Chapman Pincher

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Henry Chapman Pincher
Born (1914-03-29)29 March 1914
Ambala, Punjab, India
Died 5 August 2014(2014-08-05) (aged 100)
Kintbury, England, United Kingdom
Occupation Journalist, historian, and novelist
Nationality British
Alma mater King's College London
Subject Espionage
Children 2 blood-related children, several step children from other marriages

Henry Chapman Pincher (29 March 1914 – 5 August 2014) was an English journalist, historian, and novelist whose writing mainly focused on espionage and related matters, after some early books on scientific subjects.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Pincher was born in Ambala, Punjab, to English parents. His father, Richard Chapman Pincher, was a major in the British army, and his mother Helen (née Foster), was an actress. They were living in India because of Pincher father’s military services. His father's family was from north Yorkshire and his father was serving in the Northumberland Fusiliers in India when Chapman was born.[1] They had married in 1913 in Pontefract.[3] which is a small market town.

The family returned home to Pontefract when Pincher was aged 3 and he attended 13 different schools before the family settled in Darlington, where his father would later own a sweet shop and a pub on the River Tees.[1] Aged 10 he won a scholarship to Darlington Grammar School where he took an interest in genetics and then studied zoology and biology at King's College London.[4]

Chapman Pincher married Constance Sylvia Wolstenholme in 1965. Pincher had two children, but they are from a previous marriage. Pincher altogether was married three times.

Early career[edit]

His first teaching job as a physics master was at the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys where he took pride in writing agricultural journals. When World War II began, Pincher decided to join the Royal Armoured Corps to serve his country, mainly because he felt that was the right thing to do, and because his father was ex-military at this point. Pincher was a Staff Officer in the Corps, which he grew to very much enjoy during his time in the military. While he was enlisted, he took a keen interest in the trade of weaponry and learned as much as he possibly could each day. Pincher eventually became a tank gunner in World War II. This trade is where Pincher took a liking for intelligence and how the military and spies did their jobs. He learned quickly that there was a lot of lying going on that he knew he could get to the bottom of if someone would give him the chance in the first place.[5] Pincher was contacted by the Daily Express for information about a new explosive that had been developed while he was researching rockets during his time in the Royal Armoured Corps. Pincher reported news of the development of RDX and would continually supply information of this sort, specifically about “V-1 flying bomb, the V-2 rocket and the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.” [6] When he finished his time, a fellow recruited him to come and write for the Daily Express in London. Pincher believed it was his job to keep the media informed on the matter of decision making the military did every single day, from his first-hand view. He took joy in finding angles that nobody else could find, and that is where he excelled he later found out. The Daily Express could see the potential in each piece he sent in and they wanted him to come and write for them as a career. Pincher had a friend that worked for the Daily Express and eventually began his work there as an investigative journalist.


At the Daily Express, Pincher developed his own style of investigative journalism, actively seeking out high-level contacts to obtain secret information.

Pincher career as a journalist involved unveiling Cold War secrets in London for the Daily Express. During his career, he had contact with the British Government that MI5 and MI6 could possibly be providing housing for Soviet agents without them even knowing. Pincher always went above and beyond for his investigative reporting style, including undermining people's personal phone calls and relentlessly bugging important people, such as Prime Minister Harold Wilson, for answers to questions that he had that he was not telling the public. He regularly provided exclusives that other journalists had missed, which led to his employers calling him "the lone wolf of Fleet Street". He made both "friends and enemies in high places". In 1959 Prime Minister Harold Macmillan wrote to his Minister of Defence: "Can nothing be done to suppress or get rid of Chapman Pincher?"[2][7][8] Pincher obtained the title "spy catcher" after he exposed several people one of the most famous being George Blake, an MI6 member who let close to one hundred Soviet spies get jobs at the embassy there in London. [9]

Assigned to cover the stories of physicists Alan Nunn May and Klaus Fuchs, who, in the early post-war years were unmasked as Soviet spies, espionage became a particular interest of Pincher's. It was this aspect of his career that brought him fame and honours; he won Journalist of the Year in 1964 and Reporter of the Decade in 1966.[8]

Later life and career[edit]

Pincher is best known as the author of the book Their Trade is Treachery (1981), in which he publicized for the first time the suspicions that MI5's former Director General Roger Hollis had been a spy for the Soviet Union, and describes MI5's and MI6's internal inquiries into the matter. Pincher 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 a public setting in the near future.[citation needed]

Wright, a retired MI5 Soviet counterespionage officer, was Pincher's 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 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, outlining Angleton's suspicions of Hollis acting as a double agent.[citation needed]

Pincher became ensnared in 1986 in the Spycatcher affair, when Wright tried to publish his own book in Australia, in apparent violation of his oath-taking of the Official Secrets Act when he joined 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 United States in mid-1987, where it became a best seller. Pincher was investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing, through a police investigation.[10]

Pincher was convinced that, alongside Wilson, many other members of the Labour Party were Soviet agents, among them Member of Parliament, 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.[11] 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 UK and United States up to date.[citation needed]


Pincher died on 5 August 2014 in Kintbury outside of West Berkshire, England at 100 years old. Just seven weeks before his death, Pincher suffered a stroke. He passed with his family by his side while his family and Pincher talked about the good ol’ days of espionage and the power it gave him in his career[5] Pincher's son, Michael Chapman Pincher posted on his personal social media page saying "Our dad, Chapman Pincher (The Lone Wolf of Fleet Street) facing his death with: no regrets, no fear, and no expectation, died of old age on 05 August 2014 aged hundred and a quarter. "Harry" a journalist, author, fisherman, shot and scourge of politicians of all hues leaves Pat and Mick, a raft of grandchildren, his third wife Billiee and her three children. His last joke was "Tell them I'm out of scoops." For him, RIP stands for Recycling-in-Progress"[12]


  • 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)
  • Not with a Bang (novel, 1965)
  • The Giant Killer (novel, 1967)
  • The Penthouse Conspirators (novel; London: Michael Joseph, 1970)
  • The Skeleton at the Villa Wolkonsky (novel; London: Michael Joseph, 1975)
  • The Eye of the Tornado (novel; London: Michael Joseph, 1976)
  • The Four Horses (1978)
  • Inside Story (1978)
  • Dirty Tricks (1980)
  • Their Trade is Treachery (1981)
  • The Private World of St John Terrapin (1982)
  • Too Secret Too Long (1984)
  • The Secret Offensive (1985)
  • A Web of Deception: The Spycatcher Affair (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1987, ISBN 0-283-99654-4)
  • Traitor: The Labyrinths of Treason.[13]
  • The Truth About Dirty Tricks (1990)
  • 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. ^ a b Charlotte Philby (16 February 2013). "I intend to die in the harness: Chapman Pincher is still on the hunt for spooks". The Independent. 
  3. ^ "". Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Philby, Charlotte (16 February 2013). "'I intend to die in the harness': Chapman Pincher is still on the hunt for spooks". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^ Nick Higham (28 March 2014). "Harry Chapman Pincher: Ex-Daily Express journalist turns 100". BBC News. 
  8. ^ a b "Chapman Pincher - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 6 August 2014. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Chapman Pincher A Web of Deception: The Spycatcher Affair, London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1987; ISBN 0-283-99654-4
  11. ^ "UK Politics: Driberg always under suspicion", BBC News, 13 September 1999.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Bibliographic detail taken from the publication of Traitors, London: Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1987. A reprint of the first edition in 1987.

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