The Secretaries of Camp 020

Latchmere House
Latchmere House
Still chipping away at various avenues for tracking down Robin W.G. Stephens. I thought I'd take a look at Christopher Murphy's article on the Spy! episode again. I remembered him mentioning the names of several former Camp 020 secretaries who defended Stephens vociferously.

While these ladies were alive in 1980 when the Spy! episode came out... that was 40 years ago... and it is unlikely that any of them are still with us today. However, I thought that perhaps their children or grandchildren may have some tidbit of information which might help in the hunt for Stephen's death.

Christopher Andrew article
Before we get to Murphy's article, however, I want to touch on an article written by Christopher Andrew in 2014 as an introduction to a volume entitled Interrogation in War and Conflict: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Analysis. Andrew quoted the 1980 letter written by the Camp 020 secretaries as well, but only mentions the name of one of them, Kathleen Williams.

However, Andrew does reference the last survivor of the Camp 020 staff whom, it would appear, he may have interviewed for his article. More on that below.

Murphy's Article
On page 4 of his article, Murphy cites the letter written by a group of 10 former Camp 020 secretaries. He helpfully gives their names and, in some instances, their maiden names. I'm going to do a bit of digging here and see if I can trace these women.

Kathleen Williams
Kathleen seems to have been the chief letter writer, as her name is quoted most often by Murphy and also by Christopher Andrew. With a surname like Williams, however, there isn't much hope of finding anything concrete about her. I did a Google search for "Kathleen Williams" and "Camp 020" and came up with nothing.

William Sidney Allen
(from The British Academy)

Aenea Allen (née McCallum)
N.B. Much of the information in this section comes from an article on Aenea's husband, William Sidney Allen, published in the Proceedings of the British Academy in 2006. This link opens the article as a pdf.

We have much more luck with Aenea. She was born Aenea Janet McCallum on 15 June 1919 in Rosskeen, Rosshire, Scotland. Her parents were the Reverend Dugald McCallum (1875-1942) and Mary Gillies Baxter (1881-1943). Both of Aenea's parents came from the West and spoke Gaelic as their first language. Aenea learned English growing up and studied English and Modern Languages at the University of Aberdeen. During the Second World War, as we know, she served at Camp 020 and her Modern Languages degree makes this quite understandable. After the war, Aenea served with the Control Commission in Vienna.

After her post-war service, Aenea worked in publishing and also on the subtitling of foreign films. In the early 1950s, she found at job at the SOAS - School of Oriental Studies in London. She became the editorial secretary of the School's journal, the Bulletin (BSOAS). It was in this capacity that she met her future husband, William Sidney Allen (1918-2004). William was a Linguist and Philologist whose undergraduate education had been disrupted by the war. Initially assigned as an officer to the Royal Tank Regiment, William was later sent to Iceland as an intelligence officer. In 1942, he returned to the UK and was assigned command of a photographic intelligence unit involved in planning the Normandy landing. After the war, William resumed his career and received his doctorate in linguistics. He then took up a position as a lecturer at the SOAS where he had several papers published in the school's journal, edited by Aenea.

Aenea and William were married in Cambridge in the third quarter of 1955 just as he was about to take up the Chair of Comparative Philology. They apparently had many interests in common including hill-walking and alpine skiing. Starting in the 1960s, they spent many summers traveling around Greece and exploring the smaller Aegean islands. Aenea apparently acquired a greater fluency in Modern Greek than William himself.

The couple lived in Trumpington for many years, on the outskirts of Cambridge. It doesn't appear that they had any children. In 1995, William had a hip replacement and was cared for by Aenea at home. Despite being an avid cycler and seemingly in perfect health, in January 1996 she suddenly collapsed and died a few hours later. She was 76 years old. William remarried in 2002 (Diana Stroud) and passed away in 2004. William has an obituary in The Times, which I can't access as I am not a subscriber... In case someone else is... here's the link.

Eileen Ball
Alas, too common a name, and no other identifying information make Eileen too hard to trace with certainty.

