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Authors: Andrew Cook

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Andrew Cook worked for many years as a foreign affairs and defence specialist, and the contacts he made enabled him to navigate and gain access to classified intelligence services archives. He is only the fifth historian to be given special permission under the 1992 ‘Waldegrave Initiative' by the Cabinet Office to examine closed MI5 documents that will never be released. He is author of critically acclaimed
Ace of Spies: The True Story of Sidney Reilly, To Kill Rasputin: The Life and Death of Grigori Rasputin
Prince Eddy: The King Britain Never Had,
all published by Tempus. He was the historical consultant for the recent BBC
documentary on Rasputin, and was presenter and historical consultant for the Channel 4 documentary about the life of Prince Albert Victor. He is a regular contributor on espionage history to
The Guardian, The Times
History Today.
He lives in Bedfordshire.


First published in 2006

The History Press
The Mill, Brimscombe Port
Stroud, Gloucestershire,
5 2

This ebook edition first published in 2011

All rights reserved
© Andrew Cook, 2004, 2006, 2011

The right of Andrew Cook to be identified as the Author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights, and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

978 0 7524 6961 4
978 0 7524 6962 1

Original typesetting by The History Press


I am greatly indebted to all those who have assisted me at the various stages of this project.

In particular, my thanks go to the Melville family, both in Ireland and New Zealand, and to HM Government. As a result of an approach to the Cabinet Office, the Government agreed to provide me with a briefing based on the records of William Melville's service with the War Office for the purpose of this book. I am equally indebted to Lindsay Clutterbuck, Steve Earl, Tom Oakley and John Ross of the London Metropolitan Police for their assistance with New Scotland Yard records and archival material.

I am also grateful to the following individuals who have helped me at various stages of my research: Michel Ameuw (France), Dr Michael Attias (UK), Jordan Auslander (USA), Dmitri Belanovskii (Russia), Marc Bernstein (USA), Jackie and Teresa Cahill (Kenmare), Dan Downing
(Sneem Parish News),
John Fitzpatrick (Sneem), Michael Gasson (BP Archive), David Humphries (PRO), Rajesh Kalyan (UK), Carol Leadenham (Hoover Institution, Stanford, California), Ken Linge (DABS Forensic Ltd), Aisling Lockhart (Trinity College, Dublin), Dr Sylvia Moehle (Germany), Danny Moriarty (Kenmare), Mary Morrigan (Dublin), Father Patrick Murphy (Parish Priest, Sneem), Stephen Parker (UK), Elizabeth Parkes (New Zealand), Joanna Quill (National Army Museum), Caroline Quirke (Assistant Registrar, Killarney), Rachel Sampson (BP Archive), Laura Scannell (Bar Council Archive), Graham Salt (UK) and Mark Tami MP.

I would like to thank those who have previously written on this and related subject matters for speaking or corresponding with me – Professor Christopher Andrew (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge), Gill Bennett (Chief Foreign Office Historian), Christy Campbell, Dr Nicholas Hiley (University of Kent), Alan Judd, Nick McCarty and Tom Wood.

The help and co-operation of the families of those who played a role in Melville's story has been greatly appreciated, as has the assistance of Francis & Francis (private and commercial investigators) who helped in tracing them.

A special thank you also goes to Caroline Beach, Sophie Bradshaw, Jo De Vries, Elaine Enstone, Monica Finch, Ingrid Lock, Carolyn Jardine, Patrick Ooi, Janie New, Hannah Renier, Bob Sheth and Chris Williamson for their hard work at various stages of this project. Also to RP Translate Ltd for their sterling work in translating source material from Russian, German and French into English and to my publisher Jonathan Reeve for his support and advice.


Shortly after her retirement as Director-General of the Security Service (MI5), Dame Stella Rimington paid tribute to the founding fathers of the Service and publicly acknowledged the role of William Melville, the man ‘who came to be known as M'. At the start of the twentieth century, when London fogs – pea-soupers – blanketed the city, it was Melville who, from a small secret office in London's Victoria Street, determinedly lobbied the Government to create an effective counter-intelligence service. Today, MI5, the organisation he strove to create, is a household name and one of the world's leading intelligence agencies.

Melville talked to kings and murderers, con men and wily diplomats; he had a way of getting what he wanted from them all. In his day he was a master of detection. He had a devious mind and a bleakly humorous view of humanity, and because he understood the motive of the criminal or the desperate, he was able to pioneer methods and tactics that still work – today, methods improved by advanced technology.

Melville was the son of a publican in rural Ireland. Guileful and single-minded, he came to London when it was the hub of the Empire and worked his way through the ranks of the Metropolitan Police. As the most famous detective in England and head of Scotland Yard's Special Branch, he retired at the start of the new century and disappeared from public view. The enduring achievement of his life lay ahead: to transfer the ethos and practices of detection to the War Office, its spies and agents all over the world.

He died in 1918, and eighty years passed before his true significance as MI5's first spymaster became apparent with the release of early Secret Service documents to the Public Record Office. Very little further documentation about Melville and his career has come into the public domain since. To piece together an accurate picture of his extraordinary life, I have drawn on as many primary sources as possible. Melville's family and the descendants of those who played key roles in his story have been tracked down and interviewed; they have been invaluable in illuminating a life's work that pitted Melville against Jack the Ripper, Irish terrorists, anarchist assassins and German spy rings.

