Sidney Reilly Ace of Spies is probably the most famous spy in history, and his life and death remain shrouded in mystery. Born Shlomo Rosenblum in 1873, he was Ukrainian and had a trail of false identities, fraudulent activities and Russian contacts that made him invaluable. He was recruited by SIS (later named MI6) as a secret agent and was sent to the Far East, and Russia on spying missions. He was later involved in an assignment to infiltrate the Bolsheviks and in 1918 planned a counter-coup against Lenin. The conspiracy was discovered by the Bolshevik secret police, and he was forced to flee the country. After this failure, the Soviets condemned Riley to death, despite his absence. He was later awarded the Military Cross for his espionage work but was suspected of having compromised the whole operation. Sidney Reilly Ace of Spies very much created his own legend. He claimed to have worked undercover for many different countries and was a master of deception. He loved gambling, led a jet-set life and was infamous for his many wives and mistresses. His death also remains a mystery. Whilst working undercover, spying on anti-Soviet activities, Reilly ignored advice not to return to Russia and was shot. Questions surround the shooting, with many conflicting stories. It was originally claimed that he was killed by Bolshevik border guards whilst trying to cross the Finnish border. However, a later MI6 report stated that he had been captured by Stalin’s secret police and interrogated in their Moscow headquarters. He was then shot in the back on Stalin’s direct order. to this day, providing both the inspiration for the character of James Bond and the biography by his son, Ace of Spies.


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