Directorate of Military Intelligence

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This article is about the former British directorate. For the Irish directorate, see Directorate of Military Intelligence (Ireland). For the Israeli directorate, see Military Intelligence Directorate (Israel). For the Indian directorate, see Directorate of Military Intelligence (India).
"MI16" redirects here. For other uses, see MI16 (disambiguation).
Directorate of Military Intelligence
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Department of Topography & Statistics
Superseding agency
Jurisdiction Government of the United Kingdom
Headquarters Horseguard Avenue
Agency executive
Parent department British War Office

The Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) was a department of the British War Office.[1]

Over its lifetime the Directorate underwent a number of organisational changes, absorbing and shedding sections over time.


The first instance of an organisation which would later become the DMI was the Department of Topography & Statistics, formed by Major Thomas Best Jervis, late of the Bombay Engineer Corps, in 1854 in the early stages of the Crimean War.[2]

When the War Office was subsumed into the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 1964, the DMI was absorbed into the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), with some functions divested elsewhere in the MoD.

Directors of Military Intelligence[edit]


During World War I, British secret services were divided into numbered sections named Military Intelligence, department number x, abbreviated to MIx, such as MI1 for information management. The branch, department, section, and sub-section numbers varied through the life of the department, however examples include:[4]

Name Activities
MI1 Codes and cyphers. Later merged with other code-breaking agencies and became Government Code and Cypher School (now known as Government Communications Headquarters).
MI2 Information on Middle and Far East, Scandinavia, USA, USSR, Central and South America.
MI3 Information on Eastern Europe and the Baltic Provinces (plus USSR, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia after Summer 1941).
MI4 Geographical section—maps (transferred to Military Operations in April 1940).
MI5 Counterintelligence.
MI6 Liaison with Secret Intelligence Service and Foreign Office.
MI7 Press and propaganda (transferred to Ministry of Information in May 1940).
MI8 Signals interception and communications security.
MI9 Escaped British PoW debriefing, escape and evasion (also: enemy PoW interrogation until 1941).
MI10 Technical Intelligence worldwide.
MI11 Military Security.
MI12 Liaison with censorship organisations in Ministry of Information, military censorship.
MI13 Not used (except in fiction e.g. MI-13, The Scarifyers).
MI14 Germany and German-occupied territories (aerial photography until Spring 1943).
MI15 Aerial photography. In the Spring of 1943, aerial photography moved to the Air Ministry and MI15 became air defence intelligence.
MI16 Scientific Intelligence (formed 1945).[5]
MI17 Secretariat for Director of Military Intelligence from April 1943.
MI18 Used only in fiction.
MI19 Enemy prisoner of war interrogation (formed from MI9 in December 1941).
MI (JIS) Related to Joint Intelligence Staff, a sub-group of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Axis planning staff.
MI L(R) Russian Liaison.


Two MI section-names remain in use. "MI5" and "MI6" are used colloquially in the United Kingdom and elsewhere to refer to the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service respectively, although neither organisation has been officially titled as such since the late 1920s. Both "MI5" and "MI6" are also depicted in the logos of the respective organisations and are often used to refer to both departments by the government and media, even though the Security Service is actually part of the Home Office and the Secret Intelligence Service of the Foreign Office.


  1. ^ "History of the Ministry of Defence". Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  2. ^ The Puppet Masters, John Hughes-Wilson, Cassell, London, 2004
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41795. p. 5257. 21 August 1959.
  4. ^ "SIS Records — War Office Military Intelligence (MI)Sections in the Second World War". Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  5. ^ Aldrich, Richard James (1998). Espionage, security, and intelligence in Britain, 1945–1970. Manchester University Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-7190-4956-9.