The Mechanisms of an Oppressive State


Edited and compiled by Richard M. Bennett and Katie Bennett -AFI Research










Britain has a complicated and rather bureaucratic political control over its intelligence and security community and one that tends to apply itself to long-term targets and strategic intelligence programs, but has little real influence on the behaviour and operations of SIS or MI5. Not so much ‘oversight’ as 'blindsight'. Despite the cosmetic changes of recent years and their formal establishment as legal Government organizations, there is still little true accountability for their actions or a valid test of their overall efficiency. This myriad of organizations include the four main elements of the UK Intelligence Community; the SIS, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) responsible for foreign intelligence and counter intelligence, The Security Service (MI5), responsible for internal security and counter-espionage within both the UK and Commonwealth countries,  The GCHQ, Government Communications Headquarters, SIGINT and COMSEC agency and the DIS, Defence Intelligence Staff, responsible for the intelligence and security activities within the UK's armed forces. They report to the JIC and through them to the Civil Service (PSIS) and finally the Ministerial Committee (MIS).


Ministerial Committee on the Intelligence Services (MIS) - Ministerial control.

In their day-to-day operations the Intelligence and Security Agencies operate under the immediate control of their respective Heads who are personally responsible to Ministers. The Prime Minister is responsible for intelligence and security matters overall and is supported in that capacity by the Secretary of the Cabinet. The Home Secretary is responsible for the Security Service; the Foreign & Commonwealth Secretary for SIS and GCHQ; MOD for the DIS; the Treasury and the Duchy of Lancaster.


Permanent Secretaries' Committee on the Intelligence Services (PSIS) - Civil Service control. Ministers are assisted in the general oversight of the Agencies by the Permanent Secretaries' Committee on the Intelligence Services (PSIS). Chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. Reports only to the PM, not the full Cabinet. Members include the PUS to the FCO, MOD, HO and Treasury as well as the CO Intelligence Co-Coordinator representing the JIC. SIS is directly administered through the Permanent Under-Secretary's Department of the FCO in Downing Street (West) SW1A 2AL  


Intelligence & Security Committee - Parliamentary oversight

70 Whitehall, London SW1A 2AS.

Parliamentary oversight of SIS, GCHQ and the Security Service is provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), established by the Intelligence Services Act 1994. The Committee examines the expenditure, administration and policy of the three Agencies. It operates within the "ring of secrecy" and has wide access to the range of Agency activities and to highly classified information. Its cross-party membership of nine from both Houses is appointed by the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The Committee is required to report annually to the Prime Minister on its work. These reports, after any deletions of sensitive material, are placed before Parliament by the Prime Minister. The Committee also provides ad hoc reports to the Prime Minister from time to time. 

The Committee is supported by a Clerk and secretariat based in the Cabinet Office and has an investigator whom the ISC can deploy to pursue specific matters in greater detail.


Rt Hon Tom King  1994-2000 

Rt Hon Ann Taylor 2000-


The Current Committee Membership (June 2003):

Rt. Hon. Ann Taylor, MP (Chairman)

Rt. Hon. James Arbuthnot, MP

Rt. Hon. The Lord Archer of Sandwell QC

Rt. Hon. Kevin Barron, MP

Rt. Hon. Alan Beith, MP

Rt. Hon. Alan Howarth CBE, MP

Michael Mates, MP

Rt. Hon. Joyce Quin, MP

Rt. Hon. Gavin Strang, MP




70 Whitehall. London SW1A 2AS. 020-7270 1234/3000


Defence & Overseas Affairs Secretariat. 


Overseas Economic Intelligence Committee (OEIC)

Economic and non-Military Scientific & Technical Intelligence


Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) - Intelligence Co-Ordination. 

The Joint Intelligence Committee agrees on the broad intelligence requirements and tasking (National Intelligence Requirements) for SIS and GCHQ and oversees the activities of the Security Service's.

It prepares summary assessments for selected Ministers and circulates the weekly 'Red Books' to the Cabinet's Defence and Overseas Committee, chaired by the PM.  Traditionally it meets every Wednesday morning and includes representatives from UKUSA and the COS secretariat. This is the 'key' committee involved in the Intelligence Community.  Originally formed as the Inter-Service Intelligence Committee (ISIC) under the Chiefs of Staff in January 1936, renamed the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in July 1936. Moved to foreign Office control in July 1939. In 1957 control moved to Cabinet Office and in 1968 the post of Intelligence Co-Coordinator was created  within the Cabinet Office to oversee its functions. In 1982 following the Falklands War the Foreign Office ceased to have any control and the JIC became a Cabinet Office organization with direct access to the Prime Minister. The JIC is reported to have a staff of 20 with a further 30 in the 'JIO' or ISG. Closely involved with the major City institutions particularly Banking, the Economic Sub-Committee of JIC also includes representatives of both the Treasury and the Bank of England (which also an SLO to receive intelligence reports directly from the JIC). A major drawback to JIC effectiveness appears to be a lack of expert knowledge amongst the majority of its Civil Service staff. Following criticism of the JIC performance both before and during the Falklands War from the Franks Committee in January 1983 a full time Chairman for the JIC was to be appointed from within the Cabinet Office


The JIC is composed of the

The Coordinator of Intelligence in the Cabinet Office

Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6);

Director General of the Security Service (MI5);
Director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ);
The Director General of Intelligence at the MoD;
The Deputy Chief of Defence Staff - Intelligence-DCDS (I);

Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the JIO Assessment Staff and
Foreign Office officials responsible for 'Friendly' Countries

Liaison Officers from

US, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Intelligence Services.




Chairman of JIC (Chaired by FO appointee, even after move from FO to CO control in 1957, until Franks Report of 1983. Cabinet Office appointee thereafter)

Sir Ralph Stevenson  1936-June' 39

Lord Victor Cavendish Bentinck June 1939-45

Sir Harold Caccia 1945-48

Sir William Hayter 1948-49

Sir Patrick Reilly 1950-53

Sir Patrick Dean 1953-60

Sir Hugh Stevenson 1960-63

Sir Bernard Burrows 1963-66

Sir Denis Greenhill 1966-68

Sir Edward Peck 1968-70

Sir Stewart Crawford 1970-73

Sir Geoffrey Arthur 1973-75

Sir Anthony Duff 1975-79

Sir Anthony Acland 1979-82

Sir Patrick Wright 1982-84

Sir Percy Craddock January 1985-92

Sir Rodric Braithwaite 1992-93

Dame Pauline Neville Jones 1993-94

Sir Paul Lever January 1994-97

Michael Pakenham  1997-2000

Peter Ricketts 2000-September 2001

John Scarlett 2001- 


Co-ordinator for Intelligence and Security

(Position created in 1968)

Sir Dick White 1968-1973

Sir Leonard Hooper 1973-78

Sir Francis Brooks Richards 1978-80

Sir Anthony Duff 1980-85

Sir Colin Figures 1985-89

Sir Christopher Curwen 1989-91

Sir Gerald Warner 1991-1996

John Alpass 1996-1998

Combined with position of Chairman of the JIC

Michael Pakenham 1998-2000

Peter Ricketts  2000 - Sept 2001

John Scarlett Sept 2001 - August 2002

Role again changed to become the new

Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator & Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office

A mirror of the new US Homeland Security and with a central Anti-Terrorism role, announced June 2002.

Sir David Omand August 2002 -


Assessment Staff & Joint Intelligence Secretariat (created 1968)

Also known as the Intelligence and Security Group (ISG)

Its role is to support the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) proper, which in turn provides Ministers and senior Officials with regular intelligence assessments on a wide range of issues of immediate and long-term importance to national interests, primarily in the fields of security, international crime, defence and foreign affairs.  The Assessment Staff control the work of the Current Intelligence Groups (CIG), effectively JIC sub-committee's each chaired by a member of the Assessment Staff, on the Middle East, Far East, Europe, Northern Ireland and WMD. The CIG's acquire secret intelligence from UK sources (approx one third SIS and two thirds GCHQ),a considerable US Intelligence input and indeed open source information , collate, analyze and prepare weekly reports and long term projects for the JIC to present to the MIS and PSIS. The JIC also sets intelligence requirements and priorities of the Intelligence Agencies, and scrutinises their performance in meeting those requirements.

The Joint Intelligence Secretariat is responsible for the administration of the JIC and its sub-committees.


London Signals Intelligence Board (LSIB)

For many years the controlling authority for GCHQ formed in 1942 Supervised SIGINT activities certainly until the late 1980's with the sub-committee known as the LSIC(Defence) handling Military SIGINT in particular

COBRA - Cabinet Office Briefing Room A
Officially entitled the Civil Contingencies Committee  it meets as and when required in 10 Downing Street. The committee is chaired by a senior minister, who can call on any Cabinet colleagues or senior civil servants to take part, as well as fire, police and ambulance chiefs, military commanders and the heads of the security and intelligence services MI5 and MI6. Cobra is set in motion to co-ordinate the Government's response to crises that threaten to disrupt the life of the nation. The committee can gather daily, or even remain in session 24 hours a day, to ensure that those directing the handling of a crisis can respond constantly to events. It is backed by a permanent Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office which tries to anticipate and if possible prevent emergencies. The secretariat, made up of civil servants, acts as a centre for emergency planning, produces assessments of potential crises and runs exercises to test the authorities' readiness.

For a more detailed survey of the political control system of British Intelligence and Security –  contact AFI Research





King Charles Street, London  SW1A  2AH.  020-7270 3000


HMGCC (Her Majesty’s Government Communication Centre)

Diplomatic Wireless System - DWS and Diplomatic Telecommunications Maintenance Service - DTMS (GCHQ/SIS network)

Hanslope Park, I mile SE of Hanslope in Buckinghamshire MK19 7BH. 01908 510444 (purchased in 1938, and run by SIS. massively rebuilt in 1990's, with SATCOM replacing transmitter site)

Peel Circus, Hudswell, Wiltshire - opening of new facilities underground available in the Hudswell Quarry complex linked to the NSG-Nuclear Emergency Bunker). Joint FCO/DWS-SIS Complex.

Part of the old ‘RAF Rudloe Manor’ complex at Corsham, Wiltshire.

The DTMS provides bugging and de-bugging services and the experts to 'sweep' sensitive Government facilities


Woofferton, near Ludlow. BBC/VOA transmitter facility run by Merlin (FO DWS/SIS)

Ramphisham, near Dorchester. BBC transmitter facility run by Merlin  (FO DWS/SIS)

Skelton, near Goole. BBC Transmitter facility run by Merlin(FO DWS)

Orfordness, Suffolk. BBC transmitter facility. USAF/NSA (replaced Crowborough in 1980's /BBC site used for SOE Agent transmissions

in WW2, and covert communications in Cold War)

Caversham Park, near Reading. BBC Monitoring Service. This is a joint facility set up in 1948 with the FBIS, Foreign Broadcast Information Service of the CIA. A CIA/NSA liaison team is attached to the BBC MS which concentrates on Europe, Middle East and Africa, while the FBIS concentrates on Russia, Central Asia, Far East (taken over from BBC MS in 1976-77), and Latin America.

Crowsley Park, near Henley upon Thames. Monitoring & Receiving Station for the BBC MS at Caversham. 

(BBC had a number of monitoring sites worldwide during the Cold War including the Vienna Embassy, Accra in Ghana and Abidjan in the Ivory Coast)

(BT Radio Stations at such places as Lanivet, near Bodmin in Cornwall and the major site at Rugby in the Midlands may still be used for both commercial and covert transmissions. While other BT Stations are known to be Criggion near Shrewsbury (VLF); Ongar in Essex (Transmitter site); Leafield near Oxford (Transmitter site); Bearley near Stratford upon Avon (Receiving) and Somerton near Taunton in Somerset (Receiving)


Previous sites included;

Gawcott-Buckinghamshire (Numbers Station-closed by late 1980's);

Creslow-Buckinghamshire (Numbers Station- enormous site rebuilt 1993-97, closed by 1998) and

Poundon-Buckinghamshire (CDAA. DWS & SIS, high-security site, but local environmental changes made future operations difficult. Operations moved to near

Rendcomb, 5 miles north of Cirencester in Gloucestershire (a similar base existed at Potsgrove, near Milton Keynes) Wartime FCO Clandestine Communications and Propaganda Radio site.(may not have been used since late 1940's or early 1950's)



Founded: 1st August 1909
External Espionage Agency. With the end of the Cold War, MI6's role has fundamentally changed and it now has many more potential targets. Terrorist groups, and so-called 'rogue' states, are now high profile targets. Networks of new agents will be required as intelligence 'needs' constantly shift. Industrial espionage, furthering British trade interests has moved into the area of national interest. Gathering intelligence on friendly governments, obtaining advanced knowledge of their negotiating positions or changes in alliances, are also now ever more important targets for MI6. The Intelligence Services Act 1994 formerly acknowledged its existence.



PO Box 1300, Vauxhall Cross, 85 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP.

FO (Media) 020 7270 3100. Personnel: 2000 plus


The Russian Revolution in 1917 provided SIS with some of its more outlandish characters and operations. George Hill, Ernest Boyce, Paul Dukes and Augustus Agar who sank a Russian Battleship in the Baltic. Sidney Reilly and his attempt to assassinate Lenin and many of the Communist leadership. While in the end the operations were a valiant failure, it did create a reputation in Europe that SIS was the most dangerous and efficient intelligence service in the world. SIS was, in part, to survive on that reputation for many years. Following the end of the war the re-structuring of the intelligence community saw the Admiralty and War Office code-breaking sections combined as the Government Code & Cipher School in 1919 still under Admiralty control. However in 1922, GC & CS become a department of the Foreign Office and placed under the overall control of the Chief of the SIS in 1923. SIS, a de facto part of the Foreign Office, had gained control of the espionage services of both the Admiralty and the War Office in 1919 along with a new Military cover-name of MI-6. In 1920 the Foreign Office also ceded its monopoly on political intelligence to SIS which then formed its new Political Section in 1921. When the RAF finally became a service branch in its own right an Air Intelligence Section was almost immediately formed within SIS in 1929. An Economic and Commercial Intelligence Section was formed in 1937 to work with the Special Liaison Section of the IIC/MEW Intelligence Branch. Following the failure of the SIS attempt to absorb MI5 in 1925, a Counter-Espionage Section was formed to work with the Security Service.  


During the 1920's and 1930's SIS was to concentrate on the Communist threat, often to the exclusion of the fascist threat from Germany, Italy and Spain or the growing Japanese militarism. Denied a decent budget, SIS attempted to create a second far more secret intelligence network in Europe, the Z section. Its originator Claude Dansey had little difficulty in persuading 'C', Admiral Sinclair, that SIS officer’s normal cover abroad, Passport Control Officer at the Embassy was already well known to all their potential enemies. Although SIS made considerable use of willing journalists and journalistic cover for intelligence officers, this was no substitute for a permanent network. Unfortunately, seven years of operations were thrown away in one stupid incident at Venlo in the Netherlands in 1939. The officers leading the two supposedly separate groups were ordered to meet a representative of an anti-Nazi group, together.

