My article, titled “Who was Karl Kasmann?” (Sunday Times Plus, May 11), has certainly tickled the memories of readers, including Roger and Bruno Rodrigue, now living in Australia. They have sent me the following anecdotes about this extraordinary artist, raconteur, bon vivant and KGB spy.
Roger writes: “I first saw Karl Hausman in 1930, at the Kandy YMCA. He was participating in a wrestling meet. I have a vivid memory of that moment: oiled bodies writhing on the carpet as the participants went through their various grips and tangles. As a 10-year-old, I was impressed.”
Bruno writes: “The newspaper article failed to mention that Kasmann had been appointed as the Fire Chief of Trincomalee! This appointment gave Karl wide and free access to the entire naval base at China Bay. In any event, it gave him sufficient credibility and access to cultivate naval (and other) connections and report on the movement of naval and merchant vessels in and out of the deep port at China Bay. What a coup for the Russkies!
“There is a tragic appendix to the SS Kallarand story. (The Kallarand was an Estonian cargo ship that arrived at Colombo Harbour in 1938 and was impounded by the British as retaliation against the Estonian Soviet Republic’s nationalisation of British assets in that country. Karl Kasmann, the only Estonian resident in Ceylon at the time, served as interpreter for the Estonian crew during their stay in Ceylon.) When Captain Haymen and his crew entered Soviet waters, they were marched off the ship and summarily shot, but (at least) they had tasted many months of ‘Paradise’ during their comfortable and unfettered internment in Ceylon.”
I wonder who else has tidbits to add to the Kasmann Saga?