Frederick Joubert Duquesne, Captain (1877 - 1956)

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Nicknames: "Fritz "The man who killed Kitchener”", "Captain Claude Stoughton", "Frederick Fredericks", "Boris Zakrevsky", "Major Frederick Craven", "Colonel Beza", "Piet Niacud", "Fritz Joubert Duquesne", "The man who killed Kitchener", "The Black Panther", "George Fordham"
Birthplace: East London, Amatole, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Death: Died in City Hospital, Roosevelt Island, New York City, USA
Occupation: Soldier, Prisoner of war, Big game hunter, Journalist, War correspondent, Stockbroker, Saboteur, Spy, Adventurer
Managed by: Doug Robinson
Last Updated:

About Frederick Joubert Duquesne, Captain

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Joubert_Duquesne

Frederick “Fritz” Joubert Duquesne (sometimes spelled Du Quesne; English pronunciation: /duːˈkeɪn/) (21 September 1877 – 24 May 1956) was a South African Boer soldier, prisoner of war, big game hunter, journalist, war correspondent, Anglophobe, stockbroker, saboteur, spy, and adventurer whose hatred for the British caused him to volunteer to spy for Germany during both World Wars. As a Boer spy he was known as the "Black Panther", but he is also known as "the man who killed Kitchener", since he claimed to have sabotaged and sunk HMS Hampshire, on which Lord Kitchener was en route to Russia in 1916. As a German spy, he went by the code name DUNN. In 1942, he and 32 other members of the Duquesne Spy Ring were convicted in the largest espionage conviction in the history of the United States.

Early life

Fritz Joubert Duquesne was born in East London, Cape Colony in 1877 and later moved to Nylstroom in the South African Republic where his parents started a farm. When he was 17 years old, he left for university in London, and then attended the Académie Militaire Royale in Brussels. His uncle was Piet Joubert, a hero in the First Boer War and Commandant-General of the South African Republic (1880–1900).

Hatred for Kitchener and Britain

While he was in the British army, they passed through his parents' farm in Nylstroom which he found destroyed under Kitchener’s scorched earth policy. He also learned his sister had been murdered and his mother was dying in a British concentration camp. Duquesne was horrified and outraged, and made it his life’s work to take revenge on Kitchener and the British. Kitchener was a target in Duquesne's failed act of massive sabotage in Cape Town.

Second Anglo-Boer War

When war broke out in 1899, Duquesne returned to South Africa to join the Boer commandos. He was wounded at Ladysmith and received the rank of captain in the artillery. Duquesne was captured by the British at Colenso, but managed to escape in Durban. He joined the Boers again for the Battle of Bergendal but they had to fall back to Mozambique, where they were captured by the Portuguese and sent to an internment camp in Caldas da Rainha, near Lisbon.

At this camp, he charmed the daughter of one of the guards, who helped him escape to Paris. From here, he made his way to Aldershot in England where he joined the British army and got posted to South Africa in 1901 as an officer.

As a British officer, he returned to Cape Town with plans to sabotage strategic British installations. He recruited 20 men, but was betrayed by the wife of one of them. He escaped the death penalty by volunteering to give (phoney) Boer codes to the British, but was still court-martialled and sentenced to life in prison. The other 20 members of his team were executed by firing squad.

His prison in Cape Town was in the Castle of Good Hope. The walls of the castle were extremely thick, yet night after night, Duquesne dug away the cement around the stones with an iron spoon. He nearly escaped one night, but a large stone slipped and pinned him in his tunnel. The next morning, a guard found him unconscious but uninjured.

