Even before the Second World War had ended SIS began to wind down its massive wartime structure, both in Europe and across the world. During 1945 this process went on in parallel with postwar operational planning and the deployment of resources to meet the anticipated challenges of peacetime. Initially, much effort was put into meeting the possibility of a continuing, if residual, Nazi threat, but before very long this was decisively supplanted by a renewed Soviet threat, which was to preoccupy the Service for many years to come. By June 1946 the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee had concluded that the Soviet Union should be ‘the first charge on our intelligence resources’ in terms of its war-making capacity and warlike intentions. And, although Attlee and Bevin had initially wanted to cut SIS down, by late 1947 the Foreign Office Russia Committee’s representations and Bevin’s own experience of the Soviets’ behaviour had finally convinced the Foreign Secretary that there was no longer cause for optimism that friendly relations could be maintained in the face of their anti-Western and expansionist campaigns.1
Finishing wartime business
Dismantling SIS’s worldwide wartime network took some time. Paying off agents was not just a monetary matter. Delicate decisions, for example, had to be made involving recommendations for awards and decorations. There were security considerations, too. Former agents had to be trusted, or paid (or a combination of the two), not to publish their memoirs or tell tales in the pub, especially in parts of the world, such as Eastern Europe, where there was a significant continuing intelligence effort. Widows and orphans also had to be taken care of. Winding up the Jove network, which had operated around Lyons in France, provides a typical example. A total of just over a million francs (about £5,000, or £161,000 in current value) was paid to the network’s forty agents, with the majority receiving between ten and twenty thousand francs each, the equivalent of three months’ stipend. In January 1945 the Paris station had sought approval to pay 60,000 francs (£300) each to the families of nine Jove agents shot by the Germans. Approving this, London instructed that ‘apart from normal individual receipts, you should obtain from Jove [a] written statement stating this sum is in full settlement of all British financial liabilities’, adding that ‘you may of course add British appreciation of the work he and his friends have done, which will be further expressed in due course as your recommendations for awards are put through’.
The resistance hero ‘Tommy’ Yeo-Thomas’s menu from a dinner for British and French colleagues celebrated at Prunier’s restaurant in Paris, 4 December 1945. Among the signatories are Stewart Menzies and Claude Dansey.
In March 1945 the Controller Western Europe raised the matter of awards for three Frenchwomen who had worked with the Sussex teams: ‘Jeanette Gauthier’, and two Resistance helpers: Andrée Goubillon and Marguerite Kiel. Gauthier, who was described as ‘unquestionably the heroine of the Sussex plan’, had been ‘absolutely selfless’ and ‘beyond all praise’. The other two had run ‘continued and very real risks of death over a prolonged period, showing constant, unselfish devotion to the national cause’. Kiel owned a Paris café and Goubillon was married to the owner of another one. Over a period of seven months Goubillon had sheltered over twenty Sussex agents, and hid their wireless equipment in the cellar of her café in the Rue Tournefort near the Panthéon.2But the possible grade of award being considered - officer (OBE) or member (MBE) of the Order of the British Empire - depended on the perceived social status of the proposed recipient. Jeanette Gauthier, who unusually was a commissioned officer in the French army, was thought eligible for the OBE. The other two, however, although they were perfectly respectable women, were (apparently) ‘not what may be termed “Ladies”’, and so were put down for MBEs. This pedantic concern with precise social hierarchies was thought sufficiently ludicrous by Kenneth Cohen in March 1945 that he composed some doggerel verse on the subject:
How do you feel
About Marguerite Kiel?
Can Andrée Goubillon
Dance the cotillion?
At what social summit
Stands Mlle. Jeannette?
Their assets, their accents, their undies laid bare,
Then, only then can we apportion the share:
B.E.M.s may be spared for intelligence chores
But O.B.E.s are reserved for the silkiest drawers.3
Another illustration of what was happening at the time comes in a signal to the Paris station in the summer of 1946. An officer who had worked during the war in south-eastern Europe, now himself retired, had been re-engaged on a one-off basis to tie up some loose ends. ‘For your information only,’ instructed Head Office, ‘he has been authorised to contact one French ex-Balkan head agent with object firstly of liquidating outstanding claims on us and secondly of arranging compensation for widows of three dead French ex-Balkan sub-agents.’ London was sending out a package containing ‘a certain quantity of gold which you should deliver via any cut-out you may select’ to the retired officer at a private Paris address, ‘preferably late at night or before nine a.m.’. Evidently fearing that he might fall into old habits, London added that, other than the planned payment of ex-agent debts, the emissary had ‘been strictly instructed on no account to contact your office and to indulge in no repeat no intelligence activity while in Paris’.
Rather than just paying agents off, in June 1945 London suggested to Reginald Miller in South America that ‘where an agent has given us service and is in possession of certain information it may save considerable difficulty later if he can be fixed up in some job rather than being let loose on the world with potentialities for blackmail’. But this was easier said than done, and Miller reflected bitterly on the attitude of local British-owned companies where he had tried to find a job for an ex-agent. ‘You would be shocked’, he cabled London, ‘if you knew how unwilling all British firms so far approached are to do anything of this nature where their businesses are concerned. That we have fought a bloody and costly war for several years so that they may continue to possess these businesses, cuts very little ice.’ London, however, was ‘not in any way surprised’ at this attitude and, indeed, thought that it would ‘become more so, hence our anxiety to try to get any arrangements made while there are still some memories of the war’.
A more sombre legacy concerned Bla, the agent who had been killed by members of the Alliance network in southern France in October 1942, leaving a wife and children. In late 1945 his widow approached the SIS head of station in Paris (27000), saying that she had ‘heard a rumour that her husband had been executed as a double agent and she wanted either to know the worst, or to put the rumour down’. He discussed the matter with Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who had led the network. She thought ‘that although we may have to tell Mme [Bla] the truth to prevent her getting involved in proceedings to put these rumours down, (which she threatens to do) we should not make the facts known officially for the sake of the children’. He added that the death could be made to look like suicide, as ‘the body was in fact found in the sea, and the newspapers of the time put it down as suicide’. On instructions from London, 27000 told Madame Bla ‘that we had irrefutable evidence that her husband, after his arrest by the Germans, accepted to work for them’. He had been ‘contacted again by us (I purposely did not indicate whether the “us” was 99532 [Alliance] organisation or S.I.S.) in Marseille, and admitted his guilt and committed suicide’. He added that any attempt to clear Bla’s name ‘must end in disaster’. If Madame Bla ‘kept quiet, nobody but ourselves would know the truth and her name and that of her children would be saved’. Sympathetically (if somewhat disingenuously, as he was also clearly concerned about protecting SIS’s reputation), 27000 added that ‘the main thing was to prevent her children and his family in [the] U.K. from learning of his downfall’.
Priorities and practices
In intelligence matters, as in other spheres, British (and Allied) attitudes towards Germany at the end of the war were very much coloured by memories and lessons learned from the First World War and the peace settlement which had followed. In part, the principle of unconditional surrender and the absolute need for Germany’s defeat to be demonstrably total to both the world at large and the German people themselves stemmed from a sense that the German, or Prussian, militarism which had allegedly been a major cause of the earlier conflict had been insufficiently crushed. Now any trace of that dangerous infection had to be thoroughly extirpated, and a high priority for SIS was its role in dismantling the mighty German war machine and ensuring that ‘never again’ would be a fact, rather than just the pious hope it had evidently been between the wars. In 1944 the Bland Report had predicted that ‘close on the heels of victory’ SIS would have ‘to assist in the rooting out of members of the enemy intelligence services and the forcible disbandment of those services themselves’. One of the Service’s ‘prime tasks’ would be to ensure that the Abwehr and Sicherheitsdienst were ‘effectively broken up and that remnants of the Nazi party do not succeed in maintaining an organisation underground, whether in Germany itself or in some foreign country’. Additionally, ‘by the examination of captured documents and the interrogation of arrested persons, the S.I.S. should be able to acquire a fund of valuable material about the general methods of the enemy secret services’.4
This last objective involved the Service with German former intelligence officers whose thorough debriefing could throw much valuable light on the intelligence successes (and failures) of the war. British interrogators, for example, carefully investigated the German side of the Venlo debacle. With the growing Soviet threat in mind, German counter-intelligence expertise on Communist networks and techniques was much in demand (by United States as well as British agencies), leading the Service to deal with some pretty unattractive former (and not so former) Nazis. One such was Sturmbannführer (Major) Horst Kopkow, a leading German expert on Soviet intelligence, who had been head of Gestapo Amt IV 2A, dealing with war sabotage. Kopkow’s particular wartime target (which he had attacked with some success) had been the Soviet ‘Rote Kapelle’ network, but it was also reported in 1945 that he had an ‘encyclopaedic’ knowledge of the German intelligence service. After he had been arrested by British forces in May 1945, Kopkow cooperated fully with his captors and was interrogated over the next few months, producing a voluminous series of reports, rated as only second in value to the information provided by the Nazi intelligence chief Walter Schellenberg. During 1947 Kopkow was held for some time by the Allied War Crimes Group on suspicion of having mishandled prisoners and of having executed United States airmen. He was also interrogated in connection with the execution of British prisoners at Gross Rosen in Silesia. In March 1948 the War Crimes Group shelved the case for lack of evidence and ‘provisionally released him for special employment under an “I” agency here [SIS] who, however, have specially requested that the case against him should not be dropped’.5 In order to facilitate Kopkow’s future use, SIS faked his death. A cover story was invented that he had died while interned in the United Kingdom, a death certificate was issued to that effect and a false identity was created for him as ‘Peter Cordes’. He lived under this name for a while, but later appended his real name to the alias and settled openly in West Germany.
