Directorate of Military Intelligence (United Kingdom)

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Directorate of Military Intelligence
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Department of Topography & Statistics
Dissolved 1964
Superseding agency
Jurisdiction Government of the United Kingdom
Headquarters Horseguards Avenue
Agency executive
Parent department 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.[3]


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, GCHQ).
MI2 Information on Middle and Far East, Scandinavia, US, USSR, Central and South America.
MI3 Information on Eastern Europe and the Baltic Provinces (plus USSR 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. Merged into MI6 in 1941.
MI9 Escaped British PoW debriefing, escape and evasion (also: enemy PoW interrogation until 1941).
MI10 Technical Intelligence worldwide. Merged into GCHQ.
MI11 Military Security. Disbanded at the end of WWII.
MI12 Liaison with censorship organisations in Ministry of Information, military censorship.
MI13 Undocumented Intelligence and Special operations.
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 Officially used only in fiction. Theorised[by whom?] (with little evidence) to have been responsible for identifying and destroying communist organisations in German occupied territory and attempting to slow the Soviet advance in order to ensure the Allies reached Berlin before the Soviets. May also have assisted with the US's efforts to recruit and capture Axis defectors and prevent them from defecting or being captured by the USSR.[citation needed]
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 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, 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 monikers 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:[6]
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 2009-06-19. 
  2. ^ The Puppet Masters, John Hughes-Wilson, Cassell, London, 2004
  3. ^ Dylan, p. 184
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ Aldrich, Richard James (1998). Espionage, security, and intelligence in Britain, 1945–1970. Manchester University Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-7190-4956-9. 
  6. ^ "Army senior appointments" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2015.