Secret Intelligence Service

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The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), more commonly known as MI6 (originally Military Intelligence Section 6), or the Secret Service or simply Six, is the United Kingdom's external intelligence agency. SIS is responsible for the United Kingdom's espionage activities overseas, as opposed to the Security Service (MI5) which is charged with internal security within the UK. The Republic of Ireland also falls within MI5's remit. It was founded in October 1909 (along with MI5) as the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau.

Acting as the employer of Commander James Bond, the Secret Intelligence Service is first introduced in Ian Fleming's 1953 debut novel Casino Royale, referred to simply as the "Secret Service", and appeared in almost every subsequent story in the James Bond franchise. Fleming's SIS typically operates under the cover-name "Universal Exports" and is comprised of subsections such as the 00 section and their research and development division, Q Branch.


Real-world background

Main article: History and development of the real-world SIS
Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith Cumming

Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith Cumming.

The real-world Secret Intelligence Service was derived from the Secret Service Bureau, which was founded in 1909.[1] The Bureau was a joint initiative of the Admiralty and the War Office to control secret intelligence operations in the UK and overseas, particularly concentrating on the activities of the Imperial German Government. The bureau was initially split into naval and army sections which, during the First World War in 1916, underwent administrative changes so that the foreign section became the Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 6 (MI6), the name by which it is frequently known in popular culture today. Its first director was Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith Cumming. He typically signed correspondence with his initial C in green ink. This usage evolved as a code name, and has been adhered to by all subsequent directors of SIS when signing documents to retain anonymity.[1][2][3] The service's performance during the First World War was mixed, because it was unable to establish a network in Germany itself. Most of its results came from military and commercial intelligence collected through networks in neutral countries, occupied territories, and Russia.[4]

In the immediate post-war years and throughout most of the 1920s, the SIS was focused on Communism, in particular, Russian Bolshevism. At this time, the organisation was known in Whitehall by a variety of titles including the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Secret Service, MI1(c), the Special Intelligence Service and even C's organisation. Around 1920, it began increasingly to be referred to as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), a title that it has continued to use to the present day and which was enshrined in statute in the Intelligence Services Act 1994.[1] With the emergence of Nazi Germany as a threat, in the early 1930s attention was shifted in that direction.[5] During the Second World War the human intelligence work of the service was overshadowed by several other initiatives run by the Government Code and Cypher School and MI5. Then-C, Stewart Menzies insisted on wartime control of codebreaking, giving him immense power and influence, which he used judiciously. [6] Despite difficulties the service nevertheless conducted substantial and successful operations in both occupied Europe and in the Middle East and Far East where it operated under the cover name Interservice Liaison Department (ISLD).[7]

Following the war and despite earlier Soviet penetration by operatives such as Kim Philby, SIS began to recover as a result of improved vetting and security, and a series of successful penetrations. From 1958, SIS had three moles in the Polish UB.[8] SIS operations against the USSR continued to gain pace through the remainder of the Cold War, arguably peaking with the recruitment in the 1970s of Oleg Gordievsky.[9]The real scale and impact of SIS activities during the second half of the Cold War remains unknown, however, because the bulk of their most successful targeting operations against Soviet officials were the result of "Third Country" operations recruiting Soviet sources travelling abroad in Asia and Africa.[10] The end of the Cold War led to a reshuffle of existing priorities; with the Soviet Bloc ceasing to swallow the lion's share. Instead, functional rather than geographical intelligence requirements came to the fore such as counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and serious crime. During the transition, then-C Sir Colin McColl embraced a new, albeit limited, policy of openness towards the press and public; part and parcel with a wider 'open government initiative' developed from 1993 by the government of John Major. The existence of the SIS was not officially acknowledged until 1994.[11] In late 2010, the head of the SIS delivered what he said was the first public address by a serving chief of the agency in its then 101-year history.[12]

