Churchill and the Secret Service, by David Stafford, 386 pages, Overlook Press $35.00.Stafford documents the history and the results of Churchill's fascination with intelligence, and shows how this made a crucial contribution to victory in World War II. The book was reviewed by Martin Sieff in the Washington Times.
Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, was impressed by the tactical and strategic value of SIGINT - based on the code breaking miracles by the wizards in the Admiralty's Room 40 during World War I. After the war Churchill was intrigued by clandestine espionage activities, including Sidney Reilly, the British spy involved in operations against the revolutionary Soviet regime in the early 1920's. During WWII Churchill was dazzled by ULTRA and demanded to see raw transcripts so he could " touch and feel the enemy, and act as his own intelligence officer." He also rejuvenated MI-5 and created the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the British special operations group.
Martin Sieff concludes his review by stating that "in our current post-Cold War world, the importance of secret intelligence and code breaking is widely ignored and derided. Along with its other many virtues, Mr. Stafford's splendid book is a sober warning this should not be so." This book appears to be a valuable addition to intelligence history. (WT 4 Feb p. A13) (RJ)
Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #13-98, 6 April 1998
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