Encyclopedia of Espionage

Title:                  Encyclopedia of Espionage

Author:                Ronald Seth

Seth, Ronald (1972). Encyclopedia of Espionage. London, New English Library.

LCCN:    76350958

UB270 .S4385


ate Updated:     August 17, 2015

Espionage is the art of deception. Deceptive people cannot compartmentalize one aspect of their lives from the others. If one doubts that spies lead double and triple lives and any of these lives is likely to be even bizarre, then one should become acquainted with Ronald Sydney Seth, author of this now-dated, but still useful book.

Seth’s pseudonym was Robert Chartham. He was a British writer who used the name Chartham for his activity as a sexologist and the name Seth for books about espionage and also travel books. As a child Seth was a chorister at Ely Cathedral and a King’s Scholar at King’s School, Ely. He was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Cambridge University. He earned his PhD degree in social science.

Appointed Professor of Literature at the University of Tallinn, Seth returned to London at the start of WWII, joining the BBC and helping to start the Monitoring Intelligence Bureau. In 1941 he was commissioned into the RAF and in 1942 joined The Special Operations Executive (SOE).

SOE, sometimes referred to as “the Baker Street Irregulars,”was a WW II organization of the UK. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on July 22, 1940, to conduct warfare by means other than direct military engagement. Its mission was to encourage and facilitate espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines and to serve as the core of the Auxiliary Units, a British resistance movement.

SOE was also known as “Churchill’s Secret Army” or “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” and was charged by Churchill to “set Europe ablaze.” It was publicly concealed as a Joint Technical Board and sometimes as an Inter-Service Research Bureau. The SOE directly employed or controlled just over 13,000 people, about 3,200 of whom were women. It is estimated that SOE supported or supplied about 1,000,000 operatives worldwide.

Parachuted into Estonia, Seth was captured by the Germans and trained by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). The SD, meaning Security Service, was primarily the intelligence service of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. He was to be an agent for a mission to Britain. Seth spent most of the rest of the war as a “stool pigeon” in Oflag 79. [Oflag is a contraction of Offizierslager, or Officer Prison Camp]. Oflag 79 was a WW II prisoner-of-war camp for Allied officers incarcerated by the Germans. The camp was located at Waggum near Braunschweig in Germany, also known by the English name of Brunswick. It was located in a three-story brick building that had previously been the home of a German parachute regiment, near the Herman Göring aircraft engine factory.

In April 1945 Seth was entrusted with a message of peace by Himmler, which he carried to London via Switzerland. Was he a turncoat, or a double agent? He claims the latter in his book A Spy Has No Friends: To Save His Country, He Became the Enemy (Headline Review. LCCN: 00513964, 2008)

According to this book, from the beginning of his mission as a British agent against the Nazis, Ronald Seth was a hunted man. Shot at as he parachuted down to the Estonian coast, he suffered extremes of deprivation before being captured and sentenced to death by hanging. And then the real hunt began for what he knew, and for his identity. Seth had only one hope. Could he convince his captors that he was a Nazi sympathizer and trick them into employing him as a spy? Enlisted as a German agent, in a position of precarious trust and constant danger, he embarked on a nightmare journey that took him from occupied Paris to the dark heart of the Nazi regime during the fall of Berlin. A Spy Has No Friends is the story of a man playing a dangerous game against a lethal opponent.

Dr. Chartham’s experience in counseling began in 1930 when, as a social worker, he was the first person in the UK to give sex instruction classes for teenagers. His career included teaching and counseling in European universities, lecturing to British university students on “How to Enjoy Sex” and then as a counselor in his own London clinic.

He was an editorial consultant to Forum: The International Journal of Human Relations. Each year he personally answered over 4000 letters from readers throughout the world seeking help with their sexual problems.

This book is, of course, quite dated. Nevertheless, it is an excellent resource. Below is a table of bibliographic resources that I have not reviewed, but are “in the queue” and for which I have done minimal research.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Seth wished to cover as wide a spectrum of espionage history as possible. This work encompasses names of agents, organizations, networks, prominent leaders of intelligence services, and cases, and the object is to make available to “espiomanes” a handy reference and to give the general reader information of interest. The expert will not be very happy with the results. First, the selection seems to have been determined by the availability of material rather than the intrinsic importance of each item. Seth devotes almost as much space to himself as to the Red Orchestra; the entry on a World War I agent by the name of McKenna is twice as large as that on Admiral Canaris and almost four times the size of the one on OSS. Allen Dulles is mentioned only in passing under the heading “CIA.” Admiral Hall warrants less than half a page. There are strange omissions: no T. E. Lawrence, no Captain George Hill, and, above all, no Sidney Reilly, though Sir Paul Dukes is properly listed and recognized. The Cheka is inexcusably not included and only mentioned under Dzerzhinsky. The space given over to the obscure and unimportant is wasteful, and the long passages sometimes read as if they were rewrites of other writings. Errors are inevitable in a work of such scope. To cite a few: he makes mistakes about Wassmuss. He does not know the exact denouement of the Judith Coplon case or Rado’s fate. He credits Gehlen with being responsible for all anti-Soviet espionage operations as head of Foreign Armies East and with obtaining the 1956 speech of Khrushchev denouncing Stalin; Colonel Nicolai he names director of the Abwehr. He seems to be unaware of the questions authorities raised about the Chevalier d’Eon and makes odd errors about CIA’s organization, considering all that had been written about it. To his credit, Seth includes items such as that on Montgalliard or has some useful accounts (Gouzenko, Blake, Sorge, Lonsdale). The bibliographic references are of limited value and miss some works that would better serve the reader. An index is badly needed because of the peculiar system of subject categories—one searches to find the KGB, listed under “Russian Intelligence Organization,” while the GRU warrants its own subject listing. The Library Journal review also found much to criticize in Seth’s work, describing it as abounding in errors, poorly prepared, needing editing, and “cluttered with inane and trivial material.”

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[2]

In alphabetical order, Mr. Seth provides often lengthy articles on spies and intelligence organizations from the siege of Troy to the present, covering most countries of the world, as well as agents famous, infamous, and minor. The author, who served in the British SOE in World War II, is the author of several books on espionage. This one well serve as a handy reference—not a definitive guide—for the intelligence library.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

A remarkable compilation of information on espionage by a very prolific author on intelligence subject matter and a World War II British agent. Easy to use, the encyclopedia arranges entries by names of spies (the first entry is ex-Soviet agent Colonel Rudolph Abel), intelligence organizations, espionage networks, and well-known espionage incidents. Each entry is followed by bibliographic references for additional reading or research, The author notes that “where no such bibliography is provided, in most cases the information has come only from my notebooks.”

Although this work is billed on the cover of the English edition as “the Spy’s Who’s Who,” its coverage is almost entirely historical. It is useful as a biographical reference and also because it describes various networks and operations such as the Red Orchestra or Gieske ‘s EnglandspieI. However, there are many curious gaps in the biographical coverage. For example, there are almost three pages on Sir Paul Dukes who directed British espionage in the USSR during the revolutionary period, but nothing at all on Sir Bruce Lockhart, Sidney Reilly, Boris Savinkov, Captain George Hill, and other British agents active during the same period. Moreover, the lack of an index makes the work more suitable for bedside reading than for reference purposes.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 406-407

[2] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence School, p. 56

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 9-10


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3 Responses to Encyclopedia of Espionage

  1. Pingback: The Invisible Weapons | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Wassmuss, The German Lawrence | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: The Road to Safety | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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