The Germans turned out to Abwehr officers and captured the SIS officers and within months had rolled up both networks. When Germany finally invaded France and the Low Countries in May 1940, SIS was left without a single valuable network in occupied Europe. Apart from Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal SIS was blind to continental events. Fortunately for SIS, the new 'C' Stewart Menzies was to make extraordinary use of both his friendship with the Prime Minister, Churchill and the steady flow of Ultra decrypts of the German Enigma traffic.


Without this, SIS may well have been disbanded and replaced by its wartime rival, SOE. In late 1943 in an attempt to simplify operations four Regional Controllers were created to oversee groups of country sections.  As it was by 1944 SIS had still not recovered sufficiently to be a major intelligence source, without the Ultra material from Bletchley Park. Menzies was a master at using his political and social connections to win time and eventual survival for SIS, indeed so successful was he that in 1946 he persuaded the Labour Government to close down SOE and transfer its best staff and most promising operations to SIS. During this re-organization GC & CS became a separate organization as GCHQ, within the Foreign Office leaving SIS without its major source of intelligence. Apart from changes of personnel, facilities and intelligence targets, SIS has remained under the Foreign Office and retained its name. The resulting spy scandals of the late 1940's and early 1950's saw doubt cast on some of SIS's most respected officers, Philby, Brooman-White, Ellis and others.


Menzies retired in 1953 saddened and exhausted by over thirty-seven years in intelligence. His replacement, Maj. General John Sinclair allowed the service to be further tarnished not only by its inept handling of the Suez crisis, but also by its involvement in the Buster Crabb affair, when a diver disappeared while carrying out surveillance on a Soviet Cruiser in Portsmouth. Sinclair's reward was to be replaced by the head of MI5, Sir Dick White.  From 1948 the VCSS had doubled as Director of Production and while Jack Easton was the ACSS in the early 1950's his position was amalgamated with that of the Director of Requirements, White later abolished the position of ACSS altogether and reintroduced the Directorate of Requirements. However this would eventually be merged with the Director of Productions to become the new Director of Requirements & Production and later still the current Director of Operations, retaining the Deputy Chief rank.


The eventual decision to remove MI6 to 'south of the river' came as White gave into increasing pressure to control the service in the wake of Suez, Hungary, Philby and Blake. The advent of a Labour Government sealed their fate and indeed White used the period as an opportunity to modernize. The Service R sections were separated off while the remaining R sections became more closely integrated with the Production Sections (DP1/2/3/4). A new Directorate of Counter-Intelligence and Security was created to take over the Vetting, Personnel and R5 Sections, creating Regional CI Sections. Later this would be modified by Oldfield to create three Targeting and Counter-Intelligence Sections (TCI). The creation of a MOD -n 1963-64 also led to the creation of the DIS from the old JIB and the Service Intelligence Agencies, further diluting MI6's influence. Cost cutting at the MOD would also reduce the numbers of Service MIO seconded to MI6. White was also to crucially make major changes in the SIS management structure when after long consultation with the FO Adviser he removed a generation of Senior Directors known as the 'Robber Barons' during December 1965 (effective in January 1966); one had retired (John Bruce Lockhart), two were given early retirement (John Collins and Paul Paulson), while Andrew Fulton was moved sideways and then retired soon after.

In 1973 under the new CSS or 'C' Sir Maurice Oldfield operations were to strictly controlled and scrupulous in their adherence to the wishes of the Government. Oldfield's unique style brought a refreshing blast of fresh air through the corridors of Century House, the SIS multi-story glass and concrete headquarters in south London. SIS objectives were also widened to take account of the increasing demand for commercial intelligence, on the USA, Britain's European partners, Japan and the Middle East oil states in particular. A new Government organization, the Overseas Economic Intelligence Committee (OEIC) became a major customer for both SIS and its SIGINT partner GCHQ. Also during the early 1970's, SIS increasingly became involved in the convoluted politics of Northern Ireland. During the earliest years of the Ulster conflict, the British government favoured the use of SIS in the North of Ireland.


On the basis of countering the IRA bombing campaigns in Britain, MI5 pushed for a presence in the North and from 1973 onwards began to build an infrastructure in Ulster. From that time onwards, SIS has played only a minor role. However, that has still had a considerable political and intelligence significance. It was Michael Oatley, a senior SIS officer who acted as Mrs. Thatcher's direct link to the republican leadership during the 1981 hunger strike, apparently over the heads of MI5 and the Northern Ireland Office and later another SIS officer, Frank Steele established an important dialogue with Gerry Adams. SIS was also involved in later discussions with Sinn Fein representatives on arms decommissioning and ensuring a cease-fire.



By the late 1970s, most MI6 agents had been taken over by RUC SB or MI5, and SIS itself had withdrawn from RUC and Army headquarters, although it retained an office at Stormont. SIS is thought to have an operational staff of about 25 in Ireland as a whole, split between the Stormont office, an office at Army HQ Lisburn and the British Embassy in Merrion Road, Dublin. (Between 1971 and 1977 MI6 in the province was run from a large house in Laneside).


However in 1972, SIS was to be deeply embarrassed by the Littlejohn incident, when two brothers operating as SIS agents in Ireland were arrested for freelance activities including armed bank robberies. They also claimed to have been given a list of leading IRA members to assassinate. SIS emphatically denied any involvement and Oldfield went so far as to call a meeting of SIS staff to assure them that there was absolutely no truth in the allegations. SIS was soon to withdraw from the battle for control of British intelligence operations in the Province and the strong suspicions remains that the Littlejohn affair was somehow set up by the Security Service (MI5) to damage SIS's reputation. Oldfield was to suffer from a Security Service dirty tricks campaign some years later when appointed the Governments Security Co-ordinator for Northern Ireland in October 1979. It is widely believed that MI5 informed a number of friendly journalists that Oldfield was a homosexual and that his behaviour was a security risk.


SIS came out of the Falklands War, Gulf War and the Balkans conflicts throughout the 1980's and 1990's with an enhanced reputation. Trust in its internal security has been restored by the succession of major Soviet defectors and double agents who were happy to co-operate with the service. There was also a major change in the leadership during 1993when McColl stayed on as C for an extra two years he effectively bypassed a whole generation of officers, the so-called 'Christmas Massacre' of December 1992 (effective January 1993) and a new younger management team of senior Directors in their 'forties' took office under David Spedding. Barry Gane the expected new CSS retired early. However, the new 'C' failed to complete the task of building a service fit for the 21st century and this task is hopefully being completed by Richard Dearlove, who also may have made more significant changes in direction as there are some insiders who were apparently distinctly unhappy about Speddings time in charge.  The final act of coming out of the Shadows, becoming an 'established' Government department and its move to a new high profile Headquarters at Vauxhall Cross has markedly raised its image. SIS is probably now considered a trendy new employer for well-scrubbed young graduates. Whether of course this new generation of political correct and computer literate civil service recruits will prove capable of dealing with the increasingly dangerous and terrorist dominated intelligence environment of the twenty first century is very much open to question.

The immense political pressures exerted upon SIS by the Government of Tony Blair in the months leading up to the attack on Iraq in the spring of 2003 resulted not least in a number of unsatisfactory documents on both WMD’s and Saddam’s Security apparatus. These did little to enhance the reputation of the intelligence services, the JIC or the Government itself. Dearlove approved his heir apparent in August 2003 having decided to announce his own retirement in August 2004, but as a measure of the level of mistrust that has now grown between the senior management of SIS and leading Cabinet Office officials, it has been suggested that the Prime Minister may seek to appoint his own, more amenable choice as the new ‘C’ when the time comes. This will undoubtedly be seen as a further weakening of the ability of SIS to retain any form of independence from the corrosive nature of close ‘party’ political control.


A historical review of the great changes in SIS organization charts the growth from the first formal restructuring after SIS came under the control of the Foreign Office; In 1921 it was made up simply of the G or Geographical Officers and the four Circulating Sections which provided liaison with the

Foreign Office,

Military MI-1C, later MI-6,

Naval NI-1C and

Air AI-1C from 1929.







By the late 1930's this had expanded to ten circulating sections including the original four renamed I, II, III and IV, and

V Counter Espionage,

VI Industrial intelligence,

VII Financial intelligence,

VIII Communications,

IX Ciphers and

X Press .


SIS Section-Z (Z Organization)

Created by Col Claude Dansey (later a DCSS) between 1932-36 as a parallel and entirely separate intelligence network in Europe in response to the fear that the PCO (Passport Control Officer) cover often taken by SIS officers had been compromised. Formally established in 1937 with headquarters at Bush House, Aldwych, London WC2, while commercial cover was given by Menoline Ltd of 24 Maple Street, London W1. Press cover for Z and indeed the rest of SIS was regularly provided by the Kemsley Newspaper Group and later by the Daily Herald; the Times; Daily Telegraph and the Observer among others. Dansey even funded the creation of what became a highly successful film production company, Alexander Korda's London Films, as cover for agents travelling around pre-war Europe. It is considered likely that Bertram Mills Circus was also used in much the same way, particularly as Cyril Mills was a senior MI5 officer in the Twenty Committee during WW2 and remained an 'asset' long after that. Section Z (with Dansey as Z-1) was later to be fatally compromised right at the beginning of the Second World War in September 1939 when it direct contravention of the basic rules of security in running two separate networks, the Head of Z in the Netherlands, Captain Sigismund Payne-Best and the Head of the SIS Station Major Richard Stevens not only merged their operations but were captured by the Germans after being duped into a meeting at Venlo. The Germans were able to roll up BOTH networks with the help of information provided by the two SIS Officers under interrogation. In the aftermath Section Z was officially re-absorbed into the main body of SIS, however it may have continued to operate for some years as a semi-autonomous section in neutral countries.

The G (G1/2/3/4) Officers who controlled operations were replaced by Production 'P' Sections (later rationalized under the DP Controllerates) and the old Circulating Sections were replaced by the Requirement 'R' Sections by 1941. The P Sections included;

P1 France

P1a French North Africa

P1b Non-Free French

P1c Free French (Liaison with BCRA)

P2 Iberia

P4 Italy

P5 Poland (Liaison with Fifth Bureau of AK or Home Army)

P6 German & Czech Liaison

P7 Belgium

P8 Netherlands

P9 Norway, Faroes & Iceland

P13 Baltic countries


P19 Photographic



SIS Section D (Destruction)

Established by 1938 and was tasked with creating a sabotage and subversion capability. Taken over on July 22nd 1940 and without the full agreement of SIS, by the MEW (Ministry of Economic Warfare) to form part of the new SOE along with the War Office's MI(R) and various other paramilitary sections. 






SOE (Special Operations Executive) formed out of parts of SIS 1940, remnants merged with SIS 1946

This was the response made by Hugh Dalton, the Minister of EcW to Churchill's pressure for an immediate counter-offensive against the German occupation of Western Europe. SOE, effectively a temporary, wartime-only organization of doubtful value was run separately from SIS, though for much of the war relied heavily on the intelligence services communications network until the creation of STS-2 (Thame Park); STS53A (Grendon Underwood); STS53B (Poundon House); STS53C (Signal Hill-Poundon, later SIS/DWS closed 1990's); STS54 (Fawley Court, Henley) and  STS53D (Belhaven House-Dunbar). Although it had limited successes in Norway (the destruction of Heavy Water facilities), Yugoslavia and the Far East (with TF-136 which was later almost completely absorbed into the post war SIS) in particular, disasters such as the German Operation North Pole penetration of the SOE Dutch section and the German reprisals in the wake of the Heydrich assassination were of greater significance. Indeed by 1944 its military value was strictly limited and it was largely sidelined for the rest of the war. On 15th August 1945 SOE ceased to be separate organization from SIS and the run down process began and in July 1946 the SOE was finally disbanded with many of its best officers, agents, some whole sections and a number of operations being transferred to SIS. Far from SOE disappearing however its absorption into the intelligence service had a significant and largely positive impact on the future organization and leadership of SIS itself. Its first Headquarters was in the St Ermins Hotel, but moved to its permanent facilities at 64 Baker Street on 31st October 1940 with the cover name of Inter-Services Research Bureau (IRSB). Later added Norgeby House at no-83 and St Michael's House at no-82 Baker Street.  Along with a myriad of Training Establishments (known as STS-1, 2 etc) SOE was also to create a 'Cooler' for failed agents who could not be posted elsewhere until sensitive operations they had been trained for had been completed. This was at Inverlair Lodge, in Inverness-shire and was heavily guarded by the Cameron Highlanders. Both SOE and SIS were to make considerable use of its secure facilities.


The Chief Executive Officers (CD) of SOE were

Sir Frank Nelson July 1940 - May 1942

Sir Charles Hambro May 1942- September 1943

Maj-General Colin Gubbins September 1943 - June 1946. 


British Security Commission (BSC) 

Formed in June 1940 under (Sir) William Stephenson to improve liaison between MI5/SIS/GCCS and the FBI (later OSS), It also carried out clandestine activities within the USA aimed at Germans or pro-Nazi Americans. Absorbed New York SIS Station and opened new offices in The Rockefeller Centre on 5th Avenue. Disbanded 1946, liaison transferred to the SIS and MI5 SLO at Washington Embassy.

BSC however established the close co-operation that led to the BRUSA and UKUSA agreements that still operate in one form or another between US CIA/NSA/FBI) and British(SIS/MI5/GCHQ) in 2003.



By 1941 SIS had formed a number of semi-autonomous overseas organizations including the major Inter-Service Liaison Departments for the Middle East ISLD (Cairo) 1941-46, ISLD (Algiers) 1942-44, then absorbed into ISLD (Cairo) and the Far East ISLD (FE) 1941-46.  They were simply the cover name for SIS Staff attached to Theatre GHQ. ISLD (FE) was based in New Delhi from 1941 to 1944, and then in Kandy, Ceylon 1944-46. ISLD (Cairo) renamed CRPO/ME in 1946 and ISLD (FE) became CRPO/FE and moved to Singapore.


MI9 Escape and Evasion organization - part of SIS. Headquartered at Wilton Park with a cover address of Room-900 of the War Office, it also had an office at 5 St James's Street.

