This is an indicative selection of pages from the official transcript of what are characterised as Soviet Show Trials, published in 1933.

Arthur Bertram Noel was my maternal Grandfather. I have a box of glass slides several of which show him working in some unknown capacity for a tea company in India. He was trained as an engineer and was later to work for Metropolitan Vickers on several important projects in a senior capacity, e.g. the Thetis submarine and the Mersey Tunnel.

He worked for Metro Vick in the Soviet Union building turbines in the late Twenties and early Thirties. An album of his photographs taken there, I gave to David King for his collection. When the other engineers were arrested and charged with machine wrecking, ABN was spirited out of the Soviet Union concealed in a van. His name remains on lists of suspects who were not arrested at the time. Until the day of his death he would receive vaguely threatening phone calls in rather theatrical Russian accents asking if Mr. Noel planned to return to the Soviet Union. 

My father discovered that ABN had been working for MI6 and it was considered unwise for him to be arrested with the others. This seemed to chime well with discussions I had with him just before his death. I was 12 and had read keenly about the Russian revolution. ABN talked wistfully about mistakes the British Government made in supplying faulty parts to the Soviet authorities, and his role in the events. He seemed most disturbed by his sudden departure leaving his colleagues to face the wrath of the Soviet authorities, This is of course in stark contrast to the official reading of events, seeing the trials as a further extension of Stalin's war on Experts and Engineers.

My Grandafther kept his diaries and albums in a Roll Top desk in his house. I was determined to make sure they were preserved but after his funeral I went to the house and the desk was empty. My father denied any responsibility, and I suspect that my Uncle, a Colonel in the British Army may have snaffled them.

I heard from one interested party that the British Cabinet papers revealed how embarassing the whole episode was in the light of HMG's shady practices.





  The University of Portsmouth organised an exhibition in Holland on the theme of "Secrets" . I produced 11 collages incorporating family snaps with images of Russian society in the 1930s. I had even found a photo album of Liverpool scenes with one sea view marking the place out at sea where the submarine Thetis went down with all hands. ABN was an engineer on that craft. There are five panels of text in Dutch, translated by Dick Briel (see elsewhere in VTS) and a plan of the Moscow courtroom from the Machine Wrecking Trials facsimile.