Miss/Mrs Helen Clegg
Anyone who has looked at the MI5 files of agents who passed through Camp 020 will know the name Clegg. It shows up frequently on Latchmere House reports. I had always assumed that Clegg was a man but... now I wonder. Murphy's article refers to Helen Clegg as Miss in one instance and Mrs in another instance which makes it difficult to trace her.

Nancy Farquarson
No luck with Nancy either. There isn't even a Nancy Farquarson in Ancestry although a Phyllis Helen N. Farquarson could be a match...

Joyce Hall (née Bisset)
No luck with Joyce - there isn't enough information to track her down.

Brenda Mitchell
Again, far too common a name to track down.

Margaret Randall (née Davidson)
There is a possible match with a Carol M. Davidson who married a James G. Randall in the first quarter of 1964 in Middlesex. Beyond that, however, there is nothing solid enough to hang a hat on...

Margaret Reynolds
Alas, too common a name.

Mrs. Frances Shanks (née Lepper)
This is a bit more promising as Murphy'as article names two brothers, Alan and William Shanks, who had worked as interrogators at Camp 020. In one place, Murphy notes that Alan and Frances were interviewed together in 1980, suggesting that perhaps they were married. And.... we have success. Frances M.H. Lepper married Alan D.F. Shanks in the first quarter of 1944 in Pancras registration district (Middlesex).

Frances Mary Heron Shanks was born 2 April 1911 in Carrickfergus, Country Antrim, Ireland and died 26 July 2007 in Stone, Stafforshire. Her parents were John Heron Lepper and Winifred Emmeline Watts.

Alan David Ferrier Shanks was born 1910 in Hampstead London to Andrew Ferrier Shanks (1883-1967) and Astrid Brun (1887-1985 - born in Norway). During the war, Alan served with the Intelligence Corps. I did find an engagement announcement in the 6 March 1943 edition of The Scotsman... but not for Alan and Frances. This announcement was for Lt. Alan David Ferrier Shanks and Freda Elizabeth Underhill of Edinburgh. Not exactly sure what happened to that nuptial... Alan passed away in 4 June 2011 in Stafford, Staffordshire.

The Last Survivor of Camp 020 Secretarial Staff
For his 2014 article, Andrew apparently interviewed one of the former Camp 020 secretaries:

Cobain's conclusions are disputed by the only known surviving member of staff of Camp 020 in Britain today: a retired magistrate, who worked there as a secretary from 1942-1945. She insists, like her late colleagues after the BBC programme broadcast over 30 years before, that: 'Colonel Stephens was a brilliant if intimidating interrogator and certainly there was some shouting and night interrogations, but absolutely no torture.'

We - the secretarial staff - were for the most proficient linguists. One of our jobs was to listen in and record the conversations in the cells (all were bugged) and at interrogations. I can vouch with complete certainty that there was no torture, sleep deprivation or starvation.

The diet of prisoners she recalls, was similar to that of the staff. Had prisoners been beaten or tortured, at least some would certainly have mentioned the fact during their overheard conversations. (p. 6) [FN 4]

[FN 4] Recollections of a retired magistrate who is believed to be the last survivor in Britain of the staff of Camp 020.

This is definitely interesting information but Andrew does not mention her name.

I do have a vague recollection of having seen a documentary in the last few years which included a few brief clips of an interview with a woman who worked at Camp 020. Drat if I can remember where/when I saw that...

Introduction: the modern history of interrogation. Christopher Andrew, Interrogation in War and Conflict: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Analysis, Christopher Andrew and Simona Tobia (eds), Routledge, Abingdon, 2014, p. 1-17.

Dramatising intelligence history on the BBC: the Camp 020 affair. Christopher J. Murphy. Intelligence and National Security, Volume 34,  Issue 5, p. 688-702, 2019. 


