Samuel Hoare

Samuel Hoare

Samuel Hoare, the elder son of Sir Samuel Hoare, the Conservative MP for Norwich, and his wife, Katharin Louisa Hart, was born on 24th February, 1880. He was educated at Harrow and New College, where he received firsts in classical moderations (1901) and modern history (1903). After leaving Oxford University his father arranged for him to be appointed as assistant private secretary to Alfred Lyttelton, the Secretary of the Colonies.

Hoare was elected to the London County Council (LCC) in 1907. On 17th October 1909 he married Maud Lygon (1882–1962), the youngest daughter of Frederick Lygon, sixth Earl Beauchamp. The couple lived in London at 18 Cadogan Gardens. The marriage produced no children. A member of the Conservative Party he became MP for Chelsea in January 1910. Initially he associated with the progressive wing of the party and supported tariff reform, women's suffrage, and public education.

On the outbreak of the First World War Hoare became a recruiting officer in the Norfolk Yeomanry. In 1916 he was assigned to the British intelligence mission with the Russian general staff. Soon afterwards he was given the rank of lieutenant-colonel and Mansfield Smith Cumming appointed him as head of the British Secret Intelligence Service in Petrograd. Other members of the unit included Oswald Rayner, Cudbert Thornhill, John Scale and Stephen Alley.

Michael Smith, the author of Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010), argued that "He (Hoare) was a rather pompous, self-regarding man, but he was nevertheless someone whom the ambassador would see him as being from the right class and who could present a personable front for Cumming's mission while the secret service work was conducted quietly behind the scenes by others like Alley."

Giles Milton, the author of Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot (2013), has pointed out: "It was not a question of spying on the enemy: Russia was a key member of the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia) fighting against Germany in the First World War. However, Hoare's role was certainly of vital importance. The conflict on the Eastern Front was tying down huge numbers of German troops that could otherwise be transferred to the Western Front. A sudden influx of battle-hardened soldiers to Northern France would spell disaster for the British Tommies struggling to hold their entrenched positions in Picardie and Champagne."

John Scale recorded: "German intrigue was becoming more intense daily. Enemy agents were busy whispering of peace and hinting how to get it by creating disorder, rioting, etc. Things looked very black. Romania was collapsing, and Russia herself seemed weakening. The failure in communications, the shortness of foods, the sinister influence which seemed to be clogging the war machine, Rasputin the drunken debaucher influencing Russia's policy, what was to the be the end of it all?"

Hoare became friendly with Vladimir Purishkevich, the leader of the monarchists in the Duma, and in November 1916 he was told about the plot to "liquidate" Grigory Rasputin. Hoare later recalled that Purishkevich's tone "was so casual that I thought his words were symptomatic of what everyone was thinking and saying rather than the expression of a definitely thought-out plan."

Giles Milton, argues in Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot (2013), that the original idea came from Hoare who believed that Rasputin was sabotaging the Russian war effort and if he was murdered "the country would be freed from the sinister influence that was striking down its natural leaders and endangering the success of its armies in the field." Richard Cullen, the author of Rasputin: The Role of Britain's Secret Service in his Torture and Murder (2010), claims that agents Oswald Rayner, John Scale and Stephen Alley were involved in the plot.

On 29th December, 1916, Purishkevich, Prince Felix Yusupov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment, were part of a conspiracy that killed Rasputin. Hoare reacted angrily when Tsar Nicholas II suggested to the British ambassador, George Buchanan, that the British agent, Osward Rayner, was involved in the plot to kill Rasputin. Hoare described the story as "incredible to the point of childishness".

According to Christopher Andrew, the author of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985): "By the time General Sir Henry Wilson arrived in Russia in February 1917, Hoare could stand it no longer. He accompanied Wilson back to England to take sick leave and did not return to Petrograd. Much to his relief, he was transferred by Cumming to Rome in May. Hoare was succeeded in Petrograd by his former deputy, Major Stephen Alley." Hoare's main responsibility was to encourage the Italian government to remain in the First World War. He remained at his Rome headquarters until the end of the war.

