It is no doubt because of the tremendous popularity of the James Bond stories that “Her Majesties Secret Service” has become well known. Many covert agencies have developed a tremendous legend and mystic including the CIA and the secret service of the United States. Throughout World War II, these exceptional agencies of spies made a big difference in the outcome of the war by working together.
Cooperation between British, American and other country’s secret service agent operations was vital to combat similar spy operations being carried out by the Axis countries against us.
One of the most effective counter espionage agency that operated during both world wars was the British intelligence agency simply known as MI5. Long before either World War I or World War II were imaginable, the British government created the Secret Service Bureau. The purpose was to empower a well trained agency to resist German espionage that was already troublesome when the agency was created in 1909. But when World War I broke out, the Secret Service Bureau put under the authority of the War Department and it became known as MI5, the “MI” designating the agency as part of military intelligence.
While the formation of MI5 took place long before either World War, the mission of the intelligence agency was a good fit for the role it would play in combating foreign espionage in Great Brittan in World War I and World War II. Under the guidance of Vernon Kell, The agency then known as the Secret Service Bureau, developed sophisticated methods for detecting and capturing foreign spies as well as in uncovering their plans and disabling their ability to cause harm.
These skills and methods would permit the Secret Service Bureau to easily transition into a wartime anti-espionage agency that came to be known as MI5 when the governance over the agency was taken over Sir David Petrie. This highly effective agency of secret agents in World War II quickly demonstrated an ability to arrest and neutralize Axis and Nazi spies that significantly limited the ability of the enemy to conduct internal espionage in England.
The fate of a German spy captured by MI5 was not a pleasant one. The agency was highly effective in extracting valuable information from captured agents which allowed them to extend their reach into the German espionage efforts and foil plans that were being made to harm Great Britain. In the end hundreds if not thousands of enemy agents were executed by MI5 sending a cold message to the enemy that they faced a serious challenge to their ability to spy inside of England in the form of MI5
The significant fear and disruption that MI5 caused in the Nazi espionage community yielded an additional value to the Allied war effort. MI5 interrogators and agency leadership became skilled at “inspiring” many enemy agents to change sides and agree to become spies against the enemy working from within the Nazi organization to pass valuable information to MI5 and to betray agents who suffered a similar fate at the hands of British intelligence. It is not a stretch to recognize the ability of Great Britain to fight the Nazis as effectively as they did and indeed the victory of the allies over the Axis powers were in no smart part due to the work of this outstanding British espionage agency.