Spymaster: The Secret Life of Kendrick

The spies in history who can say from their graves, the information I supplied to my masters, for better or worse, altered the history of our planet,can be counted on the fingers of one hand.’ Frederick Forsyth

Wednesday 17th August 1938: The chauffeur-driven car sped towards the German border near Freilassing in Austria. Ahead, an unexpected checkpoint forced the driver to stop. Sitting in the back, Captain Thomas Kendrick glanced at his watch. It was still early. He was ordered out of the car and promptly arrested. The Gestapo had their man… Kendrick’s arrest caused panic in Whitehall. He was one of MI6’s most trusted agents. Working out of Vienna under the guise of the Passport Officer and saving up to two hundred Jews a day, he headed up MI6’s East European operations as well as spying on Mussolini and Italian naval movements.  He soon entered the dangerous world of German double agents and spies. In the shadows, the Abwehr, Hitler’s Secret Service, was on his trail. Far more worrying for MI6 was the suspicion that Kendrick may have been betrayed by a double agent. The whole network of agents working out of British Passport Offices in many European capitals was at risk. After Kendrick’s “Russian-style” interrogation at Gestapo headquarters in Vienna, he was unceremoniously thrown out of Austria and returned to Britain.  With another war looming, Kendrick disappeared from public view but not from the ranks of the British Secret Service… he re-emerged to become MI6’s spymaster in chief against Nazi Germany.

During WW2, Kendrick headed up a highly top secret unit that bugged the conversations of over 10,000 German Prisoners-of-war, including 59 German Generals at Trent Park. In 1942 he moved the headquarters to Latimer House in Buckinghamshire, coded “No 1. Distribution Centre” which masked as a supply depot. It was in fact a prisoner-of-war camp where, from the M Room, his staff of ‘secret listeners’ bugged the conversations of captured U-boat crew, Luftwaffe pilots and army personnel in cells constructed in the cellars of the house. The intelligence which they gleaned for the duration of the war had a huge impact on the outcome of the war, as told in Helen’s recently published book The M Room: Secret Listeners who Bugged the Nazis. The book has seen a whirlwind of media and TV coverage on Channel 4 and ITV, as well as Radio Times.

Had it not been for the information obtained at these centres, it could have been London and not Hiroshima which was devastated by the first atomic bomb,’ St Clair Grondona

Kendrick was one of only a few officers to serve Britain in intelligence in three wars: the Boer War, First World War and Second World War. As this book shows, history can now judge him as one of the few loyal agents who did not betray secrets to the Russians or Germans. During WW2 his top-secret work protected Britain’s shores from the greatest threat since the Spanish Armada of 1588. Out of the shadows of MI6 secrecy, Kendrick’s story emerges for the very first time.

Spymaster was shortlisted for the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Award (2015)


Spymaster: the Secret Life of Kendrick honours the life of an extraordinary gentleman who has been largely forgotten and yet to receive recogniton. A cultured, gregarious man with a good sense of humour and gifted pianist, he was outgoing, yet retained a sense of the true British military officer of the old school. Kendrick’s legacy in saving thousands of Jews from the Holocaust and a lifetime dedicated to the British Secret Service has yet to be fully documented.

Major article in the Daily Mail Online: www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2729778/How-unsung-hero-heart-Britains-eavesdropping-centres-Second-World-War-helped-saved-thousands-lives.html

‘An exhaustively-researched book on a man whose life cried out for an autobiography… an extremely valuable contribution to our understanding of a secret world.’ The Guardian

‘A gripping, story well told.‘ Journal of the Association of Jewish Refugees

‘This fascinating story is all that one has come to expect of any book by Helen; well researched and above all interesting. One has to wonder what she will dig up next.‘ Journal of the Intelligence Corps

‘The author has a very easy style and the reference to Kim Philby and Edith Tudor-Hart are intriguing. This book should be read in conjunction with the author’s book The M Room. Overall a fascinating and enjoyable book.‘ ARRSE (Army Rumour Service)

Available on Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/Spymaster-The-Secret-Life-Kendrick/dp/1500418838

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