House of Spies : St Ermin's Hotel, the London Base of British Espionage
St Ermin's Hotel has been at the centre of British intelligence since the 1930s, when it was known to MI6 as 'The Works Canteen'. Intelligence officers such as Ian Fleming and Noel Coward were to be found in the hotel's Caxton Bar, along with other less well-known names. Winston Churchill allegedly conceived the idea of the Special Operations Executive there over a glass (or two) of his favourite champagne in the early days of the Second World War, and the operation was started up in three gloomy rooms on the hotel's second floor, with the traitorous Cambridge Spies among its founders.
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Peter Matthews is a trustee of the Foreign Press Association. He is an author on military history and international relations, including SIGNT: The Secret History of Signals Intelligence in the World Wars. He served in the army during the Berlin Airlift and was involved in intelligence activities there during the Cold War. The House of Spies refers to St Ermin's hotel in Westminster, London. It was close to Parliament and other places of importance and had been described as the works canteen by MI6. The famous and the not so famous from the world of intelligence were to be found in the bar discussing and evaluating events.
The book reflects the extensive research by the author to provide the reader with the background information needed to understand the more complex events in the world of espionage. Many previous publications have covered some of the topics in this book. However the author's personal experiences at the time of the Cold War and Berlin Air Lift make up the bulk of the book and are events that could be new to many readers.
This hardback book of 260 pages covers the years from the WW1 to the present day with the last chapter drawing conclusions on the consequences of many events including the recent UK referendum on EU membership and also the American presidential elections on the world of espionage. The coverage of events undertaken makes this an idea book for the reader new to the subject. Although it is stated in the forward that St Ermin's hotel was at one point a base for Special Operations Executive (SOE) and MI6 there is very little reference to it in the book itself. There are also many typos and a mix up over the author of a book referred to in the text.
The book does included details of places of interest to visit. There is a bibliography and index at the rear of the book with a section of photographs included within the book. The front cover illustration is of the front entrance to St Ermin's hotel with the mysterious figure in a dark suit, with hat and briefcase entering through the arch. The back cover shows the inside of the hotel.
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