Duquesne was one of many Boer prisoners sent to Bermuda, where he was one of an estimated 360 prisoners interned on Burt's Island, the second smallest of the then-five self-governed internment islands. The 5' 10" "23-year-old" managed to pass himself off as an American, and was noted for his "fresh" complexion and "well set up", "gentlemanly" appearance by the Burt's Island Commandant (spokesman and representative for the other Boers), Captain C.E.M. Pyne. On 25 June 1902, Duquesne and Nicolaas du Toit travelled by ferry (legally, as the war had ended) to Bailey's Bay, Hamilton Parish, Bermuda to meet Anna Maria Outerbridge, a leader of a "Boer Relief Committee", who was so well known for trying to assist Boers in escaping that the military searched her house whenever there was an escape, the Colonial Assembly outlawed assisting and harbouring escaped prisoners of war, and on Guy Fawkes Night an effigy of her, not Guy Fawkes, was burnt. Outerbridge arranged for one of the men to escape while turning the other over to the military, and Duquesne was sent to the port of St. George's where another Boer Relief Committee member, Captain W. E. Meyer, arranged transportation out of the colony. About this time, he met and married Alice Wortley. Fritz was considered a very attractive man, but mysterious. When her family discovered he required her to have numerous abortions, they advised her to divorce him, which she did.

Frederick Russell Burnham

To my friendly enemy, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, the greatest scout of the world, whose eyes were that of an Empire. I once craved the honour of killing him, but failing that, I extend my heartiest admiration.

Letter signed: Fritz Joubert Duquesne, 1933, One warrior to another.

For many years, starting in the Second Boer War, Duquesne was under orders to assassinate the highly decorated American, Chief of Scouts for the British Army, Frederick Russell Burnham, but it was not until 1910 that the two men first met while both were in Washington, D.C., separately lobbying Congress to pass a bill in favor of the importation of African game animals into the United States (H.R. 23621). After returning to America, Burnham remained active in counterespionage for Britain and much of it involved Duquesne.

Gold mystery

Some of the largest gold mines in the world were within Boer territory and during the Second Boer war, much of this gold was sent by rail through the neutral Portuguese harbor of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique to pay for arms and munitions. In the closing months of the war, some of this gold was shipped to the Netherlands for Boer exiles fleeing the Transvaal, including President Paul Kruger. Duquesne took command of one large shipment of gold that was to be sent by wagon to Lourenço Marques; however, the gold never made it to its destination. While in the jungles of Mozambique, a violent disagreement broke out among the Boers. When the struggle ended, only two wounded Boers and Duquesne, and the tottys (native porters), remained alive. Duquesne ordered the tottys to hide the gold in the Caves of Leopards for safekeeping, to burn the wagons, and to kill the two wounded Boers. He then gave the tottys all the oxen, except one which he rode away. What then happened to the gold remains a mystery. Duquesne was also a confidence trickster and started this "gold mystery" rumour for his personal reasons. The gold records of the Transvaal Republic Mint as well as the relevant records of the gold mining companies then licenced by the Kruger government for tax purposes, both of which have been exhaustively examined by adventurers seeking validation of the "missing Kruger millions", show no "missing" ox-wagons full of gold. In any event, at the period claimed for this "journey" the Transvaal Republic was bankrupt and Kruger had already fled to Holland to [unsuccessfully] raise further funds with which to prosecute the war. Duquesne juxtaposed and used these events to claim himself a trusted member of the Transvaal Republic political core which was very far from the truth.

In the United States

Having escaped from Bermuda, Duquesne landed in New York City, where he found employment as a journalist for the New York Herald. He became known as a traveling correspondent, big game hunter and storyteller whilst in New York. The Second Boer War ended with the Boers signing the Treaty of Vereeniging, and with his family dead, Duquesne never returned to South Africa. He became a naturalized American citizen in December 1913.

He was sent to Port Arthur to report on the Russo-Japanese War, as well as Morocco to report on the Riff Rebellion. By 1910, he became Theodore Roosevelt's personal shooting instructor and accompanied him on a hunting expedition. Later, he appeared in Australia, calling himself "Captain Claude Stoughton" of the Western Australian Light Horse regiment, giving lectures on World War I.

