HILL, George Alexander.
First edition, first impression. Flamboyant memoirs of one of Britain’s most successful intelligence agents of the First World War; “Hill’s first assignment was in Greece, where he flew agents behind enemy lines. In 1917 he was sent to Petrograd as a member of the Royal Flying Corps mission and arrived amid the confusion of the Bolshevik Revolution. According to Hill’s own richly embroidered account of his mission he undertook the hazardous task of taking the Romanian crown jewels from the Kremlin to Iasi, helped Leon Trotsky organise a military intelligence service and the Red Air Force, ran guns to Ukrainian nationalists, and recruited a number of German agents for counter-intelligence work. When the British landed in Murmansk he was obliged to flee to Finland with the Cheka close on his heels. Hill returned briefly to Russia and then worked for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in the Middle East for the next three years” (ODNB). During the inter-war years, Hill had a number of rather “precarious jobs”, including deputy general manager to the great impresario C. B. Cochran. When war broke out Hill was recalled to SIS and worked as an instructor in section D (destruction) at Brickendonbury Hall near Hertford where his pupils included Kim Philby. When the school was taken over by SOE in 1940, Hill remained on the staff until 1941 when he was selected to head an SOE mission to Moscow developing co-operation between SOE and NKVD, culminating in the infiltration of some Soviet agents into occupied Europe in operations codenamed Pickaxe. “After the war he became a director of the British-owned German mineral water company Apollinaris. It was a strange finale for a man who was never known to have refused a drink”. The title alludes to the hour before dawn “when the firing parties take out spies and shoot them … the hour that so many of us dread” (title-page epigraph). Uncommon, particularly so in the jacket.
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Octavo. Original black cloth, title gilt to the spine. With the pictorial dust jacket. Portrait frontispiece, maps to the endpapers. Some foxing and browning, particularly front, back and fore-edge, else very good in slightly rubbed, soiled and chipped, but largely pictorially and typographically complete jacket.