Amateur Agent

Title:                      Amateur Agent

Author:                  Ewan Butler

Butler, Ewan (1963, 1964). Amateur Agent. New York: W. W. Norton

LCCN:    62010095

D810.S8 B8 1964


Date Updated:  February 10, 2017

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

In 1962, the British government seriously considered forbidding the publication of this book on security grounds. Reading it, one realizes how security standards have changed, even in Britain. Butler was a London Times correspondent in New York and Berlin before World War II who was recruited into SOE. He served in Cairo in charge of black propaganda for the Balkans and the Middle East and then in Stockholm as head of the German section of SOE. What he reveals cannot be considered of either great sensitivity or great significance to the history of intelligence of that war. There are a few anecdotes, including some on the early activities of OSS in Sweden and of OSS-SOE liaison there. Knowledgeable Americans found fault with some of his versions of OSS activities and conduct, however. As for accomplishments, he tells us he managed to insert seven Danes into northern Germany to collect intelligence at the end of the war. This was not exactly SOE’s main responsibility, and sabotage and morale operations from Stockholm that he may have conducted do not stand out. Foot in SOE in France[2] thought this book was useful in conveying the flavor of SOE.

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

Amateur Agent is the author’s account of his six years with the SOE and British intelligence. He was in charge of the SOE’s G Section (German), stationed first in Cairo and later in Stockholm. Butler was a journalist before working for the SOE, and his account is useful and interesting. He was responsible for propaganda, harassment, and sabotage operations. His account is especially useful as a source of details on training in the SOE.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 103

[2] Foot, M.R.D. (1966). SOE In France: An Account of The Work of British Special Operations Executive in France 1940-1944. London:H.M. Stationery Off

[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., p.


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One Response to Amateur Agent

  1. Pingback: SOE—The British Special Operations Executive, Chapter 17 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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