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About the book
  • Published: 3 March 2016
  • ISBN: 9781448190324
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 256

The Double-Cross System

The Classic Account of World War Two Spy-Masters




THE DOUBLE-CROSS SYSTEM is an authentic document from within the espionage empire of the Second World War, written as a secret report for the Intelligence Commission and released for publication only in 1972. Quite simply, it tells how Britain used the enemy against themselves.

J.C. Masterman was chairman of the Double-Cross Committee at the height of World War Two. This is his account of the double agents, deception and counter-espionage which were key to the victory of D-Day.

Written as an official report for MI5 in 1945, originally published with the permission of the British Government over twenty years later, The Double-Cross System details the Allied handling of enemy agents and the British infiltration of Nazi spy-rings.

Telling the stories of the agents codenamed Zigzag, Tricycle, Garbo and Snow, Masterman also tells the story of a triumphant operation in the Second World War’s intelligence effort.

  • Pub date: 3 March 2016
  • ISBN: 9781448190324
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 256

About the Author

John Masterman

John Masterman spent the Great War, despite one escape attempt, interned in Berlin. After leaving Christ Church in March 1940 he was commissioned into the Intelligence Corps. Fluent in German, he attended the interrogation course at Swanage before being posted to the War Office as secretary to the committee which investigated the evacuation from Dunkirk. On completing its report Masterman was transferred to the Security Service working in the counter-espionage division. In 1941 he was assigned the taqsk of debriefing Dusko Popov, and it was this remarkable encounter between one of the Abwehr’s star agents and his M.I.5 handler that led to the creation of the Twenty Committee, the body created to supervise the conduct of double agent operations. Masterman chaired weekly meetings of the Double Cross Committee, as it became known, before he was invited to write an account of its activities at the conclusion of the war. Twenty-seven years later he revealed to his former employers that he had retained a copy of this manuscript, and intended to publish it in America, an experience described in his autobiography, On the Chariot Wheel, released two years before his death, in June 1977.

Nigel West was educated in France and at London University. He worked as researcher before joining the BBC where he contributed to numerous television documentaries, including Spy!, on which he based his first book, and Escape!. While still working for the BBC he was commissioned to write the wartime history of the Security Service, M.I.5, followed by M.I.6: British Intelligence Service Operations 1909 – 45 and A Matter of Trust: M.I.5 1945 – 72, the subject of an Attorney-General’s injunction. His other books include Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of World War II, Molehunt, GARBO, GCHQ: The Secret Wireless War, The Friends: Britain’s Postwar Secret Intelligence Operations, Games of Intelligence, Secret WarL The Story of SOE, The Illegals and Seven Spies Who Changed the World. Most recently he has compiled two anthologies, The Faber Book of Espionage and The Faber Book of Treachery. He is married with two children and lives in London and Devon and is the European Editor of a monthly journal, the World Intelligence Review.

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Praise for The Double-Cross System

“There is no better book than The Double-Cross System on wartime intelligence”

Times Literary Supplement

“Far and away the most valuable document of its kind...lucid cogent and authentic”

Sunday Times

“Sensationalists are fond of trumpeting every slightest secret revealed as a world-shaking story; this one really was”

M.R.D. Foot

“A game played with dynamite in which those who couldn't play were executed...Should on no account be missed by anyone who enjoys a good thriller”

Oxford Mail

“A fascinating insight into the dangerous underworld of espionage and intelligence gathering during World War Two”

L Waller, The History Blog


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