Other personal files
Other personal files
Peierls was the leading German atom scientist who came to Britain in 1935 (becoming a naturalised British citizen in 1940) and subsequently joined the Manhattan project to develop the atomic bomb. He attracted Security Service attention because of his contact with the atom spy Klaus Fuchs, his Russian wife and his many communist academic contacts. This combined to excite speculation that Peierls, like Fuchs, might be passing atom secrets to the Russians, hence this exhaustive Security Service investigation, which uncovered no evidence of any wrongdoing on Peierls' part.
KV 2/1658 (1938-1949) starts with notification that a Soviet visa stamp has been spotted on Peierls' passport when he re-entered the UK at Harwich in 1938, and there follows occasional correspondence about him and his close colleagues (especially Frisch and Bohr) up to 1943, when the file includes the formal request for an exit permit for Peierls to go to America to join the Manhattan project. Then, in 1947, as suspicion fell on atom-spy Fuchs (but before his arrest), a Home Office warrant of Peierls' communications was issued as the Security Service investigated to see if Peierls was implicated with Fuchs. Product of that warrant is on the file. By September 1948, CS Weldsmith was able to minute "I have read PEIERLS file and it seem to me to show that not only have we nothing against him but that he is a man of very good sense." Nevertheless, the investigation continued.
KV 2/1659 (1949) and KV 2/1660 (1949-1950) contain Peierls' intercepted correspondence (including with Fuchs and Kathleen Lonsdale) and American reports of Peierls' contacts, friends and relations in America.
There is further intercepted correspondence in KV 2/1661 (1950-1951) which also includes Peierls' request for a meeting with Fuchs, reports of meetings between Peierls and Security Service officers and a Metropolitan Police report of Peierls' meeting with Fuchs in Brixton Prison. The file features a detailed Security Service report on Peierls, including a family tree. By now, the case was being wound up as no evidence of wrongdoing by Peierls had been found.
There is further intercepted correspondence and discussion of the case in KV 2/1662, and a final case summary in KV 2/1663 of 1953, which concludes "In our view there is no substantial doubt about the loyalty of Professor PEIERLS."
Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovitch
Kirillovitch (1917-1992) was the heir to the Romanov dynasty in Russia and lived in exile, in France, Germany and Hungary for most of the Second World War. He was believed to have fascist sympathies, and was considered by some a likely German puppet ruler in the event of a successful German invasion of Russia, though the file documents his refusal to endorse the German invasion and his eventual arrest.
While much of the file (which covers 1939-1952) relates to efforts to establish his whereabouts during the war, the most interesting elements are those relating to his pre-war stay in Britain. Security Service interest in this started when the King's private secretary, Sir Alexander Hardinge, provided copies of the Grand Duke's correspondence which show that the King had intervened to secure him work at the Stafford factory of agricultural engineers R A Lister (the factory manager, Robert Hyde, was a personal friend of the King). The Grand Duke worked there under the alias W. Mikhailov, but the file notes that 'Mikhailov apparently did not like hard work, and eventually, according to Sir Alexander, went off to France.' He arrived in St Briac, Normandy, in August 1940, and spent much of the time until his arrest there. The SIS were asked to keep tabs on him, and made frequent reports about his believed location and any political developments he was involved in.
There are typescript copies of some of the Grand Duke's correspondence on the file, and for the post-war period, sketchy details of some of the White Russian activity surrounding him during his time living in Madrid. The file includes a photograph of the Grand Duke.