Tuesday 7 December 2021 with Dr Helen Fry – Spymaster: The Man Who Saved MI6
This talk was not recorded at the request of the speaker.
Thomas Joseph Kendrick was one of the most senior spymasters of the British Secret Service in the 20th century. From the shadows of a clandestine world, he tracked Communist agents across Europe in the 1920s and Nazi spies in the 1930s from his headquarters in Vienna. The head of MI6 placed him at the heart of espionage in Vienna as the British passport officer, but this was a cover for his true role in running spy networks into Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Italy and Nazi Germany.
After Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938, the courageous spymaster embarked on a humanitarian mission to save Austria’s Jews. He issued fake visas and papers for those who did not qualify for emigration, saving up to 200 Jews a day – in an extraordinary legacy for which he has yet to be fully recognised. He is credited with saving over 10,000 Austrian Jews.
Dubbed ‘the elusive Englishman’, his real identity eluded the Hitler’s Secret Service (the Abwehr) until his betrayal by a double agent in the summer of 1938. Kendrick faced ‘Soviet-style interrogation’ from the Gestapo, before being expelled for spying. He returned to London and disappeared from the public eye… but behind the scenes in the Second World War he headed one of the most important intelligence operations of the war that shortened the war and saved thousands of lives. At the heart of his wartime operation were German-Jewish refugee “secret listeners” who eavesdropped on prisoners’ conversations and Hitler’s Generals in captivity. The spymaster’s work saved MI6 from a number of intelligence disasters that threatened its very existence and the survival of Britain.
Historian Dr Helen Fry has written numerous books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. Her latest book is called: Spymaster: The Man who Saved MI6. She has written over 25 books – including The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII; The London Cage about a secret interrogation centre in WWII; and MI9: A history of the British Secret Service for escape and evasion in World War Two. Helen has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, including David Jason’s Secret Service (Channel 4), Spying on Hitler’s Army (Channel 4) and Home Front Heroes (BBC1). She is deputy chair and a trustee of Trent Park Museum Trust; and an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence opening in 2023, and President of the Friends of the National Archives.
Tuesday 27 July 2021 with Daniel Larsen – Plotting for Peace: American Peacemakers and British Codebreakers, 1914-1917
Our Social Media Coordiantor Matt Welsh interviewed Dan before his talk to the Friends. Please click here to see a transcript of the pre-talk interview. Please click here to see a video recording of the talk.
Early in the First World War, Britain began systematically breaking American codes and reading the most secret American communications. Yet for a century, this crucial intelligence dimension has been all but completely ignored. Rather than being used to help manipulate the Americans as one might imagine, British political leaders weaponised this intelligence in their fights against each other–and this great secret was nearly betrayed to the Americans in the process. This talk shares exciting, newly published findings showing how this intelligence was misused within a grave battle within the British leadership over whether to allow the Americans to pursue a negotiated settlement to end the war in 1916.
Daniel Larsen holds a fixed-term College Lectureship in History at Trinity College, Cambridge. Previously within the University of Cambridge he held a Junior Research Fellowship (Trinity College), a fixed-term University Lectureship in International Relations (Department of Politics and International Studies), and completed his PhD (Christ’s College). He is originally from Omaha, Nebraska, and his main area of research is British and American foreign policy and intelligence in the early twentieth century.
Tuesday 6 April 2021 with Dr Helen Fry – MI9: The Secret Service for Escape and Evasion
This talk was not recorded at the request of the speaker.
On Tuesday 6th April 2021, our President, Dr Helen Fry spoke to the members of FTNA about her latest book: MI9: The Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War II. Copies are available from the bookshop at TNA with a members’ discount and Helen is able to sign a bookplate if you would like to have one.
When Allied fighters were trapped behind enemy lines during WWII, one branch of military intelligence helped them escape: it was called MI9. The organization set up clandestine escape routes that zig-zagged across Nazi-occupied Europe, enabling soldiers and airmen to make their way back to Britain. Secret agents and resistance fighters risked their lives and those of their families to hide the men. Central to MI9’s success were figures such as Airey Neave – the first British prisoner to successfully escape from Colditz. Helen’s talk sheds light on escape and evasion with the previously untold stories behind the establishment of MI9 which was headquartered at Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. She reveals for the first time that not only did MI9 save thousands of Allied lives, it contributed to a massive intelligence gathering operation that impacted on the Allies’ ability to turn the tide of the war.
Historian Dr Helen Fry has written numerous books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. Her latest book is MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII – the first history of MI9 for 40 years. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily Mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War (2019). She has written over 25 books – including The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. Helen has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, including David Jason’s Secret Service (Channel 4), Spying on Hitler’s Army (Channel 4) and Home Front Heroes (BBC1). Helen is an Ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence and President of the Friends of the National Archives.