Oxted  District History Society - Article
Oxted  District History Society

Henry Hemming gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society on ‘Maxwell Knight – MI5’s Greatest Spymaster’, the title of his best-selling book about the eccentric figure who operated between the 1920s and 1960.

By 1931, the biggest fear was of Soviet Russia, believed to have helped foment the 1926 General Strike and the 1931 naval mutiny at Invergordon.  Notable throughout his life for taming wild animals, Maxwell Knight was known throughout his career as ‘M’.  He was a very good intelligence agent and recruited agents who had motivation, means to access extremist groups, good memories, an eye for detail and who were good at lying and knowing when other people were lying.

One of ‘M’s earliest recruits was Olga Gray, who managed to be recruited as secretary of a senior Communist official and later of Harry Pollitt, UK Communist Party leader.  She informed ‘M’ of links with Russia.  She was recruited to be part of a Soviet spy-ring, by running a safe-house for Soviet spies.  ‘M’ decided to break up the spy ring and with Olga as chief witness for the prosecution, all were found guilty.  Other successful agents recruited by ‘M’ were Mona Maund and Kathleen Tesch.


Maxwell Knight - MI5’s Greatest Spymaster by Henry Hemming.