Practise to Deceive

Title:                      Practise to Deceive

Author:                 David Mure

Mure, David (1977). Practise to Deceive. London: William Kimber

LCCN:    78305258

D810.S7 M77


Date Updated:  December 7, 2017

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Mure served in the Middle East as a deception officer under Brigadier Dudley Clarke. Among his duties was that of chairman of the Middle East equivalent of the XX Committee, designated the Thirty Committee. From Baghdad and Beirut he was involved in deception operations and ran double agents; most of the events he relates, he contends, were those in which he had a direct part. He relies more on recollection than on records, claiming a photographic memory that allows him to recall messages thirty years later. Mure does not always succeed in making it clear what is from direct involvement and first-hand knowledge, what is not, and what is opinion. A great service he has performed is to accord to Dudley Clarke the recognition he deserves for his creative and effective work in deception. The book helps balance the picture of Allied deception in World War II; earlier London-oriented writers tended to obscure the work done in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. There is also an unequivocal tribute to the role of Ultra in successful deception. Those who believe Mure goes too far in favor of the Middle East should consult Cruickshank’s Deception in World War II[2], which supports some of his claims. The Economist, in an otherwise favorable review, says he had a “startlingly inaccurate passage on Hungary.” Mure himself subsequently recognized that he was wrong in writing that Colonel Fellers, the U.S. attaché in Cairo, was used to pass deceptive material when it was learned that the Germans had broken his cipher. His theory that Admiral Canaris of the Abwehr may have deliberately assisted in putting over British deceptions is, without more compelling support, merely another speculation about that figure. Of profound significance is Mure’s claim that Dudley Clarke leaked the approaches of the Hungarians, Rumanians, and Bulgarians for a negotiated peace as part of a plan to force the Germans to send troops there; but it is an instance in which he fails to indicate his source or sources. Cave Brown makes the same point in Bodyguard of Lies[3] in connection with the Hungarian and Rumanian peace feelers but does not specifically attribute it to Clarke. Other startling items to be found are the casual manner of Mure’s selection into A Force (Clarke’s unit) and his admission that he is “by nature a congenital liar and romancer.” Sir Maurice Oldfield, the former head of SIS, was quoted in the London Times as considering this book one of his four favorites on intelligence.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 345-346

[2] Cruickshank, Charles G. (1979). Deception in World War II. New York: Oxford University Press

[3] Cave Brown, Anthony (1976). Bodyguard of Lies. London: W. H. Allen


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5 Responses to Practise to Deceive

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