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3.0 out of 5 stars
MI5 In The Great War
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on 4 March 2015
This is both an interesting and an uninteresting read at the same time. Though I read this through I think I would recommend it is more a dip into book rather than a straight read. Then there is the question of copy editing. Why the contradiction in my title?

The interesting thing is reading all the techniques MI5 had to counter the Germans and how the Germans would for example introduce different inks for secret writing or who they sent spies into GB. The sheer work that MI5 and its supporting organisations, like the Police and the GPO, had to do to for example identify how messages were being sent and how spies got into GB.

Much of the book is repetitive in its description of how spies were caught and the techniques used to identify and catch them. It makes one realise that this sheer detailed work is what is needed to catch spies. My dilemma is that once I had got part the way through I found it hard to concentrate because the methods and techniques used did not change sufficiently and the way the cases of the various spies was presented I found hard to read. This failure on my part maybe because of the style the reports were written and perhaps the time it was originally produced. One conclusion on reading the book makes one realise what MI5 must currently have to do in its work.

The copy editing is slapdash. I do not to read that one spy at this time was born in 1987. The occasional sentences make no sense in one instance I wondered if the transcriber used an audio package which gave a phonetic spelling of a word not the word itself. Single alpha characters and duplication of words which I doubt would not have been in an original government document. I find modern history books have more copy errors than I think they used to have. It is because of this that I give such a low mark, otherwise it would be higher.
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on 13 August 2014
Based upon the MI5 Top Secret post war review of its Great War operations this is a racy read. Indeed it is more like a collection of spy thrillers than an official document and lucidly supports the saying that fact is stranger than fiction. Contemporary in style it is certainly lively and clearly exposes the efforts the Germans went to in order to spy in the UK and the British industry in preventing them. There are two striking parallels with 2014. First, the similarity with the procedures involved in prevention of terrorism, including the role of many financial institutions and secondly, the responsibility of the Director of Public Prosecutions to support due legal process.

Two observations though. First, there are a surprising number of typos in the text, which may have course been in the original documents but this should have been noted. Secondly, Appendix I contains one glaring error of commission by stating that Carl Hans Lody committed suicide in November 1914 when he was shot in the Tower of London on 6 November, and one omission, by not including Anton Kupferle who committed suicide in Brixton whilst on trial; there may be others that will come to light. In summary though, if you are a spy buff or a Great War student, this book should be on your shelf
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on 10 June 2015
The publicity for this book says "recently released" but there is nothing here that wasn't released after 1997. Cheap, tawdry, badly edited (if indeed any attempt was made to edit it), unindexed, unfootnoted and just generally slack. Based entirely upon a set of internally generated reports written by MI5 to justify its own existence post WW1 with absolutely no attempt to go beyond the original material. Frankly, a complete waste of time. By the way, the complete, unedited, text of the MI5 history (from which this book is lifted) is available FREE OF CHARGE from National Archives website. Don't waste your money - do the research West couldn't be bothered to do.
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