The SIS Board of Directors 1948-49



AC/SS - R Sections






SIS organization Post War - The massive wartime changes and the absorption of SOE resulted in a structure that by 1948 now included;

CCE-Chief Controller Europe

CNA - Controller Northern Area (Scandinavia & Denmark)

CWA - Controller Western Area (France, Italy & Iberia)

CEA - Controller Eastern Area (Germany, Switzerland & Austria)

CCM - Chief Controller Mediterranean

CME - Controller Middle East (London)

MEC Middle East Controller - Cairo, later Beirut - JIC (ME)

CCP - Chief Controller Pacific

CFE - Controller Far East (London)

FEC - Far East Controller - Singapore- JIC (FE)

CPR - Controller, Production Research

P Section - Soviet Union

P Section - Eastern Europe

P Sections - Western Hemisphere (including the USA)

UK Station

Section V (CE)

D/WP - Director, War Planning

Liaison with CNA, CWA, CEA, CME & CFE

D/FA - Director, Finance and Administration

H/TD - Head of Training and Development

(later to be abolished with Training going to Personnel and Development to the Directorate of Support Services)


AC/SS - Directorate of Requirements (Circulating Sections)

R1 Political (FO)

R2 Military (MI6) 

R3 Naval (NID17) 

R4 Air

R5 Counter Espionage (combing V & IX, still operated in 1946 in two equal sections; CE(V) under Oldfield and Communist Investigations(IX) under Charles Ransom)- Combined with Inspectorate of Security and PV Section in 1964 to form the powerful 

Directorate of Counter-Intelligence and Security.

R6 Industrial, Commercial & Financial. Worked closely with both the Treasury and the Bank of England, as well as Merchant Bankers such as Hill Samuel; Hambro's; Kleinwort Benson; Morgan Grenfell; Brandts; Cootes and the Midland.  Solicitors firms such as Slaughter & May were also part of the network of important contacts, along with Thomas Cook; ICI; BP; Shell; Lonrho and RTZ.

R7 Wartime Scientific Intelligence, previously a sub-section of the Air Section (Section 11) became a full Section representing the needs of the Directorate of Scientific Intelligence (at what would eventually become the MOD) and the JIC's Scientific and Technical Intelligence Committees. 

R7/TCS - Technical Coordinating Section.  Also known as TAL (Tube Alloys Liaison) the cover name for the development of the atom bomb and nuclear scientific intelligence. (The original Financial role of R7 was taken over by the creation of a Directorate of Administration and Finance) 

R8 GCHQ Liaison (Later RGC-Requirements Government Communications) and

R9 Scientific Intelligence (merged with R7)


In 1956 Head of CI (HCI) became the Director of CI. In 1958-59 however the Regional Chief Controllers were abolished. The Production Directorate was broken up into four separate Directorates and the subordinate Area Controllers also abolished, along with the MEC and FEC positions. P Sections thereafter answered directly to the four Directors of Production and their DDP organized into a new Directorate of Production with a

CCE became DP1

Controller Northern Area CAN Soviet Bloc and Scandinavia,

Controller Western Area CWA Spain, France and North Africa, 

Controller Eastern Area CEA Germany, Switzerland and Austria

CCM became DP2

Controller Middle East CME,


CCP became DP3

Controller Far East CFE and

CPR became DP4

Controller London Station


In the re-organization of 1966 many overseas Stations were to be closed and the structure changed to;

Directorate of Production

Directorate of Requirements

Directorate of Counter Intelligence & Security (formed after Philby & Blake cases)

Directorate of Operational support

Directorate of Personnel & Administration

Directorate of Training (added soon after)

By 1968 this had been simplified to

DP1 Western Europe,

DP2 Middle East and Africa,

DP3 Far East and Americas and

DP4 London Station.


In 1978-79 the service finally merged the old Requirement and Production Directorates with its controller effectively the new Deputy Chief of the SIS, to create a somewhat more streamlined, at least on paper, structure; The six major Controllers were the 

C1 London Station,

C2 Middle East,

C3 Far East,

C4 Western Hemisphere,

C5 Soviet Bloc and

C6 Africa.


The R Sections retained their own DDR until the early 1990's when they eventually came under the control of their relevant Area Controllers.


The last major restructuring was occasioned by the end of the Cold War and the need to redirect SIS activities more towards Terrorism and Global crime and so by 2001 the overall organization had had been rationalized into;

Directorate of Operations with a

London Station,

Middle East & Africa,

Far East & Western Hemisphere,

Eastern Europe,

Global Tasks

Established in 1994 as Global & Functional (Global Issues) to combine; organized crime (1992), counter-proliferation section (PCTP-Production Targeting Counter-Proliferation, formed at the request of the JIC in 1991) and narcotics. Runs deep-cover operations, Operational Support (became a separate department in 1994 to support deep cover or covert operation, represented a considerable upgrade of the original Technical Support Division or TOS) includes; Special Support Technical support(staffed by MOD expert locksmiths, video & audio technicians, scientists, chemists, electronic experts, forensics, surveillance and explosives experts) and Information Operations (I/Ops- psy-ops - consisting of around 20 media-friendly officers designed to 'brief' and place black propaganda stories on the press and importantly to provide media 'legends' for officers - formed around 1992)


SIS Paramilitary/Covert Action sections

SIS had established a covert action or paramilitary capability before the war in the form of Section D. This had become one of the integral components of SOE in 1940. In the post war period SOE was abolished and many of its best officers and sections were to be absorbed back into SIS to become a new Special Operations Section in 1946, however it was officially named the D/WP.





Directorate of War Planning.

The D/WP was in fact a resurrected and expanded Section-D and was tasked with carrying out 'special operations' and creating stay-behind networks in Europe. plus developing a close liaison with Special Forces. Other parts of SOE were to be absorbed into H/TD and involved the more extensive training and development of equipment that had been pioneered by SOE during the war. Indeed the SOE officer John Munn became the first H/TD and saw the creation of Fort Monckton as one of a number of new specialist training centres very much in the SOE STS mould. DWP phased out quietly in 1953 though some form of 'special operations' capability was undoubtedly retained with the creation in late 1953-early 1954 of a covert political action group known as the

Special Political Action Section (SPA)

Was to become heavily involved in deception, political influence operations and engineering changes in the leadership of foreign countries through rebellions such as the failed Indonesian Permesta rising of the late 1950's, insurgency, coups such as Iran in 1953 and the Congo in 1961 or perhaps by extreme 'executive action'. Within SIS the SPA was known as the 'jolly fun tricks department' and was directly controlled by the Head of R1. Thus the R1/SPA section was not an actual operational unit, but the originator and coordinator of operations mounted by the Directorate of production and any assets it used ranging from foreign mercenaries, 'former' Intelligence or special forces personnel, often used for 'deniable' operations, the SAS, IRD or any number of outside contracted specialists. The SPA would fall victim to the Labour Governments aversion to covert action and was quietly abolished in the mid 1970's. It was at this stage that the relationship with the SAS, seconded and retired, as well as a number of 'private' specialist companies became ever more important and by 1987 a Special Forces Directorate was formed to coordinate the activities of the SAS and SBS and ensure closer collaboration with the SIS. By 2003 such activities are the responsibility of the

General Support Branch  

Handles 'dirty operation' and uses The Increment as its executive arm. The so-called SIS Charter, known as the 'order book' requires that the service maintains a 'Special Operations' capability in addition to it more expected duties. The para-military or covert action option is provided by the 22 SAS CRW - Counter-Revolutionary Wing and the M (CT) Troop of the SBS and is supported by the RAF S & D Flight. The SAS CRW Increment would normally have around 45 highly trained specialists available for SIS requirements. All have a minimum of five years service in the SAS, are the rank of sergeant or above and have been heavily vetted by SIS. They will have gone through an induction course on surveillance and intelligence as well as three weeks at Fort Monckton. The SBS which provides a further 15 or so personnel, all of whom are expert divers, combat swimmers and underwater demolition experts, often with experience gained in the Comacchio Group, Mountain Leaders and the Artic Warfare Cadre. Several have 'skippers tickets' and could command commercial vessels or fishing boats when required. The SBS Increment places tracking devices on 'suspect' vessels in ports around the world. They also control the SIS 'mini-submarine', an advanced form of chariot with two crew and upto four passengers. It is used for clandestine infiltration and exfiltration of agents. The RAF S&D has some ten or so specialist pilots allowed to fly below 50ft and can call upon a specially modified C130 Hercules for agent drops and 'quick' recovery operations and a Puma (or newer model) helicopter, equipped with additional fuel tanks, mainly used to ferry SIS staff around the UK and in particular for the shuttle between London (Battersea Heliport) and Fort Monckton. The Army's secretive FRU (agent running unit); 14th Intelligence& Security Company; Intelligence Corps and Royal Military Police all provide additional personnel for 'The Increment' including Women Officers. The 14th indeed provided surveillance for SAS 'snatch teams' in the Balkans attempting to arrest suspected War Criminals in the 1990's.Defensive driving courses have been provided by the RMP at HMS Daedalus (a naval airfield near Fort Monckton) while field training and toughening-up courses are held at the SAS Pontrilas area in Wales and jointly with the Italian SISMI Intelligence Service in Rome.

Has a Command Centre in the secure basement at Vauxhall Cross


The dissident SIS officer Richard Tomlinson has publicly accused The Increment of being involved in SIS sponsored plans to assassinate foreign leaders including Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic. In 1998 Tomlinson confirmed the existence of the unit which he described as 'a small cell of the SAS and SBS which is especially selected and trained to carry out operations exclusively for MI5/MI6' and indeed of a written assassination plan He claimed that the document proposed three methods of assassinating Milosevic. The first method was to train and equip a Serbian paramilitary opposition group to assassinate Milosevic in Serbia.


An MI6 Officer, Nick Fishwick, argued that this method would have the advantage of deniability, but with the disadvantage that control of the operation would be low and the chances of success unpredictable. The second method was to use The Increment to infiltrate Serbia and attack Milosevic either with a bomb or sniper ambush. The MI6 officer argued that this plan would be the most reliable, but would be undeniable if it went wrong. Fishwick’s third proposal was to kill Milosevic in a staged car crash, possibly during one of his visits to the ICFY (International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia) in Geneva, Switzerland. Chillingly the MI6 Officer even provided a suggestion about how this could be done, namely disorientating Milosevic’s chauffeur using a blinding strobe light as the cavalcade passed through one of Geneva’s motorway tunnels. Whatever the truth of such stories The Increment has been used as the covert 'strong-arm' of the Intelligence Service since the downgrading of its own military capability in the 1970's. Operations against terrorist threats to Intelligence officers and facilities and providing protection for senior officers are certainly part of their remit.

However, the SIS also now directly employs a considerable number of former members of the SAS, SBS and 14th Intelligence Detachment of Military Intelligence and SIS has now decided, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in September 2001, to recreate some form of

Special Operations department. 

By early 2003 had recruited some 200 additional recently retired Special Forces personnel to greatly expand its own 'Covert Action' and overseas protection capability, along with as many as 100 Analysts and Linguists, and up to 200 additional admin/support staff for general intelligence duties. SIS also has a small group of perhaps 20-30 men and women known as UKN, mostly volunteers from outside organizations including private business who provide expect surveillance and counter-surveillance skills and training, as well as specialist computer and IT knowledge. The UKN are often used alongside The Increment for covert operations.


Natural Cover Committee:

UKA (EE), UKB (WE), UKC (Africa, RSA), UKD (ME), UKJ (Japan), UKO (India & Pakistan) and UKP (Iran) 1990's


A historical review of  SIS facilities include;

Hotel Metropol, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2. 1909-1913

2 Whitehall Court, London SW1. (MO/MI-IC) 1913-1923

1 Melbury Road, near Kensington High Street, London  W14. (SIS) 1923-1925

Broadway Buildings, 54 The Broadway, London SW1 (SIS) 1925-1966

Century House, 100 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 (SIS) 1966-1995 (071 928 5600/CBX 3501)

Vauxhall Cross, 85 Albert Embankment, London  SE1 7TP (SIS) 1995-


A one time or another SIS has had offices scattered all over London, 'The City' and the Home Counties, these are known to include;

Artillery Mansions, Victoria Street, London SW1. SIS Production Research Department. 1950's - 1960's. Floor One (Tech Ops -forgeries, bugging, legends etc). Floor Two (Russian interception ops. DP4).

Bush House, Aldwych, London WC2. Colonel Dansey’s Z Sections were based here 1937-1940

2 Caxton Street, London SW1.  SIS Section D 1939 (next door to St Ermin's Hotel, also used by MI6)

Clarence Terrace, Regents Park, London NW1. SIS-CIA centre for Berlin Tunnel ops in mid 1950's. Transcription Unit & later MI5 A4.

Coleshill House, Highworth, near Swindon. CTS for Section D (later SOE 1940)

Glenalmond and Prae Woods, St Albans, north of London. SIS Section-V 1940-43 and Registry 1940-1945

111 Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3. A 4 storey House used as an SIS Training School (Eastern European ops 1948)

Queen Anne Mews, London W1. SIS large underground car park. 1940's to early 1970's  (Apcos Car Parks Ltd 1980's)

21 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1. The Official Residence of 'C' from 1923-1966. Backed on to Broadway Buildings.

Palace Street, London SW1.General Trade Craft Course - TS School 1948.

Princes House, Princes Street, London W1. SIS 'General Craft Centre' School from 1945 under the Director of Training and Development

14 Ryder Street, London SW1.  SIS Section-V/R5 Counter-intelligence section 1943-45. HQ &  SLC Baltic ops and agent running 1945-51. Soviet defectors centre 1948-71 and Special Liaison Centre.

Sloane Square, London, SW1. SIS Training Schools 1940-45

Southwark Bridge Road, London.SE1. SIS Garages (Dept of Environment - facilities)

60 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2RR. SIS London Station 1950's to around 1996 (Known in MI6 as VBR)

296-302 Borough High Street, London SE1. .SIS Training Centre until mid 1990's.

Whaddon Manor, Whaddon, E of  Bletchley. First (1938) SIS clandestine transmitter station (Mark XV at nearby Windy Ridge)


Safe Houses have included:

24 Cheney Walk, Chelsea Embankment, London SW3. (Guy Liddell's home-DDGSS MI5-used by both MI5 and MI6)

Coleherne Court, London SW5. SIS 'Safe' house 1960's

Gordon Hospital, 128 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1. 1960's

Pavilion Road (a small Mews House-upstairs flat), Sloane Square, London SW1 (used by both MI5 and MI6)


Joint facilities with CIA included;

RAF Cheddington, near Aylesbury. Largest clandestine arms dump for use in Europe. OPC/CIA 1956-1964 (GLADIO Stay behind network-may still have been in use 1975 or later)


Overseas Stations in the Post War period included


Bad Salzuflen, near Bielefeld, West Germany, Main SIS Station, 1948 (cover as Political Office of BCCG, staff often posted as members of the Intelligence Division of the BCCG)

(BCCG -British Control Commission for Germany, Norfolk House, St James's Square, London SW1)

British Consulate, Dusseldorf SIS outstation, 1948

Bonn Embassy, 1955

Lancaster House, Fehrbelliner-Platz, Berlin SIS HQ 1946

Olympic Stadium Buildings, 1946. Later HQ SIS Station Berlin.


