Death of Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair and appointment of his successor as 'C', Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)

The death from cancer on 4 November 1939 of Sir Hugh Sinclair, the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), provoked considerable discussion about who his successor should be, during a time of great difficulty for SIS. Sinclair himself had written to Sir Alexander Cadogan, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, recommending Colonel Stewart Menzies as his replacement 'in the event of my death.' Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, favoured naval officer Gerard Muirhead-Gould, and expressed dissatisfaction at the service he had been receiving from SIS. In the end Colonel Stewart Menzies was given the job and remained in his post until 1953.  

Nazi Party: leaders' finances including Adolf Hitler

A report allegedly detailing the financial arrangements of leading Nazis, including Hitler, was sent to the Foreign Office but its provenance was questioned. 'C' thought it anti-Nazi propaganda. The report claimed there was no available information on Hitler's foreign holdings and that he had invested all his property in various Nazi undertakings in Germany and Austria. There are also papers concerning a Daily Telegraph report on the finances of Rudolf Hess, who had arrived in the UK in May 1941, alleging that he had a fortune in various foreign banks. 'C', in a letter of 5 June 1941, said that 'unless my officers have been completely deceived by Hess, there is not the slightest probability in the story. He takes not the slightest interest in financial matters, nor does he appear to have any knowledge of business'. Nor, he added, were Hess's clothes 'those of a City magnate.'

Special Operations Executive (SOE) organisation: relations between SOE and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)

Organisation of the Special Operations Executive (SOE)

Relations between SIS and SOE were difficult from the creation of SOE in July 1940 until it was wound up in 1946. SOE had been formed to 'set Europe ablaze' by engaging in sabotage and subversion, whereas SIS's job was to collect secret information, an activity that could be disrupted by SOE tactics. In return, SOE Chief, Sir Frank Nelson, complained in March 1942, that 'the general key word from top to bottom in the SIS organisation has been to delay rather than expedite the natural expansion of SOE'. The two organisations competed for resources and facilities and the friction between them led to 'a deplorable state of affairs', according to one note. During the war various attempts were made to affect a working compromise, and in 1942 each organisation was keen to list its grievances, which are documented in this file. 'C', in particular, was keen that ministerial control over SOE should revert from the Ministry of Economic Warfare to the Foreign Office. The file includes a copy of a report by the Joint Planning Staff dated 15 May 1942 on SOE and SIS coordination.


Miscellaneous intelligence papers 1945 (Part B March-April)

This file contains summary reports for the Foreign Office meetings between the Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Intelligence Committee and includes discussion of the possibility of using German generals, captured as prisoners of war, to try and accelerate the cessation of hostilities. It also includes a series of telegram exchanges between Winston Churchill and US President Roosevelt concerning General Eisenhower's military strategy and in particular Churchill's concern that letting the Russians overrun Berlin would only reinforce the impression that they were 'the overwhelming contributor to our common victory' and could lead to 'formidable difficulties in the future'. Despite their disagreement, Churchill praised Eisenhower's handling of Allied Command and proclaimed the Americans the 'truest friends and comrades that ever fought side by side'.

Madrid: the Claire case

Paul Lewis Claire, a French naval officer who had transferred to the Royal Navy after the fall of France and who subsequently went on to work for SIS, was arrested in July 1941 trying to cross the Spanish border into Vichy France. Faced with the possibility of his treachery, the British ambassador in Spain, Sir Samuel Hoare, had only two options, according to the file: '(1)  capturing or killing him and running the risk of irrevocably compromising the Mission. (2) Letting him get to France with the information that will destroy our present intelligence operation in Spain and do even greater harm elsewhere'. In the end, 'C' advised that Claire could be intercepted and taken to Gibraltar by road. But the plan went awry and Claire died in transit.

Hoare wrote to Anthony Eden a couple of days later that 'it could not have been a worse affair'. He continued: 'with great personal risk to ourselves and still greater to the existence of the mission we have got rid of him - he is dead'. Hoare complained that it was 'not the kind of mission that should be put on my shoulders'.  Eden's apologetic reply expressed his 'deep regret' at having had such an 'unpleasant incident thrust upon you' but praised Hoare's handling of the situation. The file also contains press reports on the incident and how to handle them. 'C' wrote that the 'whole story will be denied' and that a 'policy of silence and complete ignorance' was best. 

Spanish neutrality: release of blocked funds

These files relate to British efforts to prevent Spain from entering the war on the side of the Germans, and to stimulate resistance in Spain should the country be invaded. The British ambassador in Madrid, Sir Samuel Hoare, together with the Naval Attaché Captain Hillgarth, was particularly closely involved in a plot to 'give the Right Wing the sinews of war' and to form an organisation that would be 'pro-Spanish and anti-foreign'. The plot was organised by Juan March, who had been a double agent in the First World War, and who was paid a great deal of money to influence Spanish generals, including Franco's brother Nicholas, against joining the war on the German side. In 1941 the plans were threatened by the freezing of $10 million held in a US bank account that were to be paid to persons in Spain, using March as an intermediary for 'political services rendered'. In October 1941 an appeal was made, endorsed personally by Churchill, to the US Treasury to unfreeze the funds. There was considerable discussion of how much the Americans should be told, particularly since March's activities were not always legal.

