Those of you who have defied all tradition and read my ramblings about The Right Club may just remember the name Tyler Kent. He was the cipher clerk at the US Embassy who was passing documents to Anna Wolkoff. That article was based on 3 different descriptions of the Right Club, some of which disagreed with each other. This article is based on a book called “Spooks……” and is all about Kent based on previously secret MI5 documents.
Kent was a cipher clerk at the US Embassy in London, he had already been moved from Moscow after 5 years when suspected of passing information to the Russians though there is no proof and is possibly an untruth peddled by our side in light of what happened later. In London he was privy to cables sent between Churchill and Roosevelt and they showed FDR was not being entirely truthful when he said he had no intention of getting embroiled in another war. Kent claimed he was an isolationist and wanted to get the information in those cables to politicians in the USA who were against FDR and could expose him for the duplicitous scheming liar that most politicians turn out to be. It seems he chose a rather strange route to release the documents.
There is enough in the evidence to suggest that although Tyler Kent was probably an isolationist, he was also a man who thought he deserved better and had been held back in his career. He was also very anti-semitic.
He was born in China where his father was a US Consul, in fact he spent very little of his childhood in the US. At 14 years of age he was sent to boarding school in the US followed by Princeton and then the Sorbonne. He was fluent in Italian, German, French and learned Russian in six months. In 1932 he returned to Washington and via cronies of his father, he got a job in the State Department which at the time was not hiring.
Having decided he wanted wealth and fame he set about the former by using the Moscow diplomatic bag to smuggle jewellery and furs back to New York where they could be sold for a profit. With his ill-gotten he bought a car and rented a dacha where he spent the weekend with Tanya, his Russian girlfriend. The fame part was harder since Kent was a bit of an oddball who was very full of himself and convinced he was right and everybody else was wrong. He also developed a hatred of Jews blaming them for the evil he saw in the Soviet system. All in all, he would fit right in as a member of today’s Labour Party ticking several of their holier boxes.
He was a clerk in the Moscow Embassy and often did his translating in his apartment keeping official documents laying about his flat. He noticed in the documents all the reports of trouble building in Europe and some lobbying by the State Department for the United States to join in any war. Kent wanted to keep out of any fighting but even though Kent was right, his colleagues ignored him. Resentment was smouldering,
When the Germans and Russians signed their non-aggression Pact, the Americans were not quite so welcome in the Soviet Union. Kent struck a pedestrian on a crosswalk breaking the man’s leg. Just before he was due to stand trial Kent was transferred to London where Joseph Kennedy needed a cipher clerk, not that Kent had any experience of ciphers.
The story usually used about Kent moving to London is that he was possibly passing secrets to the Soviets via his Russian girlfriend. No evidence is offered to back up this version and when the London US Ambassador (Joe Kennedy) was presented with proof of Kent’s treachery he was rather miffed and his Consul General (Herschel V Johnson) said had he known about it Kent would never have been let near the code room. It looks like Kent was moved due to the impending court case rather than any suspicion of spying.
There are reports that Kent’s girlfriend Tanya was working for the NKVD, this is more than likely, Russian girls didn’t meet foreigners if they weren’t. Kent was very isolationist and perhaps removed some Embassy documents that indicated FDR was not quite as determined to keep the USA out of the war as his public statements implied. Did Kent pass secret documents to his girlfriend, somewhat unlikely. Even though the Soviet Union was allied to the Germans by the end of his tenure, he was very anti-Communist.
You will read reports that he was suspected of passing documents to the Russians in Moscow. There was no proof and those reports probably originated in MI5 to muddy the waters. The Americans did not want it publicised that FDR was negotiating away their neutrality when he was standing for re-election and offering an isolationist ticket and MI5 wanted to paint a picture of an out and out traitor.
Kent reached England in October 1939 and headed straight onto MI5’s watch list because he had sailed on the same ship as a German Gestapo agent with whom he later had dinner and yet later was seen leaving Kent’s flat clutching a bulky letter. When later questioned about this Kent at first couldn’t remember but then recollected it and said he had smuggled in a few cigars for a friend.
