Spymaster of Rochester from 1908-1913

This is an account of Frederick Adolphus Gould / Schroeder, landlord of the Queen Charlotte public house in Rochester, and “special intelligence officer” for the German Army.

Gould took on the Queen Charlotte in 1908 and managed it until December 1913 when he went to London – perhaps sensing the authorities were onto him. As the landlord of the Queen Charlotte, that was frequented by people with military connections, Gould was in a position to groom and cultivate relationships with soldiers, sailors and defence workers – through whom he obtained documents and information that he passed onto Germany.

Gould’s Background 

Gould
Frederick Adolphus Gould or more accurate Schroeder

According to Gould he was born in Germany to an English mother, in 1854 and came to

England in 1858. He was educated at the Herman school in the Savoy, London. When he was 14, the age that compulsory education ended in England, he returned to Germany. He joined the German army in 1870 and served 12 years. During this time he was awarded the Iron Cross and was promoted to the rank of Captain.

On leaving the German army he went to America before returning to England in 1900 whereupon he became involved in erecting “sky-signs”. For unexplained reasons Gould said the British Government condemned sky-signs and he became unemployed. [Sky-signs could have been an early form of the neon signs but 1900 was early for them to be used in Britain.]

In 1904 it is claimed that Gould represented himself to an old school as a German agent.

Gould arrives in Rochester on a Spying Mission.

In 1907/08 Gould was directed to acquire the license of the Queen Charlotte – a pub frequented by those with military connections and within an easy tram ride of Chatham Dockyard – and with a convenient rail link to the Continent. It was later discovered that Gould had been well prepared on military matters as it was reported that he had a “wonderful library of military books of the most up-to-date character, as well as maps, plans, charts illustrating the various campaigns from the Napoleonic wars to the Balkans”.

Gould quickly impressed the pub’s clientele with his conviviality, generosity and strength. Soldier and sailors felt he was “wondrous kind to them”. Despite his very strong German connections Gould was regarded in Rochester as “a good old English gentleman as one would wish to meet”. He was tall – probably 6’ 3” – burly, black-haired, black-moustached, and “Tommy Jack soon learnt” they could put drinks on a tab or borrow half-a-crown. Gould also impressed his customers with his exhibitions of strength – crushing flat two pewter tankards, one in each hand, breaking half-crowns and shillings with his finger and thumb, and most impressively he “chucked out” two of the most dangerous characters from Chatham who were creating a disturbance – by knocking their heads together he became a local hero! 

Gould also cultivated the “affection” of non-commissioned officers through the formation of a Buffalo Lodge – known as the “Sir Frederick Gould Lodge.” It was not unusual for Gould to invite ‘non-coms’ and ‘half-pay’ captains who were lodging with him to be admitted to his Lodge. In being invited to join they felt highly honoured to be accepted into the companionship of officers and gentlemen. (A Buffalo Lodge was an an organisation that provided mutual aid and support to its members and undertook other charitable work. A half-pay captain could be a retired officer or one on reduced pay as they were not on active service.)

Such was his reputation Gould soon had no difficulty in visiting ships berthed at the dockyard. 

By 1909 Gould had come to the attention of the British security services and was having his movements and communications scrutinising. It is therefore surprising that during the Coronation Naval Review [June 24, 1911] he was able to charter a yacht from which he could inspect the ships anchored in the Medway, and that he received invitations to inspect numerous battleships. It could however be that the security services were unaware at this time of his ‘German activities’ and were more concerned about his Irish connections.

Gould was acquainted with the “Irish Republican Brotherhood” (a group committed to the use of force to establish an independent Irish republic) and the “Clan na Gael” (Irish republican organisation in the United States). Initially Gould’s was to explore the possibility of supporting an armed uprising in Ireland in the event of England becoming engaged in a Continental war. Gould, though, came to the conclusion that “the treasonable talk of his Irish contacts was mere moonshine.” “Thus, instead of sending them arms he sent the hot-heads few cases of whisky!”

In May 1912 Gould was interviewed by the police on an undisclosed civil matter. Five days after this interview Gould received a letter from Germany, and two days after that he left Rochester. At Rochester railway station he told another passenger he was going to London when in fact he went to Dover. In August and September 1912 he received registered packages from Berlin. In October he was observed making trips from Dover to Ostend, and from Harwich to the Hook of Holland  – staying away for several days at a time.

