Chapman Pincher

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Chapman Pincher
Born (1914-03-29) 29 March 1914 (age 100)
Ambala, Punjab, British Raj
Occupation Journalist, historian, and novelist
Nationality British
Alma mater Darlington Grammar School
Subjects Espionage

Harry Chapman Pincher (born 29 March 1914) is a British journalist, historian, and novelist whose writing has mainly focused on espionage and related matters, after some early books on scientific subjects.[1][2] He turned 100 in March 2014.[3]

Family and education[edit]

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 Northumberland Fusiliers in India when Chapman was born.[1] His father later owned a sweetshop in Darlington and a pub on the River Tees.[1]

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 book Their Trade is Treachery (1981), in which he publicised 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 Jesus 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 Spycatcher was published in the USA in mid-1987, where it became a best-seller. Pincher was investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing, through a police investigation.[4]

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.[5] Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders, and Cover-ups: Six Decades of Espionage Against America and Great Britain, first 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 (London: Penguin, 1946)
  • Into the Atomic Age (London: Hutchinson, 1948)
  • It's Fun Finding Out (with Bernard Wicksteed, 1950)
  • "secrets et mystères du monde animal" (spotlight on animals; London: Hutchinson and Co., 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; London: Michael Joseph, 1970)
  • The Eye of the Tornado (novel; London: Michael Joseph, 1976)
  • 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 Deception: The Spycatcher Affair (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1987, ISBN 0-283-99654-4)
  • The Secret Offensive
  • Traitor: The Labyrinths of Treason.[6]
  • Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders, and Cover-ups: Six Decades of Espionage Against America and Great Britain (New York: Random House, 2009; as Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-Ups: Six Decades of Espionage 2011, Mainstream, UK)
  • Chapman Pincher: Dangerous To Know (Biteback, 2014)


  1. ^ a b c Jack, Ian (1 July 2011). "Chapman Pincher was Fleet Street's spycatcher. His secret? A good lunch". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "I intend to die in the harness: Chapman Pincher is still on the hunt for spooks" The Independent. Retrieved 2014-3-10.
  3. ^ "Spycatcher Chapman Pincher turns 100". News. King's College London. 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  4. ^ Chapman Pincher A Web of Deception: The Spycatcher Affair, London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1987, ISBN 0-283-99654-4
  5. ^ "UK Politics: Driberg always under suspicion", BBC News, 13 September 1999.
  6. ^ Bibliographic detail taken from the publication of Traitors, London: Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1987. A reprint of the first edition in 1987.

External links[edit]