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Gareth Jones

The Silence of the Sheep


“But Soviet propaganda, fed by the party activists who were imbued with a religious fervour, so impressed foreign visitors and delegates that the outside world was unaware of the catastrophe that had befallen 90% of the Russian people.”[]


Alas! You will be very amused to hear that the inoffensive little 'Joneski' has achieved the dignity of being a marked man on the black list of the O.G.P.U. and is barred from entering the Soviet Union.  I hear that there is a long list of crimes which I have committed under my name in the secret police file in Moscow and funnily enough espionage is said to be among them.  As a matter of fact Litvinoff [Soviet Foreign Minister] sent a special cable from Moscow to the Soviet Embassy in London to tell them to make the strongest of complaints to Mr. Lloyd George about me.[ii]

 Why, after his final article on April 20th 1933,[iii] one of at least 20, did Gareth write no further newspaper exposés in Britain about the plight of the Ukrainians and the man-made famine in the Soviet Union.  Why, in the Daily Express,[iv] did he write a valedictory, “Goodbye Russia”[v]. As to whether he was silenced there are many unanswered questions. It is as though the powers that-be wished to airbrush his memory out of history.   Why was his name not mentioned by his eminent contemporaries or recorded in their archives?

 Gareth’s disappointment must have been very great when he realised that he would never return to Russia and Ukraine again.  He had spent his University years studying Russian culture, literature and the language. The summer of 1927 he stayed in Riga with a Russian family to perfect his pronunciation of the language, he was a protégé and friend of the eminent Sir Bernard Pares,[vi] the expert on Soviet Russia and Gareth knew Prince Mirsky and had read his classic book A History of Russian Literature: From Its Beginnings to 1900.  No young man in Britain in 1933 was better qualified to speak on the Soviet Union. 

 His mother Mrs Annie Gwen Jones had recounted many stories of her happy days in Hughesovka when he was a child.  She had lived the life of a well-born Russian and despite a luxurious life, she had a great concern for the less fortunate Russian people.  She sympathised with ideals of the educated nihilists who demanded better social conditions though not with their criminal methods used to carry out their aims.  She wrote of her concern for the Mujaks, the peasants; for the harsh treatment of the Jews and the suppression of the Polish people.  Her love of Ukraine and her high moral principles she instilled into her son, Gareth.  She, too, would have been moved to hear of the heart-rending plight of the starving Ukrainians.

 Though on the black list of the Soviet Secret police and accused of espionage, Gareth did not lack courage. In the autumn of 1933, despite being barred from writing articles in British newspapers, he lectured in Britain and Ireland on the Enigma of Bolshevik Russia. In 1930 he had written to his mother: “I should consider myself a flabby little coward if I ever gave up the chance of a good and interesting career for the mere thought of safety.  … I have come to the conclusion that the only life I can live with interest and which I can really be of use is one connected with foreign affairs and with men and women of today;  …Why do you want a son of yours to have no courage.

Gareth’s treatment at the hands of his journalist colleagues is well documented.  He returned to Berlin from the Soviet Union and on March 29th 1933 Gareth immediately issued a press release to the world, describing the terrible genocide-famine in Ukraine brought about by Stalin’s policy of Collectivization and Industrialization, known today as the Holodomor

This press release was first published on the 29th of March 1933, by H.R.Knickerbocker,[vii] the German correspondent for New York Evening Post Foreign Service, and he wrote that ‘Mr. Jones’, “who spoke Russian fluently, was the first foreigner to visit the Russian countryside since the Moscow authorities forbade foreign correspondents to leave the city.  Famine on a colossal scale, impending death of millions from hunger, murderous terror and the beginnings of serious unemployment in a land that had hitherto prided itself on the fact that every man had a job - this was the summary of Mr. Jones’s first-hand observations.”:

“Russia today is in the grip of a famine which is proving as disastrous as the catastrophe of 1921 when millions died, reported Gareth Jones of Great Britain, who arrived in Berlin this morning en route to London after a long walking tour through the Ukraine and other districts in the Soviet Union.


