Soviet intelligence agents and suspected agents

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Soviet intelligence agents and suspected agents

(KV 2/1585-1646)

Douglas Springhall

(KV 2/1594-1596)

Springhall was a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and held various administrative positions in the party, culminating in a National Organiser role from 1940. He cultivated a contact at the Air Ministry, Olive Sheehan, who was one of a small ring of Communist supporters in the Ministry and provided Springhall with, among other things, classified information about the anti-radar device WINDOW. Their arrangement was uncovered when Sheehan's flatmate overheard a conversation about classified information, and Springhall was arrested and convicted after an in camera trial in 1943 on a charge of passing classified information to the Russians.

The trial was held in camera because of the still secret nature of WINDOW, so although the case is well known, this is the first time contemporary transcripts and details of the trial have been released.

After Springhall's trial, it also emerged that he had obtained classified information from a Communist SOE officer, Captain Desmond Uren, who was court martialled and, like Springhall, sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Springhall emigrated to Russia after his release, and died in Moscow in 1953.

KV 2/1594 (1917-1931) shows how Springhall acted as a distribution agent for seditious material in the armed forces during and after the First World War (for which he was eventually discharged from the Navy in 1920). As a result of this activity he was kept under surveillance and his correspondence was closely watched. The product of that surveillance is on file (intercepted letters, a report of a meeting of ex-Service Communists addressed by Springhall at the Minerva Café, High Holborn in June 1928, examples of his journalism and so on), as is a photograph of Springhall submitted with his passport papers (he eventually travelled to Russia before his passport was issued). There is more similar material in KV 2/1595 (1931-1935).

KV 2/1596 (1936-1943) includes similar material, but also a copy of Springhall's speaking notes for addressing meetings, obtained by the Metropolitan Police, a copy of his pamphlet Fair Play for Service Men and their Families, and other material leading to Springhall's arrest and trial for dissemination of seditious material in the armed forces. The file includes reports on the development and uncovering of the plot, and Security Service observations on the case from 1943, along with police statements and reports about visits made to Springhall while he was in Brixton prison.

Perhaps the most interesting item on the file is the assessment made by the Security Service of the impact that Springhall's arrest and trial had on the rest of the Communist Party hierarchy.

William Marshall

(KV 2/1636-1646)

Marshall was a member of the Diplomatic Wireless Service who was identified as a contact of the Russian embassy official in London, Pavel Kuznetsov, after a lengthy surveillance operation, which is fully detailed on the file. Marshall had been posted previously to Moscow, so his covert meetings with Kuznetsov were cause for great suspicion. Intensive investigations were carried out, and although no conclusive proof was uncovered that Marshall had passed information to the Russians, he was tried under the Official Secrets Act in 1952, and convicted on what was essentially circumstantial evidence.

Though Marshall had come to Security Service attention before Pavel Kuznetsov was trailed to a meeting with him in 1952, it was only because the Foreign Office had enquired whether there were any traces against his name before employing him in the Diplomatic Wireless Service (DWS) in 1948. This is recorded on KV 2/1636 (1948-1952), where serial 2a records how a trail on Kuznetsov in April 1952 succeeded, mostly through luck and intuition, in observing the meeting with Marshall. After an elaborate journey of evasion through central London to Richmond, Marble Hill and then Kingston, Marshall and Kuznetsov finally met outside a cinema in Kingston, took a meal in the Bentalls department store restaurant, before making their way to secluded Canbury Park Gardens to exchange information, they thought, unobserved. Kuznetsov's tail dropped him and followed Marshall instead, back to his parents' address in Elborough Street, Earlsfield. A watch was placed on the address and correspondence to it, and Marshall was soon identified. The file also includes extracts from Marshall's DWS personnel file, notes of meetings between the head of DWS and intelligence service officers, and a detailed Security Service analysis of the DWS operation at Hanslope Park, Buckinghamshire.

After the initial link between Kuznetsov and Marshall had been made, their further meetings were watched, and noted in KV 2/1637 - they met a second time in Wimbledon and took their lunch in the Dog and Fox public house in Wimbledon Village, and Marshall and Kuznetsov were both tailed on what were assumed to have been abortive attempted meetings, mostly in south-west London. Marshall was finally arrested in the act of meeting Kuznetsov in a park in Wandsworth on 13 June 1952. There is a report on the visit made by DG White to Chartwell to report on the case in person to Prime Minister Churchill (serial 88b) - Churchill receiving the report in his bed and asking numerous questions.

The product of the watch kept on Marshall's correspondence continues through KV 2/1638 and KV 2/1639 (both 1952). The case is discussed on the former file with the Americans, whose immediate response includes the telling question of what evidence is to be brought against Marshall. This file includes statements of the arresting officers and others involved in the case, and four negative pictures of Marshall intercepted in correspondence. The latter file includes copies of pages from Marshall's diary.

There are further copies of intercepted letters in KV 2/1640 (1952-1953) along with notes about Marshall's appeal case.

KV 2/1641 includes reports by Skardon of his interviews with Marshall and with his parents. Robertson minutes on the file in February 1953: "It confirms our previous impression...that he may well have been arrested before he had become seriously engaged in espionage."

File KV 2/1642 (1953) documents the winding up of the case, with Skardon's report of his last interview and the discontinuation of the postal interception warrant.

KV 2/1644 (1952) contains further copies of Marshall's statements to police and various police reports On the surveillance duties they carried out up to Marshall and Kuznetsov's arrest. A meeting of June 1952 between the police, the Security Service and the Director of Public Prosecution about the conduct of the trial is included in the file. Of particular interest are the steps taken to ensure that Henry Cousins, a known Communist called for jury service at the time of Marshall's trial, did not serve on his jury. There is a photo of Cousins on the file. There is a report of the case, and discussion of Marshall's mooted appeal on file also.

KV 2/1645 and 1646 contain reconstituted copies of Marshall's paper effects (diaries, bank statements, correspondence and so on) seized during the investigation. The reconstituted lists of Marshall's seized property, and notes drawing conclusions from it, are in KV 2/1643.