Tyler Kent had been a clerk in Moscow, in London he was to be a cipher clerk and that meant he had to be trained up for the job. He learned quickly. By February 1940 he was frequenting Anna Wolkoff’s Russian Tea Rooms in Kensington. He will have needed some time to get up to speed as a cipher clerk but there are no indications how he ended up hanging around the Russian Tea Rooms. At the outbreak of the war most of the male members of the Right Club had been interned though one of them, Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce), got wind of it and scarpered off to the fatherland on the 20th August. That meant the women members were still stalking the land and Kent did like to put it about a bit.
At this time, Maxwell Knight of MI5 had two agents in place in the Right Club and before Tyler had his collar felt, added another one. The first indication that Kent was passing secret documents came on the 23rd April 1940.
On the 18th May the US Ambassador was informed, old Joe Kennedy was extremely unhappy that MI5 had been following one of his staff without informing the Embassy but what else were they supposed to do and agreed to waive diplomatic immunity. On the 20th Kent was dismissed from US Government service, arrested and interrogated in the presence of Joe Kennedy. Joe then learned of the more than 1,000 documents Kent was storing in his flat. His shock that Kent was about to expose FDR’s duplicity was only deepened when he realised that the British could now see Joe’s mainly negative reports about the future prospects of the UK in the war. On the 23rd Archibald Ramsay MP, the leader of the Right Club who had until then avoided internment, was arrested and he was immediately banged up in Brixton Prison under Regulation 18b (internment). Cap’n Ramsay thought this was an affront to a member of Parliament but despite all his appeals, to the Interment Committee and then the HoC Committee on Privilege, he remained inside until 26th September 1944; he was released when the war was on the way to a successful conclusion bar the last few hard yards.
When Special Branch searched Kent’s flat they found nearly 2,000 official documents including Churchill’s cables to FDR. They also found the keys to the Embassy cipher room and the books containing the names of the Right Club members, these books had been handed over by Cap’n Ramsay for “safekeeping”. They also found Kent’s mistress, Mrs Irene Danichevsky. It seems it’s not only the extreme left that likes to put it about but either it goes along with political extremism or everybody is at it.
Kent’s defence that he was trying to expose FDR’s plan to involve the USA in the war against all his public promises to keep neutral was perhaps partially true but the way he went about it raises more questions. Some of the documents were handed to Anna Wolkoff of Russian Tea Rooms fame, she in turn had passed them to the Duco del Monte (sic !) a military attache at the Italian Embassy, who had been introduced to Kent as “Mr Marconi”, from whence they found their way to Berlin and some contents even into Lord Haw-Haw’s risible “Germany Calling” broadcasts.
During Kent’s interrogation’s, Maxwell Knight famously said “You seem to have a very good memory for what you didn’t say, but no recollection of what you did say”. Eventually Kent opened up and effectively confessed to purloining official documents and spreading them to various people.
In November 1940 Kent and Wolkoff were both tried in camera under the Official Secrets Act, found guilty and sentenced to respectively seven and ten years. Kent was released in 1946 and returned to the US. He gave an interview to Al-Jabeeba’s Newsnight in 1982 where he was unrepentant and convinced he did the right thing.
I think he was attracted to the Right Club by its anti-semitic viewpoint. If he purely wanted to embarrass FDR about his neutrality lies why didn’t he contact some fellow Americans who shared his ideology, there was no shortage. He must have surely recognised that by using anti-semites they would pass information to the Germans, even if it was via the, up until then, pretend neutral Italians. Being able to impress some of the females with his secrets will also have entered into his mind.
We now have a US Embassy employee with diplomatic immunity suddenly shorn of his immunity and then his employment, tried in camera by the British, banged up for seven years and released after the end of the war. He returned to the US where his treatment, normally guaranteed to inflame any American, was forgotten in the euphoria of peace.
As a result of Kent’s arrest and Cap’n Ramsay’s internment, all other members of the Right Club and many of the British Union of Fascists, including Max Mosley’s dad Oswald, were also interned. It is not safe to have enemy sympathisers loose in the country when we are at war.
© well_chuffed 2019
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