Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Reilly told various tall tales about his origins. Apparently the most widespread version is that he was born Georgi Rosenblum in Odessa, Russia on March 24, 1874. According to himself, he was arrested as a young man for carrying messages for a group called Friends of Enlightenment. When he was released, he was told that his mother was dead and that his real father was actually her Jewish doctor Rosenblum. Newly "christened" as Sigmund Rosenblum, he hid as a stowaway in a British ship on its way to South America.
In Brazil he adopted the name Pedro. He worked in odd jobs and in 1895 became a cook for a British intelligence expedition and saved the life of his group when angry natives attacked them. Appropriately for such a story, British agent Major Fothergill gave him £1500 and arranged him a passport and a trip to Britain where he adopted the name Sidney Rosenblum. He began to work for MI1c, forerunner of MI6, was briefly trained and sent to Russia. After a successful mission he received a British citizenship to become official agent. Later he adopted the Irish surname Reilly, surname of a father of his first wife.
He also told various tales about his supposed exploits. According to himself, he earned and lost several fortunes in his lifetime and had many wives and numerous mistresses. He claimed that during the Boer War he had disguised himself as a Russian arms merchant to spy on Dutch weapons shipments to Boers; the so-called Darcy Affair where he procured Persian oil concessions for the British; reporting on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur in the disguise of a timber company owner; spying for the Krupp armaments plant in Germany; seducing a wife of Russian minister of marine to find out German weapons shipments to Russia; sitting in a meeting with a German high command in German officer's uniform during World War I; saving diplomats from South America; and his attempts to engineer the downfall of the Russian Bolshevik government. British intelligence followed its policy on saying nothing about anything.
According to research of Andrew Cook , Reilly was more of a confidence man and shady businessman. He sold plans of Port Arthur to Japan when he was working there; he volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps in Canada at the start of the World War I; and although Reilly claimed to have worked for MI6 since 1890s, he was not recruited but volunteered his services and was accepted as an agent on March 15, 1918 and was effectively fired in 1921.
Reilly was sent to Moscow in 1918, by his own account to assassinate Lenin or attempt to overthrow the Bolsheviks. He had to escape after Cheka unraveled the so-called Lockhart Plot against Bolsheviks. There are claims that he was involved with the forging of Zinoviev letter — in which stage SIS had already fired him.
In September 1925 agents of OGPU, Cheka's successor, lured him to Russia ostensibly to meet the supposed anti-communist organization 'the Trust' – in fact a OGPU deception under the code name Trust Operation. After Reilly crossed the Finnish border, Soviets captured him and heavily interrogated him in Lubyanka Prison. Afterwards Soviets claimed that Reilly had been shot trying to cross Finnish border. In fact, he was shot in a forest near Moscow on November 5, 1925; British intelligence documents released in 2000 confirm this.
After his death, there were various rumors about his survival. Some, for example, speculated that Reilly would have become an advisor for Soviet intelligence.
- Andrew Cook, Sidney Reilly: ST1 (On His Majesty's Secret Service)
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