Spies in Britain
Of the seventeen spies arrested and executed, only three British subjects were sentenced to death and executed under the Treachery Act of 1940. They were George Johnson Armstrong, Duncan Scott-Ford and Theodore Schurch.
The novel's fictional character, Kevin McLain (aka Alex Scott), is not based on any real person. However, in a few details, Duncan Scott-Ford could loosely fit the bill.
Still, under British laws during World War II, the fictional Kevin/Alex would have been tried by military tribunal, and executed by the American military in a British prison (Wandsworth) under the auspices of the British military since the fictional Kevin/Alex's crime was committed on an American military base that was hosted on British soil.
Duncan Alexander Croall Scott-Ford
Duncan Alexander Croall Scott-Ford was born on 4 September 1921, as Duncan Alexander Croall Smith, in a house in Clyde Street, Devonport. His Father, Duncan Scott-Smith, was a sick bay attendant in the Royal Navy. His Mother was Mary Isabella Ferrett-Croall. She registered her son’s birth on 28 September 1921. When their son was 6 years’ old, the family moved to Pym Street, Plymouth.
On 18 March 1933, Scott-Ford’s Father attempted suicide by injecting himself with morphia taken from his workplace. He was found collapsed in Devonport Park. He was taken to the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth. Due to his exposure, and the weakness caused by the injection, he developed Broncho-Pneumonia in both his lungs. Six days later, on 23 March 1933, Scott-Ford’s Father died at the hospital aged 31 years’ old. At this time, Scott-Ford would have been 11 years’ old.
Following his Father’s death, Scott-Ford was moved from Morice Town County School in Devonport, to Greenwich Naval Training School.
Joins the Royal Navy:
In December 1936, Scott-Ford joined HMS Impregnable at Devonport to undergo training for the Royal Navy. Just after his sixteenth birthday in September 1937, Scott-Ford joined the Royal Navy and was posted to HMS Cromwell. In June 1939, he was transferred to HMS Gloucester as a Boy Seaman 1st Class. The Gloucester was commissioned to the East Indies Station for two years, and in June 1939, Scott-Ford was promoted from Boy Seaman to Writer due to his educational improvement.
In June 1939, HMS Gloucester spent ten days at Dar-es-Salaam to show the flag. During the ship’s stay, Scott-Ford met a 17 year old German girl called Ingeberg Richeter, who was the daughter of the manager of a local German firm.
Scott-Ford paid frequent visits to her home, and they became very intimate. They agreed to correspond, despite her Father probably not approving of the relationship. They exchanged three letters, before the fourth was returned as the family had returned to Germany.
HMS Gloucester (a cruiser which sank in The Aegean Sea on 22 May 1941) arrived in Alexandria the day that Italy entered the war. While in Cairo, Scott-Ford visited an Egyptian prostitute five times, which was proving a drain on his financial resources. He twice altered his Post Office Savings book, and withdrew money over the amounts he had in his account.
Scott-Ford was arrested for this crime in January 1941, and apparently confessed these two counts. He was detained under close arrest on HMS Medway until his courts-martial on 3 March 1941. Scott-Ford was sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment, and a dishonourable discharge from the Royal Navy.
Dismissed from Royal Navy:
Scott-Ford arrived back in England on 7 May 1941. He was then sent to Winchester Prison to serve his sentence. While at Winchester Prison, Scott-Ford was informed that his Mother has asked the Admiralty for a review of his courts-martial sentence. His Mother later claimed that she had re-paid the money taken by her son. The sentence was reduced to two months hard labour with a honourable dismissal from the Royal Navy.
When Scott-Ford was released from prison in July 1941, he initially moved in with his Mother and Step-Father who were living in Bannockburn Street, Greenock. It was during this period that Scott-Ford had a bitter quarrel with his Mother. Scott-Ford told her that he had learnt from a neighbour, that she had been spending the allotment money he had received from the Royal Navy on a renovated fur coat for his cousin and a new fur coat for herself. Scott-Ford also accused her of blackening his late Father’s memory.
Four weeks after his release from Winchester Prison, his papers arrived from the Admiralty, and Scott-Ford left his Mother and Step-Father and moved to a house in Union Street, Greenock.
