MID officials raise doubts about Marguerite

Appearing before newspaper reporters in Riga and Berlin, Marguerite presented an image of a woman who had been inadvertently caught up in an international scandal. She made no mention of being an intelligence agent, but told reporters she had been arrested for entering the Russia illegally, for supplying British and American prisoners with unauthorized aid, and for meeting with counterrevolutionaries.

 She went on to say that the reported horrors and suffering in the Russian prisons were exaggerated. She described the cell where she had been locked for a week in solitary confinement as a “room like a small single room of a hotel” and said “generally speaking the rations were as good as, or better than, the Soviet dining room outside.”  She told the news reporters that, “My only privation was my inability to procure good cigarettes.”

Such light-hearted banter reinforced the image that Marguerite was something of a naïve adventuress. Yet behind the scenes, she was writing reports for the Military Intelligence Division that were cool and professional. She spent her first morning in Riga writing about her captivity and providing names and descriptions of American prisoners and suspected Bolshevik agents. Concerning book publisher Albert Boni, the man with whom she had dined in  Berlin, Marguerite was uncertain. “He is either an agent for our government or playing a big game for himself,” she reported.

The final name in the report was that of Stan Harding. Despite what Marguerite had told the Bolsheviks and what she later wrote in her memoir, she did not list Harding as a British spy. Instead, she called her an English woman and correspondent for the New York World who had betrayed her. “I took her into my room in Berlin, lent her money (which she has never returned); and several times paid her for information,” Marguerite wrote. And while Harding alleged that Marguerite had falsely denounced her, Marguerite said it was Harding who had betrayed her: “She testified in Moscow as to my activities in Berlin.”

The Military Intelligence Division leaders were not sure whether to trust Maguerite. They knew, of course, she had been forced to work as a double agent. Although Marlborough Churchill no longer directed the Military Intelligence Division, he was anxious to learn the truth about his prized recruit, and he asked Hollyday for a “gossipy letter.” A few weeks after receiving Churchill’s request, Hollyday responded. Of Marguerite he wrote: “She did not ring true to me.”

Yet Marguerite made it clear in her reports that she intended to continue provide intelligence information. She reported the conversations she had had on the train with Danish representatives about a munitions factory in Helsinki and with Lithuanian Jews about Communism. She told the Berlin office that Senator France had been deluded by Russian propaganda, and she offered to compile a list of the documents he had carried with him. If military officials wanted more information about France, she asked them to let her know what they needed.

Then, foreshadowing her next adventure, she told her commanders that the Bolsheviks “have a most wonderful net work [sic] of propaganda centers throughout Asia. They have a map marked with red circles, showing propaganda centers, and red lines showing the principal routes to the centers, which covers all of China, Korea, Tibet, Afghanistan, India, Persia, Beluchistan [(Pakistan]), etc.—in fact all Asiatic countries.”

 Out of Soviet prison for only ten days, Marguerite was ready to return to service.

Col. T. Worthington Hollyday raises doubts about Marguerite.

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