R. H. Bruce Lockhart

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Sir R. H. Bruce Lockhart
+R. H. Bruce-Lockhart in Malaya.jpg
R. H. Bruce Lockhart in Malaya, 1909
British Vice Consul in Moscow[1]
In office
Acting British Consul General in Moscow[1]
In office
British Consul General in Moscow[1]
In office
Head of the unofficial British mission / Unofficial Ambassador to the Bolsheviks[1]
In office
Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Warfare Executive[2]
In office
Personal details
Born(1887-09-02)2 September 1887
Died27 February 1970(1970-02-27) (aged 82)
Jean Bruce Haslewood
(m. 1913)

 Frances Mary Beck 
(m. 1948)

Sir Robert Hamilton Bruce Lockhart, KCMG (2 September 1887 – 27 February 1970) was a British diplomat, journalist, author, secret agent, and footballer. His 1932 book Memoirs of a British Agent[1] became an international bestseller and brought him to the world's attention by telling of his failed effort to sabotage the Bolshevik Revolution in Moscow in 1918, by assassinating Lenin and instigating a coup. After the plot failed, U.S. Consul General to Moscow and spymaster DeWitt Clinton Poole dissembled. It was said at the time that his main co-conspirator Sidney Reilly, and others were double agents working for the Bolsheviks. In the end, the "Lockhart Plot" was revealed[by whom?] as a cunning sting operation controlled by Felix Dzerzhinsky with the goal of discrediting the British and French governments.[3][4] However Boris Savinkov and in particular Xenophon Kalamatiano were working with State Department under the direction of US Secretary of State Robert Lansing, as pieced together in recent research by historian Barnes Carr.[5]


He was born in Anstruther, Fife, the son of Robert Bruce Lockhart, the first headmaster of Spier's School, Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland. His mother was Florence Stuart Macgregor, while his other ancestors include Bruces, Hamiltons, Cummings, Wallaces and Douglases. He claimed that he could trace a connection back to Boswell of Auchinleck. In Memoirs of a British Agent, he wrote, "There is no drop of English blood in my veins." He attended Fettes College, in Edinburgh.[6]

His family were mostly schoolmasters, but his younger brother, Sir Robert McGregor MacDonald Lockhart, became an Indian Army general. On 15 August 1947, the day British India was partitioned into two independent Dominions of India and Pakistan, he was appointed as the last Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. His brother John Bruce Lockhart was the headmaster of Sedbergh School, and his nephews Rab Bruce Lockhart and Logie Bruce Lockhart went on to become headmasters of Loretto and Gresham's.[7] His great-nephew, Simon Bruce-Lockhart, was the headmaster of Glenlyon Norfolk School.[8]



At 21, Lockhart went out to Malaya to join two uncles who were rubber planters there. According to his own account, he was sent to open up a new rubber estate near Pantai in Negeri Sembilan, in a district in which "there were no other white men". He then "caused a minor sensation by carrying off Amai, the beautiful ward of the Dato' Klana, the local Malay prince... my first romance". However, three years in Malaya, and one with Amai, came to an end when "doctors pronounced Malaria, but there were many people who said that I had been poisoned". One of his uncles and one of his cousins "bundled my emaciated body into a motor car and... packed me off home via Japan and America". The Dato' Klana in question was the chief of Sungei Ujong, the most important of the Nine States of Negeri Sembilan, whose palace was at Ampangan.[9]

First Moscow posting[edit]

Lockhart next joined the British Foreign Service and was posted to Moscow as Vice-Consul in January 1912.[10] At the time of his arrival in Russia, people had heard that a great footballer named Lockhart from Cambridge was arriving, and he was invited to turn out for Morozov a textile factory team that played their games 30 miles east of Moscow. The manager of the cotton mill was from Lancashire, England. Lockhart played for most of the 1912 season, and his team won the Moscow league championship that year. The gold medal that he won is in the collection of the National Library of Scotland.[11] The great player, however, was Bruce's brother, John, who had played rugby union for Scotland, and by his own admission, Bruce barely deserved his place in the team and played simply for the love of the sport.[1]

He was British Consul-General in Moscow when the February Revolution broke out in early 1917 but left shortly before the Bolshevik Revolution later that year.[citation needed]

Return to Moscow[edit]