Anonymous said…
What a great site! And what a great find for this time when we have to spend so much time at home. Thank you for for all your hard work!
Please forgive these comments if you have already addressed them.
There is a book by Geoffrey Elliott, "Gentleman Spymaster". It is a biography of Lt Col. Tommy "TAR" Robertson. As you know, Tar Robertson was the officer in charge of the XX operation and worked closely with Col. Stephens at Camp 020. In Elliott's book is a photograph taken in 1981 of the surviving XX agents and case officers. Col. Stephens does not appear in the photo. [As an aside, the author of that book is the son of Nicholas Elliott who, as I am sure you know, was an MI6 officer and, he thought, a good chum of Kim Philby. It was Elliott senior who, in early Jan, 1963, was sent out to Beirut, over the objections of MI5, to elicit a confession from Philby, which Philby provided. Elliott then continued on a tour of Africa while Philby conveniently decamped via a Soviet freighter in late January, 1963. This led to speculation that persists to this day, and which many believe to be true, that MI6 deliberately engineered the meeting, likely anticipating Philby would decamp, as he did, rather than suffer a trial and imprisonment. Philby later in his life came to believe this too. And for MI6, avoiding a trial would be preferable: who knows what might emerge and the service had suffered ongoing penetrations by the Soviets over many years and they were beginning to appear, wrongly, a little incompetent.]
Moreover, in Murphy's article "Dramatising intelligence history on the BBC", the author writes that, in response to a BBC dramatisation of interrogations at Camp 020, the Camp 020 secretaries attempted to correct what they perceived as errors in the program. "They hoped that [the program's producer Frank] Cox would ‘make suitable public amends’ for the ‘grave injustice’ done to Stephens’ memory". The use of the word "memory" suggests, as does the absence of Col. Stephens' from the photograph already referred to, that the Colonel is dead by 1980. Moreover, Cox the producer of the BBC program, when defending the program against criticism, refers to extensive research being undertaken. Col. Stephens does not seem to have been approached. Given a two or three year production time, it is not unreasonable to conjecture that Col. Stephens was likely dead by 1978.
Frank Cox is still alive and on "linked in". He may know whether Col. Stephens was alive when he produced the program.
Additionally, MI5, which operated Camp 020, has an enquiries team that can be contacted to request information, if a person believes a deceased member of their family worked for MI5. Although Col. Stephens is not a member of your family, they may be disposed to assist. As you can surmise, they tend to like a good mystery too! This is the relevant MI5 page:
Thank you for reading. Apologies for the length. I await the next instalment!
Anonymous said…
Hello. This is a really interesting blog. I did some googling and found that the episode of Spy! was directed by John Bird, the executive producer was Anthony Isaacs, the producer was Frank Cox and the script was by Hugh Connor.
So far so good.
These three were also responsible for four other programs in 1980, apart from Camp 020:
1. Kim Philby: a dramatisation of Philby's flight from Beirut;
2. Cynthia, a docu-drama of an American woman working for British intelligence during the war. The real person is likely Virginia Hall;
3. The Cartland Murder: Dramatic reconstruction of the events surrounding the murder of John Cartland, at Salon-en-Provence on the night of 18 March 1973. His body was found in a burnt out caravan in which he and his son Jeremy were travelling in France. But Mr Cartland may have been no ordinary vacationer. He was reportedly involved in SOE during the war though some dispute this.
So, we have three, possibly four, scripts concerned with people all involved with British intelligence, sharing many of the same production crew. But was is curiouser is that although the producer and executive producer are known, as is the director, the script writer seems only to have written these four scripts. It may be that it was a nom de plume.
It is intriguing. I wonder whether any of the production team are still alive?
Anonymous said…
I was wrong. The woman who was the subject of the episode "Cynthia" was not Virginia hall, but more likely Amy Elizabeth "Betty" Thorpe (November 22, 1910 – December 1, 1963). Apologies. Grateful if my earlier post might be amended.
Giselle Jakobs said…
Thanks for both of these posts! I think Nigel West was a consultant on the Spy! episodes... I'd have to double-check that.

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