Lt Wilfred Francis Remington Macartney, Royal Scots

1946 Macartney

TNA file KV 2/647

1898 Jun 16 Born. Scotland in 1895 on RIC register.1898 on Death Cert. Cupar, Fife on a web site. Malta on other sites. Said to be to an American mother and an Irish-Scots American father. His father, John Francis Macartney, had made a lot of money from his business, Macartney & McElroy, an engineering company specializing in electric tramway systems. John Francis F Macartney was in fact born in Monmouthshire in 1866 and moved to USA sometime before 1900The family traveled extensively with him between America, Great Britain and the Mediterranean.

In fact it turns out that he was born in Paddington, London in 16 Jun 1898. His mother was Canadian. And I suspect living apart from her husband, who fathered at least 3 illegitimate children and was engaged to marry a woman in Malta when he died unexpectedly in 1912

1899 May 7. Baptised in London.

1901 census at 12, Gordon Avenue, Portswood, Southampton

1905. As a six-year-old, while the family were living in the Ukraine, Wilfred saw his mother being wrongfully arrested by Tsarist police for spying. The authorities soon realised it was a case of mistaken identity and she was released

1908 Apr 21. Arrives in UK from Jamaica with his father.

1912 Aug 3. Left UK for Malta. Travels with John Francis Macartney who is aged 27. (this is his brother.)

1913 Feb 15. His father John Francis Macartney died aged 44 years. He had been the principal shareholder and managing director of Macartney, McElroy & Co. Ltd. This company designed and constructed the Malta Electric Tramway system in 1907, followed by the Barracca Electric Lift. Wilfred's father died leaving a £100,000 fortune, leaving 13-year-old Wilfred and his older brother a third of his company each. The teenagers gave themselves large salaries, with Wilfred taking £ 500 a year and his brother taking £2500 a year as managing director. Together, they ousted a third director, the company's secretary, who later took them to court and won some compensation. But the judgment was convoluted as to who was to blame.

1914 Sep 3. Arrives in Us from UK He has been living in Valletta, Malta and his mother is living at 29 Torrington Sq, London. He went to Pittsburg to serve an apprenticeship with Westinghouse. His father had been sub-contractor for Westinghouse.

He returned to UK fairly soon. He tried to enlist, but was because of his eyesight and became a driver in the Third London Ambulance Corps.

1915 He was successful in enlisting and he was assigned to the Royal Army Medical Corp as a driver. He was sent to France and soon secured a commission.

1915 Dec 14. A rather odd court case in which the third director of the company is not happy with being sacked. Full details at under Macartney & McElroy

1916 Apr 5. Essex R. Wilfred Francis Macartney to be temp. 2nd Lt.

1916 Aug 27 Temp Assistant Paymaster RNR on Light Cruiser Newcastle. This is the only entry in the Navy List

His first posting was to the Aegean under the command of Captain Compton Mackenzie, who headed British Intelligence operations in the region. He was working for MI1(c) here. Compton Mackenzie, who became a firm friend, described Wilfred as "a pink-faced, cherubic, grinning youth with glasses, wearing the badges of the Essex Regiment". Compton Mackenzie founded the Aegean Intelligence Service in 1917 and enjoyed considerable autonomy for some months as its director. He was recalled to London in September 1917

1917 May 11. HMS Newcastle log " At Colombo 4.00 pm Mr. Macartney, Assistant Paymaster, RNR, to HMS SUVA . Suva was part of the Red Sea Patrol during WW1.

1917 Sep. Macartney returned to France. He had specialist eye treatment in Egypt that enabled him to return to duty with the The Royal Scots in France.

1918 Sep 21. POW in Germany. He rejoined the 7th Battalion of the Royal Scots, but was wounded and taken prisoner in France when a German attack left all his fellow officers dead. His captors treated him well, even saving one of his eyes. Metal was also removed from one of his thighs, but it was only 10 years later, while he was in an English prison, that shrapnel embedded in his shoulder was removed.