At the beginning, along with the final subjugation of Germany, followed by Allied military administration in separate British, American, French and Soviet Occupation Zones, ‘denazification’ and eventual post-war reconstruction, there was also a wide public assumption - an optimistic emotional hope as much as any rationally derived belief - held with varying intensity, that the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union would survive in some shape or form. In SIS, with its historic professional suspicion of Communism, there was less confidence in Moscow’s bona fides, but the Service was not unaffected by the prevailing mood. Allowing Harold Gibson, a prewar Passport Control Officer and from his time in Istanbul undoubtedly blown to the Soviets as an SIS officer, to go into Bulgaria in September 1944, for example, makes sense only in the context of assumptions about a continuing alliance of some sort. But the hard-nosed Soviet refusal in Bulgaria to accommodate British and American intelligence officers, even as part of an Allied Military Mission, provided a rapid corrective to any expectations of postwar co-operation. For some time after the war had ended, however, the Foreign Office, not perhaps from starry-eyed expectations about friendly relations with Moscow but for sound diplomatic reasons, continued to enforce the formal prohibition on direct SIS work against the Soviet target first imposed during the war. But this did not at all mean that SIS ceased to target Communist and Soviet expansionism in general - far from it. As it became clear that there was no realistic prospect of any Nazi revival, and especially as the Soviet Union tightened its grip on Eastern Europe, much of the Service’s work became focused on Communism and Communist-related affairs.
The re-emergence of a kind of renewed ‘Great Game’ between Britain (as part of the Western Alliance) and Russia, with a priority on the gathering of long-term political intelligence, took SIS back to familiar territory and for many in the Service it was a welcome move away from the incessant wartime demands for immediate, short-term operational information. By the late 1940s, however, the situation had changed markedly. The Iron Curtain now divided the Moscow-dominated bloc of countries in Eastern Europe from the West. During 1948 the Communist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia in February and the Berlin Blockade from June demonstrated a hardening of Soviet control in the East, and the Communist conquest of China the following year confirmed the global extent of the challenge. For SIS the position in respect of intelligence-collection in these territories to a certain extent reflected that in Europe following the German victories of 1940. Such intelligence sources as there had been were mostly swept away, the overt collection of information was gravely impaired, and the demands on SIS escalated to include the most trivial details of everyday life in these obsessively well-protected countries. The very success of British intelligence during the war, moreover, with the matchless signals intelligence and the development of productive agent networks in occupied Europe, left some customer departments, notably the armed forces, with quite unrealistic expectations of what SIS could be expected to provide in these new circumstances. On the other hand, accumulated wartime experience, together with the absorption of SOE into the Service, fuelled a greater willingness than hitherto in SIS to undertake special operations and, certainly, to use wartime expertise for the infiltration of agents into Communist-bloc countries, where (as during the war) it was assumed there would be viable resistance networks to provide support for them.
That there was also a Communist threat nearer to home was confirmed after the defection in September 1945 of Igor Gouzenko, a cypher clerk at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa. This became known as the ‘Corby’ case, the name apparently chosen from the Corby’s Canadian whisky favoured by the officers working on the case. According to the SIS archives, the first notification London had about Corby was on 9 September, two days after Gouzenko and his family had been taken into protective custody by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The message, transmitted over secure SIS channels through Sir William (Bill) Stephenson’s British Security Co-ordination office in New York (as was all the cable traffic on the subject), was from Norman Robertson, Permanent Under-Secretary to the Canadian Department of External Affairs, to his British counterpart, Alexander Cadogan. A ‘statement made yesterday . . . by clerical officer of Soviet Embassy in Ottawa’, read the cable, indicated that ‘Soviet agents’ were operating in Canada. This was ‘supported by convincing documentary [evidence of] political and scientific espionage’. The investigation was ‘proceeding in consultation with Stephenson and F.B.I.’. Further details followed in a flurry of telegrams on 10 September, including the fact that Soviet espionage in Canada was being run by Nikolai Zabotin, the military attaché in Ottawa, who was running a GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) bureau with a staff of sixteen. A British atomic scientist working in Canada, Dr Alan Nunn May, was named as having passed both information and samples of Uranium-235 to the Soviets, and while the Soviet embassy were showing ‘signs of alarm at disappearance of official’, Ottawa had ‘no way of knowing to what degree they suspect that information about their activities has come to our knowledge’.6
While the Soviets may have suspected the worst from the start, they soon got confirmation from their man in SIS, Kim Philby. A signal on 17 September from Moscow to Philby’s Soviet intelligence controller in London, Boris Krötenschield, confirmed that information from ‘Stanley’ (Philby’s Soviet cover name) about ‘the events in Canada . . . does correspond to the facts’. At the London end, although Menzies was closely involved, the Corby traffic was primarily handled by Philby as head of the counter-intelligence Section IX, and he was also the principal point of contact for MI5, who naturally had a direct interest in the case. On 12 September Philby produced a draft précis of the case so far (probably for Menzies, who had to give Attlee a personal briefing about the matter on 13 September), which is notable for its cautious and soothing tone, including predictions of developments which he had already engineered himself. ‘It would appear’, he wrote, that the defector’s ‘information is genuine though not necessarily accurate in all details’. There were ‘signs that his disappearance has caused some alarm in the Soviet Embassy’, and it was also ‘possible, therefore, that other members of the network will have been warned, and in particular that the contact between May and the Soviet agent in the U.K. will fail to materialise’. In a covering note, Philby suggested ‘we send out to Canada someone who really knows what he is talking about in the matter of Soviet espionage . . . I doubt whether any of our officers on the spot are competent to tackle the problem.’ He suggested Jane Archer or Roger Hollis from MI5. His preference, significantly, was for Hollis rather than Archer, whom he considered the abler and more knowledgeable, and therefore more of a threat.7
Philby also attempted to restrict the circulation of Corby material. In his note to Menzies he proposed that communications should henceforth be left to the intelligence organisations, rather than the politicians. The information from Canada, he wrote, confirmed ‘an assumption which any responsible person must have made long ago, viz. that the Soviet Union is using every means, fair and foul, to discover the extent of our progress in atomic research’. What remained, therefore, was merely a ‘technical job of investigating the extent, ramifications, nature, technique etc of Soviet organisation involved, and of endeavouring to assess the value of the information which it may have received’. Bevin and Cadogan, however, were convinced of the high political importance of the affair. It coincided with a bad-tempered Council of Foreign Ministers in London at which it was feared the Soviet delegation might demand access to atomic secrets, and they insisted that all Corby telegrams should continue to be passed to them. So, although all traffic went through Philby, he does not seem to have restricted what was shown to the Foreign Office and Downing Street. But he was more successful with MI5. When consulted by Menzies, Bill Stephenson welcomed the idea of sending out an MI5 expert to assist in the interrogation: ‘yes, please send immediately’, he cabled, and Hollis, who flew out on 16 September, became the linchpin of Gouzenko’s interrogation. Cables passed between Hollis and MI5 through Stephenson and Philby, an arrangement which MI5 found unsatisfactory and slow. Philby, despite giving constant reassurances that he would let both sides see all communications as soon as they were received, seems to have been adept at weeding out, amending or just delaying key messages, without ever quite going too far, making it hard for MI5 to insist on alternative channels.8
Nunn May, meanwhile, remained at liberty. A telegram to him from Moscow with instructions to make contact in London on 7 October had been intercepted and Menzies thought that ‘May should be allowed to travel in hopes of giving us an opportunity of identifying his London contact and possibly others.’ This was agreed by MI5 (whose responsibility it was) and the scientist returned to Britain to take up a post at King’s College London. In Canada Gouzenko named a series of Soviet agents and told his interrogators that the Soviet Union was ‘preparing already for war against Western democracies’ and that a ‘large proportion [of] diplomatic representatives of Russian satellite states’ were ‘Moscow agents’. Faced with the Corby revelations of Soviet covert aggression, both Cadogan and Bevin favoured a public response, with the arrest of suspected Soviet agents and formal trial, a course of action which it was recognised might involve the public humiliation of the Soviet Union.9 But there were wider political considerations and neither the Americans nor the Canadians were willing to act. President Truman, hoping to sustain some of the apparent Allied amity displayed at the Potsdam conference in July 1945, and faced with domestic pressure to keep atomic secrets firmly under United States control, was reluctant to upset things by washing dirty Soviet espionage linen in public, even after the FBI had uncovered evidence of an extensive Soviet intelligence network operating in the USA itself. This caused frustration on the British side, especially after Nunn May on 7 October failed to meet his Soviet contact (who had, of course, been warned off in part through Philby’s machinations).
All through the autumn Washington maintained an effective veto on action, President Truman refusing to discuss the case with Attlee when he visited Washington in November. On 21 November Menzies told Stephenson that the delay was ‘most disappointing’, and, while he understood that the FBI did not want to compromise their investigations into the Soviet network, he thought such compromise was unlikely since the Soviets had already been tipped off. ‘Meanwhile’, he wrote, ‘Corby scents are growing rapidly colder since it is already well over two months since first alarm was given.’ The Russians, moreover, were ‘being given ample time to prepare their case in advance and also possibly to organise counter action’. Menzies’s frustrations were understandable, and were amplified perhaps by the fact that by this stage he had effectively become simply a spectator of the Corby affair. Apart from the high politics involved, MI5 were in any case the lead agency for security and counter-espionage matters.
