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

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 had married in 1913 in Pontefract.[3] His father's family was from north Yorkshire and his father was serving in the Northumberland Fusiliers in India when Chapman was born.[1]

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 and then studied at King's College London.[4]

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.[citation needed]


At the Daily Express, Pincher developed his own style of investigative journalism, actively seeking out high-level contacts to obtain secret information. He regular 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][5][6]

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.[6]

Later life and career[edit]

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 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. 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.[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 PM Margaret Thatcher, outlining Angleton's suspicions of Hollis acting as a double agent.[citation needed]

Pincher became enmeshed 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.[7]

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.[8] 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 turned 100 in March 2014.[9] He died at his home in Kintbury on 5 August 2014.[10][11]


  • 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.[12]
  • 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. ^ Nick Higham (28 March 2014). "Harry Chapman Pincher: Ex-Daily Express journalist turns 100". BBC News. 
  6. ^ a b "Chapman Pincher - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 6 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Chapman Pincher A Web of Deception: The Spycatcher Affair, London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1987; ISBN 0-283-99654-4
  8. ^ "UK Politics: Driberg always under suspicion", BBC News, 13 September 1999.
  9. ^ "Spycatcher Chapman Pincher turns 100". News. King's College London. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Obituary,, 10 August 2014; accessed 3 April 2016.
  11. ^ "Obituary: Chapman Pincher". Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  12. ^ 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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