First World War

Having met a German-American industrialist in the Midwest around 1914, he was sent to Brazil as "Frederick Fredericks", under the disguise of “doing scientific research on rubber plants”, but planted time bombs, disguised as cases of mineral samples, on British ships that disappeared at sea. Among these were the Salvador, the Pembrokeshire and the Tennyson, and one of his bombs started a fire on the Vauban.

Also in 1916, Duquesne placed an article in a newspaper, reporting on his own death in Bolivia at the hands of Amazonian natives. When he was arrested in New York on 17 November 1917 on charges of fraud for insurance claims on “mineral samples that were lost” with the ships he sank off the coast of Brazil, including the British steamship Tennyson which he sank on 18 February 1916, he had in his possession a large file of news clippings concerning bomb explosions on ships, as well as a letter from the Assistant German Vice Consul at Managua, Nicaragua. The letter indicated that Captain Duquesne was one who has rendered considerable service to the German cause. By this time, the British authorities were also looking at Duquesne as the agent responsible for “murder on the high seas, arson, faking Admiralty documents and conspiring against the Crown”. American authorities agreed that they would extradite Duquesne to Britain, if the British sent him back afterwards to serve his sentence for fraud.

1919 to 1939

After his arrest in New York, and while awaiting extradition to Britain, Duquesne pretended to be paralysed and was sent to the prison ward at Bellevue Hospital. On 25 May 1919, after nearly two years of feigning paralysis, he disguised himself as a woman and escaped by cutting the bars of his cell and climbing over the barrier walls to freedom. Police Commissioner Richard E. Enright sent out the following bulletin:

This man is partly paralysed in the right leg and always carries a cane. May apply for treatment at a hospital or private physician. He also has a skin disease which is a form of eczema. If located, arrest, hold and wire, Detective Division, Police Headquarters, New York City, and an officer will be sent for him with necessary papers.

About a year later, he appeared in Boston, using the pseudonym “retired British Major Frederick Craven”. He is known to have used several more names, among them “Colonel Beza”, “Piet Niacud” as well as “Captain Fritz du Quesne” (his real name and rank).

Of this period in his life, little is known, only that he worked as a freelance journalist and an agent for Joseph P. Kennedy's film production company. It is also during this time that he worked with Clement Wood to write his “biography” known as The Man who Killed Kitchener, with rights sold to a film production company.

In 1932, Duquesne was betrayed by a woman who revealed his true identity to the FBI who arrested him. British authorities again requested he be extradited, but he fought this charge in court. The judge ruled that even though the charges had merit, the statute of limitations had expired.

Second World War - Duquesne Spy Ring


On 28 June 1941, following a two-year investigation, Duquesne was arrested by the FBI along with two associates on charges of relaying secret information on Allied weaponry and shipping movements to Germany. Agents successfully filmed members of Duquesne's ring as they provided information to William G. Sebold, a confidential FBI informant and double agent. On 2 January 1942, the 33 members of the Duquesne Spy Ring, the largest espionage ring conviction in the history of the United States, were sentenced to serve a total of over 300 years in prison. One German spymaster later commented that the ring’s roundup delivered ‘the death blow’ to their espionage efforts in the United States. J. Edgar Hoover called his FBI swoop on Duquesne's ring the greatest spy roundup in U.S. history. During his trial, Duquesne claimed that his actions were aimed at the UK as revenge for the crimes done to his people and his country during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

This time, the 64-year-old Fritz Joubert Duquesne did not escape; he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He also received a 2-year concurrent sentence and the imposition of a $2,000 fine for violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. He served his sentence in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas where he was mistreated and beaten by inmates. In 1954, he was released owing to ill health, having served 13 years, and died indigent, at City Hospital on Welfare Island (now Roosevelt Island) on 24 May 1956 at the age of 78 years.

The legend

It is not known which parts of his life were fiction and which were fact, since Duquesne was a charismatic master of self-promotion as well as a famous storyteller, but different sources throughout the world mention him, albeit in different guises. It is known that he was handsome, charming, intelligent and fluent in several languages (Afrikaans and Dutch, English, French, German and maybe Spanish or Portuguese).

His charm was well-known with women, but he even made an impression on men. An Afrikaner pastor, A.J. van Blerk, who was interned with Du Quesne in Bermuda, described him as "a handsome man, well developed, with bright blue eyes and beautiful black hair that hung down to his shoulders" in his book "Op die Bermudas beland" (“Landed in Bermuda”).

On a “Wanted” poster Duquesne is described as such (facts regarding his height, weight, complexion and eye colour are erroneous): :"Frederick Joubert Duquesne alias Captain Claude Stoughton, Frederick Fredericks, Piet Niacud, Fritz Duquesne, Fordham.

Description – age 40 years, height 5’ 7’’, weight 155 pounds, dark brown hair, brown eyes, dark complexion.

Duquesne is of roving disposition. He is a writer of stories, an orator and a newspaper reporter and may apply for position as such. Is a good talker. Speaks Dutch, German, French and Spanish fluently.

The life of Fritz Joubert Duquesne was the subject of a 1999 documentary film by South African filmmaker François Verster that won six Stone Awards.

The 1945 film The House on 92nd Street was also a thinly disguised version of the "Duquesne Spy Ring saga" of 1941, but differs from historical fact. It won screenwriter Charles G. Booth an Academy Award for Best Story.

Bibliography

Works

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (Aug 1909). "Hunting African Big Game; the rifle and cartridges chosen by Roosevelt for use on the dark continent". Field and Stream: 323–328.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (1909). "Hunting Ahead of Roosevelt in East Africa; Illustrations from Photographs Close Call for a Brave Hunter Treed by a Rhino Birthday Party Narrow Escape from Crocodiles". Hampton's Magazine 22 (2): 143–153.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (1909). "Writer's and their Work; Illustrations from Photographs". Hampton's Magazine 22 (2): 285.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (1909). "Hunting Ahead of Roosevelt in East Africa; Second Article Illustrations from Photographs The Mysterious Death of Van Reenan the Giraffe--Awkward and Harmless". Hampton's Magazine 22 (3): 318.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (15 June 1909). "Hunting Ahead of Roosevelt; Elephant Ivory and How It Is Obtained". Los Angeles Times: 13.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (20 June 1909). "Hunting Ahead of Roosevent; The Ugly Rhinoceros and Smaller Game". Los Angeles Times: III 14.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (1909). "Trapping Big Game in the Heart of Africa; The Cost of a Trapping Expedition Where Buyers Meet the Caravan Morphone Makes Trapping Less Cruel Conquering the King of Beasts Fight with a Mother Rhinoceros". Hampton's Magazine 23 (2): 249.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (1909). "Hunting With Roosevelt in East Africa; The Colonel Becomes "Bwana Tumbo" Colonel Roosevelt's First Lion a Hair-Raising Leopard Hunt". Hampton's Magazine 23 (5): 580.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (8 August 1909). "Hunting Big Game in East Africa; Fire Hunting With the Congo Cannibals Preparing for the Hunt Jungle Animals Flee in Panic Slaughter of the Herd Hunters Also Meet Death Revelry Follows the Hunt Leopard Carries off Goat". San Francisco Chronicle: 4.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (31 August 1910). "Immigrants That Would Be Welcomed". San Francisco Chronicle: 6.

Duquesne, Captain Fritz (March 1911). "Tracking the Man-Killer". Everybody's Magazine xxiv (3): 291–303.

Biographies

Throttled!: The Detection of the German and Anarchist Bomb Plotters by Thomas Joseph Tunney and Paul Merrick Hollister. is on Duquesne and can be read on Wikisource. Boston: Small, Maynard & company, 1919.

The man who killed Kitchener; the life of Fritz Joubert Duquesne, 1879- by Clement Wood. New York, W. Faro, inc., 1932.

