The 9th Adventure Club Podcast: Double Agents, Naval Officers & Apples

In which we discuss our plans to re-enact the classic spy novel ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, following the route of Carruthers & Davies day by day through Germany. This week we’re concentrating on October 1, the day that Davies reveals what this duck shooting holiday is all about. He recounts his first encounters with the duplicitous Dollman and honourable German naval officer von Brüning.

To celebrate the arrival of the ‘baddies’ and their boats, we consider who might have been the real life inspirations for these two men. Importantly, we discuss how we’re going to get to Kiel – and exactly what kind of apples the bargeman Bartels would be taking to Kappeln.

DON’T FORGET – you can support this project by pledging to pay for access to the live web adventure in the autumn, and acquire a beautiful Handbook Edition of ‘The Riddle of the Sands which we are threatening to write.

For full details go to: Spread the word. We can’t go on our adventure without you!

Are these the apples that went to Kappeln? Photo By Rasbak (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
In the podcast we discuss: how you can support us and why it’s worth doing so (01:22); how we’re going to play with live streaming technology such as Periscope and Google Hangouts (01:54); how we might use Open Street Map to chart our route and the practicalities of cycling from Flensburg to Kiel (03:05).

Lloyd on real-life Dollmans (05:45); the possible influence of the Dreyfus affair, with Esterhazy as Dollman (05:58); enter spymaster Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, another Dollman-like figure (08:42); another British agent, William Melville, inspiration for The Secret Agent, acquaintance of Harry Houdini and the original ‘M’ (11:24).

So who are the real-life von Brünings? (15:29); Tirpitz & the SMS Blitz (15:45); why all this talk about torpedo gunboats?(18:38); Hipper the ‘baby killer’ (19:17); the musical interlude – the story of Colonel Bogey (21:56); a *real* von Brüning (24:57); even the apples in this story lead double lives! (26:26)

Club Business – Kevin on the workings of the Edwardian civil service (30:38); Liz corrects Lloyd’s story about Childers rowing from Newhaven (32:27); Film Club night is looming, see for details (32:58); Jeff on the different kinds of map in The Riddle of the Sands (33:29); Jerry is looking for crew (35:11).

Missions for next week – members assistance required.

Cigars and many weird brands of sausage and tinned meats: if anyone has any idea what brands of cigar, sausage and tinned meat we should be buying in Kiel, let us know.

A number of rough woollen garments: there’s a lot of clothes shopping at this point. We’d love to talk to someone who could talk us through the outfits Carruthers & Davies would be buying at this point.

The colossal gates of the Holtenau lock: who’s been through these? what’s it like?

The Kaiser Wilhelm Canal from Holtenau to Brunsbüttel: anything you can  tell us about the experience of travelling through the canal is very welcome. We’re planning to cycle the whole way and stop somewhere half-way. Any suggestions?

5 thoughts on “The 9th Adventure Club Podcast: Double Agents, Naval Officers & Apples

  1. Another Englishman active in the espionage business was my very distant relative Edmund ‘Tiny’ Ironside, who managed to infiltrate German colonial forces in SW Africa after the Boer war. Tiny (6’4″ tall) was a noted linguist, and took a significant part in more murky goings-on in Russia and Iran in 1918-21. He is said to be the prototype for Buchan’s Hannay.


  2. Our experience of the Kiel Canal, which we did in both directions was quite exciting. You ask about the great gates at the Kiel end – these are tucked away up a quiet, tree-lined, almost rustic side-channel to the Kiel fijord. The peace is shattered every now and then as the gates open and one or two enormous ships emerge from the docks with engines throbbing and deck lights blazing, gaining speed to make the turn down the fijord and heading for the open sea. But overnight, the area is quiet and we spent a pleasant enough evening there, rafted up to another local yacht, waiting for the gates to open in the morning, which they duly did at 0600.

