Nearly a century ago, Carl Hans Lody checked into the Balmoral Hotel claiming to be an American tourist.
In reality, he was a hapless spy, travelling under the guise of US clerk Charles Inglis, only to be caught by intelligence officers after leaving his real name stitched on the label of his Berlin-made overcoat.
The fascinating story of the ill-fated German secret agent, who spent a month sending messages on the war effort from Edinburgh back to Germany, has emerged as part of BBC Scotland’s landmark World War One at Home series.
Focusing on how the conflict was waged on the home front, the series explores 100 separate stories, including that of the failed spy.
Lody had been a junior naval officer in Germany but was forced to retire for health reasons and had been living in the Unites States.
Although keen to be a success in the world of espionage, his methods were said to be “amateurish” and his communications from the Balmoral easily monitored by MO5, the forerunner of M15.
He sent a number of telegrams on naval activity at Leith Dock, using a simple code which was easily broken. His very first message was intercepted and, after he left Edinburgh for Ireland in September 1914, his arrest was ordered. Speaking on the programme, Peter Jackson, a professor of history at Glasgow University and editor of Intelligence and National Security, said the quality of Lody’s espionage left “a lot to be desired”.
“He was especially attractive to German naval intelligence because he had lived for years in the United States and spoke English fluently, although with an American accent,” he said.
“What’s quite interesting is that his methods of communication were very amateurish and showed he had been given virtually no training before having been dispatched to Great Britain.
“For instance, he heard a report several battalions of Russian troops with snow on their boots had arrived in Scotland to take part in fighting on the Western Front. It was, of course, nonsense but the fact he reported it without attempting to check it out suggests he wasn’t the most critical of intelligence collectors.”
Lody was executed at the Tower of London – the first of 11 spies to be put to death at the landmark stronghold during the war. His story, using his files and letters, will air on Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, the John Beattie Show and Newsdrive on February 27.