I forgot to mention this last night.
After my article with all the good information about Frank and Vava Johnson went live, I received an email from the British Ministry of Defence. It was in response to an email I had sent them a few days earlier, asking if they knew anything that could point to Frank and/or Vava being spies against the British government.
Royal Navy Report Writer Clive Clarke wrote back and stated that what they had sent me was the "only documentation" they had on hand. There was nothing else to send along. "There was not a specific file" on Frank Mills Johnson, other than the military service records they had sent me in May.
They looked through what they sent me in the same way I did. Clive wrote that this document "gives no indication... of what could be considered treasonous activity". This activity "would have resulted in criminal proceedings of the most serious nature".
He then suggested I contact the National Archives, and sent me to a broken link, but I googled it and found them.
Clive went on to tell me that "certain materials regarding courtmartials" and so on are at those Archives. If I cannot get there myself, I can engage a researcher to search on my behalf, and at my expense. There is also some content online, and that can be requested at no cost during the pandemic. That is, assuming that I googled the correct website.
The last things he told me were that "some documentation... may still be subject to secrecy legislation", and that he could not offer any more suggestions.
I wrote back and thanked him for his time and asked him to verify the website link but haven't heard back. I likely will not. I gather they get a lot of emails and a guy writing from "across the pond" is not a big priority for them, especially when it concerns a local case from nearly 80 years ago.
So, unless I poke around in the archives, or get someone to do it for me, this is likely the end of the line. But since there is nothing in Frank Johnson's military service records mentioning anything treasonous, or any kind of spy work, or anything like that, just the inappropriate things I did see on the service records and reported in Frank Magazine the other week, I do not think there is anything to find. The talk that either Frank or Vava, or both, were spies, was just a juicy tidbit one of the detectives on the case mentioned in an old police report that Ron Grantham picked up on years later and reported to Stephen Kimber, who included it in his e-book about the Johnson murder-suicide.
It is also possible that Eric Dennis, whose diaries and notes Kimber was able to scrutinize, scribbled something about them being spies, based upon scuttlebutt, rumour and innuendo he had heard but wisely chose not to report. That would have been a rumour in Halifax at the time of the murder, and the deeply unfortunate timing of Vava's accident fueled such speculation.
The truth is much more prosaic, but still ultimately tragic for all parties. Frank Johnson did what he did for the reasons I specified in my piece. They were not spies. Nadia was a pure victim caught between Vava's aloof indifference toward her, and her father's evil intentions and mental health issues.
Read the article in the current Frank and you will see for yourself.
Like I said last night, unless something concrete comes up, or my editor tells me to spend a bunch of time and money on this file to chase down the spy angle, then I believe this decades-old mystery to be solved.
See you tomorrow.