M.I.5

Title:                      M.I.5

Author:                 John Bulloch

Bulloch, John (1963). M.I.5: The Origin And History of The British Counter-Espionage Service. London: Arthur Barker

LCCN:    68005950

UB251.G7 B84

Subjects

Date Updated:  January 25, 2017

This book is far less comprehensive than the title suggests. Vernon Kell, the first head of the security service, looms large and occupies much space. The work is especially skimpy on the period of World War II and after. Bulloch fails to provide sources for much of what he writes.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The contents are far less comprehensive than the title suggests. This book appeared at a time of adverse publicity and lowered esteem for MI5 stemming from cases such as that of George Blake and scandals like the Profumo affair. Vernon Kell, the first head of the security service, looms large and occupies much space in this account. One reason is undoubtedly the author’s reliance on Kell’s widow for some of his material, which also may partly account for the strong pro-Kell views. The work is especially skimpy on the period of World War II and after. MI5 failures against Soviet espionage do not get the attention they deserve, giving the book the appearance of being a selective account. Bulloch fails to provide sources for much of what he writes, adding to the criticism that this book can in no way be considered even to begin to deal with the history of the organization. A clue to the work’s quality is its failure to dispose of the Scapa Flow spy story by a full account of the supposed operation.

Some comments by Roy Berkeley:[2]

From Hyde Park Crescent turn left. At Cambridge Square turn right. Turn right again at Norfolk Crescent and follow its curve into Burwood Place and Edgware Road. Across the street to your right, often erroneously called Forset House, is Forset Court, Edgware Road. A Romanian couple named Brandes lived here, after replacing Soviet spymaster Teodor Maly in the early summer of 1937 and before they were themselves replaced in November, 1937. Under the name of “Stevens” or “Stephens”—both names appear in MI5 files—the couple worked with the Woolwich Arsenal spies to get weapons information for the USSR (see Site 51 82 Holland Road). Did the Brandes couple discover that MI5 had penetrated their operation? The couple fled from England only days after MI5 had observed them receiving classified plans from a Woolwich employee.

The official MI5 position is that the Brandeses were allowed to leave with good reason. As John Bulloch reports in his early book on MI5[3], they were only “minor spies … little more than couriers” and MI5 preferred to wait for the person expected soon “who was to be the chief of all the Russian spies in England.” Also, reports Nigel West, MI5 expressed the view that since Willy and Mary Brandes could claim diplomatic immunity, “there would be little to gain by taking them into custody.” This view “is made nonsense of,” writes John Costello in Mask of Treachery[4], “by the recent recovery of the contemporary reports on the Brandeses’ false Canadian papers. These show that MI5 cannot have been under any illusion that the couple had diplomatic immunity … , If MI5 officers were concerned about prematurely spoiling the stakeout on Woolwich Arsenal, they could have” arrested the Brandeses on the false-passport charges at Dover without alerting the Soviets to the penetration of their ring.” It is “surely not farfetched,” Costello believes, to think that the Soviets were tipped off—as they were probably tipped off about Maly who escaped to Moscow and was never heard of again.

Thousands of dedicated Leninists round the world were recalled to Moscow during Stalin’s purges and never heard of again. Guides at the Lubyanka today speak of 20,000 GPU officers who fell victim to the purges; the true figure is probably higher. The devastation of Stalin’s foreign intelligence structure by Stalin himself was more comprehensive than anything the West could have accomplished—or even attempted. Most of those who were recalled went willingly. Some, like Maly, had no illusions about their fate. All were given summary trials; many were tortured; almost all were executed. Some who refused to return were murdered on Western soil; Ignace Reiss in Switzerland, Juliet Stewart Poyntz and Walter Krivitsky in America. Were the Brandeses spared by traitors in MI5 only to be returned to the “safety” of Stalin’s Moscow?

MI5’s Watchers were in the Edgware Road to see the Brandeses load their luggage into a taxi bound for Victoria Station and the Paris boat train. Eventually the journey would end in Moscow; for the Brandeses the journey (and their lives) probably ended in the cellars of the Lubyanka. Did the Brandeses suspect what awaited them? If so, why did they take all those suitcases full of British clothing?

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[5]

Bulloch, John (1963). M.I.5: The Origin And History of The British Counter-Espionage Service. London: Arthur Barker

Unfortunately this history of British counterespionage and security ends when World War II begins. Using material from counterespionage case histories, the journalist author describes M.I.5 from its origin in 1909 to 1940.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 101

[2] See Berkeley, Roy (1994). A Spy’s London. London: Leo Cooper, p.p. 201-202

[3] Bulloch, John (1963). M.I.5: The Origin And History of The British Counter-Espionage Service. London: Arthur Barker

[4] Costello, John (1988). Mask of Treachery: Spies, Lies, and Betrayal. New York: W. Morrow.

[5] 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. 180

 

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2 Responses to M.I.5

  1. Pingback: Mask of Treachery | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Counterespionage, Chapter 15 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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