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Hinrik

U-boat Spy EKI and EKII

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Story:

A number of men where landed from U-boats to spy for the Nazi?s warmachine in WWII. One of them was named Ib Riis and was Icelandic / Danish. He was contacted by the Abwehr in Dannmark and forced to work for them. He was a ships captain and radioman before the war. He was unhappy with this arrangement and promised to give himself up to the British in Iceland, first thing he would arrive.

He was sent on U-252 to Norway and then on to Iceland. He landed in the remote peninsula of Langanes, 6 April, 1942. He burried his gun and radio, in seperate holes and started a long hike in bad weather, finally 17 hours later making to a local farm for shelter. He was interogated by the British in Reykjavik and then flown back to the landing site to find the raido, but he did not tell them about the gun.

Mr. Riis was given the cover of a Royal Navy officer and spent the next 3 years sending fake massages to his German handlers. He was involved in historically important events like the destruction of the PQ-17 convoy and battleship Sharnhorst. It seams the Germans never suspected him being a double agent. Ironically, for his "service" to the Germans, he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class.

3 monrhs ago I was sucessful in contacting Mr. Riis, aged 91! After some correspondance and phonecalls, he has aggred to donate his Iron Crosses to my museum project! The reason the crosses survived the war, was because they were sent to his parents in Dennmark, along with his pay which keept his parents alive throughout the war.

Once I have the crosses in hand, I will post photos of them. To the best of my knowladge, Ib Riis is the only Icelander in history to be officially awarded both the Iron Cross 1. and 2. class. A truely remarkable find for my collection. Next summer I am taking a map which Mr. Riis has marked in the location of his burried gun, and I will attempt to find it, using a metal detector and GPS. He says he burried in in the leather holster wrapped in an oil cloth and shirt.

Regards

Hinrik

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Hinrik, great history. I hope that you can find the gun this summer, and you can put it in your museum with the EKs.

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Fascinating story Hinrik,can't wait to see the EK's :beer:...good luck in finding the gun!

Dave

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This is a silly question, but does he have any documentation?

If his first active war act was to join the Brits... where did he have the time to win the EK2 AND EK1?

The one Abwehr group I saw had an EK2 after long hard work.

Some guys were at the front for 5 years before they got an EK1.

best

chris

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Chris,

He was a double agent. The Germans thought he was working faithfully for them...but he was not.

I dont think he has the award documents anymore, but will ask. Upon reading his autobiograhpy (Icelandic only) it seams he thought that the British Intelligence had him send the location of the PQ-17 convoy, which was attacked by a U-boat "wolf pack" with great destruction. He thinks that this was done so that the Germans would give more credibility to his reports.

Later he was instructed to send a report related a fictional convoy near Norway, that was suposed to be without any armed escort ships. This he thinks was to trick the Germans to send the battleship Sharnhorst after the "convoy" but insted there were cruisers waiting for it and sank it.

I need to read his book again to get the facts straight, but apperently the Germans valued his reports and thought he was the real deal. All the other spies sent to Iceland were captured. Ib Riis had a though time in Iceland, because some of the locals found out about his U-boat arrival and thought him to be a real German spy. He was sometimes verbally attacked in the street. He was under orders from the British not to tell anyone anything, so his cover as a double agent would not be blown.

Regards

Hinrik

Edited by Hinrik

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Finally, some photos of Double Agents, Ib Riis Iron Crosses. I am away working, but my friend went to my house to take photos of them. The EKII is maker marked on the ring. Dont know what LDO number.

EKII:

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This EKI case is one of the nicest condition once I have ever seen. My friend who took these photos told me they are in top condition. Looks like the old man looked well after his medals. I think maybe I should lightly clean the painted Iron portion of the crosses, with low ph oil. Bad idea?

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Chris,

Ib Riis, is half Icelandic, half Danish. He was living in dennmark with his parents when the war broke out. His pay from the abwehr was sent to his parents house from 1942 until end of war.

He says in a letter to me, that the pay kept his parents alive through out the war. The Iron crosses were sent to his parents house, seperatly, during his 3 year "service" 1942-1945. He says that an award document was not included, but I am trying to see if that is the case or not.