After the affair eventually became public early in 1946 - the Canadians set up a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, while in England Nunn May was arrested and confessed - Harold Caccia of the Foreign Office, and chairman of the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee, asked Menzies what, following the revelations of Soviet espionage in Canada, was ‘the possibility of repercussions should Russia endeavour to produce a case against S.I.S., with a view to distracting attention’. Menzies told him that there was ‘no danger whatsoever at present of any charges being made against S.I.S. for activities within the U.S.S.R.’, or Soviet satellite countries, for the simple reason that ‘no widespread British organisation has yet been set up’. He had, ‘of course, individual agents who might conceivably be arrested’, but he regarded those risks ‘as somewhat remote in view of the precautions [unspecified] which have been taken’. He added that he would ‘be failing’ in his duty if he ‘did not encourage the rapid building up of organisations within the satellite countries and where opportunities presented themselves for using these to obtain information from within Russia’. But he added an ‘old French saying - “On peut pas faire le S.R. [Service de renseignements] avec le curé”’. He hoped, moreover, ‘that within a year I shall have a far wider network than exists at present’ and assured Caccia that ‘particular caution’ would be ‘exercised during the next few months’.10
Both in private and in public, the Corby case certainly focused minds on the active Soviet challenge to the Western world. But it also highlighted the real difficulties politicians and officials in Europe and America faced in responding to this evident threat. A vigorous public reaction carried risks of poisoning diplomatic relationships and making ‘peaceful coexistence’ between East and West (if that was the overall aim) even more difficult than it was already. In fact, what Corby did was to confirm for many the role which covert agencies might play in underpinning British and Western interests in the developing Cold War. But the problem, as ever, remained one of not getting found out, and the Foreign Office, in particular, were anxious to keep SIS operations under close scrutiny. Replying to Menzies on 12 March 1946, Caccia noted that while Sir Orme Sargent was glad to know that satellite projects were being examined, he was ‘most anxious that you should not start anything new in these areas without our knowing’, and asked Menzies for ‘some explicit reassurance’ on this matter, ‘owing to the political risks involved’.11
Special operations was another possible approach. Following the absorption of SOE, not only did the postwar Service have an enhanced operational expertise, but the Chiefs of Staff Committee in February 1946 had explicitly given SIS ‘the task of collating, examining and assessing information bearing on future clandestine operations, and the selection of potential objectives for attack by clandestine methods’. In March, just as the Foreign Office was sending a circular telegram informing its representatives that ‘the Secret Service will not undertake any activity other than obtaining intelligence without specific prior approval’, Menzies was forming a planning staff in SIS to prepare outline plans for special operations in foreign countries. Although Foreign Office approval was required for any such operations, during the later 1940s the Service came under intermittent pressure from the armed services to develop this side of things, as illustrated by Field Marshal Montgomery’s brief campaign in 1946 for the Chiefs of Staff to take over SIS. Another enthusiast was Air Chief Marshal Sir John Slessor, who promoted the notion of an SOE-type campaign of subversion, sabotage and propaganda against the USSR. At lunch with Menzies in January 1948, he raised the possibility of ‘psychological warfare and S.O.E. operations’, but was dismayed at the modest level of commitment which Menzies envisaged. While Slessor thought ‘something of the order of at least £10 million a year’ was ‘the minimum sort of scale to which our secret operations to win the cold war should be considered’, he was ‘alarmed to find that “C” was thinking in terms of £½ million’, which seemed to Slessor to be ‘derisorily inadequate’.12While Menzies’s ‘inadequate’ conception of special operations spending may indicate a certain lack of enthusiasm for the whole idea, the Service did develop guidance on the subject. By early 1949 an ‘S.O. Handbook’ had been produced with detailed instructions, for example, on ‘Clandestine Air Operations’, primarily intended for use in the event of another war and clearly drawing on the experience of 1939-45. ‘General Instructions on S.O. Planning’ laid down broad guidelines, noting that all operations had to have Foreign Office sanction, and emphasising (among other things) that ‘the use of Emigré groups’ was ‘at present banned’, although ‘contact with selected individuals’ was ‘likely to be authorised in peace’.
If émigré groups were off-limits, then occasions when Soviet-bloc nationals came to the West might provide opportunities for exploiting. At a production conference in August 1947 Harry Carr ‘proposed an effort be made to contact and recruit satellite athletes attending next year’s Olympic Games in England’. Sinbad Sinclair was attracted by the idea and asked Controllers to explore ways ‘whereby stations might obtain the names of local entrants’. The Controller Production Research was given the job of trying ‘to unearth a suitable British intermediary in Olympic Games circles’. But, before approaching the British athletic authorities, it was decided ‘to sound M.I.5 on the scheme’. And there the matter stopped. MI5 were reported as ‘not hopeful’ and the scheme was abandoned.
The difficulty of cover for SIS representatives, which the Bland committee had pondered in 1944, continued to exercise the Service after 1945. One response (and a means to enhance security for SIS representatives overseas) was the development of what came to be known as ‘the doctrine of the UA’, or ‘Unofficial Assistant’ as a security cut-out. The main principle of this ‘was that a representative should never contact agents direct, but transmit his requirements to them and receive his reports from them through the medium of a carefully selected and trusted third person, generally a local (and if possible British) resident or business man’. When the matter was discussed at a production conference in November 1946, P.7, responsible for part of Northern Europe, said that in his area they had largely failed to find any suitable people for the task. ‘Most of the more important businessmen, who might have been suitable,’ he reported, ‘were either too busy to give the necessary time to the work,’ or, if prepared to work, ‘demanded unconditional assurances, which we could not give, that if their businesses were to suffer through their connection with us, we should be responsible for any financial losses they might incur’. John Teague thought the problem was not insurmountable, and that a representative could select ‘a small number of unofficial assistants who would develop and run, at his direction, “cells” of agents’. The ‘ideal Unofficial Assistant’, moreover, would be ‘a carefully selected, unobtrusive person, with an extensive knowledge of the country in which he was operating’. While it was felt that such ideal candidates might be hard to find, the conference confirmed that ‘it was undesirable that representatives should handle agents direct. Whenever possible, unofficial assistants and/or cutouts of a more passive character should be interspersed.’
Another problem for the postwar service was a basic one of acquiring and keeping agents. At a conference in October 1947 the Director of Production raised the matter of ‘incentives to agents, whether financial or of another nature’. He observed ‘that whilst during war time many agents worked for the organisation for patriotic motives, now in peacetime this motive had, to a large extent, disappeared, although the dangers incurred by agents, particularly in “iron curtain” countries, had not decreased’. He said it was ‘arguable’ that the ‘zeal of agents’ might be increased by offering them more money, ‘e.g. persuading an agent to go for three months to difficult and hostile territory on the promise of payment of say £1000 down’ (equivalent to about £28,000 in modern prices), but he felt that ‘incentives of a non-financial nature’ might be more attractive. These might include such things as naturalisation as British citizens, or the arranging of education in England of an agent’s children, or ‘trade benefits’, by which a British company might take on an agent as its representative in the country concerned.
At subsequent conferences further suggestions were made, including payment in ‘gold, diamonds or dollars’, rather than the local currency, and whether life assurance policies could be provided for which the Service would pay the premiums. In this case, although there were ‘considerable technical difficulties’, Finance Branch thought that there was ‘a possibility of making [the] necessary arrangements’. Clearly if agents were simply prepared to work for money, that would be the easiest solution. But it was not always so. In October 1946 Harry Carr, the Controller Northern Area, reported on an actual case which had cropped up on his patch involving a Finnish subject resident in Sweden who was a potential agent. The Finn had ‘made it clear that he was prepared to work for the British but on the sole condition that if, at any time, by reason of his activities, threats were made to him that he would be deported to Finland and handed over either to the Finns or Russians’, SIS would ‘promise either to give him a visa for entry into the U.K. or to ensure that sufficient assistance was given to him to enable him to escape repatriation to Finland’. This man ‘had made it clear moreover that money as a reward for his services would not be considered as an inducement’. But Sinclair believed that the Service was unable to make any hard and fast guarantees of this sort. ‘We could not go much further’, he said, ‘than to inform agents that subject to us being satisfied of their good faith and zeal on our behalf, we would take every possible step to prevent them falling into the hands of the Russians,’ but ‘each case would have to be examined on its own merits’.
SIS’s postwar existence in Germany began in June 1945 with a top-secret paper by the intelligence chief in Field Marshal Montgomery’s British 21st Army Group, Brigadier ‘Bill’ Williams, on ‘Clandestine intelligence within the British zone’. Williams laid down that SIS’s No. 2 Intelligence (Unit), now renamed No. 5 Civil Control Unit, and the various Special Counter-Intelligence Units, combined as No. 7 Civil Control Unit, were both authorised to run agents in the British Zone of Occupation in Germany. No. 5 CCU was ‘responsible for obtaining long term political, economic and military intelligence by clandestine means’. Happily for SIS, and marking the change from war to peacetime functions, Williams instructed that the unit would ‘not receive demands for specific intelligence’. No. 7 CCU’s task was ‘the running of penetration agents’ for counter-intelligence purposes. P.6, the German section in Broadway, decided to use some of their existing agents, mainly recruited from among German prisoners-of-war, ‘to lay the foundations of our post-war organisation in Germany’. Only those ‘who have either already proved their worth in the field or whose loyalty, in view of their background and present status, is unquestionable’ would be selected.
