Hugh Pollard
Born (1888-01-06)6 January 1888
Died March 1966
Nationality 22x20px United Kingdom
Citizenship UK
Occupation Intelligence agent, Writer
Notable work(s)
  • A History of Firearms,
  • Automatic Pistols,
  • The Book of the Pistol and Revolver,
  • The Story of Ypres,
  • A Busy Time in Mexico: An Unconventional Record Of a Mexican Incident,
  • Fox Hunting - The Mystery Of Scent,
    British & American Game-birds,
  • The Secret Societies of Ireland, Their Rise and Progress,
  • Hard Up on Pegasus,
  • The Keeper's Book; a Guide to the Duties of a Gamekeeper

Major Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard (6 January 1888 – March 1966) was an author, firearms expert, and a British SOE officer. He is chiefly known for his intelligence work during the Irish War of Independence and for the events of July 1936, when he and Cecil Bebb flew General Francisco Franco from the Canary Islands to Morocco, thereby helping to trigger the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. He was the author of many published works on weaponry, in particular on sporting firearms.

Career[edit | edit source]

Ireland 1919-1921[edit | edit source]

During the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), Pollard was Press Officer of the Information Section of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Together with the Section secretary, Captain William Darling, he produced the Weekly Summary, an official synopsis of the war in Ireland. The crudeness of this paper and its obvious intent at deceiving the journalists for whom it was produced 'resulted in much negative publicity for the Crown forces and the Irish Administration'.

He was also directly involved in two particularly bungled attempts at 'black propaganda'. One was the attempt to produce and distribute a fake version of the Irish Bulletin, the gazette of the Irish Republicans. The fraud was quickly exposed and the reliability of information emanating from Crown sources in Ireland severely damaged. A second incident involved the bizarre attempt to fake a military engagement in County Kerry (reported as the 'Battle of Tralee').[1] The press-release included photographs of the purported scene of the battle. These were republished in a number of Irish and English papers before the actual location was identified as Vico Road in Dalkey, a quiet seaside Dublin suburb.[2] The entire event had been staged by Pollard and Captain Garro-Jones, a colleague of Major Cecil Street, and was without foundation.[3] In December 1920 in the House of Commons, the British government was forced to admit that the photographs and a contemporary, (though unreleased) newsreel were fake.[4]

Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Pollard recorded his interpretation of the history of Irish nationalist organisations in Secret Societies of Ireland, Their Rise and Progress. He alleged that the Lord Mayor of Cork, Tomás Mac Curtain had been assassinated by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, rather than by forces acting for the British government.[5]

Spanish Civil War[edit | edit source]

File:Dragon rapide g-aeml flying arp.jpg

a de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft

Pollard was a devout Roman Catholic and a supporter of the Nationalist cause in Spain in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War.[6] He and a former intelligence colleague Cecil Bebb played a curious role in the events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities. At 07.15 on the morning of July 11, 1936, Pollard left Croydon airport, London, in a de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft, piloted by Bebb, and accompanied by two young women. The flight log records that the aircraft was bound for the Canary Islands. The purpose of the flight was to collect General Franco from the Canaries and fly him to Tetuán in Morocco, at that time a Spanish colony, where the Spanish African Army was garrisoned.

The Madrid government recognized that Franco was a danger to the Spanish Republic, and had sent him to the Canaries in order to keep him away from political intrigue. Had a Spanish plane flown to the islands, the authorities would likely have been alerted, but the British aircraft attracted little or no attention. Pollard, Bebb and Franco arrived in Tetuan on July 19 and the General quickly set about organising Spanish Moroccan troops to participate in the coming coup.

It is possible that British security services may have been complicit in the flight, which was planned over lunch at Simpsons-in-the-Strand, where Douglas Francis Jerrold, the conservative Roman Catholic Editor of the English Review (and also a British intelligence officer), met with the journalist Luis Bolín, London correspondent of the ABC Newspaper and later Franco's senior press advisor. Jerrold and Bolin then persuaded Pollard plus his daughter Diana, and a friend to join the enterprise as "cover".[7][8]

However it is not clear how much the British government knew or indeed cared about the activities of the secret services in aiding Franco, if they were in fact responsible. Britain remained officially neutral throughout the duration of the Spanish Civil War.[9]

Later life[edit | edit source]

In 1940, once Franco had seized power, Pollard became the MI6 station chief in Madrid.[citation needed]

Pollard listed his hobbies in Who's Who as "hunting and shooting". Douglas Jerrold of The English Review said of him that he "looked and behaved like a German Crown Prince and had a habit of letting off revolvers in any office he happened to visit".[9]

Pollard's personal SOE file has recently been released, revealing him to have been an experienced British intelligence officer. When considering Pollard for a place in SOE, one officer wrote: "Certain jobs Pollard apparently could do well, but he was definitely unreliable where money and drink was concerened".[10] He was also a skilled linguist and an expert in firearms, and had a good deal of personal experience of wars and revolutions, such as those in Mexico and Morocco.

Author and Firearms expert[edit | edit source]

Pollard was a much-published expert on firearms, having written the 'small arms' section in the official War Office textbook. His history of the battle of Ypres is still in print today.

References are to Ray Riling, Guns and Shooting, a Bibliography, New York: Greenberg, 1951.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. "LABOR PARTY AGAIN HITS CROWN FORCES". New York Times. January 18, 1921. pp. 14. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  2. Henderson M.P, Arthur; Members of the Commission (1921). Report of the Labour Commission to Ireland. London Labour Party. pp. 49–51. 
  3. Kenneally, Ian (2008). The paper wall: newspapers and propaganda in Ireland 1919-1921. Collins Press. pp. 32–36, 41–42, 21. ISBN 978-1-905172-58-0. 
  4. "PHOTOGRAPHS - HC Deb vol 135 cc1420-1". Hansard. 2 December 1920. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  5. Pollard, Hugh Bertie Campbell (1922). The secret societies of Ireland: their rise and progress. P. Allan. pp. 186, 193–194. ISBN 978-0-7661-5479-7. 
  6. [ Riess, Curt, They Were There: The Story of World War II and how it Came about.
  7. Alpert, Michael, p.18, A New International History of the Spanish Civil War Retrieved January 2012
  8. Puzzo, Dante Anthony (1962). Spain and the great powers, 1936-1941. Columbia University Press. pp. 51. Retrieved 08-01-2012. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Article on Major Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard at Retrieved March 6, 2010
  10. National Archives HS 9/1200/5 1914.

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

de:Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard

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