Could it be that a document would not be made out because of his status as a spy? His code name was:

"Cobwebb"

The EKI has a beautiful dull silver patina on the back and is "L11" numberd.

Regards

Hinrik

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3 monrhs ago I was sucessful in contacting Mr. Riis, aged 91! After some correspondance and phonecalls, he has aggred to donate his Iron Crosses to my museum project! The reason the crosses survived the war, was because they were sent to his parents in Dennmark, along with his pay which keept his parents alive throughout the war.

Hinrik

I dont know, call me a super sceptic, but something is strange with the idea of a spy, under cover, from an occupied country... and the germans are openly sending awards and money to his parents in an occpied country?

There is a really good book by ladislas Farago that goes into good detail about the German spying in WW2, especially this kind of spying. it may be worth picking up acopy and seeing if there is any mentions of him and his operation.

Best

Chris

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... The Iron crosses were sent to his parents house, seperatly, during his 3 year "service" 1942-1945. He says that an award document was not included, but I am trying to see if that is the case or not.

Could it be that a document would not be made out because of his status as a spy? His code name was:

"Cobwebb" ...

Hello gentlemen,

No doubt award certificates would have been made out. They actualy constitute the award, and allow the pocession and wear. Usually, awards were sent to the families with the award doc and an accompanying letter.

What makes me wonder: If "they" had rightly thought that the sending of the docs to the family would be compromizing, why would "they" send the, no doubt equally compromising, crosses then?

Best regards,

Albert

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Guys...

As I said, I am still not sure if he did or did not get the award document with the crosses. It is quite possible that it got lost, as I think Ib did not return to Dennmark after the war, but moved to the USA.

I have letters from him stating that he was awarded these crosses, he has also told me so personally over the phone. He is mentioned in a few books, including a spy book called Double cross...something...(I own it, but dont have it handy) His autobiograhpy came out in 1992 and is mostly about his life in the war, and it is very interesting, but unfortunatelly in Icelandic, so that is why you never heard of it.

Why would the old man be lying to me about the crosses? He gave them to me, so he is not making a profit on "selling me a story" which seams to common in the US. If he says they were sent to his parents house in the war, along with his pay...why should I ...or you for that matter, doubt that?

Hinrik

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Hello

I'm with Hinrik on this one. As he says, since the crosses have been freely given there is no profit motive, no gain and no point in inventing the story. The EKs look like really good, nice original examples. So if this old man is making up the story he would have to have found and bought a decent EK2 and a good quality cased EK1, and then give them away !! Sorry, but to me that just wouldn't make sense - unless you were going to make a profit out of it which this chap isn't.

So nice story, nice EKs and congratulations Hinrik. :beer:

On the subject of spies, there was a celebrated double agent who worked for the British during WW2 who was also awarded the Iron Cross. To quote from one source, V E Bowen, 'The Prussian and German Iron Cross', (and there are other references to this as well) :

"The Spanish double agent code named 'Garbo' was awarded the British MBE for services to the British. He was also awarded the 1939 2nd Class Iron Cross by the Germans, who believed he was working for them. He operated from a 'safe house' in Hendon where, together with his partner 'Brutus', they supplied the Germans with bogus information about allied troop positions in England, prior to the D-Day invasion in Normandy. 'Garbo' was enrolled as a member of the Spanish Blue Division by the Germans to facilitate the procedure of awarding him the EK2."

Bowen goes on to say:

"........J C Masterman in his book 'The Double Cross System in the War of 1939 to 1945', (Yale University Press 1972), pages 173 - 175 gives a detailed account of the circumstances in which 'Garbo' - (Senor Juan Pujol Garcia) - came to be decorated with the Iron Cross 2nd Class................Nigel West, historian and writer, also upholds this. The 'Mail On Sunday', (a UK Sunday newspaper), dated 3rd June 1984, published a full and exciting account on the wartime activities of 'Garbo', and how Nigel West tracked him to his post war home in South America."

