In June 1922, Harvard-educated aviator and plane manufacturer, Captain James Vernon Martin testified before the US Senate on the misappropriation of relief funds by US Secretary of Commerce (and later President) Herbert Hoover. His claim was simple; in July 1919, as anti-Bolshevik forces made serious advances against the Red Army defending Petrograd, Martin received a message from Hoover in London to take the cargo of food intended for millions of famine victims and reload it with trucks and military supplies in support of an imminent attack on Lenin. Britain, France and America had thrown a ‘cordon of steel’ around Russia, preventing the natural flow of commerce around her ports, sabotaging railway communications and refusing essential trade; the famine her people were now enduring was, Martin claimed, one the allies had created. Worse still, the charity funds set-up by Hoover and the American Relief Administration to relieve this crisis, were being covertly looted to restore the regime of the Tsar — one of the most brutal and autocratic regimes known to modern history. This ‘Secret War Pact’, Martin alleged, had been hatched by an anti-Bolshevik league led by British War Secretary, Winston Churchill, during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference (Congressional Record Senate, June 6th 1922).
Any attempt to dismiss Martin’s claim as the resourceful vitriol of a failed inventor or a fantasist is likely to be frustrated by his impressive, and frankly quite extraordinary, C.V.
In 1900, the 17-year old Martin self-published a pamphlet that won the commendation of the National Democratic Committee and featured contributions from US-Scottish Industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and Senator William Jennings Bryan. The pamphlet, “Our Flag Unstained: Imperialism, Tyranny and Oppression” provided a 13,500 word challenge to the US annexation of the Philippines (1898) and its arguments found favour with the Anti-Imperialist League, of which Carnegie and Bryan were both members.
By 1909 Martin was enrolled as an under-graduate at Harvard University. Under the guidance of meteorologist Professor Abbott Lawrence Rotch, the feisty young inventor founded the Harvard Aeronautical Society with Rotch elected as President. With over 300 members and over 2000 feet of aerial film footage, the Society had been tasked with making theories of aeronautics more accessible across the colleges. Martin told the Boston Sunday Post that in a few years time, “we may expect to see all sorts of wonders … and there will soon be a transatlantic aeroplane”. That same year, Martin became a member of the Aerial Experiment Association led by Alexander Graham Bell, working closely with aviation pioneers, Glenn Curtiss and August Moore Herring. A ‘Harvard Aviation Meet’ in September 1911 marks his first contact with British plane manufacturers, Claude Grahame-White and Alliott Verdon Roe (Boston Post, September 2nd 1910). As a result of the meeting Martin assists Claude Grahame-White during his subsequent tour of the Point Breeze Flying Club before being training as a flying instructor at White’s aviation school in Hendon, England. In May 1911 Martin takes part in a demonstration of military airmanship at Hendon in presence of Secretary of War, Lord Haldane, members of the army council, 200 members of parliament as well as naval and military officers. He is joined by Grahame-White, Louis Bleriot, Alec Ogilvie, Gystave Hamel and AV Roe (War Office Air Tests, Daily Mail May 08th 1911).
Upon qualifying as a flying instructor, Martin was drafted in to teach at the Aerial Navigation Company owned by Charles J. Gliddens, an old partner of Graham Bell. Immediately prior to the war he found employment at Hendon Aerodrome where he trained several ‘of the greatest fliers of the Royal Flying Corps” (Racine Journal News, 28 February 1916, p.30).
In March 1917 Martin was presented with an award by retail magnate, Rodman Wanamaker and the Aero Club for his invention of the aero-dynamic stabilizer, an early and ingenious auto-pilot device. During the mid-war period he served as First Officer of former France, Russian and Germany naval attaché, Rear Admiral Aaron Ward (1851-1918) of the SS Red Cross, and it is during these aid voyages across Europe that Martin learns that America is alarmingly underprepared for war (Racine Journal News 28 February 1916, p.30) 2.
The list continues …
Basic Context of Captain Martin’s Claims
After the Armistice the Allied Powers backed a counter-revolution in Russia led by Tsarist (White Russian) forces. For the West it was something of a proxy war, direct military action, officially at least, was to be carried out exclusively by the Tsarist Loyalists and a multi-national alliance of foreign nations including Czechoslovakian, Estonian and Finnish militarists.
Between July and October 1919, with morale and provisions low amongst Bolshevik troops, the press were anticipating the imminent collapse of Russian Bolshevism. Food supplies were exhausted, and General Yudenich’s North Western Army, under pressure from the British, was making continued advances on Petrograd. Anti-Bolsheviks hoped it would be a defining moment for the counter revolution. Yudenich cabled an urgent request for aid to the London office of the American Relief Administration (A.R.A).
On July 30th 1919, the Press Association reported that ‘a lack of food prevented (the) capture of Petrograd’. Yudenich described it as an ‘opportunity missed’. The advance from Pskov had been rapid but a lack of provisions meant they could not take Petrograd (at this time Leningrad). An American official tells the UK’s Manchester Guardian that allied forces could not occupy Petrograd unless they could guarantee the feeding of the city (the whole episode is addressed by Churchill & other MPs in the House of Commons; see: Hansard, Commons Chamber Orders Of The Day Army Estimates, 1919–20, 29 July 1919 Volume 118)
In August 1919, the Washington Post tells its readers that the delay in sending relief to ‘defenders of liberty in Russia’ will deal a serious blow to the counter revolutionaries. They conclude that this is ‘the duty of this hour’ and cannot be ‘relegated and delegated to a hypothetical League of Nations’. Such an active and direct response to the requests made by General Yudenich would be controversial. We were not officially at war with Russia and the provision of aid had been agreed on the basis that it was a strictly humanitarian mission assisting families and not regimes. Any military support offered should be defensive.
The Washington Post dated 18 October 1919 reports that Yudenich was making further requests for food relief. As a result, another cable went out to the London offices of Hoover’s A.R.A.
Herbert Hoover & the American Relief Administration
In 1917 US President Woodrow Wilson made engineer & mining magnate, Herbert Hoover director of the United States Food Administration (aka. ‘Food Tsar’). As the war ended, the US Food Administration was rebranded the American Relief Administration and registered as a non-profit organisation in July 1919. Directors alongside Hoover included Julius H. Barnes, R. W. Boyden, Edward M Flesh, William A. Glasgow, John W. Hallowell and Howard Heinz. Hoover was tasked not only with providing food relief across Central and Eastern Europe, he was also made responsible for the social and economic reconstruction of the region.
The Shipping Board, the United States Grain Corporation and the American Red Cross were all obliged to cooperate with Hoover’s ARA efforts. The US Congress would later hear that Red Cross supplies, under direction of Henry P. Davidson of J.P Morgan, were being used to feed White Russian armies. This whole project coincided with efforts by Presdient Woodrow Wilson and British Secretary of War and Air, Winston Churchill to defeat Bolshevism, plans were now meeting with considerable opposition on both sides of the Atlantic. There were few public figures who wanted to be seen attempting to restore a regime whose figurehead the Tsar, was reviled around the world for his institutionalized brutality and repressive state apparatus. Churchill’s attempts to launch a ‘private war’ with the Bolsheviks was dealt a serious blow in the Spring of 1919 when the Daily Herald in London leaked a War Office memorandum marked ‘Secret and Urgent’, directing commanding officers to report on potential troop resistance to serving in Russia. The memorandum was dated January 1919, and arrived just as Britain and the US were considering large scale intervention on a more offensive tack (Daily Herald, May 13th 1919). That same month, the British War Cabinet had refused expanding the Expeditionary Forces and the Slavo-British Allied Legion (composed almost entirely of volunteers) and more creative efforts were clearly being pursued. Using the mechanisms put in place for Hoover’s European Relief effort formed that following month (February 1919) may have been one such option.
Wilson had already asked for, $100, 000, 000 in European relief. According to a 1921 Senate hearing led by John Reed of Missouri, Hoover admitted much of the aid was directed to the armies of Poland, Finland and Estonia for distribution — key players in the fight against Bolshevism (Leadville Herald Democrat 07 January 1921, p.2)
Hoover’s Russian Interests
By the time the war started, Hoover had significant holdings in Russia and the Romanov family themselves were amongst his many partners. Walter W. Liggett, investigative author of the grudge-published The Rise of Herbert Hoover, contends that Hoover’s business interests had been thwarted by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who had cancelled the concessions Hoover and Leslie Urquhart held through Irtysh, Tanalyk, Kyshtym and Russo-Asiatic Corporations. Irtysh, Tanalyk, Kyshtym were subsequently amalgamated into Russo-Asiatic Consolidated Ltd and worth something in order of one billion dollars in 1912.
By the end of 1918, the British Foreign Office had recruited Urquhart to run the Siberian Supply Company. This forward-thinking trade instrument was a joint British-Canadian commercial agency for Asiatic Russia — and the Kolchack regime in Siberia had a proposal in the pipeline to share generously in the profits. Having already had all his mines in the region nationalized by the Soviets, the move was something of a no-brainer. The British Department of Overseas Trade next offered Urquhart an advisory role in their supporting venture: the Russo-Canadian Development Corporation.
In the summer of 1919, the left-wing Daily Herald began to question the probity of such a deal: “some members of parliament might be worse employed than in eliciting information about the financial relationship between [Siberian Supply Company], the British Government and the Kolchak junta” (Our Mr Urquhart, Daily Herald, 16 July 1919). According to the Paris edition of the New York Herland, a leak from an undisclosed source in Japan in April 1919 had made things abundantly clear: a group of British and American bankers had agreed to make a loan to Kolchak’s rival government in Omsk. In return for the loan, and a handsome stake in the profits, Kolchak’s government would award mining concessions in Kamchatka to a syndicate that is likely to have included America’s Samuel McRoberts 3 and Frank A. Vanderlip — a key player in his friend Herbert Hoover’s 1920 bid for the Presidency and a major loser in the $26 million purchase of Russian Government war bonds and loans — all lost as a result of the October Revolution (Frank A. Vanderlip is not to be confused with the peculiar story of the mining concessions awarded to his namesake, Wasington Baker Vanderlip by Lenin in 1920 — although I dare say there is some discreet but no less extraordinary overlap). Similar concessions in Central Asia and Turkestan would likewise be awarded to Russo-Asiatic Consolidated Limited whose chairman was Leslie Urquhart (Concessions to Britain and America, Manchester Guardian, 02 Apr 1919, p.7)
In return for the mining concessions, the Entente Powers (or the “Big Four” as they were known) would also need to recognise Kolchak’s White Russian Government in Omsk as the de facto government of non-Bolshevik Russia (Associated Press, Washington, April 18th 1919).
