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Allan Monkhouse, MI1c (MI6) Interpreter and Engineer


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Great war pair, to Captain, later Colonel Allan Monkhouse, M.I.E.E., A.M.I.Mech.E ,

Attached British Intelligence in Russia , noted engineer and Mi6 agent

Born in New Zealand he went to Russia before the great war.

Great war 1914-18

On the on the outbreak of WW1 he was instructed to remain in Russia by the British Government via the British Embassy to remain in Russia to continue with his work in Munitions, staying on after the fall of the Tsar.

In Spring 1917 he was commissioned by the Kerensky Russian Provisional government into the Militia during the October Revolution:

In December 1917, he was arrested by the communists and sentenced to Death by the revolutionary court for "wrecking" munitions production, reprieved when evidence was found supporting his claim that he was not guilty.

"Decree No 1 on 24 November 1917 provided for the complete abolition of the courts, Procuracy, Bar and law schools, and the introduction of Revolutionary Tribunals staffed by lay assessors. They dispensed their own ideas of justice in an atmosphere of complete procedural informality—if those words can be stretched to cover such strange meetings. We have a description of one such trial in Moscow from a New Zealander, Allan Monkhouse, who was accused in early 1918 of stealing British-delivered munitions from the Soviets.

“The Court consisted of one Jewish lawyer, a political agitator and two workmen, one of whom I recognised as an illiterate plumber who had formerly been in my employ. Prisoner, judges and witnesses sat round a rough table with a torn, green-baize cover. The room was full of tobacco smoke. The president, a glass of tea in one hand, and a thick slice of black bread spread with red caviar in the other hand, addressed me with his mouth so full that I could hardly distinguish his words. My case dragged on until the late evening. In those days’ punishment for crimes of this nature was immediate execution and, though I was entirely innocent of the charges against me, nevertheless my case went badly, and I shall always remember watching the sun set over the Kremlin Towers and thinking to myself that in all probability it was the last time I should see it.”

After the trail in March 1918 he escape from Russia escaped to Vladivostok via Canada

Russian Intervention 1918-19

On arriving in Canada in April 1918 he Helped recruit and train, 39th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, (Jewish Legion) raised at Fort Edward, Nova Scotia, which was made up almost entirely of Russian Jews who were resident in the United States and Canada.

Documents online not him as US resident, enlisting in the British army (Officer Training Corps) 7th June 1918 and Returning to England July 1918

Debriefed by Mi5 on his escape and the situation in Russia, he was formally enlisted into the British army Inn of Court OTC, acting Sgt based at Berkenstead.

On the first of October 1918 he deployed to Russia as acting Sgt Inns of Court attached to British Military Intelligence( MI1c, forerunner of MI6) under the cover as an Interpreter unit of the Royal Engineers Railway Operating Division on armoured trains. North Russian Expeditionary Force.

He was formally commissioned on the 23 January 1919 as a 2nd Lieutenant, Interpreter attached Military Intelligence attached to unit of the Royal Engineers Railway Operating Division armoured trains. On the 1st June 1919 he was promoted acting Captain,
He resigned his commission on completing his service on the 22 October 1919 as 2nd Lt (General List)

For his service in Russia he was awarded the Imperial Russian Order of St. Anne; Third Class

In 1925 Monkhouse was sent back to Russia to work at the Moscow Office of the British electrical-engineering concern of Metropolitan-Vickers.




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The Metrovik trial, 1933

The Trial of the Vickers Engineers

Around 9:30 P.M on the night of March 11, 1933, the Soviet Government struck its final blow at the remnants of the Torgprom conspiracy. OGPU agents in Moscow arrested six British engineers and ten Russians, all employees of the Moscow Office of the British electrical-engineering concern of Metropolitan-Vickers. The British subjects and their Russian associates were charged with having carried on espionage and sabotage in the Soviet Union on behalf of the British Intelligence Service.

The chief Vickers representative in Moscow had been a man named Captain C. S. Richards. He had hurriedly left for England just before the arrests. Richards had been a British intelligence officer Russia since 1917 when, as captain of an Intelligence Service detachment, he took part in the anti-Soviet intrigues which preceded the Allied occupation of Archangel. "

Under Richards's direction, the Moscow Office of Metro-Vickers had subsequently become the center of British secret service operations in Russia.
Among the British "technicians" arrested by the Soviet authorities in Moscow was one of Captain Richards's former associates in the Archangel expedition, Allan Monkhouse, who served as Richards's second-in-command.

Monkhouse, while pleading not guilty to the current charges, admitted that he had formerly been associated with Richards. He testified: -

"Mr. Richards I met in 1917 in Moscow and later on in Archangel, where he, as I confirm, occupied the position of captain of the Intelligence Service. It is known to me that Mr. Richards was in Moscow in April or May 1918. I do not know for what he came to Moscow but I know from what he told me that he secretly crossed the frontier to Finland at that time. In 1923 he was appointed a director of the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Export Company. In the same year he went to Moscow for negotiations about supplying of equipment".

