This, like all my work, is a serious piece of naval history - it's about spying and being a traitor to ones nation.  However, I don't want people climbing "out of their prams" when they read that I consider the lowest form of naval traitor to be a junior rate Stoker, especially when he is an ACTING engine room junior rate.  I mean. just how low can one get?  If it had been say, a sparker, a man wheeling and dealing with State secrets on a daily basis as his job, then I could have part understood; indeed, such an anti-hero might have brought some romanticism to what can only be considered as a rather dull, puerile and altogether lack lustre historical fact.  BUT, strangely he HAD BEEN just such a person, a SPARKER.  At the end of WW1 many men changed Branches, and during that change over, took new Official Numbers.  Having been the Radio Supervisor in HMS Rothesay around the time of Sub Lieutenant Bingham, I and others were mesmerised with the goings on manifest in the daily radio and TV news bulletins, especially the ones transmitted by BBC South Today [Rothesay was a Pompey ship] - not to be condoned, but then again, hardly boring stuff.

My story goes back to 1901, newly into the reign of King Edward VII and the latter stages of the Second Boer War, when one, Douglas Frank SPRINGHALL was born on the 28th March to a family living in Willesden North London.

We first meet him at the Training Ship [TS] Arethusa, from where many of the boys I joined and served with at HMS Ganges came from, so many years later.  From Arethusa he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Second Class at HMS Ganges on the 5th July 1916 {just after the famous naval battle of Jutland} and was  given the official number of J55425. He was 15 years and 3 months old, exactly the same age as I was when I joined HMS Ganges on the 13th October 1953. Here, he began his training to become a Boy Telegraphist. The following document shows his WW1 career in full SPRINGHALL FIRST CERTIFICATE.pdf - use the Adobe PDF zooming tool to access more detail.  He left Ganges as a Boy Telegraphist on the 14th April 1917 and joined the battlecruiser HMAS Australia for temporary service in the Royal Australian Navy [RAN]. He served for a year in this ship leaving on the 4th April 1918.  Then he joined another battlecruiser, HMS Indomitable, serving for the rest of the war and beyond from 5th April 1918 until 4th February 1919. He was discharged to Depot [Barracks] to HMS Vivid II [Devonport Barracks] on the 5th February 1919 still as a Boy Telegraphist and whilst there was advanced to an Ordinary Telegraphist to date 28th March 1919, the date of his 18th birthday and so the commencement of his 'mans time' and start of his twelve year engagement.

 On the 5th April 1919, whilst remaining in the Barracks,  he had a mess change and changed over to become a stoker.

Other entries on this certificate show that he received a 5 shilling gratuity for training, and a further £1 Admiralty grant in October 1916, both amounts therefore at Ganges.  An entry dated 24.3.18 [whilst in Australia] states that he was transferred to Seaman Class being unfit in present rating - a failed sparker in other words. That is followed by a statement that the RAN agreed to having Springhall as a temporary sailor dated 1st Jan 1918.  In the next entry,  the word Columbine is clear but, as you will see, it probably refers to his first draft as a stoker, yet to come,  which is shown in his SECOND CERTIFICATE. The symbol which prefixes the penultimate entry, viz φ {or thereabouts} draws one attention to the ship list, where, alongside the word Australia, one finds the same symbol. The last entry is clearly dated 22/6/43 and can only be a retro entry put there by MI6 after Springhall went to Brixton Prison for eight years.

From hereonin, Springhall is an engine room man, given the rate [and therefore pay] of one rate above what he was as a member of the W/T branch:  he was an ORDINARY Telegraphist and almost overnight, he is now an acting Stoker first class, an ABLE rate.  This is his new certificate SPRINGHALLSECOND CERTIFICATE.pdf and it would help you to understand it were you to first print this little file A Guide to understand SPRINGHALL’s naval papers.  See below for WAR GRATUITIES and WAR PRIZE MONEY.

