Communists and suspected communists

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Communists and suspected communists

Robert Stewart (KV 2/2787-2792)

These latest six files (1951-1957) continue the story of leading British communist Robert Stewart (the first files were released to The National Archives in April 2003). The files show continued close monitoring of Stewart's activities, with plenty of eavesdropped microphone recording intelligence of his conversations. The files cover the period of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, which on the evidence of this material caused Stewart considerable anguish.

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Jimmy Shields (KV 2/2801-2805)

Shields was a prominent Scottish communist who first came to the attention of the Security Service in 1931 as he was starting his rise to prominence in the Party. By 1937 he had risen to membership of the Party's Appeals Committee, its chief disciplinary organ, and unsurprisingly, the Service kept a close watch on him.

KV 2/2801 (1931-1947) contains extensive reporting of Shields' activities, including intercepted correspondence, phone calls and recorded conversations. It covers the period when he was forced to remain in Kelling Sanatorium in Norfolk by the consumption that would kill him in 1949 - his communications from there continued to be monitored. The file includes a picture of Shields' wife Violet, (serial 7a).

KV 2/2802 covers 1947-1955, the period up to Shields's death. These intercepted communications document his declining health. There is a biographical note at serial 246a and discussions about Shields by his colleagues after his death.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these files is in the Link files in KV 2/2803-2805, covering 1945 (KV 2/2803) and 1946, which draw together the elements of the Service's work on Shields. They show how he maintained links with the Soviet embassy, and that he had an espionage role and received intelligence from various communist agents which he then passed on to the Russians. These files contain various summary notes, and there is a full summary at serial 215a in KV 2/2805. This and earlier material (for example, serial 210a in KV 2/2804) show conclusively that the Security Service was employing a double agent, identified here as "M/7", to feed information to Shields which he then passed on to the Russians. M/7, handled by Major Maxwell Knight, also provided information back to the Service about Shields and his way of working.

This release also includes the file on Communist Jean Jefferson (KV 2/2809-2810, 1932-1957), who had been recruited by Shields in February 1943 to set up and operate a covert Comintern radio link from her home in Wimbledon at a time when Shields believed the Communist Party was about to be banned.