“The Russians are good stage managers. They are also very efficient liars.”

Major-General Alfred Knox (1870-1964) was the British Military Attache in Petrograd (as St Petersburg had been renamed since the start of the war – the Russians thought it sounded too German). He wrote to Ralph Glyn, a young officer currently attached to the War Office, in some dudgeon when he felt less informed views were being taken more seriously than his own.

British Embassy
Petrograd
10th June 1915

Dear Glyn,

Many thanks for your letter. Of course it is quite right that everyone who spends even ten minutes in Russia should send in a report for the more independent views that are brought to bear on any problem the better. What I think is quite wrong is that such reports should be printed and issued by the War Office without a word of editorial comment. There is a danger in this for many people will read your Report who have never seen the Handbook of the Russian Army nor the peace reports of my predecessors and myself before the war nor the reports I have sent in since.

It is true as you say that the Russians are good stage managers. They are also very efficient liars.

You say you are sorry that I could not have been with Sir Arthur Paget to tell him what was truth and what was fiction in all that you were shown. Well in the absence of any instructions from home on the subject I regarded Sir Arthur’s object as the merely courtly one of distributing honours. If I had known that Sir Arthur came out with the additional object of studying the military situation I would have been delighted to have submitted my brains for picking, though MO3 has got all I know in its pigeon holes and since the war owing to the special arrangements made my chances of getting information have been narrowed down to generally a small section of the front.

Yours sincerely
Alfred Knox

Letter from Alfred Knox to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/6)

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