News of the provisional agreement coincided with two things: the arrival of a telegram at the Reuters News Agency describing the discovery of gold-bearing reefs near the source of the River Angara, some 900 miles from Omsk, and the arrival in New York City of a small delegation from Whitehall in London featuring super-spy, Sidney Reilly, Grennadie Chmourlo — a representative from Omsk attached to the Russian Embassy in London — and Reilly’s deeply mysterious business associate, Anthony Jechalski who operated under a variety of aliases.
As polo-playing nobleman’ Tony Farroway’, Jechalski had already been accused with bribery and corruption. His accomplice in these particular activities was Colonel Vladimir Nekrasov of the Russian Supply Committee in New York (HIA, Russia, Posol’stvo, File 370-12). In a previous role, Reilly had acted as chief commission agent for the Russo-Asiatic Bank in the purchase of Japanese munitions for Russia’s Imperial Army.
The SS Olympic had arrived in New York in the last week of April and Reilly, in all likelihood, made straight for his old office at 120 Broadway, located in the same Equitable Building of Lower Manhattan as the Russio-Asiatic Bank and the recently restructured munitions wing of the Russian Supply Committee. The American International Corporation — a proto-type relief organisation set-up by Frank A. Vanderlip in 1915 — could also be found at this address. Chmourlo, by contrast was scheduled to meet his colleagues at the Consulate-General of Russia in New York City, which was based, ironically enough, in a building owned by James V. Martin’s 1900 pamphlet sponsor, Andrew Carnegie.
Accompanying Reilly on the SS Olympic were two other men: Captain Hamilton Halsey Herbert Noyes and Methodist missionary, Ernest W. Byshhe, whose Episcopal Church was to play a key role in supporting Hoover and Vanderlip’s relief and reconstruction mission. Byshhe’s partner in these efforts was George A. Simons in Petrograd who was there on behalf of the Church’s Department of War Emergency & Reconstruction programme. The treasurer of the Episcopal Church in New York just happened to be Reilly’s friend, Colonel Samuel McRoberts — the Vice President of the National City Bank who had been keenest to start the Anglo-American syndicate and gain an advantage over his rivals at J.P Morgan (National Archives, PRO FO 371/4019).
We need to be clear about one thing here; humanitarianism was not being used as some bait and switch stunt for Churchill and President Wilson’s purely militarian objectives, it was a key part of the matrix that would undermine the need for Bolshevism. That doesn’t mean the mechanisms used for aid couldn’t be commandeered at a critical time for arms, as Captain James V. Martin of the United States Shipping Board would learn that September.
By the time of Reilly’s arrival in April 1919 Samuel McRoberts still held considerable influence with supply contracts for the US Army. After being made Head of the Procurement Division in the recently reorganized Bureau of Ordnance in January 1918, everything the US used in the conduct of war had, until January 1919 at least, required McRoberts’ personal signature. “Billions flow when he signs his name”, screamed the headlines. McRoberts had also been prominent in railroad matters and interestingly enough, it had been Urquhart’s contention that railroads, and not food, were the single greatest challenge to the reconstruction of Siberia and its borders.
Just days after Reilly returned to London, the New York Times ran an appeal for Reverend Byshhe’s Episcopal Church immediately beneath a report of a speech made by President Harding at the Carnegie Hall the previous evening. The occasion of Harding’s speech was the American Day Meeting, held under the direction of the American Defense Society. The event had been arranged primarily as a protest at the anticipated spread of Bolshevism throughout Europe and America. (New York Times 19 May 1919, p.10). The appeal, which ran at a full half-page. was targeted at investors; there could be no lasting peace without understanding, there could be no understanding without education, and there could be no education without a $105,000 cash investment. Another advertisement on the page was for New York Trust Company whose incoming trustee was Grayson M-P. Murphy.
Murphy, who poured $125,000 of his own cash into setting up the anti-Communist American Legion, had resigned his Presidency of the Guaranty Trust Company in January 1919 just as the company was finding itself at the centre of an investigation into the illegal sale of munitions to Mexican Revolutionary, Pancho Villa. The sale was alleged to have been organised by German agents, Felix Armand Sommerfeld and James Manoil. The pair had been charged with channelling funds through Guaranty Trust and the Mississippi Valley Trust Company located in Martin’s hometown of St Louis (Boston Post, 08 January 1919, p.6).
The Trustee of the Mississippi Valley Trust into which such vast sums of cash were placed by Sommerfeld and Manoil was David Rowland Francis, appointed Ambassador to Russia by Woodrow Wilson in March 1916. In 1904 he had been President of St Louis’s World Fair, whose celebrated ‘Airship Contest’ provided the 21 year-old James V. Martin with his first competitive platform. It was here that James found himself working alongside his future Harvard mentor, Professor Lawrence Rotch.
An address that became central to the Guaranty investigation was 165 Broadway, New York. It was here that the Romanian and suspected German agent James Manoil had registered the head office his Manophone Company (American Publishers’ Association, 1917, p273). Another man with connections to 165 Broadway was British super-spy, Sidney Reilly. According to documents held by the Bureau of Investigation, Reilly had visited 165 Broadway during 1917 and 1918 when he called on Colonel Frederick W. Abbot and Russian Munitions Chief, Vladimir V. Oranovsky to discuss Anglo-Russian contracts with longstanding rifle manufacturers, Remington Arms (US Bureau of Investigation/ Office of Naval Intelligence Report, 17 October 1918)
Colonel Oranovsky had arrived in New York in June 1917 just as Kerensky’s provisional government began to make good on the trading opportunities discussed by former American Secretary of State Elihu Root and Minister-Chairman Kerensky in Petrograd that summer. His colleagues at the Supply Committee in New York included Professor Yury Lomonosov (Ministry of Railways) and Professor Nikolai Borodin (Ministry of Agriculture).
Between 1915 and 1917 Russia and Britain had placed some of their largest contracts with the Remmington Cartridge Company and millions of dollars were owed. When the Revolution of February 1917 took place, any existing contracts were thrown into disarray. The British Treasury issued a swift announcement that they would be backing up the Russian Government in making payment for war munitions bought in the US by Russia. The New York Times reported on February 25, 1917, that “the joint financial arrangement, in the opinion of bankers, is expected to expedite the shipment of goods to Russia this spring”. The Bethlehem Steel Company, on whose board Grayson M.P. Murphy had served as director, pledged British Treasury notes totalling $37,600,000 in value as collateral behind a $50,000,000 contract (New York Times 25 February 1917, p.3).
A bigger blow to the contract was dealt by the second Revolution in October. Lenin and the Bolsheviks effectively wrote-off all debts owed to the US arms manufacturer and production was only resumed after an agreement was quickly drafted between the Imperial Russian Embassy and the United States government.
To secure the arrangement, the British Mission’s Colonel Abbott and the Duma’s supply adviser, R. V. Poliakoff acted as trustees of the Russian Remington Rifle Contract, registered to Reilly’s 120 Broadway address. A mechanical engineer by profession, Poliakoff represented Russia’s relief organisation, The All-Russian Zemstvo Union, a key distribution partner for Grayson M.P Murphy’s American Red Cross and YMCA.
The Russian Supply Committee
The Committee and its successor, the Division of Supplies of the Russian Embassy, coordinated and supervised the purchase of military supplies for the duration of the war. It had a large staff of officials, several of whom were detailed from Russia and the government of the Tsar. The majority however, were agents and intermediaries whose exact rank and status for the most part remains unknown. And with such a colourful melange of individuals passing through its doors, the Committee was inevitably plagued by repeated episodes of corruption and ‘cloak and dagger’ escapades.
By the end of 1914, over £60 million had been loaned by the Brits to Russia. The failure of the Russian Duma to centralize procurement now meant an unruly collective of businessmen in New York were immersed in a shady cycle of bribery and kickbacks. A lack of qualified munitions inspectors only added to the general incompetence. Most of these men were lawyers by education, thrill-seekers by inclination and Officers by order of war.
The February Revolution of 1917 only added to the chaos. In March 1917 the New York Times was reporting that there were now two munitions commissions competing for the right to represent the Duma Government in the US. Despite being a welfare organisation, Poliakoff’s party of liberal progressives – the Zemstvos Union – was quick to denounce the retention of consuls and advisers representing the old regime, and declared their intention to take sole control of munitions purchases. With the Tsar’s advisers out of the way, the Russian Duma could pursue victory over Germany with what Poliakoff would describe as a “new energy” (New York Times, 18 March 1917, p.3). In this they were supported by the ever-changing coterie of rivalrous industrialists that made up Alexander Guchkov’s War Industry Committee and the Cities Union at New York’s Flatiron Building. That they had the support and confidence of Robert Lockhart Bruce, another British Agent, may have been why his friend, the ‘master spy’ Sidney Reilly, was able to position himself so centrally within this organised pandemonium. In Lockhart’s words, the Zemstvos and the Cities Unions “were the nearest Russian equivalent to our Ministry of Munitions” and channels were well and truly open (Memoirs of a British Agent, R. H. Bruce Lockhart, p.124).
That same April, Kolchak had addressed a joint session of the Municipal Council and the Zemstvo Assembly. For many years the Assembly had been a two-tier organisation composed of land owners and peasant councils providing welfare support and modicum of self-governance for local villages. Kolchak’s proposal was to offer total overhaul of the land and labour policies and ensure a much greater share in the profits for workers. In return the Zemstvo unions would support Kolchak’s efforts to destroy the Bolsheviks. In February 1919, the Socialist Groups in Omsk had made a separate declaration of support, and similar pledges were to be made by the Social Revolutionists, Social Democrats and Labour Unions in Perm in May. At least that’s how the Russian Information Bureau in New York was spinning it.
In June 1919, the New York Times ran a full-page advertisement for Arkady Joseph Sack’s ‘Struggling Russia’ journal, whose publishers, the Russian Information Bureau, were located at the nearby Woolworth Building (233 Broadway). The ad’s headline announced that it was “The Duty of The Allied Democracies to Recognize the Omsk Government”. Kolchak’s ‘All Russian Government’, with the support and co-operation of the Zemstvos and Cities Unions, pledged itself to convening an All-Russian National Assembly “as soon as the plague of Bolshevism” was destroyed (New York Times 09 June 1919, p.9). The journal’s team of advisers just happened to include railroad magnate Jacob Schiff – the director of the National City Bank who’d helped finance the Japanese defences against Tsarist Russia – Charles H. Sabin of the Guaranty Trust Company and Samuel McRoberts, Reilly’s new best friend in New York (Soviet-American relations, 1917-1920, George F. Kennan, 1958). The article had been written back in May, just as Reilly was returning to London.
Curiously, in October 1919, just as the investigation into the Guaranty Trust-James Manoil arms deal got underway, Kerensky’s long-serving munitions chief, Colonel Oranovsky died as the result of an accident on the Brooklyn subway. Oranovsky’s recovery was sufficient enough that he was allowed to leave hospital. But just three weeks later the former chief of the Tsar’s Military Cabinet was found dead at his home in Long Beach (Philadelphia Inquirer, 03 October 1918. p24).
