Russia again dominated the headlines in London one hundred years ago. After the Cabinet Secretary visited Poland, Winston Churchill raised the prospect of British troops fighting Russia again. As the Red Army approached the gates of Warsaw, The Times declared the situation was “tragically serious”. Meanwhile, the Labour Party, with Soviet funding, held anti-war rallies and Lenin’s deputy, Lev Kamenev arrived in London with a trade delegation. In Moscow, 16 soldiers languished in the Ivanovsky prison and in Baku 31 sailors were suffering in an even worse jail.
Hansard records the resulting debate in the House of Commons on 9th August. Viscount Curzon, MP for Battersea South, who had commanded a Royal Navy battalion at Gallipoli, neatly summarized the conflicting Government policies when he asked the Prime Minister: “How the Soviet delegation to this country is composed; whether any further news has come through with regard to our officers and men retained as prisoners at Baku; whether the Government have any information as to whether Bolshevik money is being spent in revolutionary interests in Great Britain and if so, what steps are being taken to deal with it and with those who are responsible; and whether it is proposed to continue negotiations irrespective of the Polish question while such a state of affairs exists?
It is not surprising that Leon Trotsky said: “Lloyd George is like a man playing roulette and scattering chips on every number”.
The Ivanovsky Prison where 16 British prisoners were held in August 1920