BMEO (British Middle East Office) Co-Ordination Division (SIS cover name) moved from Egypt 1954.

Athalassa, SIS Covert Propaganda Radio Station with underground CC (BMEO)

POMEF (Political Office of Middle East Forces) replaced BMEO as SIS cover in mid 1950's.


Fort Bin Jema


FAR EAST. Singapore Phoenix Park HQ in 1946 under Controller Far East with outstations in Canberra; Rangoon; Kuala Lumpur; Hong Kong; Tokyo; Bangkok and later Vientiane and Hanoi. Personnel regularly posted to diplomatic missions elsewhere, and Stations later added in Beijing; Manila and Seoul among others. Pre War there had only been important Stations in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.


MIDDLE EAST. Cairo HQ (Combined Research & Planning Office or CRPO, replaced wartime ISLD (Cairo) in 1946) used BMEO as cover and under Controller ME & A. Had outstations in Beirut (later Main Station after political changes in Egyptian in 1954-55); Baghdad; Basra; Tehran; Amman; Port Said; Damascus and later Tripoli; Jeddah and Muscat. Liaison with MI5 & IC in Aden and personnel regularly posted to diplomatic missions elsewhere. Tel Aviv Station run by CWH or direct from London. Pre War Stations were limited to Athens, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Cairo.


The major SIS Stations were in Washington DC; Paris; Bonn and Rome. While SIS Stations were also operational in Embassies and Missions in most of the Capitals and many of the major cities throughout Europe and in selected Embassies in Latin America and Africa.  In Colonial and later Commonwealth nations SIS either operated jointly with MI5 DSLO's or directly liaised with the National Intelligence Service.


Before 1939 SIS had a large New York Station in the Cunard Building on Wall Street, this became the British Security Coordination (BSC) in May 1940 under Sir William Stevenson and effectively the main liaison between the entire British and American Intelligence and Security communities in World War Two. Later moving to much more substantial Headquarters in the Rockefeller Centre


IRD Information Research Department – closely linked to SIS

FO/SIS propaganda and disinformation organization, and often used as a cover for SIS 'Black operations'. Represented at SIS-CIA liaison meetings. Established in 1947 to carry on the work of the wartime PWE (Political Warfare Executive) from offices in Carlton House Terrace, it was to be based at Riverwalk House, 157-166 Millbank, London SW1P 4RR from the mid 1950's. Abolished in 1977 and replaced by the OID (Overseas Information Department), under J. N. Allan, little changed however as the first Director of OID was the SIS Officer James Allen. OID was to be finally absorbed into FCO's Information Department in 1981. 

The IRD used Media and 'Academic' fronts, often with the CIA, such as Encounter Magazine(1953, exposed as CIA front 1967), Forum World Features(1965),  ISC (Institute for the Study of Conflict 1970, formed to run some operations that IRD was now not allowed to), Ampersand Ltd (IRD Publishing), ANA , China News Summary (CNS), Background Books series(Phoenix House, after 1960 Bodley Head),  NAFEN Ltd, Africa Features Services (AFS 1971), INRAR(International News Rights and Royalties, set up in 1963 to take over Britanova assets) among many others.

Many well known Authors and Writers were involved with IRD including Brian Crozier (SIS, Forum, ISC), Robert Moss (ISC), David Floyd (DT),Tom Little (ANA), Charles Douglas Home (Times Editor), Paul Wilkinson (ISC), Nigel Clive (ISC,IRD,SIS), Robert Conquest, Alan Hare (INRAR), Michael Goodwin (Ampersand, then ISC), Kenneth Benton (IRD, ISC)

Directors of IRD included

Christopher Mayhew 1947-49

Sir Ralph Murray 1949-51

Sir John Peck 1951-53

John Rennie 1953-58

Christopher Barclay 1962-67

Nigel Clive 1967-70

Kenneth Crook 1970-72

Thomas Barker 1972-76

Ray Whitney  1976-77


MI6 (SIS) 'front' companies have included

London Films (Alexander Korda -1930's).

Marshall's Travel purchased in 1947.

CASURO Travel Company front (anti-IRA scam 1960's).

Butterworths & Co/Butterworth-Springer Ltd (set up by SIS, Hugh Quennell a Director).

Rally Films (set up as cover for SIS Yemen Operations, part of David Stirlings TIE-Television International Enterprises,

HQ 21 Sloane Street (next door to SIS 'Safe House' operated by ex SIS Denis Rowley).

Britanova News Agency (WW2)

ANA Arab News Agency (Cairo 1950's)

DCS (Diversified Corporate Services) - (Set up 1969-70 by SIS Officers John Farmer & John Pilkington. The MD was General Templers a.d.c; Col Alan Pemberton, directors included Maj Freddy Mace (Intell Corps covert entry specialist), Col Peter Goss(Head NI Army Intell/CLOCKWORK ORANGE ops and JIC member) and Ferguson Dempster (Mexico -DCS 1969). Covert ops for City Institutions and SIS. Offices in Rome and probably the USA. May have been a front for CIA as well as MI6.)

Strategic Profile International-SPI. Carlton Terrace Gardens (1990's - believed to be an SIS front)

Hakluyt & Company/Hakluyt Foundation. Established 1995 by Sir Fitzroy Maclean to channel MI6 commercial intelligence to major companies and to receive information from corporate sources. Set up by Christopher James(ex SIS) and Mike Reynolds(ex SIS), directors included Sir Brian Cubbon(ex Home Office); Lord Laing(Conservative Party Treasurer); Earl Jellicoe; Sir Peter Cazalet(P & O and BP) and Sir Peter Holmes(Shell Oil)



Facilities regularly used by SIS include;

Special Forces Club. 8 Herbert Street, Knightsbridge.


SIS Current facilities include;

3 Carlton Gardens, London SW1Y 5AA.Front office since 1950's and Top Secret Y Section after 1945 for some years.

Fort Monkton near Gosport. Specialist Training Centre for Covert Operations at an old Napoleonic fort on the south coast in Hampshire. 1946 under D of T & D and from 1956 when it passed to FCO control as  'No-1 Military Training Establishment', off Gosport-Stokes Bay. (Peter Follis of SOE was selected to provide SIS with a Special Training School in 1946 at Fort Monkton, following the disbanding of SOE itself. Army Intelligence Corps base at Ashford in Kent also used for SIS training, now moved to Chicksands)


SIS Communications facilities include;

Hanslope Park, Buckinghamshire MK19 7BH. 01908 510444. SIS 1938. Technical Security Department (TSD). SIS Communications centre at FCO HMGCC.  

Peel Circus, Hudswell, Wiltshire, near the former RAF Rudloe Manor at Corsham - underground facilities available in the Hudswell Quarry complex linked to the NSG-Nuclear Emergency Bunker).The joint FCO-SIS Complex moved from Poundon-Buckinghamshire (DWS & SIS, high-security site, but environmental changes made future operations difficult!)  

Montreathmont Moor – just South of Brechin. SIS/GCHQ Clandestine communications (and a similar site at Laurencekirk, 5mile NE of Brechin - stay behind networks). (BT MW Link from EAST LOMAND to CRAIGOWL, part of same chain to MORMOND HILL)

Other covert Communications sites include Barford St Johns (Oxfordshire-Numbers Station -joint CIA) and very probably privately owned sites such as the SERCO-run RN Inskip facility (near Preston) and of course the BNFL site at Capenhurst (Cheshire).

Ayios Nikalaos - Cyprus. CSO/9th RSR Monitoring and Intelligence Communications Base  Site of 'E3 Lincolnshire Poacher' Transmissions to covert SIS and SAS operations and agents in the Middle East, particularly pre 2003 Iraq and increasingly over the last 25 years, Iran.

Guam.  Joint CIA/SIS Communications facility, Site for 'E3A Cherry Ripe' Agent Transmissions to Communist China and North Korea in particular.

Kowandi, near Darwin had been an important SIS-ASIS Communications link since 1973. A DFA Radio Station as well by 1997


Directors or Chiefs of the Secret Intelligence Service

Captain Sir Mansfield Smith Cumming 1909-1923

Admiral Sir Hugh 'Quex' Sinclair 1923-1939

Maj General Sir Stewart Menzies 1939-1952

Maj General Sir John Sinclair 1952-1956

Sir Dick White 1956-1968

Sir John Rennie 1968-1973

Sir Maurice Oldfield 1973-1978

Sir Arthur 'Dickie' Franks 1978-1981

Sir Colin Figures 1981-1985

Sir Christopher Curwen 1985-1989

Sir Colin McColl 1989-1994

Sir David Spedding 1994-1999

Richard Dearlove 1999-


The Director of Operations (The Director of Requirements & Production-DRP) is known as The Director and is effectively the DCSS. An ‘official’ deputy is usually only appointed in the year before the current CSS retires and is considered to be the ‘heir apparent’ (the CSS own choice in fact)...

The Director of Counter-Intelligence & Security-DCIS is effectively third in the chain of command.







CIA Liaison with SIS

A large Staff of over 70 with a Head of Station operates out of a wing of the third Floor of the US Embassy at 24-31 Grosvenor Square in Mayfair. It is organized into at least six sections;

A) Political Liaison Section (c/n for SIS Liaison, established 1947)

B) Area Telecommunications Office (around 12 Staff)

C) JRRU Joint Research & Reports Unit (up to 30 Staff based in Room-388, works closely with the JIC in the Cabinet Office).

D) FBIS (which works closely with the BBC Monitoring Service at Caversham Park)

E) Counter-Terrorism (Liaison section from the CTC at Langley)

F) SUSLO - Office of the Senior US Liaison Officer (Room-452, on fourth floor above main CIA Offices, NSA Liaison with GCHQ, includes some CIA Staff)


The Station provides Representatives to numerous British Intelligence, Security and Defence Committees, including the Cabinet Office JIC (there are strong links between the SIS-NSC in Washington, as well as the CIA-JIC in London). This is part of a very close ‘Special relationship’ which sees various US organizations including the FBI (Legal attaches –Liaison to MI5, MP-CT/SB and NCIS) and the DIA (DIALL, Defence Intelligence Agency Liaison London – to the DSI at the MOD) greatly influencing their British counterparts most sensitive activities.

The CIA’s Covert Operations Office (codenamed LCPIPPIT) was originally based at 71 Grosvenor Street in 1947, rented from MI5 and situated above a furniture shop. Later it was in Upper Brook Street, Mayfair just round the corner from the Embassy during at least the 1970’s & 1980’s.

The US Visa Branch was used as cover for operating from 55/56 Upper Brook Street, W1A 2JB.



Founded in its present form as a separate department of the FO in the reforms of 1946.
Mission: To provide Government Departments and Military Commands with signals intelligence (SIGINT) in support of Her Majesty's Government's security, defence, foreign and economic policies. In addition to providing signals intelligence, GCHQ also provides advice and assistance to Government Departments and the Armed Forces on the security of their communications and information technology systems. This task is undertaken by the Communications Electronics Security Group of GCHQ, who work closely with their customers and industry, as well as with the Security Service, to ensure that official information in such systems is properly protected.

Headquarters: GCHQ operates from two sites (Benhall and Oakley) on the outskirts Cheltenham.

Admin. HQ has been at Oakley, Priors Road, Gloucestershire GL52 5AJ since 1952. 01242 221491

The new HQ will be on the Benhall site by 2003. (Microwave Network Link at BREDON HILL) 

Personnel: 6500 split between the two sites.

GC & CS Government Code & Cipher School was formed on October 24th 1919 and was fully operational by November 1st. It merged the Naval Intelligence Department-25 (Room-40) and the War Offices MI-1B code-breaking services under the civil administration of the Admiralty at Watergate House. The British Army formed the Royal Corps of Signals on August 5th 1920 to maintain the so-called 'Army Chain' via the Rhine Army Signals, Egypt Signals, No-2 Wireless Centre at Sarafand and through to Jubbulpore centre in India. At the same time the Admiralty maintained the most important elements of its wartime network, particularly those stations in the vital strategic centres of Singapore and Hong Kong. In April 1922 it what was to be the most significant event in British SIGINT history, the Foreign Office took over responsibility for GC & CS and placed it under the operational control of SIS (MI6). 'C' became the Director of GC & CS, while the day to day control rested with the Deputy Director. The new headquarters were in a large private house situated on the corner of Queens Gate and Cromwell Road, which was destroyed by a V-I in August 1944. The Admiralty finally agreed to establish a Naval section within GC & CS in 1924. In an attempt to cope with the tiny budget the Government of the day allowed SIS, GC & CS was moved into the 3rd and 4th floors of the Broadway Buildings in 1925.



Another important milestone was reached in 1928-29 when a 'Y' Committee was formed to co-ordinate the development and activities of the world-wide chain of British service radio interception bases, and in rapid succession the Army opened a section in 1930, while the Admiralty created NID-9 to operate the intercept stations in 1932. In 1934 the Air Ministry followed suit with the AI-4 and indeed open its own section within GC & CS in 1936. By now, the clouds of war in Europe were clear to see and a dedicated German section was established in May 1938. During this period the head of SIS Admiral Sinclair had found an alternative wartime site for the code-breakers well away from London. It was widely believed that in the event of a war, the capital would quickly be devastated and such a vital intelligence resource as GC & CS could not be risked. Therefore on August Ist 1939 in anticipation of war being declared, the service sections of GC & CS were able to move into a new operational headquarters at Bletchley Park in the quiet Buckinghamshire town of Bletchley.  The Diplomatic and Commercial sections followed on August 15th... The new facilities were to provide an immense opportunity to expand and before many months had passed the ground would be covered in the famous 'Huts'. Bletchley would be known by a variety of designations during the war, BP, Station X and even HMS Pembroke-V. The official cover name from September 1939 till 1942 was to be GCB or Government Communications Bureau. In 1939, MI5 formed the civilian RSS or Radio Security Service in 1939 (later taken over in 1941 by SIS) which would further increase the amount of intercepts flowing into Bletchley. In April 1940 the Commercial section returned to London. Soon GC & CS were to be faced with an internal revolt by many of the brilliant code-breakers and academics, which had swelled the staff at Bletchley to nearly 10,000. Frustrated at what appeared to be damaging, bureaucratic and unnecessary restrictions on the development of the ULTRA material derived from the Enigma intercepts, a group of the rebellious 'war service only' personnel went over the heads of their superiors contacted Churchill and explained the problems they believed were holding up the war effort. Churchill was to issue his famous 'action this day' instruction and long overdue changes occurred at Bletchley, expansion, extra staff and more relaxed working conditions for staff under huge pressure. More fundamental was the acceptance that the senior management would have to change if the problems of breaking into the German U-Boat communications was to be solved before the convoy system broke down under the mounting losses.