Murphy’s Guaranty Trust gained additional notoriety for having withheld over $5 million deposited in its bank by the Provisional Kerensky Government in Russia in July 1917. Unsurprisingly, the incoming Soviet Government put in a subsequent request for the Guaranty Trust to become their US fiscal agents “for all Soviet operations and contemplates” (William H. Coombs, U.S. State Dept. Decimal File, 861.51/752). Grayson Murphy, who had served as European Commissioner of the American Red Cross during the War, was later implicated in a plot to overthrow President Roosevelt with members of the American Legion (which is something I’ll come back to later).
As Guranty Trust’s former trustee, Grayson M-P. Murphy pursued other financial opportunities with the New York City Trust, Colonel William J. Donovan, a friend of Murphy’s from his days in the Intelligence wing of the so-called ‘Rainbow Division’, was making his way to Omsk on a special mission for President Wilson. Donovan had already undertaken duties for Hoover and Murphy on the Europe Relief Effort. This time he was working exclusively for Wilson on an objective report that would determine the future of US intervention in the Russian Civil War. In July 1919, as Martin’s USS Lake Fray left for Reval from France, Donovan arrived in Omsk with Major General William Graves to meet Kolchak; his brief to assess the credibility of the General’s forces against the Bolsheviks. According to Donovan’s biographer, Richard Dunlop, the taproot of America’s Office of Strategic Services and CIA reached back to this moment (Donovan: America’s Master Spy, Richard Dunlop, Skyhorse 2014).
Reilly’s Secret Trip To New York
Sidney G. Reilly’s other travel companion in April 1919 was Captain Hamilton Halsey Herbert Noyes, a British army officer who had previously led a commission of British mining interests in Natal, Cape Colony.
In the years leading up to the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, Noyes had been placed in charge of inspecting the naval defences at Port Arthur (Cheltenham Examiner 22 June 1904, p.6). Reilly was also based here at this time as a partner in a firm of timber merchants, secretly monitoring and recording the Japanese and Russian schedules around the base. His knowledge of Japanese movements around the port would, like Reilly’s be invaluable in assessing their intentions in Siberia and the viability of securing a US naval base at Kamchatka. The Japanese had over a 100,000 troops in Siberia and the scope for intrigue was enormous. The notes on the manifest for the SS Olympic indicate that Noyes was on his way to see family in Chicago, but this seems doubtful given his skills and knowledge base. His occupation was also listed as ‘British Government Official’, a further indication of his actual business there, and the fairly routine effort that may have been put in place to conceal it.
According to a secret memorandum obtained from the War Office dated April 17th 1919, Reilly was travelling to New York on “urgent Government service” (KV-2-827, National Archives). On a previous occasion Desmond Morton 4, Churchill’s personal man of choice in Section V of SiS — the counter-Bolshevism Department — had denied any knowledge of Reilly’s April trip to New York, relating that Colonel Menzies was of the opinion the trip was a ‘private one’ and that the sooner that Reilly got back in touch with HQ, the better for everyone involved (KV-2-827, National Archives, ‘Wire from New York – Mr Reilly Sailing in SS Baltic’, 11/04/1919). From what we know now, that wasn’t true. Churchill, still serving as British Secretary of War and Air, had placed an inordinate amount of stock in Reilly’s nineteen-page memorandum, ‘The Russian Problem’. Reilly was the man of the moment. Churchill and Morton believed his 5-point review of the situation on the ground in North Russia held the key to dismantling the Bolshevik threat.
Just prior to his April trip to New York, Reilly had met with Churchill, his aide Sir Archibald Sinclair, American anticommunist, William Bullitt Jr 5. and a party of Admiralty officials at the Hotel Majestic in Paris during the first phase of the Paris Peace Conference (Reilly: Ace of Spies, p.109). According to fellow spy, Robin Bruce Lockhart, it was at the Hotel Majestic in February 1919 that Reilly introduced Churchill to his friend, Boris Savinkov, a Socialist Revolutionary who had served as Assistant War Minister in Kerensky’s Provisional Government. He was also Kolchak’s personal envoy in Paris (Reilly: Ace of Spies, p.108).
Churchill’s aide, Archibald Sinclair, was even more ebullient when Reilly delivered a follow-up review in June 1920. In his opinion Reilly was “without a rival” among his Russian and Anglo-Russian visitors (SiS HD files, Reilly Papers CX 2616, 13.03.1920). On the strength of his services to date, Churchill had Morton put in a request for Reilly’s promotion from Lieutenant to Major. The request was duly denied. Reilly had so far enjoyed a temporary commission as Second Lieutenant. War Office bureaucracy forbade such a move; it was simply out of the question (SiS HD files, Reilly Papers CX 2616, 03.10.1919-16.10.1919).
Around this time, James V. Martin, the man who would eventually blow the whistle on the Churchill-Hoover plot to ship munitions to General Yudenich was steaming across the North Atlantic from Montreal to Hamburg with over 3,000 tons of grain for distribution in Czechoslovakia. After being enlisted into the US Naval Reserve from Elyria, Ohio in last month of 1918, Captain Martin of the Relief Delivery Vessel USS Lake Fray was back in his pre-war role as Master Mariner. His secondment to Hoover’s American Relief Administration lasted from May 8th 1918 until January 7th 1920. The previous summer had seen Martin shuttling between France and England, overseeing the demonstration of the state-of-the-art Martin Scout K-III built for the British Air Board on behalf of his employers, the U.S Air Service under Colonel Thomas Milling. In Paris he would join Colonel Bolling at Billy Mitchell’s training school. Back in England Martin would meet Alfred Baldwin Raper, scout for special missions in Britain’s Royal Flying Corps and a personal friend of Sidney Reilly.
Martin’s trip to Estonia the following month on behalf of the American Red Cross would prove far more controversial.
A debate led by Communist MP, Cecil John L’Estrange Malone in Parliament the following year, was to identify and challenge some of the issues that made the Omsk pact agreed in April so very problematic: Russo-Asiatic Consolidated Limited was an amalgamation of businesses formerly controlled by Urquhart (including Kyshtim and Irtysh). Canadian-British Stockbroker Edward Mackay Edgar was down as controlling influence and the extent of British and French investments in Russia was estimated to be around the £1,600,000,000 mark. Malone went on to describe how the British Trading Corporation was the outcome of the Farringdon Committee who were anxious not to see Bolshevism spreading to Hungary. The BTC had one of two branches in Hungary, the other being at Danzig, where Martin’s SS Loch Fray had been docked.
In his next move, Malone levelled a more pointed challenge to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Walter Long who had £500,000 of debenture stock in Anglo-Russian Trust Ltd. Malone’s gripe with Long was that as First Lord of the Admiralty, Long had played a central role in imposing the blockades on Russian ports that had resulted in the food shortages in the first place (see further: Malone MP, House of Commons, 10 August 1920 Volume 133)
Incidentally, Frank A. Vanderslip, who’d co-organised the syndicate in receipt of concessions from Kolchak had only just resigned his post as President of the National City Bank and it was Vanderlip’s rush-published, ‘What Happened to Europe’ (Macmillan Company, New York, July 1919) that set-out to provide the right ethical and economic context for American intervention in the Russian Civil War and Hoover’s American Relief Administration. The book contended that Europe was now so close to social, political, and economic collapse, that it demanded the immediate organization of a huge international consortium of governments and bankers to coordinate and finance all European relief and reconstruction projects. Was Russia to be included in those reconstruction efforts? Not until the contagion of Bolshevism had been defeated. Attempts to grant credit facilities for the rehabilitation of Europe could not include Russia, as Russia was “for the time being” outside the pale of capitalist consideration. There was, he wrote, “no government with which capital can contract”. In Vanderlip’s view, Bolshevist Russia must, for the present, be economically isolated. The book’s ‘Power of Minorities’ chapter was unequivocal: Bolshevism would spread in countries where industry was paralysed and idleness was accompanied by “want and hunger” (What Happened to Europe, page 154). Fourteen countries bordered Russia and each of them were exposed to the contagion (p.154).
In separate addresses, Vanderlip urged American recognition of the anti-Bolshevik Russian forces of General Alexander Kolchak, the leader of the continuing White Russian counter-revolutionary effort, as the legitimate government of Russia. Vanderlip’s National City Bank had opened its first Russian branch in Petrograd just weeks before the Revolution, after underwriting a series of bonds in support of the Tsar and Russia. The bank opened on January 15th, having negotiated an agreement with the Russo-Asiatic Bank and International Bank of Petrograd by which it would guarantee the finance of payments in New York for American goods purchased by importing firms in Russia. Analysts were also quick to notice that in the weeks and months prior to the revolution no fewer than nine of the leading banks had increased their capital and that there was movement in favour of the creation of “purely industrial banks” like those involved in mining (The Scotsman 18 January 1917, p.5)
(see the journal of National City Bank employee, Leighton Rogers for a witness account of the Revolution — Leighton W. Rogers Papers, Library of Congress).
Vanderlip’s book was completed in April 1919, just as America was receiving ‘private advises’ from Kolchak’s Osmk emissary, Grennadie Chmourlo and British spy, Sidney Reilly, on plans to go ahead with the deal.
In 1921 Urquhart became President of the Association of British Creditors of Russia (ABC of Russia). He was tasked with securing trade and his efforts — against all expectations — had managed to work in tandem with the ‘Bolshie’ and belligerent Hands Off Russia campaign. In May 1921, just two weeks before Captain Martin’s claims about the misappropriation of funds were brought before Senate, Hoover and Urquhart’s Russo-Asiatic opened new negotiations, this time with Lenin’s Soviet. And the move couldn’t have been more controversial, especially among their previous allies at the Equitable Building in New York. Faith in the White Russian movement had collapsed. Intelligence officer, William J. Donovan had returned to Washington with his report for President Wilson; the anti-American attitude on the ground in Siberia was substantial and on December 31st 1919 an order was received by the US Expeditionary Forces to withdraw. Kolchak had been defeated and his death in February 1920 signalled a change in direction for Hoover and the Presidency. Despite all their obvious concerns, trade with Lenin’s Soviet was now inevitable.
Between August and September 1922. Urquhart started talks with Leonid Krassin and made several visits to Moscow and Riga. The trips resulted in the signing of the so-called Urquhart-Krassin Agreement (also known as the ‘Urquhart Concession’), which drafted the outline of a $56, 000, 000 oil deal (never ratified).