SIS in literature

The Secret Intelligence Service is first introduced in Ian Fleming's 1953 debut novel Casino Royale, referred to simply as the "Secret Service". The service is said to operate out of an "office building near Regent’s Park" and is headed by Sir Miles Messervy, who like George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, goes by the initial M. The service is further fleshed out in the 1955 novel Moonraker, in which it is mentioned that the "Universal Export Co." is the cover for the Secret Service's offices in London. Along with other fictional businesses "Radio Tests Ltd.", "Delaney Bros. (1940) Ltd" and the "Omnium Corporation" they occupy the "big, grey building near Regents Park".[13]

SIS in films

Octopussy Mi6

Whitehall in Octopussy

Fleming's British Secret Service had its silver screen debut in EON Productions' 1962 film adaption of Dr. No. Notably, there is some discrepancy between the names given for James Bond's employer. When contact with the Secret Service's Jamaican station abruptly ceases, the Foreman of signals in their London radio room contacts "MI6 radio security control". However, when Bond's superior M gives his title, he describes himself as "Head of MI7". Strangely, the dialogue referring to "MI7" appears to have been the result of later dubbing, as the speaker's lips clearly say "MI6". In addition, the closed-captioning on the DVD release still says MI6. [14] It is unclear whether the radio control station featured at the beginning of Dr. No is intended to represent the Secret Service's headquarters, however by 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service its general location would be Whitehall, London.
Mi6 The world is not enough

SIS Building in The World is Not Enough.

From the 1995 film GoldenEye onward, the agency is consistently identified as "MI6" and is located for the most-part at the recently constructed real-world headquarters of SIS, the SIS Building at Vauxhall Cross in London. In 1999's The World Is Not Enough, its base of operations would temporarily move to a Scottish castle following a terrorist attack on the SIS Building orchestrated by the anarchist Renard. The Secret Service's designation and headquarters would carry over from the Pierce Brosnan era into the 2006 reboot of the James Bond film franchise (despite a peculiar temporary relocation in Quantum of Solace), until the building's destruction at the hands of Raoul Silva in Skyfall (2012) and its demolition in Spectre (2015). Following the events of Skyfall the bulk of MI6 (including M's office) would relocate to Whitehall, with their quartermaster choosing to operate from an underground workshop, accessible via a river-side tunnel beside the Millbank Millennium Pier.

Sections, branches and departments

Main articles: The 00 Agents

Main articles: Q Branch

MI6 staff and personnel

Characters Role(s) In literature? In Eon films?
M Head of SIS/MI6
Bill Tanner Chief of Staff
Charles Robinson Deputy Chief of Staff x
Q Quartermaster
R Deputy Quartermaster x
Miss Moneypenny Secretary to M
Penelope Smallbone Apprentice secretary x
Mary Goodnight 00-Section secretary
James Bond 00 operative

