9781906447007Part one of a major two-part history of Britain’s external intelligence community by the acclaimed writer, award-winning journalist and defence correspondent for The Sunday Times, Michael Smith.

This first part of acclaimed author Mick Smith’s epic unauthorised history of Britain’s external intelligence community begins with the creation of the Secret Service Bureau in 1909, charged with controlling intelligence within Britain and overseas, and establishing through spies the strength of the Imperial German army and navy. This naturally came to the fore during World War One. Between the wars the service really established itself, restyling itself the “Secret Intelligence Service”. Under the aegis of the diplomatic service, the SIS expanded its network of European spies in order to counter the threat of Russian Bolshevism. In 1918 an operation to overthrow the Bolshevik government by SIS agents failed badly. With the ascent of the Nazis, the SIS switched its focus to the threat of German aggression, recruiting sources within the German government and admiralty. SIX tells the complete story of the service’s birth and early years, including the tragic, untold tale of what happened to Britain’s extensive networks in Soviet Russia between the wars. It reveals for the first time how the playwright and MI6 agent Harley Granville Barker bribed the Daily News to keep Arthur Ransome in Russia, and the real reason Paul Dukes returned there. It shows development of “tradecraft” and the great personal risk officers and their agents took, far from home and unprotected. In Salonika, for example, Lieutenant Norman Dewhurst realised it was time to leave when he opened his door to find one of his agents hanging dismembered in a sack.

This first part of SIX takes us up to the eve of the conflict, using hundreds of previously unreleased files and interviews with key players to show how one of the world’s most secretive of secret agencies originated and developed into something like the MI6 we know today. The second part, published in Spring 2011, will tell the story from the outbreak of World War Two to the present.

SIX: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, Part 1: Murder and Mayhem 1909-1939, by Michael Smith is available to buy HERE.