Part Four. Fooling a German Sentry—A Spy is Suspicious—Hoodwinking a Turkish Sentry—Tea and a Turk—Sore Feet—Austrian Officers.


On another occasion I wanted to ascertain what value there was in the musketry training of a foreign infantry. Also it had been reported that they had recently acquired a new’ form of machine gun which was a particularly rapid firer and very accurate in its effects. Its calibre was known, and its general pattern (from photographs), but its actual capabilities were still a matter of conjecture.

On this occasion I thought the simplest way would be to go undistinguised. Without any concealment I went to stay in garrison towns where I happened to know one or two officers. I obtained introductions to other officers, and gradually became their companion at meals and at their evening entertainments. They mounted me on their horses, I rode with them on their rounds of duty, and I came to be an attendant at their field days and maneuvers; but whenever we approached the rifle ranges I was always politely but firmly requested to go no further, but to await their return, since the practice was absolutely confidential. I could gain no information from them as to what went on within the enclosure where the rifle range was hidden.

Two of my English friends one day incautiously stopped at the entrance gate to one of the ranges, and were promptly arrested and kept in the guard-room for some hours, and finally requested to leave the place, without getting much satisfaction out of it. So I saw that caution was necessary. Little by little, especially after some very cheerful evenings, I elicited a certain amount of information from my friends as to what the new machine gun did and was likely to do, and how their soldiers could of course never hit a running target, since it was with the greatest difficulty they hit the standing one at all. But more than this it was impossible to get.

However, I moved on to another military station, where as a stranger I tried another tack. The rifle ranges were surrounded by a belt of trees, outside of which was an unclimbable fence guarded by two sentries, one on either side. It seemed impossible to get into or even near the range without considerable difficulty.

One day I sauntered carelessly down in the direction of the range at a point far away from the entrance gate, and here I lay down on the grass as if to sleep, but in reality to listen and take the rate of the shooting from the sound and also the amount of success by the sound of the hits on the iron target. Having gained a certain amount of data in this way, I approached more nearly in the hope of getting a sight of what was going on.

While the sentry’s back was turned I made a rush for the fence, and though I could not get over, I found a loose plank through which I was able to get a good view of what was happening.

While engaged at this, to my horror the sentry suddenly turned on his tracks and came back towards me. But I had been prepared against such eventualities, and jamming back the plank into its place, I produced from my pocket a bottle of brandy which I had brought for the purpose. Half of it had been already sprinkled over my clothes, so that when the man approached he found me in a state of drunkenness, smelling vilely of spirits, and profuse in my offers to him to share the bottle.

The above sketch shows the writer in a tight place.
He was discovered in close proximity to a rifle range
by a German sentry. He pretended to be intoxicated,
and so escaped But it was a close shave.

He could make nothing of me, and therefore gently but firmly conducted me to the end of his beat and thrust me forth and advised me to go home, which I did in great content. . .


The practice of spying has one unfortunate tendency: it teaches one to trust no one, not even a would-be benefactor. A foreign country had recently manufactured a new form of field gun which was undergoing extensive secret trials, which were being conducted in one of her colonies in order to avoid being watched. I was sent to find out particulars of this gun. On arrival in the colony I found that a battery of new guns was carrying out experiments at a distant point along the railway.

The place was by all description merely a roadside station, with not even a village near it, so it would be difficult to go and stay there without being noticed at once. The timetable, however, showed that the ordinary day train stopped there for half an hour for change of engines, so I resolved to see what I could do in the space of time allowed.

We jogged along in the local train happily enough and stopped at every little station as we went. At one of these a Colonial farmer entered my carriage, and though apparently ill and doleful, we got into conversation on the subject of the country and the crops.

At length we drew up at the station where the guns were said to be. Eagerly looking from the window, my delight may be imagined when I saw immediately outside the station yard the whole battery of guns standing parked.

Everybody left the train to stretch their legs, and I did not lose a moment in hurrying through the station and walking out to have a closer look at what I had come to see.

