What's in a name?
The origins of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) are to be
found in the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau,
established by the Committee of Imperial Defence in October 1909.
The Secret Service Bureau was soon abbreviated to 'Secret Service',
'SS Bureau' or even 'SS'.
The First World War and MI1(c)
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 brought a need for
even closer cooperation with military intelligence organisations
within the War Office. This led to the virtual integration of the
Foreign Section within the Military Intelligence Directorate. Thus,
for much of the war, Cumming's organisation was known as MI1(c).
This arrangement did not sit well with Cumming - a naval officer
who was less than pleased at appearing under the auspices of the
A return to Foreign Office control
The debate over the future structure of British Intelligence
continued at length after the end of hostilities but Cumming
managed to engineer the return of the Service to Foreign Office
control. At this time the organisation was known in Whitehall by a
variety of titles including the 'Foreign Intelligence Service', the
'Secret Service', 'MI1(c)', the 'Special Intelligence Service' and
even 'C's organisation'.
Around 1920, the organisation began increasingly to be referred
to as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), a title that it has
continued to use to the present day and which was enshrined in
statute in the Intelligence Services Act 1994.
'MI6' has become an almost interchangeable title for SIS, at
least in the minds of those outside the Service. The origins of the
use of this other title are to be found in the late 1930s when it
was adopted as a flag of convenience for SIS. It was used
extensively during the Second World War, especially if an
organisational link needed to be made with MI5 (the Security
Service). Although 'MI6' fell into official disuse years ago,
many writers and journalists continue to use it to describe