The war broke out in August 1914, Mansfield Cumming's service moved quickly to expand its network of agents across Europe and Russia. It was imperative to know where the German troops were headed and what armaments they were developing. Many civilians in Belgium and northern France risked their lives to provide details of enemy troop movements by watching the trains on which they travelled to the front.
One of Cumming's most successful agents was a French-Irish Jesuit priest named O'Caffrey. In June 1915 he located two Zeppelin airships, housed in sheds near Brussels, that had days earlier dropped bombs on London, killing seven people and injuring 35. The British wreaked their revenge, bombing and destroying the Zeppelins.
As the war dragged on, the British began to worry that Russia would withdraw from the fighting, freeing up 70 German divisions for the Western Front. With the Tsar at the front, Russia was ruled by the Tsarina, who was in thrall to the 'holy-man' Grigori Rasputin, a promiscuous, power-crazed drunk.
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