Major Cecil Cameron

Soldier, Prisoner and Spymaster | Number 2

Cecil Aylmer Cameron (1883-1924) followed his distinguished father, Colonel Aylmer Cameron VC, into the army. He married Ruby Shawe in 1909. By 1911 he held the rank of Major and was living with Ruby at Number 2 Heriot Row. They were both charged with a serious fraud involving a valuable pearl necklace. The Camerons' claim that the necklace had been stolen was challenged by their insurance company. After a long trial they were convicted and imprisoned. The case attracted many columns of coverage in The Scotsman as an example of the fall from grace of two society figures. 

Cameron had said nothing in his own defence and served his full prison term. Ruby, who was released after only six months because of ill health, later confessed that her husband had taken no part in the crime and was simply protecting her. He obtained a full pardon after a petition on his behalf signed by generals, aristocrats and politicians. Just a few months after his release from prison he returned to the army, to an important and adventurous role in World War 1. As a staff officer, he was mentioned in dispatches four times and received the Distinguished Service Order.  

In reality he was also serving as a spymaster, running agents in occupied France and Belgium. He headed the British part of a tripartite intelligence unit based in Folkestone, under the code name EVELYN. His everyday title was 'B'. One of his star recruits was Louise de Bettignies, who operated as Alice Dubois. Her job was to set up a new network of spies in occupied France and to organise escape routes for allied prisoners. Her information helped the allies destroy several German batteries, and enabled a bombing attack on the Kaiser's train which nearly killed him. 'B' then sent her to Brussels, where she was arrested, tried and died in prison.

A second Cameron agent was Leon Trulin, who was 17 when he fled to England to fight the Germans. After a week's course in how to identify German units and guns he travelled to Belgium, returning with much valuable information. But his next mission - to organise agents in Brussels - proved fatal. He was caught and executed, aged 18, just a year and a half after his recruitment.

As World War 1 ended, Cameron's decorations included the Legion d'Honneur de France, Croix de Chevalier, and the Belgian Ordre de Leopold, Chevalier. He returned briefly to London, then as a fluent Russian speaker  was appointed Chief Intelligence Officer with the British Military Mission to Siberia during the Russian Civil War. Another award - Commander of the Order of the British Empire - followed in 1920.

Cameron's next posting reflected the unrest in Ireland which led to the setting up of the Irish Free State in 1922.  He is said to have trained about 60 British intelligence agents at a unit in Hounslow before they were sent to Ireland. In 1923, he was appointed military attache in Riga, but the posting was then countermanded. One source suggests that army head Lord Jellico thought the post unsuitable for someone who had undergone a sentence of penal servitude.

Whether or not that was true, Cameron's life took a dark turn. He resigned his commission on 14 August 1924, on the grounds of ill-health contracted on active service. Four days later died, after shooting himself at Hillsborough Barracks in Sheffield.

In reality he was also serving as a spymaster, running agents in occupied France and Belgium