That Hoover resigned his formal connection to these companies as he made his first slippery steps on the road to public life in 1914 should not be viewed as a complete withdrawal of his stakes. By the summer of 1914 Hoover’s mining interests in Russia were on the threshold of major success, but Hoover throughout his political career was careful not to court charges of a conflict of interests. Donald Trump resigned directorships ahead of his candidacy for much the same reason. Bill Clinton too. In 1914, having already been acting as emissary for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Hoover was put in charge of coordinating the European Relief Effort and was fast becoming the world’s first shuttle diplomat. An appearance of neutrality would be critical to the success of the project and for the US to adopt the line, albeit briefly, as peace brokers. With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, plans were also afoot for Hoover’s Relief Commission to negotiate relief with the Germans to feed Poland and Russia.
Hoover’s decision to remove his name from Russo-Asiatic was probably an indication of just how central Russia would become to his bid for office and President Warren G. Harding’s post-War US economy in general. He was a dutiful Democrat under the Wilson administration, but a more capable Republican under Harding.
Reports in the press in December 1916 reveal the outlook for Russo-Asiatic to be really very promising indeed. Significant funds had been raised and the anticipated revenues coming were expected to be considerable (Russo-Asiatic Corporation Limited, The Times of London, December 19, p.1). After providing their initial support Hoover and the American State Department were quick to appreciate that the blockade around Russia would gravely hamper the transition from war economy to peace economy. Hoover pointed out that the blockade being pushed by Britain was strangling the Central Powers and causing ‘distress among the neutrals’ (Sheffield Weekly Telegraph 15 February 1919, p.3).
It would be nothing short of foolish to presume that a man of Hoover’s commercial magnitude had lost faith in the Russian project and just bailed out. Investments aren’t without their challenges and some long-term stability would need to be maintained in Russia for shares to hold. To maximise profits however, Russia would need to change. And change was more likely to happen if the right context and consensus could be built from within. The opening gambit of attempting to restore order by recalibrating an old regime had failed. The chaos and instability had only been extended by civil Wwar.
By 1922 President Wilson and Herbert Hoover had begun to look further ahead. With peace came stability, and with stability came trade. Economic barriers could be removed (Wilson set forth his conditions for Russia in Point 6 of his Fourteen Points declaration).
In each instance though, food was about to be weaponized. Disaster capitalism was about to be born.
Senate Investigation into Hoover – 1922 -1927
During the period in which Hoover (at this time serving as US Secretary of Commerce) and Leslie Urquhart were continuing trade discussions in Russia, Senator Thomas Watson of Georgia alleges that Hoover misappropriated American Relief Administration funds to finance the final advance on Petrograd. Over the course of several years the charges would extend to US Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, (charged with bribery and corruption) and other members of the so-called ‘Ohio Gang’, a gang of politicians supporting President Warren G. Harding.
Captain Hazel. L Scaife, an investigator for the Justice Department was brought in as witness against Harry M. Daugherty. Scaife had uncovered evidence that the Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation had overcharged the US government $2,267,342 on war contracts while failing to deliver a single fighting plane to France. His resignation from Justice Department was duly handed in; Scaife’s charge was that President Harding and Harry M. Daugherty were stonewalling the investigation. In another move, Scaife backed Senator Watson’s claim that Hoover and the ARA spent over $100,000, 000 dollars on aiding counter revolutionary forces in post-War Russia. Hoover’s old friend, Frank A. Vanderlip, the man whose bank would have benefited handsomely from the deal being offered by Kolchak in the event of a White Russian win, also volunteered to testify in the corruption hearings relating to Harding.
This wasn’t the only challenge Hoover would face that year. In late 1921, an investigative journalist from Chicago, Walter W. Ligget, looked to Herbert Hoover to endorse and support a rival famine agency organized to help alleviate the emerging Povolzhye crisis. But no such support was forthcoming. In Hoover’s opinion, Liggett’s American Committee for Russian Famine Relief was much too close politically to the pro-Bolshevik fringe of Dr D. H. Dubrowski and the Soviet Red Cross. By February 1922 a series of reports had begun to circulate among reporters that funds raised by Liggett and Dubrowski were being covertly re-distributed amongst pro-Soviet causes. A recommendation was put in to President Harding that US famine relief efforts be controlled exclusively by President Hoover, whose American Relief Administration was now muscling in on fresh aid efforts in Russia. In his defence, Liggett quoted the rumours of the misplaced of funds raised by James V. Martin. A telegram sent by Liggett to Hoover read: “the investigation … should establish the truth concerning charges that that the Poles were helped when invading Russia by relief organisations directed by Mr Hoover, as well as possible connections … with foreign corporations which may have had extensive valuable commercial concessions from Russia.” (Leadville Herald Democrat 13 February 1922, p1)
The Relief Wars had begun.
James V. Martin and the USS Lake Fray
In Spring 1924, James Vernon Martin, still married to aviatress Lily Irvine, was brought in as a witness by Scaife. Although the congressional records suggest that Congress heard of these allegations as early as June 6th 1922, this was the first time the press were to report on Martin’s testimony.
Captain Martin alleges that on July 24th 1919 he was in command of the 4,000 ton US Shipping Board vessel, USS Lake Fray docked in Bordeaux, France and loaded with relief supplies for a return trip to the US. He claims that he was cabled a message from the London office of Hoover’s A.R.A with instructions to reload the cargo with 60 Q.M.C Class Liberty trucks, 150 drums of oil and supplies and deliver them to General N.N Ivanoff, the Central Agent of Supply for the Russian North Western Army under General Yudenich in Reval. It was Martin’s belief that there was a secret understanding between Churchill, Hoover and the French Government (which he refers to as ‘the Paris Bureau’) for the British to provide additional planes, tanks, and oil to the counter revolutionary movement that was never fulfilled by Churchill. Martin alleges that the British fleet waited in Reval to ‘steam up to Petrograd’ in the event the equipment arrived. The British Labour Party’s threat to strike unless British troops were immediately withdrawn from North West Russia had, in Martin’s opinion, dealt a devastating blow to Yudenich’s advance on Petrograd. There had been such an clamorous outcry from Labour that Churchill was in no position to move the British Fleet from Reval toward Petrograd. The 160, 000 Finnish troops waiting would not advance until the British fleet arrived. The German forces of Goltz and Bermondt were contracted to help but quickly found themselves embroiled in a private war in Latvia, leaving the rear of the advance exposed. A telegram from British Military Attache Frank Marsh to the British War Office dated August the 10th was of the opinion that any attempt to take Petrograd ‘without German Influence becoming paramount ‘was practically ‘impossible’ (Documents On British Foreign Policy (1919 1939) Vol III). As result of Churchill’s failure to send the equipment, Captain Martin was asked by Brigadier Marsh of the British Army to purchase planes and heavy artillery from the Germans to help fulfil the policy of the American Government support for Yudenich. Certainly requests were being made to open up the German frontier for the passage of munitions at this stage. In a telegram from Colonel Tallents in Riga to Lord Curzon dated September 6th, it was being asked if General Bermondt’s Western Army could purchase equipment from Germany and additional supplies and capital from ‘German Financial circles’. The request was repeated for General Gough (Documents On British Foreign Policy (1919 1939) Vol III, p.90).
As Martin arrived in Reval, Alfred Baldwin Raper, a fellow graduate of the Grahame-White Pilot School at Hendon, was making further requests in Parliament that the British War Cabinet consider aerial support for Yudenich. He had put previous request before Churchill in April (The Scotsman 10 April 1919, p.5).
Ex-Royal Flying Corps pilot Baldwin Raper had been elected Conservative MP for Islington East in the 1918 elections, and had been decorated, like his old friend Martin, with the Russian Order of Saint Stanislaus. Kolchak’s Imperial Government in Omsk had awarded Raper the medal for testing planes and training pilots for the Russian Aviation Mission. Martin’s friend Tony Jannus had assisted the Russian Mission in much the same fashion prior to the Revolution, after being dispatched with a consignment of planes for the Tsar’s Imperial Guard. During his secondment to the Foreign Office in late 1917, Raper flew specials missions in the Baltic before being redeployed to Murmansk in March 1918 to assist Captain Ernest Shackleton as part of the North Russian Expeditionary Force.
Raper also just happened to be one of super-spy Sidney Reilly’s key contacts in the Anglo-Russian oil (Royal Dutch Shell) and aviation industries. In August 1919, Raper’s hope was that the British Government would grant permission to allow ex-Royal Flying Corps officers and mechanics to volunteer for active duty with General Yudenich. His wish was that the Cabinet supply General Yudenich with the planes, facilities and all equipment necessary. He argued that this was the best means of assisting Finland and strengthening her position as ‘the bulwark of Western Europe against the poisonous flowing flood of Bolshevism’ (Hansard, Commons Chamber, Royal Air Force, 12 August 1919, Volume 119).
According to Reilly biographer, Richard B. Spence, Reilly ‘praised Raper as a loyal friend and anti-Bolshevik and an indispensable link to likeminded men in Parliament’ (Trust No One, 2002). Raper also shared James V. Martin’s belief that the progress of the aviation industry was being greatly retarded by corrupt and fraudulent practices in the British Treasury. An Air Ministry scandal that threatened to overwhelm the British War Office in August 1919 provided the ideal platform for Raper to propose the creation of a specially selected Committee “entrusted with the necessary powers, composed of a handful of MPs and gentlemen outside the house with business experience to advise the Air Ministry on financial and business affairs” (The Times, Air Board Finance, August 1st 1919). That Raper’s international timber company lost a considerable share of its market after the Soviet-takeover may just offer a clue about his motives. And there is a further mystery to contend with. Raper’s second wife, Renée Angèle Rosalie Benoist was the daughter of Hector Benoist of Lille in France. The father of Thomas W. Benoist, the St Louis plane manufacturer and close associate of James V. Martin, had likewise been born in France. Did the deeply committed pilot Alfred Baldwin Raper end-up marrying into an aviation dynasty? It’s hard to tell.
At the precise moment that Raper was making his speech, Martin was steaming across the Baltic with his cargo of trucks and supplies to Yudenich in Reval, where he would wait for a consignment of planes and tanks that would never arrive.
On August 10th 1919 a new Government for North West Russia had been formed on Gough’s recommendation in Reval. The details were left to Marsh, who issued Yudenich with an ultimatum: unless a new government was formed that backed the demands of the Estonians, British aid would be stopped. When the British Cabinet learned of Gough’s decision, he was immediately recalled to London. The Churchill-Hoover compact, and the associated mining concessions promised to the US-UK syndicate had been agreed and kept on the basis that the Kolchak Regime in Omsk would be recognised as Russia’s official anti-Bolshevik government.
