Spymaster: The Man Who Saved Ml6
Helen Fry

Spymaster: The Man Who Saved Ml6

Thomas Joseph Kendrick was one of the British Secret Service’s most senior spymasters in the 20th century. From tracking Communist agents across Europe in the 1920s to Nazi spies in the 1930s, Kendrick was placed as SIS head of station in Vienna, a capital at the heart of Europe’s espionage hub - and one of SIS’s most important stations. In Vienna he crossed paths with the British spy and (later) traitor Kim Philby and Communist Edith Tudor-Hart, figures that would go on to rock the core of MI6 and the British Secret Service for decades. After Hitler’s annexed Austria in March 1938, Kendrick and his staff worked in 12 hour shifts to save up to 200 Austrian Jews a day – a legacy of incredible humanitarian effort that has yet to see him fully recognised. Dubbed ‘the elusive Englishman” by Hitler’s Secret Service, his real identity eluded the Abwehr for over a year, until he was finally denounced by a double agent and found himself before the Gestapo in ‘Soviet-style’ interrogations.

Kendrick’s arrest in August 1938 caused panic in Whitehall because it was feared that the whole the European network of British spies was at risk. The spymaster refused to give up the SIS network. He was unceremoniously thrown out of Austria and returned to Britain with a cloud of espionage charges hanging over him. He disappeared from public view but not from the ranks of the British Secret Service. He re-emerged during the Second World War, still operating a clandestine spy unit against Nazi Germany but this time from within Britain’s borders. First at the iconic Tower of London and then at 3 other country estates, he operated one of the most far-reaching and important intelligence units of the war; and one which saw his teams working closely with Alan Turing, Dilly Knox and others at Bletchley Park. 

In one of the longest-running deceptions and most comprehensive intelligence operations against and Nazi Germany in the war, Kendrick oversaw a new unit to secretly record the conversations of over 10,000 German prisoners of war at Latimer House and Wilton Park, as well as Hitler’s captured generals at the stately house of Trent Park in North London. Norman Crockatt, head of MI9, would go on to congratulate Kendrick for ‘the best deserved OBE of the war.’ And told him ‘… you have done a Herculean task.’

By his incredible wartime operations, Kendrick had, quite simply, enabled SIS /MI6 to survive the disastrous Venlo incident of November 1939, but his intelligence unit also prepared Britain ahead of the Cold War. This new revised and expanded biography provides a major reassessment of one of the greatest SIS / MI6 spymasters of the 20th century. 


Book Details:

  • Author: Helen Fry
  • Published Year: 2021
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Yale University Press
Helen Fry

Helen Fry

Helen Fry was raised in North Devon and went on to graduate from the University of Exeter with a degree and Ph.D. She has written over 25 books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans and Austrians who fought for Britain, and intelligence, espionage and prisoners of war. Her highly acclaimed book The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII was in the top 8 Daily Mail’s Books of the Year in War, and has been optioned for film. It has been the subject of numerous documentaries and continues to receive media attention.&n...
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Book Reviews

  • "The author has a very easy style and the reference to Kim Philby and Edith Tudor-Hart are intriguing. This book should be read in conjunction with the author’s book The M Room. Overall a fascinating and enjoyable book."
    ARRSE (Army Rumour Service)
  • "An exhaustively-researched book on a man whose life cried out for an autobiography... an extremely valuable contribution to our understanding of a secret world."
    The Guardian
  • "This fascinating story is all that one has come to expect of any book by Helen; well researched and above all interesting. One has to wonder what she will dig up next."
    journal of the Intelligence Corps
  • "A gripping, story well told."
    Journal of the Association of Jewish Refugees
  • "...an exhaustively-researched book on a man whose life cried out for an autobiography... an extremely valuable contribution to our understanding of a secret world."
    The Guardian
  • "absorbing biography... Fry has done a remarkable job of reconstructing the life, networks and secrets of a man who spent most of his existence hiding them"
  • "Fry’s achievement in Spymaster is a considerable one. She tells a remarkable story, exploring both the private and public life of Thomas Kendrick, not an easy task given that Kendrick spent most of his life in the shadows."
    Jewish Chronicle
  • "Riveting and meticulously researched..."
    Charlotte Philby, author of A Double Life.
  • "A must-read for everyone interested in British intelligence."
    Tessa Dunlop, author of The Bletchley Girls.
  • "  A really fascinating read..."
    Stephen Dorril, author of MI6.
  • "A fascinating account... of a rather obscure intelligence professional who had quite an impact on modern history."
    Nigel West, author of Spy Swap.
  • "Tommy Kendrick was the suave British spymaster who operated so totally in the shadows that history has forgotten him. Not any more. With this absorbing biography, his incredible range of hush-hush activities over decades blazes into the light — from elusive pimpernel in pre-war Vienna to de-briefer of weird Nazi leader Rudolf Hess in the Tower of London."
    Daily Mail's Top biographies of 2021
  • "  This intriguing individual is the subject of Helen Fry's detailed and assiduously researched biography...With so little known about MI6 operations in central Europe, this is a priceless addition to interwar intelligence history...the weight if new material."
    BBC History Magazine