Sad Fate of the British Spy Chief in Siberia – Cecil Cameron

You can find Winston Churchill’s instructions to Major General Sir Alfred Knox as commander of the British Mission to Siberia on page 37 of the secret “Narrative of Events in Siberia 1918-1920”. Paragraph 10 orders him to “address all your reports to the Director of Military Intelligence” in the War Office. Paragraph 8b2 states: “Major CA Cameron RA graded as GSO 3rd Grade to take charge of your Intelligence Service, will leave England in about a fortnight.”

Cecil Aylmer Cameron was a controversial appointment because he had served three years in prison for fraud after he claimed £6,500 for the theft of his wife’s pearl necklace, which had not been stolen. However, after his wife admitted sole responsibility for the crime, he was given a royal pardon and allowed to resume his commission in the army. During the First World War, he was awarded the DSO for running a spy network in German occupied France and Belgium under his code-name Evelyn.

In Siberia, Knox used Cameron as his Chief of Staff because he was fluent in Russian and knew everything about everyone. He also directed the network of officers, who kept tabs on Kolchak’s decisions and how the Siberian army fared in its fight with Trotsky’s Red Army. For his services in Siberia, he was awarded the CBE in the 1920 Honours List.

After the war, he was posted to Ireland where he continued to work for Military Intelligence. When the Labour Party won the General Election in 1924, Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald immediately recognized the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and appointed Robert Hodgson as Ambassador. He had taken over from Sir Charles Eliot as High Commissioner in Omsk in 1919, but escaped with General Knox after they abandoned the soldiers, who became the last prisoners in World War One. Hodgson was very familiar with Cameron’s work and approved the War Office’s proposal for him to become the Military Attache.

Cameron was the best candidate for the job, but the Soviet government knew about his espionage background and used its influence with the Labour Party to get at the Prime Minister, who refused to endorse the War Office appointment on the grounds that he had previously been convicted (so ignoring his royal pardon).

Sadly, Cameron believed his career prospects were over and was found dead at Hillsborough Barracks in August. Together with Labour’s support for the communist newspaper’s incitement of British Service personnel to mutiny in the notorious “Campbell Case” and their controversial concessions to the Soviet Union, Cameron’s death contributed to the fall of the MacDonald government on 29th October 1924.

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