Hostname: page-component-59f8fd8595-hk2jd Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-22T17:25:32.588Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2003

Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge


The celebrated ‘Cambridge five’ have hitherto been believed to be the first long-term communist penetration agents in HM government, beginning with Donald Maclean in 1935. However, new research indicates that by 1919 another Cambridge man – like four of the ‘five’, a Trinity graduate – had already begun working for Moscow. This article is the first to examine how William Norman Ewer, known as ‘Trilby’ to his co-conspirators, organized networks in Great Britain and France to target the governments of those two powers. Under close Soviet supervision, Ewer's subordinates infiltrated half-a-dozen Whitehall departments, foremost among them Scotland Yard. Operating under the aegis of the home office, the Yard was a vital cog in the machinery of government set up to combat the ‘red menace’ in this country immediately after the First World War. By compromising the lead agency tasked with fighting them, the Bolsheviks thus created the requisite conditions for the metastasis in Great Britain of Soviet espionage in the 1920s.

Research Article
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Sincere thanks to the editors, anonymous referees, Christopher Andrew, Gill Bennett, James Bruce, and especially Mathilde von Bülow. The author is indebted to the British Council, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, the Cambridge Faculty of History, the Canadian Centennial Scholarship fund, Gonville and Caius College, the Royal Historical Society, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for their generosity. Cabinet office (CAB), foreign office (FO), and security service (KV) files are at the National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office), London. Fonds Moscou (FM) files are at the Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre (SHAT), Château de Vincennes, France.