The sentry on the guns was on the further side from me, and therefore I was able to have a pretty close look at the breech action and various other items before he could come round to my side. But he very quickly noticed my presence, and not only came himself, but shouted to another man whom I had not so far seen behind a corner of the station wall.

This was the corporal of the guard, who rushed at me and began abusing me with every name he could lay his tongue to for being here without permit. I tried to explain that I was merely a harmless passenger by the train coming out to stretch my legs, and had never noticed his rotten old guns. But he quickly shoo’d me back into the station.

I betook myself once more to the carriage, got out my field glasses, and continued my investigations from the inside of the carriage, where I had quite a good view of the guns outside the station, and was able to note a good deal of information painted on them as to their weight, calibre, etc. Suddenly in the midst of my observations I found the view was obscured, and looking up, I found the face of the corporal peering in at me; he had caught me in the act. But nothing more came of it at the moment.

My farmer friend presently returned to his place, the whistle sounded, and the train lumbered on.

When I resumed conversation with the Colonist I remarked on his invalid appearance and enquired about his health. The poor man, with tears running down his cheeks, then confessed to me it was not illness of body, but worry of the mind that was preying on him.

He had utterly failed in his attempt at making a successful farm, and had entered the train with the idea of cutting his throat, and would have done so had I not been there to prevent him. Life was over for him, and he did not know what to do. I got him to talk about his losses, and offered suggestions to him based on the experiences of a friend of mine who was also a farmer in that country, and who for ten years had failed until the right method came to him in the eleventh year, and he was now making his business a huge success.

This put hope at once into my volatile companion. He bucked up and became cheerful and confidential. Finally he said :

"You have done me a good turn. I will do something for you. I know that you are a German spy, and I know that you are going to be arrested at the station where this train stops for the night. You were spotted by a non-commissioned officer at the last station, and while I was in the telegraph office he came in and sent a telegram to the Commandant of the terminal station, reporting that a German spy had been examining the guns and was travelling by this train in this carriage."

I at once laughed genially at the mistake made, and explained to him that I was not a German at all. He replied that that would not avail me—I should be arrested all the same if I went on to the end of the journey.

"But," he suggested, "I shall be getting out myself at the very next station to go back to my farm, and my advice to you is to get out there also. You will find a good inn where you can put up for the night, and to-morrow morning the early train will take you on clean through that very station where the military commandant will be on the look-out for you to-night."

I replied that, as an Englishman, I had nothing to fear, and I should go on.

At the next station accordingly he got out, and after an affectionate farewell, I went on. But there was yet another station between this and the night stop, and on arrival there I took the hint of my friend and got out and spent the night at the little inn of the place. Following his advice still further, I took the early train next morning and ran through the place where they had been looking out for me I had not got out when he invited me to at his station lest his invitation might merely have been a trap to test whether I was a spy; had I accepted it, no doubt he might have had friends at hand to arrange my arrest. As it was, I came away scot free with all the information I wanted about the new gun.


A big new Turkish fort had been recently built, and my business was to get some idea of its plan and construction. From my inn in the town I sauntered out early one morning before sunrise, hoping to find no sentries awake, so that I could take the necessary angles and pace the desired bases in order to plot in a fairly accurate plan of it.

To some extent I had succeeded when I noticed among the sandhills another fellow looking about, and, it seemed to me, trying to dodge me. This was rather ominous, and I spent some of my time trying to evade this "dodger," imagining that he was necessarily one of the guard attempting my capture.

In evading him, unfortunately, I exposed myself rather more than usual to view from the fort, and presently was challenged by one of the sentries. I did not understand his language, but I could understand his gesture well enough when he presented his rifle and took deliberate aim at me. This induced me to take cover as quickly as might be behind a sandhill, where I sat down and waited for a considerable time to allow the excitement to cool down.

Presently, who should I see creeping round the corner of a neighbouring sandhill. but my friend the "dodger!" It was too late to avoid him, and the moment he saw me he appeared to wish to go away rather than to arrest me. We then recognised that we were mutually afraid of each other, and therefore came together with a certain amount of diffidence on both sides.

