Anna Nikolayevna Wolkova (1902 – 2 August 1973), sometimes known as Anna de Wolkoff, was a White Russian émigré, and secretary of The Right Club which was opposed to Britain's involvement in World War II.
Anna Wolkoff was the eldest child of Admiral Nikolai Wolkoff (1870–1954) who was the last Imperial Russian naval attaché in London. Her family had decided to stay in Britain in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution and they became naturalised British subjects on 10 September 1935. In 1923 the Wolkoffs opened the Russian Tea Room at 50 Harrington Road, South Kensington near the Natural History Museum, a rendezvous point for other White Russians.
Anna and her father held right-wing anti-semitic views and were considered sympathizers of the Nazi regime in Germany. Anna visited that country several times in the 1930s, later claiming to have met Hans Frank and Rudolf Hess. Her visits caused MI5 to take an interest in her activities and, beginning in 1935, she was placed under surveillance as a possible German spy. Wallis Simpson was a client of her couture business, and also under suspicion by British counter-intelligence.
The Right Club
Wolkoff belonged to "one of many small anti-semitic associations in Britain", the Right Club, an anti-war movement with a membership of about 350, founded by Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay,M.P., who later stressed his patriotism in the House of Commons, saying that there was a distinction between anti-Semitism and pro-Nazism. Other members included William Joyce (briefly), who then defected to Germany as a broadcaster, A. K. Chesterton, later author of The New Unhappy Lords, Francis Yeats-Brown, best-selling author of Bengal Lancer, Admiral Wilmot Nicholson and his wife Christabel and the Duke of Wellington. The club's members often held their meetings in the Russian Tea Room.
In his autobiography, The Nameless War, Ramsay argued: "The main object of the Right Club was to oppose and expose the activities of Organised Jewry, in the light of the evidence which came into my possession in 1938. Our first objective was to clear the Conservative Party of Jewish influence, and the character of our membership and meetings were strictly in keeping with this objective."
World War II
When Britain went to war against Germany in September, 1939, the Right Club officially disbanded. However, some members continued their anti-war activities. Wolkoff, using an intermediary from the Italian Embassy (Assistant Military attache Col. Francesco Marigliano, the Duke del Monte), sent information to Berlin, including suggestions for Joyce's propaganda broadcasts.
However, unknown to Wolkoff, the Right Club had been infiltrated early on by MI5, first by Marjorie Mackie and subsequently by young Belgian mystic Helene De Muncke, and also by Joan Miller, a young, undercover agent who once worked as an office girl for Elizabeth Arden. Through these three women, controlled by head of MI5 Section B(5)b Maxwell Knight, MI5 was kept fully informed of, and indeed was able to influence, the activities of the group.
In February 1940, Wolkoff met Tyler Kent, a cipher clerk from the U.S. Embassy who held similar views, and he became a regular visitor to the Right Club. Kent later revealed to Wolkoff and Ramsay some of the documents he was holding in his flat that he had stolen from the embassy, most notably sensitive communications between Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt. On 13 April 1940, Wolkoff went to Kent's flat to borrow some of the documents, in order, as it emerged later, to have them photographed. Her espionage work took a downturn when she then approached Helene De Muncke and asked her if she could pass a coded letter to William Joyce through her Italian embassy contacts. De Muncke agreed and then showed the letter to her controller Maxwell Knight.
Arrest and trial
Anna Wolkoff and Tyler Kent were arrested on 20 May 1940 and charged with violating the Official Secrets Act. As she was put in the police car, her arrest was witnessed by 11-year-old Len Deighton. She was tried in camera at the Old Bailey, with Sir William Jowitt as prosecutor. On 7 November 1940, Wolkoff was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for "attempting to assist the enemy," while Kent, an American citizen, was sentenced to 7 years.
After her conviction, the Certificates of Naturalisation (Revocation) Committee was contacted and her citizenship was revoked on 13 August 1943.
Release and death
She was released from prison in 1947. Subsequently, working as a seamstress, and lodging in the house of society figure Felix Hope-Nicholson, she was killed in a road accident in Spain, in a car driven by Enid Riddell (1903–1980), another former member of the Right Club.
- Admiral Wolkoff's file in The National Archives (KV 2/2258)
- Sukhdev, Sandhu (18 October 2015). "Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms: The Spyhunter, the Fashion Designer and the Man from Moscow by Paul Willetts – review: A tale of Nazi spies among London’s elite has all the colour of a first-class thriller". The Observer. The Guardian. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Griffiths, Richard, Fellow Travellers of the Right, Constable, London, 1980, p.353-5, ISBN 0-09-463460-2 also citing Archibald Ramsay as saying "our hope was to avert war"
- Hansard, 9 May 1940.
- Joyce joined the Right Club on 1 July 1939 but the following month departed for Germany. http://www.statesecrets.co.uk/who/index-j.html#Joyce-W
- Chesterton, A.K.,The New Unhappy Lords, London, July 1965, reprinted in 1979 in U.S.A., Library of Congress Card no.67-24083
- This lady also was tried on pro-German conspiracy charges but acquitted on all counts. Notwithstanding that she was then locked up in Holloway Prison under Regulation 18B, where she remained for 4 years. Ramsay,p.78.
- Griffiths, p.355.
- Ramsay, Archibald Henry Maule. The Nameless War. A History of the Events leading up to the Second World War, 1952, ASIN B0017GYOE4; paperback: Augustine Publishing, 1969, ISBN 978-0-85172-068-5
- Griffiths, p.369.
- Griffiths, p.370
- Griffiths, p.370.
- Griffiths, p.370, states that the offences were against Defence Regulations.
- Parliament of the United Kingdom (1943). Parliamentary papers, House of Commons and Command. 8. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 109.
- Conspirator: The Untold Story of Tyler Kent, Ray Bearse, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1991, pg 272