On landing successfully in Reval in September 1919 well ahead of schedule, Martin claims that he was decorated by Yudenich and presented evidence to this effect to the US Senate. The evidence consisted of an Order of St Stanislaus medal, 3rd Class, an accompanying letter, dated September 4th 1919 as well as the landing bill receipt listing the contents of his hold. Martin also provided Congress with copies of the official cables sent from London to Bordeaux, France, changing the assignment of this vessel and the cargo which it had on board. Shipping logs for the American Relief Administration show that Martin’s ship, the USS Lake Fray arrives in Danzig, Germany on August 1st 1919 and was scheduled to land in Reval that October with over 350 tons of food aid ($111,927,500 in total). In interviews with The Federated Press, Martin additionally alleges that the $4,450,000 worth of food was sold by the US to the ‘Provisional Russian Government’ in Paris, which he refers to informally as ‘The Paris Trust’, a committee of former Imperial Ambassadors that appears to have included representatives of General Johan Laidoner’s Estonian Army, General Yudenich’s White Russian Army, and Colonel de Wahl’s unit of the Baltic-German Land Defense forces.
During his mission, Martin, by his own admission, says he had been forced to commit two serious offences. The first was to have consented to a request from Herbert Hoover and E.C Tobey of the A.R.A in London to ferry Imperial Russian General ‘Ernest von Wahl’ from Paris to Reval. Worrying that this was a violation of shipping board law, Martin says that he sought formal assurance from his superiors before accepting the passenger. Martin showed Senate and the Press a signed letter from Wahl acknowledging that he was accepting special passage. To date I have not been able to find any record of a General by that name.
Martin’s second offence was to have purchased planes and heavy artillery from Germany.
He then alleges that the A.R.A deemed it unwise to let him return to London where he might provide evidence to the US Shipping Board. Hoover’s response was to relieve Martin of his command of the ship. He says Hoover did this by setting him up on false charges and publically disgracing him for negotiating private sales of ‘German war material’ to General Yudenich in Reval. Martin claims this was done with the connivance of Churchill and Hoover’s men in London. On arrival back in the USA Martin demanded a full investigation and the US Shipping Board cleared him of all charges. Sadly for Martin, that didn’t prevent his discharge from the United States Naval Reserve (for more details see page 8251 of Congressional Record, Senate June 6th 1922) *
Hoover did his best to deny the charges. Whilst admitting that food and trucks DID go to Yudenich he claimed they were used solely for the purpose of the civilian population and not to assist the military expedition. It was also acknowledged that the 60 trucks had been sold by the American War Department to the Russians in Paris. Hoover says he stipulated that the delivery of the trucks was on the basis that they should be used for distributing famine food only. This was despite the fact that Lake Fray’s Bill of Landing receipt bore no evidence of food supplies.
September 1919 – London Office of the American Relief Administration Suspended?
Curiously, in September 1919, shortly after one its London officials cabled Captain Martin to redirect supplies to Yudenich Forces, the London Office of the American Relief Administration was wound down and several officials, including Herbert Hoover, Robert A. Taft and Commander George Barr Baker travelled back to the United States (see: Mr Hoover’s Return, The Times, Monday, September 8, 1919, Issue 42199, p.11.). Its Paris Offices were closed at the end of August 1919.
Was there a political dimension to the accusations against the A.R.A and Hoover?
Of course there was a political dimension. But there were other factors too that were likely to have been a little more mercenary and self-serving.
Senator Thomas E. Watson, the man who initiated the charges against Hoover and the American Relief Administration had enjoyed a long and tempestuous political career, first as a Democrat and then as a tough, belligerent and unashamedly racist (and anti-Semite) Populist with one serious axe to grind. In 1896 Watson ran as Vice President during William Bryan Jennings’ White House campaign. Despite breaking from the Democrats some twenty-years earlier his ‘unconditional rejection of the League of Nations’ won him the Democrat seat in the Senate for Georgia. His claims about the A.R.A were clearly part of a broader scheme to undermine public trust in US peace efforts (Watson Says His Stand on the League Was Sustained by Voters, Thomasville Times Enterprise 14 September 1920).
Curiously, Senator Thomas E. Watson never lived to see whether or not his efforts would pay off. In September 1922, just 12 weeks after launching a Senate investigation into Herbert Hoover and the American Relief Administration, Watson died suddenly at home in Washington.
Watson’s 1896 running mate, William Jennings Bryan also featured prominently in the early life of James Vernon Martin — the man at the centre of Watson’s claims about Hoover and the A.R.A.
As we saw previously, November 1900 saw the 17-year old James Vernon Martin publish an anti-expansion pamphlet challenging America’s 1898 annexation of the Philippines. The 13,500 word book won the commendation of the National Democratic Committee and featured special contributions from Scottish-US Industrialist, Andrew Carnegie and Watson’s 1896 running mate, William Jennings Bryan, both of them prominent members of the Anti Imperialist League. Martin’s book, ‘Our Flag Unstained’ subtitled ‘Imperialism Tyranny and Oppression’ was part of an emerging lexicon combining theories of flag desecration with the hard, reactionary rhetoric of Revolutionary Socialism. On the other side of the Atlantic, the phrase had even been adopted by the Henry Blatchford’s Clarion journal and Tom Quelch’s Justice newspaper (the Anti Imperialist League was re-appropriated by the Comintern in the late 1920s to campaign against Hoover’s moves on Latin America).
When James V. Martin joined the ranks of the National Security League in 1916, it became clear that both he, Carnegie and Bryan were following the same political trajectory as the early British Fascisti. The National Security League was a deeply militarist and anti-British organisation, adopting the same pugnacious social chauvinism of maverick British Socialists like Victor Grayson and Henry Hyndman of the newly formed National Socialist Party. Martin, Carnegie and Bryan were becoming the original ‘preppers’. The League’s point of view was simple: America was tragically underprepared for the brutal military might of Germany and Japan. Their charge was that the Harding Administration was not investing enough in the US Army & Navy and technological progress was being hampered by an unfair and corrupt monopoly who in Martin’s words, were able to “sell its best products to Germany and Japan and proceed unmolested” (Billy Mitchell: Founder of Our Air Force and Prophet Without Honour, Emile Gavrveau and Lester Cohen, Dutton & Co, 1942).
In a 1916 address in Wisconsin, Martin told his audience that America was ‘helplessly at the mercy of Great Britain … in that she can control the transfer of 50 percent of our goods by what are called an orders-in-council of the British Government’. His grievances over US aviation equipment were just as uncompromising; America didn’t have a single first class plane. In Martin’s view, the National Security League stood for the ‘adequate, efficient and economical defence of this country’. In his view, there had been gross misconceptions about the preparedness movement in general: the militarism wasn’t the organisation’s basis and incentive, the defence programs involved didn’t involve the outlay of public funds without a profitable return, and that the average American’s impression that the movement was premature was just plain wrong (Martin Says US Is Not Prepared For Any Trouble, Racine Journal News 10 March 1916). Martin’s critique of the British Admiralty was damning too: American ships with cargoes consigned to neutral ports were being boarded by English crews and taken into English ports, in a “pure violation of international law”. According to Martin these vessels were held until their cargoes rotted and then substituted with English meat from South American ports. “Two wars with Great Britain have not been enough to free us from English tyranny”, Martin railed (Racine Journal News 06 March 1916, p.20).
Despite the vitriol, Martin’s views on ‘preparedness’ were beginning to chime with his British counterparts. Within a few short weeks of Martin’s bilious address in Wisconsin, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, a new and enthusiastic member of Britain’s War Aircraft Committee, was no less scathing about Britain’s own crippling inadequacies. It was Montagu and the Royal Aero Club that James had approached in 1911 to propose the first of his bids to make the Atlantic crossing. Speaking at a demonstration under the auspices of the Navy League and National Defence Association, Lord Montagu pointed out the continuing dangers of Zeppelin bombs in crowded areas, proposing the amalgamation of the Naval and Army Services as they existed into one Imperial Air Service under the Board of Aviation (Plane for Plane, Aberdeen Evening Express, April 29th 1916).
That ‘world-famed advocate of preparedness’ Captain Martin should arrive in Britain to demonstrate his Martin MK-III ‘Zeppelin Killer’ the following August couldn’t have been timed better, coinciding as it did with the appointment of Lord Rothermere — another close ally of Montagu — as Britain’s First Air Minister (Daily Mirror, 7 November 1917). The proprietor of the Daily Mail had enjoyed good relations with Martin. Inspired by an interview that Martin had given to ‘Flight’ magazine in 1911, Lord Rothermere and his brother Lord Northcliffe, had offered a £10,000 bonanza to the any man or woman who could make the Atlantic crossing. Martin had told Flight that he was hoping to fly the 2,000 miles from St John’s in Newfoundland to Ireland in under 72 hours. In Martin’s estimation this would take 40 or so hours at 50 mph and using 5,000 lbs of petrol and oil. Martin’s entire pitch was duly recycled as a ‘Mail Exclusive’ some two years later: “The Daily Mail is offering £10,000 for a transatlantic flight in 72 hours by a waterplane of any nationality” (Daily Mail, April 03rd 1913). The Mail had been a powerful driving force behind British and US bids to build better planes than the Germans and its proprietors, Lords Northcliffe and Rothermere, became central figures in England’s own ‘preparedness’ movement. Promoting themselves as true defenders of national interests, these ‘above party’ organisations evolved first into the British Fascisti, under Rotha Lintorn-Orman, before truly gaining shape and momentum under the British Union of Fascists, whose respectable A-List members would eventually include Martin’s longstanding friend and ally, Alliott Verdon Roe.
Alongside former Guaranty Trust director, Grayson M.P Murphy, the National Security League’s most generous donor was Martin’s pamphlet mentor, Andrew Carnegie. Additionally, A.V Roe, the British aviation legend who leapt to Martin’s defence at the Select Commitee Inquiry Into Operations of the United States Air Services in 1925 went onto to become a member of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
So were Martin’s concerns purely about National Defence? It’s doubtful.
According to his World War I draft card Martin was already in the process of setting up Martin Aeroplane Factory in Ohio when he made his address at the National Security League meeting in Wisconsin. On the card he lists his current employer as the US Army & Navy (World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918).
Were either of Martin’s former mentors, Andrew Carnegie and William Jennings Bryan bankrolling Martin’s company? It’s possible. By 1915, the National Security League and the Aero Club had been lobbying forcefully on behalf of Military Aviation. A National Aeroplane Fund was even established to train and equip pilots for anticipated State Militias (Training to Fly – Military Flight Training 1907-1945). What’s more, Senator William J. Bryan had played a key role in the success of another ‘stormy petrel of the air’, Billy Mitchell.
Mitchell, a Philippines veteran and founding father of the US Air Force was a friend of Martin. In 1925 Mitchell accused the US Army & Navy of gross incompetence. A series of airship failures had left twenty servicemen dead. America’s armed forces were, in his opinion, totally unprepared for modern warfare. As a result of his honesty, the American hero suffered the worst humiliation possible: he was charged with violating the 96th Article of War and after a seven week trial was court-martialled. We also know that Martin was actively trying to sell his Martin MK-III to the British and American Civil Aviation Authorities during the 1916 to 1918 period. These attempts were unsuccessful.
