Roger Hollis bigraphy, stories - Journalists

Roger Hollis : biography

2 December 1905 - 26 October 1973

Sir Roger Henry Hollis, KBE, CB (2 December 1905 - 26 October 1973) was a British journalist and intelligence officer, who was Director General of MI5 from 1956 to 1965.


  • Nigel West is the pen-name of Rupert William Simon Allason.

Mole suspicions

After Kim Philby's flight to Moscow in 1963, rumours began to circulate that Hollis had alerted him to his impending arrest. He was also criticised for not alerting John Profumo, the War Secretary in Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's government, to the fact that he might have become entangled with a Soviet spy ring through his friendship with Stephen Ward, and his affair with Christine Keeler.

During the 1950s and 1960s, a large number of MI5 operations failed in circumstances that suggested the Soviets had been tipped off. Although many such failures were subsequently blamed on the actions of the self-confessed or defected agents Guy Burgess, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt, a number of failures occurred after all three had lost their access to secret information. Thus, some in MI5 concluded that the Soviets must have an agent in a very senior position within the organisation. Peter Wright, Arthur S. Martin and others became convinced that either Hollis or his deputy, Graham Mitchell, could be the only ones responsible, eventually confiding their suspicions to their former DG, Dick White, by now DG of MI6.

According to Nigel West,(Mole Hunt, chapter 2, "Operation PETERS") White instructed Martin to inform Hollis that Mitchell was a suspect, and Hollis instructed Martin (after due consideration) to keep Mitchell under surveillance. Nigel West implies that this was a deliberate ploy to keep tabs on both Mitchell and Hollis.

Martin eventually became so disgruntled and outspoken about Hollis's attitude toward the investigation (Hollis had, for example, reduced the size of the department and had sent one of Martin's best men on an overseas assignment), that Hollis suspended Martin for a fortnight, and the case was turned over to Peter Wright. Much of the investigation was centred around the interviews with Anthony Blunt at that time, and Peter Wright had amassed a sizable amount of taped evidence from Blunt when Martin returned from suspension. After 1964, Blunt gradually confessed his double-agent role in exchange for immunity from prosecution.Spycatcher: The Memoirs of a Senior Intelligence Officer, by Peter Wright, 1987.

Eventually the PETERS operation wound down. By then, some time after Hollis had retired, suspicion had lifted from Mitchell and focused solely on Hollis. However, the then Director-General, Martin Furnival Jones, refused to sanction an investigation into Hollis.Mole Hunt, Chapter 3, page 45, noted that the investigative team known as FLUENCY had been disbanded before any conclusions had been reached.

Under his successor Sir Martin Furnival Jones, the higher management of MI5 expressed indignation and loss of morale about the Hollis affair. Hollis was asked to come in and clear up the allegations. Having been the director, Hollis was aware of the procedures of the interrogation and investigation. He remained calm and composed throughout, denying all allegations. He was a very secretive man and MI5 had very little information about many aspects of his past, particularly his years in China. Later, in the 1970s, the Trend Committee under Lord Trend was entrusted with the matter of investigating Hollis and Soviet penetration of MI5 in general. After a long enquiry, it reported the allegations inconclusive, neither denying nor confirming them.

Martin and Wright and the team were unable to convince anyone else in MI5 or MI6 that they were right about Hollis. Wright retired in January 1976, upon reaching age 60, by his own account (in Spycatcher) enraged at being denied a pension for his 30 years of service, on highly legalistic and technical grounds. He emigrated to Tasmania, Australia, and there wrote an account of his work at MI5. Despite attempts by Margaret Thatcher and her government to suppress the publication and distribution of the book, Spycatcher, it was finally published in 1987, and eventually sold over two million copies around the world.

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Living octopus

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