Hoare was re-elected to the House of Commons at the 1918 General Election, as a supporter of the David Lloyd George coalition government. He became disillusioned with Lloyd George and in 1922 he played a leading role in bringing down the coalition government in October 1922. Andrew Bonar Law became the new prime minister and he rewarded Hoare by appointing him Secretary of State for Air. In May 1923 Bonar Law resigned and was succeeded by Stanley Baldwin. Hoare retained his post and now entered the cabinet.

Hoare's biographer, Ralph James Adams, has argued: "Hoare was short and slight, even delicate, of frame. His health was never robust, and he turned to games and athletics to bolster his physique as well as to satisfy an inherent competitiveness. He became an excellent figure skater and was a tournament-level shot and tennis player throughout his life. He was fastidious about his appearance and much enjoyed wearing the symbols and uniforms related to the honours he loved receiving. He lacked charisma and, not surprisingly, he was not a compelling platform speaker. His career reflected his natural talent as an administrator and his keen ambition to achieve an important place in public life, rather than an abundance of sheer brilliance or personal charm."

Hoare was an enthusiastic supporter of air travel and in 1923 helped establish Imperial Airways. In December 1926, Hoare and his wife were on board the first civilian flight to India. As Ralph James Adams points out: "Between 1924 and 1929 the number of miles flown by British civil aviation increased from 700,000 to more than 1 million, and the number of passengers from 10,000 to more than 28,000, much of this owing to the championing of air transport by Hoare himself."

Hoare lost his post when the Conservative Party was defeated in the 1929 General Election but James Ramsay MacDonald, head of the National Government, appointed him Secretary of State for India in August 1931. In this post he steered the India Bill through Parliament in 1935 against the opposition led by Winston Churchill.

In June 1935 Stanley Baldwin appointed Hoare as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Later that year Hoare joined with Pierre Laval, the prime minister of France, in an effort to resolve the crisis created by the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. The secret agreement, known as the Hoare-Laval Pact, proposed that Italy would receive two-thirds of the territory it conquered as well as permission to enlarge existing colonies in East Africa. In return, Ethiopia was to receive a narrow strip of territory and access to the sea.

Details of the Hoare-Laval Pact was leaked to the press on 10th December, 1935. The scheme was widely denounced as appeasement of Italian aggression. Baldwin's cabinet rejected the plan and Hoare was forced to resign. Henry Channon saw Hoare make his resignation speech in the House of Commons: "At last Sam Hoare got up, and in a flash he had won the sympathy of the House by his lucidity, his concise narrative, his sincerity and patriotism. He told the whole story of his negotiations and added that not a country, save our own, has moved a soldier, a ship, an aeroplane - was this collective action? He was a Cato defending himself; for 40 minutes he held the House breathless, and at last sat down, but not before he had wished his successor better luck, and burst into tears." Hoare argued in his memoirs that he appeased Benito Mussolini in order to prevent him forming an alliance with Adolf Hitler. However, his opponents argued that his actions resulted in the Italians taking control of all Ethiopia.

Hoare had in fact been following government policy and in June 1936 he was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty. When Neville Chamberlain replaced Baldwin in May 1937, he was given the post of Secretary of State for the Home Office. In cabinet Hoare provided support to Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, in the government's policy of appeasement. It was claimed by Claud Cockburn in his newsletter, The Week, that Hoare was a member of the pro-appeasement group, the Cliveden Set.

International tension increased when Adolf Hitler began demanding that the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia should be under the control of the German government. In an attempt to to solve the crisis, the heads of the governments of Germany, Britain, France and Italy met in Munich. On 29th September, 1938, Neville Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, Edouard Daladier and Benito Mussolini signed the Munich Agreement which transferred to Germany the Sudetenland, a fortified frontier region that contained a large German-speaking population. When Eduard Benes, Czechoslovakia's head of state, who had not been invited to Munich, protested at this decision, Chamberlain told him that Britain would be unwilling to go to war over the issue of the Sudetenland.