Despite being ‘monitored’ Gould was able to collect a vast amount of information concerning the construction of naval ships. His contacts were able to obtain this information through becoming involved in the construction of the battleships that were to be supplied to the South American Republics; these ships were being built to the same design as the Navy’s Dreadnoughts! It was also apparently easier to bribe an underpaid adventurer that sailed on one of the South American ships than it was to bride English officers or men.

Gould and his wife are arrested.

In December 1913 Gould left the Queen Charlotte. The reason was not published – could he have obtained all the information that was required? Did he get wind of the fact he had been ‘spotted’?

The next we hear of Frederick Gould (55) and his wife Maud (50) is when they are arrested on the basis of intercepted communications. A telegram from Brussels addressed to Gould at his house at Merton-road, Southfields, was intercepted on 9 February. It said:

“Definite offer for all together 30. Wire reply. – Smith”. 

Ten days later there was another telegram addressed to ‘Gould Dover.’ It simply said:

“Offer 30. – Smith.” 

This was interpreted as meaning £30 should be paid.

Detective Inspector Hester in his evidence to the magistrates, said that about two o’clock

Mrs Gould
Mrs Maud Gould

[on 22 February] he went to Charing Cross Railway Station with other officers and saw Mrs Gould boarding a Continental train – for which she had purchased a return ticket to Ostend. When asked she willing disembarked the train whereupon DI Hester told her that he had reason to believe she was carrying documents prejudicial to the interest and safety of this country. She agreed to go to Bow Street police station. Her luggage consisted of a square flat box and a travelling rug which were found laying on the seat of the carriage. On lifting the rug DI Hester said found three large envelopes. 

Mrs Gould was taken to the police station in a cab. On arrival there DI Hester said she threw onto the pavement some pieces of paper. When pieced back together the name “Petersen” and an address that was later found in Gould’s address book, was found to have been written on the paper. When the envelopes were opened they were found to contain documents relative to his Majesty’s Navy – a confidential gunnery book, charts of home and some foreign ports, a plan of an unarmed cruiser and the plans of an engine room of one of the Navy’s ships. Mrs Gould was searched but no further incriminating documents were found on her. She was detained at the police station whilst officers went to Merton-road to search the home of Gould who was now describing himself as a cigar merchant.

DI Hester in his evidence stated that Gould, beyond confirming his names, did not reply when told the police had a warrant issued under the Official Secrets Act to search his house. Incriminating letters were found on Gould when he was searched. He was therefore arrested and taken to Bow Street police station. Along with his wife he was charged with feloniously obtaining naval secrets, calculated to be useful to enemy, and communicating such information to another person. Gould was additionally charged with inciting his wife to commit an offence under the Official Secrets Act.

When Mrs Gould was charged she said she didn’t understand why pointing out that she was carrying the three packages openly, and she had no idea of their contents. She said she was taking them to Ostend before going onto Brussels but she offered no explanation as to why she tore up and discarded the piece of paper which had an address on it. Mr Gould confirmed her story by saying “this poor woman does not know what she went away for …. she was taking a message from me”.

Initially Mr & Mrs Gould were both remanded in custody but when this came up for renewal Gould requested that his wife should be allowed bail as she was not aware of the significance of the task she was undertaking for him, and she had two small children to care for. Mrs. Gould, who appeared to be ill, also tearfully pleaded to allowed to go home and said that she had children who required looking after. She was bailed in two sureties of £250 each. [£1 = £100 today.] 

Mr & Mrs Gould

But were Mr & Mrs Gould married?

It is unclear whether Frederick and Maud were really married. Some press reports questioned whether their marriage certificate was in order. It is perhaps also worthy to note that in an interview that Gould had previously given to a journalist – that was detailed – he made no mention of being married. In evidence he did say that he had a son who worked as a draftsman – but that implies that he was not a young child in need of his mother’s care. If there were young children of this marriage who was looking after them whilst Mrs Gould journeyed to Ostend – it does not appear to have been Gould as DI Hester makes no reference to any one else being in the house when he called at the home to search/arrest Gould. Could the young children have been Maud’s from another relationship? It seems strange that Gould in pleading for the release of Mrs Gould referred to her as “this poor woman” rather than as his wife? It may also be worth mentioning that Mrs Gould was well-known on the variety stage prior to her marriage, and was a particular favourite at the Alhambra, the Pavilion, and West-End halls – could stage work at this time have made her both ‘vulnerable’ to being recruited, and skilled in playing a role?