Tiago Rodriguez

Intelligence operative x

René Mathis

Intelligence operative x

Dr. Molly Warmflash

Medical doctor x

Craig Mitchell

M's bodyguard x

Strawberry Fields

MI6 agent x

Dikko Henderson

Intelligence operative

Sebastian Ronson

Intelligence operative x


Intelligence operative x

Paula Caplan

Intelligence operative x

Kimberley Jones

Intelligence operative x


Intelligence operative x


Intelligence operative x


Intelligence operative x


Assistant to M x


Intelligence operative x


Laboratory technician x


Psychological evaluator x

Mlle. La Porte

Intelligence operative x

Shaun Campbell

Intelligence operative

Godfrey Tibbett

Intelligence operative x

Jim Fanning

Art specialist x

Lieutenant Hip

Intelligence operative x

Captain Nash

Intelligence operative


Laboratory technician x


Intelligence operative, Station T x


Assistant to M x

Green Four

Butler, Blayden House x

Luigi Ferrara

Intelligence operative x


Q's personal assistant x


Intelligence operative


Sheik Hosein

Intelligence informant

Doctor Hall

Psychologist x


Ballistics expert

Ben Daheer

Undercover Agent

Andrew Surry


MI6 Operative

Miranda Frost

Double Agent

Kim Park

M's bodyguard

Paul Inglis

Undercover Agent

Naz Husein

Steve Benelisha





Rosika Miklos


MI6's operative


MI6 Agent

Percy Osborne-Smith

Deputy Senior Director of Field Operations x

Ophelia Maidenstone

MI6 liason  x

Nicole Hunter

MI6's contact in Monaco x x

Miss Nagai

Assistant Quartermaster x x


Field operative x x


x x

MI6 intelligence sections

Main articles: MI6 intelligence sections

Throughout both the films and novels, various MI6 intelligence "sections" are named with a letter. The letter is usually the first name of the country or city in which it is located. They are:
Section Locations Story Novel or film Personnel
A United States Live and Let Die Novel Head of section: Dexter
A Australia Novel Head of section:
A Austria Novel Head of section:
B West Germany (Berlin) The Living Daylights Short story Head of section: Sender
C Canada Film Head of section:
CR Czech Republic Casino Royale (2006) Film Head of section: Dryden
D Germany (Deutschland) Novel Head of section:
F Finland Novel Head of section:
F France Novel Head of section:
G Greece Colonel Sun Novel Head of section: Stuart Thomas (formerly 005)
H Finland (Helsinki) Novel Head of section:
H Hong Kong Novel Head of section:
I India Octopussy Film Head of section: Sadruddin
J Jamaica Casino Royale Novel Head of section: Charles da Silva
J Jamaica Dr. No Both Head of section: John Strangways

Secretary: Mary Trueblood

J Jamaica The Man with the Golden Gun Novel Head of section: Commander Ross

Secretary: Mary Goodnight

J Japan Novel/Comic strip Run from the UK
M Munich Novel Head of section:
N Cyprus (Nicosia) The Facts of Death Novel Head of section:
P Paris Novel Head of section:
S Soviet Union Colonel Sun Novel Head of section:
S Rio de Janeiro (?!) Comic strip Head of section:
T Turkey From Russia with Love Film Head of section: Darko Kerim (Kerim Bey)
V Vienna The Living Daylights Film Head of section: Saunders
VH Rio de Janeiro (?!) Moonraker Film Head of section: Manuela?
W West Germany Novel Head of section:
WB West Berlin The Living Daylights Short story Captain Paul Sender
Y Zagreb From Russia with Love Film Head of section:
Z Zurich Novel Head of section:



See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 SIS Or MI6. What's in a Name?. SIS website. Retrieved on 11 July 2008.
  2. MI6 boss Sir John Scarlett still signs letters in green ink, Matthew Moore, The Daily Telegraph, 27 July 2009
  3. The usage inspired Ian Fleming in his James Bond novels to use the denominator M for the head of service.
  4. MI6 (British Secret Intelligence Service), K. Lee Lerner and Hudson Knight in Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. Accessed:2007-09-02.
  5. "C": The Secret Life of Sir Stewart Graham Menzies, Spymaster to Winston Churchill, Anthony Cave Brown, Collier, 1989
  6. Winterbotham, F. W. (1974). The Ultra Secret. New York: Harper & Row, pp.154, 191. ISBN 0-06-014678-8. 
  7. World War II: The Underground War. Library of Congress, 711. Retrieved on 1 July 2012. 
  8. Shaun McCormack (2003). Inside Britain's MI6: Military Intelligence 6. The Rosen Publishing Group, 28. ISBN 0-8239-3812-3. 
  9. "What every good spy should know", The Guardian, 28 April 2000. Retrieved on 1 July 2012. 
  10. "The Soviets: Coups and Killings in Kabul", Time, 22 November 1982. Retrieved on 1 July 2012. 
  11. Whitehead, Jennifer (13 October 2005). MI6 to boost recruitment prospects with launch of first website. Brand Republic. Retrieved on 10 July 2010.
  12. Burns, John F. et al. "Defending Secrecy, British Spy Chief Goes Public,". The New York Times, 28 October 2010.
  13. (2012) Moonraker. Random House, p.16. 
  14. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) records the fact twice on this page, as a technical and a continuity fault.

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