Stephen Alley was born in a village close to Moscow in 1876. His English father was an engineer employed on Russian railway construction. After being educated in Russia he attended King's College where he studied English Literature. Later he moved to Glasgow University where he took a degree in engineering.
Alley was recruited by the British Secret Intelligence Service in 1914 by Archibald Wavell. In his autobiography he described his first meeting with Mansfield Cumming (C): "Csent me to meet the Russian Military Attache, Lieutenant-General Nikolai Ermelov, who occupied a flat in the same building. The only remark C made to me was that I might not fit the job as I had not any decorations, however at a second interview with Ermelov apparently my knowledge of Russian made him agree to my appointment." After the outbreak of the First World War Alley went to work for Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Hoare, the head of the SIS station in Petrograd. Other members of the unit included Oswald Rayner, Cudbert Thornhill and John Scale.
On 24th November 1916 Scale was sent to Romania to assist in a British Secret Intelligence Service operation to destroy the Romanian oil fields and corn harvest ahead of the invading German troops. According to Richard Cullen, the author of Rasputin (2010): "Muriel (Scale's daughter) was compelling during her interview when she reiterated that her father had told her he was sent to Romania because he had to be out of Russia at the time."
On 7th January 1917, Stephen Alley wrote to John Scale in Romania: "Although matters have not proceeded entirely to plan, our objective has clearly been achieved. Reaction to the demise of Dark Forces (a codename for Rasputin) has been well received by all, although a few awkward questions have already been asked about wider involvement. Rayner is attending to loose ends and will no doubt brief you on your return."
Richard Cullen, the author of Rasputin (2010), has argued that the assassination of Grigory Rasputin had been organised by Alley, Scale and Oswald Rayner and Stephen Alley: "Rasputin's death was calculated, brutal, violent and slow and it was orchestrated by John Scale, Stephen Alley and Oswald Rayner through the close personal relationship that existed between Rayner and Yusupov." Cullen adds: "Given the clear and supportable assertions that he (Scale) was involved in the plot to kill Rasputin, was this the reason for his absence from Petrograd?"
According to Christopher Andrew, the author of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985): "By the time General Sir Henry Wilson arrived in Russia in February 1917, Hoare could stand it no longer. He accompanied Wilson back to England to take sick leave and did not return to Petrograd.... Hoare was succeeded in Petrograd by his former deputy, Major Stephen Alley." Alley returned to England in March 1918, where he was eventually transferred to MI5.
William Alley died on 6th April 1969.