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Q: Winston Churchill's War Cabinet 1940-45 ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Subject: Winston Churchill's War Cabinet 1940-45
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: duffy53-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 27 Jun 2006 11:40 PDT
Expires: 27 Jul 2006 11:40 PDT
Question ID: 741532
Were there any suspicions among historians that there was a spy in
Winston Churchill's War Cabinet during the years 1940-1945?
Subject: Re: Winston Churchill's War Cabinet 1940-45
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 27 Jun 2006 18:55 PDT

I remember reading once that George Washington's plans for attacking
the British at Trenton are still classified by the US government as
Top Secret, and have never been released.

I'm not sure that story is true, but the mere fact that it could be is
a good indication of how difficult it is to unearth the history of
governments in wartime, especially when the topic is espionage.

From all indications, there was indeed a spy -- perhaps more than one
-- in the War Cabinet during parts of World War II.  Top secret and
very high level material from the War Cabinet was leaked out to the
Germans as well as to the Japanese and the Russians.  Some of the
leaks were reported to have been in German hands just hours after
decisions were made and documents were first created by the War

But whodunnit?  One of the spies has been pretty clearly identified,
but as to any others, there is much less certainty.

Let's begin with Lord Hankey, a member of the War Cabinet in the early
years of the war:

Maurice Hankey, 1st Baron Hankey

"...Lord Hankey remained a respected figure and was often consulted by
ministers and civil servants for advice. In August 1939 he advised
Neville Chamberlain about the formation of a new War Cabinet and the
following month became another of Chamberlain's many non-party
political appointments when he was made Minister without Portfolio and
a member of the War Cabinet..."


What does Lord Hankey have to do with spying?  His right hand man at
the time was John Cairncross, who was later fingered as the so-called
"Fifth Man" in one of Britain's worst modern spy scandals:

...John Cairncross, the Fifth Man in the Cambridge spy ring that
included Kim Philby, gave the Soviet Union the atomic secrets that
made a significant contribution to Moscow's atomic research. This is
one of the findings in a new book, The Crown Jewels, by British author
Nigel West and a former KGB officer, Oleg Tsarev

...Cairncross was the first to betray valuable information. At the end
of 1941, Cairncross gave his Soviet contacts a background report on
the work of the government's Uranium Committee, chaired by
Cairncross's boss, Lord Hankey. According to Soviet intelligence, this
served as the basis for Moscow's subsequent atomic research program.


Here's a bit more on Cairncross (no direct link is available to this
article, I'm afraid):

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

"...In 1940 Cairncross was appointed private secretary to the
chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Lord Hankey. Despite developing
an affectionate admiration for Hankey, from June 1941 he transmitted
cabinet papers and Foreign Office telegrams to his Soviet


and another mention:
Spy Cases

"...[T]he pinnacle of [Cairncross'] KGB career was when he was
secretary to Lord Hankey, Minister without Portfolio in Churchill's
war cabinet. During this time, Cairncross handed the Russians details
of the British atomic weapons programme, giving Stalin the information
he needed to build a bomb."


For information about another possible spy in the War Cabinet, we can
turn to William Breur, a well-regarded historian and author who has
written extensively about World War II:,descCd-tableOfContents.html
Unexplained Mysteries of World War II
William B. Breuer

One chapter of Breur's book is titled "Spy in the War Cabinet" and
includes this bit of information:

"...while Air Marshal Dowding had a figurative ear placed in Hermann
Goering's Luftwaffe headquarters, the Germans apparently had a
pipeline directly in the British War Cabinet...Aldolph Hitler and the
German high command were learning of top-level British governmental
decisions within hours after they were made..."

Breuer goes on to describe how US Naval intelligence had been
intercepting messages from the Japanese naval attache in Berlin, one
of which read;

"I have received from the German navy minutes of a meeting held by the
British War Cabinet on 15 August [1944]..."

How were the Germans and Japanese receiving this information?  This
remains one of the "Unexplained Mysteries" that is the title of the

However, Breuer speculates that one possible source was Tyler Kent, a
US State Department staffer of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, and keeper
of the "Gray Code" used to transmit secret messages between Churchill
and Roosevelt.  Though not a member of the War Cabinet, Kent was privy
to some of the most sensitive information coming out of the British
War Cabinet.  He was arrested May 20, 1940 and eventually tried and
convicted of espionage.

And here, I have to end with a bit of an unexplained mystery of my
own.  I was able to view some pages from Breurer's book using's "Search Inside the Book" feature (which is available to
any registered user at Amazon).  The quote above comes from page 11 of
the book.

It is clear that Breurer's discussion of the "Spy in the War Cabinet"
continues on page 12, but I was not able to view this page, for some
reason.  You may want to check a library or bookstore for a copy of
the book, as there may well be more useful information in the text.

And lastly, there's a bit more discussion of the leaked War Cabinet memo here:

about a third of the way down the page.

I trust the information above fully answers your question.  

However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need.  If you would like any additional information, just post a
Request for Clarification to let me know how I can assist you further,
and I'm at your service.

All the best,


search strategy -- Searched Google, and historical
databases for various combinations of the terms:


war cabinet 

spy OR spies OR spying
Subject: Re: Winston Churchill's War Cabinet 1940-45
From: probonopublico-ga on 27 Jun 2006 22:03 PDT
Actually, Lord Hankey was NEVER a member of Churchill's War Cabinet,
as the Wikipedia article makes clear.

He was in the Cabinet of the National Government from 3 Sept 1939 to
10 May 1940, the date Churchill stepped up as Prime Minister.

Chamberlain (Churchill's predecessor) never formed a War Cabinet.

It is highly unlikely that there was a spy in Churchill's War Cabinet
but the Civil Service was bristling witb spies, mostly Communists.

The Cambridge Five (Blunt, Philby, Cairncross, Burgess & Maclean) were
all well placed but there were others.

It is likely that the Russians were sharing their intelligence with
Germany until Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941.

Hitler, in fact, was hoping for a peace deal with Britain and he
discouraged spying on Britain until after the bullets started to fly.

In fact, Kurt Jahnke (the legendary German spymaster and saboteur) who
ran a semi-private Intelligence Operation may have had a spy in the
Foreign Office by the name of Fletcher but Fletcher apparently got
away with it.

The Germans also had early successes in breaking British Naval Codes
which gave them valuable naval intelligence.

Back to Hankey, he was actually tasked with trying to find the leaks
of Government secrets but was singularly unsuccessful.

Subject: Re: Winston Churchill's War Cabinet 1940-45
From: monroe22-ga on 28 Jun 2006 12:25 PDT
The Germans also had a spy in the American Embassy in London who was
passing them lots of top secret material. His name was Tyler Kent.
Worth checking out!
Subject: Re: Winston Churchill's War Cabinet 1940-45
From: steph53-ga on 03 Jul 2006 15:58 PDT
Tyler Gatewood Kent, who lived from 1911 to 1988, joined the American
Embassy in London in 1939.

He was put on trial in October 1940 for sharing American Embassy
documents to Anna Wolkoff and Captain Ramsay. He was sentenced to
seven years penal servitude.

The above was taken from a book I read, State Secrets - The Kent- Wolkoff Affair.

Great book that may shed some light for the original question.


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