This proved to be over-optimistic. The quality of the agents, their origins, background and motivation varied considerably. Only a handful worked on beyond the end of 1946. One of the most productive, ‘Tudor’, lasted in Berlin until 1949 and did, indeed, produce valuable political intelligence for much of his active life but became an ‘administrative headache’. A very promising agent, ‘Upton’, a prewar Jewish refugee and Pioneer Corps volunteer, well educated and well connected, produced valuably for a few months but then opted to return to the United Kingdom for demobilisation. Another P.6 agent, ‘Merrick’, who had been dropped in by parachute near Hamburg in December 1944 and was overrun in April 1945, remained out of touch until 1946, when he contacted the Berlin station and was then run from Berlin into the Soviet Zone. In 1947 he bodily carried a Soviet 85mm armour-piercing shell over to West Berlin, and topped this in 1948 with a Soviet aircraft propeller. He was trained as a stay-behind agent, but was later sacked for ‘incurable inefficiency’. A relic branch of SOE, ME 42, which had moved into Germany with the 21st Army Group, was also busy in 1945 infiltrating recruited German prisoners-of-war (known to SOE as ‘Bonzos’) into prisoner-of-war camps in order to try to identify unregenerate Nazis who might be planning to form a resistance movement. This unit, which SOE had intended to be the spearhead of future SOE operations in Germany, was entirely taken over by SIS at the end of 1945.13
Over the winter of 1945-6, the SIS representation in Germany was transformed into an element of the Intelligence Division (Int. Div.) of the Control Commission for Germany (British Element), of which it ostensibly formed the Technical Section, located in Bad Salzuflen, north-east of Bielefeld. No initial directive has survived for the new station, but, considering the overwhelming preoccupation of the Control Commission with ensuring that there could be no resurgence of German militarism or Nazism while the establishment of democratic government got under way, it is likely that SIS’s primary initial intelligence role was to penetrate and report on the German economic and political scene, with particular reference to the persistence of Nazism and the role of the German Communist Party. In mid-June 1946 the chief of the United States Strategic Services Unit (successor to the OSS), Crosby Lewis, reported that ‘while there was complete agreement that the principal target for intelligence operations for both British Services and the Americans was the Soviet Union’, the British were ‘placing a higher priority on activities inside Germany’ than the Americans, and appeared ‘to be concerned with building up within the British Zone and elsewhere in Germany a long range under cover series of contacts and agents which will serve their interests after the Allied occupation of Germany is over’.14 Any possible future threat from the Communist East was at first perhaps a secondary concern. On the counter-intelligence side, however, retrospective reporting on the German intelligence service soon gave way to the need to cover Russian intelligence activities in the British Zone.
In November 1946 Simon Gallienne was appointed head of station at Bad Salzuflen and senior SIS officer in Germany. Ostensibly he was head of No. 1 Planning and Evaluation Unit within the Intelligence Division, into which the two Civil Control Units were subsumed. This was one of a series of anodyne cover names which SIS adopted for its German units. Also at Bad Salzuflen was No. 4 Economic Assessment Unit; at Hamburg No. 5 Regional Rehabilitation Section; and at Düsseldorf the Rhineland Statistics Recording Unit. A perhaps apocryphal story relates that when an SIS secretary was asked by a male acquaintance what they did in No. 1 Planning and Evaluation Unit, she replied that ‘in the morning we plan and in the afternoon we evaluate what we planned in the morning’. By November 1947 Gallienne had thirty-eight officers and fifty-three administrative staff under his command. He was ‘responsible to C’ for all secret intelligence and special operations activities based in Germany. His main intelligence targets were ‘the Russians’ and ‘international communist parties and the degree of Russian influence over them’. Along with these were targets which were mostly common to all SIS stations: ‘the scientific development by any country of new weapons or methods of war’ and ‘the intention and capability of any foreign country to wage war, together with its economic potential and relations with the economies of other countries’. As for special operations, Gallienne was instructed to plan for action to be taken in the event of a Soviet invasion of the West, probably including scorched-earth policies, sabotage and stay-behind organisations.
SIS’s sources of intelligence in postwar Germany included defectors, of whom quite a few crossed over during the late 1940s. Indeed, defectors came to be seen as an easier and more satisfactory source of intelligence on Soviet matters than agents laboriously infiltrated into, or recruited from, the Soviet Zone, Poland or even the USSR itself. In Berlin in October 1947 Lieutenant Colonel Grigori Aleksandrovich Tokaev (code-named ‘Excise’), a distinguished aeronautical engineer, was the first high-level Soviet defector in Germany. Both SIS and MI5 were able to interrogate Tokaev (who produced a great deal of intelligence of varying quality), but were only peripherally involved in handling the defection. SIS, however, was soon active in trying to use Tokaev to encourage the defections of other Soviet officers known to him as having dissident tendencies and a new post was created at Bad Salzuflen to co-ordinate policy and the efforts of outstations to provoke defectors.
The encouragement of other defectors did not always go to plan and Tokaev became involved in an embarrassing episode in the spring of 1948. A Russian officer acquaintance of his, Colonel J. D. Tasoev (code-named ‘Capulet’), who was working in the American Zone, had been earmarked for possible recruitment by SIS. In April it was learned that Tasoev was being posted back behind the Iron Curtain, and, using the Chief of the Imperial General Staff’s plane, Tokaev, with an SIS minder, flew to Germany to meet him. There Tasoev announced that he, too, wanted to defect, and, without consulting anyone, Tokaev’s SIS escort brought him back to England. This upset everyone: the Russians protested about his having been ‘abducted’; the Foreign Office complained when they found out, as did the JIC, who were supposed to handle all defections; and MI5 grumbled because they had not been consulted at all. To make matters worse, Tasoev, as Sargent told Bevin on 12 May, ‘overcome by a fit of remorse and in a mood of Slavic penitence’, now wished ‘to give himself up to the Soviet authorities to pay the price of his treason’. He had attempted to escape and had had to be placed under restraint in a police station. He was eventually returned to the Soviet Union, but SIS had to take the blame for the very unwelcome publicity, with lively press speculation and questions asked in parliament. Bevin was very annoyed and asked specifically ‘that he should never again be put in such a false position’. Menzies tried to defend the Service’s role in the affair, though William Hayter in the Foreign Office thought he ‘would have done better to have admitted frankly that he made a bad muddle of all this’.15
Using SIS lines to help exfiltrate individuals from Communist Eastern Europe - in a kind of revival of SIS’s wartime association with the escape organisation MI9 - raised questions of what the Service was actually for. In the autumn of 1947, not least to test the possibility of safe routes for agents out of Poland, SIS agreed to make a plan to get the former Polish Prime Minister, Stanisław Mikołajczyk, whose life was threatened by Communist groups, out of the country. The scheme came to nothing and Mikołajczyk escaped with the help of British and American diplomats. But when the Foreign Office asked for assistance with the escape of a locally employed member of the Warsaw embassy staff, Mrs Buyno, doubts were expressed as to whether SIS should be involved at all. Buyno was apparently aware of British clandestine activities in Poland and, if arrested (as was feared was about to happen), could throw suspicion on the whole mission. Terence Garvey, the Foreign Office liaison officer with SIS, noted that the Service had helped with Mikołajczyk because of his importance, and had accepted the risk that had the ‘operation been undertaken and failed your friends [SIS] would have thereby lost one of their best sources of information on Poland’. Regarding Buyno, it was ‘just conceivable that C’s people in Germany’ might be able to help, ‘but the German station, like the rest of C’s organisation, exists mainly to obtain intelligence. We cannot expect them at short notice to risk destroying their intelligence networks in Eastern Europe for the purpose of pulling minor Foreign Office chestnuts out of the fire.’ Sir William Hayter agreed: ‘C’s organisation exists to provide intelligence. Its use for other purposes can only be justified in very exceptional cases of major importance.’16 In the end, SIS, keen to test out an existing commercial escape line, did agree to help and Mrs Buyno and her son were safely conveyed to the United Kingdom by the end of the year.
SIS had some success against the German Communist Party (KPD), though not at the highest levels. A counter-intelligence review for 1947 asserted that ‘we can safely say that we know all we want to know about the organisation and methods and plans of the KPD up to Kreisleitung [district leadership] level’, but the policy-making levels were yet to be penetrated. One promising agent who began to produce in late 1947 was ‘Cook’, a former SOE woman agent who worked her way into left-wing circles in Hamburg and reported on them to both SIS and (under SIS control) the KPD, which was her target for long-term penetration. Regarded by SIS as a talented spy, though not a very good reporter, she died before fulfilling her potential. In the desperate circumstances of postwar Germany, SIS ensured her loyalty with food, ‘as under a regime of 1500 calories a day a tin of bully beef speaks with a loud voice. [She] knows on which side her 500 grammes of bread are buttered.’ But it was not just food or cigarettes or money (though all were important) that bought the loyalty of individual Germans. In the aftermath of the war a significant number were willing to become SIS agents for patriotic German motives, allying themselves with a country which had defeated Nazism. Once a new, democratic German state was established some of them fell away. There were also more personal reasons. One important agent’s wife was in a concentration camp at the end of the war. SIS found her, close to death, and reunited the pair, which the agent thereafter regarded as an unrepayable debt.
Towards the end of the 1940s SIS in Germany had over one hundred officers and two hundred secretaries, forming the largest overseas representation in any one territory. In February 1948 John Bruce Lockhart succeeded Gallienne as head of station and was simultaneously appointed Director of the newly formed Analysis Division of Int. Div., responsible for its agent-running operations. He thus took charge of all British covert human intelligence work in Germany, reporting directly to Menzies. This move significantly improved the co-ordination and quality control of the operations carried out by 120 case-officers. It also, in due course, offered the opportunity of recruiting the ablest Int. Div. personnel into SIS. Later, Bruce Lockhart reckoned that Germany was the ‘nursery of SIS’, and the place where, more than anywhere else, the Service first began to learn how to adjust to the transition from war through occupation to an uneasy peace and then to the Cold War. Among the new realities which had to be faced was the total dependence of both political and military customers on human intelligence, initially on Germany and then on the Soviet Union and its allies, in contrast to the rich wartime supply of signals intelligence, air reconnaissance and prisoner-of-war interrogation reports. Another was the initial disagreement between the main London customers, the Foreign Office and the Chiefs of Staff, about the Soviet Union: was it still an ally or was it the next enemy? Then, once the answer to this question had become clearer, there was the increasing realisation by SIS of the immense difficulty of penetrating a highly alert and paranoid Communist state at anything more than the most pedestrian level. This, above all, was to lead SIS into some disastrous operations (especially those involving émigré groups) which were to cast a shadow over its experience of the next decade.
