority of them have all been known to our Secret Service Department, and carefully watched, unknown to themselves,

Few of them ever landed in this country without undergoing the scrutiny of an unobtrusive little old gentleman with tall hat and umbrella, but the wag of whose finger sent a detective on the heels of the visitor until his actual business and location were assured and found to be satisfactory.

For years the correspondence of these gentry has been regularly opened, noted, and sent on. They were not as a rule worth arresting, the information sent was not of any urgent importance, and so long as they went on thinking that they were unnoticed, their superiors in their own country made no effort to send more astute men in their place. Thus we knew what the enemy were looking for, and we knew what information they had received, and this as a rule was not of much account.

On August 4th, the day before the declaration of war, the twenty leading spies were formally arrested and over 200 of their minor agents were also taken in hand, and thus their organisation failed them at the moment when it was wanted most. Steps were also taken to prevent any substitutes being appointed in their places. Private wireless stations were dismantled, and by means of traps those were discovered which had not been voluntarily reported and registered.

It used to amuse some of us to watch the foreign spies at work on our ground. One especially interested me, who set himself up ostensibly as a coal merchant, but never dealt in a single ounce of coal. His daily reconnaissance of the country, his noting of the roads, and his other movements entailed in preparing his reports, were all watched and recorded. His letters were opened in the post, sealed up, and sent on. His friends were observed and shadowed on arriving-as they did-at Hull instead of in London. And all the time he was plodding along, wasting his time, quite innocent of the fact that he was being watched, and was incidentally giving us a fine amount of information.

Another came only for a few hours, and was away again before we could collar him; but, knowing his moves, and what photographs he had taken, I was able to write to him, and tell him that had I known beforehand that he wished to photograph these places, I could have supplied him with some ready made, as the forts which they recorded were now obsolete.

On the other hand, the exceedingly stupid Englishmen who wandered about foreign countries sketching cathedrals, or catching butterflies, or fishing for trout, were merely laughed at as harmless lunatics. These have even invited officials to look at their sketch-books, which, had they had any suspicion or any eyes in their. heads, would have revealed plans and armaments of their own fortresses interpolated among- the veins of the botanist’s drawings of leaves or on the butterflies’ wings of the entomologist. Some -examples of secret sketches of fortresses which have been used with success are shown on the following pages.

This sketch of a butterfly contains the outline of a fortress, and -marks both the position and power of the guns. The marks on the wings between the lines mean nothing, but those on the lines show the nature and size of the guns, according to the keys below.

    The marks of the wings reveal the shape of the fortress shown here and the size of the guns.

The position of each gun is at the place inside the outline of the fort on the butterfiy where the line marked will; the spot ends. The head of the butterfly Points towards the north.

A smart piece of spy-work. Veins on an ivy
leaf show the outline of the fort as seen looking
west (Point of the leaf indicates north.)

    Shows "dead ground," where there is shelter from fire.
    Shows where big guns are mounted if a vein points to -them.
    Shows machine guns.

Here is another of the methods by which I concealed the plans of the forts I made.
First of all, I would sketch the. plan as shown in the picture above giving the strength and positions of the various guns as shown below :

A. Kaponiers with machine guns.
B. 15 cm. gun cupola.
C. 12 CM. guns cupolas.
D. Q.-F. disappearing guns.
E. Howitzer cupolas.
F. Searchlight.

Having done this, I would consider the best method of concealing my plans. In this case I decided to transform the sketch into that of a stained glass window, and if you will carefully examine the picture above you will see how successfully this has been done. Certain of the decorations signify the sizes and positions of the guns. These signs are given below, together with their meaning.
1   2   3   4   5   6

A. Kaponiers with machine guns.
B. 15 cm. gun cupola.
C. 12 CM. guns cupolas.
D. Q.-F. disappearing guns.
E. Howitzer cupolas.
F. Searchlight.


Another example of this method of making secret Plans is shown here.

This sketch was made, giving all the particulars that I wanted. I then decided to bury it in such a way that it could not be recognised as a fortress plan if I were caught by the military authorities. One idea which occurred to me was to make it into the doorway of a cathedral or church, but I finally decided on the sketch of the moth’s head. Underneath in my -note-book I wrote the following words:-

"Head of Dula moth as seen through a magnifying glass. Caught 19.5-12. Magnified about six times size of life." (Meaning scale of 6 inches to the mile.)


Once I went "butterfly hunting" in Dalmatia. Cattaro, the capital, has been the scene of much bombarding during the present war.

