Directorate of Military Intelligence (United Kingdom)

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Directorate of Military Intelligence
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Department of Topography & Statistics
Superseding agency
JurisdictionGovernment of the United Kingdom
HeadquartersHorseguards Avenue
Agency executive
Parent departmentWar 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]

In 1873 the Intelligence Branch was created within the Quartermaster General's Department with an initial staff of seven officers.[3] Initially the Intelligence Branch was solely concerned with collecting intelligence, but under the leadership of Henry Brackenbury, a protege of influential Adjutant-General Lord Wolseley, it was increasingly concerned with planning. However despite these steps towards a nascent general staff, the Intelligence Branch remained a purely advisory body, something that sharply limited its influence. The Branch was transferred to the Adjutant General's Department in 1888 and Brackenbury's title was changed to Director of Military Intelligence.

After Wolseley's appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in 1895, he made the Director of Military Intelligence directly responsible to him. At the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899 the Intelligence Branch had 13 officers. Prior to the war it produced a highly accurate summary of the Boer republics' military potential and was the only part of the War Office to escape criticism in the resulting Royal Commission. In the immediate aftermath of the Boer War the Intelligence Branch was enlarged and its head elevated to Director General of Mobilisation and Military Intelligence.

Following the Esher Report in 1904 the War Office was dramatically reorganized. The post of Commander-in-Chief was abolished and replaced by the Chief of the General Staff. Planning and intelligence would be the responsibility of the Directorate of Military Operations.

When the War Office was subsumed into the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 1964, the DMI was absorbed into the Defence Intelligence Staff.[4]


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:

Name World War I[5] World War II[6] Current status
MI1 Secretariat, including : Administration Reorganized around 1919
MI1b is an ancestor of GCHQ
MI2 Geographical information (Americas, Latin countries, Balkans, Ottoman Empire, Trans-Caucasus, Arabia, Africa less French and Spanish possessions) Information on Middle and Far East, Scandinavia, US, USSR, Central and South America. These functions were absorbed into MI3 in 1941.
MI3 Geographical Information (rest of European countries) Information on Eastern Europe and the Baltic states (plus USSR, Scandinavia and Finland after summer 1941). Functions absorbed into MI6 in 1945
MI4 Topographical information and military maps Geographical section—maps. Transferred to Military Operations in April 1940
MI5 Counter-espionage and military policy in dealing with the civil population (the former Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau) Liaison with the Security Service (counterintelligence) Active
MI6 Legal and economic section dealing with the MI finance as well as economic intelligence and personnel records. Monitoring arms trafficking. Liaison with Secret Intelligence Service Active
MI7 Press censorship and propaganda Press and propaganda Transferred to the Ministry of Information in around May 1940.[7]
MI8 Cable censorship Signals interception and communications security. Merged into MI6 in 1941
MI9 Postal censorship Escaped British PoW debriefing, escape and evasion (also: enemy PoW interrogation until 1941). Operated until 1945
MI10 Foreign Military Attaches Technical Intelligence worldwide Merged into MI16 after World War II
MI11 Military Security. Disbanded at the end of WWII
MI12 Liaison with censorship organisations in Ministry of Information, military censorship.
MI13 (Not used)
MI14 Germany and German-occupied territories (aerial photography). Operated until spring 1943
MI15 Aerial photography. In the spring of 1943, aerial photography moved to the Air Ministry and MI15 became air defence intelligence. Operated during the World War II era.
MI16 Scientific Intelligence (formed 1945).[8]
MI17 Secretariat for Director of Military Intelligence from April 1943.
MI18 (Not used)
MI19 Enemy prisoner of war interrogation (formed from MI9 in December 1941). Operated during the World War II era.
Others MIR: Information on Russia, Siberia, Central Asia, Persia, Afghanistan, China, Japan, Thailand and India MI (JIS): ″Axis planning staff″ related to Joint Intelligence Staff, a sub-group of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
MI L: Attaches.
MI L(R): Russian Liaison.

Two MI section-names remain in common use, MI5 and MI6, in most part due to their use in spy fiction and the news media.

"MI5" is used as the short form name of the Security Service, and is included in the agency's logo and web address. MI6 is included as an alias on the Secret Intelligence Service website, though the official abbreviation, SIS, is predominant.

While the names remain, the agencies are now responsible to different departments of state, MI5 to the Home Office, and MI6 the Foreign Office.

Directors of Military Intelligence[edit]

Directors of Military Intelligence have been:[9]

Deputy Quartermaster General, Intelligence Branch

Director of Military Intelligence

Director General of Mobilisation and Military Intelligence

Director of Military Operations

Director of Military Intelligence

Director of Military Operations and Intelligence

Director of Military Intelligence


  1. ^ "History of the Ministry of Defence". Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  2. ^ The Puppet Masters, John Hughes-Wilson, Cassell, London, 2004
  3. ^ Wade, Stephen (2007). Spies in the Empire: Victorian Military Intelligence. Anthem Press. p. 87. ISBN 9780857287014. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  4. ^ Dylan, p. 184
  5. ^ "SIS Records — War Office Military Intelligence (MI) Sections in the First World War". Archived from the original on 20 August 2006.
  6. ^ "SIS Records — War Office Military Intelligence (MI)Sections in the Second World War". Archived from the original on 26 August 2008. Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  7. ^ Clayton, Anthony (1993). Forearmed, A History of the Intelligence Corps. Brassey's. ISBN 0-08-037701-7.[verification needed]
  8. ^ Aldrich, Richard James (1998). Espionage, security, and intelligence in Britain, 1945–1970. Manchester University Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-7190-4956-9.
  9. ^ "Army senior appointments" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2015.


Further reading[edit]

  • The DMI in World War I: Link