Sidney George Reilly (c. 1870 – c. 1880 – c. 1925), was a Jewish secret agent employed by the British Secret Service Bureau, the precursor to the modern British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6/SIS). labelled the so-called “Ace of Spies” and the model for Ian Fleming’s ‘quintessentially English’ James Bond character according to the Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya, Reilly was born Zigmund or Salomon (Shlomo) Markovich Rozenblum (Rosenblum) on 24th March 1874 in Odessa, then a Black Sea port of the Russian Empire. His father was a Jewish stockbroker and shipping agent, while his mother came from an impoverished noble family. Giles Milton, however who has researched his early life asserts that “Both his parents were Jewish” the illegitimate son of Polina (or “Perla”), his acknowledged mother, and Dr Mikhail Abramovich Rosenblum, the trusted first cousin of Reilly’s putative father, Grigory (Hersh) Rosenblum. In 1896 a year before the first Zionist congress, Reilly was recruited by Superintendent William Melville for the émigré intelligence network of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch. In 1899 he became ‘Sidney George Reilly’ by receiving a passport from Melville in that name, though he never legally adopted it or became a British subject. ‘Reilly’ was the number one agent for the British intelligence network at least 10 years prior to the foundation of the British Secret Service Bureau, which was founded in 1909 and through his close relationship with Melville, Reilly would be employed as a secret agent for the Secret Service Bureau in 1909. He was also alleged to have spied for at least three other powers-Japan, Russia and Germany. While espionage was always understood to be rather distasteful in European circles a gentleman’s code of conduct existed. Consequently, it was this foreign element with no loyalty to the Empire or European morality that corrupted the secret service from the beginning and it was Winston Churchill who supported Reilly’s recruitment into MI6. Melville’s own section continued as a separate Special Section.
The endeavour to depose the Bolshevik Government and assassinate Vladimir Lenin is considered by biographers to be Reilly’s most daring scheme. The Lockhart Plot, or more accurately the Reilly Plot, has sparked debate over the years: Did the Allies launch a clandestine operation to overthrow the Bolsheviks? If so, did the Cheka uncover the plot at the eleventh hour or had they unmasked the conspirators from the outset? Certain historians have suggested that the Cheka orchestrated the whole conspiracy from the onset concluding that Reilly was a Bolshevik agent provocateur. On 30th August, a military cadet shot and killed Moisei Uritsky, head of the Petrograd Cheka. On the same day, Fanya Kaplan, a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, shot and wounded Lenin as he left a meeting at the Michelson factory in Moscow. These events were used by the Cheka to implicate any malcontents in a grand conspiracy and warrant a full-scale campaign-the “Red Terror”. The Cheka seized and executed thousands of political opponents including those involved in Reilly’s pending coup using lists supplied by undercover agents. British intelligence documents released in 2000 state that Reilly was executed in a forest near Moscow on Wednesday 5th November 1925. According to eyewitness Boris Gudz, the execution of Sidney Reilly was supervised by an OGPU (secret police) officer, Grigory Feduleev; another OGPU officer, George Syroezhkin, fired the final shot into Reilly’s chest. Gudz also confirmed that the order to kill Reilly came from Stalin directly. However, there still exist rumours about Reilly’s survival. For example, there is speculation that Reilly defected and became an adviser to Soviet intelligence making the British intelligence documents a cover-up.