He was discharged as "did" which is far worse than discharged "dd" [discharged dead] meaning that he was discharged in disgrace, or, as is usual in the Service of today, a dishonourable discharge. He was charged with, and subsequently found guilty for acting as an agent and distributor of  seditious material in the armed forces during and after the First World War. Today, 2009, the stigma of a dishonourable discharged from the armed forces has much less of an impact on civilians per se than it had back in 1920, because 'standards' have dropped to a much lower level of acceptance by the State.  Vast numbers of liberals would, in all probability, blame the armed forces for putting such dishonoured personnel in such compromising positions.

His dishonourable discharge did not make headline news even though in 1920, British troops were still mopping-up in Northern Europe and were engaged on terrible tasks like burying the war dead in recognised graveyards [Commonwealth War Graves Commission] and in deep graves unlike the shallow bomb crater-graves these poor bastards had shared with utter carnage, as well as marshaling thoroughly dejected German civilians and much worse still, a disgruntled and angry German army and navy who, according to them, had not been defeated but "sold-down-the-line" by middle class [essentially] German non-combatants, especially the Jews.  Effectively [and officially], the Allies were still at war well past the 11th November 1918.  What did make the headlines was his  stealing and selling of State secrets to the Russians and those involved with him.  That came much later in the 1940's when the story was plastered [speculatively] across the world's press, and in 2004, MI6 released the story [officially] to the National Archives for issue to the public at large.  Here it is in precise form.

Soviet intelligence agents and suspected agents


Douglas Springhall (KV 2/1594-1596)


Springhall was a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and held various administrative positions in the party, culminating in a National Organiser role from 1940. He cultivated a contact at the Air Ministry, Olive Sheehan, who was one of a small ring of Communist supporters in the Ministry and provided Springhall with, among other things, classified information about the anti-radar device WINDOW. Their arrangement was uncovered when Sheehan's flatmate overheard a conversation about classified information, and Springhall was arrested and convicted after an in camera trial in 1943 on a charge of passing classified information to the Russians.

The trial was held in camera because of the still secret nature of WINDOW, so although the case is well known, this is the first time contemporary transcripts and details of the trial have been released.

After Springhall's trial, it also emerged that he had obtained classified information from a Communist SOE officer, Captain Desmond Uren, who was court martialled and, like Springhall, sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Springhall emigrated to Russia after his release, and died in Moscow in 1953.

KV 2/1594 (1917-1931) shows how Springhall acted as a distribution agent for seditious material in the armed forces during and after the First World War (for which he was eventually discharged from the Navy in 1920). As a result of this activity he was kept under surveillance and his correspondence was closely watched. The product of that surveillance is on file (intercepted letters, a report of a meeting of ex-Service Communists addressed by Springhall at the Minerva Café, High Holborn in June 1928, examples of his journalism and so on), as is a photograph of Springhall submitted with his passport papers (he eventually travelled to Russia before his passport was issued). There is more similar material in KV 2/1595 (1931-1935).

KV 2/1596 (1936-1943) includes similar material, but also a copy of Springhall's speaking notes for addressing meetings, obtained by the Metropolitan Police, a copy of his pamphlet Fair Play for Service Men and their Families, and other material leading to Springhall's arrest and trial for dissemination of seditious material in the armed forces. The file includes reports on the development and uncovering of the plot, and Security Service observations on the case from 1943, along with police statements and reports about visits made to Springhall while he was in Brixton prison.

Perhaps the most interesting item on the file is the assessment made by the Security Service of the impact that Springhall's arrest and trial had on the rest of the Communist Party hierarchy.

Douglas Springhall and Percy Glading, the two most prominent CPGB officials sentenced to a prison term by a British court for espionage on behalf of the USSR, are cases in point. Springhall, "dismissed in disgrace" from the Royal Navy at the age of nineteen in 1920 because of his political activities, was a member of the YCL Executive two years later.

 Douglas Springhall (1901-1953) was a member of the CPGB. In 1924 he attended the Communist Congress in Moscow, and in 1926 was sent to prison for two months for his support of the general strike in Great Britain, serving as an agitator in the Young Communist League. He recruited Alexander Foote (fl. 1905-1956) into the British Battalion of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. After visiting Moscow on GRU business in 1939, he became an illegal agent runner for the GRU in Britain. He was jailed after having been charged with receiving secrets from the Air Ministry (1943).