Guy Liddell of MI5 passed an updated digest of the intelligence provided by Wolfgang zu Putlitz to John Curry, a member of B Branch, who was then asked to give it to Hoare, who was part of Chamberlain's inner circle of foreign policy advisers. Hoare was the first former MI5 officer to become a cabinet minister. According to Curry: "As Hoare read it, the colour faded from his cheeks. He made a few brief comments, showed no desire to have the matter discussed or elaborated, and dismissed us." Curry believed that Hoare had been shocked by Putlitz's insistence that "if we had stood firm at Munich, Hitler might have lost the initiative".

The Munich Agreement was popular with most people in Britain because it appeared to have prevented a war with Nazi Germany. However, some politicians, including Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, attacked the agreement. These critics pointed out that no only had the British government behaved dishonorably, but it had lost the support of Czech Army, one of the best in Europe. However, Hoare loyally defended the actions of Chamberlain.

On 10th March, 1939, Hoare, addressing his constituents, predicted that the policy of appeasement would lead to a new "Goldren Age". Five days later Adolf Hitler ordered his troops to occupy Prague and seized Bohemia and Moravia, tearing up the much vaunted Munich Agreement. Public opinion in Britain was outraged and those who had been advocating appeasement were completely undermined.

On the outbreak of the Second World War. Hoare now joined the War Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal. In May 1940 Winston Churchill became prime minister and he immediately dismissed Hoare from the cabinet. At first he rejected the post of ambassador in Madrid. However, after the news of the French collapse at Sedan, he changed his mind. Sir Alexander Cadogan, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, assessed Hoare's real motives when he wrote in his diary: "Dirty little dog has got the wind up and wants to get out of this country! However, they all want to be disembarrassed of him and agreed to send him out.... The sooner we get them out of the country the better. I'd rather send them to a penal colony. He'll be the Quisling of England when Germany conquers us and I'm dead.""

Hoare's biographer, Ralph James Adams, was more charitable: "It was the end of his ministerial career. Desperate for activity, Hoare accepted Churchill's only offer, the Madrid embassy, and thus he was the only one of the major appeasers sent immediately into exile. In the end his mission was widely praised, even by Churchill, and he was credited with preventing any Spanish hazard to the allied invasion of north Africa in November 1942 and also in securing the release of thousands of allied prisoners of war interned in Spanish prisons. His greatest contribution was perhaps in striving to convince the pro-German regime of General Francisco Franco to remain out of the war."

Hoare returned to England and in July 1944 he accepted a peerage as Viscount Templewood of Chelsea. He retired from party politics but continued to campaign for penal reform and the movement to abolish capital punishment. In 1947 he became chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform. He also published his case against hanging, The Shadow of the Gallows (1951). Hoare was also author of Nine Troubled Years (1954).

Samuel Hoare, Viscount Templewood of Chelsea, died in his London home following a heart attack on 7th May 1959.

Primary Sources

(1) Samuel Hoare, The Fouth Seal (1930)

In all respects physical and mental, he (Mansfield Cumming) was the very antithesis of the spy king of popular fiction. Jovial and very human, bluff and plainspeaking, outwardly at least, a very simple man, who would ever have imagined that this was the chief who... employed secret agents in every corner of the world? My first interview with him was typical of the man. I had expected to be put through an examination in the Russian language, and a questionnaire as to what I knew about Russian politics and the Russian army. I had imagined that I should have been almost blindfolded before being introduced into the presence of this man of mystery. Instead there were a few conventional questions in a very conventional roonn, a searching look and a nod to say that whilst it was not much of a job, I could have it, if I wanted it. In the space of a few seconds I was accepted into the ranks of the Secret Service.

(2) Michael Smith, Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010)

The intelligence operations going on in the background were run by Alley, Captain John Dymoke Scale, the subsequent recruiter of Sidney Reilly, and another MI1c officer, Lieutenant Oswald Rayner, who had been sent out in November 1915 with Major Henry Vere Benet to carry out an extensive "censorship" of telegrams and mail examined in total collaboration with the Russian authorities, while sharing the intelligence it produced on a rather more selective basis. Some of the most productive material came on Scandinavian shipping companies taking goods into or out of Germany through the Royal Navy economic blockade...

Scale worked across the intelligence system, assisting Thornhill as well as Hoare. Shortly after Scale arrived in Petrograd, Cumming set up the military control system, initially with two offices in Russia, one run by Alley in Petrograd, with offices at 19 Moika Embankment, and the second at Archangel, run by Lieutenant-Commander Malcolm McLaren RNVR, another of Cumming's officers. McLaren was another Briton who had worked in Russia's oilfields, although he is said to have previously been a sea captain and wore gold earrings that "gave him the look of a pirate". There were sub-stations at Tornea on the border between Sweden and Finland, where Lieutenant Harry Gruner checked people coming in and out of Russia; in the Far East at Vladivostok, where Lieutenant Leonard Binns RNVIZ was assistant military control officer.

(3) Michael Smith, Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010)

There were persistent rumours that a peace party under Rasputin's influence was working with Germany and a number of prominent Russians discussed plots to remove him from power. Hoare was approached by one of the plotters, Vladiniir Purishkevich, a member of the Russian parliament, the Duma, in November 1916, and told that a plan existed to "liquidate" Rasputin. "At this time, the Russian word to liquidate was on everyone's lips," Hoare later recalled. "I had heard so much, however, of former plots and attempts to liquidate the affair of Rasputin, and my friend's tone was so casual that I thought his words were symptomatic of what everyone was thinking and saying rather than the expression of a definitely thought-out plan." Hoare appears not to have been aware that three of his own mission's officers, Alley, Scale and Rayner, were in fact closely involved in the plan.

The murder of Rasputin has always been portrayed as an almost romantic attempt to rescue the Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina Alexandra from Rasputin's malign influence. In fact, it was without doubt one of the most brutal and ruthless incidents in the entire history of Britain's secret service. Alley and Scale were becoming increasingly concerned over the position of the German-born Tsarina, and in particular the role of Rasputin as her closest adviser. Such views were shared by many in Russia, where virtually anything that went wrong was laid at the feet of the so-called "Dark Forces" that Rasputin was deemed to represent, and in London, where The Times described Rasputin as "one of the most potent of the baleful Germanophil forces in Russia".

(4) Giles Milton,Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot (2013)

He (Hoare) was an unlikely candidate for espionage. An English baronet of the old school, he had been the Conservative Member of Parliament for Chelsea since 1910. Well-spoken, well-mannered, well-heeled, he was solidly conventional. Harrow and Oxford, old chap. Double first.

But he had taught himself conversational Russian and this had earned him the notice of the Secret Intelligence Service. He was to be sent to Petrograd in order to forge links with Russian generals and monitor the fighting on the Eastern Front.

It was not a question of spying on the enemy: Russia was a key member of the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia) fighting against Germany in the First World War. However, Hoare's role was certainly of vital importance. The conflict on the Eastern Front was tying down huge numbers of German troops that could otherwise be transferred to the Western Front. A sudden influx of battle-hardened soldiers to Northern France would spell disaster for the British Tommies struggling to hold their entrenched positions in Picardie and Champagne.

Hoare was hoping to be initiated into a world of glamour, duplicity and deception when he first arrived in Petrograd. He had been given a rudimentary training in eavesdropping and ciphering and was looking forward to using his new skills.
However, his work at the Russian War Ministry proved monotonous and exhausting, with twelve-hour days and no holidays. Far from infiltrating subversive meetings, he found himself helping to supply Russian ministries with much needed supplies. On one occasion, he was asked to procure thousands of beeswax candles for the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church.

