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- The Secrets of the German War Office - 4/34 -
enough caused me intense annoyance. How long we stood thus I don't know. The next thing I remember was a rattle of grounding arms and the sight of two other officers, excitedly gesticulating with the one in charge of the firing squad. All three presently came towards me and one pulling out a flask of cognac with a polite bow offered me a drink. I needed it; but didn't take it. All this time I had been standing motionless with my arms folded across my breast. I heard one say to the other, "Nitchka Curacha" (no coward). If he had only known.
Indeed, had I anticipated such an experience, had I known the things I know now I doubt if I would have been so pleased with the results of my first visit to Koenigergratzerstrasse 70, where the Intelligence Department of the German Admiralty is quartered. Will the reader step back with me in the narrative to the day of my officially joining the Service? Returning to my hotel after my interview with Captain von Tappken in his office, I began to reflect.
I had not entered the Service out of pure adventure or for monetary reasons alone. Money has never appealed to me as the all-powerful thing in life. I have always had enough for creature comforts and as for adventure I had had my fill during the Boer War and my world wanderings. No, I had joined the German Secret Service for quite a different reason. I was thinking of the influences that had pressed me out of my destined groove, by every human right my own. I remember how sanguine Count Reitzenstein was that through the Service I ought to gain the power I had lost. But as I sat in the hotel room had occult powers been given me, I never would have taken up Secret Service work. But one is not quite as wise at twenty-four as at thirty-nine.
Well satisfied with my prospects, I arose early the next morning and walked briskly to Captain Tappken's office. Punctually at ten o'clock I announced myself at the Admiralty and after the usual procedure with the door man, I was received by Herr von Stammer, private secretary of Captain Tappken. A very astute and calculating gentleman is Herr von Stammer. Suave, genial, talkative, he has the plausible and unstudied art of extracting information without committing himself in turn. A marvelous encyclopædia of devious Secret Service facts, an ideal tutor.
When we were alone in his office, von Stammer began by saying abruptly:
"From now on, you must be entirely and absolutely at our Service. You will report daily at twelve noon by telephoning a certain number. At all times you must be accessible. You will pay close attention to the following rules:
"Absolute silence in regard to your missions. No conversation with minor officials but only with the respective heads of departments or to whomever you are sent. You will make no memoranda nor carry written documents. You will never discuss your affairs with any employee in the Service whom you may meet. You are not likely to meet many. It is strictly against the rules to become friendly or intimate with any agent. You must abstain from intoxicating liquors. You are not permitted to have any women associates. You will be known to us by a number. You will sign all your reports by that number. Always avoid telephoning, telegraphing and cabling as much as possible. In urgent cases do so, but use the cipher that will be supplied to you."
He went on to give numerous other minor details and instructions, elaborating the system, but which might prove wearisome here. I was in his office all the forenoon, and when he ushered me out I half expected to be called into von Tappken's presence to be sent on my first mission. Instead of that, I had to wait five months before I was given my first work and an exceedingly unimportant thing it was. During those five months I was kept at a steady grind of schooling in certain things. Day after day, week after week, I was grounded in subjects that were essential to efficient Secret Service work.
Broadly, they could be divided into four classes--topography, trigonometry, naval construction and drawing. The reasons for these you will see from my missions. My tutors were all experts in the Imperial Service. A Secret Service agent sent out to investigate and report on the condition, situation, and armament of a fort like Verdun in France must be able to make correct estimates of distances, height, angles, conditions of the ground, etc. This can only be done by a man of the correct scientific training. He must have the science of topography at his finger tips; he must be able to make quick and accurate calculations using trigonometry, as well as possessing skill as a draftsman. In my mission to Port Arthur, where I had to report on the defenses, I found this training invaluable.
The same applies to the subject of naval construction. Before entering the German Secret Service, I certainly knew the difference between a torpedo and a torpedo boat destroyer, but naturally could not give an accurate description of the various types of destroyers and torpedoes. My instructor in this subject was Lieutenant Captain Kurt Steffens, torpedo expert of the Intelligence Department of the Imperial Navy. After a month of tutelage under him, I was able to tell the various types of torpedoes, submarines, and mines, etc., in use by the principal Powers. I could even tell by the peculiar whistle it made whether the torpedo that was being discharged was a Whitehead or a Brennan.
