Evidence Of Espionage At The Public Record Office!

Richard Moss
a photograph of a large glass fronted building

The Public Record Office at Kew, South London, has a massive holding of classified and declassified government documents relating to the long and twisted history of espionage in the UK. © PRO

With every year bringing a new batch of declassified government documents into the public domain, the Public Record Office is an essential place for anyone interested in espionage activity in the UK to visit.

a drawing of a seated man with the word spy on his back and the words enemy number one across the bottom

Enemy No.1 - artwork from a Second World War UK government anti-espionage campaign. Courtesy Public Record Office, Kew.

Featuring records from government departments and agencies such as MI5 and MI6 as well as war records and material from Domesday onwards, the PRO holds an unparalleled array of documentation. All of it can be examined closely in their reading rooms.

a pssport page with the photograph of Adolf Hitler in the top corner

Adolph Hitler's passport - a document forged by British intelligence for propaganda purposes. Courtesy Public Record Office, Kew

Utilising just some of this collection, the PRO is planning an espionage exhibition for Spring 2003 as part of their virtual museum. It will contain two galleries:

'Secrets and Spies' will consist of three galleries containing material relating to the use of codes and ciphers in the Elizabethan period, the Napoleonic period and the twentieth century. Exhibits will include material from the National Archives such as coded letters from Mary Queen of Scots and Alan Turing's notes on the Enigma machine.

a drawing showing two hand drawn cog wheels

Alan Turing's wartime sketch of Enigma coding wheels - also a glimpse of the workings of the mind of a genius. Courtesy Public Record Office, Kew.

'Spies' promises to reveal, through thorough documentary evidence, the case studies of three spies in British espionage history. The gallery promises to lift the lid on some of the most notorious and intriguing cases of espionage in our history.

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