Enter the Spy 2: Walter Nicolai – Intelligence Chief

Those of you following the adventures of Lucy and Mark on my other blog will know that as the Armstrong Affair drew to a close in 1913; and all eyes turned to the events at Dover Castle  – a new historical figure entered the fray

Walter Nicolai, Head of German Military Intelligence. (1st picture)

Standing alongside historical luminaries: David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Frances Stephenson and Commander Melville; this German was the one I knew least about. I knew there had to be a counterpart to the Head of MI5, but I did not know the ins and outs. I don’t like this state of affairs. It plays havoc with my OCD.

In the old days to rectify such a lamentable lack of knowledge  a trip to the library  would have been the order of the day; followed  flicking through that long dormant resource: the MICRO FICHE – ordering said tomes and waiting for them to arrive from somewhere else within the county or beyond. Now, as soon as I realise I have hit an impasse of knowledge: I open up another tab; I Google; I bookmark; I read.

Having found out what I needed to know, I wrote the relevant sections and, having played his part, I expected my German to exit stage left and leave the building. But like another gentleman in Lucy and Mark’s alternate world – he refused to go.

Thus, in an attempt to exorcise him once and for all from the windmills of my mind, here’s what I found out about Walter Nicolai…

He was born in Brunswick on the 1st August 1873 – to a farmer’s daughter and a Captain in the Prussian Army. He spoke fluent Russian and English.  He followed in his father’s footsteps and saw service in Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 82 from  1893 to 1896, when he was briefly attached to Pionier- Batallion Nr10 in the June of that year. He returned to his regiment and saw further promotion, until  October 1900 when he  attended the War Academy, a position he held until July 1903.

From 1904 he was certainly ‘mixed up’ with espionage, holding posts in Section IIIB of the Prussian Intelligence Service. I am still hunting down exactly what was his part in the Redl  Espionage Affair ( who knows when and if I’ll ever need it) but I do know that after heading up this service, Nicolai moved over to the Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 71 in 1910 and from thence to General Staff on 20 July 1912.

In Aldwych Strand, Nicolai travels by Zeppelin to England in the January of 1913; in reality he was posted back to the General Staff, following his promotion to Major in October 1912.When and where he met Mata Hari (picture 3) – other than it was in Cologne- seem lost in the mysteries of time. When/if I find out, I’ll be sure to let you know. But, met her he did; recruited her, he did; and shocked when she tried to seduce him – he most certainly was.

At the end of the war, he retired, took gardening leave and, discredited by the press for wanting to continue the fight against the victorious allies, Nicolai, slipped into semi obscurity.

He went to work for Ataturk (picture 4) – the first President of Turkey in 1926, setting up their intelligence service and, during the early years of Nazi Germany, he became  a member of expert advisory board of the National Institute for the History of the New Germany. Some argue it was for this reason he was arrested by the Russians in 1945; certainly this, combined with his work for Ataturk, brought him to the attention of Russian Intelligence. Taken back to Moscow he died in the Butyrka hospital. He was cremated and his remains buried in a mass grave in Dom Cemetery (picture 3). He was finally exonerated of all charges in 1999 when the Russians finally admitted that Nicolai had nothing to do with Germany Intelligence during WW2