From various books and online documents it was noted that

Monkhouse, who had served as an intelligence officer on the Archangel Expedition in World War I, was convicted of bribery and deported, SIS (Mi6) was particularly concerned about the prosecution because Monkhouse was indeed a valued SIS source, and the organization had set great store on what was termed “natural cover,” or utilizing people who had a genuine reason for visiting the Soviet Union. The Metro-Vickers arrests were not just an embarrassing disincentive for others to cooperate with SIS, but the whole episode was likely to inhibit their employers from participating in what was presented as a patriotic and relatively risk-free activity. Much depended upon what evidence of espionage emerged during the trial.

All our spying operations on U.S.S.R. territory are directed by the British Intelligence Service, through their agent, C. S. Richards, who occupies the position of Managing Director of the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Export Company, Ltd.

Spying operations on U.S.S.R. territory were directed by myself and Monkhouse, representatives of the above-mentioned British firm, who are contractors, by official agreements, to the Soviet Government, for the supply of turbines and electrical equipment and the furnishing of technical aid agreement. On the instructions of C. S. Richards given to me this end, British personnel were gradually drawn into the spying organization after their arrival on U.S.S.R. territory and instructed as to the information required.

The Vickers "engineer" William MacDonald also admitted the charges and stated: -

The leader of the reconnaissance work in the U.S.S.R. disguised under the shield of Metropolitan-Vickers was Mr. Thornton, who worked in Moscow as chief erecting engineer. The head of the representation was Mr. Monkhouse who also took part in this illegal work of Mr. Thornton. The assistant of Mr. Thornton for travelling purposes and his associate in the espionage work was engineer Cushny, officer of the British army, now an engineer of the firm Metropolitan-Vickers. This is the main group of reconnaissance workers which did the espionage work in the U.S.S.R.

The arrest of these Vickers "engineers" was the occasion for an immediate storm of anti-Soviet protest in Britain. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, without waiting to hear the charges and evidence in the case, categorically, declared that the British subjects who had been arrested were absolutely innocent. Tory members of Parliament once again demanded severance of all commercial and diplomatic relations with Moscow. The British Ambassador to Soviet Russia, Sir Esmond Ovey, a friend of Sir Henri Deterding, stormed into the Soviet Foreign Office in Moscow and told Maxim Litvinov that the prisoners must be immediately released without trial in order to avoid "grave consequences to our mutual relations."

The "James Bond" Link

While working for Reuters in Moscow, Robin was sent a new guy and told to show him the ropes. The new guy was Ian Fleming. Fleming was sent to Moscow by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) to monitor developments in the espionage/sabotage" Metro-Vickers trial.

Nigel West's Historical Dictionary of Ian Fleming's World of Intelligence: Fact and Fiction. West writes:

"Fleming’s SIS connections dated back to his first assignment for Reuters, when he traveled to Moscow by train in April 1933 to cover the famous Metropolitan-Vickers trial in which a British engineer, Allan Monkhouse, and six other Britons were accused of sabotage and espionage. Metro-Vickers had secured a contract to design and build a power grid across Russia to assist in Joseph Stalin’s economic plan to industrialize the country, but the group of British engineers were suspected of having links to British intelligence and of having engaged in sabotage."


On April 18 1933, the Soviet Supreme Court handed down its verdict. With one exception all the Russian accomplices were found guilty and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to ten years. The British subject, Albert Gregory, was acquitted on the grounds that the evidence against him was insufficient. The other five British engineers were found guilty. Monkhouse, Nordwall and Cushny were ordered to be deported from the Soviet Union. Leslie Thornton and William MacDonald were sentenced respectively to two and three years' imprisonment.


We next come across Allen Monkhouse in 1939 as a 2nd Lt acting Lieutenant Colonel, temporary Colonel (General List) working under Lord Beaverbrook at the Ministry of Supply.

In 1941 he was as an assistant to Lord Beaverbrook, head of the British mission to Moscow, no other information as yet has been found, nor it appears did he receive any awards.

He should have been awarded the Defence and War medal


After the war he was called to India, and convinced Prime Minister Nehru to back, against opposition, that India's water power could be increased twelve-fold, and then his claim that the micro-generator he had designed could bring electricity across the Himalayas. After apparent rejection, he installed the first thirty.

In 2014 an estimated 105,000 villages are served by such micro-generators across the width of the Himalayas.