In January 1942, the joint Committee of Control made up of two SIS and two GC & CS officers was scrapped and GC & CS was split in two following the recommendations of a former Deputy Director of Military Intelligence. Diplomatic and Commercial sections would operate from 7-9 Berkeley Street in London under Denniston as Deputy Director ( C ), while the Service sections would remain at Bletchley under Edward Travis, previously Denniston's assistant, as Deputy Director ( S ). The new structure, under the new cover name of GCHQ or Government Communications Headquarters, enabled a vast improvement in the service GC & CS was able to offer and an expansion that led to extra facilities for the new computers and extra staff, mainly Wrens needed to operate them. Country houses all over the area were to become outstations for the remainder of the war. New purpose built facilities followed at Canons Corner in Stanmore and Lime Grove in Eastcote in London. In anticipation of a new threat from Britain’s wartime ally, the Soviet Union appearing after the war, GC & CS embarked on a major re-organization in February 1945. Following the suggestions of Sir Findlater Stewart, RSS was finally to be fully absorbed and within a year GC & CS had gained its full independence from SIS and placed under the direct control of the Foreign Office, taking the wartime cover name of GCHQ or Government Communications Headquarters as its now official title

As part of the new and vastly expanded capability to monitor the Soviet Union, the British and US intelligence communities created the UKUSA agreement Treaty in 1946 - together with Canada, Australia and New Zealand (later they were joined by West Germany, Denmark, Norway, Japan and South Korea) to co-ordinate SIGINT world-wide. GCHQ formed the Composite Signals Organization (CSO) to run its civilian network of intercept stations. Eventually the CSO would take over control of the various networks run by the armed forces, though not in some cases until the creation of the Ministry of Defence in 1963-64. In 1952 GCHQ moved its operations to Oakley in Cheltenham. As other sections include the Joint Technical Language Service and Communications Security were transferred to GCHQ it expanded to the Benhall site in Cheltenham as well. GCHQ has played a pivotal role in the British intelligence community and with the widescale introduction of Commercial and Intelligence satellites its importance has increased. There is little doubt that GCHQ played a leading part in the Cold War and in conflicts since, including the Gulf War, Kosovo and Afghanistan, indeed it probably produces more than 70% of all the intelligence gathered by the UK.


The Intelligence Act 1994 placed GCHQ on a statutory basis along with SIS, but it also significantly widened its remit. Originally and ‘officially’ limited to foreign targets, it now has a role in ‘the prevention and detection of serious crime’ This, allied to a raft of new Anti-Terrorist legislation in the wake of 9-11 has given GCHQ huge new powers to monitor nationals (British citizens) as well as non-nationals (legal visitors as well as illegal migrants or suspected terrorists) within the UK. However this has also further highlighted the dominance of the United States NSA in the workings of GCHQ, as the Strategic Direction Summary bluntly points out; GCHQ’s contribution to the UKUSA Intelligence relationship must be of a nature and scale worthwhile to their partners (ie. the NSA). Probably as much as 80% of the SIGINT activities performed by GCHQ are joint operations with the NSA, such as the continued development of ‘Dictionary’ which automatically searches through the countless millions of intercepts for ’keys’ (words, numbers or other’ triggers’) which are regularly updated by the Intelligence Services, or directly on behalf of the NSA (ie US designated SIGINT operations).

However it is probably true to say that without this ‘special relationship’ GCHQ would quickly cease to play an important role within the worldwide SIGINT alliance and be scaled down appropriately.

GCHQ has operated SIGINT sites either as Composite Signals Organization Stations (CSOS) or as Royal Signals or RAF/RN Signals Stations in:

West Germany (Gatow-Berlin (RAF); Birgelen (13th RS); Jever (13th RS); Teufelsberg (13th RS and 26 SU RAF); Schafoldenorf (RAF 291 SU); Celle (RAF 225 SU); Dannenberg (RAF 226 SU) and Gorleben-Hanberg)

Gibraltar (RAF 351 WU, later CSOS)

Malta (Sigli-closed and Buskett Gardens nr Dingli (SCU-4) closed)

Cyprus (Pergamos RAF 33 SU at Episkopi and Mount Olympus-OTH) 

Turkey (Sinop-joint US INSCOM)

Aden (RAF Khormaksar & 15th RS Regt - closed 1967)

Bahrain (RAF base)

Oman (Masirah Island-joint NSA(NOSIS); Jebal Harim-Straits of Hormuz, and Beirham on Saudi-Yemen border)

Iran (Marshad - near Soviet border, closed by 1979)

Botswana (Francistown),

South Africa (Silvermine-10km N Cape Town 1966. Vastly expanded with NSA and GCHQ help from 1973. Britain ‘officially’ closed its SLO at Silvermine in 1977, but continued to receive an input from project ADVOCAAT which allowed the South Africans to monitor air and sea movements within a

5000km radius)

Diego Garcia (joint NSA)

Mauritius (Curepipe closed 1945, HMS Mauritius, Vacoas. 1967- 1976) 

India (Abbottabad-NW Frontier; Cherat; Bangalore 1943-44; Ranchi;WEC(cover for Indian Central Bureau) Anand Parbat nr Delhi;

Singapore (FECB Sembawang August 1939-42. Yio Chu Kang 1946-49; Chai Keng CK2 1949 -1971 and Kranji KR2 1971- Feb 1974)

Hong Kong (Stonecutters Island FECB 1935-39; Tai Po Sai (1945, closed 1951); Little Sai Wan (joint DSD 1951-1982); Tai Mo Shan (joint DSD interception site in NT) and Chung Hom Kok -joint DSD  1982-closed 1995 )

Okinawa. (CSOS liaison with NSA at Sukiran, later moved to Guam)

Sri Lanka (FECB 1942 as HMS Anderson moved to HMS Highflyer at Perkar, neat Trincomalee in 1954, closed 1967)

St Helena (Piccolo Hill, closed pre-1980)

Bermuda (Daniels Head)

Belize (British Honduras JSSU 1972-1994)

Australia  (Coonawarra, Darwin -evacuated Dec 1974 after Cyclone Tracy. Shoal Bay, the new base is 32km south on Stuart Highway replaced both Coonawarra and Singapore stations (7th RA Signals Regt/RAN SU). The DSD Geralton replaced joint GCHQ-DSD Hong Kong 1995)

British Missions (Cairo, Accra, Nairobi, Lilongwe, Freetown, Lusaka among others)








It maintained Liaison sections at important US Stations in the UK such as 

RAF Menwith Hill, nr Harrogate (operational by 1960, NSA control from 1966 as Station F83. Largest US SIGINT facility in the world. Microwave Network Link at HUNTERS STONE); 

RAF Croughton, nr Banbury (Important US Intelligence facility.1952 DSCS Terminal, USAF/CIA/Dip-SIGSEC HQ. A new secure communications link was built in early 1980’s between Croughton and Cheltenham with new relay stations built at Leafield, near Stratford upon Avon; Little Rissington; Cleeve Hill, near Cheltenham and GCHQ itself); 

RAF Barford St Johns (CIA/Dip Transmitter site for RAF Croughton. CIA Agent transmissions 'E5', as part of an international network based on USN Palermo and Syracuse ('M23') in Sicily, Trondheim in Norway ('M52'), USN Pensacola (Fla), Guam ('E5') and Langan ('E5' & 'E23') ,near Walldorf, Frankfurt IAP. ‘Mystic Star’ Presidential Communications Network);

Hillingdon, RAF Uxbridge. AUTOVON Switching Centre. Underground Bunker

RAF Oakhanger, near Borden, Hants. USAF/NRO-National Reconnaissance Office (Satellite Control Facility) liaises with JARIC at Chicksands. USN DSCS. Established 1967, part of US SCF network from 1975

RAF Mildenhall, Bury St Edmunds (LOCE Linked Operational Intelligence Centers Europe. Top Secret US facility. SATCOM/Intell, Agent control 'XF Fader Transmissions'. USAF SIGINT 488th Sqdn - RC135A. ‘Giant Talk’ Strategic Air Command Radio Link 1980’s)

RAF Molesworth, near Huntingdon, Cambs. (USEUCOM - Joint Analysis Center (JAC) - Joint Intelligence Center- Supports all US Combat activity in Europe and probably the Middle East)

USN Forres, just West of Thurso. USN VLF, part of MEECN (Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network in 1980’s

USN West Murkle, just east of Thurso. Important Communications HF and LF site. DSCS joint with RAF/CSO

Mormond Hill, near Fraserburgh, NE Scotland (major NATO/US North Atlantic relay Communications site) and Ground entry point for EC135 ACCA.

Abroad at

NSA HQ Fort Meade,

Victoria Barracks DSD HQ in Melbourne

The joint GCHQ-DSD base at Geraldton in Australia which replaced the station in Hong Kong;

and with other bases in Canada (CSE) and New Zealand (GCSB).

RAF Edzell, just north of Brechin (Established 1960, CLASSIC WIZARD. NSA/USN SG closed)

RAF Chicksands, Bedfordshire (1948, developed from 1950 as one of three main USAF, later NSA Strategic Interception Sites in Europe [with San Vito dei Normanni, near Brindisi in Italy and Karamursel near Istanbul in Turkey. Pirmasens in Southern Bavaria, West Germany added later]. In 1956 became one of ten NSA CCRC. USAF 6950th USAFSS, later ESC. Home to a Flare-9 ‘Elephants Cage’ and the secure Building-600 Control Centre. Closed 1994. By 1996 home for UK DISC);

RAF Kirknewton, nr Edinburgh (NSA/USAF/USN 6952nd ESC from 1952 – Supervised ‘Hot Line’ link between Moscow and Washington. SIGINT closed September 1966, closed same day as NSA took over Menwith Hill)

RAF Brawdy, nr Haverfordwest (USN NAVFAC from 1973.  Largest underwater monitoring station in OSIS. Part of Project Caesar (Began 1954 in USA), closed 1994. NSG SOSUS TSC. Caesar SDC-2 1978. Buried along Welsh coastline of St Brides Bay and hundreds of miles out into the Atlantic were cables connecting the rows of underwater listening hydrophones and sensors to the Computer and Analysis facilities at Brawdy. [Linked to similar stations at Keflavik and Hofn in Iceland]. The cables had been laid largely by Mini-Submarines including the Pisces 111 which was famously ‘trapped’ on the seabed off Ireland for a few days in 1973)

Clooney Park, Londonderry (USN, closed 1970's, transferred to UK 14th Royal Signals for CSO)

Listening sites in Britain have at one time or another included 

Blakehall in Wiltshire (HF  R  & D closed 1988);

Wincombe-Shaftesbury, Dorset (1942, closed 1977);

Fort Bridgewood, Chatham (1933, closed 1940);

Beaumanor, Woodhouse nr Quorn, Laics (replaced Fort Bridgewoods in 1940); 

Shenley Church End-Buckinghamshire (CDAA. closed 1996);

Hawklaw-Cupar, Fife (closed 1988);

Bower , Bowermadden, nr Wick (closed 1970's-may still be SABRE-HAARP, 'auroral research'?);

Brora, NE Scotland (closed 1984) in Scotland;

Cheadle in Staffordshire (RAF  62 WU, later 361 WU, 1937-closed 1996);

Flowerdown nr Winchester, Hampshire (closed 1977);

Island Hill-Comber, Ulster (closed 1977-78)

Gilnahirk, 314 (342) Gilnahirk Road, East Belfast, Ulster (‘officially’ closed 1978. Acquired by GCHQ 1947, GPO DF 1939, RSS & SCU3 WW2);

Divis Mountain, Belfast. (14th Regt RSC. Communications interceptions. MW Transmissions)

Clooney Park, Londonderry (14th Regt RSC. Communications interceptions. MW Transmissions, former USN Base)

Culmhead, Taunton, Somerset (took over FORDE program. closed for SIGINT 1990's. CTS 1985, largely rebuilt in 1990's);

Goonhavern in Cornwall (Trans-Atlantic cables exit at nearby Perranporth. by 1964, closed 1970) 

St. Anne's Mansions, Petty France, London SW1. Major London GCHQ Station 1942-45. Direct link to SIS for RED intercepts.

Central Training School moved in 1985 from Bletchley Park to Culmhead.

Capenhurst - Cheshire 1989-1998 (150ft concrete tower built on the BNFL secure site to intercept Irish Communications traffic between BT MW Towers at Holyhead in Angelsey and Sutton Common-Macclesfield. 7 floors of monitoring equipment and 3 floors of 'glassed in' aerials. Staffed 24 hours a day by RAF Special Signals personnel from RRE at Malvern. Cover as MOD ETF - Electronic Test Facility. Closed when Irish changed to a different system/route).

FORDE (Foreign Office Research & Development Establishment) Ivy Farm, Knockholt Pound, Kent (1942- FISH Morse interception-later moved to CSOS Culmhead in 1952-53)

Cornwall House, Stamford Street, London SE1. 4th & 5th floors used for 3 month GPO Y/CSOS Training courses, before additional training at Bletchley(1940’s-1950’s).

Service SIGINT sites  

Garrats Hay, Loughborough, Leicestershire. Army SIGINT (224 SU). WOYG Fort Bridgewoods at Chatham, ‘bombed out’ 1940, temporary move to RAF Chicksands as SYG, then to permanent new base at Beaumanor. Moved to Garats Hay after WW2 as Intelligence & Security (UK), since 1996 at DISC Chicksands.

RAF Wyton, nr Huntingdon;

RAF Oakhanger, Borden, Hants (SATCOM, joint with USAF/CIA)


Royal Signals

The Corps was created on the 5th August 1920, operating SIGINT sites at Sarafand/Zrifin, nr Tel Aviv, a major GC & CS 'mirror site' in Palestine, Museum-Heliopolis (Middle East Central Bureau) in Egypt closed July 1944, RAF Habbaniya in Iraq and both Cherat & Jubbulpore in India among others)) provided two units, the 9th Regiment in Cyprus and the 13th Regiment (formerly the wartime 2nd Special Wireless Regiment) in Germany, for use by GCHQ for most of the Cold War, manning numerous SIGINT sites. However in March 1995 the 13th Regiment was finally disbanded with only a few specialist staff transferring to RAF Digby or to GCHQ. 14th Signal Regiment (EW) formed in Germany mid 1970's , possibly at Gorleban, moved in the 1990's to former US base at Brawdy which had been closed in 1994.


