By Antony Best (auth.)
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Extra info for British Intelligence and the Japanese Challenge in Asia, 1914–1941
Fraser, have noted, in the autumn of 1914 Germany and the Indian National Committee in Berlin developed plans to ship a substantial amount of small arms and ammunition from the Paciﬁc coast of the United States to India to be used in an insurrection against the British authorities. This plot foundered due to the incompetence of the participants in America, but not before news of the intended cargo had reached the ears of British intelligence. Not knowing that the plan would sink under its inherent unfeasibility, the British authorities in America and South-East Asia desperately searched for information.
40 While most of the work of Petrie and the IB was aimed at the IndoGerman plots and the German attempts to inﬂuence Chinese politics, other initiatives in the expansion of intelligence resources were aimed squarely at the Japanese. One of the most important decisions was to attack Japan’s diplomatic ciphers. In March 1916 the Gaimusho– requested that its consul in Yunnan be allowed to use the British-owned Bhamo telegram cable to send reports to Tokyo. O. ’41 The India Ofﬁce, with its fears about Japan’s presence in Yunnan, quickly agreed to this suggestion.
The British service attachés in Tokyo reacted to the scandal with a mixture of shock and derision. C. 29 The vituperative manner in which Somerville reacted to the Siemens scandal is of interest because both before and afterwards he showed himself to be a keen admirer of the Japanese. He had been one of the earliest of the army’s language ofﬁcers, and had previously recorded his admiration of the ‘magniﬁcent ﬁghting spirit’ of the IJA and their ‘Spartan-like contempt for money’. 30 That record suggests that Somerville’s rough language in 1913 was an aberration caused by the realization that his idealized view of the Japanese ofﬁcer class had been shattered.