Queen of Spies

Title:                      Queen of Spies

Author:                  Paddy Haye

Hayes, Paddy (2015). Queen of Spies: Daphne Park, Britain’s Cold War Spy Master. New York; London: Overlook Duckworth

LCCN:    2015039895

UB271.G72 H394 2016


  • Prologue: Moscow, April 1956 — From Kayuki to Clapham, 1921-32 — Born now bred, 1932-43 — SOE 1: Bingham’s Unit, 1943-44 — SOE 2: Coup de foudre, 1944 — SOE 3: Daffers goes to war, 1944 — Vienna role, 1946-48 — A world changing, 1947-48 — Into the lion’s den, 1948-51 — Moscow bound, 1951-54 — Moscow 1: either silence or prison, 1954 — Moscow 2: the squirrel and his nuts, 1955 — Moscow 3: the strange affair of Yevgeni Brik, 1956 — Moscow 4: Annus horribilis, 1956 — From SovBloc to sun-block, 1957-59 — Congo 1: into the cauldron, 1959 — Congo 2: on the eve of destruction, 1959-60 — Congo 3: seven months to murder, 1960-61 — Congo 4: who killed Cock Robin? Not I, said the spy, 1961 — Bewitched, bothered, bewildered…and betrayed, 1962-64 — Back in the field, 1964-67 — Reform at last, 1967-69 — Hanoi 1: spy station Hanoi, 1969-70 — Hanoi 2: though never quite enough to ask for another year, 1969-70 — What Daphne did next, 1970-74 — C/WH 1: spymaster, 1975-77 — C/WH 2: finale: Rhodesia and the ending of UDI, 1978-79 — Return to Somerville, 1980-89 — Daphne Park: a life extraordinary.


Date Posted:      September 22, 2016

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

Reviewed by Joseph C. Goulden[2]

In April 2008, at a conference on intelligence sponsored by the German Historical Institute, London, former CIA officer James Pavitt and the late NSA director William Odom joined Daphne Park, Baroness of Monmouth and the former MI6 Controller/Western Hemisphere, to discuss the world of contemporary intelligence. At 87, Baroness Park, radiating a “Miss Marple” charm, was both engaging and circumspect—leaving listeners coveting more detail about her career. Queen of Spies answers that call.

Daphne Margaret Sybil Desiree Park was born in Surrey, England, in 1921, home-schooled in Tanganyika under austere circumstances until 11, and then sent back to England to live with relatives and get a proper education. She did a bit more than that: by the time of her retirement, she had graduated from Oxford University with honors, served in WWII as a volunteer with Britain’s First Aid Nursing Yeomancy (FANY), and later worked as an officer with the SOE. After the war she joined the Foreign Office, became an SIS officer, and after retiring in 1979, served as president of Somerville College at Oxford. In 1990 she was made a life peer and served as SIS’s semi-official spokesperson in the House of Lords. None of these achievements was accomplished without precedent-setting breaks with tradition, so author Paddy Hayes focuses on how she met and overcame her constant career challenges.

Baroness Park’s path to her MI6 appointment illustrates her outspoken determination to speak truth to power. As a FANY, she wrote a letter denouncing the performance of her superior and was promptly punished for her efforts while her superior was promoted. But her abilities had been noticed and Hayes tells how her SOE JEDBURGH colleagues came to her rescue and secured her return to duty as an officer. Likewise, after the war, Hayes describes her groundbreaking path into the Foreign Office and eventually SIS. She would learn Russian, subsequently serving in Moscow, Leopoldville, Lusaka, Hanoi, and Ulan Bator.

It was in Moscow in the mid-1950s that Park learned her tradecraft and honed her political skills while enduring the disruptions caused by the exposure of KGB agents in the British ranks, and the fallout from botched British operations against the Soviets. As head of station in Leopoldville, she became embroiled—with her CIA counterpart, Larry Devlin—in the Patrice Lumumba affair. It was there, too, that her ability to deal effectively in male-dominated circumstances was recognized and the likelihood of further advancement enhanced. Hayes’s description of her time in Hanoi, a genuine hardship tour, is illuminating.

Daphne Park remained single and Hayes does not dodge the obvious questions. He writes about two serious affairs, one that came to nothing—in part, at least, because of the SIS policy that women in the service who married would have to resign. He also mentions instances when her gender threatened to become an issue when working with agents and how she subtly but forcefully and successfully asserted her command of the situation. (p. 155)

Queen of Spies is documented by the relatively scant official record available, comments from former colleagues, and the few interviews of Park herself—all approved by SIS. And this accounts for the principal shortcoming of the book, since Hayes devotes considerable effort articulating Parks’ feelings and views on the situations that confronted her. At one point he admits “being forced into the realm of speculation.” (p. 127) Thus the narrative is sprinkled with examples—comments that “she enjoyed the hot sun on her back”; (p. 11) that “she’d have got the low-down on her rival” from her friend Maurice Oldfield; (p. 198) that Oldfield “would have been instrumental in getting her a Controller’s position”; (p. 245), and he “probably influenced her decision” while in Kenya. (p. 199)

There are a few factual items where Hayes’s background in international commercial intelligence fails him. Examples include: Oleg Gordievsky was not a “defector-in-place”—he was an MI6 penetration. CIA officer Ted Shackley did not occupy the third most senior position in the agency. The statement that “the Agency was far more WASP than the Bureau and was naturally more sympathetic to Britain’s interests” defies explanation. (p. 257)

In spite of these, Queen of Spies is the only biography on Baroness Park and it fills a big gap. Hayes has produced an interesting and informative work.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Goulden, Joseph C. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 2, Spring 2016, pp. 130-131). Joseph C. Goulden’s 1982 book, Korea: The Untold Story of the War, was published in a Chinese-language edition in 2014 by Beijing Xiron Books. He is author of 18 nonfiction books. Goulden is a long-time reviewer of espionage and spy books for The Washington Times, for AFIO’s Intelligencer, for law journals, and other publications. Some of the reviews appeared in prior editons of The Washington Times or The Washington Lawyer (DC Bar Association) and are reprinted by permission of the author. Goulden’s most recent book [as of 2016] is Goulden, Joseph C. (2012). The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak into English. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

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One Response to Queen of Spies

  1. Pingback: More Cloak Than Dagger | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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