The Traitorous Code Clerk, Part Three
By David H. Lippman
The story began in Part One and continued in Part Two.
In our previous installment, Tyler Kent had reached out to London’s Russian émigré community, spending time at the Russian Tea Room.
There, amid polished wooden furniture, paneled walls, and an open fireplace, Russian émigrés dined on “the best caviar in all London” and drank lemon tea from huge samovars. The boss was Admiral Nikolai Wolkoff, a formidably-bearded man who had been Tsar Nicholas II’s naval attaché in London at the time of the October Revolution of 1917. Trapped in London by the collapse of his empire, Wolkoff, his wife Vera (a former maid of honor to the Tsarina), and their four children stayed in London, broke and homeless. Well-to-do British friends set the Wolkoffs up in the café business.
By 1940, Admiral Wolkoff’s three daughters and one son had all become naturalized British citizens, and the family star was 36-year-old daughter Anna Wolkoff, an intense, short, dumpy, aggressive woman, who was unpopular with fellow White Russians for banging the table at charity meetings.
Anna ran the Russian Tea Room with her cooking skills, and a successful dress design salon as well, but her main business was her absolute hatred of Bolshevism as a Jewish plot. She was furious that her admiral father was rewarded for a lifetime of service to Mother Russia by having to own a restaurant in London. But her hatred of Jews pre-dated the October Revolution. “I was brought up on that, ever since I was a child,” she testified at her trial. “Every Russian, especially of my standing, hates Jews. I was literally suckled on it.”
When Britain entered the war, Anna and her father both regarded it as a mistake, saying the decision was engineered by Jews. They called upon Chamberlain to make peace.
Just before the war, Anna visited the portions of Czechoslovakia occupied by Hitler’s troops, meeting with the Nazi proconsul there, Karl Hermann Frank. She came home and wrote a report for her friends, blasting the Czechs, and saying that the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia was fully justified.
And Anna had access to some high society, too, through her dress design business and her “Anna Blue,” her clientele included the Duchess of Gloucester and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.
Sharing a mutual hatred of Jews, Anna and Kent became fast friends, and possibly lovers, sharing weekends together. Kent transferred her car to his name, so he could use Embassy gasoline coupons to head for the south coast, while the rest of England put their cars up on chocks for the duration.
Kent found a mistress anyway through Anna, one Irene Danischewsky, the redheaded wife of Alexander Danischewsky, another White Russian émigré and business figure. Oddly enough, Irene and her husband were Jewish. Irene wasn’t Kent’s only girlfriend – he had several. Irene was also the elder sister of Basil Mirionoff, whose daughter, Helen, would later change her name to Mirren, and go on to win an Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 movie The Queen.
Through Anna, Kent also met another leading British anti-Semite, Capt. Archibald Henry Maule Ramsay, a slim, elegant man with a hawk-like nose and trim moustache. Ramsay had an impressive pedigree: Eton, Sandhurst, Coldstream Guards in World War I, where he had been wounded and earned a Military Cross. He was now Conservative Member of Parliament for the Scottish constituency of Peebles and Southern Midlothian, since 1931.
Since the mid-1920s, Ramsay had been one of Britain’s loudest anti-Semites, speaking at Rotary Clubs about the evils of Communism and Jews, with a standard “Red Wings Over Europe” stump speech, which stressed the Jewish aspects of Bolshevism. He also denounced Jewish millionaires as well, accusing Jews in general of trying to destroy Christianity, in particular of seeking to take over Britain.
This harsh rhetoric played well with voters in the Scottish district of Peebles and Southern Midlothian in the 1931 General Election, gaining him the seat amid the despair of the Great Depression. Once in the House of Commons, Ramsay was no great success, introducing the Aliens Restriction (Blasphemy) Bill, which would have prevented aliens residing in Britain from attending international communist congresses. He was also an angry supporter of Francisco Franco when the Spanish Civil War broke out, denouncing the Republicans as the “Godless Red Terror that threatened Spain then, and . . . all Europe.”
