Museums can be explored with a broad brush, of course, but if you have sufficient time, or simply come across some little detail you can come away feeling very satisfied. One gallery, Secret War, is devoted to the undercover world of espionage and covert operations. One display lists the locations of spies who were subsequently picked up during World War Two. I didn't need to read through the entire list, as the names Tyttenhanger and London Colney stood out clearly from familiarity. So, let's spell out the details of the event and then return to that information I had previously acquired.
Karel Richard Richter
German from Czechoslovakia
Landed by parachute at
London Colney, 13 May 1941
Arrested at Tess Road police station
Hanged 10 December 1941
What, then, was the story?
We start with the police station in Tess Road. The road is now Woodstock Road south, and the station, in a pair of former houses now demolished was on the site of the present nursery car park. This was a base for Hertfordshire County Police (the city police station was in Victoria Street).
|Now demolished Wireless Station in Smallford|
COURTESY S AMES
The roundabout was more of a square-about in those days, had no dual carriageway, or bypass around London Colney. The phone box was immediately to the south of the roundabout, alongside High Street.
The stranger had been dropped on the previous day and had hidden in woodland near Tyttenhanger Park, just in case his parachute had been spotted. He had his essential gear, including wireless set, in two suitcases! The parachute wasn't noticed, but his presence at the roundabout was. The lorry driver passed on his suspicion to Constable Alec Scott, who questioned the stranger outside of the box, there being a caller inside – at 11.45pm. Apparently the stranger, who was later revealed as a spy, stated he was waiting to call a hospital about his injured leg. Constable Scott took the matter into his own hands and said he would notify the hospital on behalf of the injured party. Good policing! Once inside the kiosk, though, he called the Fleetville police station for back-up instead.
|Much enlarged London Colney roundabout. The phone box was located at the |
entrance to High Street off the picture to the right.
Karel Richard Richter was formally arrested and searched at the station, then questioned. He was sent for trial and removed to Wandsworth Prison, from where he was later hanged.
The full story wasn't made public until 1958 when an article appeared in the Herts Advertiser (August 8th).
Revealing a story can happen when, 77 years later, an inquisitive visitor to a museum spots a familiar landmark in a list.