Major Cyrus Hunter Regnart, RMLI

1878 Nov 26 , Winchmore Hill, Edmonton; son of Clare Henry Regnart and Harriet Elizabeth. His father was an upholsterer.

1879 Apr 6. Baptised at St Paul, Edmonton

1878 Arrives at Uppingham School. Begnart, Cyrus Hunter. [W. D.] Nov. 1878. Son of C. H Regnart, Stonehall, Winchmore Hill, N. Left Aug. 1895, Capt. Royal Marine Light Infantry, Plymouth.

1881 census at Hill House, Winchmore Hill, Edmonton

1891 at 42 Primrose Hill Rd, with his aunt who is a teacher

1895 Aug. Leaves Uppingham School

1897 Sep 1. Appointed 2nd Lt. His service record is available

1898 Jul 1. Promoted Lt

1901 census he is presumably abroad on service

1903 Lieutenant, serving with the Royal Marines on board HMS Diana in Malta

1904 Jul 9. Lt C H Regnart RMLI to be Capt.

1904 Dec 3 To Naval Intelligence Dept to 21 Oct 1905

1906 Aug 1 to 1 Sep 1906. To Naval Intelligence Dept

1908 Feb 8. Royal Marine Light Infantry. Captain Cyrus Hunter Regnart is seconded for service in the Naval Intelligence Department, vice Captain Frederick Lewis Dibblee, Royal 'Marine Artillery, vacated appointment.

1910 Feb. From MI6 by Keith Jeffries. Over five days in February 1910, Cumming accompanied by Captain Cyrus H. ‘Roy’ Regnart, a Royal Marine who was Bethell’s assistant in the Naval Intelligence Department, he went twice to Antwerp to meet an agent who failed to appear. He had a more adventurous time in April when (again with Regnart) he went first to Paris to meet his agent B, then on to Liège where they were to meet ‘JR’, who had promised to provide intelligence on German airship construction and show them a new type of portable weapon he was to smuggle out of Germany. A firearms expert was brought from London, and Cumming organised a professional photographer to join them en route in Brussels. Unfortunately these elaborate – perhaps over-elaborate – plans broke down. Although JR arrived from Berlin, Cumming and the photographer got separated from Regnart and the expert, neither of whom made the rendezvous. JR (who perhaps had more experience than Cumming in these matters) altered the arrangements at the last minute, not bringing the weapon to Liège but keeping it at a previously undisclosed location about an hour’s drive away. Cumming and the photographer got there in mid-afternoon, and in failing light quickly had to set to work. JR produced the device only after Cumming had paid him ‘the 25 [pounds] agreed on, and also a further 10 for the answers to the questions sent by the airship people

Nicolson recognised that the decision to appoint a British intelligence officer permanently in a foreign country (who, in later SIS parlance, would have been the first overseas ‘head of station’) was not one to be taken lightly. .... Cumming’s candidate was Regnart, ‘an excellent linguist, speaking Danish, German & other languages & . . . very keen on S.S. work’... Interviewed about the appointment by Nicolson’s private secretary, Lord Errington, Cumming told him that Regnart had private means (which because of the poor rates of pay offered to full-time members of the Bureau was widely thought to be essential), ‘did not care for Society’ and ‘was prepared to sink his identity altogether – even to the extent of taking a shop under a trade name and working it as a bona fide business, to cover his real objects’. Errington ‘said that the FO did not wish to place themselves under any obligation to the officer, so that he could come to them in a year or twos time and say that he had lost say £5000, and want it good’. He was also most anxious about maintaining the secrecy of the matter and ensuring that there should not be the remotest possibility of the government being associated with the proposed intelligence work. How was the officer to ‘sink his identity’, he asked? ‘Did the attaches know him? If his letters went astray or were intercepted would he not be traced as having been at his present office?’ After Cumming had ‘reassured him on all these points’, Errington ‘appeared satisfi ed on the whole’, though he continued to quiz Cumming about the chances of disclosure.

1910 Nov. From MI6 by Keith Jeffries. Cumming’s carefully prepared scheme was upset in November 1910 by the trial for espionage in Germany of two British officers, Lieutenant Vivian Brandon and Captain Bernard Trench, who had been caught red-handed in August with maps, notes and photographs of defence and naval installations on the German North Sea coast and along the Kiel Canal. The two men had been working primarily for Regnart (though Cumming had agreed to provide £10 for any ‘extra expenses’), and there were fears that his involvement might become known to the Germans. In the end the appointment was not made and Regnart remained in the Admiralty.........

1911 census at Stone Hall, Winchmore Hill, Edmonton

1911 - 1914 Held high rank in NID

1912. From MI6 by Keith Jeffries. Late in 1912 Lord Onslow (who had succeeded Errington as Nicolson’s private secretary in May 1911) allowed £1,000 ‘for miscellaneous payments and contingencies’, which Cumming called ‘my special fund’. Cumming also secured permission to expand his operations in Belgium, and he proposed that Regnart should be appointed as ‘Branch Agent’ in Brussels. This led to an extraordinary public disagreement between Cumming and Captain Thomas Jackson, who had succeeded Bethell as Director of Naval Intelligence (but with the new title, which prevailed for the next six years, of Director of the Intelligence Division) in January 1912.