When not denouncing Communists on the House floor, he did so for the National Citizens Union, the Order of the Child, and the British Israel World Federation, which claimed that the British (not the Jews) were God’s “Chosen People.”
Ramsay was also a supporter of one of Britain’s wartime embarrassments, the Anglo-German Fellowship, a respectable enough organization in peacetime, which sought better relations between Britain and Germany. Two of its members were Communist infiltrators reporting to their masters in Moscow, Kim Philby and Guy Burgess.
More worrisome to Special Branch was Ramsay’s membership in an outfit called “The Link,” a more extreme pro-German organization, whose branches numbered 35 and membership 4,329. Through its official organ, the Anglo-German Review, it spouted Joseph Goebbels’ lies almost verbatim.
And even that wasn’t enough for the angry Ramsay. He formed his own group in May 1938, the “Right Club,” which was a secret society, in best schoolboy style, with emblem (an eagle crushing a viper), ranks (based on how much members paid), and pro-Nazi rhetoric. Its members included a bizarre array of characters: William Joyce, the future Lord Haw-Haw, was number eight on the list, but other members included such names as the four Mitford daughters, 12 Members of Parliament, and the current Duke of Wellington, the direct descendant of the Iron Duke of Waterloo, who coordinated the Right Club’s pro-German, anti-Communist, and anti-Semitic activities.
Needless to say, Kent was heavily involved in all of Ramsay’s groups, although his name did not appear on their lists – probably because he was a foreign diplomat. But the most committed member was Anna Wolkoff, who served as Ramsay’s aide-de-camp and political secretary from an office in her restaurant.
All of these organizations’ activities were distasteful but legal in pre-war Britain, but once Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and Britain entered the war two days later, the Anglo-German Fellowship collapsed, and the Link was immediately disbanded, with its chairman, Sir Barry Domvile, saying, “The King’s enemies became our enemies. We had done our best for better Anglo-German relations and with the outbreak of hostilities there was no more to be done.”
But the Right Club remained alive, going underground, operating behind the blackout curtains of Anna’s flat, even though Anna joined the Auxiliary Fire Service. There, Right Club members whined over tea about rationing, the blackout, how to pressure the government to accept peace with Hitler, and which of their opponents should be summarily hanged when Hitler invaded England.
The Right Club’s other campaign was “sticky-backs,” which consisted of members, including Anna herself, slipping out at night into the blackout, and pasting stickers on smooth surfaces that said, “This is a Jews’ War,” and other pro-Hitler slogans. They also defaced ARP posts and government posters with greasepaint, and would boo and jeer Winston Churchill when he appeared on newsreels. Anna batted out detailed orders to her supporters on how to place the stickers, with great seriousness, often on Kent’s typewriter, in his flat. One read: “As danger signal talk of the weather, for instance. Colder from the East means someone is approaching from the right,”
Soon Ramsay was in Kent’s flat, too, reading telegrams from Churchill to Roosevelt that Kent had waylaid, the beginnings of a relationship and friendship that would steer the two nations through six years of war and form one of the firmest and most permanent alliances in history.
The telegrams were direct messages from Churchill in his capacity as First Lord of the Admiralty to FDR, discussing how the Royal Navy was stopping and searching neutral merchant ships to ensure they were not carrying contraband cargoes for Germany, which impacted on American merchantmen sailing to the Reich. Churchill faced a major dilemma: how to strangle Germany’s economy without offending American shippers and public opinion.
To Kent, the messages appeared as if Roosevelt and Churchill were plotting behind the British War Cabinet’s back to bring the United States into the war on the side of the Allies and the Jews he hated. Kent took photographs of the messages using film and glass plate. He passed these copies to Ramsay, who heartily agreed. But what neither knew was that Churchill’s messages were being sent with the approval of Whitehall, and at this point, Churchill was trying to avoid anything that would anger the isolationist American public.
David H. Lippman, an award-winning journalist
and graduate of the New School for Social Research,
has written many magazine articles about World
War II. He currently works
as a public information officer for the city
of Newark, N.J. We're always pleased to add his work
to our Daily Content.