Francis Cromie

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Person.png Francis Cromie   SpartacusRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(spook, mariner)
Francis Cromie.jpg
Born30 January 1882
Duncannon, Ireland
Died31 August 1918 (Age 36)
British Embassy, Petrograd, Russia
Cause of death
Shootout during Cheka raid on British embassy
SpouseGladys Cromie
Interests • Grigori Rasputin
• Moisei Uritsky
British intelligence officer responsible for several assassinations and coup attempts in Russia and early Soviet Union during 1917-1918, including Grigori Rasputin. Killed in shootout during Cheka raid on embassy after high-ranking Cheka leader was assassinated.

Captain (Acting) Francis Newton Allen Cromie, CB, DSO, was a British Royal Navy Commander,[1][2][3] and the de facto chief of British Intelligence operations in northern Russia for the British Naval Intelligence Division.[4]

In 1917 he was appointed naval attaché to the diplomatic staff of the British Embassy in Petrograd, from where he led the British intelligence effort to steer the Tsarist Russian war effort, including the assassination of imperial advisor Grigori Rasputin.

After the Bolshevik Russian Revolution in 1917, he was part of the effort to finance an anti-Bolshevik coup. After the leader of the Petrograd Cheka was assassinated, Cromie was killed in shootout during a subsequent Cheka raid on the British embassy.

Early life and naval career

Born in Duncannon, Ireland, he was the son of British army captain Francis Charles Cromie of the Hampshire Regiment (later Consul-General in Dakar, Senegal). His mother was the daughter of the Chief Constable of Pembrokeshire. He was educated at Haverfordwest Grammar School in Wales, and in 1897 joined the Royal Navy as a naval cadet at HMS Britannia; he joined HMS Repulse on passing out, and in 1900, as a midshipman of HMS Barfleur, took part in the sack of Beijing in 1900 during the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion, for which he received the China War Medal.[5]

At the outbreak of World War I he was commanding officer of the British Royal Navy China Hong Kong submarine flotilla, and from 1915 assumed command of the British submarine flotilla in the Baltic.[2]

Intelligence work in Russia

Promoted to the rank of captain, Cromie was appointed acting British naval attache in to Embassy in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), Russia in May 1917. He joined a group of intelligence officers working in Russia that included Robert Bruce Lockhart, Samuel Hoare, John Scale, Cudbert Thornhill, Sidney Reilly, George Alexander Hill, Ernest Boyce, Oswald Rayner and Stephen Alley,[6] a group that organized the assassination of imperial adviser Grigori Rasputin.

He urged naval officers to remain in the Red Navy and not run to the Whites, who were organizing counter-forces. He sent George Chaplin, who had been liaison officer on the British submarine E1, to Arkhangelsk to organize an anti-Bolshevik coup there and prepare for the landing of British troops there. He was one of the leaders of the Petrograd recruiting and information organization of Dr. V.P. Kovalevsky.[7] In addition, he maintained contact with members of the anti-Bolshevik organization "OK", which included employees of the Registration Service of the Naval General Staff.

It is likely that the anti-Bolshevik counter-revolutionists Boris Savinkov and Maximilian Filonenko, who had contacts with British Secret Intelligence Service agents, were being aided and hiding in the British embassy.[1] Meetings with other Russian members of the counter-revolution were at that time taking place, namely with the former imperial Tsarist officers Lieutenant Sabir and Colonel Steckelmann.[8]

Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of Cheka, decided to try and infiltrate this intelligence unit. Jan Buikis, a Soviet agent, made contact with Cromie and requested a meeting with Robert Bruce Lockhart. On 14th August, 1918, Buikis and Colonel Eduard Berzin, met Lockhart. Berzin was the commander of a Lettish battalion in the Kremlin guard and told Lockhart that there was serious disaffection among the Lettish troops and asked for money to finance an anti-Bolshevik coup. Sidney Reilly was brought into the conspiracy and Berzin was given 1,200,000 rubles. This money was handed over to the Bolsheviks.[6]

On 17th August, 1918, Moisei Uritsky, head of the Petrograd Cheka, was assassinated by Leonid Kannegisser, a young military cadet. The Soviet press published allegations that Uritsky had been killed because he was unravelling "the threads of an English conspiracy in Petrograd".[6]


On August 30, 1918, after the assassination of the intelligence chief Uritsky, the assassination attempt on V. I. Lenin, and information about an impending "conspiracy of ambassadors", the Soviet authorities decided to arrest British diplomats and intelligence officers. In addition, as an employee of the British secret service, midshipman A. Gefter, recalled, “the Bolsheviks learned that the British embassy had documents that were of interest to them".[9]

On August 31, 1918, the Chekists broke into the building of the British Embassy in Petrograd. Cromie gave them armed resistance and was killed in a shootout.

American authors M. Sayers and A. Kahn described the death of Cromie as follows:

After the assassination of Uritsky, the Soviet authorities in Petrograd sent a detachment of Chekists to cordon off the British embassy. On the top floor, embassy officials, led by Captain Cromie, burned incriminating documents. Cromie rushed down and slammed the door in the face of the Soviet agents. They broke down the door. An English officer met them on the stairs, holding a Browning in both hands. He managed to shoot the commissar and several other people. Cheka agents also opened fire, and Captain Cromie fell with a bullet through his head...[10]

Chekist officer Janson was shot dead in the skrimish Cromie, while assistant commissar of the Petrograd Cheka Iosif Naumovich Stodolin-Sheinkman (1888-1963) and investigator of the Cheka Bronislav Bronislavovich Bortnovsky (1894-1937) were wounded.[11]

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  1. a b [ The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 5 September 1918.
  2. a b
  3., PNG
  5. O'Moore, Creagh; Humphris, Edith (1926). The V.C. AND D.S.O.; A complete record of all those officers, non-commissioned officers and men of His Majesty's naval, military and air forces who have been awarded these decorations from the time of their institution, with descriptions of the deeds and services which won the distinctions and with many biographical and other details, compiled from official publications and despatches, letters from commanding officers and other contemporary accounts, and from information from private sources. Vol. III. London: The Standard Art Book Co. Ltd. p. 230.
  6. a b c
  8. Ferguson, Harry (2010). Operation Kronstadt: The True Story of Honour, Espionage, and the Rescue of Britain's Greatest Spy The Man with a Hundred Faces. London: Arrow Books
  9. Думова Н. Г., Трухановский В. Г. Черчилль и Милюков против Советской России. — М.: «Наука», 1989. — page 71.
  11. Гладков Т. К., Зайцев Н. Г. И я ему не могу не верить… — 2-е изд., доп. — М.: Политиздат, 1987. — page 159