1913 May When Cumming explained to the May 1913 committee meeting that he wanted ‘to employ a certain Marine officer, who possessed special qualifications’, Jackson interjected that ‘he personally did not consider the man whom C wanted was suitable. He did not consider him either hardworking, clever or tactful, nor that he would be loyal to C, but that was C’s affair.’ Cumming persevered, asserting that ‘the officer in question was well fitted’. Henry Wilson supported him. ‘It was’, he said, ‘impossible to get a perfect man for the appointment, but he knew the officer referred to was keen on his work, a good linguist, and an artist in Secret Service.’ Jackson then changed tack and argued ‘that no officer should be selected for this work while still on the active list. In fact he should not even be offered it until he had retired and it should not be possible for him to say that he had left the service [the Royal Navy] in order to take up the job and thus establish a claim for compensation in case of discharge.’ No one disagreed with this, and in the end Cumming got his man. Nicolson ‘finally said that if & as soon as Roy [Regnart] retired, I could have him. McJ [Jackson] said we should all regret it, but it was decided that as I had to work with him, I should be allowed to try him.’ Cumming had no illusions that Regnart would make a congenial colleague. When considering him for the Copenhagen job he had reflected in his diary that he was ‘a very difficult man to work with, as he plays an independent game and will not submit to control – I shall find him a constant thorn in my side’. Yet he also believed that he was ‘the best man for the post’, and ‘I would rather risk a certain amount of personal discomfort and worry than have a second rate man as my Chief Branch Agent’.

1913 May 20. London Gazette. Capt C H Regnart on return from the seconded list (in Naval Intelligence) is absorbed in the establishment

1913 Jul 1. The undermentioned retired Officers are appointed to the Reserve of Officers in the rank last held by them whilst on the Active List: Captain Cyrus Hunter Regnart, Royal Marine Light Infantry.

1913 Jul 1. Captain Cyrus Hunter Regnart is placed on the Retired List at his own request, with a gratuity of £1600, under the provisions of Order in Council of 29th November, 1881.

1914. From MI6 by Keith Jeffries. The disagreement over Regnart’s appointment illustrates both Cumming’s increasing confidence in his own judgment and a preparedness not to defer automatically to higher authority, as well as a shrewd appreciation of the variable range of personalities he had to deal with in intelligence work. Over the first half of 1914 Cumming seems to have spent most of his time working on the deployment of agents along Germany’s western frontier, intended both to give early warning of a German attack and to provide the basis for intelligence reporting after war had started. Th ere were two main networks based in Belgium. The first was run by Roy Regnart in Brussels and concentrated on the eastern frontier with Germany, the ‘Maastricht appendix’ (that part of the Netherlands which protruded south into Belgium and through which the strategists thought a German attack might come), and up into the Netherlands to Venlo and Nijmegen. From here he aimed to watch German ‘military centres’ such as Cologne, Münster and Oldenburg. In February DB submitted a report on the railway line between Roermond and Maaseik at the northern end of the appendix. Roy Regnart, troublesome as ever, complained to Cumming that he could ‘do nothing without more £ [money]’ and said it was ‘useless to try & get agents at the Ports & elsewhere’ unless he could ‘retain them at once and pay them’. He thought ‘he ought to have at least £500 a year & a free hand’.

1914 Jun 30 His mother died in Folkestone

1914 Jul 31 Recalled to service because of the emergency. He appears, on the surface, to have spent the whole war as commanding officer Fort Loch Ewe, a remote Scottish naval base, keeping watch over a boom net across the mouth of the loch. This seems very unlikely, given his service in espionage over the previous few years.

Loch Ewe did have a top secret role in WW1 being involved in the development of magnetic indicator loops for submarine detection. These first proved their effectiveness by detecting a U boat at Scapa Flow in 1918 and are today a very important element in a number of countries anti submarine defences (especially those of the USA). They were a RN invention and their development during WW1 was regarded as very secret indeed

Blumberg's 'Sea Soldiers'. In the early days of the war, it was found necessary to establish a small base on the west coast of Scotland for various purposes; Aultbea being selected. HMS Illustrious landed her Royal Marine officer Captain C H Regnart RMLI (retd), with two NCOs, one marine gunner, RMA, and eight privates, RMLI (reservists), and some 12-pounder guns, to form a small battery to guard the entrance to the loch. When HMS Illustrious left, a reinforcement of two NCOs and 19 privates from Chatham were sent up and the battery was properly organised. This small party maintained their lonely and monotonous duties throughout the war, gradually improving their organisation and accommodation. The battery was under the control of the Senior Naval Officer as it was required for Naval purposes, and had to be organised quickly as an 'Advanced Base.'”