Sabotage! The Secret War Against America by Michael Sayers & Albert E. Kahn. Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1942

Taking Chances by Frederick Russell Burnham. Chapter 2 is about Duquesne. Haynes Corp, 1944.

Counterfeit Hero: Fritz Duquesne, Adventurer and Spy by Art Ronnie. Naval Institute Press, 1995 ISBN 1-55750-733-3

Films

The Man Who Would Kill Kitchener, by François Verster, a documentary film on the life of Fritz Joubert Duquesne that won six Stone awards, 1999.

The House on 92nd Street, which won screenwriter Charles G. Booth an Academy Award for the best original motion picture story in 1945. Based on the FBI Duquesne Spy Ring case with major changes story and characters.

The Duquesne Case, Deutsche Welle Newsreel, ca. 1950. (German; also translated into English, albeit poorly, and posted to YouTube).

http://www.quovadis-southern-africa.co.za/content/11/4345/en/frederick-joubert-duquesne-spy-extraordinaire-south-africa.html

-------------------- https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KFXX-GL2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Joubert_Duquesne

Frederick “Fritz” Joubert Duquesne (/duːˈkeɪn/; 21 September 1877 – 24 May 1956), sometimes Du Quesne, was a South African Boer soldier, prisoner of war, big game hunter, journalist, war correspondent, stockbroker, saboteur, spy, and adventurer whose hatred for the British (due to their treatment of Boer women and children) caused him to volunteer to spy for Germany during both World Wars. As a Boer spy he was known as the "Black Panther", but he is also known as "the man who killed Kitchener", since he claimed to have sabotaged and sunk HMS Hampshire, on which Lord Kitchener was en route to Russia in 1916, although forensics of the ship do not support this claim.

As a German spy, he went by the code name DUNN. In 1942, he and 32 other members of the Duquesne Spy Ring were convicted in the largest espionage conviction in the history of the United States.

Early life

Fritz Joubert Duquesne was born to a Boer family of French Huguenot origin in East London, Cape Colony in 1877 and later moved with his parents to Nylstroom in the South African Republic, where they started a farm.

When he was 17 years old, Duquesne went to London for university. After graduation, he attended the Académie Militaire Royale in Brussels. His uncle was Piet Joubert, a hero in the First Boer War and Commandant-General of the South African Republic (1880–1900).

Losses due to the British

Duquesne joined the British army in South Africa. He passed with troops through his parents' farm in Nylstroom, finding it to have been destroyed under Kitchener’s scorched earth policy. He also learned his sister had been killed and his mother was dying in a British concentration camp. Duquesne was horrified and outraged, and made it his life’s work to take revenge on Kitchener and the British. Kitchener was a target in Duquesne's failed act of sabotage in Cape Town.

Second Anglo-Boer War

He was one of the craftiest men I ever met. He had something of a genius of the Apache for avoiding a combat except in his own terms; yet he would be the last man I should choose to meet in a dark room for a finish fight armed only with knives. Next to Theron I believe Duquesne the greatest scout the Boers produced. – Frederick Russell Burnham, DSO, Chief of Scouts, British Army

When war broke out in 1899, Duquesne returned to South Africa to join the Boer commandos. He was wounded at the Siege of Ladysmith and received the rank of captain in the artillery. Duquesne was captured by the British at the Battle of Colenso, but escaped in Durban. He joined the Boers again for the Battle of Bergendal but they had to fall back to Mozambique, where they were captured by the Portuguese and sent to an internment camp in Caldas da Rainha, near Lisbon.

At this camp, he charmed the daughter of one of the guards, who helped him escape to Paris. From there, he made his way to Aldershot in England. He joined the British army and got posted to South Africa in 1901 as an officer.

As a British officer, he returned to Cape Town with plans to sabotage strategic British installations. He recruited 20 men, but was betrayed by the wife of one. He escaped the death penalty by volunteering to give (phoney) Boer codes to the British, but was still court-martialled and sentenced to life in prison. The other 20 members of his team were executed by firing squad.

