FO 1093, Foreign Office: Permanent Under-Secretary's Department: Registered and Unregistered Papers, 1873-1985
The records in this series consist of a collection of registered and unregistered papers originating in the Office of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State (PUS) of the Foreign Office and the Permanent Under-Secretary's Department (PUSD) relating to liaison with the intelligence services. These records are principally concerned with intelligence-related matters and with foreign and defense policy issues, where information was collected and received by covert means. Although PUSD as a formal department did not exist until 1949, earlier files were inherited by the department and the name has been used to cover the liaison function throughout this period. The files in this series cover a broad spectrum of interest and are roughly divided into four main subject areas concerned with organizational structure, operational matters, signals intelligence, and defectors.
The early material in this collection contains records relating to Rudolf Hess during his time as a prisoner of war. The Hess papers (FO 1093/1-21) are principally records of conversations between Hess and various British officials after his flight to Scotland on May 10, 1941, and translations of personal letters to and from his family and friends spanning the period 1941-1945. During this time, Hess was held at the Prisoner of War Reception Station in Abergavenny in Wales. Also included in the series are papers relating to the activities of the Duke of Windsor during the Second World War. The Windsor papers (FO 1093/22-24) deal with official concern at the Duke's alleged pro-Nazi sympathies during the Second World War, and in particular, his activities as governor of the Bahamas.
Following the declaration of war with Germany in September 1939, the purpose and function of the intelligence services was reviewed. The task was given to Lord Hankey, the former Cabinet Secretary whose report can be found in FO 1093/193. Foremost among his recommendations was the creation of a new organization to be solely responsible for sabotage and subversion. The outcome was the Special Operations Executive (SOE) which was tasked with setting Europe ablaze. Established in July 1940, the role and functions of SOE are contained in a confidential report written by Sir Gladwyn Jebb, a senior official at the Foreign Office, which can be found in FO 1093/163. The report conceded that at present SOE was not in a position to conduct major sabotage operations in Western Europe and that future policy should be focused on contacting local political organizations “to lay the foundations of underground resistance to the Axis powers.” Annexed to the report is a note on the division of responsibilities between the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and SOE, and a memorandum on subversive actions against Germany and Italy.
The relationship between SOE and SIS (MI6) was often antagonistic, with both competing for resources and facilities. This rivalry is apparent in a 1942 report written by Brigadier Colin Gubbins, Head of Special Operations, who complains that “SOE is more sinned against than sinning” and that the provocations and obstacles placed in its way were “in many instances almost unbearable.” By 1943, with the tide of war turning in Britain’s favor, attention shifted to post-war planning. The discussions are contained in a series of seven files assembled from a variety of sources, the most important of which is the seminal 1944 report on SIS written by Sir Nevile Bland, British Ambassador to the Netherlands. The report, which can be found in FO 1093/196, was completed in October 1944 and formed the rationale for SIS’s post-war role. The report reaffirmed the validity of SIS and upheld the convention that its operations should always remain under the direction of the Foreign Secretary. It also sanctioned the view that no other secret organization should be allowed to operate overseas, except under the control of SIS, effectively sealing the fate of SOE, later disbanded in January 1946. Bland concluded his report by reaffirming the main function of SIS: “to obtain by covert means intelligence which is impossible for or undesirable for His Majesty’s Government to seek by overt means.”
In addition to organizational matters, the PUSD collection contains a rich source of material relating to operational intelligence. One such example are three files (FO 1093/200-202) relating to the Venlo incident, when two British intelligence officers were lured into a German trap on the Dutch border in November 1939. A further file (FO 1093/228) includes material on the various peace proposals which were received early in the war through German channels containing suggestions that Hitler might be supplanted or that Germany might be willing to negotiate a separate peace. Other files relate to British efforts to persuade Spain, led by General Franco, to remain neutral, and to stimulate resistance should the country be invaded. The British Ambassador in Madrid, Sir Samuel Hoare, was closely involved in the subterfuge, which involved secret payments to Spanish army officers, and the creation of an anti-German patriotic front whose watchword was “Spain for the Spaniards.”
The series also contains a number of files which illuminate the post-war operations undertaken by SIS One file relates to Operation Embarrass, the codename covering plans intended to curtail illegal immigration into Palestine (FO 1093/420); another relates to Operation Valuable (FO 1093/452-453), the failed attempt to destabilize Albania. There are further papers on intelligence gathering in post-independence India and the problems encountered in sanctioning SIS operations in friendly countries. The issue came to a head in 1948 when Clement Attlee, the Labour Prime Minister, terminated all “covert activities in India” and insisted that C’s organization in the Indian subcontinent be disbanded. Tracking the fate of former Nazi officials also fell within the remit of SIS’s post-war responsibilities. In 1948, SIS received reports that Martin Bormann, Hitler’s Private Secretary, was still alive and living in South America. These reports are found in file FO 1093/448. The reports were dismissed by SIS as “totally unsubstantiated” and that finding Bormann, even if he were alive, was “of very low priority.”
Signals intelligence, including the code-breaking work undertaken at Bletchley Park, figures prominently in the collection. The majority of wartime files deal with arrangements for establishing wireless communications with diplomatic posts overseas and the interception of enemy communications. One of the files (FO 1093/311) contains letters written from the Foreign Office to the General Post Office (GPO) requesting the tapping of phone lines belonging to foreign missions. The output was not always effective, with one letter complaining that “the listening-in machinery was so clumsily operated that it was quite impossible for either party to hear a word.” There are also papers about cypher security, and the interception and decoding of German and Japanese traffic to discover, for example, movements of enemy shipping. Decrypted material was circulated in special files known as ‘Blue Jackets’ or simply “BJs”. An example can be found in FO 1093/309, which contains a number of reports prepared by Bletchley Park and circulated to senior officials. Post-war material includes plans for GCHQ to move from Eastcote to Cheltenham, the work of the Radio Security Service, and the handling of fortnightly summaries of Soviet intentions – codenamed “Crystal Gazer” – prepared by the Russia Committee.
The final section of the collection covers espionage and defectors and includes four files on the 'CORBY case' (FO 1093/538-541). These files describe the defection of Igor Gouzenko in September 1945. Gouzenko provided details of an extensive Soviet spying operation in North America which led to the arrest of the British atomic scientist, Dr. Alan Nunn May. Other material covers the defection from Berlin of Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Tokaev (Codename EXCISE) and Lieutenant Colonel Jason Tasoev (FO 1093/548-550). Also included are reports on a number of eccentric individuals. One such was Dudley Clarke, ‘The Times’ correspondent in Madrid who, in 1941, was arrested in the street dressed as a woman. He informed the British consul that he was delivering a bundle of women’s clothing to a Spanish lady in Gibraltar and thought he would try them on “for a prank”. This explanation raised eyebrows in Whitehall with questions asked as to why the clothes were a perfect fit. The Germans were convinced it was an espionage incident but were unable to pursue the matter as Clarke, with the aid of the British embassy, was spirited across the border to Gibraltar. The file (FO 1093/252) contains two photographs of him, including one in women’s dress.
Dr. Stephen Twigge, Head of Modern Collections, The National Archives, UK