Rough Diplomacy

You and what army: Ivor Thor-Gray

Ivor Thord-Gray (April 17, 1878 – August 18, 1964) was a Swedish-born adventurer, soldier, ethnologist, writer and linguist.He participated in 13 different wars across several continents.


He was born Thord Ivor Hallström in the Södermalm district in central Stockholm, Sweden as the second son of a primary school teacher, August Hallström, and his wife Hilda. His eldest brother was the artist Gunnar August Hallström (1875–1943). His youngest brother was the archaeologist Gustaf Hallström (1880–1962).

In 1893 he joined the Merchant Marineand sailed on three ships before going ashore in Cape Town, South Africa during December 1895. He joined the Cape Mounted Rifles in South Africa as a Private in 1897. Between 1897 and 1919, Thord-Gray participated in 13 different wars covering several continents.

He changed his name to Gray in 1899 and Thord-Gray in 1917. In 1923, he wrote a book about Mexican archeology Från Mexicos forntid : bland tempelruiner och gudabilder.

In 1925 Thord-Gray moved to the United States and established I.T. Gray & Co, an investment bank located at 522 Fifth Avenue in New York City. He became a citizen of the United States in 1934. He was married to Josephine Toerge-Schaefer (1925–1932) who had two children, Edward and Frances. He was subsequently married to Winnifred Ingersoll (1933–1960). In 1929, he established residence at Gray Court in Belle Haven in Greenwich, Connecticut. In August 1935 he was appointed Major-General and Chief-of-Staff to Governor David Sholtz of Florida.


MjGen in the Florida Militia. Reporedly he served as an advisor and organiser with US Army during WW 2.

In 1955, he wrote Tarahumara-English, English-Tarahumara dictionary and an introduction to Tarahumara grammar. (Coral Gables, Fla., University of Miami Press, 1955). He also wrote a book about his experiences in the Mexican Revolution, Gringo Rebel: Mexico 1913–1914 (Coral Gables, Fla. : University of Miami Press, 1961). In later years he had his winter home in Coral Gables, Florida.

Military career


Boer War 1899–1902


  • Worked as a Prison Guard on Robben Island 1896
  • In 1897 he enlisted in the Cape Mounted Riflemen and fought the Boer War 1899–1902
  • Served in the South African Constabulary 1902–1903
  • Transvaal Colony Civil Service 1903–1906
  • Captain in the Lydenburg Militia 1904
  • Joined Royston’s Horse as a Lieutenant and fought in the Bambatha Rebellion 1906 being promoted Captain.
  • Captain of Nairobi Mounted Police 1907

Ivor Thord-Gray Lars Gyllenhaal TarzanDiscoverers Mystery Division


  • Captain Philippine Constabulary (“US Foreign Legion”) 1908–1909

  • Planter in Malaya 1909–1911. Served a short time in the Chinese Revolution 1913


  • Joined Mexican Revolution as Captain and Commander of Pancho Villa’s artillery 1913
  • Promoted Major, Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel 1914
  • Chief of Staff 1st Mexican Army 1914

Ivor Thord-Gray received it during the Mexican Civil War 1913-14, when he fought under Pancho Villa’s command. English Cased Engraved and Gold-Washed Colt Model 1860 Fluted Army Percussion Revolver together with Accessories and Colt Factory Letter. Serial no. 5252 Custom-carved Mexican “eagle & snake”


Liutenant-Colonel Ivor T Gray Northumberland Fusiliers


  • Joined British Army 1914 as a Major and second in command of 15th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers
  • Lieutenant-Colonel and Commanding officer of 11th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers 1915, 1/26th Battalion Royal Fusiliers 1916
  • Awarded 1914–15 Star, British War Medal, and Allied Victory Medal
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF-S) to Siberia 1918

MjGen Ivor Thord-Gray in his Russian uniform 1st Siberian Assault Division


  • Transferred to Russian “White” Army February 1919 as Colonel
Thord-Grey volunteered for the Allied intervention in Russia and later joined the White Army. By 1913, Thord-Grey was in Mexico fighting on the side of the Revolutionaries with the great Pancho Villa. (Image source: WikiCommons)

Thord-Grey volunteered for the Allied intervention in Russia and later joined the nationalist White Army. (Image source: WikiCommons)

  • Commanding Officer of 1st Siberian Assault Division
  • Major General November 1919 and High Representative of the Provisional Siberian Government to the Allied Expeditionary Corps in Vladivostok

As MjGen in Russian Army 1919

Germany- Kind of ?

