Maurice Oldfield

From Wikispooks
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Person.png Maurice Oldfield   SpartacusRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Maurice Oldfield.jpg
Born16 November 1915
Meadow Place Farm, Youlgrave, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
Died11 March 1981 (Age 65)
London, United Kingdom
Alma materUniversity of Manchester

Sir Maurice Oldfield was Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1973 to 1978.[1][2]


Maurice Oldfield joined MI6 and became Deputy Chief of the SIS in 1967, rising to chief in 1973.[3] Under Oldfield "operations were to strictly controlled and scrupulous in their adherence to the wishes of the Government. Oldfield's unique style brought a refreshing blast of fresh air through the corridors of Century House, the SIS multi-story glass and concrete headquarters in south London."[4] Under his leadership, SIS objectives were widened to reflect increasing demand for commercial intelligence, escepially on the USA, Britain's European partners, Japan and the Middle East oil states.[4]

Wilson Plot

In early August 1975, UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson called in Oldfield and demanded that to know if MI5 were plotting against him. Oldfield conceded that an element of MI5 was unreliable. Author David Leigh notes of this episode:

There is really little doubt that Oldfield had this conversation with Wilson, although there is some uncertainty about the circumstances. Both Pincher and Anthony Cavendish have testified in print that they received a version of it from Oldfield. The journalist Barrie Penrose says that he heard a similar version from the other participant - Harold Wilson himself. This makes three good witnesses, even though Oldfield is dead now, and Wilson silent.[5]

Former MI5 officer Peter Wright records a conversation he had with Oldfield the day after this meeting in Spycatcher:

"I was called in by the Prime Minister yesterday," he said, his tone suddenly changing. "He was talking about a plot. Apparently he's heard that your boys have been going around town stirring things up about him and Marcia Falkender, and Communists at No. 10."
He trailed away as if it were all too distasteful for him.
It's serious, Peter, " he began again. "I need to know everything. Look what's happening in Washington with Watergate. The same thing will happen here unless we're very careful.[6]

Wright revealed that MI5 officers had been plotting against Wilson in the previous summer of 1974. Oldfield told him to pass on this information to MI5 chief Michael Hanley the next day, which he did. Wright records that Hanley's first reaction was an outburst against Oldfield's interference.[7]

Authors Robin Ramsay and Stephen Dorril say of this episode: "This is perhaps the most remarkable passage in Spycatcher. The Personal Assistant of the Director General of MI5 'regularly' dining with the head of MI6?" They go on to ask: Had Oldfield not recruited him, 'turned' him? Had Wright not 'defected' to MI5's arch-enemy, MI6?"[8]

Sir Desmond de Silva QC revealed in 2009 that Oldfield visited his home on 12 August 1975, and told him that Wilson's offices had been burgled during 1974:“Maurice told me that the papers stolen from the offices were now being offered for sale to German and Dutch magazines. He then joked that he expected I would be representing one of the culprits in due course.”[9]

After two alleged burglars were arrested on 4 March 1976, Oldfield arranged for de Silva to be instructed for the defence. Wilson resigned on 16 March, prior to the committal proceedings at which de Silva would have been able to refer to the documents stolen in the burglary, including a letter that could have been construed as insider trading:

“There was nothing sinister in the papers I saw, nothing you could say related to national security, but I saw this letter from Eric Miller [a property developer] to Harold Wilson, advising the sale of Peachey Property shares by the holder.”[10]

Later life

Oldfield retired from MI5 in 1978. Margaret Thatcher asked Oldfield to coordinate security and intelligence in Northern Ireland. He left this post in 1980 after losing his clearance, apparently because he admitted that he "from time to time engaged in homosexual activities." It is widely rumoured that MI5 informed a number of journalists he was a homosexual.[4]

External Resources


  1. Richard Deacon, 'C': A Biography of Sir Maurice Oldfield, Futura, 1985, p.15.
  3. Philip H.J. Davies, MI6 and the Machinery of Spying, Frank Cass, 2004, p.278.
  4. a b c Document:UK Intelligence And Security Report, 2003
  5. David Leigh, The Wilson Plot, Mandarin,1989, p250.
  6. Peter Wright, Spycatcher, Viking 1987, p.371.
  7. Peter Wright, Spycatcher, Viking 1987, p.371.
  8. Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, Smear: Wilson & The Secret State, Fourth Estate Limited, 1991, p.297.
  9. Michael Evans, Harold Wilson resignation 'linked to MI6, burglary and insider trading', The Times, 22 August 2009.
  10. Michael Evans, Harold Wilson resignation 'linked to MI6, burglary and insider trading', The Times, 22 August 2009.