The Journalist by Jos Scharrer



While the biggest enemy was always the powerful German military machine, no story of our heroes would be complete without examining their many fellow Dutch citizens, who were pro-German and who worked against the resistance, betraying them to their enemies whenever they could. Here we find that while there are numerous reports, many are still classified and those released are found to be heavily edited. This is not easy, clear territory at all.
Fortunately there is one man about whom there is a great deal of information because he was particularly notorious and his name keeps reappearing in the background to the Henry Scharrer story. This was Christiaan Lindemans. The relationship between Christiaan Lindemans and Henry Scharrer is opaque. What we do know is that one of Henry's closest associates and a close friend of Henry's mistress Carry Libourel, was Jan Lowey-Ball, who in turn was closely associated with Lindemans.
Lindemans' name appears in many reports and is associated with many people. He was worked with the 'Gotha' aka 'Georges' Wyssogota – Lorraine Line that was destroyed at the beginning of 1944. The false papers he provided escapees who approached him were the TODT papers, of the German construction and engineering company, TODT. As we know from his report, Jack Bottenheim was given the choice of Lindemans' Todt papers or Henry Scharrer's Sicherheitsdienste papers and Lindemans was his first choice, until he disappeared.
Lindemans had a number of names. He was also known as 'Brand' or Freddi Desmet, an officer in the Belgian army and SOE (Specials Operations Executive) agent, with security clearance at the Dutch Military Intelligence Division of the SOE. In some circles he is referred to as 'le Tueur' (the Killer) as he undertook missions to kill and was ready to shoot at the slightest provocation. There is speculation that Lindemans may have been a member of Colonel Claude Dansey's Z organisation. Dansey was the Assistant Chief of the Secret Intelligence service known as ACSS of the agency more commonly known as MI6.
Lindemans, however, is better known as 'King Kong' because of his impressive size and close comrades called him 'Krist'.
In the early days of the occupation of the low countries, there is no doubt that Lindemans worked bravely for the Allied cause, and is believed to have been personally responsible for the killing of twenty seven Germans during the guerrilla war in the outskirts of Antwerp. It was said that he was a natural risk-taker who did not know the meaning of fear. Unfortunately neither did he know the meaning of loyalty.
In the SOE (Special Operations Executive) Diagram, which is an Allied resistance diagram illustrating the hierarchy in the Executive, Lindemans' name is listed immediately below that of Henry Scharrer. Lindemans is also the person a couple of reports maintain was responsible for Henry's betrayal, but there is no direct evidence. Further, after his arrest, he was requested by the Allies to supply them with a list of the names of resistance people he had betrayed, and Henry Scharrer's name does not appear on this list. It is possible Lindemans might have wanted to distance himself from the Henry Scharrer events just as he tried to distance himself from the Battle of Arnhem disaster, denying that he had anything to do with it. But of course, we know from the most reliable German sources that he did. Some betrayals might have been too hot for even Lindemans to claim credit.
He was born in October 1912 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. In 1941 he married Gilberte Yvonne Letuppe, and they had two children. (There are more reports that state she was his common-law wife). Before the outbreak of the war, he worked alongside his brother Jan, as a mechanic at his father's garage in Rotterdam. In the summer of 1936, he was injured in a motorcycle accident sustaining a cracked skull and injuries to his left arm and leg which left him walking with a lumbering gait and a deformed hand. He spoke French and German well and some English.
According to his own story he started to work as an informant for the British secret service in the spring of 1940 relaying shipping movements to London. In 1940 the garage where he worked was destroyed in the bombing of Rotterdam and in August he found work as a lorry driver on the Lille to Paris road carrying petrol for the German air force. He became involved in the resistance the next year. By September 1942 he had established his own escape route in Abbeville, where he was arrested two months later and imprisoned by the Germans for five months. This gave him certain credibility in resistance circles.
By 1943 his popularity as one of the leaders of the Dutch resistance was at its highest. He had begun collecting jewels and other valuables from rich women, to provide funds for the underground escape routes through occupied Belgium and the Netherlands into Spain and Portugal.
It was around this time that he first met resistance man Jan Lowey-Ball, at the Lowey-Ball home at Wijnhaven 8, in Delft, the town where Carry Libourel also lived. Following this introduction he and Lowey-Ball developed a close association, working together in assisting many escapees.
Lindemans served as a contact with resistance movements, some with Communist tendencies such as the RVV (Raad van Verzet or Council of Resistance), which was engaged in both communications sabotage and the protection of onderduikers (people in hiding). He is believed to have been a member of the CS-6 group of Amsterdam which was the clandestine sabotage and intelligence organisation. The CS-6 had connections with the Witte Brigade, a resistance group in Belgium. One of the links with this group was a man by the name of Aart Entvald.
