UNITED KINGDOM

Memoirs

World War II

M - Z

 

Masterman, John Cecil. On the Chariot Wheel. London: Oxford University Press, 1975.

O'Halpin, Eunan. "The Liddell Diaries and British Intelligence History." Intelligence and National Security 20, no. 4 (Dec. 2005): 670-686.

This essay opens with a strong criticism of Nigel West's editing of the first published volume of the diaries [Nigel West, ed., The Guy Liddell Diaries -- 1939-1945, 2 vols. (2005)]. That is followed by the author's assessment of the diaries based on reading the original manuscript. He concludes that "Liddell's diaries add a great deal not only to our knowledge of MI5 but of wartime intelligence generally.... One of the virtues of the Liddell diaries is that he wrote constantly in the near present, so that he captured not only what was decided but often the alternatives considered at the time, some of which were promptly forgotten and never made it into institutional memory."

Strong, Kenneth W. D. [Maj.-Gen. Sir]. Intelligence at the Top: The Recollections of an Intelligence Officer. London: Cassell, 1968. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969.

According to Pforzheimer, "General Strong ... served as G-2 for General Eisenhower during World War II" and held important positions in British military intelligence in the post-war years. This book relates (with great discretion) the general's "experiences during his intelligence career, his views of the role of intelligence in government, and important insights into the profession." There is no discussion of the use of Ultra material.

Constantinides notes that this is "a mainly autobiographical work that looks at the nature and role of military intelligence rather than intelligence as a whole (except for the final chapter)."

In a biographical sketch, Kenneth Campbell, "General Eisenhower's J-2: Major General Kenneth Strong, British Army Intelligence," American Intelligence Journal 17, no. 3/4 (1997), 81-83, finds several factors behind General Strong's success as Eisenhower's J-2: "his long-term assignment to intelligence, his exceptional dedication to educating himself professionally, his loyalty to his commander, and his talents for working in an international joint command context."

West, Nigel [Rupert Allason], ed. The Guy Liddell Diaries -- 1939-1945: MI5's Director of Counter-Espionage in World War II. 2 vols. London: Routledge, 2005.

From the publisher: "WALLFLOWERS is the codename given to one of the Security Service's most treasured possessions, the daily journal dictated from August 1939 to June 1945 by MI5's Director of Counter Espionage, Guy Liddell, to his secretary.... The document was considered so highly classified that it was retained in the safe of successive Directors-General, and special permission was required to read it." Peake, Studies 49.4 (2005), finds that this "is a unique slice of counterintelligence history valuable to historian, student, and espionage aficionado alike."

Writing about his reading of the diaries, Eunan O'Halpin, "The Liddell Diaries and British Intelligence History," Intelligence and National Security 20, no. 4 (Dec. 2005): 670-686, rips West's editing of the first volume: "West does not adequately set out the principles on which he selected material from the very much larger body of text in the original volumes.... [A]nd there is generally no way of distinguishing the editor's interpolations from the original text.... [A] pattern of unmarked interpolation and gratuitous rephrasing ... runs through the published edition."

Wharton-Tigar, Edward, with A.J. Wilson. Burning Bright: The Autobiography of Edward Wharton-Tigar. Worcester Park: Metal Bulletin Books, 1987.

Whitwell, John [Pseud. for Leslie Nicholson]. British Agent. London: Kimber, 1966. London: Frank Cass, 1997.

Clark comment: This is Nicholson's memoir of service with MI6/SIS from 1929 to 1945. He headed the SIS station in Prague 1930-1934, and in Riga until the Soviet occupation in August 1940. Nicholson's wartime service included the handling of Middle East and Balkan operations.

Constantinides suggests that Nicholson "has relatively little to tell,... but there are some good lessons on poor practices by intelligence services, including his own." On the other hand, Wark, I&NS 11.4/625, calls British Agent "the best memoir available of the British secret service during the 1930s." (Wark wrote an introduction to the 1997 edition.) For Salmon, I&NS 13.4, Nicholson tells his story in a manner that is "readable, entertaining and genuinely informative.... Nicholson provides much colourful material and many good anecdotes, but he is particularly informative on the banal detail of everyday life as a spy."

Winterbotham, Frederick W.

1. The Ultra Secret. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. The Ultra Secret: The Inside Story of Operation Ultra, Bletchley Park and Enigma. London: Orion, 2000. [pb]

Clark comment: The Ultra Secret is important in the history of intelligence literature because it was the first popular account of Ultra, written by a participant. Winterbotham was the special security officer in SIS who established the system of dissemination and control of the Ultra material.

However, Pforzheimer, IJI&C 4.2, suggests that the book "must be read with some caution, because of [Winterbotham's] self-aggrandizement, because his aging memory occasionally betrays him and because he had no access for more than 25 years prior to the publication of his book to the British Ultra decryptions he discusses therein."

To Tordella, Studies 19.3 (Fall 1975), Winterbotham's recollections "are at best incomplete even if quite accurate in places," making the book "a prolific source of misinformation." The author "reveal[s] the fact of analytic operations against the German ENIGMA while hopelessly confusing the extent of the success and the fact that other types of machines and hand systems were also involved." The Ultra Secret "is inaccurate in detail, and although it resembles the truth in outline, much of it is purely imaginary."

Constantinides notes that our current understanding of Ultra shows many things to be wrong with Winterbotham's account. Basically, the work "has been superseded by subsequent works,... that deal with technical, cryptologic, and operational aspects of Ultra in a more complete and more accurate way."

For a range of contemporaneous reviews, see: Constantine Fitzgibbon, "'The Ultra Secret': Enigma in the War," Encounter 44 (Mar. 1975), 81-85; David Hunt, "Breakthrough at Bletchley Park," The Times Literary Supplement, 13 Apr. 1974, 1425 (an exchange of views between Winterbotham and Hunt is carried in The Times Literary Supplement, 25 Jun. 1976, 852, and 9 Jul. 1976, 783); David Kahn, "ENIGMA Unwrapped: The Ultra Secret," New York Times Book Review, 29 Dec. 1974, 5; Curtis Prendergast, "Ne Plus Ultra," Time, 9 Dec. 1974, 103-104; and Roger J. Spiller, "Assessing Ultra," Military Review 59 (Aug. 1979), 13-23 (Sexton terms the latter a "valuable essay that is well worth reading").

2. The Ultra Spy: An Autobiography. London: Macmillan 1989. London: Papermac, 1991. [pb]

Surveillant 1.5 calls this a "firsthand account of how the British decoded German communications..., by one of the leaders of this operation." For McGinnis, Cryptolog, Spring 1995, The Ultra Secret and The Ultra Spy provide "a very personal first hand story of how ENIGMA was handled by the British during the war. They also give an insight concerning the effectiveness of the decrypted material" in pursuing the war. The Ultra Secret "is the more interesting of the two.... I suggest you read it and forget about the second."

Bennett. I&NS 6.1, is bothered by the author's failure to take into account "anything published since the appearance of The Ultra Secret in 1974." By not doing so, he has failed to "correct[] his many errors." The book is "inaccurate and misleading, and most of it has been said by the same author before."

Woodhouse, Christopher Montague. Something Ventured. London: Grenada, 1982.

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