His evenings were no less tedious - a succession of champagne soirees with highly decorated generals whose knowledge of battlefield strategy was lamentable. "Incompetent, idle, self-indulgent, irresponsible," was Hoare's opinion of the Minister of War.

Teamwork meant everything to Hoare. He played according to the rules - taking pride in being firm but fair - and he expected his men to do the same. He was unaware that they didn't all agree with his very British approach to espionage. Nor did he realise that there was a far more nefarious side to the activities of the bureau that he directed.

Among those serving in his team was a young Oxford graduate named Oswald Rayner. Along with a handful of others, Rayner had established a clandestine inner circle that members referred to as the "far-reaching system".

This "system" aimed to act in absolute secrecy, spearheading underground missions that left no trace of their involvement. These dangerous operations, of which Hoare had no knowledge, were to become a hallmark of the Russian bureau.

Oswald Rayner's "far-reaching system" was to make the first of many spectacular strikes in the winter of 1916. It was to leave a fingerprint so faint that it would remain undetected for nine decades.

(5) Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince and Stephen Prior, Double Standards (2001)

Although Chamberlain rapidly became the scapegoat for the failed peace attempt of 1938, his policies were firmly supported by his cabinet, several members of which were to become key figures in this investigation. One name that repeatedly surfaces is Sir Samuel Hoare, whose role in the run-up to Hess's flight was considerable. As a Quaker, Hoare - who became Viscount Templewood in 1944 - held strong views on the iniquities of war and the necessity to seek any and every means of avoiding it. During the Great War he was a secret service officer stationed in Moscow, where he built up contacts with the Swedish aristocracy and Royal Family, and where he saw the evils of the Russian Revolution at first hand.20 Later in 1917 he became chief of military intelligence in Italy, using his influence to get to know the then newspaper editor Benito Mussolini, actively encouraging him in his anti-Communist activities. After this he entered politics, becoming a Conservative MP in 1920, progressing to several ministerial posts, including Secretary of State for Air (1922-9) and eventually rising to the post of Foreign Secretary in 1935. He was regarded by many as a Prime Minister in waiting.

On 3 October 1935 Mussolini's Italian army invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Then Foreign Secretary in the newly elected government of Stanley Baldwin, Hoare tried to negotiate a compromise peace, together with the French Prime Minister Pierre Laval, eventually devising what is known as the Hoare-Laval Pact. Under this arrangement, Italy could keep a large part of Abyssinia - a foretaste of Chamberlain's later appeasement policy at Munich. When news of the plan leaked out there was uproar in the House, especially from the opposition. Although Baldwin and the cabinet had approved the pact, Hoare himself became the scapegoat and, in order to protect the new Prime Minister in his first major crisis, he did the honourable thing and resigned. This was not the end of his influence, however: during the abdication crisis he was chosen by Edward VIII as one of his closest advisers, becoming great friends with the embattled monarch. Still very much a force to be reckoned with politically, he held the post of Home Secretary between 1937 and 1939.

Hoare believed in exploring every possible avenue to settle disputes peacefully. As Foreign Secretary in 1935 he made a speech in the Commons in which he stated that the search for peace would be the centrepiece of Britain's foreign poticy - a sentiment that earned him several enemies. Sir Alexander Cadogan, the permanent under-secretary to the Foreign Office - never an admirer of Sir Samuel - wrote uncompromisingly of Hoare and his wife Maud in his diary in May 1940: "The sooner we get them out of the country the better. I'd rather send them to a penal colony. He'll be the Quisling of England when Germany conquers us and I'm dead."