If it wasn’t Carnegie or Bryan that was behind Martin, then it may well have been Aero Club funder, Charles Jasper Glidden who employed Martin as a flight instructor back in 1911 (Joplin Daily Globe 29 April 1911, p.7).
It may also be worthwhile remembering that the National Security League and the American Legion (for whose journal Scaife was regular contributor) were also the founding fathers of Anti-Communism and it is entirely possible that Scaife’s efforts had been timed deliberately to disrupt the various deals being brokered between the US, Hoover and Russia. Interestingly, in the early 1930s, radical members of the American Legion including Major General Smedley Butler were alleged to be forming a fascist veterans’ organization which they would use in a coup d’état to overthrow President Roosevelt (see ‘Business Plot’, 1933). Former Guaranty Trust president, Grayson M-P. Murphy was also accused.
So if we were to going point a finger based upon a series of regional and rightist patterns then Grayson M.P. Murphy would be the man. His connections to Martin’s hometown of St Louis and Missouri were significant, his Guaranty Trust Company found itself sharing offices and financial concerns with Hoover and Churchill’s ‘man of the moment’ Sidney Reilly, he was a key figure in setting-up and bankrolling the anticommunist American Legion, he was effectively Martin’s superior as Chief Commissioner of the American Red Cross in Europe between 1915 and 1919, he had significant pre-Revolution investments in Imperial Russia, strong links to London and he was active in America’s nascent — and uncommonly right-wing — intelligence community. The only thing he and Martin didn’t seem to have had in common was their commitment to America’s Prohibition laws; Grayson Murphy was all for enforcing them, and if his ‘floating booze palace’ was anything to go by, Martin was all for finding creative routes around them. That said; his devilishly impudent scheme did serve to highlight how inadequate the existing laws were. As a direct result of Martin’s provocative little stunt, formal discussions about the power to enforce prohibition were opened up in Senate (Floating Booze Palace Off New York To Be Fought, Marysville Evening Tribune 11 March 1922, p.1). Whatever the case, it is clear that America’s financial and political rivalries made it possible for foreign interests to manipulate policy and that the munitions vacuum created as a result of the October Revolution made for a manic free-for-all at the Russian Supply Committee as it the drew in the wolves of Wall Street.
In fairness to Hoover and Wilson, Thomas E. Watson (the original Glenn Beck) had been on their backs for years. Before Scaife and Martin came forward, Watson had launched a prior investigation, this time accusing the American Military on Wilson’s orders of hanging American soldiers in France without court-martial (Boston Evening Globe – Boston, 03 November 1921).
Adding to the burdens of the American Relief Administration in the summer and autumn of 1922, was A.R.A worker Philip B. Shield from Richmond, Virginia who disappeared in Simbrisk that October. The news came shortly after Captain James V. Martin brought his concerns about A.R.A & Hoover before Senate. By the end of 1922, and after such an auspicious start, the Russian food relief programme was now under enormous public scrutiny.
What are we to make of Martin’s claims?
There’s little doubting that Captain James Vernon Martin was an indefatigable and often prodigious self-publicist as well a deeply vexatious litigant, but does this mean the claims made by Watson, Scaife and Martin against Hoover, and the American Relief Administration, are any less legitimate?
Everything taken on balance? Probably not, it has to be said. The screeches and rasps the Senate heard back in the summer of 1922 weren’t the chirr of collective anger, just the wheels of power turning. There was little in the way of a conspiracy here. Wall Street didn’t invent Bolshevism, and contrary to what writers like Antony C. Sutton might argue, I see little evidence that the Entente powers ever set-out to destroy Russia as an economic competitor. If anything, there seemed to be considerable effort among allied brokers to transform post-Imperial Russia into a credible and modern trading partner — something which had been practically impossible during the rule of the Tsar Nicholas II.
The ‘fountain of petroleum’ discovered between 1904 and 1910 had led to a flurry of British company formations. Among those rushing to plunge their taps into Russia’s generous underground reservoirs, were the Anglo-Maikop Corporation, The Maikop and General Petroleum Oil and Producers Limited, The Scottish-Maikop Corporation and Spies Petroleum — a syndicate consisting of directors Sir Griffith Thomas, Dr. Ernest Hirsch, Hugh Law MP, Edward Stanley Ormerod and Sir Edward Durand. Situated on the western tip of the Caucasus, the Maikop oil field’s proximity to the Black Sea made it ideally placed for shipments.
Spies Petroleum had started expanding its oil interests from Russia’s Grozny region to Maikop shortly after the First Revolution of 1905. Russia’s oil and Mineral Wealth was considerable, yet in areas like Maikop, its reserves remained largely untapped. In 1916 Pyotr Bark, the Tsar’s Finance Minister said this of Russia’s vast mineral resources, “There can be no doubt that the Empire of Russia will prove a fruitful source of exploitation for British Capital after the war and that Russian and British interests will be united in the most intimate fashion.” (The Exploitation of Russia’s Mineral Resources, Gloucester Citizen, 05 August 1916, p.5)
Immediately prior to the Second Russian Revolution in March 1917, the company’s oil production had slid from 211,434 tons in 1915 to 136, 286 tons in 1916 (Maikop Spies Poor Showing, Gloucester Citizen, December 1917). After the revolution some stability was maintained and production looked set to increase (Gloucester Citizen, 02 August 1919, p.3).
In July 1917, George Tweedy of the Anglo-Maikop Corporation offered a withering critique of the ‘hampering’ regulations placed on oil development by the recently deposed Tsar, hoping that the ‘new Russian Government would appreciate the benefits to the nation of adopting new laws and regulations and encouraging the development of these oilfields’. Tweedy went on to explain how the Tsarist regime had squandered significant opportunities from speculators (Anglo-Maiko Corporation Meeting, May 30th 1917).
In the United States, The Washington Post reported that there was a ‘scheme to transfer’ Russia’s vast mineral resource to America. It coincided with news of a further $100,000,000 loan to Russia from the United States Government (Washington Post 05 July 1917, p.3). The decision had been reached during the stay of the Elihu Root-led American Mission in Petrograd.
Just months after the February Revolution and several weeks before Lenin’s October Revolution, H.D.L Minton of the Chamber of Commerce embarked on a series of lectures around the North of England highlighting the opportunities that Russia’s immense mineral reserves offered British Traders (Mineral Reserves of Russia, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, September 20 1917). Again, the central issue was about stability and closer contact.
The Tsar’s failure to establish stability in the Baku region had meant oil prices were in a constant state of flux. Bolshevik activity during the 1905 Revolution and Azeris/Armenian tribal tensions resulted in declining production and rollercoaster oil prices (‘Baku Oil Field Annihilated’, The Telegraph 09 September 1905). The editor of Petroleum World described it as ‘the most awful blow that has fallen on the industry since oil has been pumped from the earth’ and he also expressed the fear that vast fields may be reduced to ashes. Attempts to reform and modernize the Tsarist regime had failed. By 1916 the severest of the fault lines had already begun to appear and it was clear that banks and syndicates from all corners of the globe were making plans and provisions for a number of possible outcomes — and it’s inevitable that opportunities to influence those outcomes when they arose were going to be taken. Securing the Baku oilfields and railroads from the advance of Germany and Austro-Hungary was one thing, securing it from the kind of strikes, hijacks and seizures we see in the Libyan Oil Crescent today presented an altogether different series of challenges. The preferred outcome had failed to materialize. Tough economic realities would have to be faced and overcome. And so would the Germans, whose peace agreement with Lenin’s Bolshevik Government looked set to undermine all these efforts.
Within months of Russia and Germany signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, some were beginning to feel that Germany would be prepared to accept any peace deal provided she was free to exploit Russia’s inexhaustible mineral supplies (Graphic, August 31st 1918). Exiled journalist Dr. David Soskice claimed that Lenin had told the Soviet Executive Committee that Russia was pledged to pay a 6,000,000,000 rouble indemnity to Germany. To pay it, it would be necessary to hand over practically exclusive rights to exploit its minerals. Edward Legge, writing in The Graphic, regarded the full economic tragedy of a German and Austrian advance into the prosperous gold region of Siberia. If successful, Germany would have at her disposal “untold wealth, riches, inexhaustible, fabulous.” (TheResurrection of Russia, Graphic, August 31st 1918)
In July 1919, some two years after the revolution, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph was reporting that over 7,000 Germans were now occupying senior financial and technical positions in the newly established Soviet Russia (Capturing Russia’s Minerals, Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 22 July 1919, p.6). Fears about German trade with Russia only deepened with a report in a Paris newspaper that Leipzig’s Council of Workers was sending 800,000 unemployed Germans to work in Russia. There, it was it said, factories would be placed at their disposal and they would have the privilege of acquiring Russian nationality (Le Matin, Paris, October1919). The Times in Britain was reporting that Berlin was already issuing a paper published in the Russian language, and that there had been an invitation to Russia to regard Germany as her second home (German Tactics in Russia: Wooing for Gain, The Times, July 15, 1919, p.11).
The feeling that was emerging right across the political divides in Britain, was that allowing exclusive trade to flourish between the Germany and Soviet Russia was not in British interests. Lieutenant Commander Joseph Kenworthy was to address this issue in Parliament; how were we to insure a fair chance for British merchants and manufacturers in Soviet Russia if the Germans were allowed to “capture the markets”? (Hansard, German Trade with Russia, 03 July 1919, Volume 117)
Planned or not, the developing trade relationship between Lenin and Germany had dealt a huge blow to Pyotr Bark’s predictions of great post-war intimacy between Britain and Russia. Attempts to use the existing Relief Mission to support a crisis-point advance on Petrograd were clearly one last throw of the dice for the allies.
The route taken by Churchill and Hoover back in 1919 would have been an inevitable response to a curveball of truly epic proportions. The understandably cautious attitude shown by President Wilson and Lloyd George’s to all-out war with Lenin’s Soviet would be repeated by Neville Chamberlain to just as great a cost some twenty years later. To tireless and underappreciated idealists like Martin and Senator Thomas E. Watson, the appeasement shown to Lenin’s Bolsheviks by President Harding and Herbert Hoover would have seemed like nothing less than betrayal, and the millions misplaced in the funds, a swaggering abuse of power.
When James V. Martin made his claims against Hoover and the American Relief Administration he had already embarked on a series of legal challenges over patents. At twenty years of age Martin had found himself at the crazy, pulsating centre of progress and innovation. And by the mid-20s he was yesterday’s man: his ideas and inventions had inspired millions of dollars, but which had earned him practically nothing. For people still seeking to make their fortune like Martin, having vast invisible fortunes moved around the board like checkers by powerful men like Hoover must have seemed like a mocking injustice. Martin spent the next thirty-five years filing one patent infringement case after another, slavishly pursuing his claims through the courts. “When Will Merit Count in Aviation?” he asked in 1924. And in Martin’s case it never did. He’d gambled the spoils of invention on a double dozen bet and the chips he’d placed were his ideals.