In January 1918, at the behest of the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Lord Milner, the Secretary of State for War, Lockhart returned to Russia as the United Kingdom's first envoy to Bolshevik Russia, in an attempt to counteract German influence. Moura Budberg, the wife of a high-ranking Czarist diplomat, Count Johann von Benckendorff, became his mistress.[1]

After his return, Lockhart also worked for the Secret Intelligence Service, having been given £648 worth of diamonds to fund the creation of an agent network in Russia.[citation needed]

Later, Lockhart spoke out for the suspected Bolshevik spy Arthur Ransome, saying he had been a valuable intelligence asset amid the worst chaos of the revolution.[12] As the chaos worsened in Russia and purges took hold among the Bolshevik leaders, Lockhart helped Trotsky's secretary, Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina, to leave Russia; she later married Ransome.[1]

Arrest and imprisonment[edit]

In 1918, Lockhart and fellow British agent Sidney Reilly were alleged to have plotted to assassinate Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. Lockhart and British officials condemned that as Soviet propaganda.[13] He was accused of plotting against the Bolshevik regime and, for a time during 1918, was confined in the Kremlin as a prisoner and feared being condemned to death. However, he escaped trial in an exchange of secret agents for the Russian diplomat Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov. He later wrote about his experiences in his 1932 autobiographical book, Memoirs of a British Agent, which became an instant worldwide hit and was made into the 1934 film, British Agent, by Warner Brothers.

Lockhart was tried in absentia before the Supreme Revolutionary Tribunal in a proceeding, which opened 25 November 1918.[14] Some 20 defendants faced charges in the trial, most of whom had worked for the Americans or the British in Moscow, in the case levied by procurator Nikolai Krylenko.[14] The case concluded on 3 December 1918, with two defendants sentenced to be shot and various others sentenced to terms of prison or forced labour for terms up to five years.[15] Lockhart and Reilly were both sentenced to death in absentia, with the sentence to be executed if they were ever found in Soviet Russia again.[16]


Lockhart was appointed the commercial secretary of the British legation in Prague in November 1919. In 1922, finding the work boring, he left the post and moved into finance. He joined a Central European Bank that was run by the Bank of England.[17]


In 1928, Lockhart left the world of finance and moved into journalism, joining Lord Beaverbook's Evening Standard.[18] He served as the editor of the paper's Londoner's Diary column and became known for his hard-drinking and semi-debauched lifestyle. It enhanced his reputation that, despite having been caught by the Russians and exchanged for a Soviet agent, he remained on unusually cordial terms with the Soviet Embassy in London, from whom he received an annual gift of caviar.[19] He also helped to organise Beaverbrook's Empire Free Trade Crusade campaign.[20] In the 1930s, Lockhart began to release a number of books, which were successful enough to allow him to take up writing as a full-time career in 1937.[18]

Later life[edit]

During the Second World War, Lockhart became director-general of the Political Warfare Executive, co-ordinating all British propaganda against the Axis powers. He was also for a time the British liaison officer to the Czechoslovak government-in-exile under President Edvard Beneš. After the war, he resumed writing, lecturing and broadcasting and made a weekly BBC Radio broadcast to Czechoslovakia for over ten years.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

In 1913, Lockhart married firstly Jean Adelaide Haslewood Turner of Brisbane, Australia, and they had a son, the author Robin Bruce Lockhart, who wrote the book Ace of Spies (1967) – about his father's friend and fellow agent Sidney Reilly – from which the television serial Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983) was later produced.

He divorced his first wife Jean in 1938 citing her adultery with Loudon McNeill McClean.

In 1948, Lockhart married his second wife Frances Mary Beck.

His diaries, published after his death, reveal that he struggled for most of his life with alcoholism.[21]

Death and legacy[edit]

Lockhart died on 27 February 1970, at the age of 82, and left property valued at £2054. His address at death was Brookside, Ditchling, Sussex.[22]

The 1983 British television series Reilly, Ace of Spies, was based on a book by his son. Lockhart was portrayed by actor Ian Charleson in the series.