    The gates are indeed very big, and you are harangued by the lock-keepers through loudspeakers to get in and out quickly and tie up out of the way so as not to impede any ships that might be coming in. This was, in itself a bit of an epic as while we were tying up at the head of the lock, I turned round and looked up to the enormous bows of a big freighter which was slowing to a halt a few feet behind us. Fortunately, it stopped in time…

    You then walk along the pontoon and climb up a very long ladder and go into the office to pay your canal dues. As I mentioned in the last mail, the passage of yachts along the canal is very highly regulated. Rather than try to write it out, I’ll just give you a link to the English version of the current regulations, which you can look at to get a feel for how it all works.

    Click to access notes_KIEL-CANAL.pdf

    As I remember it, there is a tow-path along the canal, so it might be possible to cycle along it. But, I would caution you to get permission for this first, as Germany is much less tolerant than England regarding minor breaches of access regulations. And the place to stay would surely be Rensburg, where the Dulcibella tied up overnight. I’m sure you’d find somewhere there.

    Will write separately about the actual experience of sailing (or rather motoring) along the canal itself.


  3. Almost 50 years ago I crewed aboard a yacht sailing from the Solent to Finland via the Kiel canal. Yes, the locks were impressive and the large seagoing vessels we had to share them with were intimidating, but being a keen young sailing enthusiast, I found the passage under power through the canal itself rather dull – apart, that is from the periodic blasts of noise from screaming jet engines as thrill seeking German air force pilots buzzed the canal at low level. I think the planes were Starfighters, made famous by the number of crashes, a large number fatal, that these gung-ho young men had in them.

    In those days all the charts of the Baltic showed extensive minefields, and vessels, even yachts, were recommended to navigate within the swept channels.


  4. Like Patrick, we found the actual navigation of the canal fairly straightforward. it’s the getting into and out of the locks that causes the grief. The canal is not really set up for sport yachting, it exists for the passage of big ships – these days commercial freighters and cruise liners, in earlier years naval vessels – and they have never made much effort to look after smaller craft.

    While you are waiting for the locks to let you in, particularly outside the Brunsbuttel end, there’s hardly anywhere to tie up to, so you just go round and round in a vicious river current until it’s time. Once inside, there’s a small marina which can get very overcrowded in summer where you can stay overnight – yachts can only transit during daylight hours – so it was for us quite a relief to be able to get away from there and head off towards Kiel.

    It’s actually quiet and very peaceful once you get out of the built-up areas. There’s a lot of wildlife and birds, which take no notice of anything passing on the canal. So all you have to do all day is sit and hold the tiller, steering a straight course and keeping a lookout for the giant ships looming up every now and then. We were amused when a cruise liner went past us and we could see into the gym where lots of energetic people were working out. Others were doing the more traditional cruise thing of lying in deckchairs admiring the view.

    As I recall, we spent some of our time putting along in giving the boat a good clean up, as we had by then been living on it for about three weeks. It was a sunny day and Mary did the washing in the time honoured sailor’s way – put it into a black plastic bin bag with some soap powder and enough water, then put the bag on the foredeck, where the sun heats the water and the motion of the boat gently agitates the clothes. After a couple of hours you only have to rinse out and hang them up to dry.

    At a steady five knots, we managed to do the entire canal in one day, but we started very early and it was July, so the days were long. In September/October, there would be less daylight, so that’s probably why Dulcibella and the rest of the flotilla had to overnight at Rendsberg.

    All in all, the canal episode was a nice restful day out, without any serious sailing to do and no waves or rain to spoil things. i hope you find it the same!


  5. We couldn’t get through in one day, so stopped at Rendsburg where there was a small marina, even back then. I don’t remember anything about the town except that the meal I had in a restaurant there was not good.

    I’m sure I remember the yacht’s owner insisted on an engine oil and filter change before setting off in the morning. Probably worried about running at near full throttle for several hours two days running. He had a system of grading the difficulty and nuisance of every job on the boat. The oil change was rated “triple buggar”. Later on in the cruise I had to go up the mast in a bosuns chair to fix a broken MF radio aerial connection. This was rated only a single buggar job, though I felt if he had been the poor b*st*rd swaying around in the rigging, with a screwdriver in one hand and an adjustable spanner in the other, he might have upgraded it to three.


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