Nobody could have anticipated the turn of events in October 1917. Lenin’s ‘Sealed Train’ return to Russia would change Russia and the world forever.
If only there had been the wrong kind of leaves on the line that day.
Some Loose Ends
In July 1914, James V. Martin’s wife Lily Irvine smashed the world record for the longest, continuous seaplane flight. Battling 50 mph gales and thunderstorms, the daring aviatrix shaved a formidable 10 minutes off the previous record set by the couple’s friend and employer, Glen Curtiss (Connersville Evening News 25 July 1914, p.3) The 70 mile flight was commenced at Cedar Point on the southern tip of Black Hammond Island and was completed at Euclid Beach some 60 minutes later. Her mechanic on that flight was the man who had built the plane, Tony Jannus – another St Louis aviator whose daring-do aerial activities rivalled, if not surpassed, those of the couple. A few years earlier, Jannus had relocated from Missouri to St Petersburg, Florida having just signed a 90-day contract with Thomas W. Benoist to provide seaplanes and crew for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line; the world’s first scheduled airline. When the scheduled service ended, Jannus joined Martin at the Curtiss Aeroplane Company in Toronto. A short time later an order came in from the British Department of Overseas Trade for a thousand- strong ‘fleet of the air destroyers’, priced at £25,000 per plane. In another deal an order was placed for an unlimited number of seaplanes for use by the Tsar’s Imperial Guard as scouts for the navy.
Jannus was selected as one of two aviators to return with the consignment to Russia, supervise their construction, demonstrate the planes and train the Russian pilots. These ‘dreadnoughts of the air’ had an unrivalled capacity of 2,000 pounds and were to be used for heavy battle purposes; a controversial move in itself in light of America’s neutrality in the war. Shocked by the enormous loss of life and property, many American manufacturers in the US had refused vast orders of munitions – especially to Russia. The moral and practical issues were, however, easily overcome by the opening of a purpose-built Curtiss factory in Canada in April 1915. And with Canada being part of the Commonwealth, the move north was clearly going to benefit the Brits in the long-term. The officers who’d witnessed the tests were convinced that these ‘air destroyers’ were the most deadly weapon yet developed for war.
The group who’d placed the order for the planes were the Russian Supply Committee in New York, whose most active buyers Colonel Vladimir Nekrasov and his personal secretary, Antony Jechalski 6 would very soon be facing charges of bribery, corruption and sabotage.
The Sudden Death of Jannus
Jannus had been in Tsarist Russia less than 12 months when his plane plunged into the sea from 20,000 feet.
He is believed to have died instantly. News of his death was slow to reach America, and the details surrounding it were scarce to say the least; Russia’s official explanation was that the Curtiss H-7 plane Jannus was testing experienced engine problems and crashed into the Black Sea, killing the pilot and his two-man Russian crew. His body was never recovered. And that’s about all we know.
Jannus had plunged to his death on October 12, 1916, near Sevastopol. News reached his friends in America some three weeks later. Officially he’d been in Russia overseeing training and construction, but according to a letter received by Louis A. Engelbry in December 1915, it seems that Jannus had joined the ranks of the Russian Aviation Corps and was now performing routine scouting missions (Sandusky Register 21 December 1915, p.10)
As a resident of St Petersburg Florida, you’d also be forgiven for wondering if there was a link between his newly adopted hometown and his mission to St Petersburg, Russia. And as fantastic as it sounds, that might well be the case.
The founder of St Petersburg, Florida was Russian exile, Peter Demens, aka. Pyotr A. Dementyev, a former Captain in the Russian Imperial Guard whose criticism of the Tsar had led to him seeking exile first in France and England, and then America in the early 1880s. And it was here that he made his fortune – first in the lumber business, and then in the railroad business. The naming of the town had been agreed on the flip of a coin after his train pulled into an unclaimed territory at the southern end of Pinellas County. Among those whom Demens had corresponded with over the years were Prince Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Korolenko. Such was his status with the Liberal Progressives of Russia, that in February 1907 the Associated Press dispatched him to interview Pytor Stolypin, the Tsar’s German-born Prime Minister (under the alias P.A. Tverskoi).
His obituary in 1919 said that the work of Demens had contributed much to the overthrow of the Romanovs. Whilst he had never formally adopted Marxist or radical notions, his sympathy with leaders on the fringes of populist organizations, and his respectable status in America, made him the go-to-man for access to Russia’s famously impenetrable cultural and political life. His regular contributions to moderately revolutionary Vestnik Evropy periodical ensured just the right radical edge. Demens may have been a first cousin of Prince Petroff, but he was of and for the people. He provided the promise of its more liberal future.
What does Demens have to do with Martin and Jannus? Well his obituary also claimed that Demens had, like several of those players already mentioned, played a quiet yet critical role in New York’s Russian Supply Committee (Hamilton Evening Journal, 22 January 1919). According to some reports, Peter had re-connected with a young naval attaché of Tsar Nicholas II in Washington during the 1915 to 1916 period. His biographer Albert Parry went one further and said that Demens’ departure from Russia was down to an embezzlement scandal and not the result of his defiance of the Tsar (Full Steam Ahead!, 1987). Given the role that Sidney Reilly’s friend Anthony Jechalski had played in the Supply Committee’s ‘Nekrasov Affair’, the explanation might well be plausible. Either way, the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of Jannus are far from being resolved.
The Curious Case of the Flying Princess
When Captain Martin arrived in England in August 1917 to demonstrate his Martin MK-III plane for Britain’s Royal Flying Corps, a peculiar story had begun to emerge in the press. Princess Anne Lowenstein-Wertheim, widow of Prince Ludwig Lowenstein-Wertheim, of Bavaria, had been charged under Article 20A (C) of the Aliens Restrictions Order. It transpires that the Princess had travelled to Manchester, booked into a hotel under a false name and address, and tried to procure an aeroplane from Martin’s friend, A.V Roe. Asked by Police why she had wanted to purchase the four-seater plane, the Princess had dryly replied that she had intended to use it for ‘patriotic purposes’, explaining that the War Office had given her sanction under Brigadier General Sefton Brancker, Director of Military Aeronautics. According to the Daily Mail, Princess Lowenstein-Wertheim — known in flying circles as Lady Anne Savile, sister of the Earl of Mexborough — had left London for Leeds on September 24th without obtaining her Aliens permit. From there she went to Manchester, checking in at the Victoria Hotel as British National, ‘Evelyn Ellis’. The following day she made her way to the A.V Roe Factory at Ancoats and asked them to build an aeroplane capable of speeds upwards of 200 HP and remaining in the air for a minimum of ten hours. She also put in request for urgent delivery (Arrest of the Flying Princess, Daily Mail, October 06, 1917 p.3).
A regular visitor to New York, the Princess had earned her earned her pilot’s license at the George W. Beatty flying school at Hendon in 1914. In 1913, Beatty, another associate of Martin, had moved to England from the US, where he established a joint venture with Handley Page. What made it all the more peculiar was the fact that her husband the Prince had been shot by US Troops during the US Annexation of the Philippines at the end of March 1899. According to Rudolph B. Birnbaum’s London newspaper, The West End Review, published on March 1st, Prince Ludwig, who had been missing since October 1916, had been acting as a ‘German Spy’ in the Philippines. The article also believed that contrary to previous statements, the Prince had been in the Filipino port of Manila since July 1898, providing support behind Spanish enemy lines to Filipino Nationalist, Emilio Aguinaldo. The intelligence may have arrived on Birnbaum’s desk from sources close to Lieutenant Colonel Henry Eyre, the former Conservative MP for Gainsborough who served as chairman in one of his family businesses. According to weekly paper, the Germans, “foreseeing the downfall of Spain”, were secretly trying to obtain influence with the Filipinos and that German officers were actively helping. The paper had also received a seven word cable dated February 23rd, simply saying “Prince Lowenstein still here and is well” (The West End Review, March 1st, 1899). A previous advertisement placed by his law firm Plunkett and Leader in a London newspaper inquiring as to his whereabouts, was believed to have been a deliberate attempt at obfuscation. The firm’s senior partner, Donald Plunkett, solicitor to the German Embassy and son the company’s founder, subsequently found himself on Mi5’s list of suspected Fifth Columnists who had fallen in love with Nazism in the thirties (see: Suspect List Region III).
Reports of the time suggest that the Germans had anticipated an American defeat, and with Spain left too weak to defend against Aguinaldo’s attempts on Manila, they had believed that the Philippines would be left sufficiently exposed and tractable for commercial opportunities.
With three weeks of the paper’s allegations, the Prince had been shot, reportedly during a skirmish at Caloocan between the Oregon Volunteers and Aguinaldo’s insurgents. The date was March 26th 1899. According to the New York Times of May 9th 1899, a passport had been found on Ludwig’s body signed by Aguinaldo himself, confirming the Prince had been granted permission to enter the lines of the insurgents at will. The Prince had previously served as a voluntary aide de camp on the staff of Brigadier General Marcus P. Miller, US commander at Manila. General Miller retired from active service the day after the death of the Prince.
Curiously, when US Troops eventually stormed the Aguinaldo compound, they found a series of documents intended for the Central Philippine Committee in Hong Kong. Among the documents seized and shown to Senate was a letter of support from James V. Martin, Secretary of the SS Anti-Expansion Club of St Louis (taken from the Republican Campaign text-book 1900, page 344):
St Louis, Missouri, USA
3403 Eads Avenue, January 20, 1899
DEAR SIR; In the interest and welfare of the Filipinos Republic, I take the liberty to write you regarding an educational work to be published in this country representing the views of the Anti-Expansion Party, or the people who wish to see a free and independent Philippine Republic.
The object of this work is to increase public sentiment against annexation of the Philippines. Therefore, believing that some facts from the pen of your honour would strengthen the cause, I am authorized to ask certain questions.
First. Will you kindly state the percent of those who wish annexation to the United States, if such there be.
Second. Will the natives take constant interest in political affairs under self-government?
Third. Are they upon recognition ready to drop their arms and enter upon an enterprising industrial life?
After answering these questions a short article regarding the Philippine feeling toward this country and their wishes for independence will be appreciated, and I am confident will very materially strengthen this cause in the elections to decide the policy of our country.
Hoping your sincere love for your people will ensure immediate reply, I remain,
Secretary S.S Anti-Expansion Club
Whether Aguinaldo accepted the request and supplied the article isn’t known, but by October 1900 Martin was publishing his 13, 500 word pamphlet, “Our Flag Unstained” challenging the Annexation of the Philippines by America, and featuring supporting contributions from business magnate, Andrew Carnegie and Senator William J. Bryan – who was running in that year’s Presidential elections.
