Surrey’s Suspected Spy & His House

Soon after Baron Carl von Mackensen bought the Bryce family home in north Surrey in 1910, the German national became the toast of the town, hosting lavish parties in the 1902 house. Most popular with the citizens were his annual Christmas parties.

But things went downhill in 1914. The Baron flew the German flag, which at the time was the black-white-red horizontal tricolour from the house’s rooftop and all hell broke loose. The enraged citizens of Port Kells threatened to bring down the flag with gunfire. The Baron removed the flag.

The damage was done, however. Authorities confiscated (and later sold) his house, finding a shortwave radio in his house and passageways from room to room via the closets. Though never proven, suspicion had it that the Baron spied on Fraser River shipping. Von Mackensen was interred in Vernon for the rest of the war and deported, in July 1919, to Germany. The internet has failed to bring up information before or after his Surrey stay.

(This sort of thing happened both ways. In Germany, on August 4, 1914, J.T. Gerould was arrested for spying. He was actually buying books for “the University of British Columbia’s first serious library” and, before his three-weeks jailtime in Leipzig, he had already bought 20,000 books in England and France. The evidence needed for his arrest was a copy of the UBC site plan in his luggage. Eventually the Germans deported him to Switzerland.)

Though talk of turning the von Mackensen house into a pub started years ago, today the 9564 192 Street so-called “spy house” or “the castle” is home only to squatters. The house is on Canada’s Register of Historic Places.

3 Comments so far

  1. Rebecca (unregistered) on November 27th, 2006 @ 6:28 am

    I was told this story years ago about that old house in Port Kells, but not in this much detail. Cool :)

  2. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 9:19 am

    Wonderful tale! But it sure sounds like on one hand, Baron von Mackensen was incredibly guilty, while Gerould, not so much.

    Come now, where are the actual Canadian spies?

  3. Maktaaq (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 9:36 am

    All that I found on the guy say that the charges were more wartime hysteria than anything else. I will have the chance to read archival material on him for work for a project next year, so I’ll see what I cna find on him.

    As for Canadian spies, anyone know of any? With a GVRD connection that we can post here?

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