As a rule, these are residential spies, who have lived for months or years as small tradesmen, etc., in the towns and villages now included in the theatre of war. On the arrival of the German invaders they have chalked on their doors, “Not to be destroyed. Good people here,” and have done it for some of their neighbours also in order to divert suspicion. In their capacity of naturalised inhabitants they are in position, of course, to gain valuable tactical information for the commanders of the troops. And their different ways of communicating it are more than ingenious.
In some cases both spies and commanders have maps ruled off in small squares. The watchful spy signals to his commander, “Enemy’s cavalry halted behind wood in square E15,” and very soon a salvo of shells visits this spot. A woman spy was caught signalling with an electric flash lamp. Two different men (one of them an old one-legged stonebreaker at the roadside) were caught with field telephones hidden on them with wire coiled round their bodies. Shepherds with lanterns went about on the downs at night dodging the lanterns about in various ways which did not seem altogether necessary for finding sheep. Wireless telegraphs were set up to look like supports to iron chimneys.
In the South African Campaign a Dutch stationmaster acted as field spy for the Boers for a short time. It was only a very short time. His town and station were captured by my force, and, in order to divert suspicion, he cut and pulled down the telegraph wires, all except one, which was left in working order. By this wire he sent to the Boer headquarters all the information he could get about our forces and plans. Unfortunately, we had a party of men tapping the wire, and were able to read all his messages, and to confront him with them shortly afterwards.
Another stationmaster, in our own territory, acted as spy to the enemy before the war began by employing enemies as gangers and platelayers along the line with a view to the destruction of bridges and culverts as soon as war was declared. There was also found in his office a code by which the different arms of the service were designated in terms of timber for secretly telegraphing information. Thus:
Beams meant Brigades Timbers " Batteries Logs " Guns Scantlings " Battalions Joists " Squadrons Planks " Companies
Except in the case of the traitor spy, one does not quite understand why a spy should necessarily be treated worse than any other combatant, nor why his occupation should be looked upon as contemptible, for, whether in peace or war, his work is of a very exacting and dangerous kind. It is intensely exciting, and though in some cases it brings a big reward, the best spies are unpaid men who are doing it for the love of the thing, and as a really effective step to gaining something valuable for their country and for their side.