By Christopher Miskimon

The end of World War I did not mean the end of fighting for Russia. The communist Bolsheviks vied for control against the Royalist “White” Russians, leading to brutal conflict. The Allied nations attempted to help the Whites maintain control. A primary source of information from within Bolshevik-controlled territory was a British spy named Paul Dukes, who managed to infiltrate the Communist Party and the police in Petrograd. The most difficult part was getting his information out of Russia. To make this possible, naval officer Lt. Augustus Agar was recruited to lead a small group of volunteer sailors aboard small coastal torpedo boats. Agar was not only able to get through to Dukes on multiple occasions, but also torpedoed the cruiser Oleg and aided in another attack which sank two battleships and a depot ship. Dukes’ cover was eventually blown and he made a daring escape, later becoming the only person ever knighted by the King for actions related solely to espionage.

The exploits of these two men are retold in fascinating detail in this new book. Most works covering Allied efforts focus on the overt military activities; this coverage of naval and espionage missions is refreshing and engaging. Both subjects left extensive accounts, and these are used to advantage in the text.

The Secret War Against Red Russia: The Daring Exploits of Paul Dukes and Augustus Agar VC During the Russian Civil War (Brian Best, Frontline Books, South Yorkshire UK, 2022, photographs, bibliography, $39.95, hardcover)

More Military History Book Reviews for Summer 2023