More than a hundred years ago it was bombarded by the British fleet and taken. It was then supposed’ to be impregnable. It lies at the head of a loch some fifteen miles long, and in some parts but a few hundred yards wide, in a trough between mountains. From Cattaro, at the head of the loch, a zigzag road leads up the mountain side over the frontier into Montenegro.

When the British ships endeavoured to attack from the seaward, the channel was closed by chains and booms put across it. But the defenders had reckoned without the resourceful ness of the British "handyman," and a few days later, to the utter astonishment of the garrison, guns began to bombard them from the top of a neighbouring mountain I

The British captain had landed his guns on the Adriatic shore, and by means of timber slides rigged up on the mountain side he had hauled his guns bodily up the rocky steeps to the very summit of the mountain.

He fixed up his batteries, and was eventually able to bombard the town with such effect that it had to surrender.

It was perhaps characteristic of us that we only took the town because it was held by our enemies. We did not want it, and when we had got it we did not know what to do with it. We therefore handed it over to the Montenegrins, and thus gave them a seaport of their own. For this feat the Montenegrins have always had a feeling of admiration and of gratitude to the British, and, though by terms of ulterior treaties it was eventually handed over to Dalmatia, the Montenegrins have never forgotten our goodwill towards them on this occasion.

But other batteries have since been built upon these mountain tops, and it was my business to investigate their positions, strength, and armaments.

I went armed with most effective weapons for the purpose, which have served me well in many a similar campaign. I took a sketchbook, in which Were numerous pictures-some finished, others only partly done—of butterflies of every degree and rank, from a "Red Admiral" to a "Painted Lady."

Carrying this book and a colour-box, and a butterfly net in my hand, I was above all suspicion to anyone who met me on the lonely mountain side, even in the neighbourhood of the forts.

I was hunting butterflies, and it was always a good introduction with which to go to anyone who was watching me with suspicion. Quite frankly, with my sketch-book in hand, I would ask innocently whether he had seen such-and-such a butterfly in the neighbourhood, as I was anxious to catch one. Ninety-nine

out of a hundred did not know one butterfly from another-any more than I do-so one was on fairly safe ground in that way, and they thoroughly sympathised with the mad Englishman who was hunting these insects.

They did not look sufficiently closely into the sketches of butterflies to notice that the delicately drawn veins of the wings were exact representations, in plan, of their own fort, and that the spots on the wings denoted the number and position of guns and their different calibres.

On another occasion I found it a simple disguise to go as a fisherman into the country which I wanted to examine.

My business was to find some passes in the mountains, and report whether they were feasible for the passage of troops. I therefore wandered up the various streams which led over the hills, and by quietly fishing about I was able to make surveys of the whole neighbourhood.

But on one occasion a countryman constituted himself my guide, and insisted on sticking to me all the morning, showing me places where fish could be caught. I was not as a matter of fact, much of a fisherman at that time, nor had I any desire to catch fish, and my tackle was of a very ramshackle description for the purpose.

I flogged the water assiduously with an impossible fly, just to keep the man’s attention from my real work, in the hope that he would eventually get tired of it and go away. But not he! He watched me with the greatest interest for a long time, and eventually explained that he did not know anything about fly fishing, but had a much better system of getting the fish together before casting a worm or slug among them.

His system he then proceeded to demonstrate, which was to spit into the water. This certainly attracted a run of fish, and then he said that if only he had a worm he could catch any number.

I eventually got rid of him by sending him to procure such, and while he was away I made myself scarce and clambered over the ridge. to another valley.

Table of Contents

  Part One. Introduction—The Different Degrees of Spies—Strategical Agents—Tactical Agents—Residential Spies—Officer Agents—Commercial Spying—Germany’s Invasion Plans—Field Spies—Catching a Spy.
  Part Two. Conveying Information—Secret Signals and Warnings—Spies in War Time—The Pluck of a Spy—Traitorous Spying—The German Spy Organization—The Value of Being Stupid—Concealing a Fort in a Moth’s Head—Butterfly Hunting in Dalmatia.
  Part Three. How Spies Disguise Themselves—The Sport of Spying—The Value of Hide-and-Seek—Spying on Mountain Troops—Posing as an Artist.
  Part Four. Fooling a German Sentry—A Spy is Suspicious—Hoodwinking a Turkish Sentry—Tea and a Turk—Sore Feet—Austrian Officers—An Interesting Task.
  Part Five. An Interesting Task—Encounter with the Police—Success with the Balloon—How to Enter a Fort—How We Got the Secret Light—How the Big River was Swum—Caught at Last—The Escape—Conclusion.
  The Baden-Powell Library
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