German Agent against his own will and without his own knowledge – an unusual soldier´s story

The story of later Major-General Ivor Thord-Gray´s life during the 1916-1918 war years could have been written by Franz Kafka. During those years Thord – as he was called in his family – was constantly fighting against an invisible enemy: British intelligence MI 5.

During the period 1916-1918 he on several occasions volunteered to serve with the British Army but was prevented by MI 5 because he was beleived to be a German agent.

During the period 11th February to 10th May 1916 Thord was CO of 1/26th (Overseas) Battalion London Regiment. When this Battalion was dissolved Thord in June 1916 left for USA and Mexico. Before leaving London Thord had written to the British Consul General in New York. This sparked off a very strange affaire.

The Consul General sent an alarming telegram to Foreign Office because it was known in New York that Colonel Gray was a German agent. Scotland Yard and MI 5 began investigating who Thord really was. Thord understood that there was something wrong and in October 1916 he wrote to Captain Hopkins USN, who he knew from the Philippines. Captain Hopkins was able to solve the problem.

There had been a German agent Colonel Gray operating in New York 1914-1915. But during that period Thord had been serving in France. He had been misstaken for Colonel Newham Gray who had been a Captain in Mexico 1913. Colonel Newham Gray was fat, wore eye-glasses and spoke with a typical German accent. Thord however was tall, slim and the archetype of a British Colonial Officer with mustache and speaking without a foreign accent.

Captain Hopkins informed the British Intelligence Officer in New York, Captain Gaunt RN, about the misstaken identities of the two Colonel Grey. Scotland Yard and MI 5 however continued to investigate Thord and in July 1917 an alarming report came from security in Singapore. It had been found out that Thord was born in Sweden and that he had canged his name from – as they wrote it – Hallestrom to Gray.

The Zimmermann Telegram (or Zimmermann Note or Zimmerman Cable) was a secret diplomatic communication issued from the German Foreign Office in January 1917 that proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico in the event of the United States’ entering World War I against Germany.

Image result for “Zimmerman note”

The “Zimmerman note” had brought suspisions that Sweden was collaborating with Germany in trying to persuade Mexico to start a war against USA. Beeing Swedish and having changed his name Thord fell under heavy suspisions to be a German agent and British aswell as US security were constantly investigating his activities and whereabouts. It was found that he now since 1917 wrote his family name Thord-Gray. During the years 1916-1917 Thord in fact was made a German agent by MI 5 against his own will and without his own knowledge by having British and US intelligence tying up essential resources controlling him while the real German agent Colonel Gray could get away.

In April 1918 British security had however for the time beeing reached the conclusion that Thord was not a German agent and Lieutenant-Colonel Hunter, British Assistant Provost Marshal in New York, wrote to US athorities that there were no questions about Thord´s loyalty to Britain and thereafter Thord was allowed to work with US Shipping Board until November 1918 when he as a Lieutenant-Colonel joined Canadian Expeditionary Force to Siberia.

In February 1919 Thord with permission of Major-General Elmsley was transferred to the Russian “White” Army as Colonel and 2/C of 1st Siberian Assault Division. In summer 1919 he commanded this Division during heavy fighting in the Ural area beeing severely wounded at Omsk 14th August 1919.

After recovering he was 29th November 1919 promoted Major-General and High Representative of the Russian Government with Allied Expeditionary Force in Vladivostok. When Vladivostok was captured by the “Reds” he was a prisoner for five days but could leave for USA in early February 1920.

