The Quest for C: Mansfield Cumming and the Founding of the Secret Service

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9780006530251: The Quest for C: Mansfield Cumming and the Founding of the Secret Service

A fascinating and unique history of the launch of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service through the unusual life of its founder, Mansfield Cumming.

• Sir Mansfield Cumming, the founder of the British Secret Service and the original ‘C’, has until now been a shadowy figure. For this authorised biography, the Secret Intelligence Service has released to Alan Judd, Cumming’s voluminous diaries, which have never been seen outside the Service and will be put back into storage in perpetuity when Judd has used them.
• The result is likely to be the most sensational biography of the season, and the definitive account of how MI5 and MI6 – the models for all subsequent secret services all over the world – were set up.
• Cumming signed himself ‘C’, was referred to as such in Whitehall and always used green ink, traditions maintained to this day. His life not only makes riveting reading but casts fascinating light on the development of the Secret Service and its influence on the twentieth century.

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Review:

The British security and intelligence services have for decades been respected as the best in the world. The Quest for C is the story of the origins of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Security Service (MI5) in their immediate precursor, the Secret Service Bureau. The head of MI6 is known as "C"--not for Chief as often thought, but for Mansfield Cumming (1859-- 1923), its first head, and this book is as much a biography of Cumming as an account of the early years of MI6, the two being inextricably linked. MI6 staff today still tend to use green ink, an affectation of their first boss. Other strange habits have passed into MI6 folklore; after hacking off his own leg with a penknife after a road crash in which his only son was killed, Cumming would get around the corridors of Whitehall on a scooter--and would startle visitors by stabbing his(artificial) leg with the points of compass dividers. Cumming had to deal with bureaucratic and financial problems, and of course with political deniability; he had to find unorthodox ways for his Service to perform its job efficiently. According to Judd, "The image of MI6 affairs being arranged behind the polished doors of London clubs, beloved of spy books and films was, from the earliest days, always at least partly true." Cumming's connections with the establishment are sometimes unexpected; it was his widow who provided the money for the setting up of Gordonstoun School in the 1930s. Though probably not a book for the general reader, for anyone interested in the history of Britain's intelligence and security services, this detailed biography of the first "C" will be of immense interest. - - David VBarrett

From the Back Cover:

Written with exclusive access to Whitehall papers and secret diaries, 'The Quest for C' is a unique inside history of the early years of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) through the life of its founder and original 'C', Sir Mansfield Cumming. A retired naval officer, he was fifty when invited to form the secret service. At first he had no staff and subsidised operations from his own pocket, mounting them himself – with disguise and swordstick. But from these unlikely beginnings grew a sophisticated organisation that ran extensive spy networks behind German lines during the First World War, later intervening in Soviet Russia with telling effect. Cumming's legacy included not only an ethos that survives within the secret service to this day but the green ink and famous 'C' signature still used by his successors. Packed with adventure and espionage, 'The Quest for C' brings both the man and the most secret of institutions powerfully to life.

"Judd writes so readably. This well written and meticulous biography brings to life one of the most elusive and intriguing personalities of modern British history".
CHRISTOPHER ANDREW, 'Sunday Telegraph'

"With its subtle editorialising, quiet humour and eminent good sense, this is a text that future historians will pore over"
ANDREW LYCETT, 'Literary Review'

"A splendidly judicial survey: this is an important contribution to modern military history".
M.R.D. FOOT, 'Daily Telegraph'

"Judd describes a character who might have stepped from the pages of John Buchan, a larger-than-life figure who liked to travel abroad with a swordstick and whose firm belief was that the perfect spy ''should be a gentleman. Absolutely honest with considerable tact and at the same time, force of character. It is only the honest man who can defeat the ruffian''. This is likely to remain the definitive account".
ROBERT McCRUM, 'Observer'

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