He was imprisoned in Cape Town in the Castle of Good Hope. The walls of the castle were extremely thick, yet night after night, Duquesne dug away the cement around the stones with an iron spoon. He nearly escaped one night, but a large stone slipped and pinned him in his tunnel. The next morning, a guard found him unconscious but uninjured.

Duquesne was one of many Boer prisoners sent to Bermuda. He was one of an estimated 360 prisoners interned on Burt's Island, the second smallest of the then-five self-governed internment islands. The 5' 10" "23-year-old" passed himself off as an American, and was noted for his "fresh" complexion and "well set up", "gentlemanly" appearance by the Burt's Island Commandant (spokesman and representative for the other Boers), Captain C.E.M. Pyne. On 25 June 1902, Duquesne and Nicolaas du Toit travelled by ferry (legally, as the war had ended) to Bailey's Bay, Hamilton Parish, Bermuda to meet Anna Maria Outerbridge, a leader of a Boer Relief Committee.

She was so well known for trying to assist Boers in escaping that the military searched her house whenever there was an escape, the Colonial Assembly outlawed assisting and harbouring escaped prisoners of war, and on Guy Fawkes Night, an effigy of her, not Guy Fawkes, was burnt. Outerbridge arranged for one of the men to escape while turning the other over to the military, and Duquesne was sent to the port of St. George's where another Boer Relief Committee member, Captain W. E. Meyer, arranged transportation out of the colony.

Marriage and family

About this time, he met and married Alice Wortley. Duquesne was considered a very attractive man, but mysterious. When her family discovered he required her to have numerous abortions, they advised her to divorce him, which she did.

Frederick Russell Burnham

To my friendly enemy, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, the greatest scout of the world, whose eyes were that of an Empire. I once craved the honour of killing him, but failing that, I extend my heartiest admiration. Letter signed: Fritz Joubert Duquesne, 1933,One warrior to another.

For many years, starting in the Second Boer War, Duquesne was under orders to assassinate Frederick Russell Burnham, a highly decorated American who was Chief of Scouts for the British Army. In 1910 the two men met in Washington, D.C., while separately lobbying Congress to pass a bill in favor of the importation of African game animals into the United States (H.R. 23621). After returning to the United States, Burnham remained active in counterespionage for Britain and much of it involved keeping track of Duquesne.

Gold mystery

Some of the largest gold mines in the world were within Boer territory. Prior to the Second Boer war, much of this gold was sent by rail through the neutral Portuguese harbor of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique to pay for arms and munitions. Apparently, in September and October 1900, some of this gold was shipped to the Netherlands for Boer exiles fleeing the Transvaal, including President Paul Kruger. Duquesne took command of one large shipment of gold that was to be sent by wagon to Lourenço Marques; the gold never made it to its destination. While in the bushveld of Mozambique, a violent disagreement broke out among the Boers. When the struggle ended, only two wounded Boers and Duquesne, and the tottys (native porters), remained alive. Duquesne ordered the tottys to hide the gold in the Caves of Leopards for safekeeping, to burn the wagons, and to kill the two wounded Boers. He gave the tottys all the oxen, except for one which he rode away. What happened to the gold remains a mystery.

Duquesne was also a confidence trickster and may have started this "gold mystery" rumour for his personal reasons. The gold records of the Transvaal Republic Mint, as well as the relevant records of the gold mining companies then licenced by the Kruger government for tax purposes, both of which have been exhaustively examined by adventurers seeking validation of the "missing Kruger millions", show no "missing" ox-wagons full of gold. In any event, during the period claimed for this "journey," the Transvaal Republic was bankrupt and Kruger was departing for Holland to [unsuccessfully] raise funds with which to prosecute the war. Duquesne juxtaposed and used these events to identify as a trusted member of the Transvaal Republic political core, which was far from the truth.