The remarkable claims made by The West End Review against Lady Anne’s husband, Prince Ludwig Lowenstein-Wertheim are not without their problems. The paper’s publisher, Rudolph B. Birnbaum, known alternately both during and after the war as Major Rudolph B. Burney, was a man of German and Polish heritage, whose father, an Indian Rubber merchant, had arrived in England as a result of the pogroms in the Russia Empire in the early to mid- 1880s. By contrast, the Lowenstein-Wertheim dynasty was related to both Tsar Nicholas II and Queen Victoria, making them an attractive target of intrigue and abuse. As editor and manager of The Budget Week By Week – the publishing organ of the Budget Protest League –Birnbaum also enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship with First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Walter Long, whose £500,000 of debenture stock in Anglo-Russian Trust Ltd became such a scandal during the last few months of the Churchill’s private war with the Bolsheviks. During the last years of the war Long had increasingly indulged British fears of German-fomented subversion, which ostensibly had its roots in his clashes with the Boer and German influence in the Cape Colonies. Long’s regiment, the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, and that of his son ‘Toby’, the Royal Scots Greys, served in the Second Boer War (see: Walter Hume Long, Anglo-Boer War Letters, 1900-1903, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg). Birnbaum’s other publication, the Admiralty and Horse Guards Gazette had also been the source of much speculation and rumour.
History wasn’t kind to Lady Anne. Despite having played a critical role in Britain’s economic warfare against the Germany, her sister Mary’s brother-in-law, Leverton Harris MP (brother of Times correspondent, Walter B Harris) saw his career destroyed as a result of his German relations. After rumours of collusion and profiteering spread during 1917, Harris was forced to resign his Admiralty position and withdrew from public life.
Lady Anne disappeared in August 1927, after the plane that she and Captain Leslie Hamilton were piloting in a bid to cross the Atlantic, came down some 420 miles east-south-east of New York. Their bodies were never recovered.
1 James Vernon Martin married Lily Irvine in Paddington, London in 1911, after both had completed training at Claude Grahame-White’s flight instructor school in Hendon, Greater London (Lily became the first English woman to fly solo). Helen’s Grandmother was Lily’s sister, Flora Irvine (born. 1887). The sisters’ father Robert James Croy Irvine (born 1856) and mother, Elizabeth Watson (b.1856) were married in Edinburgh in the early 1880s. Around 1886 (probably at the time of the Witwatersrand Gold Rush) Robert got his passport for the Cape Colonies. The whole family followed in 1890. Robert is said to have lost his business as a result of the Second Boer War (1898-1902) and died in Scotland a short time later. A family member is of the opinion that Lily’s father was an associate of General Jan Smuts in South Africa. This is interesting as Herbert Hoover and Jan Smuts were very close allies (the pair even sat together on the board of the London Shakespeare Centre). Their friendship went back to the early 1900s when Hoover visited the Cape Colony, presumably to explore mining opportunities. Smuts was also dispatched to Budapest by Britain and the Allied Powers to hold discussions with Béla Kun of the Hungarian Soviet Republic and assess the extent of their support for Lenin. Also worth noting that Hoover is alleged to have ‘bumped into’ Smuts in Paris in May 1919 with British Treasury Advisor, John Maynard Keynes, shortly after the Paris Peace Conference where they discuss Relief Program.
In light of the above it seems quite remarkable that the anti Imperialist, James Vernon Martin should marry a woman whose fortunes were lost as a result of the Boer War. Both Martin’s mentors, Andrew Carnegie and William Jennings Bryan were fierce opponents of UK in the Second Boer War, yet a descendent of Jessie Irvine, Lily’s sister, says the family stood side by side with the English.
This presents another conundrum; General Jan Smuts fought on the side of the Boer and not the English during the Second Boer War. In light of the obvious tensions that might arise, is it plausible that General Jan Smuts and the Irvines could be friends? Perhaps there is another explanation.
The US Census Records of 1940 show that Martin & Irvine’s marriage survived until at least 1940, where they are living together in Hempstead, Nissau, New York State.
2 This is what Martin claims in his address to the National Security League, but I have yet to see any firm evidence. It certainly makes sense given his special relief mission to Reval.
3 Samuel McRoberts’ fight with Bolshevism continued well into the 1920s. At the end of 1919, as America and Britain began to pull out of Russia’s civil war, McRoberts was made treasurer and director for American Central Committee For Russian Relief Inc (its acting secretary was Alex Kaznakoff) Based in General Grant’s former HQ at the Old War Building in Washington, the Committee was set-up to fill the void left by the temporary suspension of Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration.
Other members included the granddaughter of Ulysses S. Grant, Countess Spéransky, Elihu Root (lawyer somewhat controversially dispatched to Russian in the Summer of 1917 to open trade negotiations with the Kerensky Government) and Andrew Carnegie – the very man who had co-authored and sponsored James Vernon Martin’s anti-Imperialist pamphlet in 1900. Another was Mrs Robert Lansing whose husband had helped coordinate Reilly’s illegal ‘Lenin Plot’. Harvard University’s Charles. W Eliot served as the group’s first president. The American Central Committee For Russian Relief was seen as providing relief to White Russians suffering at the hands of the Bolshevik triumph. Its Chairman, Countess Spéransky later told the press that Hoover’s subsequent pro-Soviet project “does not include relief for any Russian refugee outside of Russia.”
4 It was Churchill (serving as British Secretary of War in 1919) who appointed Morton to Section V of Mi6 at the beginning of April 1919 (taken over officially on April 23rd 1919). The two men were great friends. In 1940. Desmond Morton became Churchill’s Personal Assistant at 10 Downing Street. Churchill even ended up living in the house that Morton was born in.
5 William Bullit ended up marrying the widow of journalist ‘revolutionary’ John Reed, whose book, ‘Ten Days that Shook The World’ (March 1919) provided a first hand witness account of the 1917 Revolution. The book helped shape the accepted narrative of events for years to come. Reed’s widow Louise Bryant, herself an activist, wrote ‘Six Red Months in Russia’ (1918).
6 Russian-Pole, Antoine Jechalski, aka. Tony Farroway was the man who accompanied British Spy Sidney Reilly on his secret service trip to New York in April 1919. Jechalski, a friend and business associate of Reilly, was a bit of an unknown quantity where intelligence gathering was concerned. Jechalski had been originally been connected with the Russian Embassy in England before being arrested alongside sculptor and playboy, Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy in New York in 1915. Dismissed as a German Spy in 1916, Jechalski still nonetheless found himself shuttling between London & New York as ‘diplomat’ during the 1920s and 1930s. According to Jechalski’s friend, civil Liberties lawyer, Arthur Garfield Hays, Jechalski entered the US in 1915-17 to negotiate a contract with Poole Engineering for artillery mountings and Maklan guns for the Tsar’s Imperial Guard (sneakily re-appropriated by Lenin’s Red Army in 1918). Jechalski was also the conduit in getting Romer’s geographical statistical atlas to Wilson in time for the Paris Peace Conference. The map was central to the political and economic mapping of the national borderlands under negotiation. His scheduled trip to the Polish National Committee in New York (at that time under the leadership of Roman Dmowski in Paris) during April 1919, as it was Polish independence that found itself at the centre of discussions. By 1930 Jechalski was living with Kaiser Wilhelm’s personal court painter, Adalbert Ritter von Kossak (Wojciech Kossak) in San Mateo, California .
The Industrial Bureau of the Polish National Department which Jechalski is on his way to in April 1919 is mentioned in a report by the Guranty Trust Company dated May 1919 reviewing American Goods and the Foreign Market. Discussions at the Paris Peace Conference made it clear that Poland would be in a position to trade freely with the US, making this “enormous field” now open for export and investment (Collection of Guaranty Trust Company of New York publications on U.S. and world economics, finance and commerce, issued March 12, 1918 to April 16, 1920)
Malone MP ( House of Commons) 10 August 1920 Volume 13, Hansard
The Urquhart Concession and Anglo-Soviet Relations, 1921—1922
Thomas S. Martin
What Happened to Europe, Frank A. Vanderlip, Macmillan, July 1919
No Drafts for Russia At Present, Manchester Guardian, Jan 10th 1919, p.6
A Financial History of the United States, Volume II, 2002, Jerry W. Markham
St. Louis Post-Dispatch St. Louis, Missouri (November 4, 1900) page 34
Sidney Reilly to John Picton Bagge, Telegram 10 May 1919, Russia. Code 38 / Code W38 File 74098-77597, PRO FO 371/4019)
Russian Loans In The United States, The Times, April 24, 1916, p.9.
James V Martin, Harvard College: Class of 1912, 25th anniversary report June 1937
Federated Press, May 15th 1924
The Daily Worker (US Edition) April 4th, April 14th, May 12th, May 14th 1924
Globe, 18 October 1919, page 2, The Bolshevik Terror: Hopes of Freedom
12 December 1909 – Boston Post – Boston, Massachusetts, United States Of America
14 November 1909 – Boston Sunday Post – Boston, Massachusetts, United States Of America
Impending Recognition of the Omsk Government, Sheffield Daily Telegraph 23 April 1919, p5
Wall Street and the Russian Revolution: 1905-1925, Richard Spence
16 May 1919 – The Scotsman – Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Sidney Reilly : The True Story of the World’s Greatest Spy, Michael Kettle, 1983, St. Martin’s New York
Manchester Guardian, 02 Aug 1919, Intervention in Russia (addressed to Churchill)
Manchester Guardian 08 Jan 1919: p.4, America and the Blockade
The Times, Marching on Petrograd, October 15, 1919, Issue 42231, p.12
Syracuse Herald, 21 October 1919, Plea for US to Send Food to Petrograd
Full Steam Ahead!: The True Story of Peter Demens, Albert Parry, Great Outdoors Pub Co, 1987
Congressional Record, United States. Congress, 1922 – https://archive.org/download/congressionalrec62cunit/congressionalrec62cunit.pdf
United States. Congress. House. Select Committee of Inquiry into Operations of the United States Air Services, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1925
Economic Reconstruction in Soviet Russia: The Courting of Herbert Hoover in 1922, David Engerman
American Biography: A New Cyclopaedia, Volume 35
Aid Diverted to Estonia From Petrodgrad, Western Daily Press 22 October 1919
The Young Worker, May 1st 1924, coverage of the James V Martin – Lake Fray story
Western Daily Mercury, 03 January 1912
Lincoln Evening State Journal 13 April 1922
Guide to photographic collections at the Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Institution, 1989
American food in the world war and reconstruction period : operations of the organizations under the direction of Herbert Hoover, 1914 to 1924, Frank M. Surface and Raymond L. Bland, page 565
Famine in Soviet Russia, 1919-1923; The Operations of the American Relief Administration, Harold H. Fisher