At Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Hardback)
The Chiefs of Britain’s Intelligence Agency, MI6
As featured in The Daily Telegraph - 05.04.16
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In August 1909, a kindly, balding, figure named Mansfield Smith-Cumming was summoned to London by Admiral Alexander Bethell, Director of Naval Intelligence. He was to assume the inaugural position of Chief – more famously known as ‘C’ – of what has become one of the world’s leading intelligence agencies, the British Secret Intelligence Service.
Whilst the organisation has developed in the 100 years since its inception, the position of C, currently held by Alex Younger, has in many respects remained unchanged. This remarkable book tells the story of that role, from Smith-Cumming to Younger, and each of the other fourteen Cs in between, all of whom still get reports headed ‘CX’ i.e. Cumming Exclusively.
Each biography is set against the intriguing political backdrop of the period, from the days leading up to the First World War, through the Nazi regime in Germany, the Cold War battle with Soviet Russia, to the present terrorist threats. The result is an absorbing and highly entertaining portrait of the mysterious world of global espionage.
‘A revelatory and refreshing work with significant new information about the fascinating history of MI6. West is a skilled and entertaining writer.’
Tim Newark, Military History
This work is of historical importance for any one interested in the area of history of British Foreign Policy. The subject being the preeminent spy's in the British establishment. The selection and appointment process used to decide who would run this secret organisation are explained.Amazon Reviewer
During the reading of the chapters a question arose to "why would the British government allow this to be published?" Having read other books about MI6 and MI5. I was not disappointed as I approached the end the question I had about why allow this information become public was addressed though indirectly. Like the responses these organistions often give to direct questions. You need to read between the lines.
This book is a very good adjunct to help the reader to understand the unspoken about side of foreign policy that often differs from the public statements expressed by the British Government. As well as the success's of MI6 against the Soviet's more numerous success's against them.
This book explains who within British Embassy's world wide were the agents who worked often against their host country's governments interests and how.
Remains a potentially valuable history of the undercover of British intelligence and political history.Ripperologist, August 2016 - Paul Begg
This is an updated reprint of a book of the same title published in October 2006. As to be expected from such a prolific and knowledgeable author, the book is packed full of facts and tales of espionage... the book is a valuable contribution to awareness of the activities of the secret state, fascinating and absorbing.Robert Bartlett
At Her Majesty’s Secret Service.Richard Gough
Nigel West brings together an interesting profile of the fourteen men, known as ‘C’, who in succession, led the world’s most secret service. A mysterious organisation, alluded to in John Buchan’s fictional 1915 classic ‘The 39 Steps’. Under funded, Great Britain’s intelligence gathering organisation operated in a world of spies and double cross, smoke and mirrors and fed to the public by Ian Flemings fictional character James Bond.
The author, using each Chief’s profile, teases the reader with reference to long gone dramas and leaves the reader wanting more. Those of a certain age will remember these dramas but not the intrigue and man hours, that brought them to a successful conclusion. In some cases, all the effort was unsuccessful, as in the case of Sidney Reilly in the 1920’s and Albania in the mid-fifties when the agents became the victims of counter-intelligence scams, captured, tortured and died sometimes within hours of capture.
Spying, or intelligence gathering as some would prefer to call it, still requires agents on the ground, dead letter drops, bribes and seduction. As the current ‘C’, John Sawers discovered when he took office in 2009, the people on the ground are part of a larger spying operation, which includes computer hackers, signal intelligence, satellites circling the globe and drones hovering unseen near their targets. Collectively GCHQ.
Ian Fleming would have had a wonderful time!
As one would expect from Nigel West this well researched book is supported by a large bibliography, notes and references and global lists of SIS stations.
As featured in.The Daily Telegraph 5/4/16