MI5 was originally known as MO5, and was set up as part of a network of secret government committees in the aftermath of the Boer War.
During the Boer War, which ended in 1902, the government had set up Section H, which was effectively a spying network – the first serious attempt by the British to spy on the “other side”.
At the local level there is some indication that the policy worked well, but when the war was over and the soldiers returned to Britain, local rivalries within various ministries made it impossible to build on the idea.
This was remarkable since from this time onwards Britain was gripped with invasion fever. It was believed that on every street corner there were spies – mostly German spies. The barrel organ men, the German governesses, the foreign tourists, even the village postmen – all were suspected of spying for the enemy.
As a result a department to spy on the spies was set up – but unfortunately the two men who were put in command (one from the Admiralty and one from the Army) were quite unable to get on with each other. After one huge row the Admiralty man walked off in a huff, and set up his own operation – which ultimately became MI6 looking after overseas operations. The Army man – Captain Kell – (reputed to be a brilliant administrator, but useless at anything else) formed internal intelligence.
Kell believed there were spies everywhere, even though he had no evidence to show this to be true, and when it was suggested to him by a reporter from the Daily Chronicle that the spies would regularly exchange information where there are big crowds – such as at football matches – Kell began to be interested in a game that meant nothing to him.
When the word got around that the spies were using the games to spread fake coins in order to undermine the whole British economy he felt certain he had proof that something was going on.
But the journalist concerned was known for his practical jokes – and had already suggested that several players called Smith were in fact German spies playing under assumed names.
This is part of the story of MAKING THE ARSENAL – the novel told in the form of the diary of a reporter from the Daily Chronicle in 1910. It is the first novel written about the Arsenal since “The Arsenal Stadium Mystery” in the 1930s, and there really has never been anything like it. You can order it direct from the publisher by going to www.emiratesstadium.info