SIX: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service by Michael Smith - out now

  • July 19, 2010 09:39
  • Katy Scholes

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.



  • July 14, 2010 12:25
  • Katy Scholes


In the run-up to the general election of May 2010 it was universally acknowledged that whatever the outcome, this was a vote which would start a fresh chapter in British political history, one to rival 1945, 1979 and 1997. But no one anticipated just how fresh that chapter would be. Twists and turns made it an election like no other.

Nick Clegg went into the first of the leaders’ television debates derided as ‘The Other One’ – and emerged as a major player, with ‘I agree with Nick’ the campaign’s unlikely catchphrase. Mrs Gillian Duffy went out to buy a loaf of bread in Rochdale – and happened to encounter Gordon Brown, with disastrous consequences for the Labour cause. David Cameron launched the Tories’ poster campaign with a blemish-free photograph of himself – and graffiti artists turned it into the most mocked image of the election.

But none of the soap opera of the weeks leading up to 6th May could match the drama of the days following the election’s inconclusive result: the positioning, the posturing, the negotiating and the bargaining which eventually saw David Cameron moving into 10 Downing Street as prime minister in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Political theatre had been brought to a fresh level – so who better to provide a chronicle of this riveting electoral saga than Nicholas Jones, who as BBC industrial and then political correspondent covered general elections for over thirty years?

To order your copy click here


Nicholas Jones and Campaign 2010: The Making of the Prime Minister, at Gants Hill Library

  • July 14, 2010 10:02
  • Katy Scholes

Former BBC political correspondent, Nicholas Jones, will be discussing his new book, Campaign 2010: The Making of the Prime Minister at Gants Hill Library, on the evening of Tuesday 20th July, from 7.30pm.

The venue is Gants Hill, 490 Cranbrook Road, IG2 6LA. Nick's talk will be followed by a Q&A, and copies of the book will be on sale on the night. Entry is £2.50. Book ahead on 02087089206.


Author Richard Cullen discusses his experiences writing Rasputin...

  • July 12, 2010 11:03
  • Katy Scholes

To me the most exciting part of researching and writing this book was analysing the witness statements from the Russian State Archives (GARF). Previously, authors had not in any meaningful way examined or analysed these statements. The statements of the two police officers who were on duty close to the Yusupov Palace on the night of the murder are particularly revealing. In fact, one of the officers in his statement destroys much of what Yusupov and Purishkevich, two of the main players, say about the murder. Understanding who was where and when on that fateful night and then linking this to the times that various events were meant to have occurred proves the conspiracy to pervert the course of justice committed by Yusupov and Purishkevich.

The forensics are fascinating and challenging but once you accept, which cannot now be denied by anyone, that Rasputin was shot through the forehead at contact range by a large calibre weapon, you start to see that the previous accepted version was just a tissue of lies. Of particular importance to re-investigating the case are such important details as whether it was snowing or not, whether the River Nevka was tidal and the length of the day in St Petersburg on the date of the murder. These past overlooked details were obtained easily from various organisations.

The way the book has been received by many shows that this is a ‘cold case’ review of what previously had been a grave miscarriage of the Russian justice system. As for the British SIS involvement the evidence is all there in the book including the damning Captain Alley/Major Scale ‘Dark Forces’ letter.

Richard Cullen.

Rasputin: The role of the British Secret Service in his torture and murder is out now and available to buy here.


Rasputin: The role of the British Secret Service in his torture and murder - OUT NOW

  • July 09, 2010 15:47
  • Katy Scholes

9781906447076The murder of Grigori Rasputin, mystic, healer and advisor to the Tsar and Tsaritsa, Nicholas and Alexandra, remains one of the most intriguing crimes of the last century. Rasputin was lured to the St Petersburg palace of Prince Felix Yusupov, son of the richest man in Russia, where he was allegedly poisoned by a group of leading Russian nobles, including Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. Legend has it that when Rasputin survived the poisoning, and was therefore shot a number of times before being thrown alive into the freezing Neva River.

The official truth behind the killing is that Rasputin was murdered to remove his influence over the Tsaritsa. However, in 2004 former Metropolitan Police Commander Richard Cullen helped reveal to the world that British secret services were involved in the plot to kill Rasputin, with a young British secret service officer called Oswald Rayner even firing the fatal shot. He has uncovered a story of sexual tensions, torture and murder in which MI6 was up to its neck.

An historical whodunnit, Cullen, together with forensic scientists, uses witness testimonies, contemporary police and official reports, clothing and photographs, and forensically examines the crime scene itself to uncover the truth. In this extraordinary book, an experienced former Scotland Yard detective rips apart the myths surrounding one of the most fascinating murder cases in history and proves the involvement of British spooks in the protracted torture and murder of one of the major figures of the twentieth century.

To buy Rasputin..., click here.