16. The Secret Agent Who Spied on the Russians for Both the British and Japanese
After the Boer War, Sidney Reilly’s spy masters sent him back to Tsarist Russia, from where he reported on Russia’s development of Baku’s oil fields. He also reported on the progress of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and dipped down to Persia to report on oil developments there. Next, he was sent to the Far East, under cover of an employee of a trading company in Russian-controlled Port Arthur, Manchuria. There, Reilly not only spied for the British, but also got a side gig as a double agent and spied for the Japanese, who were keenly interested in Port Arthur’s defenses.
Early in 1904, shortly before the Russo-Japanese War erupted, Reilly reportedly stole the Port Arthur harbor defense plans for the Japanese. That helped the Japanese Navy to navigate through minefields that protected the harbor, and launch a surprise attack on the night of February 8th – 9th, 1904, against the Russian Far East Fleet. Although Japan eventually won the war, that initial attack did not go exactly as planned. Still – things could have gone worse for the Japanese Navy if not for Reilly.