In the United States

Having escaped from Bermuda, Duquesne landed in New York City, where he found employment as a journalist for the New York Herald. He became known as a traveling correspondent, big game hunter, and storyteller whilst in New York. The Second Boer War ended with the Boers signing the Treaty of Vereeniging. With his family dead, Duquesne never returned to South Africa. He became a naturalized American citizen in December 1913.

He was sent to Port Arthur to report on the Russo-Japanese War, as well as Morocco to report on the Riff Rebellion. By 1910, he became Theodore Roosevelt's personal shooting instructor and accompanied him on a hunting expedition. He published several newspaper articles on Roosevelt's hunting trip to Africa, safari big game hunting in general, and the heroic accomplishments of white peoples in Africa. He lobbied Congress to pass a bill in favor of the importation of African game animals into the United States (H.R. 23621) and his expert testimony before the House Committee on Agriculture is recorded in the Congressional Record.[ Later, he was paid to give lectures to American audiences about World War I; he appeared in Australia uniform claiming to be "Captain Claude Stoughton" of the Western Australian Light Horse regiment.

First World War

After meeting a German-American industrialist in the Midwest around 1914, Duquesne became a German spy. He was sent to Brazil as "Frederick Fredericks" under the disguise of “doing scientific research on rubber plants.” From his base in Rio de Janeiro, he planted time bombs disguised as cases of mineral samples on British ships; he was credited with sinking 22 ships. Among them were the Salvador; the Pembrokeshire; and the Tennyson. One of his bombs started a fire on the Vauban.

In 1916, Duquesne placed an article in a newspaper, reporting his own death in Bolivia at the hands of Amazonian natives.[24] He was arrested in New York on 17 November 1917 on charges of fraud for insurance claims. He had claimed the “mineral samples that were lost” with the ships he sank off the coast of Brazil, including the British steamship Tennyson, which he sank on 18 February 1916. Duquesne had in his possession a large file of news clippings related to the bomb explosions on ships, as well as a letter from the Assistant German Vice Consul at Managua, Nicaragua. The letter indicated that Captain Duquesne was one who has rendered considerable service to the German cause.

By this time, the British authorities were also looking at Duquesne as the agent responsible for “murder on the high seas, arson, faking Admiralty documents and conspiring against the Crown”. American authorities agreed that they would extradite Duquesne to Britain, if the British sent him back afterward to serve his sentence for fraud.

The Man Who Killed Kitchener

Duquesne's most celebrated claim is to have sunk the HMS Hampshire in 1916 thus killing Lord Kitchener. It is well established fact that Duquesne was tried and convicted for his unsuccessful attempt to kill Kitchener in South Africa during the Second Boer War, but the less established account that Duquesne succeeded in assassinating Kitchener in 1916 appears in his 1932 biography by Clement Wood, The Man Who Killed Kitchener, the life of Fritz Joubert Duquense. Duquesne reported to Wood that he posed as the Russian Duke Boris Zakrevsky and joined Kitchener in Scotland. While on board HMS Hampshire with Kitchener, Duquesne supposedly signalled the German submarine that sank the cruiser, thus killing Lord Kitchener, but Duquesne claims he made his own escape using a life raft before the ship was torpedoed and was rescued by the submarine. He was apparently awarded the Iron Cross for this act and he appears in several pictures in German uniform wearing an Iron Cross in addition to other medals. The authenticity of these facts has frequently been challenged by modern biographers and the German records that would confirm or deny at least parts of these accounts are now missing and were probably destroyed during the war.

1919 to 1939

After his arrest in New York, and while awaiting extradition to Britain, Duquesne pretended to be paralysed. He was sent to the prison ward at Bellevue Hospital. On 25 May 1919, after nearly two years of feigning paralysis, he disguised himself as a woman and escaped by cutting the bars of his cell and climbing over the barrier walls to freedom. Police Commissioner Richard E. Enright sent out the following bulletin:

"This man is partly paralysed in the right leg and always carries a cane. May apply for treatment at a hospital or private physician. He also has a skin disease which is a form of eczema. If located, arrest, hold and wire, Detective Division, Police Headquarters, New York City, and an officer will be sent for him with necessary papers."

