Italy's Mussolini was British secret agent

19th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

In 1917, Mussolini, then working as a journalist, was paid 100 pounds a week by security service MI5 to campaign for Italy to continue to fight alongside the allies in World War One.

London -- Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had a brief career as a British secret agent, the Guardian newspaper reported, quoting research by a Cambridge University historian.

In 1917, Mussolini, then working as a journalist, was paid 100 pounds a week by security service MI5 to campaign for Italy to continue to fight alongside the allies in World War One.

"Britain's least reliable ally in the war at the time was Italy after the revolutionary Russia's pullout from the conflict," Cambridge historian Peter Martland told the Guardian.

"Mussolini was paid 100 pounds a week from the autumn of 1917 for at least a year to keep up the pro-war campaigning -- equivalent to about 6,000 (6,440 euros, 9,600 dollars) pounds a week today."

Martland made the discovery as he studied papers belonging to Sir Samuel Hoare, MI5's man in Rome at the time, who was in charge of some 100 British intelligence officers in Italy.

As well as publishing pro-war propaganda in his paper, Il Popolo d'Italia, Mussolini also reportedly agreed to send Italian army veterans to beat up peace protestors.

"It was a lot of money to pay a man who was a journalist at the time, but compared to the four million pounds Britain was spending on the war every day, it was petty cash," Martland said.

"I have no evidence to prove it, but I suspect that Mussolini, who was a noted womaniser, also spent a good deal of the money on his mistresses."

Fascist Mussolini took power in 1922 and cooperated with German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during World War Two. He was killed by Italian partisans in 1945.

AFP/Expatica

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