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I am honoured that 'Women in Intelligence' was selected by Waterstones to be one of their 'Best Books of 2023', within the category of Military History.

There are few moments as exhilarating and humbling as seeing your work acknowledged.

At the same time, despite 20 books later, it is still equally strange seeing my own name on the front cover - it is a truly surreal experience and one that many authors I'm sure can relate to.

This recognition by Waterstones is not just a personal triumph for myself; it is a triumph for the countless women whose stories have been hidden in the shadows of history for far too long.

A Best Book of 2023 in Military History

To be listed among the best books of the year in 2023 is a dream come true for any author, and it serves as a powerful testament to the resilience and significance of the stories within 'Women in Intelligence'.

As 'Women in Intelligence' finds its place on the shelves of bookstores across the UK and USA, I am excited about the prospect of more readers discovering the hidden legacy of those written within the pages of the book.

I am also grateful to my publisher Yale, the readers who have already embraced these stories, and to the booksellers and literary communities that continue to champion diverse narratives within military history.

Thank you,

Helen x

In the archives of history, there are tales of remarkable women whose pivotal roles shaped the course of nations, often hidden behind the scenes.

One such captivating narrative unfolds in the realm of British Intelligence during the first half of the twentieth century.

In my latest book 'Women in Intelligence', I delve into the extraordinary and oft-overlooked contributions of women who defied the conventions of their time to become unsung heroes of espionage, resilience, and resourcefulness.

Spies, Networks, and Escape Lines

As the world grappled with the tumultuous events of the twentieth century, women took centre stage in Intelligence operations. Contrary to the stereotype of women playing minor roles, they spearheaded spy networks, orchestrated daring escape lines, parachuted behind enemy lines, and expertly interrogated prisoners. Their stories remain a testament to their courage and ingenuity.

One intriguing example is the Belgian network known as 'La Dame Blanche,' where resourceful women skillfully knitted coded messages into jumpers, cleverly hiding secrets in plain sight. The network was so obscure that a simple search of Google images today yields such few clues to it's existence. These women became the unsuspecting heroes of the clandestine world, using their knitting needles as tools of espionage.

The Unsung Administrators of MI Offices

While some women ventured into the heart of covert operations, others played vital roles in the administrative machinery of British Intelligence. Behind the closed doors of Bletchley Park and Whitehall, these dedicated women were the gears that kept the British war engine running smoothly. Their contributions, though often overshadowed, were nothing short of indispensable.

A Panoramic History

I find myself deeply immersed in the compelling narratives of these remarkable women. Their stories are like hidden gems waiting to be discovered, and it's a privilege to bring them to light.

In the course of my research, I've had the honour of uncovering a rich and diverse tapestry of women's involvement in their respected networks. They weren't just passive observers or minor players in this intricate web of war-winning operation; they were the driving force behind critical missions that shaped the course of both the First and Second World Wars.

Through 'Women in Intelligence,' I aim to do justice to these extraordinary women by placing their stories on record for the very first time. Their contributions may have been hidden in the shadows, but they deserve to stand in the spotlight. It's a chronicle of courage and a testament to the fact that, when called upon, women can rise to the occasion and leave an indelible mark on history.

As I recount these tales of bravery, my hope is that readers will gain a profound appreciation for the exceptional women who played such a pivotal role in the tumultuous years of the twentieth century. Their legacy is an enduring reminder that courage knows no gender, and determination can conquer even the most formidable challenges.

You can purchase the book HERE:

  • Writer's pictureHelen Fry

On the afternoon of Tuesday 17 August 1938, the British Secret Service’s top spy in Europe was arrested by the Gestapo as he tried to flee over the Austrian border to safety. He was Thomas Joseph Kendrick who had already worked for British Intelligence for nearly 30 years. It was the most serious catastrophe to befall the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS / MI6) in its first 30-years of existence.

For decades, speculation has circulated that Thomas Kendrick was betrayed by his friend and colleague Charles Howard Ellis and that Ellis was the double agent who had betrayed him and the whole SIS network. It is something which has never been proven and which Ellis denied.

Ellis later argued that it was a lack of formal intelligence training which had perhaps caused

him to inadvertently give away the SIS network to Berlin-based Russian agents who

(unknown to him) were working for German intelligence.

The allegation against Ellis seems to have first appeared in Pincher Chapman’s book Their

Trade is Treachery. For decades, the allegation was unquestioned and therefore reproduced in

the majority of histories of the British Secret Service ever since.

It is now clear from new research for my biography of Kendrick, Spymaster: The Man who

Saved MI6, that Kendrick was not betrayed by Ellis, but by one of his own double agents,

Karl Tucek. During the time that Tucek worked for Kendrick, he never knew Kendrick’s real name. It led Tucek to refer to Kendrick as ‘the elusive Englishman’.

In March 1938 Kendrick arrived at the Tucek’s apartment for a pre-arranged meeting with the Austrian-born agent, an inventor, who appeared to have great potential for SIS. The meeting was to have far-reaching consequences which even Kendrick did not suspect at the time. Two chapters in my book narrate the dramatic events which led to Kendrick’s arrest and interrogation by the Gestapo, and the shadowy figures to followed him on the streets of Vienna to finally ensnare him as he tried to escape.

Ellis made his own valuable contribution to SIS / MI6 and one which has yet to be fully

appreciated and narrated. Working closely with Kendrick’s networks of spies and agents,

Ellis had been penetrating White Russian circles in Vienna since 1926. Later he moved to

Switzerland and in the 1930s worked in industrial espionage as part of Claude Dansey’s Z

Organisation. Dansey went on to become the deputy head of MI6.

During the Second World War, Ellis worked for and Canadian steel businessman, William Stephenson, head of the British Security Co-ordination in New York (part of British intelligence operations in the USA). Later, Stewart Menzies (the third head of MI6) appointed Ellis to the post of Controller of the Far-East.

The case of Charles Howard Ellis underlines the importance of ongoing research by historians to establish the facts and try to uncover the truth. It means that Ellis has now been exonerated. This is terribly important to honour his own legacy and contribution to MI6.

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