Lindemans worked with Henry's printer, de Geuzen, on Het Parool and did some work on the Dutch-Paris escape line run by John Henry Weidner in Paris, but was not a member of the Dutch-Paris. In addition, he was a member of one of the twelve recognised units of the Belgian underground called Les Affranchis (The Liberated) founded by Camille Tromme, allowing him to remain in possession of a machine gun and a revolver.
He was a member of groups in Rotterdam, Brussels and Paris. In the early days of the war Lindemans did his most patriotic work with people connected to Victor Swane, Albert Starink, Jan Strengers, Baron Abraham van Boetzelaar in Paris and with the amazing Matilda M.A.E. Verspeyck and others in Brussels. All these people were connected to Henry in some way or other as we see in reports from some of the people he helped save. So Lindemans' resistance connections were impressively extensive.
In later Allied military investigations, there were suspicions that the Scharrer escape route was operated for financial gain by Lindemans together with his associate, Jan Lowey-Ball. The reason for this was that escapees had to pay Henry certain sums of money in Dutch guilders, which Jan Lowey-Ball later reimbursed in Paris with French francs. It was alleged that on occasion when Lindemans was involved, the money between the two disappeared. We do know, however, that Henry and Jan worked out any difficulties relating to the funds collected for the escapees. So there are only suspicions listed in the reports of the Allied investigators, that it was Lindemans who might have been making off with money. He later claimed to have always been short of funds and it would have been easy for him to have intercepted some of the money transfers to help fund his flashy lifestyle.
So it was, that right up to the beginning of 1944, Lindemans was one of the noted heroes of the Dutch resistance and completed trusted by all who worked with him. He worked and travelled with the same people who assisted Henry's line, helping escort groups of evaders to safety.
But things were about to change. As a result of one key meeting, Christiaan Lindemans overnight became one of the most dangerous of men to the resistance cause.


They pulled up at Westminster Hall where a large crowd had gathered. As Flora tried to alight from the carriage she was rushed at by onlookers and members of the press, both local and foreign. There was much pushing and shoving. What they saw was a tall woman, just over five feet eight inches, with an attractive, youthful face, her hair piled up and topped by a small black hat with a simple feather, and dressed in black.
Lulu looked anxious, even frightened. Flora’s manner appeared calm and collected. A couple of policemen came to their aid.
“Steady on. Hold back. Let the ladies pass.”
The reporters shouted: “Miss Shaw, did the prime minister know about the raid?” “Was the raid planned by the queen?” “Were you working for Cecil Rhodes, Miss Shaw?” Flora’s response to the clamour was only a detached smile.
In the midst of the cacophony of voices, Flora and Lulu made their way towards the entrance to Westminster Hall walking with strong steps. Heads held high. Before stepping through the portal she turned and was surprised to see Frederick Lugard standing behind the crowd of journalists and curiosity-seekers. He had followed her carriage. As she spotted him he raised his hat in a gesture of support. Flora smiled, gave him a wave, took another deep breath and entered the building. Once inside, she and Lulu were welcomed by officials who led them to the packed Grand Committee Room. It was here that she was to face the same fifteen eminent men who had cross-examined Rhodes.
Before proceedings commenced the fifty-four-year-old Prince of Wales, accompanied by a number of his friends, including Flora’s cousin, Sir Eyre Massey Shaw, entered via a side door. Elegantly dressed and with his beard neatly trimmed, the prince made an imposing figure. Everybody present rose when he entered and he acknowledged the room with a nod of his head before taking his seat, chatting light-heartedly to his companions. He looked directly at Flora and acknowledged her with a faint smile and an imperceptible incline of his head. She responded in kind. He had explained to friends that his reason for attending the Inquiry was because he found the proceedings a welcome change from his normal duties. Many, though, suspected he was also there to protect his own interests; he had thus far not missed a single sitting.
Flora’s face wore the pleasant expression and hallmarked smile she reserved for her public appearances. She reminded herself that she must suppress any visual evidence of fear, anger or emotional apprehension. Her controlled demeanour had to be one of feminine charm with gentle delicacy. She would speak in a low-pitched, soft voice.
On the first day no other women were present at the hearings besides Flora and Lulu. Most of the initial questioning centred on the communications between London and the Cape, especially those involving herself and her superiors at The Times. While several cables were placed as evidence before the Commission a number had gone missing, orchestrated by Chamberlain. They were, however, subsequently found and Flora would later be recalled to explain their encoded contents under intense cross-examination.
Flora focused intently on her questioner in a display of fierce concentration. Everyone had to know that she was taking the proceedings seriously. On the few occasions that she allowed slight irritation to creep into her voice, it was to make a convincing point and put an inquisitor in their place. It must have been with difficulty that she kept her famous and feared sarcasm under wraps, not wishing to appear confrontational or argumentative and only employed that tactic in a mild manner when the occasion demanded it.
