Prison and place of execution

Prison and place of execution

Photographs of the spies executed at the Tower

11 of the spies arrested in Britain during the First World War were executed at the Tower.

From arrest to execution

Once arrested, the 11 spies were brought to London and were interrogated by the New Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner, Sir Basil Thomson, who was responsible for the arresting and charging of espionage suspects.

Once charged, they were all tried. The majority were tried under court martial, rather than in civil court, because they were non‐British men charged with a military offence, under the Defence of the Realm Act.

A formal announcement of sentence would be passed and sent to the Tower with instructions and the Constable of the Tower and his deputy notified. Prisoners were brought to the Tower at least 24 hours before their execution.

The firing squad

Rifle Range, copyright Imperial War MuseumThe 11 executions would be carried out by members of whichever Household Foot Guards were on duty at that time.

The executions were carried out at dawn. Nine of the eleven men were executed in the Rifle Range at the Tower which stood in the outer ward between the Constable and Martin Towers. The two other men were shot in the moat (Tower ditch) while the Rifle Range underwent building works.

Throughout this period, and despite the dawn executions, the Tower remained open to visitors. However, as usual, visitors would not have access to the secure parts of the site used by the army.

The men executed at the Tower were taken for burial at the East London Cemetery, where their names are marked today.

The rifle range at the Tower of London © Imperial War Museum

Carl Hans Lody – the ‘respectable spy’

Carl Lody, the first spy executed at the TowerLody was the first spy to be executed at the Tower.

Below is the text of a letter written by Carl Hans Lody on the eve of his execution to the Grenadier Guards, thanking them for their professionalism in looking after him. Lody also allegedly shook the hand of each of the men in the firing squad before his execution.


London Tower, November 5th 1914

To the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion G Guards, London


I feel it my duty as a German officer to express my sincere thanks and
appreciation to the guards and sentries being and having been my guardians.
Although they never neglected their duty they have shown always the utmost
courtesy and consideration towards me.

If it is within the frame of reglements I wish this may be made known to them.

I am, Sir, with profound respect
Carl Hans Lody
Senior Lieutenant Imperial German Naval Reserves II

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