A historical review of the Signals Intelligence Services main establishments would run to many pages, so it will be sufficient to list it major secret interceptions bases only, these would include it headquarters at;

15 Watergate House, York Buildings Adelphi, London WC2. 1919 Nov -1922 April

Queens Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 (Room-14 FO) 1922-1926

Broadway Buildings, 54 The Broadway, London SW1. SIS Headquarters (5th and 6th Floors), June 1926-1940

Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire(and a vast range of additional wartime facilities both in the area and in London, as Room-47 FO, Station X, BP and other cover names including that on the gates; GCB or Government Communications Bureau) 1940-1945. Central Training Establishment for CSO until 1985. Last aerials removed 1987. Cover as PO/BT Site.

Eastcote, Lime Grove, London (with additional facilities at the former Free Polish Station at Stanmore-Canons Corner 1943) 1945-1952 (official final move Ist March 1948. (Also used as USN Office Complex during the Cold War)

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (Benhall Park and Oakley) 1952-

Benhall is now the home of a massive new bagel-shaped complex, the size of Wembley stadium. Construction began in 1998 and the intention is to ensure the centre's readiness for the hi-tech national security and intelligence-gathering challenges of the 21st century. It will have one of the largest and most sophisticated computer systems in the world. 


In 2003 the Composite Signals Organization operate SIGINT sites at:

Irton Moor, just West of Falsgrave, off the A170, near Scarborough in Yorkshire, (Wartime HMS Paragon, largely rebuilt 1990's)

Morwenstow near Bude in Cornwall (opened in 1970. Microwave Network Link at TRESKINNICK CROSS ) and

Ayios Nikaloas in Cyprus (opened in 1949- the 9th RS moved to Cyprus from Palestine in 1947)

Two Boats on Ascension Island (since 1966 - joint NSA. Important SIGINT site).

Falkland Islands (Joint Services Signals Unit - JSSU maintain a small SIGINT site 1982-)

Embassy Sites (Prague,Budapest,Warsaw,Istanbul and Moscow)

RAF Boddington, Glos (4 Communications Unit-military support for GCHQ)

RAF Digby, just West of Ashby de la Launde in Lincolnshire. Signals Unit 591 monitors Service (& Civilian) mobile phones with a special dispensation from the DTI. Part of a specialized 'Defensive monitoring' capability. Co-operates closely with GCHQ in surveillance operations with fixed facilities and a fleet of monitoring vehicles. Signal Unit-322 specializes in HF SIGINT. Signal Unit-339.


RAF Wyton in Huntingdon; SIGINT/EW Squadrons No-51 and No-162

(CSO Traffic Handlers have also operated interception centres at the Shornecliffe, Redbrae and Chilwell Military Bases)

In addition to a number of jointly run stations throughout Britain and the world, mainly with the British Armed Forces, the NSA and the Australian DSD.

The London stations include

2-8 Palmer Street, SW1 (GCHQ London Station. Known as UKC1000, it targets ILCC networks with an emphasis on business telex, fax and e-mails. GCHQ's Commercial & Financial Intelligence Centre. 4th Floor is the 'intercept room'.). Diplomatic Intercept Centre moved here from 7-9 Berkeley Street (‘above Peggy Carter’s Hat Shop’) after WW2.

Empress State Building (Several floors) in Earls Court, London SW5. CSOS on upper floors.

Monitors London Embassy/Diplomatic Traffic as part of its remit.

Queen Elizabeth 11 Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE. Tel: 020 7222 5000

Built on the site of 4 Central Buildings, Matthew Parker Street, and extended over the WW2 underground shelter in Broad Sanctuary.

The bunker now houses the exchange for the House of Commons etc, and various other important Government departments (possibly including the Intelligence and Security services, as well as a highly sophisticated communications monitoring centre run by GCHQ Staff for both SIS, the FCO and MI5. Intercepts the communications and bug's the conversations of the delegations  to the many International Conferences regularly held there, as well as British MP's and others involved in political, diplomatic or intelligence activities.

Directors of GC & CS (the head of GC & CS was the Deputy Director, as the head of SIS was the official Director)

Alaistair Denniston 1921 -1942

Alaistair Denniston Dep Director ( C ) 1942-44

Sir Edward Travis Dep Director ( S ) 1942-1944

Sir Edward Travis 1944-1946









Directors of GCHQ

Sir Edward Travis 1946-1952

Sir Eric Jones 1952 Dec-1960

Sir Clive Loehnis 1960 Dec-1965

Sir Leonard Hooper 1965 Dec-1973

Sir Arthur Bonsall 1973  Dec-1978

Sir Brian Tovey 1978 Dec-1983

Sir Peter Marychurch 1983-1989

Sir John Adye 1989 Dec-1996

Sir David Omand 1996-1997 Dec

Sir Kevin Tebbit 1998 Jan-July

Sir Francis Richards 1998 July-2003

David Pepper 2003 April-

DO Director of Organization is the effect Deputy Director of GCHQ.


Established 1952. First based at 7 North Audley Street, later Flat 507 35 Bryanston Square.

Main Offices; Room 452, US Embassy (on floor above CIA Station) and Cheltenham.

Liaison Officers from ASA and Arlington Hall 1942-1952

The present Structure of GCHQ main directorates:

Directorate of Organisation and Establishment (Oakley, then to Benhall 2003-4)

C Overseas staff,

E Personnel,

F Finance and Supply,

G Management and General,

M Mechanical engineering,

Q Technical

R Security

Directorate of SIGINT (Benhall)

H CryptanalysisCode-Breaking. Still the most important element within the UKUSA Accord, provides some 75% of Britain's take for NSA. Works closely with X Computer Services

X Computer servicesComputers. Operates the agency's highly developed supercomputers 

S Statistical OperationsTraffic Analysis. Source, destination, priority and frequency.

J Special SIGINT - Interception - Formerly SovBloc intercepts. Compiles user reports.

K General SIGINT - Interception - ROW. Compiles user reports. First sections specializing in Counter-Terrorism established in early 1980’s. K20 Special Unit monitors Radical Groups or Individuals ‘within’ Britain.

U Search Technology – LRTS Long Range Technical Search. Developing means of location.

W Communications Division – Delivery of SIGINT to final consumer.

Z Requirements & Liaison - Coordinates coverage for domestic customers including SIS, MI5, MOD, FCO, Treasury, Bank of England, DTI, Customs and Excise, MPSB and NCIS. Liaison with NSA and other SIGINT partners

Directorate of Communications Security  (L Division)

CESG (Communications Electronics Security Group) – COMSEC duties performed by London Communications Security Agency originally part of the PO and operating under the ‘cover’ of the Communications Electronic Security Department of the FO until transferred to GCHQ in 1969 and moved to Benhall, Cheltenham in 1978. Around 350 staff. Works closely with Treasury Departments CCTA Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency.

JTLS - Joint Technical Language Service - Translators. Specializing in Voice Intercepts including bugging tapes. Staffed by Foreign Language Experts from all the services. Often used by SIS and MI5. Originally based at 4-9 St Dunstans Hill, moved to Cheltenham 1975.

(In 1958-59 the group of Baltic & East European émigré’s based in Clarence Terrace, Regents Park, London NW1 who transcribed intercepts for SIS were transferred to GCHQ. In 1960's were slowly replaced by military personnel and language graduates).

JSRU-Joint Speech Research Unit Based at Eastcote, moved to Benhall 1978, now ‘officially’ merged with the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE) in Malvern since 1985, in reality a GCHQ ‘Lodger Unit’. Research into language, works with the Automatic Speech Recognition Section of the RSRE. Close links with Police Research Laboratory at Sandridge and BT Laboratory at Martlesham.

COMSEC Directorate spent over £10 million in 1991 on Secure High Speed Information exchange system with NSA codenamed DOJAC. Uses ultra-short digital bursts by SATCOM.

Directorate of  SIGINT plans: P (planning)

In the late 1980s a new special unit K20 was set up to monitor telephone calls and the activities of

radical groups and individuals within the UK. It passes this information to the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in the Cabinet Office.



A civilian controlled organization created by GCHQ soon after the war in 1947 (UKUSA 1947) to direct and rationalize the SIGINT activities of both the Services and the PO.  Replaced the Y Service which had operated in a similar role for GC & CS. Traditionally GC&CS, and later GCHQ allowed the War Office, Admiralty, Air Ministry, Police and even the GPO to run interception bases on their behalf. With the changes being contemplated that would merge the Service Establishments into a single Ministry of Defence and the pressures of modern technology, GCHQ decided to close down or takeover the majority of such facilities as CSOS during the 1960's. The paramount importance of SATCOM has now reduced the need for a worldwide network of SIGINT sites to a minimum and most have closed since the late 1980's.

Additional reports on both SIS and GCHQ , including ECHELON, SIS  connections to the Media and Business, particularly Banking and the City of London and comprehensive coverage of MI-1(b)/Room 40; the GC & CS;  the Y Service (SIGINT interception);SWG/SCU; the RSS/MI8c(HQ Arkley, nr Barnet); the CBME (RAF 50 & 53 WU Heliopolis-Egypt, SIS  SLU at nearby Abbassia); the FECB (Hong Kong, Singapore & Ceylon); operations in general between 1914 and 1945; the LCS; A Force and  the PWE  are also available from AFI Research





50 Queen Anne's Gate,  London  SW1H 9AT. 020-7273 4000

JOINT TERRORISM ASSESSMENT CENTRE - JTAC. Terrorism co-ordination organization -  formation publicly announced March 2003


 Founded: 1st August 1909
Mission: MI5 was originally tasked with simply countering German espionage. Adopted the title of the Imperial Security Intelligence Service after 1919. In 1931 it assumed wider responsibility for assessing threats to national security which included international communist subversion and, subsequently, fascism, taking over Intelligence sections of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch and became known as The Security Service, though keeping its old military cover designation MI5. Today the role of MI5 is to protect the State against substantial, covertly organised threats, primarily from terrorism, espionage and subversion. Most recently in 1992 it finally took over the lead role from the MPSB in dealing with Irish terrorism and since the passing of the Security Service Act 1996, its role has again been expanded to provide support to law enforcement agencies in the field of organised crime. The Security Service has no executive powers; cases likely to result in prosecution are co-ordinated closely with the police, or HM Customs and Excise who take the necessary action.


Headquarters:  Thames House, North & South Buildings, Millbank. PO Box 3255, London SW1P 1AE.

(Informants) 020 7930 9000.  (Media) 020 7273 4610. Personnel: 2000 plus.





MI5 emerged from the Haldane reforms of the War Office in 1905, which led to the creation of a General Staff and the recognition that Military Intelligence needed to be properly organised. As usual there was an inter-Service squabble, between the Royal Navy and the Army, over control of Military Intelligence. In March 1909, the Prime Minister, Mr Asquith, instructed the Committee of Imperial Defence to consider the dangers from German espionage to British naval ports. In July a sub-Committee recommended the creation of a Secret Service Bureau which should be a separate organization, but keep in close touch with the Admiralty, the War Office, Home Office as well as the Police, Post Office and Customs authorities. The Secret Service Bureau began work on October 1st 1909 under the nominal control of MO 5, the special section of the Military Operations Directorate that was responsible for enemy aliens. Within months the two senior officers involved had agreed on a division of responsibilities to fulfil the Admiralty’s requirement for information about Germany’s new navy. By early 1910 this had been formalised into a Home Section under Captain Vernon Kell of the South Staffordshire Regiment and a Foreign Section under Captain Mansfield Cumming of the Royal Navy, which became known as the 'Secret Service'. Between March 1910 and the outbreak of the First World War, more than 30 spies were identified by the Home Section, known as MO (T), and arrested, thereby depriving the German Intelligence Service of its network. At the time, the Bureau had a staff of only ten, including Kell ('K') himself. The Bureau was rapidly mobilised as a branch of the War Office on the outbreak of war in 1914, becoming MO 5(g). On 1st October 1914 MO5 (g) was sub-divided in three sections A, B and C and then on 11th August 1915 into four. MO5(g)a became MO5(g); MO5(g)b became MO5(f); MO5(g)c became MO5(h) and the new section MO5(e)


On 3rd January 1916 MO5 (g) became part of a new Directorate of Military Intelligence as MI5. The Foreign section MO5 (a) became MI-IC and also took over responsibility for counter-espionage in non-Empire countries. MI5D replaced MI5G 21st September 1916; Various other administrative changes took place in 1917. Wartime legislation increased the responsibilities of MI5 to include the co-ordination of government policy concerning aliens; vetting and other security measures at munitions factories. MI5 also began to oversee counter-espionage measures throughout the Empire. By the end of the War, during which a further 35 spies were identified and arrested, making it virtually impossible for the Germans to maintain any form of espionage network in Britain. By then MI5 had approximately 850 staff. After the Bolshevik coup d’état of October 1917, MI5 began to work on the threats from Communist subversion within the Armed Services, and sabotage to military installations. MI5 was reorganized yet again on 31st March 1920 (f) became (a), (g) became (b), (h) and (d) became (o). Others that remained included (c) and (e).


It was to be involved in close surveillance of potential subversives amongst the Trade Unions, particularly during the General Strike in 1926. It actively pursued a Communist involvement and the spy ring that operated as part of the Soviet trade delegation with offices in London with the All Russia Co-operative Society Ltd (ARCOS) .In May 1927 the operation was closed down following a raid by some 150 Metropolitan police and MI5 officers. Problems caused by there being a number of counter-espionage departments with overlapping responsibilities came to a head in the late 1920's. On October 15th 1931 formal responsibility for assessing all threats to the national security of the United Kingdom, apart from those posed by Irish terrorists and anarchists, was passed to MI5. It was to absorb both Captain Guy Liddell's Home Office Directorate of Intelligence and Maxwell Knights SIS department. This date marked the formation of the Security Service, although the title MI5 has remained in popular use to this day.

Following Hitler’s rise to power, the new Service had to face the threat of subversion from the right wing. Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists was of particular concern, as were the pitched battles between fascists and communists in some of the larger cities. However, at the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, MI5 still was ill equipped for its many tasks, which included counter-espionage; monitoring of enemy aliens and advising on internment. In early 1939 the Service’s strength stood at only 30 officers and its surveillance section comprised just six men. Following the disaster of the sinking of the Battleship HMS Royal Oak at anchor in Scapa Flow and a number of other incidents all put down to the activities of 'undiscovered Nazi spies', Churchill then First Lord of the Admiralty forced Kell to resign on May 25, 1940. In the turmoil that followed MI5 was put under the temporary control of the Home Defence (Security) Executive (from 1941 simply the Security Executive) under Lord Swinton.



To make matters worse, in September 1940 many of its records were destroyed or damaged by a German bomb, which hit the Wormwood Scrubs Prison where the registry had been moved for added safety. In late 1940 the majority of staff were evacuated to Blenheim Palace and in early 1941, Sir David Petrie was appointed the first Director General of the Security Service. He was also finally given the resources to rebuild a substantial organisation. In 1942 MI5 was reorganized and the continuing arguments over responsibilities between MI5, SIS and the newly created SOE were settled, up to a point.

Internment at the outbreak of the War effectively deprived the Germans of most, if not all, of their existing agents. Moreover, when German intelligence records were studied after 1945, it was found that all of the further 200 agents targeted against Britain during the course of the War had been successfully identified and caught. Some of these agents were ‘turned’ by the Service and became double agents who fed false information to the Germans concerning military and diplomatic strategy throughout the War. This was the famous ‘Double Cross’ system. This highly effective deception contributed to the success of the Allied Forces landing in Normandy on ‘D Day’ in June 1944. MI5 had grown from a small ramshackle, but dedicated counter-espionage section in 1939 to a vast, efficient and highly effective national security service by 1945. Its reached extended across the old Empire and through offshoots such as SIME in the Middle East as well. The new Labour Government of Clement Atlee, suspicious of an ultra powerful and probably fairly 'conservative' security service imposed a 'honest copper' as its new Chief in 1946, Sir Percy Sillitoe an ex Chief Constable of Kent. An inexperienced outsider was not what MI5 desperately needed at the beginning of the Cold War.

MI5 had for some time been focusing on the activities of the Communist Party of Great Britain which, at its peak in the early 1940s, had 55,000 members. In March 1948 the Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, announced that Communists as well as Fascists were to be excluded from work "vital to the security of the state". This was achieved through the setting up of the vetting system under MI5's control. The cases of Philby, Burgess and MacLean, in particular, showed how effective the Soviet Intelligence Service had been before the War in recruiting ideologically-motivated spies in Britain. Active espionage by the Soviets, already considerable during the war, now grew apace. The Atom spies and traitors within MI5, SIS, GCHQ and the Diplomatic Service failed to gain the proper attention of a service lacking leadership and riven with internal dissension. In 1952 the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, deputed his personal responsibility for the Security Service to the Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who issued a Directive describing the Service’s tasks and setting out the role of the Director General. This Directive provided the basis for the Service’s work until 1989, when the Security Service Act placed the Service on a statutory footing for the first time. The Security Service now officially became a civilian organization, though it retained its old military cover-title, MI5.

By the early 1950s, the Service’s staff had increased again to about 850. These included some 40 Security Liaison Officers overseas who provided advice and assistance to governments in the Commonwealth and Colonies. Sir Dick White was to split A Directorate into an A Directorate handling operational resources and a B Directorate for Administration. Counter-Espionage, formerly B Directorate took over the old military D title, eventually with a DI(Operations) and D1(Investigations) and later this large Directorate would be split into a re-organized D and a new K Directorate with KX and KY sub-sections formed in 1968. In the 1960s, the successful identification of a number of spies – including George Blake, an officer of the Secret Intelligence Service; the Portland spy ring; and John Vassall, an employee at the Admiralty recruited by the KGB in Moscow, illustrated the need for still greater counter-espionage efforts. Lord Denning’s report into the Profumo Affair in 1963 revealed publicly for the first time details of the Service’s role and responsibilities, but must rank alongside the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy Assassination as one of the most misleading and ineffective reports in history. During the 1960's and 1970's MI5 was again plagued by internal doubts about the loyalty of senior officers and the divisive nature of the relationship with SIS in Northern Ireland. In particular the accusations that a small group of MI5 officers had deliberately set out to blacken and undermine the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson created a deep seated distrust of the 'secret services' that has still not dissipated entirely in certain political circles in 2002.

This period of its history culminated in the mass expulsion from the UK in 1971 of 105 Soviet personnel, which severely weakened of KGB & GRU intelligence operations in London following the defection of a Soviet Intelligence Officer. By the early 1970s, the Service’s resources were being redirected from work on subversion into international and Irish terrorism.

The Service’s counter-terrorist effort had begun in the late 1960s in response to the growing problem of Palestinian terrorism. Major incidents, including the terrorist sieges at the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980 and the Libyan People’s Bureau in 1984, tested the Service’s developing procedures and links with other agencies. During this period, the Service played a leading role in establishing an effective network for co-operation on terrorism among Western security and intelligence services.

Northern Ireland was to see a battle for control between SIS and MI5, but eventually victory went to the Security Service. By the late 1970's, most MI6 activities had been abandoned or taken over by the RUC SB and its surveillance experts of E4A, MI5 or the Army, even though MI6 retained a liaison office in the Stormont building. MI5 operates out of the Army HQ at Lisburn and the RUC HQ at Knock Road, as well as from the three main intelligence co-ordinating Tasking and

Co-Ordination Groups (TCG's) directing the Special Forces for covert or even 'executive' action.

These were based at Castlereagh in Belfast, being the first to be established in 1978, Gough Barracks in Armagh and in Derry. The Army representative on each TCG was usually from the SAS or the 14th Intell Company, with a considerable input from the FRU established in 1980 by Major General Glover.


The main terrorist organisations on the republican side – the Provisional IRA (PIRA), Republican Sinn Fein’s ‘military wing’, which calls itself the ‘Continuity IRA’, and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) – have sought, by violent means, to create a unified republic in the island of Ireland. Although they have been most active in Northern Ireland, republican terrorist groups, especially PIRA, have carried their attacks to the British mainland and to the continent of Europe. Foreign nationals as well as British subjects have been killed and injured as a result. British politicians have been killed and on two occasions PIRA has attempted to kill members of the Cabinet: the bombing of the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton in 1984 and the mortar attack on Downing Street in 1991. Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary organisations, notably the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), have all been involved in a violent campaign in response to what they claim to regard as the threat posed to the Protestant community in Northern Ireland by republican terrorism. Much of their activity has been essentially sectarian in character, often resulting in the random murder of Catholics who may have no connections of any kind with republican terrorism. Before the cease-fire declarations in August 1994, loyalist groups were murdering more people than PIRA. Both loyalist and republican groups, especially PIRA, have for some years sought support from outside Ireland to sustain their campaigns of violence. Such support has included the provision of weapons and finance. PIRA’s principal supplier during the 1980s was Libya, but the organisation has also acquired weaponry and related equipment via sympathisers in North America and from the arms black market in the Baltic and Balkans in particular. In 2001 it became clear with the arrest of three suspected PIRA members in Colombia just how closely involved international terrorism and organized crime have become. While the breakaway, Real IRA has established itself as a ruthless and less sectarian terrorist movement determined to create international links with ETA and probably Islamic groups.

The Director and Co-ordinator of Intelligence (Northern Ireland) or DCI (NI) sits on MI5's Board in London and reports directly to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He also chairs the Northern Ireland Security Committee attended by representatives of the British Army, RUC and government ministers and sits on the Joint Intelligence Committee in London - he is reported to have easy access to the Prime Minister. A former DCI (NI), the late John Deverell was at one time tipped to become head of MI5 but his career was damaged by revelations concerning the WARD and SCREAM undercover operations in Germany which were designed to establish informers in expatriate Irish communities throughout the world. These operations clearly breached the agreement between the German and British authorities regarding the scope of British intelligence work in Germany. In an embarrassing security leak, An Phoblacht/Republican News published documents detailing the two operations and naming Deverell in 1989.

Deverell was to be killed on 2 June 1994 while travelling from the North of Ireland to a conference at Fort George, Scotland. 25 intelligence personnel and four RAF crew died when their CH47 Chinook helicopter crashed on the Mull of Kintyre. Among the dead were ten members of RUC SB, including the head of SB, 2 regional heads and the divisional heads of E1, E2, E3, E3A, E3B, and E4. 4 other MI5 Officers also perished in the crash along with a British Army colonel, three Intelligence Corps lieutenant colonels, and five majors.

It is widely acknowledged that the crash killed the upper echelons of the intelligence agencies in the North of Ireland, including key members of the Provincial Executive Committee. MI5 Northern Ireland headquarters, known as The Department, is based at Stormont, in the parliament building on the fringes of east Belfast. It has two operational bases in Belfast city centre, one at River House in High Street and the other at Churchill House, Victoria Square. The latter is the centre for electronic surveillance, including telephone monitoring, for which MI5 receives assistance from the Government Communications Headquarters. GCHQ goes under the name of Composite Signals Organisation in the North and Diplomatic Telecommunications Maintenance Service in the South. MI5 also retains offices at Army Headquarters in Lisburn and at Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) HQ in Knock, East Belfast. While in theory the RUC has overall responsibility for counter-terrorism, in practice MI5 is in the stronger position of power and influence over British policy. Its links to RUC Special Branch are via a small network of Security Liaison Officers.

In 1983, Michael Bettaney, a member of the Service who had offered information to the KGB was detected, in part because the KGB in disbelief that he could be a genuine MI5 officer, suspected a set-up and complained to the Security Service about Bettaney's actions. This highlighted once again, a lack of security within the Service and indeed they were to be plagued for the next two decades with the constant drip of such accusations. The public exposure of Soviet spies who had been offered immunity from prosecution in return for a confession and co-operation added to the Services woes. Following a Security Commission inquiry, whose findings were critical of aspects of the Service, Sir Anthony Duff was appointed as Director General. He initiated the discussions which laid the foundations for the Service as it exists today, strengthened by the legal status conferred upon it by the Security Service Act 1989.  Major changes in the focus of the Service’s work took place in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War. The threat from subversion had diminished, and the threat from espionage, though it persisted, required less of the Service’s effort. International terrorism, however, had not abated. In October 1992 responsibility for leading the intelligence effort against Irish Republican terrorism on the British mainland was transferred to the Service, despite protests from the Police Special Branch who had some 110 years of experience in dealing with this threat.  However, the Security Service was able to draw on the experience it had gained in the 1970s and 1980s in running long-term intelligence counter terrorism operations. Between 1992 and April 1998 the Service’s work with the police against Irish republican terrorism resulted in 18 convictions for terrorist-related offences. However, Stella Rimington as Director General disbanded a specialist section of G7 responsible for Islamic terrorism in 1994 against the protests of experienced counter-terrorist officers. An unbelievably ill advised action in view of the growth of Hezbollah in the Middle East, the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and the many obvious portents of the threat that Islamic terrorism would pose. G7 had been a joint SIS/MI5 liaison group run by a future C, David Spedding, but had made the mistake in Rimington's view of concentrating too much on Political Intelligence and not enough on Counter-Terrorism. The new measures introduced since the attacks of September 11th 2001 and the new responsibilities heaped onto the Security Service will mean considerable changes in the Security Services structure and targets. Despite the cosmetic changes in accountability introduced with the 1994 the Intelligence and Security Committee established under the Intelligence Services Act, the service stills lacks a true and effect external oversight authority.

Organization of MI5 1909-2002

The structure that developed after 1918 and throughout the inter-war period was dominated by the communist threat, subversion and the needs of the Empire. By 1939 this had solidified into an organization that contained

A Division (1917 Registry, Transport & Room O55),

B Division (1916 counter Espionage & Counter subversion)

C Division (Vetting),

D Division (Liaison with SIS and the Service departments)

E Division (May 1915 Foreign Nationals) and

F Division (The Colonies & Political Parties). 

Kell was sacked on June 10th 1940 and his deputy Holt Wilson resigned. Harker was appointed acting DGSS, however real power was transferred to a new political organization , the Security Executive (usually known as The Swinton Committee).

The CSS, Menzies pressed for the appointment of David Petrie(a friend of Valentine Vivian - VCSS) as the new DGSS and later in 1940 Petrie took over with Harker as his deputy. MI5 was re-organized and greatly expanded and by June 1942 when Lord Swinton was moved to other duties, Petrie and MI5 were able in large measure to regain their independence from Duff Cooper, the new head of the Security Executive.

During World War Two B Division was to be vastly expanded and eventually included among numerous other extra responsibilities;

XX Committee (Double Agents), Enemy Analysis, Wireless and Mail,

SHAEF liaison,

RSS (MI8c) Radio interception and

GPO Telephone bugging services.  

While F Division expanded to include

SIME Security Intelligence Middle East,

BSC British Security Co-Ordination in the USA with SIS and SOE and

DSO regional security officers in Gibraltar, Malta, Bermuda, South Africa and so on.

By the height of the Cold War in 1952 and following the transfer of MI5 from the War Ministry to effective Home Office control in the Maxwell Fyfe reforms, its structure had again dramatically changed;

A Branch was administration,

B Branch personnel,

C Branch protective security,

D Branch counter-espionage,

E Branch the commonwealth and

F Branch political parties and subversion.


MI5 had a number of important connections with the Armed Forces; Custom & Excise and indeed other Groups within the Commercial Sector. These included The Economic League, basically a front for MI5, which had what was basically a 'Desk' within Gower Street during the 1970's. MI5 had of course absorbed Maxwell Knights 'M' Section from the Economic Leagues IIB in 1931.

The organization of MI5 at the end of the Cold War still showed clearly the influence of a service dedicated to defeating the Communist espionage threat and that of internal political subversion.

D Branch was vastly expanded in 1965-66 and would later become K Branch in 1968 and E Branch was disbanded. This had rather been forced upon a reluctant MI5 by the Gray-Coyne affair, in which two senior US officials, Gordon Gray (a former Secretary of Defence) and Gerald Coyne (a former FBI Officer and Secretary to the PFIAB since 1950) had with the help of Cleveland Cram from the CIA London Station secretly reviewed the state of British Intelligence and Security in mid-1965. The result was a greater concentration on the Counter-Espionage or D Branch. At the expense of the Colonial or E Branch. The growing threat of terrorism however was still perceived as mainly a home grown Irish problem.

The organization of 1991-92, instigated by Sir Patrick Walker, but which came into effect under Stella Rimington included

A Branch surveillance

A1 operations (including A1A bugging and break-ins,

A1B obtaining confidential personal data from the DHSS, Tax, Banks etc,

A1C ran 'Safe Houses',

A1D expert locksmiths, safe crackers and carpenters to make good any damage,

A1E electronic monitoring, provides the tapes for A2A),

A2 technical back-up (surveillance devices,

A2A transcribed tapes

A2B specialist photographs and electronic experts. Liaison with GCHQ),

A4 direct surveillance - The Watchers, including vehicles and

A5 scientific research.

Based at Curzon Street House, Mayfair.



B Branch personnel

B1 recruitment

B2 personnel management

B3 general management services

B5 finance.

Based at Curzon Street House, Mayfair.

C Branch protective security

C1 security in Whitehall

C2 vetting government contractors

C3 vetting civil servants and Ministers

C4 security against terrorist attacks.

Based Curzon Street House, Mayfair.

F Branch domestic surveillance

F1 Communist Party (CPGB),

F2 trade unions(including F2N Trade Union leaders and F2R dealing with the Media, Education, MP's and Entertainers) closed down in 1994,

F3 [non-Irish terrorism],

F4 agents in the CPGB, trade unions and journalism,

F5 [Irish terrorism],

F6 agents in radical groups and terrorist organisations,

F7 surveillance of political and campaigning groups including Anarchists, Feminists, Pacifists, Black Power, Fascists and Nationalists in Scotland and Wales. F2/URG or University research group(concentrated on 1920-40 Oxbidge networks).

The roles of F3 & F5 were soon to be transferred a new T Branch, while F Branch would be renamed

G Branch in the 1980's and moved to Curzon Street House. Based at Headquarters, in Gower Street.

K Branch counter-intelligence

K1 potential espionage in government departments,

K2 monitors KGB and GRU (Soviet military intelligence),

K3 recruitment of Soviet agents,

K4 surveillance of Soviet diplomats, trade delegations etc,

K5 recruitment of East European and Chinese agents,

K6 recruitment of other ‘hostile' intelligence agents in UK,

K7 investigation of penetration of UK security and intelligence agencies including MI5 and

K8 non-Soviet bloc counter-intelligence.

However these were then grouped into two controlling sections;

KX Investigative work (DI (Investigations) and much of D3) which had

K1 (Soviet),

K2 (Satellite countries) and

K3(D3 research) and K7 (investigating Soviet penetration of MI5/MI6/GCHQ), while

KY Operations had


K5 (Agent running & operations),

K6 (Security assessments; specialist records; ministerial briefings; special indexes & records -special registry for Y Boxes(PF),  another part of the old D3) &

K8. At one time it was suggested that a

K9 section dealt with Defectors and unexpected resignations. Based at Headquarters, Gower Street.

S Branch training and computer systems

S1 runs the Joint Computer Bureau linked to other agencies including MI6,

S2 registry of files,

S3 training,

S4 supplies, travel arrangements.

Based at Curzon Street House, Mayfair.

T Branch anti-terrorism

T1 Irish terrorism

T2 non-Irish terrorism. Based at Headquarters, Gower Street.

Formed  October 1st 1992(operational by Jan 1992). This marked the effective taking over of the lead role in anti-IRA activities by MI5 replacing MPSB after well over a hundred years..

Special MI5 Team 'Dolly Mixtures'

Monitored 'gossip'/high society, interception of 'special communications' - such as the Royal Family ('Squidgy' tapes etc) 1960-1990's (operated from Gordon Street in 1979)

BSSO (British Services Security Oganization)- HQ Rheindahlen, West Germany  

Joint MI5 & MOD. Ran joint operations with SIS(MI6) as well as liaison with MI5 & SIS  HQ in London and SIS at the Bonn Embassy.

Cologne (Koln) BSSO Station liaised with West Germany BfV Security Service and BAOR Intelligence & Security Group (Germany)

Berlin BSSO Station operated jointly with SIS inside Eastern Europe.


The latest re-organization of the Security Service under Sir Stephen Lander has created a structure in 2003 more suited to a post Cold War environment and with MI5's new responsibilities for combating organized crime. However the greater emphasis now being placed on counter terrorism will see the expansion of certain sections of both G and T branches, perhaps the creation of new departments and a shift in personnel and resources into fighting the War on Terrorism.

A Branch

Still remains largely unchanged as the 'technical' service.

AI (Operations) including

A1A Tech EW Support, bugging etc;

A1F Long term EW penetration of Embassies etc;

A2 (Support) including A2A Transcription;

A3 (Scientific Support) and

A5 (Scientific R& D) Comprehensive operational technical support; and

A4 (Surveillance) 'watchers' Mobile & Static surveillance units.

B Branch

The administration and training section.

B1 Protective Security;

B2 Personnel;

B3 Management and

B7 Recruitment & Training;

D Branch

Recreated in 1994 to combine the much reduced F, K and C Branch's, now responsible for Counter espionage and all non-terrorist threats; organized crime, subversion and arms proliferation.

DI Vetting of non MI5 personnel;

D4 Counter Espionage;

D5 Agent running(D) and

D7 Organized Crime (formed October 1995)

G Branch

Covers international terrorism only since the formation of T Branch in October 1992.

It has a minimum of nine G sections covering various aspects of the terrorist threat.

G2P Counter-Proliferation;

G3A Co-ordination of threat assessments;

G3C Countering Asian threats(Sikhs etc);

G3W Countering Threats ROW;

G6 Agent running(G);

G9A Countering Threats from Libya/Iraq/Palestine & Kurdish;

G9B Countering Threats from Iran and

G9C Countering Islamic Terrorism(created to replace G7 disbanded in 1997-98)

H Branch

A new section, replacing S Branch and intended to improve strategic planning, information technology and finance.

H1 and H2 Liaison with Whitehall and the Media;

H3 Planning,

H4 Finance.



H Branch (cont.)

JCB Joint Computer Bureau.

R2 Main registry (late 1977);

R5 Y-Boxed files-restricted access only;

R10 Registry for temp files only and

R20 GCHQ interception files.

T Branch

Covers domestic terrorism, with the emphasis on Loyalist and Republican groups, but with a small section that monitors both Scotland and Wales.

T2A IRA/Loyalist terrorism in UK;

T2B Liaises with SB & Agent runners in UK;

T2C Assesses threat from Irish Terrorists;

T2D Researches Irish Terrorism;

T2E Liaison with MPSB, based at New Scotland Yard.;

T5B Investigates Arms Trafficking;

T5C Counter Irish Terrorism in the Republic of Ireland and Europe;

T5D Counters Irish Terrorism ROW;

T5E Studies Terrorist logistics and

T8 Agent running(T) and with special section in Northern Ireland.

B and H Branch come under the direct control of the DGSS or Director-General of the Security Service, while A, D, G and T Branch are under the DDG (Ops) or Deputy Director-General (Operations). The third senior position of DDG (Director of Corporate Affairs - responsible for Registry, Info Technology, Service & Government liaison, a highly influential position held by Lander and retained by him when he became DGSS) was abolished in January 1996, the responsibilities being taken over by the DGSS.

General Intelligence Group (GI)

Made up of some 350-400 MI5 Officers who can be readily assigned to any security task. All sections are now based at the Headquarters complex at Thames House.

National Technical Assessment Centre (NTAC). 

Computer surveillance facility at Thames House. Provides the Security Services and Law enforcement agencies with expert support, decrypting intercepted internet and e-mail material. 'Black Box' recorders are placed on the ISP for real-time collection, both the content and for traffic analysis, feeds interceptions directly into the NTAC which holds decryption keys obtained under RIPA legislation.

MI5 established this major e-mail monitoring centre in 1999 to take advantage of the terms of RIPA 2000 which required the complete co-operation of all ISP’s in providing open-ended access to their services. First Director was Asst Chief Constable Ian Humphrey.

Transcription service.

MI5 has a specialist team of linguists to translate and transcribe overt and secret information obtained in many different languages. Much of the information derives from telephone and postal communications intercepted under the authority of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The main tasks are to select relevant intelligence; to translate it into clear, idiomatic English; to assist in interpreting information; and to provide informed comment based on knowledge of the politics and culture of the region pertaining to the relevant language area. The team comprises both native speakers and graduates



Thames House now contains the Registry and in 2001 The Security Service claimed that it currently holds in total about 450,000 files which have been opened at some time since its establishment in 1909. Of these, approximately 35,000 files relate to Service administration, policy and staff, and 40,000 concern subjects and organisations studied by the Service. About 75,000 files relate to people or groups of people who have never been investigated by the Service such as those who have received protective security advice. This leaves about 300,000 files, which relate to individuals who, at some time during the last 90 years, may have been the subject of Security Service enquiry or investigation. Of this 300,000 some 60,000 have been reduced to microfilm and placed in a restricted category to which Security Service staff has access only for specific research purposes.

A further 240,000 files are closed so that staff may use them where necessary in the course of their current work, but may not make enquiries about the subjects of the files. The total number of files held in 1955 was reportedly around 2 million and therefore a very large number of files have apparently been destroyed.


Traditionally PF (Personal Files) were Buff coloured; SF (Subject Files, such as the BCP etc) often ran to several volumes and LF (List Files) which were Light Blue coloured, were for information obtained during operations and which didn't fit easily into either PF or SF.

Y Boxes (Y Files) contained restricted information  on spies, defectors etc and were only made available under the tightest security to 'cleared' officers with the permission of a superior.

The Security Service for many years referred to telephone tapping, probably at the exchange, as ‘TOWROPE’; to Surveillance through an installed bugging device as ‘AZURE’ and for the combined use of a ‘bug’ and a ‘tap’ in the handset or junction box as ‘CINNAMON’.

Many of the Security Services ‘deniable’ operations during the period from the late 1950’s to the late 1980’s at least were contracted out to private security companies often run by trusted former MI5, SIS and Military personnel. The arrangements were reported to be made through a shadowy group known as the ‘Inner Policy Club’ (or IP Club) of former Senior Officers who maintained close contact with the private enterprise concerns who actually carry out the covert operations and such useful companies as Chubb.

A historical review of major MI5 facilities includes the main headquarter buildings at

Winchester House, 21 St James Square, London SW1. MO5 1905-Nov 1906.

War Office Main Building, SW1. MO5 Nov 1906 -1925. Secret Service Bureau formed in 1909 with a Special Intelligence Branch.

The Home Section which would remain MO5 until renamed MI5 in 1916.

124-126 Cromwell Road, London SW7. 1925-1937

Thames House, Millbank, London SW1. Two floors of the then ICI Building 1937-1940

57-58 St James Street, London SW1. 1940-1945 (later to become MGM's headquarters, Metro house)

Leconfield House, Curzon Street, Mayfair W1. 1945-1974 (Registry-Ground Floor, with basement used for 'Trade Craft'; F Ist Floor; E 2nd Floor; D 3rd & 4th Floors; A, Senior Directors and DGSS Office 5th Floor; Administration 6th Floor, 'Pig & Eye' Bar on 6th Floor; Canteen and Transcription Centre 7th Floor)

14-17 Great Marlborough Street, London W1.1974-1978. Also the Legal department and during 1960's housed parts of D Branch (CE).

140 Gower Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1. 1978-1994 (DGSS Office 3rd floor; K & F Directorates)

Thames House, Millbank, London  SW1P 1AE (Both North and South buildings totally rebuilt 1988-93) 1994 -


Many other buildings have a previous intelligence connection and there is considerable interest in these buildings and their fascinating history;

1-8 Barnard Road, Battersea, London SE11. MI5 Surveillance centre and garages near Clapham Junc, moved to Euston Tower 1978.

7-9 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, London W1. MI5 Training centre in 1970's. Formerly GCHQ Diplomatic Code-Breaking 1942-44.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Safe country retreat from wartime London. Housed the Registry and Administration sections 1940-1945.

Bolton Street (probably 29-40), London W1. Housed parts of F Branch, CT and A Branch Technical (Q) Offices until 1994.

Clarence Terrace, Regents Park, London NW1. A4 'Watchers' centre in 1950's, 1960's, 1970's before moving to Euston Tower in  1978.

5 Cork Street , London W1. Temporary overspill home for much of C Branch throughout the 1950's and 1960's. Used by the MI-1B Cryptographic Service 1916-19.

Crawford Street, Mayfair, London. W1. Covert garages, maintenance and technical centre for A4 vehicles.

Curzon Street House, 1-4 Curzon Street, Mayfair, London W1. Built with large underground facilities for the Ministry of Aircraft Production in World War Two, these were adapted to hold the MI5 Registry and its computers in 1974. Housed a number of Directorates including A, B, C, G and S as well as the Registry until 1994. 

Dolphin Square, London SW1.308 Hood House was an office and  'safe house' while 10 Collingwood House was an operations centre. Maxwell Knight's 'B sections' 1924-1946.   

Euston Tower, 16th Floor, Central London WC1. MI5 Communications Control Centre (CCC) and also the A4 Physical Surveillance Teams ('Watchers') base since 1978. CCC moved to Thames House in 1994, though A4 probably still based there. POID 25th-26th Floors. PO 17th-40th. DSS 1st-15th (with a 'Govt' dept, not DSS on 12th)

71-72 Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, London W1 (Top Floors) Housed Political File Centre in 1980 and also used for training in the 1980's. OSS Europe had its HQ at No-70 in 1944.

Hinxton Grange, Cambridgeshire. Twenty Committee (XX) Safe House.

Horseferry House, Horseferry Road SW1, extra office space was used here in 1938-40 because of overcrowding at the Thames House building just round the corner

Keble College, Oxford. Housed Registry overspill from Blenheim Palace

Kensington High Street (probably No-375 Charles House), London W8.  MI5 Phone-tapping centre.

6-7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8. Wartime MI5 Interrogation Centre 'The London Cage'.

26-28 Mount Row, Mayfair, London W1. MI5 Computer  R & D Centre, moved to Curzon Street House in 1977

South Audley Street (probably No-33), London W1. Covert surveillance office.

Streatham High Road, London SW16.  A4 Garages.

Wormwood Scrubs Prison, London housed the registry, until a German bombing raid forced them to move to a safer location, and the transport section 1939-40.

Northern Ireland

Stormont Castle, Belfast BT4 3ST. DCI MI5 HQ ‘The Department’ at the NIO.

River House, 48 High Street, Belfast BT1 2DR. City Centre Security Offices. PS Teams (Watchers)

Churchill House, Victoria Square, Belfast BT1 4QW. City centre EW Surveillance & Monitoring Facility.

PFNI (RUC) Headquarters: Brooklyn, 65 Knock Road, Belfast BT5 6LD. MI5 SLO (Security Liaison Office) Staff liaises with both E3 & E4

Civil Service College, Sunningdale, Berkshire. MI5 held their Annual Conferences here.

(Other meetings were sometimes held in Ware, Hertfordshire)


Directors of the Security Service

Maj. General Sir Vernon Kell 1909-1940

Sir David Petrie 1940-1946

Sir Percy Sillitoe 1946-1953

Sir Dick White 1953-1956

Sir Roger Hollis 1956-1965

Sir Martin Furnivall Jones 1965-1972

Sir Michael Hanley 1972-1979

Sir Howard Smith 1979-1981

Sir John Lewis Jones 1981-1985

Sir Anthony Duff 1985-1988

Sir Patrick Walker 1988-1992

Dame Stella Rimington 1992-1996

Sir Stephen Lander 1996-2002

Elizabeth Manningham-Buller 2002-


Continued here: Part 2 of 2

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