Was Mackintosh a spy?
The Missing Episode
It is particularly worth noting that Ransom discusses the Defence Intelligence Staff in the MoD at some length, starting his discussion with the observation that ‘this staff replaced the Joint Intelligence Bureau, created at the end of World War II to make national estimates’ (page 191).

The JIB had been absorbed into the DIS in 1964 under the Service branch amalgamation policy of the first Wilson Labour government. This is particularly striking in view of Gidley Wheeler’s gaffe in Sometimes We Play Dirty Too in the 3rd season.. Here, a British businessman Banks is supposed to be a ‘JIB source’ when the JIB had been abolished more than a decade and a half before the story was written.

Mackintosh typically makes no such obvious errors in his writing. For my own part, I cannot help but wonder if the second season episode pulled by the censors dealt with GCHQ because that is the only agency not dealt with in the series, but yet which is discussed in a little detail in Ransom.

There was also no lack of information about the UK IC for the attentive reader. The 1963 Lord Denning’s Report (Cmd 2152 of 1963) reported on the Profumo scandal wherein the Secretary of State for Defence Jack Profumo was caught in a liaison with an exotic dancer who had possible KGB connections, all under MI 5 surveillance. The Denning report not only provided an account of the events, but also published the 1952 Maxwell-Fyfe Directive that was the post-war Directive that provided MI 5 with its mandate. There was also the 1965 ‘Report of the Standing Security Commission’ (Cmd 2722 of 1965) on KGB agent Frank Bossard who had worked for the JIB in the early 1960s and the Berlin JIC during the 1950s (during the 1950s the UK had three regional JICs outside London handling assessments for occupation and colonial administrations in Berlin, Cyprus and Singapore).

Most significantly, however, the defection of H.A.R ‘Kim’ Philby in 1963 prompted two books rich in information about SIS and the UK IC in general: Hugh Tervor-Roper (Lord Dacre)’s ‘The Philby Affair: Espionage, Treason and Secret Services’ (William Kimber) and more significantly Philby’s own memoirs ‘My Silent War’ (Random House, 1983), both published originally in 1968.

Philby in particular provides a detailed breakdown of post-war SIS organisation and procedures. He details how after the war the SIS was reorganised into five Directorates: Production (operations), Intelligence (collation and dissemination of operational product to Whitehall consumers), Finance and Administration, Training and Support, and finally War Planning (special operations and paramilitary actions a la the wartime Special Operations Executive) (p.124). He discusses the role of C, and the wartime field station organisation of the agency, as well as his own specialist field counter-espionage. Much of the politics of SIS relations with its consumers can be found in there. By comparison Trevor-Roper is more concerned with the wartime SIS and the organisation ethos in which it was possible for a penetration agent like Philby to thrive. Interestingly, much of the detail of SIS’ operational clearance procedures had been published in the authorised books of former FCO Deputy Secretary Geoffrey McDermott.

McDermott had been SIS’ Foreign Office Adviser after the 1956 ‘Frogman Incident’ . The FOA, of course, is the senior FCO official appointed to ensure SIS conformance to UK foreign policy, and to oversee the authorisation process for clear SIS operations with the FCO, and where necessary with the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister. McDermott originally outlined the existence of Foreign Office clearance and the role of the FOA in his more general book on UK foreign policy ‘The Eden Legacy and the Decline of British Diplomacy’ (Leslie Frewin: 1967) during which he briefly examined the events leading up to and following the Frogman Incident.

His account of the incident has itself very much the flavour of The Sandbaggers, but what he is recounting is factual, not fictional: The first thing to happen on their [Kruschev and Bulganin, visiting Britain aboard the cruiser Ordzhonikidze] arrival was that a frogman was found swimming around under their Soviet cruiser, hardly creating an atmosphere of trust and goodwill The Chief of the Secret Service was sacked, his FO adviser promoted for his pains. Sir Dick White and I respectively succeeded them What had happened was that a friend of mine who was Foreign Office Adviser to the Secret Intelligence Service was faced [with the clearance request] at the end of an exceptionally hard day, during which his father had died. It is understandable that in a distraught moment he approved instead of seeking higher authority, and [the diver] was first discovered and finally lost as a result. (129-130).

McDermott goes on to describe in considerable details the work and role of the JIC, and his role in it, his work as FOA, and the events surrounding the dissolution of SIS’ controlling station in Cyprus in 1958 (although he does not use the term ‘controlling station’). He includes a defence of the SIS in light of the Philby defection, ending on the doubtful note concerning the appointment of diplomat Sir John Rennie as C in 1968 (see my piece on roman a clef) ‘It is not very encouraging that the newly appointed Chief of the SIS is a lifelong diplomat of the usual education, stamp and age. Someone rougher is needed’ (215). McDermott’s second book, ‘The New Diplomacy and Its Apparatus’ (Plume, 1973) goes into even more detail about the role of the FOA, and the relationship between SIS and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (the FO having swallowed the Commonwealth Relations Office whole circa 1966).

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