Harry Chapman Pincher (born 29 March 1914) is an India-born British journalist, historian, and novelist whose writing has mainly focused on espionage and related matters, after some early books on scientific subjects.
Family and education
Pincher was born in Ambala, Punjab. His parents were Richard Chapman Pincher, a major in the British army and Helen Foster, an actress. His father's family was from north Yorkshire and his father was serving in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers in India when Chapman was born. His father later owned a sweetshop in Darlington and a pub on the River Tees.
He was educated at Darlington Grammar School and King's College London. His first teaching job as a physics master was at the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys, between 1938 and 1940, before he joined the army, where he became a technical officer in the Rocket Division, Ministry of Supply, 1943-45. He joined the Daily Express in 1946 as a science and defence correspondent.
Pincher is best known as the author of the 1981 book Their Trade is Treachery, in which he publicized for the first time the suspicions that former Director General of MI5 Roger Hollis had been a spy for the Soviet Union, and describes MI5's and MI6's internal inquiries into the matter. He was at one point close to Peter Wright, who he knew suspected Harold Wilson of having been a Soviet agent, and according to the biography of Wilson written by Ben Pimlott, Pincher was trying to get information from Wright so that he could accuse Wilson in public.
Pincher used Wright, a retired MI5 Soviet counterespionage officer, as a main source for Their Trade is Treachery, along with British MP Jonathan Aitken and Wright's former colleague Arthur S. Martin. Aitken, using information from retired CIA counterespionage chief James Angleton, wrote a highly confidential letter in early 1980 to British PM Margaret Thatcher, outlining Angleton's suspicions of Hollis acting as a double agent. Pincher then himself became enmeshed in 1986 in the Spycatcher matter, when Wright tried to publish his own book in Australia, in apparent violation of his oath-taking of the Official Secrets Act upon joining MI5. The matter led to prolonged legal wrangling, with the British government mounting a heavy defence, which was ultimately unsuccessful through three levels of the Australian court system. In the meantime Wright published Spycatcher in the USA in mid-1987, where it became a massive best-seller. Pincher was investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing, through a police investigation.
Pincher was convinced that, alongside Wilson, many other members of the Labour party were Soviet agents, among them MP Tom Driberg, who was Chairman of the Labour Party. Pincher claimed that Driberg was an active double agent for MI5 and the KGB despite his well-founded reputation for total indiscretion.
His latest book, published in 2009, brings the known Soviet espionage cases against the U.K. and U.S.A. up to date.
- The Breeding of Farm Animals (Penguin, London, 1946)
- It's Fun Finding Out (with Bernard Wicksteed, 1950)
- "secrets et mystères du monde animal" (spotlight on animals), Hutchinson and Co. Londres 1950.collection "les livres de la nature", préface de jean Rostand pour l'édition française, chez Stock 1952.
- The Skeleton at the Villa Wolkonsky
- Not with a Bang (novel, 1965)
- The Giant Killer (novel, 1967)
- The Penthouse Conspirators (novel; 1970, Michael Joseph, London)
- The Eye of the Tornado (novel; 1976, Michael Joseph, London)
- Dirty Tricks
- The Four Horses (1978)
- Inside Story (1978)
- Their Trade is Treachery (1981)
- The Private World of St John Terrapin
- Too Secret Too Long (1984)
- A Web of Deceit: The Spycatcher Affair (1987), Sidgwick and Jackson (London), ISBN 0-283-99654-4
- The Secret Offensive
- Traitor: The Labyrinths of Treason.
- Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders, and Cover-ups: Six Decades of Espionage Against America and Great Britain (2009, Random House, U.S.A.)
- Jack, Ian (1 July 2011). "Chapman Pincher was Fleet Street's spycatcher. His secret? A good lunch". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- A Web of Deception: The Spycatcher Affair, by Chapman Pincher, London 1987, Sidgwick and Jackson, ISBN 0-283-99654-4
- "UK Politics: Driberg always under suspicion", BBC News, 13 September 1999.
- Bibliographic detail taken from the publication of Traitors, published by Sidgwick and Jackson London 1987. A reprint of the first edition in 1987.