[I have since discovered census information from 1911 that confirms that although they many not have been legally married Maud was living with Frederick as his wife and they seem to have four children – Maud (16), Violet (15), Frederick (13), Albert (12), and Mildred (9). All listed was living in St. Nicholas, Rochester. Frederick Adolphus Gould was listed as being born in Marylebone London, England 24 Oct ‘ 2018.]

Court Appearances

In March 1914 the committal hearing for Frederick and Maud Gould commenced.  The press excitedly covered the hearings with headlines that  including – “OFFICIAL SECRETS CASE”, “SERIOUS ESPIONAGE CHARGE”; “NAVY SECRETS CASE- DRAMATIC SCENE IN COURT”; “SPY’S LIFE STORY – DRINKS AND LOANS FOR SOLDIERS AND SAILORS”.

The evidence presented at the committal hearing, that was largely accepted, included:

  1. Gould told an old school friend in 1904 that he was a spy. [Gould denied ever saying this.]
  1. Police reporting that they had observed Gould disembarking from a boat from Ostend in October 1912 – and other ferry journeys.
  1. An expert witness confirming that the charts Gould had in his possession were for the approaches to Bergen and Spithead. The witness confirmed that they could be purchased but they would not carry the Admiralty marks that were present on the charts in Gould’s possession.
  1. An expert witness confirmed that one of the drawings in Gould’s possession was for an unarmored 18,000 horsepower cruiser. It was marked ‘Admiralty – Confidential’ and detailed the layout of machinery and engines. The drawing was from 1909 and the design was still being used up until 1911. The last two ships made to this design were completed in 1913.
  1. Gould had in his possession a list of 38 questions. An expert witness confirmed that the questions could have only been framed by someone with technical knowledge and who was familiar with recent developments the English Navy. The questions related to the latest developments in warships and the guns used by the Navy, as well as armaments, mines, and kindred matters.
  1. A search of the Queen Charlotte in Rochester discovered amongst rubbish left behind, documents, charts and important papers that showed Gould had been acting as a spy for many years. [Gould challenged the significance of these documents. The prosecution had noted that they were in the public domain and Gould claimed he had purchased them for 2s 6d for his son who was a draftsman and fond of drawing.]

Gould’s representative, Mr. Huntley Jenkins, argued that for a prosecution to succeed it was necessary to show that secret material had been obtained and that it had been communicated to another. Jenkins accepted that Gould had secret material in his possession – which was a misdemeanour – but not that it had been communicated. The argument was not accepted and both Mr & Mrs Gould were committed for trial – with Mrs Gould having her bail renewed.

The trial was held on 3 April 1914. At the start the Attorney-General said he did not propose to offer any evidence against Mrs Gould as her part was entirely subsidiary, and she did not realise the significance of the task she was undertaking. Judge Atkin approved this decision and ordered the jury to formally returned a verdict of Not Guilty. Mrs Gould was therefore discharged.

Although Gould had pleaded guilty the trial heard evidence that showed he was a “special intelligence officer” who had been spying in the interests of his native land for many years. It also exposed the methods he used to induce British soldiers and sailors to betray their country – “daring dodges [used] to gull the possible victims of his plots into the belief that was merely a genial, generous gentleman” – described above, see Gould arrives in Rochester on a Spying Mission.

Sentenced

Gould was found guilty and sentenced to six years penal servitude followed by deportation. Reports of what happened to Gould after he served his sentence have not been discovered for certain [but a Frederick Adolphus Gould appears on electoral registers in London on dates after what would have been Gould’s release date – in 1937 a FAG was registered at 40 Beechdale Road, Norwood – but this is not necessarily the same man. No record found for Maud. 24 October 2018.]

Postscript

The press continued to show interest in the ‘work’ of Gould/Schroeder and other spies. They found that Gould had had contact with a German band that was playing in Bayswater. The band was thus watched by England’s ‘spy-catchers’ who discovered that the band whilst touring the country performing their music, were also mapping the waterworks of the various towns they visited. Unfortunately they vanished before they could be arrested and with them went the complete plan of the waterworks of London.

Geoff Ettridge aka Geoff Rambler

23 October 2018.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: