Perhaps inevitably, in an organization relying on imagination and subterfuge, the ranks of MI5 included more than a fair share of eccentrics and fantasists. Among the most notable of these was one Maxwell Knight, whose agents successfully penetrated both Fascist and Communist networks in London. He was also a passionate naturalist who went on to become “Uncle Max,” a much loved children’s broadcaster on the BBC.
Knight could often be seen taking his pet bear, Bessie, for walks around London. He published the definitive book on how to keep a domesticated gorilla. He also wrote a delightful internal MI5 memo, “On the Subject of Sex, in connection with using women as agents.” This declares: “It is difficult to imagine anything more terrifying than for an officer to become landed with a woman agent who suffers from an overdose of Sex.” (Knight consistently capitalizes “Sex,” of which he was plainly terrified.)
Saturday, January 30, 2010
"On the Subject of Sex"
At the NYTBR, Ben Macintyre reviews Christopher Andrew's history of MI5: