George Armstrong was one of only three British subjects who were sentenced to death and executed under the Treachery Act 1940. The other two were Duncan Scott-Ford and Theodore Schurch.
George Johnson Armstrong was a British engineer born in Newcastle.
At his trial on 8 May 1941, before Mr. Justice Lewis, Armstrong was charged with the following offence under the Treachery Act 1940:
On or about 19 November 1940, being a British subject in the U.S.A, with intent to help the enemy, did an act designed or likely to give assistance to the Naval, Military or Air operations of the enemy or to endanger life, to wit did write and endeavour to send a LETTER to Dr. Herbert Scholz, German Consul at Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A, offering his services, information and assistance to the said Dr. Herbert Scholz.
George Armstrong provided a statement for the Metropolitan Police, dated 2 March 1941. Lieutenant-Colonel Hinchley-Cooke (MI5) also interviewed George Armstrong at New Scotland Yard on 2 March 1941.
Armstrong stated that, before the outbreak of the war, he had met a German called Dr. Carl Klein at the Nautical Club in London. Another person in the party told Armstrong that Klein was a German agent.
After war was declared, Armstrong arrived in New York on the Britannic, he stayed at the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street and 7th Avenue. During this fortnight in New York, Armstrong spent his time in numerous bars. In one of these bars, which was run by an Irishman, Armstrong met a German lady called Alice Hahn. One day while he was talking to Alice Hahn, Dr. Klein arrived in the bar. Dr. Klein called her aside, and had a private conversation with her. Armstrong remarked in his interrogation that she seemed very friendly with a number of merchant navy officers.
Armstrong said that he had found out that Alice Hahn made a point of befriending merchant navy officers. She was keen to find out the details of the convoys between New York and the U.K. She eventually took Armstrong to a fashionable bar on Broadway. In the bar, there were several ladies with merchant navy officers. Armstrong remarked they appeared to be getting them drunk, and asking them questions about convoy movements from New York.
Early in July 1940, Armstrong went to Boston. While in Boston, Armstrong was arrested by the US Immigration Authorities. While in Deer Island Camp, Armstrong met up with Carl Klein. Both Armstrong and Klein were in a separate section from the rest of the camp’s inmates. Klein told Armstrong that his wife had also been arrested. According to Klein, his wife was a Russian who had been arrested at East Boston Immigration Station charged with being a German agent, and being illegally in the country. It was intended that they would both be deported to Germany.
Klien continued that, following their deportation, there would be reprisals against fellow agents in the US. Dr. Herbert Scholz, the German Consul in Boston, was assisting the Kleins with their attempts to avoid deportation.
Armstrong claimed that he found out, through his friendship with Klein, that Klein had placed agents in the U.K. Armstrong stated that Klein admitted that he was a Nazi agent, who had worked in the Far East. However, he claimed to Armstrong that he had not done any spying activities whilst in the US. In view of what he had seen in New York, and what Alice Hahn had said after drinking too much, Armstrong did not believe Klein’s statements of innocence.
After several conversations with Klein, Armstrong stated that he believed that there was a ring of German agents operating in the US. From Klein’s correspondence, Captain F. Weideman in San Francisco, Dr. Klein and Alice Hahn in New York, Dr. Scholz in Boston and a man named Schwartz in Halifax, were all part of this German spy ring, attempting to find information about the British convoy system.
Armstrong continued by stating that the FBI and the Dies Committee had become interested in this affair. After Klein had been visited by an associate of Dr. Scholz, Klein was taken away for an interrogation. Armstrong claimed that this associate warned Klein to keep quiet, or his Father, Mother and child in Germany would suffer the consequences. Whilst Klein was away, Armstrong examined Klein’s papers and found several letters from Captain Weideman. Later on, after Klein had returned, Armstrong claimed that Klein told him that Scholz had a list of German agents operating in the UK. Armstrong claimed that he wrote the letter to Scholz, to get the consul to visit him. Armstrong could then work with him in this country, exposing the network to the British authorities.
At this time, Armstrong stated that the Dies Committee was preparing to raid Dr. Scholz’s consul offices in Boston. Before the raid took place, a man came from the consul and left some papers with Klein. Armstrong examined them, and they contained references to an American bombsight, and that someone was travelling to Devon. Captain Weideman had written this letter. Also in this collection of papers, there was a report of the latest tool steel experiment, together with a piece of the steel which had been made at the same time. The Tungsten Steel Corporation had made the steel sample, for the US Government. There was also a list of some people, without their addresses. Armstrong claimed to have swapped the steel for another sample, as he figured that if the Germans were interested in it, the steel would be useful for this country.
Armstrong stated that he gave the letter (shown below) to another inmate for him to post. He could not remember whether he had already written Dr. Scholz’s address on the envelope. Armstrong added that he also gave this man two other letters, addressed to a lady in Fort Defiance, Arizona, and to the British Consul in Boston. Armstrong stated that he never heard from, nor was visited by, the British authorities in the US.
Armstrong claimed that Klein had told him that the explosion, which occurred at the German Consulate, or other official offices, in the Empire State building, was engineered to cover up the removal of papers to their Boston Consulate. This avoided the Dies Committee examination.
Armstrong finished his interrogation by stating that his only interest in this affair has been to trap the various people into some admission, upon which he could procure some concrete evidence, which would be valuable to my country and its government. He also stated that he aimed to produce a list of the various spies located the coastal ports of the US and Canada, and in the U.K, who were responsible for jeopardising British Convoys.
Armstrong was found guilty. His appeal on 23 June 1941, at the Court of Criminal Appeal, was dismissed. He was executed at Wandsworth Prison on 10 July 1941.