Previous chiefs

Sir Mansfield Cummings

Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming (1859-1923)

Chief from 1909 to 1923. Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming was the founding father of the Secret Intelligence Service. In October 1909 he took charge of the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau that subsequently evolved into the independent service, SIS.

Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair (1873-1939)

Chief from 1923 to 1939. Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair succeeded Cumming after a distinguished career in the Royal Navy. He led the Service for sixteen years (the longest to date) and, like his predecessor, died 'in harness' in November 1939.

Major-General Sir Stewart Menzies (1890-1968)

Chief from 1939 to 1952. Major-General Sir Stewart Menzies served in SIS from the end of the First World War becoming head of the Army Section and, later, Sinclair's deputy. SIS' youngest Chief, he steered SIS through the Second World War and into the early years of the Cold War.

Major-General Sir John Sinclair (1897-1977)

Chief from 1952 to 1956. After a long career in Military Intelligence (including wartime secondment to SIS), Major-General Sir John Sinclair's tenure as Chief was brief in comparison to his three predecessors.

Sir Dick White (1906-1993)

Chief from 1956 to 1968. Sir Dick White's career as an intelligence officer began in the Security Service, in which he rose to be Director General in 1953.  He transferred to SIS as Chief in 1956, being the only person to have headed both organisations.

Sir John Rennie (1914-1981)

Chief from 1968 to 1973. The first career Foreign Office official to be Chief, Sir John Rennie's appointment marked a departure from the previous five Chiefs, all of whom had extensive experience of the intelligence world.

Sir Maurice Oldfield (1915-1981)

Chief from 1973 to 1978. A career intelligence officer from the Second World War, Sir Maurice Oldfield served as deputy to the two Chiefs who preceded him.  Following his retirement as Chief, he served as Security Coordinator in Northern Ireland.

Sir Arthur (Dickie) Franks (1920-2008)

Chief from 1978 to 1981. Sir Arthur Franks joined SIS after wartime service in the Special Operations Executive. He fulfilled a variety of foreign and home postings until his appointment as Chief in 1978.

Sir Colin Figures (1925-2006)

Chief from 1981 to 1985. After war service in the British Army, Sir Colin Figures followed a career as an intelligence officer at home and abroad.  On his retirement from SIS he became Intelligence Coordinator at the Cabinet Office.

Sir Christopher Curwen (1929-2013)

Chief from 1985 to 1988. Sir Christopher Curwen fulfilled a variety of home and foreign postings as a career intelligence officer before succeeding Sir Colin Figures as Chief in 1985.

Sir Colin McColl (1932- )

Chief from 1988 to 1994. Sir Colin McColl was Chief during a momentous period of SIS history which included the move to a new HQ at Vauxhall Cross and the Service's official recognition in the 1994 Intelligence Services Act.

Sir David Spedding (1943-2001)

Chief from 1994 to 1999. A career intelligence officer, Sir David Spedding served abroad and at home during a distinguished career that saw him rise to the leadership of the service aged 51.

Sir Richard Dearlove (1945- )

Chief from 1999 to 2004. A career intelligence officer who served in a variety of foreign postings, from 1998. Sir Richard Dearlove acted as Assistant Chief to Sir David Spedding and succeeded him in 1999.

Sir John Scarlett (1948- )

Chief 2004 to 2009. Joined SIS in 1971 and served as a career intelligence officer before being appointed Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in 2001. He returned to SIS as Chief in 2004.

Sir John Sawers (1955- )

Chief, 2009 - 2014. Sir John Joined the Service in 1977 but shortly after transferred into the Diplomatic Service where his posts included Foreign Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister, Ambassador to Cairo, Special Representative to Iraq, Political Director, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Sir John rejoined the Service in 2009 when he became Chief.