“The arrest of the British engineers in Moscow is a symbol of panic in consequence of conditions worse than in 1921.  Millions are dying of hunger.  The trial, beginning Saturday, of the British engineers is merely a pendant to the recent shooting of thirty-five prominent workers in agriculture, including the Vice-Commissar of the Ministry of Agriculture, and is an attempt to check the popular wrath at the famine which haunts every district of the Soviet Union.”

Promptly in the New York Times[viii] as though to pre-empt Gareth’s statement Walter Duranty issued a rebuttal, but it was a rebuttal of classic Orwellian ‘doublespeak’: “Since I talked with Mr. Jones I have made exhaustive inquiries about this alleged famine situation. . . . There is serious food shortage throughout the country with occasional cases of well-managed state or collective farms.  The big cities and the army are adequately supplied with food.  There is no actual starvation or death from starvation, but there is widespread is mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”

The New York Times on May 13th, 1933 [ix] printed a reply from ‘Mr. Jones’ to Walter Duranty’s article of March 31st in which Gareth, in a letter to the newspaper, said he stood by his statement that the Soviet Union was suffering from a severe famine.  Everywhere he went in the Russian villages he heard the cry; “There is no bread, we are dying”.  The censors had turned the journalists into masters of euphemism and understatement and hence they gave “famine” the polite name of “food shortage” and “starving to death” and softened it to read as “widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition”. 

 Further confirmation of the denigration of Gareth’s press statement was made by Eugene Lyons in his 1937 book, Assignment in Utopia[x]. It described how the Moscow Foreign Correspondents publicly denied Gareth Jones’ portrayal of the shocking situation in Soviet Russia and Ukraine, even after they had had queries from their home offices on the subject of the famine.  But these inquiries coincided with preparations that were under way for the show-trial of some six British engineers.  The need to remain on friendly terms with the Soviet censors at least for the duration of the trial was a compelling professional necessity. 

 This attempt to humiliate Gareth is well known, but there is little to refer to in attempting to investigate the intrigues of the political circles of the British establishment.[xi]  I have researched the archives of the persons that Gareth knew well during the time he worked with David Lloyd George, the former Prime Minister of World War One and find them to be mysteriously bare after 1933. Only Frances Stevenson in her published Diaries[xii] had written that she had heard of the death of a ‘dear friend’.  From 1933 Lloyd George’s archives are strangely devoid of reference to him after 1933.  Dr Thomas Jones who had been deputy private secretary to four Prime Ministers and a close friend of Gareth’s father makes no reference to Gareth and yet he quotes an anecdote that only appeared in a private letter to Gareth’s family.[xiii]  A.J. Sylvester, secretary to Lloyd George avoids writing any reference to Gareth despite describing an occasion when the latter accompanied him to Bron-y-De, Churt, the ‘the Chief’’s home when the old man was ill.[xiv]  Later in this Biography about Lloyd George when referring to The War Memoirs he leaves a name blank, but wrote that, “The latter had let him down badly.”[xv]  I have no doubt that this refers to Gareth and the friendship that Lloyd George had with Ambassador Maisky and Soviet Commissar Litvinov and the fact that Gareth had written to the former Prime Minister that he was amazed that he had such admiration for Stalin. 

 Did the British Government in view of the concurrent international crisis silence Gareth?  The young man was well known to Dr Thomas Jones, a close friend of Stanley Baldwin[xvi] and others of the Establishment including the Cliveden Set and no doubt T.J.’s views were an influence on the British Cabinet.  The government was concerned with the recent rise of National Socialism in Germany and the appointment Adolph Hitler as Chancellor.  A further concern was Japan’s designs for the territorial   expansion in China and nearer home was the plight of the six Metropolitan-Vickers engineers in Moscow.  The friendship of the Soviet Union was of high priority.   The guilt of the British Government that turned its eye away from the plight of the starving Ukrainians has yet to be exposed.

