Hugh Pollard (intelligence officer)

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Major Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard (born London[1] 6 January 1888: died Midhurst district[2] 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.

Major Hugh Pollard
Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard.png
Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard. Author, firearms expert and secret service agent
Born(1888-01-06)6 January 1888
DiedMarch 1966
OccupationIntelligence agent, Writer
Notable work
  • 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
Spouse(s)Ruth M Gibbons


Ireland 1919-1921Edit

During the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), Pollard was Press Officer of the Information Section of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). Together with the Section secretary, Captain William Darling, he produced the Weekly Summary, a weekly newspaper distributed to the police forces in Ireland. The crudeness of this paper and its ambivalent attitude toward reprisals 'resulted in much negative publicity for the Crown forces and the Irish Administration'.[citation needed]

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').[3] 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.[4] The entire event had been staged by Pollard and Captain Garro-Jones, a colleague of Major Cecil Street, and was without foundation.[5] In December 1920 in the House of Commons, the British government denied any knowledge of these pictures or the circumstances in which they were produced.[6]

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 (IRB), rather than by forces acting for the British Crown.[7]

Spanish Civil WarEdit

Pollard was a devout Roman Catholic and a supporter of the conservative side in Spain in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War.[8] He and a former MI6 colleague Cecil Bebb played an important role in the events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities.

During lunch at Simpson's-in-the-Strand, 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 monarchist and right wing newspaper ABC and later Franco's senior press advisor. They conceived a plan to move General Franco from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco, where the Army of Africa was stationed. The Madrid government recognized that Franco was a danger to the Spanish Republic, and had sent him to the Canaries to keep him away from political intrigue. If a Spanish plane flew to the islands, the authorities would most likely be alerted, but a British aircraft would attract little or no attention. Jerrold and Bolin then persuaded Pollard (plus his daughter Diana and her friend Dorothy Watson) to join the enterprise as "cover".[9][10]

They charted a de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft, which flew out of Croydon airport, London, at 07.15 on the morning of July 11, 1936, piloted by Bebb, and also carrying Pollard, Diana, and Dorothy. The aircraft was bound for the Canaries. Pollard and Bebb delivered Franco to 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 intelligence services may have been complicit in the flight. However it is not clear yet how much the British government knew or was involved in these activities, or if the Britons involved were in fact acting on their own. Britain remained officially neutral during the Spanish Civil War.[11]

Later lifeEdit

In 1940, once Franco had seized power, Pollard was appointed head of MI6's semi-autonomous ‘Section D’ in Madrid.[11]

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".[11]

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 concerned".[12] 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 expertEdit

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

  • The Book of the Pistol and Revolver, London, McBride, Nast & Co., 1917.[13][14] (Available for web viewing here).
  • Automatic Pistols, London, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, 1920.[15]
  • Shot-Guns; Their History and Development, London, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, 1923.[16][17]
  • A History of Firearms, London, Geoffrey Bles, 1926.[18]
  • The Gun Room Guide, London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1930.[19][20]
  • Game Birds and Game Bird Shooting, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1936.[21]
  • The Story of Ypres, at Internet Archive also ISBN 978-1-103-81240-0
  • A Busy Time in Mexico: An Unconventional Record Of a Mexican Incident, Internet Archive also ISBN 978-0-217-66092-1
  • Fox Hunting - The Mystery Of Scent[22]
  • British & American Game-birds, London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1939
  • The Secret Societies of Ireland, Their Rise and Progress Internet Archive (1922)
  • Hard Up on Pegasus, by Hugh B C Pollard, London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1931. ASIN: B0006ALQ7A
  • The keeper's book; a guide to the duties of a gamekeeper (1910) with Sir Peter Jeffrey Mackie

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  2. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  3. ^ "LABOR PARTY AGAIN HITS CROWN FORCES". New York Times. January 18, 1921. p. 14. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
  4. ^ Henderson M.P, Arthur; Members of the Commission (1921). Report of the Labour Commission to Ireland. London Labour Party. pp. 49–51.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "PHOTOGRAPHS - HC Deb vol 135 cc1420-1". Hansard. 2 December 1920. Retrieved 2009-11-15.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Riess, Curt, They Were There: The Story of World War II and How It Came About Retrieved November 2012
  9. ^ Alpert, Michael. A New International History of the Spanish Civil War, p.18 Retrieved January 2012
  10. ^ Puzzo, Dante Anthony (1962). Spain and the great powers, 1936-1941. Columbia University Press. p. 51.
  11. ^ a b c Macklin Retrieved November 2012
  12. ^ National Archives HS 9/1200/5 1914.
  13. ^ The Book of the Pistol and Revolver at Retrieved November 2012
  14. ^ Riling, p.1842
  15. ^ Riling, p.1898
  16. ^ Shot-Guns; Their History and Development at Retrieved November 2012
  17. ^ Riling, p.1951
  18. ^ Riling, p.2009
  19. ^ The Gun Room Guide at Retrieved 2012
  20. ^ Riling, p.2091
  21. ^ Riling, p.2203
  22. ^ Fox Hunting - The Mystery Of Scent at Retrieved November 2012

External linksEdit