In 1919  I calculate that SPRINGHALL  was given a War Gratuity of £10-00 which would have been a good amount of money for an acting Able Rating .  Here is a part of the petition to HM The King to make an award of a Gratuity to all those who had taken part in WW1.

And whereas we are of opinion that Officers and Men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Naval Reserve, and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who served during the present War should be granted gratuities in respect of such service:

We beg leave humbly to recommend that Your Majesty may be graciously pleased, by Your Order in Council, to sanction the payment of gratuities to these officers and men as set forth in the enclosed Schedules.

The Lords Commissioners of Your Majesty's Treasury have signified Their concurrence in .these proposals.

It manifested itself as:-

Gratuities to Seamen and Marines.

  1. Gratuities on the following scales to be granted to Chief Petty officers, Petty Officers, Men and Boys of the Royal Navy, and Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Men and Boys of the Royal Marines, whether they belong to the permanent service or reserve or were entered for "Hostilities only."
    1. Royal Navy

      For the first year's service or part of a year if a year has not been served. *


      Increment for each additional calendar month or final portion of a calendar month after a year's service, subject to a maximum of 48 such monthly increments.







      10 To those who have served at sea or overseas for any period during their qualifying war service.
      Ordinary Seamen or Able Seamen


      Leading .Rates .


      Petty Officers .


      5 To those who have not served at sea or overseas.


      Chief Petty Officers .



      Note.-No Gratuity to be paid to ratings who have rendered only six months' or less than six months' service within the prescribed war period without any service at sea or overseas.


Springhall's £10 gratuity was made up as follows:-
Under the '£' {STERLING} COLUMN = £2.00
Under the 's' {SHILLINGS} COLUMN [right hand column] = 16 calendar months x 10 shillings [50p] = £8-00

Now, let us compare that with what the officers got.

War Gratuities to Permanent Officers of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

  1. War Gratuities to be granted to permanent Officers an the active lists of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines (excluding the R.N.R., and R.N.V.R.) for service during the war on the following scales:-
    Relative Rank of Officer For the first year's service (or for part of a year if a year has not been served). Increment for each additional month after a year's service.
    Officers who have served at sea or overseas. Officers have not served or at overseas or overseas.





    Admiral of the Fleet











    Commodores, 1st and 2nd Class





    Captain over 3 years' seniority


    Commander and Captain under 3 years' seniority











    Commissioned Warrant Officer


    Warrant Officer




    Paymaster Cadet



  2. Officers who have served at sea or overseas for any period during the war to receive the higher rates of increment for the whole period of their war service after the first year,

An Admiral of the Fleet would have received £864-00 and a Paymaster Cadet £63-00.
Top of the upper deck getting well over 2000% more than the top of the lower deck!  Is that fair?

After WW1 the surrendered German fleet was brought to Scotland, to Scapa Flow, where the German's scuttled their own ships.  These ships were eventually lifted and sold for scrap.  The money received was put into an Admiralty war-chest-coffer and from it, all in the navy received a share in the form of Prize Money.  It took a long time before the proceeds were paid [1922] but it was worth the wait for the payments were extremely generous. Sadly for WW2 men, we sank the vast majority of the enemies fleets in waters too deep to effect recovery and we took few prisoners.  Thus there was very little prize money paid in 1946/47.  Springhall would have been eligible to receive a share of the WW1 chest, but by 1922 he was considered to be persona non grata. If you are interested in naval prize money, take a look at this page and then scroll down until you see the subject title line WILLIAM JOHN DEDMAN.


Take care and remember to be good.  Now that you have left the Service and know nothing of current naval practices, it might be nice to be approached by some delicious Ivan-ess looking for State secrets. What about that we need a new Government [whoops that's no bloody secret], or that millions of us, when safely in our own environments, call any bloody immigrant anything we care to do.  Do you think that Harry and Charles do the same?