(6) Henry (Chips) Channon, diary entry (19th December, 1935)

What a day. Sir Samuel Hoare has resigned. He sat in a corner of the 3rd bench, a place usually accorded to fallen Cabinet Ministers. He looked thin and ill, and had a plaster across his nose, which he broke in Switzerland a few days ago There was considerable tension; many people, I amongst them, felt that the Government has behaved with almost incredible stupidity. It wobbled. First it displeased the Left-Wing by its seeming acceptance of the Hoare-Laval proposals, and then suddenly it made a volte-face and dropped Hoare and the Proposals, thus enraging the Right-Wing the Socialist Opposition have put down a Motion of Censure.

At last Sam Hoare got up, and in a flash he had won the sympathy ot the House by his lucidity, his concise narrative, his sincerity and patriotism. He told the whole story of his negotiations and added that not a country, save our own, has moved a soldier, a ship, an aeroplane - was this collective action? He was a Cato defending himself; for 40 minutes he held the House breathless, and at last sat down, but not before he had wished his successor better luck, and burst into tears. I have never been so moved by a speech. It may have been only a Mea Gulpa; but to me it was more - it was the voice of a large section of sensible England; perhaps the swan-song of a certain Conservative spirit ... He may be down today, disowned and disgraced, but he will rise again, I am sure, and soon, to high office. But his health is weak and his nerves seem shattered. The House vibrated with emotion as he spoke; and had it been possible to put a vote I am sure he would have won. But he was followed by the Prime Minister, who was embarrassed and spoke lamely, though he was honest enough to admit his mistake in accepting the proposals. In no other country could the Prime Minister stand up in the Chamber and calmly say 'I made a mistake, and I am sorry . But Mr Baldwin can do this better than anyone. The House took him at his word. There were a few back-benchers , murmuring inaudible complaints including myself. If I had been in the House longer, I should have struck a note of reality, and expressed the opinion of everyone one meets - for God's sake, Mr Baldwin, make peace. Instead he has allowed himself to be bullied by the Left-Wing Conservatives and by Liberals. Attlee, the Socialist Leader, followed. He looks like a black snail and is equally ineffective: he challenged the Government, in a long, unconvincing speech; indeed, given his case, almost anyone could have made a better job of it. The House emptied. Austen Chamberlain rose, gaunt, deaf, and was mildly conciliatory and then made a sudden assault on Attlee which made the little man seem to shrink. Harold Nicolson made a good 'maiden' - the Liberals talked a lot of nonsense. The vote was put: and the Government won with a majority of 232. Cheers, and then an Amendment which we again won, and then home. The Government is saved.

(7) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons on the resignation of Anthony Eden as Foreign Secretary (22nd February, 1938)

The resignation of the late Foreign Secretary may well be a milestone in history. Great quarrels, it has been well said, arise from small occasions but seldom from small causes. The late Foreign Secretary adhered to the old policy which we have all forgotten for so long. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have entered upon another and a new policy. The old policy was an effort to establish the rule of law in Europe, and build up through the League of Nations effective deterrents against the aggressor. Is it the new policy to come to terms with the totalitarian Powers in the hope that by great and far-reaching acts of submission, not merely in sentiment and pride, but in material factors, peace may be preserved.

A firm stand by France and Britain, under the authority of the League of Nations, would have been followed by the immediate evacuation of the Rhineland without the shedding of a drop of blood; and the effects of that might have enabled the more prudent elements of the German Army to gain their proper position, and would not have given to the political head of Germany the enormous ascendancy which has enabled him to move forward. Austria has now been laid in thrall, and we do not know whether Czechoslovakia will not suffer a similar attack.

(8) Anthony Eden, speech at Stratford-upon-Avon (23rd September, 1938)

Nobody will quarrel with the Government's wish to bring about appeasement in Europe. But if appeasement is to mean what it says, it must not be at the expense either of our vital interests, or of our national reputation, or of our sense of fair dealing. For our own people the issue becomes clarified. They see freedom of thought, of race, of worship grow every week more restricted in Europe. The conviction is growing that continued retreat can only lead to ever-widening confusion. They know that a stand must be made. They pray that it be not made too late.