Central Europe and the Balkans
For SIS Austria presented a similar challenge to Germany: a defeated enemy country divided up into Allied Occupation Zones, where the initial task of watching for any possible Nazi revival swiftly changed into one of monitoring and, if possible, penetrating the Soviet Communist target. Initially, as in Germany, SIS worked within a military Control Commission, but as the military structures were run down the problem of long-term cover emerged. The head of station in Vienna, George Young, a wartime recruit with degrees in modern languages from St Andrews and economics from Yale, worried in August 1946 that his staff of over twenty officers and secretaries would be too large for satisfactory embassy cover. Besides, most of the present representatives were already blown to many people in the British military administration, to most of his American opposite numbers and (this was, after all, Harry Lime’s Vienna) to ‘a great number of more or less shady individuals who have connexions of one kind or another with wartime intelligence bodies and who have after demobilisation or repatriation taken up their peace-time activity here’. Musing on the problem of cover in general, Young observed that ‘the moment one starts to collect intelligence one is blown to somebody and it is only a matter of time before a Security Service catches up on one. The problem’, he thought, ‘always appears to me not how to keep from being blown but how to keep persona grata with the local authorities and ensure that in our shadier operations we are several jumps ahead of [a] hostile Security Service. Maintaining cover is a battle of wits not a defensive action.’
In February 1947 Menzies got the Foreign Office to make a special case for Vienna to accommodate a larger SIS presence than usual. ‘In view of the probable sterility of the stations in countries further east,’ argued Menzies, ‘we should do all we could to help them in countries where they can operate with comparative ease and safety.’ SIS proposed to station five officers, six women secretaries and ‘2 British handymen or drivers’ at Vienna. Hayter agreed and told the British mission in Vienna that since conditions in Austria were ‘more favourable’ for SIS’s work ‘than elsewhere in Eastern Europe and we should like to do what we can to provide them with a base from which they can work eastward in comparative safety’, he hoped that the existing Austrian Statistics Unit could be absorbed into the diplomatic mission. This was agreed, but in 1947-8 SIS activities in Austria were disrupted by fears of Soviet penetration. Officers from London (including the Controller Eastern Area, who was responsible for Germany, Austria and Switzerland) came out to investigate security and concluded that the main problem was lax attitudes among the Field Security Section, responsible for the safety of the British occupation forces, but who liaised closely with the SIS Civil Control Unit and ran a number of agents themselves.
Late in 1947 the Vienna station became aware of an Austrian former SS officer who as a black marketeer regularly travelled in and out of the Soviet Occupation Zone. Over a period of several months he had also helped three Russian soldiers to defect: a lieutenant and two non-commissioned officers. After interrogating him, SIS decided that he was working purely from right-wing political motives. He was ‘still a fairly convinced Nazi’ who thought that ‘Germany would lead the world again’ and that anti-Communist activities would ‘qualify him for an exalted position within the Greater German Reich’. It was ‘thought unlikely’, however, that he was ‘tied up with any organised underground Neo-Nazi movement’, nor was there ‘reason to believe’ that he was ‘in touch with any other Intelligence organisations’. This being the case, and giving him the cover name ‘Subaltern’, it was decided to recruit the Austrian, who ‘agreed to work for us but refused to take any direct payment’. He was instructed to look out for potential defectors and also report on the military situation in the Soviet Zone. SIS was especially interested in a ‘high-level defector’ who might stay behind for some time to ‘acquire documents or specific information’. While Subaltern, whose contacts were mainly ‘ladies of easy virtues who are in touch with Russians’, identified a number of low-level possible defectors, it was quickly realised that finding any high-level candidates would be ‘a slow and wearying undertaking dependent upon circumstances which are very often against us (i.e. frequent postings, non-fraternization orders etc.)’. In the meantime, therefore, he was told to concentrate on collecting information about Soviet troops and military matters ‘until such time as we think that a high-level defector would need his undivided attention’. During early 1948 Subaltern produced a few military reports for the Vienna station. ‘We still hope however’, they reported to London in May, ‘that his female contacts will one day produce the desired defector.’
A report reviewing work in Austria in the very late 1940s suggests that the Subaltern operation produced no significant result during those years. Indeed the officer who took over as head of station in April 1949 admitted that they had ‘not made satisfactory progress’ in penetrating Communism in Austria. Although he did ‘not wish to make excuses’, he asserted that they were ‘constantly handicapped by the fact that the Austrians simply do not enjoy intelligence activity’. This was partly due ‘to the Austrian temperament, which is not naturally adventurous’, and partly due to their desire to emulate Switzerland ‘and adopt an attitude of sunny neutrality towards the contending great powers’. He reviewed the possibilities for an Unofficial Assistant ‘moving in the right circles’ to begin penetrating Communist organisations and reported that two had already ‘posed as Fellow Travellers’ but ‘without the faintest possibility of reaching’ active Communist sources. Another possibility was finding a willing member of the Austrian socialist party, the SPD. Although the party was ‘the enemy of communism’ it ‘inevitably’ had ‘a certain fluidity with that organisation’. Then there was the possibility of ‘planting a man ourselves’. One idea was to find ‘a young student who needs a little financial help to continue his University studies and who would be willing, in return, to join the communists and work for us’. But this would be ‘a very long term project’. The ‘only way of working oneself quickly into the inner circles of the communists’ would be to join them ‘as a traitor from some other organisation’, but he recognised that it was ‘virtually impossible’ to find a leading member of, say, the SPD who was ‘willing to ruin his political career and be an object of extreme contumely among his friends, simply in order to get intelligence for us’. Whatever tactics were adopted for the work on Austrian Communism, he observed that there was competition with the Americans for likely agents, and they were ‘paying enormous sums as retainers’.
The difficult and unrewarding effort which SIS had to mount in Eastern Europe is well illustrated by the experience of postwar Bulgaria where Tony Brooks, an exceptionally brave and able officer who had served with SOE in France during the war, was sent to Sofia as head of station in May 1947. His posting began badly with an unpleasant journey out, during which he, accompanied by two female secretaries, spent five days in the train between Paris and Sofia, including long spells in Balkan railway sidings. Their luggage, too, was stolen at Domodossola in northern Italy. In Sofia Brooks had diplomatic cover and the British minister, John Sterndale Bennett, insisted that he spent most of his time on Chancery work, leaving little enough opportunity for him to develop the SIS duties he had been sent out to perform. Sterndale Bennett, in fact, was so nervous about the possibility of his mission being compromised by SIS activity that he strictly limited what Brooks could do even covertly. While claiming to appreciate his difficulties, in July Head Office urged Brooks to ascertain if there were any British residents in Bulgaria who could be taken on as Unofficial Assistants. ‘In the circumstances,’ cabled London, ‘we would consider even an indifferent Briton far better than any Bulgarian, however able and well-placed.’ If there were no suitable Britons, perhaps he could investigate French or Swiss possibilities, who would not be ‘suitable for building up any very long-term projects’ but ‘might be valuable in tiding over your present difficulties’.
A review of Sofia’s production from June to October 1947 showed that Brooks had only nine main sources in Bulgaria, three of whom were British. There were two lawyers, an engineer and a Bulgarian Jew, ‘not heard of recently’. Another source had ‘faded into oblivion’. Over five months Brooks had supplied some fifty reports, of which London considered thirty-nine were good enough to circulate. But only four reports had been graded ‘A’ for quality, and two of these had come from the British Military Mission in the country. This was thin enough, and Brooks was becoming increasingly frustrated, but in October Sterndale Bennett ordered him to cease SIS activity altogether, claiming that during a recent visit to London Menzies had agreed to this. Although Brooks presumed that this ‘was a misunderstanding’, he had to comply all the same. In January 1948 he reported that he had studied all possible Unofficial Assistants or cut-outs among friendly nationals with the dispiriting result that only three individuals seemed remotely suitable: a Bulgarian (who could, however, be an agent provocateur) and two Americans who ‘were the most terrible social gossips which, to my mind, is the greater danger’.
Matters did not improve during 1948. In May Brooks returned to London to discuss the position in Sofia. Aubrey Halford from the Foreign Office confirmed Bevin’s wish that ‘every effort was to be made to penetrate the Iron Curtain’, and that ‘pressure would now be brought to bear’ on Sterndale Bennett to lift his ban on SIS activity. Although this had the desired effect, Brooks reported in July that in practice ‘all normal processes for collecting intelligence are barred’. The Bulgarians had begun to put great pressure on both the United States and British missions. A junior member of the American legation had been caught red-handed giving money to a Bulgarian for information, and a clerk of Bulgarian origin at the British legation evaded a similar fate after a car chase through the streets of Sofia and was later expelled by the Bulgarians, accused of spying. Brooks reported that there were no Britons available to be Unofficial Assistants and he had also drawn a blank regarding ‘friendly foreigners’. He painted a ‘dismal picture’ of the increasingly stringent surveillance imposed by the Bulgarian authorities. At the present time he thought the activities of his station could ‘never hope to get beyond the following: the reporting of overt information; reporting of rumour and gossip, and items from personal observation’. Falling back on his wartime SOE experience, he could also prepare special operations plans, ‘selecting landing grounds and dropping zones’, and scouting locations for caches of wireless sets and other stores. Finally, he also thought he might be able to assist other stations ‘by posting letters inside iron curtain and delivering supplies to agents by means of dead letter boxes’.
