Alexander Allen Foote (1905-1956) – Sussex Brigader
Born in Liverpool in 1905, Alexander Allen Foote left school in 1921, working in various professions until he joined the Royal Air Force in 1935. He deserted the following year, and sailed to Spain to join the International Brigade, where he served as a driver for British Battalion Commanders Jock Cunningham and Fred Copeman.
Foote also acted as a courier between London and Spain, officially transporting Red Cross supplies, in reality his mission was to carry documents between Communist Party Headquarters in King Street and the Battalion’s Party command.
Foote served nearly two years in the International Brigade and according to MI6 files he arrived back in the UK on 16th September 1936. Under Foote’s name is a handwritten annotation “? E.Grinstead”.
It’s likely that Foote was on his way to Woodcote Road, Forest Row, (four miles South of East Grinstead), where Margaret Powell, his sister, lived at the time.
While in Spain Foote was recruited by Red Army Intelligence and was sent to Geneva during WW2 as part of the Rote Drei cell gathering information from Nazi occupied Europe. Foote’s cell was infiltrated by German Intelligence who tipped off the Swiss authorities who arrested and gaoled him in 1943. Foote became disillusioned with Soviet Communism and after the War approached British Military Intelligence providing useful information, particularly on the Soviet use of false passports. He used his sister’s address as a poste restante and in October 1947 Foote applied for a British passport giving “Church Cottage, Forest Row, Sussex” as his home address.
Foote described his wartime experiences in Switzerland and his subsequent disillusionment with his Soviet employers in his 1949 book Handbook For Spies.
Alexander Foote died in 1956.