UNITED KINGDOM

World War II

British Security Coordination (BSC)

A - J

In 1939, William S. Stephenson traveled to the United States as the envoy of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and established a liaison relationship between British intelligence and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He returned in 1940 to establish the British Security Coordination (BSC) office in New York, under cover of a British Passport Control officer. BSC was SIS' New York station from which the liaison with the FBI and intelligence and counterintelligence operations for North and South America were managed. Stephenson is credited with persuading William J. Donovan of the need for a U.S. intelligence and covert action agency along the lines of the British SIS and Special Operations Executive (SOE). Donovan convinced President Roosevelt to establish, first, the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI) and, later, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). During the war years, Stephenson worked closely with Donovan and the newly established U.S. intelligence apparatus. BSC was disbanded in 1946. O'Toole, Encyclopedia, pp. 439-440.

Boyd, William. "The Secret Persuaders." The Guardian, 19 Aug. 2006. [http://www.guardian.co.uk]

British Security Coordination (BSC) was "one of the largest covert operations in British spying history; a covert operation ... that was run ... in the US,... before Pearl Harbor." As 1940 became 1941, "BSC became a huge secret agency of nationwide news manipulation and black propaganda. Pro-British and anti-German stories were planted in American newspapers and broadcast on American radio stations, and simultaneously a campaign of harassment and denigration was set in motion against those organisations perceived to be pro-Nazi or virulently isolationist."

Brewer, Susan A. To Win the Peace: British Propaganda in the United States during World War II. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Watt, I&NS 14.2, finds this a "clear, competent, workmanlike" book that is "based on thorough research used critically." He compares this work very favorably to Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deceptions (1998).

Conant, Jennet. Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Goulden, Washington Times, 28 Sep. 2008, and Intelligencer 16.2 (Fall 2008), positively gushes over this book and its "story of the somewhat caddish English writer Dahl" who worked with British Security Coordination (BSC). This "truly fascinating book can be read on several levels. It is, first of all, a highly readable primer on propaganda operations, and a strong statement as to why intelligence organizations mount operations on the turf of 'friendly nations.' ... What struck me was the ease with which an unknown 20-ish airman and aspiring writer insinuated himself into the upper ranks of Washington's political and journalistic society."

For Peake, Studies 53.1 (Mar. 2009) and Intelligencer 17.1 (Winter-Spring 2009), there are both historical and other inaccuracies in this book, some "are terminological, others are factual, and all claims are undocumented." There is "[v]ery little" here of intelligence value. In fact, "Dahl was at best only peripherally involved" in espionage.

Conradi, Peter. "Camp X Spy School Gave Fleming Licence to Kill." Sunday Times (London), 13 Feb. 2000. [http://www.the-times.co.uk]

Canadian film-maker Jeremy McCormack has produced a television documentary on Camp X, where British, U.S., and Canadian unconventional warfare training took place from 1939. See also, Hodgson, Inside-Camp X (1999); and Stafford, Camp X (1986).

Deac, Wilfred P. "Amy Elizabeth Thorpe: WWII's Mata Hari." World War II. [http://www.historynet.com/wwii/blamyelizabeththorpe/]

This is a fast and breezy walk-through of some of the espionage sexploits attributed to Amy Elizabeth Thorpe Pack Brousse (BSC's code name "Cynthia") before and during World War II. See Hyde, Cynthia (1965).

Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose. "Scourge of McCarthyism was Red Spy." Telegraph (London), 8 Apr. 1996. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk]

The recently released Venona documents identify "Cedric Belfrage, the British writer who worked for wartime British intelligence, as a Soviet agent in the early 1940s." While Belfrage worked for British Security Coordination (BSC) in New York from 1941 to 1943, he was also "agent UCN/9, a source for a KGB officer named Vasilij Zubilin.... Apparently he was not the only Soviet spy on the staff there. The identification of another agent known as 'Havre' is blacked out in the declassified documents."

Hildreth, Reed C. "Code Name: CYNTHIA." Intelligencer14, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2004): 23-25.

"Cynthia" was Amy Elizabeth Thorpe, an American who spied for the British Security Coordination (BSC) against the Axis powers in the United States. This article summarizes some of the exploits often attributed to Thorpe. Her biographer was H. Montgomery Hyde, Cynthia (1965).

Hodgson, Lynn-Philip. Inside-Camp X. Toronto: Blake Books, 1999.

This SOE training base on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario was used by the British in providing some initial training for OSS secret operatives. Hodgson maintains a Website devoted to Camp X, at http://webhome.idirect.com/~lhodgson/campx.htm. Vintage photographs and excerpts from the book are included. See also, David Stafford, Camp X (1986) and Daniel P. King, "Trip to Camp X," Intelligencer 19.2 (Summer-Fall 2012): 27-30.

Hyde, H. Montgomery. Cynthia. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1965. Cynthia: The Spy Who Changed the Course of the War. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1965.

Hyde, H. Montgomery. The Quiet Canadian: The Secret Service Story of Sir William Stephenson. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1962. Room 3603: The Story of the British Intelligence Center in New York During World War II. New York: Farrar, Straus & Co., 1963. New York: Dell, 1964. [pb] New York: Ballantine, 1977. [pb] London: Constable, 1989.

Hyde, H. Montgomery. Secret Intelligence Agent: British Espionage in America and the Creation of the OSS. London: Constable, 1982. New York: St. Martin's, 1983.

This is an autobiographial account of the author's World War II experiences.

Forward to UK WWII BSC N-Z

Return to UK World War II Table of Contents