The Leader of the Opposition, Sir William Harcourt, opened the questioning:
“Miss Shaw … you are the Colonial Editor of The Times, are you not?”
“Yes, that is my position on the newspaper.”
“What are your relations with the Colonial Office? Do you have reason to visit them and if so for what purpose?”
“I’ve been going there in the course of my professional duties more or less every week for some years.”
“Every week! Well, those certainly are very frequent visits. And what is the motivation for said visits?”
“It allows me to collect such information as might be legitimately published in the paper.”
Harcourt then, with undisguised contempt: “I am trying to confirm that in the autumn of 1895 you made many visits to the Colonial Office. You are described as always coming and going, spending more time there than at The Times, it has been said, almost as if it was your second office.”
“There’s no significance to that, and the suggested implication is without foundation. The visits in 1895 were entirely routine official calls and no different to the visits of previous years or those at the present time.”
The Irishman, Edward Blake, was not satisfied and butted in: “Were you ever sent to the Colonial Office on special missions?”
“No, not that I can recall.”
“Why, then, does it specifically state in this telegram I have here, which Rutherfoord Harris sent to Rhodes, that he had sent you to see Chamberlain. May I repeat the wording … ‘sent you to see Chamberlain’. Now that sounds very much like a special mission and it’s written in black and white.”
Flora responded: “I need hardly say that I would not have accepted any mission from Doctor Harris to go to Mister Chamberlain … he was not in a position to send me anywhere.”
Chamberlain’s monocle glinted and there was light, general laughter in the committee room. The Prince of Wales was seen to whisper to the man alongside him in apparent acknowledgement of Flora having scored a point. It also confirmed that even as a woman no one was going to mess with her or push her around. This clear support for Flora from the Prince of the Realm was not lost on the Chairman or the others who had their own questions lined up, which they hoped would trip her up and expose the government’s role in the debacle.
The pre-trumpted Labouchere then entered the fray:
“It’s been established that you received three telegrams from Rhodes, sent to you under the codename Telemones ... not so?” He did not wait for an answer but continued in his languid drawl: “Please advise us of the contents of these telegrams.”
“Yes, it is true that Telemones was my codename. However, I’d like to suggest that it would be wise if I only provide the ‘drift’ of the messages, as I do not have the actual words in front of me.”
“Agreed,” ruled the Chairman, “the drift of the messages would be all that’s necessary.” Labouchere frowned in irritation. Blake and Campbell-Bannerman whispered to each other in annoyance.
Flora explained: “Basically, Rhodes was saying that he was going to win South Africa for England. That was the drift of one of the telegrams … and the others, if I remember correctly, were about reassurance that everything would be to England’s advantage.”
Labouchere was not happy with Flora’s handling of his question and continued:
“You also sent telegrams under your codename to Rhodes.”
“Yes, that is so.”
“These are the telegrams in front of us today. What we do not have in front of us are the replies you received from Rhodes. How did he reply?”
“I have no recollection of any replies from Mister Rhodes that could have been construed as important. I was extremely busy at the time and telegrams were flying across my desk. Some were important and some were not. I can only vaguely remember one reply from Mister Rhodes which was of no consequence.”
A confidant whispered to the Prince of Wales: “One of the cleverest women in England, and she claims to suffer from a bad memory.” The royal personage chuckled. The remark and its reaction were noticed by a member of the press and appeared in print the following day.
It was then Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s turn to question Flora.
Waving a copy of The Times he asked: “In this particular edition the leading article criticises Chamberlain for repudiating Doctor Jameson. Who inspired this article?”
Flora shook her head and firmly replied: “I’m sure that the Committee would not wish me to discuss what goes on in my office.”
Trying to set a trap, Sir Henry rephrased: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but do I understand that you would not want to answer questions as to your working relations with The Times newspaper?”
Flora Shaw: “Correct … I would rather not. It’s not etiquette to speak in public of what is done within the confines of a large newspaper.”
Sir Henry, sarcastically: “Not etiquette? That’s convenient!”
He huffed and went on: “Now let’s turn to this telegram to Harris in which you actually suggest 16th December as the date for the rising. Can you please explain?”
“I’m afraid that was a conversational indiscretion. It was not a serious suggestion.”
Sir Henry threw up his hands in frustration. “A conversational indiscretion?”
Sir Richard Webster then took over the questioning trying to bait another trap: “In sending these three telegrams, did you send them on your own responsibility altogether or was anyone else involved?”
“Entirely on my responsibility.”
“They were not written in consultation nor dictated to you by anybody?”
“No, they were not.”
“It’s been suggested that for some months you have been privy to the plan for a raid on the Transvaal … that you in fact promoted it.”
“There is confusion regarding the interpretation of the cables between London and the Cape prior to the raid,” Flora explained in a quiet, deliberate manner as though addressing someone who was a little slow in their thinking.
“The plan, as I was given to understand it, was this … The Johannesburgers had made up their minds that within the next winter or spring they would be obliged to rise if they wished to have their grievances redressed. They told me that what they expected was a perfectly bloodless revolution which would receive the support of a large body of the Dutch population.”
At this point the Prince of Wales leant forward in concentration. Flora continued:
“They believed that there would thus be practically no difficulty in deposing the Boer government and proclaiming a new, provisional government. As soon as the provisional government was proclaimed, the leaders of the uprising would immediately place themselves and their movement in the hands of the Imperial government by asking the High Commissioner to come and judge the situation, to act as mediator.
“Even though they intended a bloodless revolution, they did recognise a potential uncertainty as to how events would unfold and that it might be desirable to have a standby force at the ready. They were precluded by the nature of their plan from informing the High Commissioner beforehand, and it was therefore impossible for him to have or prepare any force of any kind.”
John Ellis was not satisfied: “So where does Doctor Jameson fit into the picture? How come he was sitting for weeks in a tented camp in Bechuanaland with supplies, horses and hundreds of armed troops?”
“As I was given to understand, it was arranged between the would-be-uprising leaders and Doctor Jameson that the latter be tasked with putting together a force which, when the High Commissioner called upon him, he might place at his disposal.”
“A force he might place at the High Commissioner’s disposal! A force supplied with the best of everything … including, I hear, hundreds of cases of champagne ... to celebrate what, exactly?”
Flora answered demurely: “I have no idea … perhaps Doctor Jameson and his officers were partial to bubbly!”
More laughter from the spectators.
The Chairman: “Order. Order!”
Sir Richard Webster tried to regain lost ground: “What I do not understand is why you, as a journalist, were in communication with the leaders in Johannesburg? What exactly was your role? Please explain precisely.”
“The answer is straightforward. I was communicating with them because I could. I had the British South Africa Code and permission to use it. And please also remember, I was also gathering information for my articles.”
Sydney Buxton stepped in again. Returning to one of the telegrams, he asked: “Let me read out this telegram dated 17th December, from you to Rhodes:
‘Held an interview with Secretary Transvaal. (Dr Leyds) left here on Saturday for Hague, Berlin, Paris, fear in negotiation with these parties. Chamberlain sound in case of interference European powers but have special reason to believe you must do it immediately.’
“Please explain the meaning of your telegram urging that ‘it’ must be done immediately.”
Flora answered quite sharply: “I request that the Committee keep two things distinct. I feel that the general public cannot be asked to make an effort of imagination, but the Committee may be able to cast out of their memories altogether what happened after the raid. Also to put their minds back to the time when the raid had no existence and we could not have imagined such a thing. ‘It’ referred to the insurrection … and could not have referred to the raid.”
Edward Blake: “What did you know about Rhodes promoting this movement and sending arms from England to Johannesburg?”
“I had no idea that Rhodes was promoting the movement and sending arms. Of course Rhodes was aware of the imminence of a rising and this was obvious to anyone who knew his position in South Africa, his character, his views and his aims.”
John Ellis, brandishing a pile of documents: “But I still do not understand why you were communicating with the leaders of British interests in Johannesburg through Rhodes.”
“As I explained a short while ago, I had the British South Africa Code and could communicate with them.”
The Chairman looked at his gold pocket-watch and announced: “I think that should be all for now, I’m calling it a day. Miss Shaw, you are excused, but are expected back tomorrow. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.” He nodded towards Flora and Lulu.
“Thank you very much, Mister Chairman,” said Flora. She rose from the witness chair and bowed her head respectfully, first to the members of the Committee and then to the Prince of Wales.
The members of the Opposition had faces like thunder as they watched her leave the room, and were muttering to themselves.
“At this rate Chamberlain and the Government are going to get off scot-free,” Sir William Harcourt said in a quiet voice to his neighbour.
Flora’s testimony rankled the Opposition because it was clear that based on her evidence it was not going to be easy to place fault or blame on the government or the Colonial Office.
She faced another two days at the Inquiry, during which every attempt was made to wring out of her even some small shred of incriminating evidence. Nobody was able to cut through her guard. When she was finally excused she went home feeling that she had overcome the biggest challenge in her life. She had also saved the day not only for herself, Rhodes, Chamberlain but most importantly for The Times which was under threat. She was never fully acknowledged by these entities, not that she expected any gratitude from them. The fact, however, remains that were it not for her subtle defection and evasion they could have been drawn deeper into the caldron of duplicity and had their reputations forever tarnished. Whether they ever admitted it to themselves or not, they were left deeply in Flora’s debt.
Her Editor had worried unnecessarily and could hardly believe the narrow escape he and his newspaper had experienced. Here was a woman who could stand up to the most arduous cross-examination by some of the smartest men in England. Messages of congratulations poured in from many quarters.