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Spies, Lies and Cache Containers Mystery Cache

Hidden : 06/16/2009
Difficulty:
2.5 out of 5
Terrain:
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size:   small (small)

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Geocache Description:

On the beaches of Lossiemouth you can almost hear the drone of WWII aircraft. It's hard to imagine that this quiet, stretch of coastline would have much to do in the defence of Britain, but Squadrons flew out of RAF Lossiemouth as part of Bomber Command as well as training airmen. Along the beach and in the woods are extensive, well preserved coastal defences. These include a line of concrete traps to repel tanks in the event of an invasion, as well as barracks, lookouts and pillboxes.

These quiet shores remained relatively peaceful throughout most of the war, although there are several stories of German spies trying to infiltrate our country. One such story takes place along the Portgordon coastline and begins in the early hours of the morning on 30th September in 1940. A Blom and Voss flying boat arrived from the then Nazi occupied Stavanger in Norway and landed offshore somewhere between Portgordon and Buckie. Three passengers disembarked, Vera Eriksen Karl Theo Drucke and Werner Heinrich Walti who then came ashore in a dinghy, their luggage laden with the tools of their trade. The trio were working for German Intelligence on “Operation Lena” and were en route to London to assume their new identities. Their leader, Vera Eriksen, was to assume the role of the long-lost niece of an elderly Italian Countess living in Kensington. Karl Drucke was posing as a French refugee from Belgium, named Francois de Deeker and Walti was to pose as a Swiss National.

The three were instructed to cycle the 600 miles to London, but as their bicycles were lost in the choppy seas during the transfer; they split up, with Vera Eriksen and Karl Drucke heading towards Portgordon, whilst Walti set off in the direction of Buckie.

Eriksen and Drucke walked to Portgordon railway station and it is reported that locals noticed their “guttural accents” whilst the pair walked through the village. The Station Master John Donald and porter, John Geddes noticed the two strangers at the railway station around 7.30am. Their suspicions were first aroused when Eriksen asked the name of the station, as the sign had been blacked out, as had all place names in the UK. Drucke then asked for tickets to nearby Forres by calling it “Forrest” and the staff became more dubious. Producing a wallet, crammed full of banknotes, Drucke further compounded his obvious lack of local knowledge by handing over far too much money. The Station Master also noted that the pairs’ shoes and trousers were completely soaked, so he instructed John Geddes to keep them talking whilst he contacted local Police Constable, Robert Grieve. On arrival PC Grieve immediately asked to see Eriksen and Drucke’s identity cards, noticing that the cards were made out in “continental” writing.

After a brief interrogation, the pair were taken to the police station where PC Grieve telephoned his superior, Inspector John Simpson at nearby Buckie. Surprisingly the pair were not put in cells, but were in fact treated hospitably, with Mrs Grieve even making Vera Eriksen a cup of tea which she drank in their sitting room. On his arrival, Inspector Simpson asked Drucke to identify himself, but Vera Eriksen informed the Inspector that he couldn’t speak English. After carrying out a quick body search, Inspector Simpson discovered a box containing nineteen rounds of revolver ammunition. He also checked their identity cards and noted that the numbers were written in the European style. Eriksen, keen to cover her true identity, gave the Inspector her cover story and informed him that she was a 27yr old widow from Denmark. She said they had spent a night in a hotel in Banff and had taken a taxi to Portgordon, being dropped off a mile before the station.

Major Peter Perfect, the Regional Security Liason Officer was summoned from Edinburgh and the two were arrested at Banff Police Station, after Vera Eriksen turned them both in. A thorough search of their luggage revealed the true intent of their trip when several items of espionage were discovered, including; a pistol and ammunition, a wireless and accessories, a torch marked “Made in Bohemia”, batteries, a coding device, graph paper, English money and a list of place names that turned out to be airfields. It is said, however, that a German delicacy, unheard of in wartime Britain was the source of their downfall when a half eaten German sausage was found in their possession.

A search of the coastline was ordered and later that morning, Buckie Coastguard spotted an object floating a ¼ mile out to sea. Coastguard Addison and The Harbourmaster recovered the object, which was a pair of bellows and also discovered a rolled up rubber dingy further down the shore.

Meanwhile, the third agent, Walti was having a little more success and had managed to get as far as Aberdeen after heading into Buckie, with his suitcase containing a radio transmitter. The Aberdeen police were alerted to the situation and confirmation was given that someone matching Walti’s description had boarded the 1pm train to Edinburgh Waverly. On arriving at Waverly, Walti found he had some time to spare before his next train, so went to the hairdressers for a shave and spent some time in the cinema. Unbeknownst to him, Superintendant, Willie Merrilees of Special Branch and several police officers had disguised themselves as railway porters and were awaiting his return. When he arrived to collect his left luggage, he was ambushed. When searched, Walti was found to be armed with a loaded pistol and a flick knife.

All three Agents were interrogated by Lieutenant-Colonel Hinchley-Cooke at New Scotland Yard and eventually signed confessions in March 1941. Drucke and Walti were tried “in camera” on 12th June 1941, were found guilty and sentenced to death, finally being hanged at Wandsworth prison on 6th August 1941, almost a year since that first night on the beach.

Vera Eriksen somehow managed to avoid being present in court and summarily avoided execution. Rumours and stories surrounding her evading trial and execution remain to this day. One such rumour surrounds the fact that she may have given birth to a son during an earlier mission to Britain in 1938. It is said that her then husband, German Officer, Hans Friedrich von Wedel, was not the father, but that it was a prominent member of the British establishment. The child, now a British Citizen, grew up in an orphanage in Essex and it is believed he was taken to see his mother during her time at Holloway. Another rumour holds that she was a double agent all along, recruited by MI6 in Paris in the thirties, but as large parts of her case file have been removed, the full truth may never be known.

At the end of the war, Vera Eriksen was to be deported to Germany but due to an “administrative blunder” in October 1945 the M15 "mislaid" her and she disappeared, never to be heard from again. However, some stories say she may have even changed her name and settled on the Isle of Wight. Sixty-six years after her capture in September 1940, MI5 still refuse to release all their files on ‘the Beautiful Spy’.

Vera EriksenVera Eriksen

The three bicycles were never found, and it is said that they may have also lost a small plastic container when coming ashore. The location of this secret “cache” was known only to Vera Eriksen. Pre-empting her capture by the authorities, she managed to send a coded radio transmission, informing the German Intelligence of the co-ordinates of the cache’s location. The message was as follows:

ROYFHWSRDZBMJUWLXLGIMYDASVLPPAYLWPLYVMICGTVDCWILUNYVILICCYQLCRUODPCYICLL
ZGCYUCKYJYYPFOOYPAYHUJZVIAUGNBWZYGRIAMM

Today, the cache location can be reached either by walking along the coastline from Lossiemouth, parking at N57° 42.837 W003° 16.733, or from the forest walks on the B9103, parking at N57° 41.235 W003° 14.821. The cache is within 3.5km of either parking sites.

PLEASE NOTE THE CO-ORDINATES FOR THIS CACHE ARE FOR A PARKING AREA ONLY AND ARE NOT THE CACHE LOCATION.

Our thanks to the Forestry Commission for their permission to place this cache on their land.

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Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Gur xrl vf va gur anzr

Decryption Key

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M
-------------------------
N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z

(letter above equals below, and vice versa)