 What part did Maisky play in the vilification of Gareth.  Did he persuade the British Government to serve ‘D’ notice on the honest journalist thus preventing him writing any more articles on the man-made famine in British newspapers? On April 8th Sylvester “was received by M. Maisky, (Ambassador of the Soviet Union to Great Britain 1932-1943) at twelve noon. Maisky was a “prominent figure in British political scene and mixed extensively in opposition circles”[xvii].  Was Sylvester called to the Soviet Embassy to hear of the accusations against Gareth on this day in April.’33?[xviii]

 Gareth spent the following year in bosom of his family working for the Cardiff newspaper The Western Mail. He wrote some delightful articles about rural Wales and informative ones about the Irish situation.  Not until the following June did he write any political articles which only referred to the rise of Nazism in Germany.

 In October 1934 Gareth embarked on a “Round the World Fact-Finding Tour”.[xix]  He spent three months in the USA and then six weeks in Japan. He continued round what today is called the Pacific Basin and then proceeded to China where he planned to investigate the intentions of the Japanese in the north.  His ‘Final Journey’ was made in a vehicle owned by the company, Wostwag. This organization, dealing in furs, was a cover for the Soviet Secret police in the Far East.  Having wandered into Dolonor, a town in Inner Mongolia, north China in which Japanese troops were massing, he and his companion a German, Dr Herbert Mueller were captured by bandits, and held for ransom for £8,000. The Japanese had told them there were two routes to follow back to Kalgan, one of which was safe and the other infested by bad bandits. Within two days of captivity the German was released, but 14 days later in the hands of the bandits, Gareth was murdered.  Though the suspicion falls on the Soviets there is no answer, as yet, as to who actually killed Gareth.


Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones died in pursuit of truth

on the eve of his thirtieth birthday. 



[i] A Manchukuo Incident by Margaret Siriol Colley, edited by Nigel Colley.2001, page xxiv.

[ii] From a letter that Gareth wrote, at the Western Mail Offices, May 28th 1934 to a friend, Margaret who was

about to visit the Soviet Union.

[iii] The Western Mail. April 20th 1933, page 12.

[iv] The Daily Express, April 11th 1933, page 12.

[v] The Soviet Union in 1933 was more often called Russia.

[vi] More Than a Grain of Truth by Margaret Siriol Colley, edited by Nigel Colley. 2005, page 355.

[vii] The New York Evening Post Foreign Service, ‘Famine grips Russia Millions Dying. Idle on Rise, Says Briton,’  H.R.Knickerbocker, March 29th , 1933.

[viii] New York Times, ‘Russians Hungry, but Not Starving’. Walter Duranty. March 31st 1933.

[ix] New York Times, Mr Jones Replies (Letter by Gareth Jones), May 13th 1933.

[x] Assignment in Utopia by Eugene Lyons, Harcourt Brace, New York.1937, page 576.

[xi] More Than a Grain of Truth by Margaret Siriol Colley, edited by Nigel Colley, 2005, page 305.

[xii] A Diary by Frances Stevenson., Edited by A.J.P.Taylor. London Hutchinson 1971.

[xiii] Diary with letters 1931-1950. Thomas Jones, Oxford University Press 1954. page 45.

[xiv] Life with Lloyd George by A.J.Sylvester, Macmillan Press 1975 page 39.

[xv]Life with Lloyd George by A.J.Sylvester, Macmillan Press 1975 page 109.

[xvi] Baldwin, as Lord President of the Council became de facto Prime Minister for the increasingly senile MacDonald, until he once again officially became Prime Minister in 1935.

[xvii] Life with Lloyd George by A.J.Sylvester, Macmillan Press, 1975 page 94.

[xviii]Maisky had Sir Walter Layton on the mat for publishing  articles in The Economist in the autumn of 1932 written by Jules Menken after his visit to USSR in the summer of ’32.

[xix] A Manchukuo Incident by Margaret Siriol Colley, edited by Nigel Colley.2001.