History - Milintellhg
Go to content
Second World War:
In the years leading up to the Second World War no effort was put into contingency planning for wartime
The Army was less prepared for this second Great War than it had been for the first.
for the work of Major, later Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templar there would have no intelligence organisation
On 04 September 1939. His work, supported by Captain (Retired) F C Davies MC who trained the
allowed the British Expeditionary Force to deploy to France with 31 Field Security Sections.
Upon this small foundation the Corps eventually grew to 3040 officers and 5930 other ranks.
The Corps was
formally constituted with the consent of King George VI on 15 July 1940, with the formation being notified
on 19 July 1940 in Army Order 112.
The skills of the Corp’s soldiers in languages and interrogation were one again used to extract information
from the Prisoners of war,
and the civilian population of countries liberated by the Allies.
The Field Security
Sections also boasted an Airborne Section with 89FSS being formed in June 1942 and Lance Corporal Loker
being the first cap-badged member to jump from a Whitley bomber over Manchester Ringway Airfield (on
the site of the modern Manchester Airport).
89 Military Intelligence Section still serves with 16 Air Assault
Brigade, the modern successors of General Urquart’s 1 Airborne Division.
Other members of the Corps were to learn to parachute at Ringway before being dropped as Special
Operations Executive (SOE) agents in
and the Far East.
SOE was tasked by Winston Churchill to ‘Set
Europe ablaze’ through acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. The SOE units also collected
The exploits of SOE were portrayed in the official 1946 film ’Now It Can Be Told’ that showed
the training and deployment of two agents,
one of whom was Harry Ree, an Intelligence Corps Captain. Ree,
a Mancunian with an accent so strong that he had to operate in the Alace
in order to disguise his
rather unique French accent, successfully put out of operation a Peugeot factory producing tank parts.
Attempts to flatten the factory by air raids had failed - Ree succeeded by having a quiet word with the owner
who obligingly sabotaged his own plant.
Later shot crossing from France to Switzerland. Ree was awarded
Corps members were also involved in the formation of the Long Range Desert Patrol Group and the Special
Air Service (SAS).
Lt Col Peter Clayton,
Intelligence Corps, being one of the four original founders.
The Photographic Interpretation wing of the Corps was re-established because General, later Field Marshal,
Sir Alan Brooke did not believe that the RAF had the skills required to support ground operations.
Photographic Interpreters (now known as Imagery Analysts - IAs) were to give imagery support to all the
major operations of the war,
and many minor ones.
Imagery was analysed and supplied in support of the
successful Bruneval raid by the Commandos in 1942 when key German radar equipment
Similarly support was given to the Dambusters raid on the Mohne Dams.
It was Army Photographic
interpreters that identified the V1 rocket sites at Peenemunde and in the Pas de Calais in April 1943, and
operation bodyline team
identified the V2 rocket sites in 1944.
Most famously the Intelligence
Corps Photographic Interpreters identified the German Panzer units resting in the Arnhem area just prior
the launch of
Operation Market Garden.
Signals Intelligence developed beyond all recognition during the war compared to the simple tactical
interception and direction finding of the First World War.
The importance of the teams working to crack the
Enigma Code at Bletchley Park is now well known - the Corps contributed greatly to the
work at the locations,
plus the outstations that collected the raw information.
One such collection site is now the home of the
Corps - Chicksands in Bedfordshire.
About 40% of the army personnel at Bletchley were cap badged
An Enigma machine can be viewed at the Museum of Military Intelligence.
At the tactical level, box bodied vehicles, known as ‘Gin Palaces’, operated as mobile signals interception
units providing support to operations at Corps and Divisional level.
The Terrence Cuneo painting of Captain
Makower and Sgt Swian illustrates the dangers faced by the Corps’ soldiers operating, then as now, close to
Once again representatives of the Corps were ‘in at the kill’ at the war’s end and soon formed a key element
of the various armies of occupation in both Europe and the Far East.
Colonel Ewart was Montgomery’s
interpreter when the Germans surrendered at Luneburg Heath.
In January 1945 the Corps’ establishment
was some 3040 officers and 5930 soldiers with 1553 attached officers.
The Intelligence Corps played a
prominent part in rounding up war criminals, and members were directly involved in the arrest of Heinrich
Himmler at Bremervoerde.
General Site Map
Click here for
Back to content
Back to main menu