Even this was optimistic. Paul Mason, who succeeded Sterndale Bennett as British minister in February 1949, was equally uncooperative, so much so that Brooks thought he wanted simply to close the station down altogether. SIS got caught in a tussle between the Bulgarian and British authorities to reduce the size of their missions in each other’s country. Brooks hazarded that Mason believed that if he was compelled to reduce his staff ‘he might as well get rid [of] our representative and not one of his own’. Brooks, in fact, stayed put in Sofia until the end of 1949, keeping the position warm for his successor. But the Bulgarians continued to put pressure on the mission generally, threatening to close down their wireless sets in August, intermittently harassing the staff and accusing the British, American and Yugoslav missions of being ‘nests of espionage’. Things got so bad that in November 1949 Brooks sought (and got) specific instructions from London in case he had to close down the station altogether. These specified the destruction of papers and the return of SIS cyphers ‘by confidential bag forthwith’. The gold reserve was to ‘be handed over to the Caretaker officer and a receipt obtained’; local currency was to be left with the mission (again having secured a receipt); and all other notes were to be returned to Head Office. Cameras and photographic equipment were also to go back to London, while secret-ink materials were to ‘be destroyed on the spot’.
Bearing in mind the manifest difficulties facing SIS representatives based in Iron Curtain countries, particular efforts were made to penetrate the Soviet bloc from neighbouring states. Yugoslavia was a special case. Marshal Tito, the Communist wartime resistance leader, had to defeat internal opposition from right-wing groups before establishing a stable government in 1948. After he broke away from the Soviet Union that summer, for a time the survival of his regime was in doubt. In July it was reported to SIS that Tito himself had approached the Swiss authorities about the possibility of seeking asylum there. The political situation in Yugoslavia stabilised and Tito survived to preside for another thirty years over an ultimately unsustainable ethnic federation, but SIS made little progress in the country during the 1940s. In 1947, using an agent under business cover, the Service acquired extremely detailed information about Yugoslav civil and military petroleum installations and reserves, but subsequent efforts to continue the flow of information by recruiting an employee of a Western oil company as an Unofficial Assistant came to nothing.
Greece, where from 1946 until victory in October 1949 the royalist government (backed by Britain and the USA) fought off a Communist guerrilla challenge, had a significant SIS presence in the postwar years. In May 1946 Broadway decided that there should be a main station at Athens (under Nigel Clive, who had had a distinguished SIS war record), with sub-stations at Salonika and Florina, both well placed in the north of the country for operations into the neighbouring Communist states. The local representatives were to concentrate on the penetration of Greece (particularly Communists), Albania, Yugoslavia and southern Bulgaria. Reflecting the close control which London kept over money matters, all expenditure on agents had to stay within already approved budget estimates, although the head of station was authorised ‘in the case of urgent necessity’ to spend up to £150 (equivalent to slightly over £4,000 today) ‘without previous reference to Head Office’.
The experience of SIS in Greece in the late 1940s illustrates the extent to which even the most carefully made plans were hostage to unexpected and unpredictable events. During the summer of 1948 an Unofficial Assistant (known as ‘025’) working in an Athens airline office was instructed to monitor Eastern bloc airline crews passing through the city with a view to recruitment as agents. In September he reported contact with a Czechoslovak pilot whom he had met previously while working in Paris shortly after the war, and London told him to investigate the possibilities. The following month 025 engineered a social meeting during which he established that the pilot (who was married with an infant child) would ‘undertake any work on our behalf if we can assist him to evacuate his family from Prague to one of the western democracies’. Agent 025 arranged another meeting on the Czech’s next trip but just before Christmas 1948 the plane the pilot was flying crashed in poor weather en route to Athens.
Another aborted operation in 1948-9 also involved a pilot, in this case a Serb who had flown for the RAF during the war. A committed anti-Communist, he had gone to Greece in 1945 and in September 1948 was working as a labourer north of the Greek capital. The head of station in Athens spotted him as a possible agent, and after both London and the SIS station in Belgrade reported ‘no trace’ against his name, he approached him and ascertained that he was ‘willing to go as resident agent to obtain information from areas north and east of Belgrade’, as well as in the Niš area further south. Subject to ‘thorough training’, Athens thought he would make ‘a potentially useful head-agent’ for Yugoslavia. The man was taken on, and London and Athens began to think about whether he should be infiltrated by sea, or overland from either Greece or Trieste. He underwent an intensive training course (including radio communications) through the winter and spring of 1948-9. All was going well when the agent ‘developed very sudden and serious tuberculosis’ and was hospitalised in August 1949; the operation was cancelled. A third operation, code-named ‘Contemplate’, which involved close liaison with the Greek air force and the acquisition of photographic intelligence across the frontier with Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria by using a specially equipped Spitfire aircraft, had temporarily to be abandoned when a Greek minister vetoed the project.
But there were successes, too. Reviewing work in the spring of 1949, albeit not long before the rebel surrender, Athens reported extensive coverage of the Communist movement through a network code-named ‘Damocles’, which included intelligence provided by some very highly placed agents. There was also a Macedonian hashish smuggler who toured southern Yugoslavia collecting military and economic intelligence (mostly troop dispositions and railway information) which London assessed as ‘of a fair quality’. He went across the frontier about once every three weeks and was paid £10 for each report he delivered to a local head agent who in turn was paid £10 a month as a retainer. London thought that ‘for the risks being run and for the results achieved, expenditure is remarkably low’, and, since the Macedonian was the only contact regularly reporting from the area, gave their approval for Athens to continue paying the two men. In the north-east of Greece, the Athens station had also managed to assemble ‘an undoubtedly brave and determined team’ of anti-Communists who crossed into Bulgaria in March and April 1949 and reported back on troop deployments and Bulgarian support for Greek Communist rebels. By the close of the year, however, with the end of the Greek civil war, SIS acknowledged ‘that our customers do not seem to be particularly interested in south Bulgaria any longer’. Thus the ‘efforts and risks’ of penetrating the region might be ‘hardly worth while’ in the future.
France and Spain
In October 1944, when Menzies told Cadogan that the battle for France was ‘over’ and that he wanted the Foreign Office to lift the ban on the penetration of France which had been imposed before the outbreak of war, he initiated an illuminating discussion about the appropriateness (or otherwise) of spying against friendly states and allies. Richard Speaight in the Foreign Office wanted to continue ‘indefinitely’ the ban on SIS working in France except in co-operation with the French authorities. He pointed out that it was government policy to cultivate the closest possible relations with France and ‘we regard Anglo-French solidarity as one of the chief bulwarks of our future security’. If SIS started to penetrate France, he minuted, it was ‘likely to be caught out sooner or later & such a revelation wd. strike at the root of the spirit of intimate collaboration with the French Govt. which we are so anxious to build up’. The ‘best means of obtaining intelligence from France’ was ‘through the Embassy & its extensive ancillary services . . . If ’, he continued, ‘our overt representatives there do their job properly, they shd. be able to supply us with initially all the stuff that “C” could hope to obtain through covert channels.’
This was the classic sceptical diplomat’s dismissal of the role of secret intelligence. Cavendish-Bentinck could not have disagreed more. ‘We have suffered during this war from bans on carrying out S.I.S. work in certain countries,’ he began. This included Italy in the early 1930s. As for France, ‘during the two years prior to the outbreak of war, we were lamentably badly informed’. (‘Yes, indeed,’ minuted Cadogan by this statement.) ‘We should have known . . . that the French Army was not going to be our bulwark,’ continued Cavendish-Bentinck. He argued that ‘in a couple of years time, if not sooner’, the French might become ‘extremely nationalistic and xenophobe, with the result that those who are really in the know will not be chattering to foreigners as freely as has been done in the past’. Since he believed that ‘first class sources in foreign countries cannot be created at short notice’, but required ‘careful and prolonged cultivation’, Cavendish-Bentinck thought that Menzies should ‘think out very carefully a plan of S.I.S. operations in France’ and submit it to the JIC, who could ‘then consider whether the ban on secret service operations in France can be raised’.17
Peter Loxley thought similarly and reminded colleagues that as part of the Bland Report the Foreign Office had given Menzies a list of post-war tasks, including, for France, ‘in general any French groups whose sympathies incline them towards Germany’; ‘hidden Russian activities’ in France; and ‘any French groups or parties of totalitarian tendencies’. ‘We cannot have it both ways,’ he added; ‘if we want “C” to provide us with first class information from France, we must allow him to operate more or less freely there. If, on the other hand, Mr. Speaight’s view is approved, then we must in fairness cancel our existing directive to “C”.’ Although he wanted to modify the prewar ban on operations in France, Loxley nevertheless conceded ‘that in the interests of our relations with the French authorities we must walk carefully’ and that Cadogan should see SIS’s general plans before they were put into operation. Cadogan agreed and wrote to Menzies along these lines.
