Joseph Ball

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Person.png Joseph Ball   SpartacusRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(spook, barrister, politician, businessman, deep state operative)
Joseph Ball.png
Born1st September 1885
Died10th July 1961 (Age 75)
Alma materKing's College School, King's College London
British spook who forged the Zinoviev Letter to bring down the first British Labour Party government in 1924. "Ball also had a keen understanding of the dark arts of political manipulation, a readiness to use all means at his disposal and an ability to keep himself out of the limelight... he knew how to lie and how to keep a secret."

Sir George Joseph Ball was a British intelligence officer, political operator and government administrator. His most notable operation was the spreading of the forged Zinoviev Letter, which led to the defeat of the first British Labour Party government headed by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald in 1924.

In the 1930s, he was a strong backer and close associate of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

Spartacus Educational has a thoroughly researched biography of him:


As Major Joseph Ball, he was recruited into MI5 in 1915, shortly after the outbreak of World War I. According to Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009): "Ball had joined MI5 in July 1915 after a decade at Scotland Yard, dealing mainly with aliens. He was also a barrister, having passed top of the Bar final exams, and spent much of the war questioning prisoners, internees, suspects and aliens."[1]

In 1916 MI5 set up Ministry of Munitions Intelligence Agency (PMS2) to spy on the British socialist movement. Major William Melville Lee was appointed as head of PMS2 and Ball became one of his agents. With the use of agents provocateurs, he created a case against three members of the Socialist Labour Party in Derby and managed to get them convicted of conspiracy to murder.


Full article: Zinoviev Letter

He served in key operational roles with MI5 until 1927, and played a significant role in the creation of the forged Zinoviev Letter in 1924, an operation at the eve of the election which led to the defeat of the British Labour Party government headed by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.[2]

Conservative Party administrator

Ball was a 'fervent political supporter' of the Conservative Party.[3] From his work with MI5, Ball came to the attention of British Conservative Party leadership, and was hired out of MI5 in 1927 to run the Propaganda Department at Conservative Party Central Office. In 1930, he moved to head the Conservative Research Department, staying in that role until 1939, when World War II began.[4] Among the young people associated with him during the 1930s were numbered Guy Burgess and Graham Russell Mitchell. Ball's group infiltrated the British Labour Party.[5]

Political operator

During the 1930s, and into the early years of World War II, he developed and coordinated many links among Britons who supported Nazi Germany, and arranged back channels to key leadership figures in the Third Reich, as well as with Fascist Italy.[4][2] He also was involved with illegal and secret funding operations, including those of Honours trafficker Maundy Gregory; money from this operation helped fund Chamberlain's appeasement policy; among wealthy figures apparently involved were Canadian / Bahamian gold mining magnate Sir Harry Oakes.[4]

World War II

With the outbreak of World War II, he was then hired into the Ministry of Information, being placed in charge of films, but was quickly ousted from that position through film industry pressure.[6]

For several years a strong backer and close associate of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who came to power in 1937 following the resignation of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Ball had worked from the mid-1930s to secretly undermine anti-Nazi Conservatives, including Winston Churchill, as well as figures in the Liberal and Labour Parties who opposed far-right totalitarian regimes in Europe.[4] Chris Bryant pointed out that this was a shrewd move: "Ball was a passionate Conservative and Unionist with a deep hatred of socialism, communism and all points in between. Ball also had a keen understanding of the dark arts of political manipulation, a readiness to use all means at his disposal and an ability to keep himself out of the limelight... he knew how to lie and how to keep a secret."[7]

Ball was placed by Chamberlain as Deputy of the Security Executive, a very powerful position which put him above MI5 and MI6, just as Chamberlain resigned as prime minister in May, 1940, being replaced as prime minister by Churchill. Ball suffered badly from Chamberlain's fall and death later in 1940; he wound up serving in that Security Executive position for two years, until 1942.[4]

From the mid-1930s into the early 1940s, Ball played a key role in secret direction and control of the weekly newspaper Truth, a pro-fascist publication.[3] This paper attacked Leslie Hore Belisha, the only Jewish cabinet minister, forcing his resignation in 1940.

Later years, legacy

Ball later joined the South African and Rhodesian gold mining group Lonrho, which had been founded in 1909. He assumed a leadership role, and brought in Tiny Rowland in 1961, shortly before his own death, to run that company. Some of the firm's executives eventually became part of present-day Rio Tinto Group, now one of the world's largest mining companies.

Although Ball made strong efforts to destroy the papers at Conservative Central Office outlining his own role there, as well as his personal papers, some papers have survived, and have been housed at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University since August 2000. Since 1990, historians and writers have steadily increased the amount of published material available on Ball's life and career.


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Nothing has ChangedArticle10 November 2017John WarrenThe ill-judged words of the present Prime Minister perhaps accidentally illuminate something important about the true character of the Conservative Party: “Nothing has Changed”.


  1. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009)
  2. a b Mills, William C. (2002). "Sir Joseph Ball, Adrian Dingli, and Neville Chamberlain's 'Secret Channel' to Italy, 1937-1940". The International History Review. 24 (2): 278–317.
  3. a b Crockett, R. B. (1990). "Ball, Chamberlain, and Truth". The Historical Journal. Cambridge University Press. 33 (I): 131–142.
  4. a b c d e Pile, Jonathan (2012). Churchill's Secret Enemy. Raleigh, North Carolina: ISBN 978-1-47164-180-0.
  5. Pincher, Chapman (1984). Too Secret Too Long. London, UK: Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 978-0-28399-151-6.
  6. Drazin, Charles (1998). The Finest Years: British Cinema in the 1940s. London: Andre Deutsch. ISBN 978-0233989853.
  7. Chris Bryant, The Glamour Boys: The Secret Story of the Rebels who Fought for Britain to Defeat Hitler (2020) pages 133-134
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