His Biography was written in 2014

"Electrifying New Zealand, Russia and India: The three lives of engineer Alan Monkhouse" by Richard Sorabji





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Following his escape to Vladivostok according to his biography, he was given the "secret commission" by the Captain of HMS Suffolk to locate her and her sister and take her to the American transport "Sheridan"

It appears that he felt the incident was confidential even when he wrote his draft memoirs some 17 years later, although he mentioned that he had to use a degree of force to restrain her after she became hysterical on realising she had to leave her motherland

On April 18, 1918, Botchkareva boarded the "Sheridan", an American passenger liner. Her presence aboard ship is verified by Florence Farmborough (she went on to write Nurse at the Russian Front) , a fellow evacuee who wrote in her diary, “By a strange working of fate, one of the first persons I have seen on board is Yasha Botchkareva, erstwhile leader of the Women’s Death Battalion. She has eluded the spy-net of the Red guards and is making good her escape to the United States.”
Monkhouse stayed on board the Sheridan until it arrived in San Francisco and from there to New York were he re-enlisted in the British Army




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His Biography and notes on trains



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  • 3 weeks later...
On 04/06/2016 at 00:42, leibregiment said:

Great war pair, to Captain, later Colonel Allan Monkhouse, M.I.E.E., A.M.I.Mech.E ,

Attached British Intelligence in Russia , noted engineer and Mi6 agent




I would be careful in conflating MI1c with MI6. They were two quite distinctly different organisations. MI1c indicates he worked for the Military Intelligence staff of a HQ, the 1c being the Contre-espionage section. Secondly, MI1c was not the forerunner of MI6. As an other rank interpreter it would mean he was an "Intelligence Corps Policeman". MI6 had been formed prewar, as the Secret Intelligence Service and adopted the cover title MI6 in the early war years.


From reading the biography you have posted, I do not believe Monkhouse was an MI6 (SIS) officer. I say this because if he had been an SIS officer, he would have been commisioned on his return to the UK and would not have gone with the British force to Archangel as a SGT interpreter for the RE ROD. This task would have meant limited access and freedom of movement to do what he needed to do.


Otherwise an interesting character.




Edited by green_acorn
To add the "cover title" description
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Thanks, I did not claim he was an "Officer" but an "Agent" which he was, you are also confusing the 10th Royal Fusiliers (intelligence) who were "intelligence police" in France, there were no "IP" in Russia.


MI1c were as a department folded into what we now know as a SIS (MI6).


His posting as a Sgt in the OTC was expedited before he was commissioned due to the need for him to get back to Russia, he deployed with the intelligence corps. During the voyage it was found out he had "railway" experience and move over to support that, what is unclear but intimated in his bio is he remained in contact with the intelligence corps which led to him being employed with Vickers

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I agree with you, that during WW1 British soldiers identified for Intelligence Corps linguist/translator duties, were posted for personnel management to the 10th Bn Royal Fusiliers and that soldiers employed in Corps and Army IC Police Sections were controlled by the relevant MI1c staff at the relevant HQ.


I have to disagree with you about MI1c, it was never "folded" into the SIS, commonly referred to as MI6. MI1c was simply a functional identification/section name on the intelligence staff of an Army HQ, at all levels of HQ below the WO, and continued as such right through WW2. Prior to the adoption of MI1 prefix post war, it was referred to as Intelligence (c), short titled I(c) on the staff of HQ's. The ICP title was also changed sometime prior to 1927 by the BAOR to FSP - Field Security Police. 


I still very seriously doubt that as an SIS (MI6) "agent", Monkhouse would have been deployed as a IC SGT, or been attached to the ROD RE. The rank and function, as well as identifcation as a Intelligence Corps member, would have severely limited his range and freedom to do his "6" job.


The difference between the SIS/MI6 activities and I(c)/MI1c during the war are best shown in the agent operations operated from Holland (Henry Landau's many books) versus the I(c) operation run from Paris by GHQ BEF I(c) Liaison Officer MAJ Bruce into Luxemburg (The Secrets of Rue stRoche).


But as I said, a very interesting man and life.





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Sorry, but you (again) misread, he was IC on his deployment to Russia while in the OTC 1918, his status while involved in Vickers circa 1933 was as an agent 

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  • 6 months later...

From 1916 onwards MI1c was one of those names that the Secret Intelligence Service went by though the two were not synonymous (as during WW2 MI6 was only a part of SIS though because it became known publically it was assumed they were identical).  If you doubt this look at a War Office List for 1916-18 which clearly shows Mansfield Cumming, a naval officer, as head of MI1c.  GHQ  Intelligence was divided between I(a) and I(b) and for all I know I(c) but these are not the same as MI1a (Distribution and registration of intelligence); MI1b (investigation of Enemy Cyphers and wireless telegraphy); MI1c (secret service) and MI1d Intelligence Summaries. MI1e was added later which took over wireless telegraphy from MI1b and added radio direction finding.  Even later f and g were added.  All of these came under the DMI but Mansfield Cumming was also responsible to the Foreign Office and the DNI.


Phil Tomaselli

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Thanks Phil, have you anything to add to Monkhouse's career, best regards, Paul

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