Emergency Planning between the Wars

A. W. Brian Simpson

in In the Highest Degree Odious

Published in print November 1994 | ISBN: 9780198259497
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681974 | DOI:
Emergency Planning between the Wars

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For the next sixteen years, Britain was free of executive detention. But Military Intelligence Section 5 (MI5), the source of the demand for a power to detain citizens without trial in the name of national security, lived on, and its existence ensured that in any new crisis the practice would be revived. During World War II, Vernon Kell's and Basil Thomson's organizations had flourished mightily in pursuit of a phantom army of saboteurs and potential spies, and a very small number of real ones. MI5 had originally been solely concerned with defence security; with the war won it might have seemed to have lost an obvious reason for existence. But in about 1917, new threats providentially arose: bolshevism and pacifism. Both MI5 and Special Branch began to investigate political subversion. Kell called this activity civil security. Since subversion was a domestic matter, the institution directly concerned was the Home Office and its police, and from 1919 to 1921 civil security, mainly directed at bolshevism, was handled by Thomson as head of a Home Office Special Intelligence Directorate.

Keywords: Britain; executive detention; Military Intelligence Section 5; Basil Thomson; Vernon Kell; World War II; national security; bolshevism; civil security; Home Office

Chapter.  8668 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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