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Review for MI5: British Security Service Operations 1909-1945

Author/Director : Nigel West

Format : Book

This book unravels many of the myths and mystery, some created by MI5 itself, which surround Britain’s secret counter-espionage organization. Given the nature of the beast there is great difficulty in getting to the truth even seventy years late. But in Nigel West’s book, a product of three years of painstaking research, we have as much of the story as we are ever likely to get. The period covered is from its creation in 1904 up to 1945.The whole book is about 240 pages including extensive notes, an index, a number of charts and a few rather special photographs which are fully annotated.
As for the content there are quite a lot of explanations about the structure of the organization and who sat at which desk which is much less interesting for the general reader than what they did. Although, in the main, what they did was not all dash and glory but cross referencing card indexes and careful plodding detective work. Pervading the whole set up was a kind of amateur professionalism that got the job done very successfully. I really enjoyed reading of the care and cunning of some very good brains and also being a little surprised at how much effort had to go into dealing with ‘the enemy’ within the justice system. Even the worst offenders appeared to get a fair trial although ‘in camera’.
The only section I was less than enamoured with was in parts of the introduction where the author criticizes previous attempts to tell the MI5 story.
This is a most readable book which we recommend to all levels of interest.

Published by : Frontline Books, 2019
ISBN : 978 1 52675 570 4

Review last updated : 2019-12-13 20:33:55

See also : other "General Military or Reference" reviews