Recently British researcher Brian Sims shared an interesting document with me that he had discovered in the British National Archives.
Written at the end of World War II, the document, a history of I.S.9 (Intelligence School 9) from November 1, 1943 to May 31, 1945, was written as an attachment to a memorandum to the Deputy Director of Military Intelligence (DDMI).
Fortunately for today’s readers, it was written in a style, “which might easily be read by non-regular soldiers.”
The 196-page report offers a detailed account of the structure, mission, and activities of I.S.9, which had as its chief task the support and rescue of escaped POWs and evaders (E&Es) stranded in enemy territory in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.
I.S.9 activities fell under M.I.9 (British Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 9), a department of the War Office during WW II.
This post will be the first of several on this site over the coming weeks that shed light on I.S.9, drawing from various sections of the report.
I am grateful to Brian for this material and for assistance in helping me sort through sundry military abbreviations and acronyms.
Below is a transcript of the opening section of the history, which explains the origin and organizational structure of I.S.9.
History of I.S.9 Central Mediterranean Force
ATTACHMENT “F” to DDMI (PW)s Memorandum
HISTORICAL RECORD OF I.S.9 (CMF)
(FORMERLY KNOWN AS ‘N’ SECTION ‘A’ FORCE)
FROM 1.11.43 TO 31.5.45 [November 1, 1943—May 31, 1945]
To write the history of, or a guide to, M.I.9 activities in a Theatre of War and in particular the actual Theatre of War allocated to I.S.9 (CMF) calls for a writer of historic novels, a writer with a sense of the dramatic but a writer who would always maintain a sense of proportion.
So much has happened during the course of the exciting two years, which started for I.S.9 (CMF) with 2 officers being landed on the beach at SYRACUSE: 2 officers with their kit but with no transport and with no idea as to their purpose in life, apart from the most pointed directive that they were to learn how best rescue work might be accomplished with an Army in the Field.
These two officers learned, quite quickly, one vital lesson, namely, that no rescue work of any kind would be possible unless an I.S.9 team or Unit was self contained and mobile.
What else they learned during a miserable 15-days spent in trying to hitch-hike round SICILY and in endeavoring to persuade 13 Corps and 8th Army that they had a serious role to perform, whilst they parked their bed rolls and small kit under olive trees, is debatable, but let us not go too fast in this recording of I.S.9’s activities.
A writer of historic novels, whether with or without a sense of the dramatic, is not available to us and we must therefore do our best to set down this history, or, if you prefer it, this record of our work, as best we may.
With a view to clarity, if such we accomplish, we will endeavor to set out this record, not as an “Appreciation” which calls for “Deductions” and such like, but under headings or paragraphs which might easily be read by non-regular soldiers.
This record of our work, we hope, will be interesting but above all let us hope that should such a calamity fall on us again, such as fell upon us on Sept 3, 1939, those on whose shoulders the direction of M.I.9 work again falls, may have some record on which to base possible action.
When we write of M.I.9, or I.S.9 (CMF) activities, we also include of course the activities of M.I.S.(X) WASHINGTON, whose personnel joined us in the common task.
It is a little unfortunate from the interest and possibly humorous side of this particular “history” that we must write of I.S.9 (CMF) from the 1st November 1943 only.
In order not to confuse the reader more than is necessary it is explained that M.I.9 work in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations first started early in 1941 and was carried out by ‘A’ Force, commanded by Lt-Col [lieutenant-colonel] (later Brigadier) D.W. CLARKE, CBE. A few months later, ‘N’ Section was set up in Cairo as a separate Section of ‘A’ Force and Major (later Lieut-Col) A.C. SIMONDS, OBE, placed in charge of all M.I.9 duties in the Mediterranean Command.
On the 1st November 1943 ‘N’ Section ‘A’ Force was divided into EAST and WEST, Lt-Col. A.C. SIMONDS being placed in charge of ‘N’ Section ‘A’ Force (EAST) and S/Ldr [Squadron Leader] (later W/Cdr [wing commander]) E.A. DENNIS, OBE, place in charge of ‘N’ Section ‘A’ Force (WEST).
On the 20th August 1944 responsibility for M.I.9 work in the Mediterranean Theatre passed from ‘A’ Force and became the responsibility of G-2 (P/W) AFHQ. ‘N’ Section ‘A’ Force title was changed and became I.S.9, the initials (ME) and (CMF) indicating (East) and (West) respectively.
That part of the Italian campaign from 8th Sept 1943 until 31 October 1943 will, therefore, fall within the “History” to be written by Lt-Col. A.C. SIMONDS. However, I.S.9 (CMF) has much of interest to write since 1st November 1943, as will be gathered by the reader of this “History”.
It serves no useful purpose to record in any detail the difficulties encountered through lack of an adequate War Establishment, especially in the early days. Our War Establishment in 1943 was woefully weak both in personnel, transport, and means of communication, and an idea of this weakness will be gathered when we state that our total transport consisted of one 8-cwt Utility truck and one motor-cycle. No means of intercommunication by wireless of course existed.
It must be realized however that M.I.9 work in the Field was, until the commencement of this war, something without precedent and what has been learned in the hard school of experience, at times encouraging, at times disappointing, but at all times extremely interesting.
