Friday, July 23, 2010

Fullbore Friday

There are many stories out there that we are only now hearing about ... and this is one. From
In May 1919, with World War I recently over but with the Russian Revolution turning into a full-scale "Red Terror," the head of MI6, Sir Mansfield Cumming, known as "C," had a desperate problem.

A British agent - Paul Dukes - had infiltrated spies into the Bolshevik government and made copies of top secret documents, but he was cut off in Petrograd (present-day St Petersburg).

Dukes, a 30-year-old concert pianist from Bridgwater, Somerset, was a master of disguise, hence his admiring soubriquets such as "The New Scarlet Pimpernel" and "The Man with A Hundred Faces."

The only MI6 agent ever to be knighted for his services in the field, Dukes was, as Ferguson writes: "The sort of spy we all wanted to be."

The Government in London desperately needed a personal briefing from him about the situation in Russia, as well as the documents in his possession. But how to get him out?

Cumming asked a 29-year-old naval lieutenant, Augustus "Gus" Agar, to undertake a seemingly suicidal mission to rescue him.
An expert in skippering high-speed Coastal Motor Boats (CMBs), Agar was asked to come up with a plan to cross into Russian territorial waters in the Gulf of Finland and spirit Dukes out of the country, before the Russian secret police, the Cheka, were able to capture him.

The task was awesome. The borders had been sealed and a succession of couriers who had tried to cross them had been captured; six were betrayed, tortured and shot in one fortnight alone. So a high-speed boat landing at a pre-arranged rendezvous on the coastline near Petrograd was planned instead.

CMBs were 40ft long, had a crew of three, carried two Lewis machine guns and a single torpedo. They had hydroplane hulls, hence their nickname "skimmers," but were made of plywood so were almost defenceless against enemy fire.

The fastest naval vessels afloat, they were ideal for slipping past the huge array of defences in the Gulf of Finland - except for the deafening noise they made when they reached their top speed of 45mph.

Protecting the sea approach to Petrograd was the forbidding island fortress of Kronstadt and its 15 forts - nine to the north, six to the south - with enough guns to halt any enemy fleet.

Furthermore, the forts were connected by a hidden breakwater that MI6 told Agar was only three feet under the surface and which, since CMBs drew 2ft 9in of water, meant that his two vessels would have only three inches to spare at normal speed.
Although the Gulf of Finland is 250 miles long, it is only 30 miles wide, and with gunboat patrols, floating and fixed mines, searchlights, submarines and seaplanes, it seemed impassable to any but the most intrepid sailor.

Cumming explained the mission to Agar in his office in Whitehall, and ordered him to choose only unmarried men with no immediate dependants for his seven-man team; Agar himself had been orphaned at the age of 12, and although he had a sweetheart they were not then engaged.

Cumming also warned Agar that in the event of capture he could expect no help, or even official recognition, from the British Government.

His unit would be in plain clothes, although Royal Navy uniforms and caps would be donned in the event of capture, to protect them from being shot as spies.
If the story sounds interesting, click the link above for an extended summary, or you can get the details inOperation Kronstadt: The True Story of Honor, Espionage, and the Rescue of Britain's Greatest SpyThe Man with a Hundred Faces by Harry Ferguson. Wouldn't it make a great movie ... if Hollywood still made movies of this type?

Wrong heroes, I guess.


UltimaRatioRegis said...

<span>Hell of a story.  And interesting film.  Almost as blatant leftist propaganda as Hollywood's efforts. 

<span>Why, if they were a little more diverse, it would be JUST the kind of Navy that senior leadership is looking for! 
Complete with the political leanings.</span>

ewok40k said...

to add another twist to the story - in 1921 , sailors of the Baltic fleet appaled by communists reneging on the very promises of freedom and prosperity that carried them to victory over the old regime, rebelled again - only to be mercilessly crushed by newly-formed Red Army:

Byron said...

No offense gentlemen, but the point of the article is a celebration of uncommon courge in the face of overwhelming odds. Anything else is bullshit.

Salty Gator said...

I understand why people get angry that heroes are not celebrated.  But let us not be divided as Navy and Civillian leadership tries to divide us.  We are Sailors, Marines, and former Sailors/Marines.  Period.  We celebrate all of our heroes, because they are our brothers and sisters.  We all look alike--like Warriors.

We will not let politics or politicians impact our celebration.  They are not of us, therefore they cannot take away that which is ours--Pride, Honor, Fraternity.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"<span>They are not of us, therefore they cannot take away that which is ours--Pride, Honor, Fraternity."</span>

Oh, but they can.  <span>Salty, sorry to disagree with you and Byron.  In fact, taken as a whole, the Diversity directorates, affinity groups, DACOWITS, NNOA, preference politics, the blunting of the warrior ethos with being a "global force for good", the PTSD fiasco, they are designed to do just that.  Divide, marginalize, discredit, erode.  </span>

Wasn't it Berthold Brecht who told us that government can indeed change the people? 

Besides, fellas, lighten up.  I did say "hell of a story", and was just having some fun with a genuine Bolshevik propaganda film.  And no, I didn't mean a Michael Moore film....

Salty Gator said...

<span>(Not an attack on you, URR. I save my powder for Alpha Check Fail)  
I agree that these bums are designed to divide us as Sailors, but I have faith that we have warriors of integrity that will see through it and stand up to it--of all races.  They haven't taken my pride, my honor, or my fraternity.  They can't cheapen my love of the Navy with their bullshit affinity groups, their racist policies, what have you.  They couldn't take away the love of country for the Army or the Country by Tuskegee Airmen when they were being discriminated against, they couldn't take away the love of country or the Navy by Master Chief Carl Brashier or Petty Officer Dorie Miller.  
What we really need is for folks to SACK UP at "All Hands Calls" with Admirals and SECNAV and say something about this.  CNO and his ilk self contratulating with the diversity industry for the accomplishments of minorities and in some cases plowing the road for metrics farming is disgusting.  It forces questioning about all women and minorities in the minds of sailors because they don't know who didn't get it on their own and who earned it.  So yes, in that case, there is nothing we can do to prevent the imminent division</span>

virgil xenophon said...

The proverbial snowball in Hell would have a better chance than would this story ever have of being made into a movie these days. Now if it had only involved "safe" "Right-Wing" villains like the Nazis....(forgetting for the moment the National SOCIALIST bit--but hey, why bother with the facts?)

Now if Mel Gibson could only be persuaded to produce it the Hollywood lefties would REALLY go crazy! DOUBLEPLUSUNGOOD!! (and sadly it wold take somebody willing to put up his own money to film controversial subjects like Mel does--whatever one thinks of HIM--to get the project done.)

ewok40k said...

other than that 2 thoughts emerged in my head after reading the article:
1. WW1 motor torpedo boats units were truly forges of its times naval asymmetric warfare, with italians going farthest with the infamous X MAS flotilla (worthy of another FBF)
2. I truly hope no Iranian Naval Revolutionary Guard is reading this as it may get him some ideas...

GBS said...

I'd like to know where he got those shoes. :-P

ewok40k said...

probably had custom-made to order... remeber those balsa boats were delicate, not suitable for ordinary navy boots :P