Jump to content
The Education Forum

Wilfred Macartney

John Simkin

Recommended Posts

Wilfred Macartney is one of the most interesting people in history. Yet there is virtually nothing on him on the web. In 1916 Macartney inherited £70,000 (worth £2,526,000 in 2009). Despite this money he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain.

He was arrested on 16th November 1927. He was charged with offences under the Official Secrets Act (1911) and was held at Brixton Prison until his trial at the Old Bailey in January 1928. The main evidence against Macartney was provided by George Monckland. Macartney's defence team attempted to to discredit Monckland by claiming that his circle of friends were "mainly criminal types". It was also argued that Macartney was a part-time journalist looking for information for articles. Macartney also claimed that Monckland had offered to obtain evidence that the Zinoviev Letter had been forged by MI5.

Macartney was eventually convicted of various charges under the Official Secrets Act including "attempting to obtain information on the RAF" and "collecting information relating to the mechanized force of His Majesty's Army". He "received ten years, to be served concurrently with a further sentence of two years' hard labour."

After his release from prison decided to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. As he was one of the few volunteers who had military experience, he was appointed the first commander of the British Battalion. A few months later it was decided by the Communist Party of Great Britain that McCartney should be recalled to London and that he should be replaced by party member, Tom Wintringham. On 6th February, 1937, Peter Kerrigan went to see McCartney. Kerrigan later recalled what happened during this meeting: "I visited him in his room before he went back to have a talk with him about the situation with the battalion and so on. It was the intention that he would come back. This was about mid-January but he had a big, heavy revolver and I had a rather small Belgian revolver, and he said: Look Peter, how about you giving me your revolver. I am going through France I don't want to lump this thing about. I said all right. He asked to show me how to operate it. I took the revolver in my hand but I can't say for sure whether or not I touched the safety catch, or whether it was off or not, or whether I touched the trigger, but suddenly there was a shot and I had hit him in the arm with a bullet from the small Belgian revolver. We rushed him to hospital, got him an anti-tetanus injection and he was patched up and off he went."

Had the Communist Party discovered that Macartney was working for MI5 in order to undermine the Republicans in Spain? What we do know was that Macartney worked for MI5 in the Second World War. He worked with Eddie Chapman on an undercover operation against Adolf Hitler. This included sending back false information on the accuracy of the V-1 weapon. Chapman consistently reported to the Germans that the bombs were overshooting their central London target, when in fact they were undershooting.

After the war McCartney and Chapman wrote an account of this deception. The story was brought by a French newspaper, Etoile du Soir, which resulted in both men being convicted under the Official Secrets Act at Bow Street on 29th March, 1946.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...