So there are precendents for double agents to be awarded medals, and to be paid as well. Further more, as with 'Garbo', enrolling him in the Blue Divison and making the award of the EK2 would have meant the possibilty of exposure, and his pay, (because he was paid), would have either gone into a bank account or to his home.

So the story Hinrik relates here is, in my opinion, realistic, plausable and given the total lack of profit or indeed any other motive, believeable.

Edited by DavidM

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Noone has called the old man a lier, nor has the story been called a hoax. Only one general, and valid, point has been brought up in relation to ONE aspect of the story.

Personaly, I would be interested in learning how awards were made to spies that were in hostile countries. Were they notiefied by radio, etc.?

So rather than protesting something that's not there, an interested party should make note of the comments and perhaps address them to the old man. Perhaps he will remember more once his memory is stimulated with some additional details. After all, he's said to be over 90.

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Albert,

I called the 91 year old man with a few more questions to answer yours, and mine regarding this:

1) Did you ever receive any award documents with the awards?

IB: No, but they might of have gotten lost on the way.

2) Is it possible they got lost in Dennmark in your parents house?

IB: Yes, that is possible.

3) Did you go to Dennmark after the war?

IB: Yes, in 1945

4) Did you receive any radio message from the Abwher that the crosses where being awarded to you?

IB: Yes, they told me in a radio message, an award was to be given to me.

5) Do you remember what years the crosses where awarded?

IB: Yes, I got the first medal in 1943, and the second in 1944.

6) Did you get a radio message each time to notify of the award?

IB: Yes

7) Do you think the Iron cross first class might of been awarded in relation to the destruction of Convoy PQ-17?

IB: Yes, I think so, but I think they said it was awarded for general service in the radio message.

There you guys have it.

Ib says in his book, that he thinks the position of convoy PQ-17 was deliberatly given to the Germans, to make him, agent "Cobweb" more beleiveble in the eyes of the Germans. This he says, lead to a further fake message, to intice the warship Scharnhorst from a fjord in Norway and sink her by ships, that where not suposed to be there.

Regards

Hinrik

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Chris,

Regarding your question on allied medals, the anwer is no. He even had to force the British Admiral to issue a letter of statement, that he had in fact been working for the British in the war effort. I have a copy of this letter.

Basically when the war ended, Ib says his British handlers kicked him out and slammed the door. His pay from the British 1942-1945 was so low, that he says he could not afford to buy another uniform jacket, and wore the modified German Merchant Navy jacket out.

His cover when landing was that of a German Merchant Navy man. Ironically, his hat and jacket had German insignia, but the insignia was "stolen" by the British, he says, and that jacket and hat converted to look like British naval issue.

He says that the Americans always treated him better then the British and that was why he moved to the USA after the war. You can clearly read between the lines in his book, that he is not too happy about the way the British Intelligence treated him in the war.

Regards

Hinrik

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Dear Hinrik,

I'm researching Iceland's WW2 spies and found this correspondence about Cobweb. 

Even though his autobiography is in Icelandic, could you send me the title, publisher, etc? (fquirk202@aol.com) as  want to include it in my bibliography.

Have you any idea what the lb or lb Riis means?

In your interviews with him, did he suggests what two significant contributions he made that deserved the medals?

My book, when it eventually comes out, is provisionally called, 'The Spies who came back to the Cold'.

Regards 

Bernard

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Icelandic Spies’ Journeys by U-Boat.

Extracts from Magnus Gudbjornsson and Sverrir Matthiasson’s interrogation reports in the National Archives in Kew, London.

The original plan was for GUDBJORNSSON to go to Iceland by motor-boat. When they got to Bergen on 13 April 1944, however, FRANZ told them that he had not received the expected message from Kiel about arrangements for the motor boat. FRANZ was very angry about this, and told them that if it was not possible for them to go by motor boat to Iceland, he would take them back to Copenhagen with him. Later they were told that they could not go by motor boat but would have to go by U-boat.