A few days later Loxley discussed the matter with the British ambassador in Paris, Duff Cooper, who assumed that SIS would have a representative working in France with the Deuxième Bureau. Should, however, SIS wish to conduct any secret operations in France without the knowledge of the French authorities, Duff Cooper thought that he had better not know anything about it, to which Cadogan minuted in the margin ‘Yes’. In February 1945, nevertheless, when Menzies sent A. J. ‘Freddie’ Ayer, the Oxford philosopher who had been working for SOE in New York and France, to Paris, Duff Cooper was informed about it. Ayer’s job, for which he had embassy cover, was not to run operations but, in a ‘purely preparatory and exploratory role’, to establish contacts who could be exploited by SIS in the future. Reflecting on the arrangement after Ayer had returned to London in October 1945, Duff Cooper wrote to Cadogan to say he was not sure if he wanted to ‘repeat the experiment’. He was ‘averse to having as a member of my staff, working in the embassy, someone of whose activities I know nothing and over whose movements I have no control’. Rehearsing all-too-familiar ambassadorial attitudes of a sort which had strained relations in the past, he also wanted to ‘draw a very rigid line’ between ‘the activities of the diplomatic service and those of the secret service’. ‘A diplomatist’, he wrote, ‘has as much right to consider himself insulted if he is called a spy as a soldier has if he is called a murderer,’ and while he ‘knew, of course, that the secret service existed’, he ‘believed it would be quite impossible for a member of it to adopt the cover of a secretary or attaché in an embassy’. Embassies were kept under very careful scrutiny; foreign servants were employed and the covert activities of a member of staff could hardly be concealed for ever. ‘No secrets are kept indefinitely,’ he asserted: ‘Everything is known in the end.’18
By the time John Bruce Lockhart was posted to be head of the Paris station in January 1946 it is clear that the ban on SIS reporting on France had been relaxed. Writing to London in August, he discussed domestic French politics, including details of French Communist Party finances and reflections on Communist penetration in the French army and air force (an understandable interest, bearing in mind that Communist and leftist parties consistently won over a quarter of the vote in postwar French general elections). Much of this was based on a combination of documents supplied from the French intelligence services and what Bruce Lockhart called ‘gossip’. Bruce Lockhart’s successor, who took over in October 1947, continued to concentrate particularly on the Communist target. A year later the Controller Western Area (CWA) in London noted that the Paris station had two main responsibilities: ‘(a) Liaison with the French intelligence services, and (b) Procurement of intelligence by secret means on behalf of SIS’. But there was in practice a conflict between the two functions since the task of at least some French intelligence departments with whom the head of station was asked to liaise was precisely to prevent secret intelligence activities by foreign services. In order to reduce the risk of compromising SIS operations, Paris was instructed to limit the amount of work undertaken which ‘could be construed by any of the local authorities as being anti-French’. With a brief analysis of the Paris station’s ‘present penetration activity’, the CWA concluded ‘that apart from attacking the enemies of France on French soil no accusation could be levelled against the station that it is, in any way, pursuing activities inimical to the French state’. Even in neighbouring countries - Belgium, Spain and Italy - there was no current anti-French penetration work.
Duff Cooper’s successor as ambassador, Oliver Harvey, nevertheless, took a similarly dim view of secret intelligence work in France and in September 1948 protested to the Foreign Office about a reported instance of SIS operating in the country. Hayter wrote to Menzies asking for a ‘brief account of your present activities in France’ to use when soothing Harvey - whose views, Hayter said, were not shared by the Foreign Office’s Western Department, nor indeed by Bevin. Kenneth Cohen, as Chief Controller Europe, having consulted Menzies, drafted the response for Hayter. It confirmed that relations with the French were ‘of a cordial and fruitful nature’. Indeed, the main current difficulty was ‘largely in keeping pace with French demands for co-operation’. There was no doubt that it was ‘in the general interest that these relations should continue’. It was noted, nevertheless, that SIS staff also maintained ‘certain contacts of a “direct nature”. I have’, continued the draft, ‘never made it a secret from the French that I am not prepared to rely entirely on their own estimates of Communist activities in France and that I make a practice of pursuing direct enquiries into these matters.’ A further activity concerned ‘the uncovering of illegal immigration and arms-running organisations in connection with the Palestine dispute’. SIS’s efforts here, it was claimed, ‘have had considerable success’, but due to divergent French and British policies towards Palestine, they had ‘sometimes been a cause of friction’.
Postwar requirements, and agent-handling, can be illustrated by the instructions given to a British businessman based in Spain (the brother of an existing SIS officer), agent ‘01010’, who began work at the end of 1945. Reflecting his position and expertise, the primary requirements were economic, including background material relating to ‘civil aviation between Spain and Portugal and U.S.A.’, ‘What, if any, strings are being pulled by Spain or foreign big business . . . in connection with trade negotiations with France and Switzerland?’, and ‘particulars of any outside and backstairs influences, domestic or foreign, at work in high quarters in connection with the British/Spanish trade relationships’. Political intelligence was less of a priority, but the agent was asked to keep an eye out for material about the Monarchist movement, the Spanish Communist Party, and ‘information on any German attempts to hide key-men, plans, loot, etc. in Spain’. The agent’s first report contained quite a lot of information evidently gathered from open sources, and prompted a mild rebuke from his SIS handler, which provides us with a useful indication of what the Service regarded as core business. ‘It should be remembered’, wrote the case-officer, ‘that it is the function of H.M. Embassies and Consulates to provide the F.O. with overt information, general surveys of the situation, etc. We do not, therefore, require such material from our sources. What we do require is factual, specific and well authenticated items of information which are not accessible to Embassies and Consulates through overt channels.’ He added that ‘the most valuable type of secret political material is documentary’, and every effort should be made to acquire it. The Service was ‘always interested in reports based on off the record remarks made by individuals who are known to be in a position to speak with inside knowledge and authority on the subject under discussion and who do not know that their remarks will get back to this country’. Such information was particularly valuable since direct liaison with Franco’s intelligence authorities was ruled out by the Foreign Office. It was, commented Aubrey Halford in June 1948, ‘useless to pretend that C’s representatives can have a personal liaison with the Franco secret police without bringing the Embassy into it’, and the Spanish would be bound to ‘want something in return’ for any help they gave. Writing to Menzies, Hayter acknowledged that it would be ‘gratifying’ to receive intelligence on Communist methods and activities, but that the Foreign Office felt ‘the price the Spaniards are asking is too high, namely that we should in effect condone the regime’.19
Late in 1948 an opportunity was taken of giving a questionnaire to a well-placed Briton who had worked alongside the Service during the war and was travelling on vacation to Spain. Aware that he had good political connections, the Political Requirements Section in Broadway asked if he were ‘able to talk confidentially with important political persons or with responsible persons close to Franco’ and whether he could collect information on ‘any movements towards the restoration of the monarchy on the part of left wing democrats, monarchists and Franco respectively’; on the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards Franco and domestic political issues; and on ‘evidence of any secret discussions between the U.S.S.R. and Franco’s regime’. In keeping with the growing emphasis on economic intelligence, he was also asked to report on authoritative Spanish attitudes towards the ‘chaotic economic conditions’ in Spain and ‘Hispano-Argentine commercial relations’.
The example of one potential agent who worked in France and Spain further illustrates both postwar intelligence priorities and also how a fly-fishing technique of tempting and reeling in people could be applied in practice. The target in this case was a former wartime contact, now resident in France. In February 1948 the head of the Madrid station reported that the man, who was ‘extremely well informed as usual’, had visited Spain where he had had ‘several long talks’ with an SIS colleague. Thinking that he might make a good source for French political information, an initial approach was made ‘on the basis of [a] mutual interest’ in international Communism. The target said he was ‘willing to meet a representative once a week’ to provide information on this topic. Madrid recommended proceeding on the basis that ‘for the time being’ the main subject should be restricted to Communist matters, ‘that the contact should be regular and great interest maintained’, and, ‘if properly handled, it will not be long before subject lets himself wander into the field of normal political matters as well’. Aware that the right psychological attitude was required, Madrid added that ‘subject should not be allowed to gain the impression that he is being fitted into an existing machine. This impression might make him shy off.’ The Paris station took up the baton and through the spring of 1948 began a series of meetings with the target ‘on a purely social basis’. Paris reported that the individual had now got a job with an international humanitarian organisation, which would involve him travelling frequently in the ‘Russian satellites’ in Eastern Europe, and added their impression that he would ‘be prepared to carry out an observation mission for us’ during his visits to Eastern Europe, and ‘would accept payment’, though they said that ‘neither point was, of course, discussed directly’. The target would be based in France, moreover, and was apparently prepared to ‘pass us information about such subjects as Communist penetration of French administration, [and] Communist blackmail against non-Communist French politicians’. The only evident snag was a worry that he might ‘also be in touch with French Intelligence’ and might already ‘have been recruited by them to carry out similar missions’.
SIS had considered using international humanitarian organisation cover before. In April 1946 there was a discussion about the possibility of getting an agent working in one such agency. Despite the fact that it was assumed that the agency in question was already ‘completely penetrated’ by the Communists, it was felt that in certain countries where such organisations operate, ‘e.g. the Balkans and other Russian dominated countries, it might well be the only way in which an S.I.S. officer could get into contact with the people of the country owing to the almost complete isolation in which the Embassy staffs lived’. Head Office was keen to proceed with the operation. ‘This looks even more promising than we anticipated,’ minuted one officer, particularly as the organisation was ‘reported to be Communist penetrated’. Even if he were working for French intelligence, ‘I do not consider it constitutes a reason for turning him down.’ In France, meanwhile, a representative in Paris had ‘established very friendly relations with subject’, who was aware he was dealing with British intelligence and now appeared ‘to be upset’ that contact was being maintained only on ‘purely social lines’ and that no ‘shop matters’ were being discussed. London therefore cabled that ‘relations’ could now be put ‘on business footing’. The potential agent should be asked to report on the degree of Communist penetration, but London considered it ‘advisable [to] leave French political questions in abeyance until we know subject better’. Paris then proceeded formally to recruit the agent, who was obviously raring to go. ‘Source appeared to jump to the conclusion’, reported Paris, ‘that we were interested in establishing, through him, a “reseau” [network] through Europe.’ One drawback of such a scheme, said the agent, was that the Americans, who provided most of the money for the organisation, ‘and were manoeuvring themselves into most of the key positions, were, he strongly suspected, working on similar lines’. On the other hand, a point in the scheme’s favour was that this particular humanitarian organisation was thought to be ‘the only one that stood a chance of continuing to function throughout Europe for a period of several months after the outbreak of hostilities’. Thus ‘it was worth while trying to exploit it as a means of establishing a secret network’.
