This Day in History (5-Nov-1925) – Sidney Reilly, alleged “super-spy” and inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories, is executed by Soviet

Born the illegitimate son of a Jewish doctor in Odessa, Sigmund Rosenblum studied chemistry in Vienna before going to Brazil. There he befriended British Army officers in the Amazon and was recommended to British intelligence in London. He changed his name to Sidney George Reilly in 1899. Attached to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, he allegedly over the years reported on Russian oil developments at Baku, the progress of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, Dutch aid to the South African Boers (1899), oil developments in Persia (1902), and Russian naval fortifications in Port Arthur, Manchuria. In 1905, as the story goes, he disguised himself as a priest on the French Riviera and inveigled the Persian oil-concession holder, William Knox D’Arcy, into selling oil concessions to Britain against fierce French competition, greatly benefiting Britain’s future energy supplies.

As manager of a German shipbuilder’s agency in St. Petersburg, Russia, he seems to have gained access to details of Germany’s five-year naval-development plan, which he reported to London over a three-year period prior to the outbreak of World War I. In New York City from 1914, he bought munitions and helped counter German sabotage of American factories supplying the Allies. Returning to Europe, he made frequent missions behind the German lines, on one occasion (by his own account) attending a General Staff meeting in the presence of Kaiser William II. In May 1918 Reilly went to Moscow, intent on toppling the Bolshevik regime, but his plans were betrayed, and he had to flee. He is thought to have made a series of other trips to Russia, and in September 1925 he crossed the Russian frontier once more, but he was arrested and reportedly executed. Reilly was summarized as a pathological liar, cold-blooded killer, ice-cold conman, disloyal and recalcitrant spy, shameless opportunist, arms dealer, war-profiteer and a relentless womanizer.

Ian Fleming was a great admirer of Sidney Reilly, and several sources claim that Reilly was Flemings model for James Bond. Similarities are uncanny because of Reilly’s audacious real-life exploits, recalcitrant behaviour, mastery over women, fondness for gambling and the good life.



This Day in History (16-Mar-1830) – London’s re-organised police force (Scotland Yard)

Scotland Yard (officially New Scotland Yard) is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, the territorial police force responsible for policing most of London. In 1829, home secretary Sir Robert Peel, by an Metropolitan Police Act introduced in Parliament, set up the first disciplined police force for the Greater London area. As a result of Peel’s efforts, the London police force became known as Bobby’s boys and later simply as bobbies.

The task of organising and designing the “New Police” was placed in the hands of Colonel Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne. These two Commissioners occupied a private house at 4, Whitehall Place, the back of which opened on to a courtyard. The courtyard was used as a police station. The location had been the site of a residence owned by the Kings of Scotland before the Union and used and occupied by them and/or their ambassadors when in London, and known as ‘”Scotland”. The courtyard was later used by Sir Christopher Wren and known as “Scotland Yard”.  It was this address that led to the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police being known as Scotland Yard. The Scotland Yard entrance became the public entrance to the police station, and over time the street and the Metropolitan Police became synonymous.  Scotland Yard became the name for police activity in London though the headquarters is no more at the same location.

Although Scotland Yard’s responsibility is limited to metropolitan London, its assistance is often sought by police in other parts of England, particularly with regard to difficult cases. Some of its most infamous cases handled by Scotland Yard ranges from Jack the Ripper in 1888 to the 2005 London bombings. Scotland Yard has become internationally famous as a symbol of policing, and detectives from Scotland Yard feature in many works of crime fiction. They were frequent allies, and sometimes antagonists, of Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous stories. It is also referred to in Around the World in Eighty Days. Many novelists have adopted fictional Scotland Yard detectives as the heroes or heroines of their stories. In the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming mentions a recurring fictional character who works for Scotland Yard.