The Ace of Spies and Other Significant Espionage Figures

A 19th century Amazon explorer. Wikimedia

39. From Guarding Brothels to Shooting Cannibals

In his youth, Ronsenblum’s politics got him in hot waters with the Tsarist police, the Okhrana. So he fled Odessa at age 19, stowing away in a ship bound for Brazil. It was the beginning of years of years of international travel, during which he claimed to have worked as a dockworker; a dishwasher; a whorehouse doorkeeper; a railway engineer in India; and a spy for the Japanese government. While in Brazil, he served as cook for some British explorers, and reportedly saved them from hostile cannibals by grabbing a revolver and shooting several attackers dead.

The grateful explorers invited their cook to return with them to England, and steered him towards British intelligence. He arrived in London in 1895, got married three years later, and in 1899, took out a British passport with the name Sidney George Reilly. Over the years, he would take out eleven different passports, each bearing a different name.