The Mysterious Hector J Boon

The train with Rex Carthew that arrived in Irkutsk to collect the British prisoners and refugees at the beginning of April also brought an American, named Hector Boon.  It seems strange that at a time when everyone sought to escape from Bolshevik Russia, this mysterious man arrived and rented a lavish apartment in the middle of Irkutsk.

Was he an American spy like Margueritte Harrison in Moscow, or merely an enterprising, but naive, businessman who didn’t understand that the Soviet system banned all capitalist trade?

Whatever his ulterior purpose, he was most generous to Brian Horrocks and the abandoned British prisoners by giving them food and money to buy clothes.  I haven’t found any subsequent trace of him other than his signature on the back of a photograph later in 1920, when he gives his address as 46 Upper Park Road, a large house in a leafy suburb of North London!


San Remo Conference April 1920

Apart from accepting the mandates for Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria, the San Remo conference, chaired by the Prime Minister of Italy, agreed the WWI Allies’ policy on Soviet Russia.

Believing that all the British prisoners-of-war held by the Bolsheviks were on their way home, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, supported by Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon, agreed on 25th April to adopt a resolution to restore trade with the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

Little did they know that Captain Brian Horrocks and his compatriots in Irkutsk had been deceived by the Commissars and the train that had arrived under command of Captain Rex Carthew to rescue British citizens, was allowed to collect only the civilian families.

When he heard this news, the War Secretary, Winston Churchill, who did not attend the San Remo conference, lobbied the government to make the safe return of “all British prisoners-of-war captured in Siberia…” the essential condition of any trade negotiations.

IMG_3012Lord Curzon with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Maurice Hankey, en route to San Remo for the Allies’ Conference in April 1920


Good Friday 1920

On the night of Good Friday, 2nd April 1920, Captain Francis McCullough was arrested by the Soviet Secret Police in Moscow and taken from his room at the Savoy Hotel to the notorious Lubjanka prison.   He was arrested for sending a signal to the War Office informing them about Captain Brian Horrocks and the other British Army prisoners-of-war he left behind in Krasnoyarsk.

He had just removed the photograph with Director of Military Intelligence stamped on the back from the lining of his coat, which is just as well because the armed guards searched his belongings thoroughly.  In Lubjanka, he suffered the de-humanising process of three intrusive body searches and was then shoved into a cell with a wrenching smell of urine and excreta.  On the third day of solitary confinement, with his senses tortured by light and noise assaults, he was interrogated by the infamous Tcheka inquisitors Xenofontov and Mogilevsky.

After several hours of questioning, they switched tack and tried to recruit him into the Soviet intelligence network.  All this is revealed in the MI6 report written after he returned to London and was interviewed in the Hyde Park Hotel.

McCullough Moscow March Signal