The 20th century saw a renewed use of the Tower as a prison during times of conflict, but then also the rapid growth of the Tower as a visitor site. As the best football pundits say, ‘very much a game of two halves’.
German spies were held in the Tower and executed between 1914-16. The German spy Josef Jakobs became the unlikely candidate as the last prisoner executed at the Tower in 1941 for offences against the Treachery Act (1940). The details of his trial can be found here but his execution by firing squad took place at 7.15am on Friday 15th August, 1941. Jakobs was seated because he had damaged his ankle parachuting into England during the night of 31 Jan-1 Feb, 1941.
Bombs fell on the moat during air raids in the Great War while the Tower itself sustained bomb damage during the Blitz, but the damage was light compared to the rest of East London, which you can see on an amazing photo here. The moat, transformed into an allotment as part of the ‘dig for victory’ campaign, carried on growing vegetables despite the Luftwaffe’s repeated attempts at intervention.
The Crown Jewels were removed to a secret location during the war and returned when the Tower reopened to the public in 1946, since when the Tower has seen significant growth as a visitor attrraction. Perhaps the most significant development is now in the way the Tower engages with its visitors.
Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after the Tower, is independent, meaning that the interpretation provided allows visitors to make up their own minds about the history that happened here, not provide a Crown or government approved interpretation of events. As a result, the Tower opens itself up to an increasingly competitive market, so it will be interesting to see the path the Tower pursues in the 21st century.