Thord was going to Sweden but was 19th October 1920 prevented to go ashore in Dover because he was beleived to be a German agent. He was travelling on a Swedish passport because the British Consul General im New York had refused to renew his British passport on the grounds that Thord was a German.

However Sir Herbert Creedy of the War Office was able to solve the question and on 21st March 1921 Thord once again became a British Officer – backdated from 1916!

26th Bn London Regiment. LtCol I.T. Gray resigns his command on ceasing to command Bn and retains the rank of Lt Col 10 May, 1916. (Subsituted for that wich appeared in London Gazette of 9 May, 1916).

In 1922 Thord was again suspected to be a German agent. Special Agent Harry Leslie of BI (later FBI) wrote a report: “Major-General I. Thord-Gray, alledged assistant to Captain von Papen. German activities” but he also reported that he had found no evidence that Thord was working for the Germans and the case was closed.

Thord became Major-General in USA 8th April 1935.

source :wikiwand
  • Thord Ivar Hallströms handlingar – Some 1,000 letters and documents regarding Ivor Thord-Gray deposited in the Kungliga Biblioteket in Stockholm

A Target for Arrows

Mr. Thord‐Gray was a tall, darkhaired man with a booming voice and an acid sense of humor. Someone once said of him that he had a more diver­sified record than Alexander the Great.

“I have one distinction,” he told a newspaper reporter in 1927. “I think more people have shot at me with arrows than at any other man in the world.”

A colourized photo of the pre-WW1 Schutztruppe of German South-West Africa. Thord-Grey briefly served with the outfit. (Image source: WikiCommons)

From the start of the 20th century until the early 1930s, Mr. Thord‐Gray criss­crossed Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe as a soldier and an adventurer.

He served as an artillery and cavalry officer in the British Army in Africa and India, ris­ing eventually to the rank of lieutenant general. In the Spanish‐American War he went to the Philippines as an un­official attaché and saw service with the American forces on the islands.

When the Mexican revolu­tions broke out, Mr. Thord­Gray obtained leave from the British Army and joined the constitutionalist forces in Sonora. As a Mexican colonel in command of the cavalry of Gen. Lucio Blanco’s expedition on the west coast, he aided in the taking of Guadalajara, one of the hardest‐fought battles of the revolution.

In 1914 and 1915 he com­manded the Northumberland Fusiliers (the “Fighting Fifth”) in France. In 1916 he came to the United States on a mission for the Allies. Two years later

A champion archer, Mr. Thord‐Gray once participated in a highly publicized contest which proved that the bow and arrow can be just as accurate as an army weapon.

The competition started late one winter evening in 1917 in a Manhattan restaurant. A group of officers, including the general, argued about the mèr­its of archery and revolver marksmanship. Mr. Thord‐Gray, annoyed at some young men who mocked the usefulness of the bow and arrow, arose and pounced his fist on the table.

“I’ll do it,” he shouted. “I’ll outshoot the best marksman you can find.”

The competition was set up and Mr. Thord‐Gray outshot the crack marksmen of the Ninth Coast Artillery at their armory on West 14th Street. He used an English bow—the same weapon that was used at Hastings, Agincourt and Crecy.

“I like it for the exercise,” Mr. Thord‐Gray said, “discuss­ing archery. “I like it much better than golf.”

In the nineteen‐twenties, Mr. Thord‐Gray trained machine gunners to fight headhunters in the Malay states and founded a rubber plantation there.

During his career he also com­piled a dictionary of the native tongue of the Tarahumara In­dians of Mexico, a reference work on the archeology and anthropology of Mexico and a history of the Mexican revolu­tion.

Mr. Thord‐Gray was a past president of the British Great War Veterans of America.

His wife, the former Wini­fred Ingersoll of Chicago, died in 1961, leaving nearly $3 mil­lion in trust funds to finance foreign exchange students.

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