However, we got into conversation, in French, and I very soon found that, although representatives of different nationalities, we were both at the same game of making a plan of the fort. We therefore joined forces, and behind a sandhill we compared notes as to what information we had already gained, and then devised a little plan by which to complete the whole scheme.

My friend took his place in a prominent position with his back to the fort and commenced to smoke, with every appearance of indifference to the defence work behind him. This was meant to catch the sentry’s eye and attract his attention while I did some creeping and crawling and got round the other side of the work, where I was able to complete our survey in all its details.

A sketch showing how I and another spy managed to obtain drawings of a fort absolutely under the eyes of a sentry. The spy on the right of the picture is doing nothing more than attracting the attention of the sentry while on the left of the picture I am making the necessary drawings.

It was late that night when we met in the "dodger’s" bedroom, and we made complete tracings and finished drawings, each of us taking his own copy for his own headquarters. A day or two later we took a steamer together for Malta, where we were to part on our respective homeward journeys—he on his way back to Italy.

As we both had a day or two to wait at Malta, I acted as host to him during his stay. As we entered the harbour I pointed out to him the big 110-ton guns which at that time protected the entrance, and were visible to anybody. with two eyes in his head. I pointed out various other interesting batteries to him which were equally obvious, but I omitted to mention other parts which would have been of greater interest to him.

He came away from Malta, however, with the idea that, on the whole, he had done a good stroke of business for his Government going there, and convinced of his luck in by getting hold of a fairly simple thing in the shape of myself to show him around.

It was my good fortune to meet him a few years later, when perhaps unwittingly he returned the compliment which I had done him in Malta. He was then in charge of a large arsenal in one of the colonies of his country. This was situated in a citadel perched on a high ridge with a rapid river flowing around the base.

My orders at that time were to try and ascertain whether any organisation existed in this colony for mobilising the natives as a reserve, should the regular troops be called away for action elsewhere.

Also whether there was any means arranged for arming these natives; if so, in what way and in what numbers.

Knowing that my friend was quartered in the place, I called upon him as the first step, without any definite plan in my mind as to how I was to set about getting the information. He was kind enough to take me for a tour of inspection round the town, down to the river, and up in the citadel.

By a lucky chance I got on to the idea that the citadel ought to be lit with electric light since the water power produced by the torrent below could work a dynamo at very low cost if properly engineered. This was so much in my thoughts that as we went through the barracks and buildings in the fort, I kept pointing out how easily and inexpensively places might be wired and lit. And I gradually persuaded him that it was a matter that he should take up and suggest to his superior.

Finally, when he had seen almost everything, my friend remarked: "I don’t suppose you would care to see inside the arsenal, it is so much like many others you must have seen before." But I assured him that it would interest me very much; in fact, it was rather essential to forming any approximate estimate for the lighting; and so he took me in.

There was gallery after gallery filled with racks of arms, all beautifully kept, and over the door of each room was the name of the tribe and the number of men who could be mobilised in the event of their being required, and the number of arms and the amount of ammunition that was available for each.

After taking me through two or three rooms, he said: "There are many more like this, but you have probably seen enough." But I eagerly exclaimed that I must see the others in order to judge of this electric lighting scheme. If there were many more rooms it might necessitate an extra-sized dynamo, therefore a greater expense, but I hoped that by due economy in the number

of lamps to be able to keep down to the original estimate which I had thought of.

So we went steadily through all the rooms, looking at the places where lamps might be most economically established, and I made calculations with pencil and paper, which I showed him, while I jotted on my shirt cuff the names of the tribes and the other information required by my superiors at home which I did not show him.

The armament of native auxiliaries and their organisation and numbers were thus comparatively easily found out—thanks to that little stroke of luck which I repeat so often comes in to give success whether in scouting or spying.

But a more difficult job was to ascertain the practical fighting value of such people.