  • Memoirs of a British Agent (Putnam, London, 1932)
  • Retreat from Glory (Putnam, London, 1934)
  • Return to Malaya (Putnam, London, 1936)
  • My Scottish Youth (Putnam, London, 1937)
  • Guns or Butter: War countries and peace countries of Europe revisited (Putnam, London, 1938)
  • A Son of Scotland (Putnam, London, 1938)
  • What Happened to the Czechs? (Batchworth Press, London, 1953)
  • Comes the Reckoning (Putnam, London, 1947)
  • My Rod, My Comfort (Putnam, London, 1949)
  • The Marines Were There: the Story of the Royal Marines in the Second World War (Putnam, London, 1950)
  • Scotch: the Whisky of Scotland in Fact and Story (Putnam, London, 1951)
  • My Europe (Putnam, London, 1952)
  • Your England (Putnam, London, 1955)
  • Jan Masaryk, a Personal Memoir (Putnam, London, 1956)
  • Friends, Foes, and Foreigners (Putnam, London, 1957)
  • The Two Revolutions: an Eyewitness Study of Russia, 1917 (Bodley Head, London, 1967)
  • The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart Vol 1 (Macmillan, London, 1973)
  • The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart Vol 2 (Macmillan, London, 1980)
  • My Scottish Youth (B&W Publishing, Edinburgh 1993)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, Memoirs of a British Agent; first published 1932 by Macmillan (January 1975); ISBN 0-333-17329-5/ISBN 978-0-333-17329-9
  2. ^ Taylor, P.M. (ed.), 2005. Allied Propaganda in WWII: The Complete Record of the Political Warfare Executive (FO 898)
  3. ^ Richard K. Debo, "Lockhart Plot or Dzerhinskii Plot?" Journal of Modern History 43.3 (1971): 413–439.
  4. ^ John W. Long, "Plot and counter-plot in revolutionary Russia: Chronicling the Bruce Lockhart conspiracy, 1918." Intelligence and National Security 10.1 (1995): 122-143.
  5. ^ Carr, Barnes (2020). The Lenin Plot: The Unknown Story of America's War Against Russia. Pegasus Books. ISBN 978-1-64313-317-1.
  6. ^ Lockhart, Robert Bruce (1993). My Scottish Youth. Edinburgh: B&W Publishing. pp. 313–353. ISBN 1-873631-26-X.
  7. ^ Jamie Bruce Lockhart & Alan Macfarlane, Dragon Days (2013) (full text online at cam.ac.uk), p. 11
  8. ^ Derek Bingham, The ECIS International Schools Directory 2009/10 (2009), p. 470
  9. ^ Bruce Lockhart, R. H., Return to Malaya (London: Putnam), 1936, pp. 4–5, 195, 211 & 230
  10. ^ Smirkin, John. "Robert Bruce Lockhart". Spartacus Educational. Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  11. ^ Moffat, Colin (8 March 2006). "BBC SPORT: "O'Connor not first Scot in Moscow"". BBC News. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  12. ^ Casciani, Dominic (1 March 2005). "How MI5 watched children's author". BBC News. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  13. ^ Thomson, Mike (19 March 2011). "Did Britain try to assassinate Lenin?". BBC News. Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  14. ^ a b Robert Service, Spies and Commissars: Bolshevik Russia and the West. London: Macmillan, 2011; pg. 164.
  15. ^ Service, Spies and Commissars, pp. 164-165.
  16. ^ Service, Spies and Commissars, pg. 165.
  17. ^ Lockhart, Robert Bruce (1955). Your England. London: Putnam. p. 102.
  18. ^ a b Hughes, Michael (7 January 2010). "Lockhart, Sir Robert Hamilton Bruceunlocked (1887–1970)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34578 – via Oxford University Press. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  19. ^ Roger Wilkes, Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip (2002), p. 162
  20. ^ Chisholm, Anne, Davie, Michael (1992). Beaverbrook: A Life. London: Hutchinson. pp. 285. ISBN 9780394568799.
  21. ^ Phillip Knightley, The Second Oldest Profession (New York: Norton, 1986), p. 73
  22. ^ "Bruce-Lockhart sir Robert Hamilton" in Probate Index for 1970, online at probatesearch.service.gov.uk/Calendar, accessed 12 April 2019
  23. ^ Notice of 1943 award to Robert Hamilton Bruce Lockhart of knighthood as Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.
  24. ^ The London Gazette, Issue 35841.

External links[edit]