Now, with the help of recently declassified records, family accounts and documents that still await official release, the full story of his incredible career can finally be told for the first time.

Sir Robert Anderson
Assistant Commissioner in charge of CID, Metropolitan Police 1888–1901. Engaged by Home Office on secret Irish work 1868; ran entrapment operations against Irish Nationalists.
Arthur Balfour
Nephew of Lord Salisbury, Conservative MP 1874–22. Prime Minister (1902–05), Foreign Secretary 1916–19).
Sir Edward Bradford
Chief Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, from 1890 following the resignation of James Monro.
William Burrell
Divisional Detective Inspector, CID, Metropolitan Police, from 1888. Special Staff, MI5, from 1914.
Vladimir Burtsev
Russian Revolutionary journalist and émigré. Arrested and tried for incitement to murder the Tsar in 1898.
Hector Bywater
Agent, Secret Service Bureau, from 1910.
Auguste Coulon
French anarchist and police informer. Suspected
agent provocateur
in 1891 Walsall bomb case.
Sir Henry Curtis-Bennett
Barrister; defence counsel at German espionage trials in First World War. Agent, MI5, from 1916.
Sir Mansfield Cumming
Head of Foreign Department, Secret Service Bureau, from 1909. Director of Secret Intelligence-Service (MI6) until 1923.
Major James Edmonds
Head of Section H, Intelligence Department, War Office, from outbreak of Boer War. Head of special section, Directorate of Military Operation. Led initiative resulting in creation of Secret Service Bureau, October 1909.
Herbert Fitch
Inspector, Special Branch. Resigned from Metropolitan Police January 1924.
Major Nicholas Gosselin
Deputy to Edward Jenkinson, Assistant Under-Secretary, Police and Crime in Ireland, from 1884.
Arthur Hailstone
Inspector, Special Branch, Metropolitan Police, from 1891. Secret Service Bureau from 1911.
Sir William Harcourt
Anti-imperialist Liberal MP 1868– 1904. Home Secretary (1880–85).
Sir Edward Henry
Assistant Commissioner in charge of the CID, Metropolitan Police (May 1901–March 1903). Chief Commissioner (1903–18).
Edward Jenkinson
Pro-Home Ruler; Assistant Under-Secretary, police and crime in Ireland, from 1882. Recruited own spy ring and adopted covert role at Home Office.
Sir Vernon Kell
German intelligence analyst, War Office from 1902. Head of Home Department, Secret Service Bureau, from 1909. Director General, MI5, until 1940.
William Knox D'Arcy
Solicitor who purchased concession to prospect for oil in Persia 1901. Secured backing of British Government and Burmah Oil 1905, struck oil 1908 to form company now known as BP.
Chf. Inspector John Littlechild
Inspector, Special Irish Branch. Head of Special Branch (1887–1903).
Henry Dale Long
Agent, ‘W. Morgan Investigation Bureau', from 1903. Secret Service Bureau from 1909.
Sir Melville MacNaghten
Assistant Commissioner in charge of CID, 1903–13.
Sir Henry Matthews
Home Secretary 1886–90. Attracted severe criticism over failure to apprehend Jack the Ripper.
Det. Sergeant Patrick McIntyre
Founder member, Special Irish Branch, 1882. Head of Special Branch; reduced to ranks after disciplinary action.
General F. F. Millen
Double agent. Member, Fenian Brotherhood and Clan-na-Gael; took part in unsuccessful Irish coup 1865. Named by James Monro as instigator of 1887 Jubilee Plot.
James Monro
Assistant Commissioner in charge of CID, Metropolitan Police, 1884–88. Chief Commissioner until 1890.
Joseph Moroney
Alias: Joseph Melville. Member, Clan-na-Gael. Involved in 1887 Jubilee Plot.
Charles Parnell
Irish Nationalist MP 1875–90; Irish Leader, House of Commons 1878. Political career ruined by divorce case.
Jacob Peters
Latvian revolutionary arrested for murder after Houndsditch shootings. member, Bolshevik Party; Deputy Chairman, Cheka, from 1917.
Patrick Quinn
Founder member, Special Irish Branch. Superintendent and Head of Special Branch 1903–18.
Sidney Reilly
Born Sigmund Rosenblum. Special Branch informer from 1896. Agent, Secret Intelligence Service (1918–22); executed by Russian secret police 1925.
Gustav Steinhauer
Chief of German Secret Service; established spy network in Britain before First World War. Bodyguard to Kaiser, worked with Melville, to thwart assassination attempt on Wilhelm II.
Richard Tinsley
Agent, Secret Service Bureau; provided intelligence on suspected German spies heading for Britain via Belgium.
Sir James Trotter
Head of Secret Section 13, War Office. Recruited Melville 1903 to take responsibility for agent recruitment and co-ordination.
Howard Vincent
Founder and first Head of Criminal Investigation Department, Metropolitan Police. Assistant Commissioner in charge of CID 1878–84.
Sir Charles Warren
Chief Commissioner, Metropolitan Police 1886–88; resigned in wake of police failure to apprehend ‘Jack the Ripper'.
Adolphus ‘Dolly' Williamson
First Head of Detective Department and Head of Special Irish Branch 1882–87. Deputy to James Monro from 1887.
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