Like Topsy, M.I.9 work in the Field was not at any given moment born, it just “growed” and the necessities of personnel, equipment and transport were not always met through “proper channels” but acquired by less orthodox means. In view of this “growth” of the organization it would be difficult to set out the War Establishment of I.S.9 (CMF) at any given time. The W.E. which, however, proved to run with undue “creaking” and which might be accepted as a basis for the future is set out as follows.
Much controversy was, at one time, centred round the question “Should M.I.9 in ITALY form part of the G-2 (Intelligence) organization at AFHQ, as in the case of M.I.9 organizations in other theatres, or should it continue as part of ‘A’ Force, under G-3 (Operations) at AFHQ.”
There can be no doubt, in view of its Charter, that the chain of Command should have been through the D.M.I., but there can be no doubt that much benefit was obtained in the early days when ‘A’ Force was under command of G-3. Benefit, that is to say, of an operational character. Special stores and equipment were apparently easier to obtain and forward Army formations and units were undoubtedly more sympathetic toward “Operations” than toward “Intelligence”. However, it was later proved that through “proper channels” little was lost by I.S.9 being directly under the G-2 (Intelligence) branch at AFHQ.
The change of title from ‘A’ Force to I.S.9 was however unfortunate and experience had shewn that taking all factors into consideration a title should have been chosen for M.I.9 work which did not indicate “Intelligence.”
Indeed it would have been almost fatal to our work in YUGOSLAVIA where the very thought of Intelligence on the part of Allies was to the Yugoslavs as a red flag is to a bull.
To the end, therefore, in YUGOSLAVIA, we maintained our title of ‘A’ Force, although, of course, without having a right to that title.
The Organization or I.S.9 (CMF) was Inter-Allied to the extent that an American complement of officers and E.M. were attached to us.
Here again, the Table of Organization (equivalent to our War Establishment) was woefully small and at no time did the American element amount to more than 1 Major, 1 Captain, 3 Lts. [lieutenants], and 5 E.M., together with 4 pieces of transport. At one period an American Lt-Col [lieutenant-colonel]. Was attached to us but was not carried on the T/O.
The American element was, of course, carrying out the same tasks, on behalf of M.I.S.(X) WASHINGTON and in a combined role.
At all times the American personnel were directly the concern of G-2 (American) AFHQ which complicated matters a little whilst ‘A’ Force were the concern of G-3, but straightened out when I.S.9 became the concern of G-2 also.
The American element was placed under command of the G.S.O.1 [General Staff Officer, grade 1] I.S.9 for operational purposes and to all intents and purposes were considered as part of the I.S.9 set-up.
American officers commanded some Field Sections and had British personnel under command. Some field sections were commanded by British officers who in turn had American personnel under command. At no time was there any suggestion that this was not a workable arrangement, but on this particular point our reader will gather a little more under the appropriate heading.
Organization I.S.9 (Central Mediterranean Force)
This organizational table shows the staffing, equipment, and relationships of units within I.S.9 in February 1945. Below I have spelled out abbreviated terms for readers who may be unfamiliar with military terminology.
1 General Staff Officer, Grade 1 (Royal Air Force)
1 General Staff Officer, Grade 2 (Army)
1 General Staff Officer, Grade 2 (Royal Air Force)
1 General Staff Officer, Grade 3 (Army)
1 Staff Captain (Army)
1 Clerks, British
1 Auxiliary Territorial Service
1 wireless telecommunications Noncommissioned Officer
1 cipher Noncommissioned Officer
1 Administrative Officer (Army)
1 15-CWT [15-hundredweight] transport vehicle
‘P’ Training Staff
1 Squadron Leader (Royal Air Force)
1 Major (Army)
1 Captain (U.S.A.)
3 British Jeeps
2 15-CWT transport vehicles
2 pickup trucks
1 3-tonner [3-ton military truck]
1 wireless telecommunications, Noncommissioned Officer
1 clerk, Noncommissioned Officer
1 staff car
1 command car
1 General Staff Officer, Grade 2 (Army) 1 Major (operations)
1 General Staff Officer, Grade 3 (Army) 1 Captain (resting)
1 Intelligence Officer
1 clerks (1 British, 1 U.S.A.)
1 Company Sergeant Major
2 15-CWT transport vehicles
2 3-tonners [3-ton military truck]
1 command car (U.S.A.)
[The five units below reported to Field Headquarters.]
No. 1 Section
Officer in Command – 1 Flight Lieutenant (Royal Air Force)
1 Captain (Army)
1 2nd Lieutenant (U.S.A.)
1 Staff Sergeant (U.S.A.)
1 15-CWT transport vehicle
No. 2 Section
Officer in Command – 1st Lieutenant (U.S.A.)
2 Lieutenants (Army)
1 Sergeant, attached
1 15-CWT transport vehicle (U.S.A.)
No. 5 Section
Officer in Command – 1 Captain (U.S.A.)
1 Captain (Army)
1 1st Lieutenant (U.S.A.)
1 Company Sergeant Major
2 15-CWT transport vehicles (1 U.S.A.)
Officer in Command – 1 Captain (Union Defense Force—the South African Army)
1 Noncommissioned Officer (U.S.A.)
1 set (Royal Navy)
Detachment South France
1 Captain (Army)