Alfred Leete and ‘Schmidt the Spy’

The graphic artist Alfred Leete (1882–1933) began to publish his ‘Schmidt the Spy’ drawings in the journal London Opinion in 1914. Later in the war they were collected and issued in volumes, and Schmidt also appeared on film. The four images used in the exhibition are from Leete’s 1916 book Schmidt the Spy and his Messages to Berlin. 1916.9.245.

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Arriving in Britain hidden in a crate of Dutch cheese, Schmidt proceeded to adopt a series of unconvincing disguises, misconstruing everyday scenes of London life and sending misleading messages back to the German authorities.

Guy Burgess’s  signature

Leete is best known today as the draughtsman responsible for the finger-pointing portrait of Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, which formed the basis of the famous recruiting poster.

Guy Burgess’s  signature

Leete himself served in the Artists’ Rifles on the Western Front, while Schmidt served to raise morale at home by making the enemy seem ridiculous at a time when the fear of German agents operating in Britain was genuine and widespread.

Guy Burgess’s  signature