Alan Judd

Alan Judd’s latest spy novel, ‘Queen & Country’, is published by Simon&Schuster.

Could you become a spy?

Why spy? Why do people become spies, what are their motives, their justifications, and how do they perceive what they are doing? Could any of us do it? Are we all potential spies? Short answer: yes. Long answer: depends on circumstances. The Sunday Times ran a story about Abdi (a pseudonym), who was recruited in

Behind the Five Eyes intelligence alliance

In February 1941 four US officers were landed from a British warship at Sheerness, bundled into vehicles and driven to Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, a large redbrick house amid wartime huts. They were greeted at midnight by the head of Bletchley with sherry, whisky being in short supply. They carried with them a secret device called

The delicate business of monitoring the monarchy

This very readable account of relations between the British intelligence services and the Crown does more than it says on the tin. Although subtitled ‘Spying and the Crown, from Victoria to Diana’, it quite properly begins with Queen Elizabeth I and the intelligence network masterminded by Francis Walsingham, whom MI6 regard as their historical progenitor.

The Pearl Harbor fiasco need never have happened

It is sometimes said that intelligence failures are often failures of assessment rather than collection. This is especially so when the intelligence is unwelcome or unfashionable. MI6’s first report of prewar Germany’s secret U-boat building programme was withdrawn from circulation at the request of the Foreign Office, reluctant to alarm Whitehall’s appeasers. Action Likely in

Nordic noir

Anyone mildly interested in the second world war probably knows two things about our wartime alliance with Norway, following its invasion by Germany. One is the great Christmas tree that appears in Trafalgar Square every year, a gift from the Norwegian government in recognition of that alliance. The other is the daring raid to sabotage

Betrayal in Berlin – a small but important part of the Cold War story

The Berlin Tunnel was an Anglo-American eavesdropping operation mounted against Russian-controlled East Berlin in 1955–56.  It was a technical and engineering triumph which yielded a vast hoard of intelligence and, crucially, guaranteed early warning of any surprise Russian attack (as was mooted by the Russian military). Yet it was betrayed to the Russians by the

Disputes over Putin

These two refreshingly concise books address the same question from different angles: how should we deal with Russia? Mark Galeotti focuses on Vladimir Putin himself, his background, aims, tactics and strategy (if any).  Andrew Monaghan takes a wider approach, analysing Russia’s strengths and weaknesses, its self-image, its perceptions and misperceptions of us, ditto ours of

Could they have tried harder?

Awareness of German opposition to Hitler is usually limited to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s attempt to blow up the wretched man on 20 July 1944. Hitler was at a briefing in his Wolf’s Lair, a secret forested redoubt, when Stauffenberg entered the room with his briefcase bomb (containing British plastic explosive), placing it beneath the

Fraud and forgery

This is a well-written, scrupulously researched and argued account of an enduring mystery that neatly illustrates the haphazard interactions of politics, bureaucracy and history. In 1924 Grigori Zinoviev was head of the Communist International, the propaganda arm of the Soviet regime. A letter in his name, dated 15 September and addressed to the Communist Party

The call of the Wren

This book is a thoroughly researched account of the parts played by women in the service of the Royal Navy from the Middle Ages to the present. What it lacks in anecdotes and personal accounts it makes up for in its comprehensive documentation of official attitudes and measures. Women have served in — or, more

Armageddon averted

From 1945 to 1992 the Cold War was the climate. Individual weather events stood out — the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Hungarian and Prague uprisings, the fall of the Berlin wall — but the possibility of nuclear annihilation, the great divide between the broadly capitalist West and the broadly socialist East and

The infamous four

Most books about British traitors feature those who spied for Russia before and during the Cold War, making it easy to forget that we also spawned a few who worked for the Germans in the second world war. This book concerns four of them: John Amery, wastrel son of a Conservative cabinet minister; William Joyce,

Out of hot water

During and after the second world war the Fourteenth Army in Burma became famous as the Forgotten Army, almost as famous for being forgotten as for its great victory. More truly forgotten, however, despite its great strategic achievement in keeping open the lifelines to the eastern empire, is the role of the Royal Navy in

Listening in to the Russians

There are now enough books about Bletchley Park for it to become part of national mythology, along with the Tudors, Trafalgar, Waterloo, the Somme and Winston Churchill. Rather than rehearse the Enigma story, however, Sinclair McKay describes what happened to the organisation that became GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) during the immediate postwar years. This was

A step too far

Captain Robert Nairac was a Grenadier Guards officer serving in Northern Ireland when on 14 May 1977 he was abducted and murdered by the Provisional IRA. Mystery surrounding the circumstances of his abduction and the fact that his body has never been found have provoked a minor literary industry. This must be the most comprehensive

The end of secrecy

Gordon Corera, best known as the security correspondent for BBC News, somehow finds time to write authoritative, well-researched and readable books on intelligence. Here he explores the evolution of computers from what used to be called signals intelligence to their transforming role in today’s intelligence world. The result is an informative, balanced and revealing survey