USA: liaison with authorities in US and London

In August 1940 Sir William Stephenson, head of British Security Coordination (BSC) in Washington,  forwarded to SIS a scheme for 15 Englishmen to write one article each per month 'presenting the English point of view dramatically and continuously to the thirty million readers of American magazines'. A note from 'C' to Cadogan dated 1 April 1941 stated that according to Stephenson, the 'President has stated categorically to my liaison that he proposes 'to act to bring USA in [to the war] very shortly'. Other reports from Stephenson concern the appointment of William J. 'Wild Bill' Donovan to an intelligence role in June 1941. Stephenson commented: 'You can imagine how relieved I am after three months of battle and jockeying for position at Washington that 'our man' is in a position of such importance to our efforts'. The file also contains a colourful account of US politician Wendell Willkie's tour of the Middle East and Russia. He reportedly made a 'great impression' on Stalin and wielded a sub-machine gun at a drunken party in which he pretended to shoot an apple off someone's head.

War: Soviet Union; account of Stalin/Churchill meeting in Moscow

This file includes a note from SIS on the economic situation in the USSR based on internal Russian radio intercepts; and an exchange of letters in November 1941 between Charles Hardinge, a former Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office and onetime Viceroy of India, and Cadogan on the arguments for and against declaring war on Finland. There is also correspondence on the 'extreme reticence' shown by Soviet Service representatives in London, and a letter from Morton to the Foreign Office of 26 March 1942 speculating about the possibility of using the principle of 'base leasing' as compensation to the Soviet Union for their efforts.

The file also includes a letter from Cadogan to Halifax of 29 August giving an amusing account of Churchill's visit to Moscow and the Middle East. 'Nothing can be imagined more awful than a Kremlin banquet', the letter states, 'unfortunately Winston didn't suffer it gladly'. The account describes finding Churchill in the company of Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov, sitting at a heavily laden table covered with 'foods of all kinds crowned by a sucking [sic] pig and innumerable bottles'. The writer complained that 'what Stalin made me drink seemed pretty savage' and that Churchill, who by this time was 'complaining of a slight headache' seemed wisely to be 'confining himself to a comparatively innocuous effervescent Caucasian red wine'. All were apparently 'merry as a marriage bell' and stayed up until 3am. The account concludes by stating the 'two great men' got on terms and that 'Winston was impressed'.

War: arrest of The Times correspondent Dudley Clarke in Madrid

Police photograph of Dudley Clarke dressed as a woman

Dudley Clarke, working undercover as a correspondent for The Times, had been running a strategic deception section in the Middle East since 1940. In October 1941 he was arrested in Madrid dressed - 'down to a brassiere' - as a woman. He told Spanish police that he was a novelist who wished to study the reactions of men and women in the street but he told the British consul that he was taking feminine garments to a lady in Gibraltar and thought he would try them on 'for a prank'. The police apparently considered it a 'homosexual affair' and released him but the Germans were convinced they were onto a 'first class espionage incident'. Cadogan advised the Embassy in Madrid that they should 'get him to Gibraltar by quickest means'. The file contains two photographs of him, including one in women's dress.


Germany: plots against Hitler

This file contains a summary of the events leading up to the attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944, as given to OSS, the American wartime intelligence agency, by Dr Hans Gisevius. It also contains a report of a conversation between Admiral Canaris, former head of the Abwehr, and Herbert Kappler of the SS in which Kappler describes, among other things, how he interrogated Georg Elser, the man responsible for the attempt on Hitler's life in Munich in 1939, and how he later interrogated Richard Henry Stevens, the SIS officer captured at Venlo. Kappler describes the bomb plot in detail and says Elser was not killed straight away because 'the Fuehrer reserved the right to make the final decision'. The file also includes a summary of the other known plots against Hitler's life.

War: general; assassination priorities for OVERLORD

This file contains discussion about the possibility of the Foreign Office and SIS providing a list of French and Germans who would be priorities for assassination (possibly by SOE) at the time of Operation Overlord. The Foreign Office thought it likely to provoke bloody reprisals, and doubted its effectiveness. Writing to Charles Peake, who was attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) on 16 May 1944, Thomas E. Bromley said: 'If we designate individuals to be liquidated and reprisals are taken by the Germans, we incur a measure of responsibility. Moreover, it is likely that for every successful assassination there will be two or three failures, as past records of these attempts show'. 'C' did not like the idea either, saying that the removal of certain Germans would have little effect on the efficient functioning of 'so widespread and highly organised a machine'. Victor Cavendish-Bentinck (Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee) was opposed 'not out of squeamishness, as there are several people in this world whom I could kill with my own hands with a feeling of pleasure and without that action in any way spoiling my appetite', but because it was 'the type of bright idea which in the end produces a good deal of trouble and does little good'.

There are also a couple of papers regarding a story that Hitler was living in disguise at Perpignan. Though this was thought to be 'quite fantastic', as Duff Cooper put it, 'so was the story of Hess'. 'C' said that reports confirmed Hitler was at his HQ. Cadogan minuted on 21 June 1944: 'I suppose we should bomb Hitler if we could. I would much rather catch him, but I fear that is very unlikely.'