Captured by the Home Guard after he had broken his right leg on exiting the aircraft, Jakobs was arrested and taken to Brixton prison.
Following interrogation, Jakobs was committed for trial for treason under the Treachery Act. Found guilty on 5 August 1941, he was sentenced to death by firing squad and executed in the Tower of London ten days later.
The peculiarity of the case is why Jakobs was shot at the Tower, when all other captured German spies were hanged at Pentonville or Wandsworth prisons. It has been suggested that this was due to his injuries, but that is incorrect. It is simply because the decision was made – primarily for reasons of speed and secrecy – to try him by a general court-martial, rather than in a civilian court.
When sentenced to death therefore, he was to be shot rather than hanged, and the most expedient location for that to be carried out was the old shooting range in the Tower of London.
In this way, Josef Jakobs – who was an otherwise unremarkable and rather inept spy – has gone down in history as the last person to be executed at the site.
This Q&A was answered by Roger Moorhouse, author of Berlin at War (Bodley Head, 2010).
This Q&A first appeared in the January 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine