MI7 was a department in the British Directorate of Military Intelligence in both the First and Second World War. The group, which was part of British Military Intelligence, was established to control propaganda and censorship. It was part of the War Office.
First World War
In February 1915, the Directorate of Special Intelligence was formed. Its department known as MO7 was concerned with press publicity; As part of the War Office, MO7 gave the first war correspondents permission to visit the Western Front in May 1915. Its duty was to ensure that the military authorities maintained control over the Press and correspondents' work. In January 1916, as part of a reorganisation of the Imperial General Staff, a new Directorate of Military Intelligence was created and MO7 became Military Intelligence Section 7.
MI7 was organised in a series of sub-sections distinguished by lower-case letters in brackets. The precise duties of these sub-sections varied with time, but may be roughly summarised as follows.
- MI7 (a) - censorship.
- MI7 (b) - foreign and domestic propaganda, including press releases concerning army matters.
- MI7 (c) - translation and (from 1917) regulation of foreign visitors.
- MI7 (d) - foreign press propaganda and review (part of subsection (b) until subsection (d) was formed in late 1916).
Surviving source documents
As a branch of military intelligence, paperwork was routinely destroyed to maintain strict security. A further large-scale destruction of papers was organised when MI7 was closed down at the end of WWI. However, some documents from MI7(b) have survived because they were retained by one of its operatives, Lieutenant Jame Price Lloyd. In 2012, relatives discovered after his death, when his property in Builth Wells, Wales was being sorted and cleared, that he had kept up to 150 files from his time at MI7(b). The archive consisted of two broad categories of articles written between 1917 and 1918 - the "Tales of the VC". More than 90 stories of individual heroism by men from all over the Empire can be viewed on the National Library of Wales website and on the Europeana 1914-18 website. Samples of the remaining 60 articles can be found in archives such as "MI7b-the discovery of a lost propaganda archive from the Great War".
Second World War
In September 1939, MI7 was reformed at the outset of the Second World War as the largely civilian Press and Propaganda section of the War Office Directorate of Military Intelligence. It was transferred to the Ministry of Information in around June 1940.
The Anglo-Irish fantasy writer Lord Dunsany served in MI7(b) during the early months of WW2 and was based at the Air Ministry building Adastral House (now known as No 1 Kingsway).
In the Bond film Dr. No (1962) there are two explicit references to James Bond working for MI6; strangely, one of these (where the words are spoken by 'M') has been dubbed to "MI7", although the speaker's lips clearly say "MI6".
In the Operation Susie episode of The Professionals, central organization CI5 comes into conflict with elements of MI7 working to a different agenda.
Rowan Atkinson's character of Johnny English from the spy spoof films Johnny English, Johnny English Reborn and Johnny English Strikes Again is an MI7 agent. The character was originally presented in a series of adverts for Barclaycard as MI7 agent Richard Latham.
In St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, former Head Girl Kelly Jones now works as an agent for MI7.
- See history of subsection (b) in a PDF file here.
- "AA Milne may not have liked MI7, but propaganda played a vital wartime role". Daily Telegraph. 25 April 2013.
- "World War I secret documents found in Powys house clearance". BBC NEWS. 9 April 2013.
- "MI 7b – the discovery of a lost propaganda archive of the Great War - World War One". llgc.org.uk. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- "Europeana 1914-1918 - untold stories & official histories of WW1". Europeana 1914-1918. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- Clayton, Anthony (1993). Forearmed, A History of the Intelligence Corps. Brassey's. ISBN 0 08 037701 7.
- "Dr. No. - James Bond Allies Feature". www.cedmagic.com. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- "History of M.I. 7 (b) (March, 1916 - December, 1918)" (PDF). psywar.org. 1920. Retrieved 20 August 2008.