Reports had got about that some wonderful new guns had been installed in one of the forts on the Bosphorus and that a great deal of secrecy was observed in their being put up. It became my duty to go and find out any particulars about them.

My first day in Constantinople was spent under the guidance of an American lady in seeing the sights of the city, and when we had visited almost all the usual resorts for tourists she asked whether there was anything else that I wanted to see, and to a certain extent I let her into my confidence when I told her that I would d give anything to see the inside of one of these forts, if it were possible.

She at once said she would be delighted to take me to see her old friend Hamid Pasha, who was quartered in one of them and was always willing to give her and her friends a cup of tea.

When we arrived at the gate of the fort the sentry and the officer in charge would on no account allow us to pass until the lady said that she was a friend of the Pasha, when we were at once admitted and passed to his quarters.

He was a charming host, and received us with the greatest kindness, and after showing us his own quarters and the many curiosities he had collected he took us all round the fort and pointed out its ancient and modern devices for defence, and finally showed us its guns. Two of these, in a somewhat prominent position where they could easily be seen from outside, were covered with canvas covers. My excitement naturally grew intense when I saw these, and I secretly begged the lady to persuade him to allow us to look at them, and he at once acquiesced, thinking I was an American, and, grinning all over his face, said, These are our very latest development."

I almost trembled as the covers were drawn off, and then I recognised guns, truly of a modern make but not very new nor powerful, and then he gave away the whole secret by saying: "Of course, we are trying to impress a certain power with the idea that we are re-arming our forts, and therefore we are letting it be known that we are keeping these guns a dead secret and covered from view of any spies."

On another occasion it fell to my lot to inspect some of the defences of the Dardanelles, and I found it could best be done from the seaward. This involved my taking passage in an old grain steamer running between Odessa and Liverpool, and my voyage in her was one of the most charming and original that it has been my lot to take.

A tramp steamer loaded down with grain until its cargo is almost running out of the ventilators is — contrary to all expectations — quite a comfortable boat for cruising in. The captain and his wife lived in comfortable cabins amidships under the bridge; the after deck was stocked with pigs and chickens, which fed liberally on the cargo. The captain’s good lady was a Scotch woman, and therefore an excellent cook.

Everything was most clean and comfortable, and the Captain most thoroughly entered into my various schemes for observing and examining the defences of the coast as we went along.

He allowed me practically to take command of the ship as regards her course and anchoring. From side to side of the Dardanelles we wandered, and when we came abreast of one of the forts that needed study we anchored ship.

Our erratic procedure naturally invited investigation, and when a Government pilot boat put off to enquire our reason for anchoring in a certain bay he came to the conclusion that our steering gear was not in very good order and that we had stopped to repair it.

While the ship was at anchor a boat was lowered and I whiled away the time, nominally

in fishing, but really in cruising about close to the forts and fishing for information rather than for fish by observing the different types of the guns employed and sketching their position and the radius of fire allowed to take them by the splay of their embrasures; also we took soundings where necessary and made sketch maps of possible landing places for attacking or other purposes.


Bosnia and Herzegovina were under Austrian protection and were supplying a new contingent of infantry to the Austrian army. This force was said to have most marvellous powers of marching and endurance, something hitherto unheard of among European nations. I was told off to ascertain how great these powers might be and what was the secret of their success.

I visited them in their own country. But before I arrived there I had passed through Montenegro, and I had there received reports from Montenegrins, which to some extent discounted the high praise given to them. When I asked a Montenegrin his opinion of his neighbours in the matter of marching and hill climbing, he could only contemptuously spit.

And then he explained to me that any fool can go uphill, but a Montenegrin is the only man who can go downhill.

He pointed to the round tower in Cettinje, and told me within it lay several piles of Turks’ head, for the reason that every Montenegrin who could show a heap of nine Turks’ heads gathered by himself was entitled to a gold medal from the Prince.

Their method of gaining Turks’ heads was this:

A party of them would make a raid into Turkish territory and get a few cattle or women. They would then be pursued by the Turks into the mountains, and they would make their way hurriedly up the mountain side’ just sufficiently far ahead to lead the Turks on to pursue them eagerly. When the Turks had become well strung out in the pursuit, the Montenegrins would suddenly turn on them and charge down the mountain side.

There was no escape for the Turks. They were only ordinary mortals, and could not run downhill. And he showed me his great bare knee, and slapping it with pride, he said: "That is what takes you downhill, and no other nation has a knee like the Montenegrins. And as for the Bosnians — then he spat!

However, as the Bosnians were reported to be doing such great things in the marching line for the Austrian army, my next step was to visit the Austrian maneuvers and watch them.

It is usual for a military attaché to be sent officially to watch such maneuvers, and he is the guest of the Government concerned. But in that position it is very difficult for him to see behind the scenes. He is only shown what they want him to see. My duty was to go behind the scenes as much as possible and get other points of view.

I accordingly attached myself to a squad of infantry, with whom I spent a couple of days and nights. I had come to a certain town, and could find no room in the place where I could sleep. The hotels were crammed, and even in the shops men were billeted to sleep on and under the counters, as also in every garret and archway in the place.

Finally, I went to the station and asked the stationmaster if I could sleep in a railway carriage. He informed me that all these were filled with troops; but one of the railway men who came from the signal-box a short way down the line took pity on me, and told me if I liked there was his cabin, which I could share with his brother, who was a corporal, and his squad of men, and that I might find room to lie down there.

I gladly climbed the steps into the signal box, and was made welcome by the corporal and his men in sharing their supplies, and after supper and a chat I bedded down amongst them.

It was interesting to see how conscientiously this little party did its work. At every hour during the night the corporal went out and inspected his sentry, just as if on active service, and patrols were frequent and reports handed in, although no officer ever came near the place.

During the next two days we had plenty of experience of marching and counter-marching, firing and charging; but going along in the rear of the immense mass of troops one soon realised what enormous wastage there is in stragglers, and especially those with sore feet. So much so was this the case that wagons came along, picked up the sore-footed men, and carried them back to the railway, where every evening a special train was in attendance to convey them back to their garrison.

A few that were missed out by this operation on the field were collected into their field hospitals, and thus the numbers shown every day to the general staff of men admitted to hospital for sore feet was very small indeed compared with the number that were actually put out of action from that cause.

It was soon quite evident that my friend the Montenegrin had not spat without reason, and that the Bosnians were no harder in their feet than the other nationalities in that variegated army.


I had a very strong fellow feeling for the Austrian army and its officers. They were so very, much like our own, but far more amateurish in their knowledge and methods of leading; as old-fashioned as the hills, and liable to make mistakes at every turn.

The only one who seemed to realise this was the aged Emperor himself, and when he came flying along it was very like the Duke of Cambridge at his best with a thunderstorm raging.

The army was then commanded by Arch-Dukes, aged men as a rule, and all intensely nervous as to what the Emperor would think of them when he came alone. One could tell when he was coming by watching the feathers in their helmets. An Arch-Duke would look very brave in all his war paint, but if you watched the green feather above him closely you might notice it trembling with a distinct shiver when the Emperor was anywhere in the neighbourhood.

Their old-fashioned methods and amateurish leading seem to be paying a heavy price in the present campaign.

Table of Contents

link-spy2.jpg (1947 bytes) 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.
link-spy2.jpg (1947 bytes) 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.
link-spy2.jpg (1947 bytes) Part Three. How Spies Disguise Themselves—The Sport of Spying—The Value of Hide-and-Seek—Spying on Mountain Troops—Posing as an Artist.
link-spy2.jpg (1947 bytes) 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.
link-spy2.jpg (1947 bytes) 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
Return to the Baden-Powell Home Page

Return to the Pine Tree Web Home Page

Your feedback, comments and suggestions are appreciated.
Please write to: Lewis P. Orans

Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1997
Last Modified: 8:51 PM on October 24, 1997

Site Created with Microsoft ® FrontPage TM