The potential agent also offered information on Communists. He had, he said, an acquaintance in the French Interior Ministry with a source in the French Communist Party, who was being blackmailed by the police into handing over copies of ‘secret reports and minutes’. The acquaintance, he added, occasionally told him ‘the gist of these reports’. Having been hooked, the quarry now, ironically, started to force the pace and, fearing that things were beginning to move too quickly, SIS began to back-pedal. In mid-1948 the Paris station recommended that the agent should be told there was no intention ‘of pursuing at the present stage his scheme of working up a “network”’, nor did SIS want to develop the French Communist Party source, whom the Paris station had ‘strong reasons’ to suppose was ‘bogus’ and copies of whose reports were, in any case, already being received through service attaché channels. Nevertheless, as the source appeared to be ‘sincere in his desire to help us, it would be unwise to discourage him’, and they suggested that he should in the meantime be ‘supplied with innocuous questions’ about Communist penetration of the international organisation. London felt that the outlook was now ‘rather disappointing on the whole, particularly if this high grade potential source can only be fed with innocuous questions’. There were, however, renewed concerns that the source was already working for French intelligence, and there the matter appears to have rested, as there is no indication in the records that he ever developed further as an agent.20
Work in postwar Scandinavia was inevitably dominated by the Soviet Union and a widespread sense that the region was part of the front line in the Cold War. This was especially so in Finland, where fears of a Soviet-supported coup, backed by Communist members of the government, periodically agitated Finnish politics in the 1940s. Rex Bosley, head of the Helsinki station from March 1945, had to tiptoe very gingerly indeed through the complexities of Finnish postwar life. He cultivated a wide range of Finnish contacts - ‘several hundred’ according to Bosley at the end of 1949 - many inherited from Harry Carr’s long service in the country as well as from other prewar relationships. There was certainly no shortage of potential agents; the problem was more one of selecting, targeting and running them, without the Soviets (who kept a very close eye on British contacts with Finns) becoming aware. Some approaches from within Finnish armed service circles seeking British support for right-wing political intervention had to be treated with great caution. Bosley also tended to gravitate towards conservative political contacts, though he ranged as widely as he could. In January 1948 he told Carr (who had become Controller Northern Area in Broadway) that ‘very few matters of any importance in this country escape our knowledge’. Furthermore, ‘from time to time we do manage to glean certain items of interest from the Soviet Union despite the ban on any efforts in this direction’. On the other hand, the station had not succeeded in penetrating either the Finnish Communist Party or the Soviet strategic enclave at Porkkala, on the coast south-west of Helsinki and, even by mid-1949, barring lucky breaks, they regarded the acquisition of political, naval or military intelligence from inside the Soviet Union as beyond them. In Sweden the postwar SIS station was directed to concentrate first on the Soviet Union, followed by Germany. The third target was Poland and subsidiary targets were Finland, Denmark and Norway. ‘On no account’, instructed London, ‘are you to conduct any espionage against Sweden.’ During 1946 directions were added about preparing for a possible third world war. ‘Although it is assumed that the United Kingdom will be free of a major war during the next ten years,’ Broadway (no doubt with the experience of the Second World War in mind) pointed out that ‘international crises may develop with great suddenness. Hence, it is advisable and necessary to make certain arrangements in advance, to be put into effect in an emergency, in order to preclude the complete collapse of our secret organisations and communications.’ Wireless sets designed to survive burial underground, ‘for eventual transportation to Finland and the Baltic States’, would be supplied and were intended to be used by ‘stay-behind agents in enemy occupied territory’. With engaging frankness the directive continued: ‘scepticism as to the potential success of such a scheme certainly exists in the light of previous experience; however, such plans should be pursued and agents for operating these W/T sets should be found with a view to being trained at a later stage’.
Throughout the late 1940s, the Soviet Union remained the main target for SIS in Sweden, as it was elsewhere. A new directive in November 1947 added the Swedish Communist Party to the list of targets, including the extent of Soviet control over it. The embargo against spying on Sweden was repeated, but in terms that suggested it was now derived from a more general SIS doctrine: ‘In principle you should not work against the country in which you are stationed, but you should report any information on it which comes your way.’ The instruction on liaison with the Swedes undoubtedly reflected that for any similar non-Communist states. The head of station in Stockholm was to ‘maintain and develop your close and friendly relations with the Swedish Intelligence and Security Services with the object of exploiting their intelligence work and of obtaining as much information through these channels as possible . . . while at the same time continuing to build up your own network independent of the Swedes’. Similarly, the archives of the Swedish postwar intelligence T-Office show that a high level of surveillance on British representatives was maintained, even as liaison contacts were being developed. 21 The quite precise directives issued to Stockholm, as to other stations, marked a new development in Service practice and the introduction of a management regime wherein Head Office issued clear intelligence objectives, closely related to general intelligence requirements and stated government policies. As a November 1947 directive made clear, there was a new emphasis, too, on the need to send officers, secretaries and (where appropriate) Unofficial Assistants and agents back to the United Kingdom for training ‘in accordance with the training programme now being drawn up’. While these instructions reflected the growing professionalism of the Service and a necessary explicit integration of its work with official British foreign policy aims, they also inevitably marked increasing bureaucratisation, as ‘targets’ and ‘programmes’ threatened perhaps to erode the buccaneering individuality of the tiny prewar Service.
Instructions issued to Leslie Mitchell, who became head of the Copenhagen station in July 1945, further reflected modern bureaucratic practice by asking him to prepare a three-year plan for the station showing both short- and long-term objectives. In a review of the station’s tasks in July 1948, Mitchell cautiously noted that ‘as far as our major target, the Soviet Union, is concerned, it would be more than optimistic to rate our chances at successful and resident penetration at all high’. Mitchell commented on various methods available for penetration of the USSR: commercial travellers - ‘a failure for secret intelligence’; members of Trade Delegations - ‘of limited interest’; Baltic refugees and deserters - ‘not productive and low-grade’. He maintained that the station’s ‘most successful line’ concerned merchant shipping, and claimed that ‘no Danish ship sails to Soviet ports without this station’s knowledge’. Yet for all Mitchell’s professionalism and clear organisational skills there was still some quite severe criticism in London about the station’s lack of political, military, counter-espionage and scientific product, further demonstrating the difficulties for even the best-run stations to acquire precious intelligence about the Soviet target.
Reflecting the extremely close relationship between SIS and the Norwegians during the war, SIS’s postwar situation in Norway differed slightly from the other Scandinavian countries. The primary focus for the SIS representative, posted to Oslo in June 1945 and head of station from March the following year, was to build on the wartime legacy. In April 1946 the station was enjoined to exploit liaison with the Norwegian intelligence service ‘to the utmost advantage’. Although (as was now the case elsewhere) he was told he ‘should not work against the country in which you are stationed’, this evidently did not rule out keeping a watch on Communist and hostile intelligence activities in Norway, let alone running agents from Norway against other targets. In July 1946 London specifically encouraged Oslo to recruit agents in Norwegian ‘Cultural, Labour and Party Organisations’ which had relations with the USSR, with a view to their being able to visit the Soviet Union in due course and gather intelligence there. ‘Such penetration’, they thought, ‘offers one of the best chances of getting behind the formidable barriers of Russia.’22
Reporting on FOII (the Norwegian intelligence service) in January 1947, the head of station said that its policy, born of the nation’s experience, was ‘Norway for the Norwegians’, and the activities of any potentially hostile power would be the target of its intelligence operations. Since the United Kingdom did not pose a threat to Norwegian sovereignty or security, active co-operation with SIS was natural and extended even to discussions about the joint running of agents. Although in the head of station’s opinion this ‘far exceeds official governmental policy’, he felt that members of the Norwegian government knew of and approved the liaison. By contrast, Colonel Wilhelm Evang, the acting head of FOII, told SIS of his irritation when the Americans were discovered in late 1947 trying to bribe a Norwegian policeman and one of them was expelled. By January 1948 Evang had become increasingly ill-disposed towards the Soviets, who were regularly caught out spying against Norway.
In March 1947 SIS agreed to pay the Norwegians £1,000 a year to help finance the establishment in north Norway of an intercept operation against the USSR, the results of which were found to be ‘most valuable’. Other proposed joint operations included the penetration of the Murmansk region across the Norway-Soviet frontier and the placing of an agent in Spitzbergen to report on Soviet activities in the area. But there were also instructions to pursue other targets independently of the Norwegians. These included placing or recruiting agents in Norwegian merchant ships and in Norwegian firms trading with the Soviet bloc, and in the Norwegian airline service to Poland, as well as targeting the Norwegian Communist Party. The Oslo station was charged with penetrating Soviet and satellite missions in Norway and with recording, collating and periodically reporting information which came to light about local counter-espionage cases. Early in 1949 Norwegian officers travelled to London for detailed discussions about war planning (which also involved United States participation), stay-behind schemes and SIS provision of training and technical support.23