Tuesday, 21 September 2010
The official history of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, has been published this week. Professor Keith Jeffery was given permission to investigate the archives from 1904-1949, examining MI6's actions in both World Wars and other conflicts, including the Russian Civil War. Jeffery investigates well known actions such as the Bletchley Park code-breaking operation in World War 2 and MI6's support of agents in the French Resistance. He also reveals that the Service helped to prevent a Communist revolution in Brazil in 1935, and employed a Lieutenant Augustus Agar in Russia during the Communist Revolution; he was meant to only support Russian agents, but got rather carried away and sank four Communist warships, which quickly blew his cover.
MI6 agents never had a "licence to kill" but they did have plenty of secret gadgets, such as a camera hidden in a matchbox, a pen that squirted tear gas, and a shaving brush with a secret compartment. These would provide inspiration for one MI6 officer, Ian Fleming, when he turned his hand to writing books about a fictional agent - James Bond.
More information can be found in this Guardian article and Channel 4 News Report (shown above), which includes comments from Sir John Scarlett, Head of MI6 (or "C") till last year. Channel 4 also recently had a fascinating interview with John Le Carre, the spy author who worked for MI6 until he was betrayed by the double agent, Kim Philby.
PS: Here is MI6's official website, where you can learn about their history and apply for a job!