About a year later, Duquesne appeared in Boston, using the pseudonym “retired British Major Frederick Craven”. He is known to have used several more names, among them “Colonel Beza”, “Piet Niacud," and “Captain Fritz du Quesne” (his real name and rank).

Of this period in his life, little is known, only that he worked as a freelance journalist and an agent for Joseph P. Kennedy's film production company. It is also during this time that he worked with Clement Wood to write his “biography”, The Man who Killed Kitchener, with rights sold to a film production company.

In 1932, Duquesne was betrayed by a woman who revealed his true identity to the FBI, who arrested him. British authorities requested he be extradited, but he fought this charge in court. The judge ruled that although the charges had merit, the statute of limitations had expired.

Second World War - Duquesne Spy Ring

On 28 June 1941, following a two-year investigation, the FBI arrested Duquesne along with two associates on charges of relaying secret information on Allied weaponry and shipping movements to Germany. Agents successfully filmed members of Duquesne's ring as they provided information to William G. Sebold, a confidential FBI informant and double agent. They were found guilty in what was the largest espionage ring conviction in the history of the United States. On 2 January 1942, the 33 members of the Duquesne Spy Ring were sentenced to serve a total of more than 300 years in prison. One German spymaster later commented that the ring’s roundup delivered ‘the death blow’ to their espionage efforts in the United States. J. Edgar Hoover called his FBI swoop on Duquesne's ring the greatest spy roundup in U.S. history.During the trial, Duquesne claimed that his actions were aimed at the UK as revenge for the crimes done to his people and his country during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

The 64-year-old Fritz Joubert Duquesne did not escape; he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He also received a 2-year concurrent sentence and the imposition of a $2,000 fine for violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. He served his sentence in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas, where he was mistreated and beaten by inmates. In 1954, he was released owing to ill health, having served 13 years. He died indigent at City Hospital on Welfare Island (now Roosevelt Island) on 24 May 1956 at the age of 78 years.

The legend

It is not known which parts of his life were fiction and which were fact, since Duquesne was a charismatic master of self-promotion as well as a famous storyteller. Different sources throughout the world mention him, albeit in different guises. It is known that he was handsome, charming, intelligent and fluent in several languages. One of his biographers described him as "a professional spy and a counterfeit hero - a man who would constantly reinvent himself to suit the needs of the moment."

His charm was well-known with women, but he also made an impression on men. An Afrikaner pastor, A.J. van Blerk, who was interned with Duquesne in Bermuda, described him as "a handsome man, well developed, with bright blue eyes and beautiful black hair that hung down to his shoulders," in his book Op die Bermudas beland (“Landed in Bermuda”).

On a “Wanted” poster Duquesne is described as such (facts regarding his height, weight, complexion and eye colour are erroneous): :"Frederick Joubert Duquesne alias Captain Claude Stoughton, Frederick Fredericks, Piet Niacud, Fritz Duquesne, Fordham.

Description – age 40 years, height 5’ 7’’, weight 155 pounds, dark brown hair, brown eyes, dark complexion.

Duquesne is of roving disposition. He is a writer of stories, an orator and a newspaper reporter and may apply for position as such. Is a good talker. Speaks Dutch, German, French and Spanish fluently. The life of Fritz Joubert Duquesne was the subject of a 1999 documentary film by South African filmmaker François Verster that won six Stone Awards.

The 1945 film The House on 92nd Street was also a thinly disguised version of the Duquesne Spy Ring saga of 1941, but differs from historical fact. It won screenwriter Charles G. Booth an Academy Award for Best Story.

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Fritz Joubert Duquesne's Timeline

1877
September 21, 1877
East London, Amatole, Eastern Cape, South Africa
1956
May 24, 1956
Age 78
City Hospital, Roosevelt Island, New York City, USA
1956
Age 78
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