GUDBJORNSSON accordingly left Bergen with MATTHIASSON by U-boat on the 15 April 1944. He did not know the number of the U-boat but thinks it was U.955. The only numbers of the crew whom he knew were engineer BERKEN and the 2nd Officer SILINSKY. As accommodation was very limited in the U-boat, GUDBJORNSSON and MATTHIASSON ate with the crew and slept in the same quarters. They only held conversation with the officers, and GUDBJORNSSON thought that the crew had been instructed not to question them. The captain told GUDBJORNSSON and MATTHIASSON to tell the crew, if they questioned them, to mind their own business. GUDBJORNSSON was under the impression that the officers knew that they were working for the G.S.S.

While it was light the U-boat submerged and travelled at about 1 knot. During the hours of darkness – only about 3 hours - they came to the surface and travelled at about 16 to 17 knots. The journey was without incident, and they reached Langanes in Iceland on 25.4.44. it was not quite dark when GUDBJORNSSON and MATTHIASSON were dropped from the U-boat. Their orders were that on landing they were to bury their wireless sets, deflate their rubber boat and throw it away into the sea.

[Matthiasson’s subsequent account of the journey is worth including as it provided more details of the journey.

On boarding, we were to greet the Captain with “Sailor THORMATT reporting on board” and “Sailor RUFU reporting on board”. Having greeted the Captain in this manner, we were taken below by the First Engineer named BECKER, with whom we had supper. For GUDBJORNSSON and myself, it was a strange feeling to be on a U-boat. We had never been on one before, but we were comparatively easy in our minds that the trip to Iceland would go well as both FRANZ and the Commandant ashore had assured us that the U-boat was forbidden to carry out any attacks during the voyage. The Captain had received orders to take us to Iceland. This was later confirmed by the first mate. We were now shown bunks and were given those of the third mate and second engineer. 

At about 11 o’clock, the U-boat dived to a depth of 70 metres, not surfacing for another 25 hours. Under water, during the last few hours, the air became very bad and we were gasping. I think that extra oxygen was added to the air. Everyone complained about the lack of oxygen in the air. Under water, we were all told to keep very still in the boat and all unnecessary noise and movement was forbidden.  The U-boat under water went at a slow speed and during the first 25 hours, had only done approximately 80 sea miles. This was told us by the first mate.

The second day on the U-boat, from 12 mid-night until 4 o’clock in the morning, we were sailing at half speed on the surface. Orders were now given to change night to day and we ate during the night when the boat was on the surface, so that cooking was done with power obtained from the Diesel motors and in order that the oxygen consumption and noise under water should be reduced to a minimum. We lay nearly the whole time in our bunks, as there was little room for moving about. We only got up when we had to eat or drink tea or coffee. Each day as we travelled North, it became colder and colder in the boat and the air was damp so that it was most unpleasant. Nights became shorter as we travelled North, so that the boat no longer remained four hours surfaced but only 3/3½ hours. On the surface we did 14 sea miles per hour and under water about 1/ 1½ sea miles per hour.

On 24 April, we were told that we might reach Langanes the next night and that we should be prepared to land. We were given extra provisions – a bottle of rum and a bottle of Algerian wine and some chocolate, which we packed in a sea bag and waited for zero hour. During the time I was in the U-boat I learned that the Captain was an ex-mercantile marine seaman but he had been a mat and never a Captain in the mercantile marine. He had been trained at the Naval College as a U-boat captain. He had made seven trips with this U-boat.

The crew consisted of 50 men in all and most of them had never been in action. It was their first long trip. They had been in training in German waters and were all young – about 20/27 years of age – and all bored with U-boat life. The Captain was the only one who had received the Iron Cross, 1st Class. For what, I do not know. We were told that the boat was 4/500 gross tons. I do not know if this is correct. Room on board was very limited. The air after 20 hours’ sailing under water was very bad. The boat was probably launched in 1942. One could see that it was not completely new from the wear and paint work; it had two Diesel motors, each of 1400 horse power. On board, we lay most of the time in our bunks or slept. I had the third mate’s bunk and borrowed a book from him which was called “Die Metallen”. In this book I observed, either written or printed with a rubber stamp “Gehert Bucherei U 955”, from which can possibly be deduced that this was the boat’s number. A couple of hours before we surfaced to approach Langanes, the Captain called us and informed us that we were approaching. He showed us a rubber boat and instructed us to cut it to pieces and either sink it or bury it. The oars, which were of aluminium, were so made that they would float. He therefore gave the order that holes should be made in them so that they could be sunk. On a sea chart, he showed us the route which had been followed to Iceland. An attempt is here made to show how the voyage went.

