2nd March 1938

Scottish spy Jessie Jordan is arrested

Glasgow-born Jessie Jordan became a German citizen when, aged 25, she married a German waiter and moved to Germany. She was widowed during the First World War, but married again, two years later, and remained in Germany until 1937, when she returned to Scotland and set up a hairdressing business in Dundee’s Kinloch Street. By this point, with war looming, she was already in the pay of the German intelligence service.

Under surveillance

Jordan told British authorities that she had returned to Scotland in an effort to find evidence proving that her daughter was not Jewish, as this was preventing her from following her chosen profession. However, MI5 already had Jordan under surveillance, and its interest in her was heightened when a cleaner in her shop found maps marked with British military sites, including coastal defences between Montrose and Kirkcaldy.

MI5 started to monitor Jordan’s activities more closely and soon discovered that the hairdressing business was one stop in a long chain delivering mail from German agents in the United States back to their controllers in Germany. A US spy ring was uncovered, and Jordan was arrested. Taken into custody on 2 March, she appeared at Dundee Police Court the following day, when she was described by the Lancashire Evening Post as being “of middle age, a rather good looking blonde, and she was wearing a smart black coat with fur collar”. Following her short trial in Edinburgh that October, newspapers were describing the 51-year-old as grey haired.

Arrest made public

On 3 March 1938, the Dundee Evening Telegraph ran Jordan’s arrest as its front-page story. It described her as “blonde, plump and smallish” and stated that “Dundee police have been conducting inquiries for several months. They have been in touch with the Intelligence Department of the War Office in London.”
The previous evening, that same newspaper had carried a single paragraph in its ‘Stop Press’ column revealing that “police arrived by car at a shop in North End of Dundee this afternoon woman detained”.

She was held at Perth and brought to Edinburgh to stand trial five months later. The trial lasted just half an hour, as she pleaded guilty to the charges laid against her, and she was sentenced to four years in prison. Upon her release she was interred, and, after the war, she was deported to Germany.



Other events that occured in March

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