Britain’s Master Spy

Title:                  Britain’s Master Spy

Author:               Pepita Bobadilla Reilly

Reilly, Pepita Bobadilla (1932). Adventures of Sidney, Reilly, Britain’s Master Spy. New York: Harper & Brothers

LCCN:       32002140

DA574.R4 A3 1932

Date Updated:  October 11, 2016

The adventures of Sidney Reilly, along with Mata Hari and Fraülein Doktor, also became the source of adventure yarns. Reilly, during the days of the Russian Revolution, tried to develop counterrevolutionary actions in Russia. His widow published a supposedly autobiographical account which is the main part of this book.

The first part of the book deals with Reilly’s life as told from his personal notes. The second part is written by his wife who is determined to find out what really happened after his disappearance. Well written, easy to read; makes one want to find out more about “Britain’s Master Spy.”Keeping in mind that memoirists and those close to them rarely find fault with how they carried out their lives.

Pepita Reilly authored the second half. She searched Finland and Northern Russia for the missing (and feared dead) Sidney. Pepita even asked Winston Churchill for assistance in finding Sidney. Churchill and Pepita both knew in their hearts that Reilly was being held captive by the Cheka, or that he was dead.

This is not the best book on Reilly, and probably fuels the myths and legends of Reilly all the more. The shadowy events that took place during and after the Bolshevik Revolution militate against any truly accurate accounting for Reilly.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Pepita Reilly, the third wife of Sidney Reilly, was assisted in this work by an unnamed journalist. The first third is presented as Sidney’s narrative of his role in the so-called Lockhart Conspiracy, his attempt to overthrow the Bolsheviks shortly after they took power. Pepita states that considerations of public policy compelled her to suppress certain facts in his story. The remainder is her narrative and is mainly devoted to her attempts to discover whether Sidney was alive and what had happened to him. Here we have another view of the work of the Trust, the Bolshevik operation intended to attract and destroy opponents of the regime by masquerading as an attempt to overthrow it. A striking passage in Sidney’s account is his conviction that the Cheka could only be countered by an organization as secret, mysterious, ferocious, and inhuman as itself. The German experience in later years under the Nazis suggests this theory would have been a failure in practice. According to Chester, Fay, and Young in The Zinoviev Letter[2], Mrs. Reilly was often chronologically inexplicit, and the “political transaction” she was not at liberty to divulge was suggestive of the Zinoviev affair. Robin Bruce Lockhart, who wrote Ace of Spies[3], the biography of Sidney, is quoted in Deacon’s A History of the British Secret Service[4] as believing that Sidney was responsible for the Zinoviev Letter. For other information on the Lockhart Conspiracy and a slightly different version of how Reilly made contact with the Letts who were to overthrow Lenin and his followers, see Hill’s Go Spy the Land[5]. Pepita’s book was withdrawn by the publisher after legal action for damages by Reilly’s legal wife. Reilly’s life and fate remained as elusive after publication as they were prior to it.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 386-387

[2] Chester, Lewis (1967, 1968), Stephen Fay, and Hugo Young. The Zinoviev Letter. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott

[3] Lockhart, Robin Bruce (1967, 1984). Reilly: Ace of Spies. New York: Penguin Books

[4] Deacon, Richard (1970). A History of The British Secret Service. New York: Taplinger

[5] Hill, George A. (1932). Go Spy The Land: Being The Adventures of I.K. 8 of The British Secret Service. London: Cassell


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2 Responses to Britain’s Master Spy

  1. Pingback: Reilly: Ace of Spies | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Adventures of A British Master Spy | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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