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Top secret MI5 files of First World War go online
10 April 2014
The National Archives is making over 150 top secret MI5 files available online for the first time. This forms part of The National Archives' First World War 100 programme of digitised releases and events to mark the centenary.
The files contain a wealth of material about organisations and individuals involved in espionage or under surveillance during the period of the First World War. They are part of the wider security service personal file series (file reference KV 2) held by The National Archives.
Dr Stephen Twigge, Records Specialist at The National Archives said: 'The files in The National Archives' collection reveal the importance of the security service in safeguarding the nation during the First World War. Now that we have made the files available online as part of our First World War 100 programme, people across the globe can discover the secret history behind the war for themselves.'
Highlights within the files include:
Edith Cavell (KV 2/822): British nurse, arrested, tried by German military court and executed. The file contains photos of Nurse Cavell's grave and other martyrs' headstones at the site of the execution in Belgium. The photos were sent by the French authorities to MI5 to pass on to her mother. There is a letter in response from Edith Cavell's mother, thanking them for the photos.
Mata Hari (KV 2/1 and KV 2/2): notorious female spy and entertainer, convicted and executed for espionage on behalf of Germany. The file includes photos from publications and newspapers about her arrest, conviction and execution including letters and an interrogation report.
Sidney George Reilly (KV 2/827): so-called 'Ace of Spies', who worked for British Intelligence in the Soviet Union after the revolution. He was lured back into the USSR in 1925, arrested and executed. The file reveals that Reilly was a Russian-born Jew who was engaged in business activity in New York in 1915, when he came under suspicion from the Russians as being a German spy. The file includes a picture of him and his wife, the actress Pepita Bobadilla, in a newspaper clipping on their marriage as well as their marriage certificate and reports of bigamy.
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