Time Magazine Monday, May. 23, 1927.
Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Secretary of State for Home Affairs, took a step of such grave moment last week, as to threaten his own position in the Baldwin Cabinet, and render probable a break in the diplomatic relations between Great Britain and Soviet Russia.
Sir William's act was nothing less than to authorize a raid by operatives of Scotland Yard on the five-story building in Moorgate street (London), near the Bank of England, where 1,000 British and Russian clerks were employed by Arcos, Ltd., the trading organization representing in England all the Russian cooperative societies. Moreover, in this same building is housed the Soviet Trade Delegation, guaranteed diplomatic immunity under the British-Soviet Trade Agreement of 1921. Details of the raid:
Safe Blowing. The afternoon was lengthening and employes of the Bank of England were preparing to dash home for a spot of tea, when suddenly they beheld the street full of Metropolitan policemen, hastening resolutely toward the Arcos Building. Throwing a cordon about it, they rushed the open door, occupied the whole building in a twinkling; warned screaming typists and frightened clerks not to touch or attempt to destroy any paper, book or document, herded the women into one large room, the men into another.
At 8 p.m. the director of the raid, Major General Sir Borlase Elward Wyndham Childs, appeared personally on the scene. Curtains were drawn, electroliers switched on, and all night the silhouettes of policemen could be observed occasionally upon the blinds as the police ransacked.
Trucks backed up and carried away tons of papers. Desks and strongboxes were rifled; but the two large safes in the basement proved too much for the police. Soon workmen with safeblowing apparatus arrived. Pneumatic drills were featured in their technique, and all the next day a purring t-t-tat-tat-tat-t-t was heard in Moorgate street. Finally the safes were burst open, more trucks backed up, more papers were trundled away.
Charges. The employes of Arcos, Ltd., about half of them English girls and men, stated that they were personally searched by the police, who took from them whatever they deemed of interest, releasing them about an hour after the raid began.
The Soviet Chargé d'Affaires at London filed an official protest with the Foreign Office, reading in part:
"According to Article V of the trade agreement, Mr. Khinchuk [head of the Soviet Trade delegation, but absent last week at the League of Nations Economic Conference] enjoys all of the rights and immunities enjoyed by the official representatives of other foreign powers in Britain. The right of Mr. Khinchuk to the above-mentioned privileges was confirmed quite recently by the Foreign Office note of Feb. 16, 1927."
"During the raid an employe of the trade delegation, Mr. Khudiakov, who had refused to give up the key of a safe containing the personal papers, ciphers, codes, etc., of the official trade agent was assaulted by the police. Mail addressed to the official trade agent, which had just been brought by couriers, was carried off by the police. These proceedings are in flagrant violation of Article V of the trade agreement."
"Among those detained were women possessing diplomatic passports, as for instance the wife of the Chargé d'Affaires and the wife of the Financial Attache. The personal search of the women was carried out by male police officers."
The Soviet Trade delegation later issued a statement to the press, reading, in part: ". . . The way the raid was carried on gives no guarantee that documents and materials which the police might allege to have found were really there before the raid took place. . . ."
Explanations. Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks was greeted by ironical Laborite cheers when he entered the House of Commons on the morning after the raid. He said:
"Information was placed before me by the police, upon which I authorized them to apply for a warrant to search the premises of the Arcos. The warrant was granted, and entry was made yesterday. The search is now progressing. I am not able and shall not be able for a day or so to give any further information."
At the Foreign Office officials would not allow themselves to be quoted, but made the amazing statement that they believed Sir William Joynson-Hicks had ordered the raid without the knowledge of Foreign Secretary Sir Austen Chamberlain. They further hazarded the opinion that Sir William might have been ignorant that diplomatic immunity was being violated, and that a broth of trouble was being concocted for the Foreign Office.
At the War Office other guarded admissions were made to the effect that the Secretary of State for War, Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, had requested the Home Office to raid Arcos Ltd. in order to recover certain stolen War Office documents which it was thought might be found there. If this request was made, the raid was technically legal under the Defense of the Realm Act of 1911; but the only possible justification for it in public opinion would be the finding of startlingly incriminating documents of some sort.
Significance. Sir William Joynson-Hicks, or "Jix" in popular parlance, has the name of being an able and upright man, but a passionate, implacable foe of "Communism" in its every manifestation. He and Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer, have been trying for months if not years to get the Cabinet to break with Russia, against the sober judgment of Premier Stanley Baldwin and Foreign Secretary Sir Austen Chamberlain.
Last week "Jix" apparently staked all on the chance of being able to produce documents sufficiently charged with social dynamite to excuse violation of Soviet diplomatic immunity. The Sunday Observer, a newspaper of Sir William's own party (Conservative) spoke last week of "the dilemma in which the British Government has been thrown by its lack of coordination" (i.e. by "Jix's" independent action).
Scotland Yard, it seemed, must produce by hook or crook documents adequate to justify its ultimate chief, Sir William Joynson-Hicks.
In the U. S. such consistently anti-Red news organs as the Chicago Tribune printed a United Press story in which the horrid discovery was revealed that "one of the [Arcos, Ltd.] rooms was furnished with tables and chairs, leading to the belief that it was a secret soviet meeting-room."
"The Metropolitan Police. Their function is clear if it be remembered that "London" is a popular misnomer for the "County of London." The County consists of 29 municipal divisions of which one is the "City" and the remaining 28 are Metropolitan Boroughs. Over all extends the activity of the Metropolitan Police, a State police controlled by the Home Secretary who is responsible to Parliament. The Metropolitan Police have headquarters at New Scotland Yard; whereas the "City Police" have headquarters near Guildhall. In the case of the raid described above, the procedure was for the Home Secretary to authorize the Metropolitan Police to apply for a search warrant at Guildhall, armed with which they carried out their raid. Other Metropolitan police services are the "King's Household Police," the "Royal Marine Police," the "War Department Constabulary," etc.
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