Matthiasson’s sketch showing the U-boat’s route from Bergen to Iceland, (TNA KV2/127)

Extracts from Ernst Fresenius, Sigurdur Juliusson and Hjaldi Bjornsson’s interrogation reports in the National Archives in Kew, London.

 

JOURNEY TO ICELAND FROM BERGEN.

Departure from Bergen

About 18.00 hours FRESENIUS, BJORNSSON and JULIUSSON were collected by car by the man who had met them at the station two days previously. They had been given working clothes and caps similar to those worn by German sailors. They had also been given a small bag to make it appear that they had work to do on board. On reaching what was referred to as the U-boat harbour, they were met by a First Officer (Lieutenant), who drove with them to a small jetty and waited till the U-boat, which was lying on the other side of the harbour, had left the quay and sailed out from Bergen.

The First Officer gave orders to four sailors to man a small motor boat which was standing on the jetty. In this they went out to the U-boat, and were on board in about twenty minutes.

Life on the U-boat.

They were put under military discipline. Their wireless sets and other bagge were already on board, having been sent on ahead – except for their rucksacks which they were carrying.

The U-boat appeared to be of the 500 ton class (the number as stated by BJORNSSON as ebing 287 or 289(. The crew consisted of the following officers and ratings:

Kapitanleutnant (name given by FRESENIUS as HELDWIG),

1st, 2nd, 3rd Officers (Leutnant)

Engineer Officer (Leutnant)

2nd Engineer (Oberfeldwebel)

3rd Engineer (Feldwebel)

In addition, there were four signallers, the total crew numbering about 40-45, mostly very young.

FRESENIUS had his meals with the officers, but there was not room for BJORNSSON and JULIUSSON, who therefore messed with two engineers. They all slept in the engineers’ cabin.

At dusk each day the U-boat surfaced to give the crew some fresh air and charge the accumulators. By baylight they travelled submerged. After surfacing, FRESENIUS, BJORNSSON and JULIUSSON were allowed on deck. There were usually the captain and two officers there as well as the gunners. There were one 3.7 gun and to Vierlings. The times for surfacing varied in accordance with the hors of darkness. At first this period covered between 5 and 6 hours, but on approaching Iceland it was reduced to about 3 hours.

When submerged the U-boat sailed mostly at half speed, but on the surface at full speed. As stated by JULIUSSON, the surface speed was 15-17 knots, and submerged about 8 knots, although capable of doing 11 knots.

First Attempt to Land.

On the 26 April they sighted Iceland. On the night of the 27th between midnight and 01.00 hours, they tried to land at Bjarfjord, but were prevented by bad weather.

Second Attempt to Land

They remained submerged all day and again tried to land at Njardvik, also at about midnight with the same lack of success.

The next day was spent in the same way as the previous one. During the day a ship was sighted and the torpedoes were made ready for action. JULIUSSON was asked by the Captain if it was an Icelandic vessel, and replied that it was the coastal boat “Eoja”, upon which the Captain remarked that he would have torpedoes it, without this information. He would then have been in trouble with the German High Command and would probably have been dismissed from his ship.

Landing at Selvoganes

On the night of the 29/30 April they made their third attempt to land. The U-boat lay about 150/200 metres from the shore at Selvoganes. They were taken ashore in a small rubber dinghy by the First officer and a sailor. Three journeys in all were made. First FRESENIUS and JULIUSSON went ashore with their personal baggage. Then BJORNSSON was fetched with the two wireless sets with the bicycle attachment, and some of the tinned food. On the final trip the remainder of the food and baggage was brought ashore. On the return of the officer and sailor, the U-boat sailed about 02.00 hours (Mid-European Time)

The landing operations had taken about 1½ hours in all.  (TNA KV2/3009)

 

 

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