1914 Sep. , when Churchill was the First Lord of the Admiralty, he travelled through Ross-shire on his way to visit the fleet at Loch Ewe.

1914 Oct 7. Telegram from the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet [Admiral Sir John Jellicoe] to Admiralty, on reports that German submarines had been seen inside Loch Ewe [Ross and Cromarty, Scotland], and on resulting movements of coal supplies.

Loch Ewe features in the use of 10 dummy battleships that the British based in Loch Awe. Dittmar & Colledge British Warships 1914-1919 gives details of the ships, merchantmen disguised to look like battleships operated out of Loch Ewe in the North Atlantic from November 1914 to June 1915.

But probably more in Regnart's expertise revolves around German communication cables. Regnart was a linguist with a wide range of languages "German, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Danish". And his languages are mentioned in his reports at the end of the war, with the implication being that he had used them.

German telegraphic cables with North America were cut once Britain entered the war. The Germans came to an illegal (under international law) agreement for the Swedish transatlantic link to carry their traffic. This cable crossed British soil in the north of Scotland (to avoid certain Atlantic seabed problems that would have occurred on a more northerly route). It was illegal (under international law) for Britain to tap this cable (and it was believed in general technically impossible without leaving metaphorical hobnailed boot prints all over the place). Nevertheless it was tapped undetected by the Admiralty and the German illegal traffic detected. No mention of this was made and a section of Admiralty Room 40 (more a department analogous to WW2 Bletchley Park) run by the Reverend William Montgomery and Nigel de Grey began cracking the German codes. It was this that allowed Britain to pass the content of the Zimmerman cable to the US government and as a direct consequence President Woodrow Wilson told Congress in April 1917 that America's neutrality would cease. The exact route of the cable across Scotland is unclear but a section of marines ostensibly concerned with hush hush sea bed cables (magnetic detection loops) and various matters to do with cables in and out of the water (submarine nets) would seem an ideal cover to tap international cables.

1916 Feb 19. The undermentioned Officers of the Reserve of Officers, Royal Marines, are granted the temporary rank of Major: Captain Cyrus Hunter Regnart.

1918 Sep 18. Inspected and reported on by "F Learmonth D.R.D". I take this to be (at that time) Capt Frederick Charles Learmonth RN, Director of Fixed Defences. A man who has little in the record for this part of his career.

1918 Oct 4 Reported on by Capt W H Boys and Capt H Alston

The first says "Recommended in due course. This officer has been in charge of the Fort ? ? and has shown great consideration for the marines under him by his attention to their comfort and welfare. Capt W A Boys RN

A note on his service record says "Russian, German, French and Spanish" and "Recommended in due course. He has performed his duties to my entire satisfaction. and signed by Capt H G Alston RN. Alston himself is a bit opaque, he was recalled from retirement for WW1, and went into Admiralty Trade Division. He was appointed C.B. - Commander of Order of Bath in 31 May 1918 for his war service. Little else is known about him

1919 Jul 25. Promoted Major in Reserve of Officers

1921 Apr 8. Recalled to army due to the Coal Strike. Indeed on 31 March 1921 a state of emergency was declared after another coal miners' strike was called. The emergency lasted till 28 Jun 1921.

It is probably co-incidental, but Kilkenny, where he re-appeared with ADRIC a few days after demob from RMLI, had the only coal mines in Ireland. When Regnart went there the Coal Emergency was still in force in Britain. Kilkenny produced 67,000 tons in 1923

A 1917 report from Freeman's Journal reports on the The Castlecomer Kilkenny Coalfields.  They constitute the most valuable portion of the Leinster Coalfield, which spreads over portions of the counties of Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary and Queen's County.  Although some of the upper seams of coal have been exhausted in the course of working, the greater part of the two principal seams, the Jarrow seam and the Skehana seam, still remain to be worked.  The supply of anthracite coal is estimated at 180,000,000 tons. The Jarrow seam is found at a depth of  80 yards and the Skehana seam, which, by the way, is not being worked at present, at a depth of about 300 yards...The annual output of the collieries varies from 60,000 to 80,000 tons, but this quantity could be trebled or quadrupled if there were proper transit facilities.  Four pits on the Jarrow seam are at present being worked, and the number of hands employed there at totals 457.

To put this in context, production in whole UK in 1921 dropped from about 240 million tons projected to 160 million tons with the strike. Against those figures cranking up Kilkenny to say 1/4 million tons would have made little difference to UK production needs

1921 Jun 3. Released by RMLI

1921 Jun 4. Demobilised

1921 Jun 14. Joined ADRIC with no. 2046. Posted to A Coy, Woodstock House, Inistioge, Co Kilkenny. A once fine house burned down during the Irish Civil War some months after the ADRIC had left.

Woodstock House, Inistioge later burnt 2 Jul 1922 some time after the Auxiliaries left.

1921 Jul 20 Shot himself in Woodstock House

Buried St Helen Churchyard, Albury, Oxfordshire, England

1922 Feb 9 Probate to his father

 

ADRIC