1918 Oct 17. He escaped from a train taking him from Perchim in Germany to Aix-la-Chapelle. But instead of walking into Holland - and safety - he ended up in Bilsen in Belgium. He knocked on the door of a large house and was taken in by its wealthy owner. A couple of weeks later, Wilfred managed to make his way back to London. 1918 Nov 9. He faced a court-martial, but was cleared of absconding and received a certificate of merit from the Army Council for his escape.

1919 Jul 15. Rly. Traffic Officers (Cl. HH).— Temp Lt. W. F. Macartney, 1st Garr. Bn., Essex R. After the Armistice Macartney was attached to the Berlin-Baghdad Railway Mission in Constantinople where he was appointed Railway Transport Officer.

1920 Nov 3. Essex R. 1st Garr. Bn.— Temp- Lt. W. F Macartney relinquishes his commission on completion of service, and retains the rank of Lt. By the time he left the army in 1919, he was a heavy drinker and had was consorting with gamblers and conmen. He borrowed heavily to buy his brother's interest in the Malta tramways for £18,000 but was soon forced to sell it again.

1920 Aug 17. Joined ADRIC with service no 267. Posted to Depot Coy.

1920 Dec 25 "permitted to resign"

1921 Feb Following Trim Looting and the dismissal of 25 Cadets by Crozier, Crozier later wrote the a man matching WF Macartney's profile (ie Crozier said the man had later served 10 Years in an English jail for conspiring to sell secrets to the Russians) induced the dismissed Cadets to go to the Irish Office in London to demand reinstatement

1921 Aug 20 Joined Spanish Foreign Legion. He served as a Private in the Spanish Foreign Legion. He was in a group of 53 British Legionnaires who returned from Morocco 26 Nov 1921. The initial make-up of the regiment was that of a headquarters unit and three battalions (known as Banderas, lit. "banners"- another archaic 16th century term). Each battalion was in turn made up of a headquarters company, two rifle companies and a machine gun company. The regiment's initial location was at the Cuartel del Rey en Ceuta on the Plaza de Colón.


1921 Nov 26. Arrives back in London from Morocco.

1923 Feb. Married in St Giles, London to Martha J Warden, the Irish daughter of a theatre actor, but by the end of 1925 he was virtually broke.

1926 Feb 16. . In central criminal court. Tried for " Breaking and entering the shop of Garrard & Co Ltd with intent to steal therein. And damaging one plate glass window, the property of Garrard & Co. The verdict was "Guilty of attempted shop breaking and committing damage. He was sentenced to 9 months in jail. It was in jail he met two fervent communists and became a communist himself. On his release, he needed to support himself and Martha, he began taking a salary for giving military information to the USSR.

1926 Oct 19. According to a MI6 report, Macartney was "very neatly dressed, usually wears an eyeglass, and of excellent address and good education; small to medium height, clean shaven, dark hair usually worn brushed right back from his forehead... Macartney is completely unscrupulous, can never tell the truth about any matter, is very clever but not quite so clever as he thinks."

1926 Oct 19 . Another MI5 report claimed that he had joined the Communist Party of Great Britain.

1927 Jan and Feb. He acquired two convictions for being drunk and disorderly in the West End.

1927 Mar. Macartney approached Lloyds underwriter, George Monckland, and asked him to find out about shipments of arms to Finland from cargo documents lodged with various insurers. When he carried out the task he was given £25 and told the information had been given to the Soviet Union.

1927 Mar 11. Monckland went to see William Reginald (Blinker) Hall, the former head of Naval Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy, who was now a Conservative Party MP, and told him what had happened. Hall then passed the information on to Vernon Kell, the head of MI5. Desmond Morton and Guy Liddell were asked to investigate Macartney to see if he was part of a Soviet spy ring. Monckland was run as a double agent until November when Macartney and his Soviet Control, Georg Hansen were arrested. Even so, the evidence Joyston-Hicks had so far obtained by this operation was not, according to the cabinet sufficient to initiate a breach with the Soviets. His chance came when he received information from an ARCOS employee that the trade delegation had obtained a copy of the Army's signals training manual. According to Christopher Andrew this information had "possibly" come "via Monkland", though he offers no justification for the assumption. In fact Liddell had given Monckland a RAF manual that was about to be updated. He was asked to pass this onto Macartney. Special Branch agents claimed that they had observed this manual being passed onto Soviet officials attached to the All Russian Co-operative Society (Arcos).

1927 May 11. Basil Thomson, the head of Special Branch, had a meeting with William Joynson-Hicks, the Home Secretary. Thomson told Joynson-Hicks, that he believed that the Russians were in possession of a secret RAF document. He proposed a massive police raid on the Soviet Trade Delegation with a warrant issued by a magistrate under the Official Secrets Act (1911). The following day a raiding party that consisted of about 100 uniformed policemen, 50 Special Branch officers and a small group of Foreign Office interpreters, entered the offices of the Soviet Trade Delegation and the All Russian Co-operative Society. In the basement they discovered a specially protected room with no handle on the door. Eventually the police managed to force an entry and found two men pushing documents into a blazing fire.

The raid lasted three days and it took the Special Branch officers a further three days to sort the papers they had seized. The RAF handbook was never found but they did find several compromising letters relating to future trade union plans. In fact they found nothing of any significance. Nevertheless with the help of some earlier intercepted Soviet telegrams, Joyston-Hicks and the government pressed on and broke off diplomatic relations at the end of May after an uproarious commons debate. It was a disaster for British Intelligence. The Arcos raid had produced insufficient evidence to justify either the raid or the severing of diplomatic relations.

1927 Nov 16. Wilfred Macartney was arrested. He was charged with offences under the Official Secrets Act (1911) and was held at Brixton Prison until his trial at the Old Bailey in January 1928. The main evidence against Macartney was provided by George Monckland. Macartney's defence team attempted to to discredit Monckland by claiming that his circle of friends were "mainly criminal types". It was also argued that Macartney was a part-time journalist looking for information for articles. Macartney also claimed that Monckland had offered to obtain evidence that the Zinoviev Letter had been forged by MI5. Macartney was eventually convicted of various charges under the Official Secrets Act including "attempting to obtain information on the RAF" and "collecting information relating to the mechanized force of His Majesty's Army". He "received ten years, to be served concurrently with a further sentence of two years' hard labour." He actually served 8 years before release. .

1928 Feb 28. Appeal fails

He said: "The food I received in German prison camps was, with the exception of the bread, cleaner and more nutritious and more palatable than what was grudgingly given me at Parkhurst. The food on certain days was uneatable even to a hungry man." He was promised better conditions if he agreed to act as a spy on his fellow prisoners. He was also desperate to see his mother, who he knew was dying of a stomach ulcer, but Wilfred refused to cooperate, sticking to his own strange code of honour. During a visit from his wife, he discussed the offer with her, but they agreed he would keep his dignity. He said: "My wife is Irish and in her blood is the hatred and loathing of an informer." His mother died shortly after, having had her last wish to see her son denied.

1935. After leaving prison he approached several newspapers, including the Daily Herald, offering to provide them with inside stories of his life as a Secret Service agent. Desmond Morton wrote to George Joseph Ball, a MI5 officer, advising him to keep Macartney under observation. During this period Macartney published two articles in the Sunday Worker entitled "Boss Propaganda in the Scrubs" and "The Fate of the Good Union Men".

He also wrote of his time in prison "Walls have mouths" . Quote from George Orwell in his Review of Walls Have Mouths " This is a remarkable book.  It is formless and badly written, but packed full of the kind of details that matter." The Adelphi (Nov. 1936)

1936 Dec 5. Gives an alibi in a court case.

1936 Dec. He now decided to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. As he was one of the few volunteers who had military experience, he was appointed the first commander of the British Battalion. He was in charge of the battalion for the first 5 weeks of its existence. Depending on who you believe, he was at that point either recalled by Communist Party of Great Britain to London and that he should be replaced by party member, Tom Wintringham. Or he was going on temporary leave as part of his bail conditions he had to report to the British Police regularly

1937 Feb 6. Peter Kerrigan went to see McCartney and later recalled what happened during this meeting: "I visited him in his room... he had a big, heavy revolver and I had a rather small Belgian revolver, and he said: Look Peter, how about you giving me your revolver. I am going through France I don't want to lump this thing about. I said all right. He asked to show me how to operate it. I took the revolver in my hand but I can't say for sure whether or not I touched the safety catch, or whether it was off or not, or whether I touched the trigger, but suddenly there was a shot and I had hit him in the arm with a bullet from the small Belgian revolver. We rushed him to hospital, got him an anti-tetanus injection and he was patched up and off he went." But a different view was given by Charles Sewell Bloom, an intelligence officer at the International Brigade Headquarters "We were going to the front and Wilfred McCartney didn't want to go back [to London]. He said he was going with the fellows to the front. Peter Kerrigan and the rest of us thought he shouldn't, and it so happens that he shot him in the arm to make him go back to hospital. That was the only way to get him back because we didn't want to give him a bad name."

1939 Feb 23. He lost a libel action that he brought against the Daily Telegraph

Wilfred Macartney, Dave Springhill, Peter Kerrigan, Tom Wintringham and Frank Ryan in February 1937 before the Battle of Jarma.

1939 Register. Living at 17 Steele's Road , Hampstead, London,. He is a Journalist

1941 June. When MI5 received a tip-off that photographer Lee Miller was a "strong communist" they opened a file on her. Lee Miller was already something of a celebrity, a glamorous international figure. American by birth, she had been a model for Vogue in the 1920s before becoming a photographer. Lee Miller had also been spotted by Special Branch in the summer of 1941when she spent a short holiday at the home of Wilfred Macartney in Devon. Special Branch noted that there were five women staying with him in June 1941 - including the wife of Harry Pollitt, leader of the British Communist Party, and Lee Miller.

WW2. Sir Edward Montague Compton MacKenzie (1883-1972) served in the First World War in British intelligence, on the Gallipoli front and in Greece, by which time he was already a well-established literary figure. He was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act in 1932 in connection with revelations about his War service in his book Greek Memories, pleaded guilty and was fined £100. The publishers withdrew the book on the day of publication. MacKenzie settled in Barra in the Outer Hebrides in 1934 and became a committed Scottish nationalist. In WW2 MacKenzie was in charge of Home Guard defence of Barra, and there are papers in The National Archive on his efforts to secure travel permits for his friend W F R MacArtney to visit the island, which are echoed in his later novel Whisky Galore. MacKenzie makes allegations that he was the subject of Security Service persecution, and there are allegations on the file that he had briefed Aneurin Bevan on Greek affairs for various parliamentary questions put down by Bevan.

1946 Mar 29. Macartney befriended Eddie Chapman who worked for MI5 in the Second World War. Chapman worked on an undercover operation against Adolf Hitler. This included sending back false information on the accuracy of the V-1 weapon. Chapman consistently reported to the Germans that the bombs were overshooting their central London target, when in fact they were undershooting. After the war McCartney and Chapman wrote an account of this deception. The story was brought by a French newspaper, Etoile du Soir, which resulted in both men being convicted under the Official Secrets Act at Bow Street

1954 Dec 3. Bankruptcy hearings. MACARTNEY, Wilfred Francis Remington, 31, Buckingham Gate, London. S.W., described in the Receiving Order as W. F. R. Macartney of Hotel Pastoria, [Leicester Square, London, W.C.2, and lately residing at Eastcliff, (Budleigh Salterton, in the county of Devon, JOURNALIST.(Bankruptcy Buildings. Carey Street. London)

1970 Nov 4. Died Westminster, London (death notice in Times, but no obituary)