I was also drilled in the construction of every known kind of naval gun. Dozens of model war-crafts were shown to me and explained. I saw the model of every warship in the world. For days at a time I was made to sit before charts that hung from the walls of certain rooms in the Intelligence Department and study the silhouettes of every known varying type of war-craft. I was schooled in this until I could tell at a glance what type of a battleship, cruiser, or destroyer it was, whether it was peculiar to the English, French, Russian or United States Navy. As I shall show in relating one of my missions to England, I was brushed up on the silhouette study of British warships, for I had to be able to discern and classify them at long range. The different ranking officers of the navies of the world, their uniforms, the personnel of battleships, the systems of flag signals, and codes, were explained to me in detail. I was given large books in which were colored plates of the uniforms and signal flags of every navy in the world. I had to study these until at a glance I could tell the rank and station of the officers and men of the principal navies. The same with the signal flags. I pored over those books night after night into the early hours of the morning. My regular hours for tuition were from ten to twelve in the forenoon and from two until six in the afternoon. But it was impossible to compress all the work into that time. I was anxious to get my first mission, and I presume I did a great deal of cramming.
My study was not all in Berlin. I spent most of my time there at Koenigergratzerstrasse 70 and at the Zeughaus, the great museum of the German General Staff. But there were side trips to the big government works at Kiel and Wilhelmshafen. There I was taught every detail of the mechanics of naval construction and I was not pronounced equipped until I could talk intelligently about every unassembled part of a gun, torpedo tube, or mine.
In the course of my five months' instruction under the various experts of the Prussian Service I had many opportunities to observe the exhaustive thoroughness and the minuteness of detail which the German General Staff possesses. I did not lose the chance of this opportunity. I really did observe and see more than was intended for me to see. Of the amazing amount of labor, time and money that has been spent to gather the information contained in the secret archives of the German General Staff, the marvelous system of war that has been perfected in the German Empire, I shall tell when I consider the secrets of the War Machine.
Naturally, I soon came to know still other things than what they taught me. I began to consider the whole proposition of Secret Service, and before relating my first important mission for Germany I shall tell you some of the general secrets of the System.
There are four systems of Secret Service in Europe, the four leading powers each possessing one. First in systematic efficiency is the German, next comes the Russian, then the French, and English. England has a very efficient service in India and her Asiatic possessions, but has only lately entered the European field. Last but not least comes the International Secret Service Bureau with headquarters in Belgium, a semi-private concern which procures reliable information for anyone who will pay for it. This service is generally entrusted with the procuring of technical details, such as the plans of a new kind of gun or data on a new and minor fortification. Mr. Vance Thompson has also cited special missions like this one that follows.
Not often does the chance come to leave the regular channels of espionage and go forth upon a mission out of the ordinary. That chance came a few years ago to the Russian agents in Brussels. In St. Petersburg the chiefs were desirous of knowing the identity and names of a group of revolutionists who had formed a sort of colony in Montreux, Switzerland. A French woman, known sometimes as Theresa Prevost (the last I heard of her she was in prison) was detailed to the mission. Young and clever was Theresa; likewise the man who was ordered to accompany her, posing as a "brother," Charles Prevost.
The chief of these Russian fugitives, who were down around the lake of Geneva, brewing their dark plans, was known. He was Goluckoffsky, and he had a son twenty-two years of age--an impressionable Russian son. Hence the young and pretty Theresa.
It was decided by her Brussels chiefs that she assume the role of an heiress from Canada. Five thousand francs for preliminary expenses were handed over to her and with Charles, the brother, she descended upon Montreux. If you were there at the time you will recall the social triumph made by the young Canadian heiress. You may even remember that she seemed to be infatuated with the young impressionable son of old Goluckoffsky. The day long they were together. They were going to be married, and Charles Prevost the "brother," stood in the background, chatted amiably with old Goluckoffsky and his friends and smiled.
Then as an heiress should, Theresa and her "brother" invited Goluckoffsky, his family and friends, to a pre-nuptial luncheon. No expense was spared, for the wires had moaned with requests sent to Brussels for money. Young Goluckoffsky was delighted with his fiancée. She was insistent that _all_ his friends should be there, all the revolutionaries--although of course his dear Theresa did not know that. How the spelling of their names puzzled her. With gay heart young Goluckoffsky wrote out all their names on a slip of paper so she could send their invitations properly--the names St. Petersburg wanted to know.
Came the day of the luncheon, a gala affair in the banquet room of the hotel. Theresa looked charming; even the grimmest of the old revolutionists were taken with her. Old Goluckoffsky beamed upon this sparkling febrile woman, rich too, who was to marry his son.
Ices had been served when Theresa, her pretty face in smiles, declared that she had a surprise for her guests. To her it was the day of
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