Joins the Merchant Navy:
After several unsuccessful attempts, Scott-Ford signed on the SS Almenara. Two days later, on 13 September 1941, the ship left Greenock for Trinidad, Barbados, St. Lucia, Georgetown, Newport (Virginia) and Halifax. The SS Almenara returned to Greenock on 23 January 1942. After being paid off from this voyage, Scott-Ford mainly ate in restaurants and slept in a lodging house in West Blackhall Street, which was next to the McAndrews Fisheries. He also spent a short period with his Uncle in East Hough, Perthshire.
Scott-Ford reported to the Seamen’s Pool at Greenock on 5 February 1942. Fours days later, he signed on the SS Finland as an able-bodied seaman. The Finland sailed the following day for Gibraltar and Valencia, returning to Liverpool on 25 March 1942. Scott-Ford spent the next few days living and working on the ship.
On 11 April 1942, the Finland sailed from Liverpool to Lisbon, arriving at Lisbon on Sunday 10 May 1942. Four days later (Thursday), Scott-Ford paid his first visit ashore in Lisbon. Together with a ship-mate, they spent the night with two ladies they had met at a local cafe. The following morning, Scott-Ford’s ship-mate returned to the Finland. Scott-Ford stayed with his lady for two days, returning to his ship at 5pm on the Saturday evening.
Scott-Ford changed into clean clothes and returned ashore, to stay with his lady friend, until 7am the following Monday morning. He also spent his nights (6pm to 6am) with this lady until the following Saturday, the 23 May 1942. At 10pm on 16 May 1942, Scott-Ford left this lady’s house and went to a nearby bar.
Contacted by enemy agents:
After about twenty minutes of drinking alone, a man walked in and sat on the next stool to Scott-Ford. A short time later, he started talking to Scott-Ford in English, and offered to buy him a drink. Although he had already had a few drinks, Scott-Ford started to drink with him.
This stranger told Scott-Ford he had been a sea captain for seven years. They then discussed their respective sea-going experiences. During this discussion, Scott-Ford mentioned that he had struck up a correspondence with a German girl he had met in Dar-es-Salaam in 1939. When the stranger asked if they had continued with their correspondence, Scott-Ford replied that it had been broken off by the start of the war. When the stranger asked who he was, Scott-Ford replied that he was a British Seaman on the SS Finland. The stranger then offered Scott-Ford 1,000 Escudos if he could confirm a rumour that all British ships had to be in British ports on 28 June 1942. He also said that he would arrange for Scott-Ford to resume his correspondence with Ingeberg Richeter. When Scott-Ford asked how he could arrange this, the stranger told him that he was German. Scott-Ford said that he would attempt to find out about the rumour. The stranger and Scott-Ford then arranged to met at midday the following day (17 May 1942). Once these arrangements had been finalised, they had another drink. The stranger then left Scott-Ford, and met up with his companion. Scott-Ford left the bar alone, arriving back at his lady’s house at 12.30am the following morning.
Scott-Ford got up at the following morning, Sunday 17 May 1942, and took a taxi to keep his appointment with the German stranger. When he met the stranger, who settled his taxi fare, they both took another taxi for about one mile. They left the taxi, and walked off the road to a small rock ledge. The stranger that Scott-Ford had met the previous night introduced himself as Rithman. The second man with the German introduced himself as Captain Henley, and appeared to Scott-Ford as the more senior of the two men.
Captain Henley then questioned Scott-Ford about the rumour concerning British shipping and the date of 28 June 1942. Scott-Ford replied that he had not been able to find out any information about this date. The German agents and Scott-Ford then discussed several topics: air raid damage back home in Britain, the British people’s morale and their thoughts about Winston Churchill. Captain Henley and Scott-Ford then arranged another meeting for 10pm, Thursday 21 May 1942, outside the building of Vaultiers and Co., where Scott-Ford would be collected by a car. Scott-Ford then accepted a 1,000 Escudos note which Henley offered him.
On Thursday 21 May 1942, Scott-Ford kept the arranged meeting. He was driven around to confuse him, before arriving at a building with "Agency Krupps" written above the door. Scott-Ford was taken inside, and eventually Henley and Rithman arrived. They gave Scott-Ford several drinks, before Henley staring asking questions. He asked Scott-Ford about ship-building in Britain, and the arrival of American servicemen. When asked by Henley, Scott-Ford confirmed that his ship had come directly from Britain to Lisbon.
Henley then said that he would pay Scott-Ford a large sum of money for charts showing the British mine-fields. Scott-Ford replied that he did not have access to these charts. Henley also asked Scott-Ford for the latest copies of "Jane’s Fighting Ships" and "Jane’s Aircraft". Before Scott-Ford left, Henley asked him for a receipt for the 1,000 Escudos he had given Scott-Ford the previous day. Scott-Ford rather foolishly wrote and signed the receipt "Duncan Scott-Ford". Henley and Scott-Ford then arranged a meeting for 11am on Sunday 24 May 1942. The meeting was arranged for a wine shop in Lisbon.
When they arrived at this wine shop, Scott-Ford and Henley went through to the back of the shop, and upstairs to a room above the shop. Henley asked Scott-Ford if he could find more information about American troops in Britain. Henley also wanted to find out about three new battleships which were supposed to being built in Britain. Scott-Ford said that he would try to find out the requested information, and Henley gave Scott-Ford another 200 Escudos.
This was the last meeting that Scott-Ford has on this trip, as the SS Finland left Lisbon later on 24 May 1942, arriving at Liverpool on 20 June 1942. On the following day, 21 June 1942, the crew of the SS Finland, including Scott-Ford, were interrogated by Field Security Wing Officers of the Intelligence Corps, to find out if any of the crew members had been approached by German agents in Lisbon. Scott-Ford admitted that he had been approached, but that he had declined all their offers. Scott-Ford stayed on the SS Finland working, spending his nights ashore with a lady in a Liverpool hotel.
At the start of July 1942, Scott-Ford sailed on what was to prove his last trip, arriving in Lisbon on 26 July 1942.
Scott-Ford went ashore during the evening of the following day (Monday) with a ship-mate. Scott-Ford picked up a lady at a cafe, and spent the night with her. He eventually returned to the Finland four hours’ late, which caused his shore leave to be stopped.
Scott-Ford next went ashore on Saturday 1 August 1942. He met the Portuguese agent who had accompanied Henley on their second meeting back in May. The Portuguese agent arranged with Scott-Ford a meeting for 10pm that evening. Scott-Ford was met at the arranged time by a car, and taken to the "Agency Krupp" building again. Henley was in the office with another German that Scott-Ford had not seen before.
Henley gave Scott-Ford another 500 Escudos for his future expenses, and Scott-Ford provided Henley with another signed receipt. Henley then asked Scott-Ford for the two Jane’s books he had requested Scott-Ford to obtain. When Scott-Ford replied that he had been unable to obtain them, Henley threatened to send Scott-Ford’s signed receipts to the British Consul in Lisbon.
Scott-Ford was then asked about the attacks on his last homeward convoy, the convoy’s escort and air-cover. Scott-Ford replied that the convoy had been escorted by five Royal Navy ships and had an air escort provided. Despite this protection, the convoy had lost five ships torpedoed on 14/15 April 1942. Henley then asked Scott-Ford about aircraft factories, Scott-Ford replying that he only knew about the factory at Speke Airfield, near Liverpool. Henley then went on to ask Scott-Ford about the training of invasion troops for the Allied landing in France. Scott-Ford mentioned that he had overheard Royal Marines in Greenock discussing a recently completed exercise.
Henley then said that he wanted more information about British convoys including their courses, speeds, distances and the escort details. He also reminded Scott-Ford of his serious threat to hand his signed receipts over to the British Consul. He then gave Scott-Ford another 100 Escudos.
Scott-Ford left Lisbon for the last time on 7 August 1942, sailing as a Helmsman on the SS Finland. While on the ship, Scott-Ford kept very brief notes about the convoy’s course and escort details on small pieces of paper, which he then wrote up when he was off duty.
Scott-Ford arrested in the UK:
Scott-Ford returned to Salford Docks on 18 August 1942. He was again asked if he had been approached by any German agents in Lisbon. Scott-Ford gave a description of a man who had just asked him questions about the effects of communism in Britain. The following day, Scott-Ford was asked again about approaches by German agents in Lisbon. At this point, Scott-Ford admitted all the approaches made by Henley and the other German agents. He also admitted being given the money, a total of 1,600 Escudos or £18 in 1942 money, and that Henley held signed receipts for the money.
Scott-Ford was then detained on the SS Finland by Sergeant John Hacknay, who was a Field Security Officer, Intelligence Corps. Sergeant Hacknay then escorted Scott-Ford to the Security Office at Salford Docks. At 5.30pm that evening, Sergeant Hacknay together with Scott-Ford went to Salford Police Station. When they arrived, Scott-Ford was informed by Detective-Sergeant John Brown (Salford City Police) that he was being detained under the Defence Regulations Act 1939. Detective William Cunliffe and Detective-Sergeant John Brown then examined Scott-Ford’s wallet, and found the pieces of paper with the convoy’s details written on them.
The following day, Detective Cunliffe and Detective-Sergeant Brown search Scott-Ford’s apartment on the SS Finland.
On 20 August 1942, the Regional Commissioner for the North Eastern Region make an order under Defence Regulation 18B, and Scott-Ford was transferred to Brixton Prison in London. The 18B was signed by Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary, on 24 August 1942. This order was served on Scott-Ford by Inspector Coverney and Sergeant Pennell, both Special Branch officers, at Oratory Central Schools, Stewart Grove, London SW2. This was while Scott-Ford was undergoing further questioning about his spying activities.
Charged under Treachery Act of 1940:
The authorities then decided that detention under Defence Regulation 18B was not sufficient. On 30 September 1942, Scott-Ford was taken to Bow Street Magistrates Court where he was charged with one offence under Section 1 of The Treachery Act 1940: "On the British ship SS Finland, with intent to help the enemy, did an act between 7-9 August 1942, that is, he did record information relating to the movements and composition of a convoy."
Scott-Ford’s trial took place at the Old Bailey before Mr. Justice Birkett on 16 October 1942. Sergeant Hackney, Detective Cunliffe and Detective-Sergeant Brown all gave evidence at Scott-Ford’s trial. Sub-Lieutenant Wilfred Wood, RNVR, from the Intelligence Division, Admiralty, testified that the information collected by Scott-Ford would prove extremely useful to the enemy.
Scott-Ford was found guilty at his trial, and was sentenced to death. He was then transferred from Brixton to Wandsworth Prison, to await his execution by hanging. Scott-Ford did not appeal his conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal.
While at Wandsworth Prison, Scott-Ford was examined by a Medical Inquiry board set up by the Home Secretary, under Section 2(4) of the Criminal Lunatics Act 1884. The two board members were Dr. W.N. East, who was a former Medical Commissioner of His Majesty’s Prisons, and Dr. J.S. Hopwood, who was the Medical Superintendent of Broadmoor Asylum. On 31 October 1942, Herbert Morrison reported that he was unable to find any ground to recommend a reprieve.
Scott-Ford’s civil executioner and his assistant, Albert Pierrepoint and Harry Kirk respectively, arrived at Wandsworth Prison on 2 November 1942. Scott-Ford’s height and weight were measured: 132 lbs and 5 feet 5 inches. These details were passed to Pierrepoint, who after viewing Scott-Ford without his knowledge, assessed that Scott-Ford would require a drop of 8 feet 5 inches at his execution.
On the following day, 3 November 1942, the day appointed by the Prison Commissioners for his execution, Scott-Ford was woken up. At a few seconds to 9am, Pierrepoint entered the condemned's cell and bound Scott-Ford’s arms behind his back. Scott-Ford was then walked into the execution chamber. Once he was placed on the trap-doors, Pierrepoint placed a white hood over Scott-Ford’s head, followed by the noose. While this was taking place, Kirk has quickly bound Scott-Ford’s legs. Pierrepoint then released the safety catch, and pulled the release lever for the trap-doors.
One hour later, Scott-Ford’s body was taken down by the Executioner and prepared for the afternoon’s post mortem and inquest. The post mortem showed that Scott-Ford’s spinal cord had been dislocated between the 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae, with the cord crush with a separation of just over one inch. The inquest jury returned a verdict of "Injury to the brain and spinal cord consequent upon judicial hanging." As with all executed criminals, Scott-Ford was buried in the prison graveyard that afternoon in an un-named plot (Grave #76).
Scott-Ford was the youngest person to be executed under the Treachery Act of 1940. He was also the only person sentenced to death and later executed under this Act, not to appeal his conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Source: Public Record Office, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU