Colonel David Cornwall
'R' - Head of PISCES

Written by Nick Brownlow

David Cornwall was born at his family home in Poulton-Le-Fylde, Lancashire, on the 1st February 1888, although he spent most of his childhood in suburban London. Whilst originally a family of wealthy local landowners, for the better part of the last century the Cornwall family business had been exploration and adventure. Cornwall's Grandfather served in the East India Company prior to the Mutiny, his Uncle died in Mali searching for the source of the Niger and his Father made a fortune working for De Beers Consolidated Mines in South Africa. Cornwall inherited the family wanderlust, and after graduating from Sandhurst College in 1909 he enlisted in the Army, intending to see the world. Unfortunately, he only had time for one tour of the Sudan before the 'war to end all wars' erupted in Europe. Now a Captain in the British Expeditionary Force, Cornwall was posted to the front- in France. In the face of the atrocities of daily life on the Western Front, the youthful Cornwall's love of life and adventure was slowly tempered by a world-weary cynicism. Nevertheless he proved himself to be a capable and highly intelligent officer on many occasions, and was routinely selected for special duties such as trench raids and reconnaissance patrols (to the mortification of the men under his command). Eventually, it was one such special duty that afforded Cornwall his first glimpse of the incomprehensible forces that lurk at the fringes of mundane experience.

In 1916 there were widespread rumours in the trenches that cannibalistic 'dog men' had been seen roaming the battlefields and feeding on the fallen. The British High Command had no idea as to their source, or indeed what substance they might have, but they were common enough for Field Marshall Haig to become concerned at the effect they were having on the men's morale. Seeking to debunk the rumours, Haig ordered Army Intelligence to organise a fact-finding mission into No Man's Land. The operation was code named DEATHWATCH, and Cornwall and his men were selected to go 'over the top' and investigate. They soon discovered a series of tunnels under the battlefield that were clearly not the product of human engineering. Nor were they uninhabited. After a brief but bloody struggle, Cornwall's men were able to clear the tunnels of the inhuman things that lived in them using gas and grenades. Realising the High Command were unlikely to take their stories of grave monsters and charnel gods seriously, Cornwall ordered his men to report that what they had encountered was a group of shell-shocked, cannibalistic deserters - which of course was exactly what the High Command wanted to hear. As a reward Cornwall was transferred to intelligence duties, planning special operations behind enemy lines. Four months after he left the front all the other DEATHWATCH survivors were killed at the Somme, leaving Cornwall alone with the knowledge of the other-worldly things that gorged themselves on human flesh in the blood and mud.

At the end of the war Cornwall stayed in the Army, but found himself permanently attached to intelligence duties. In effect he was now a full-time SIS Officer, and served in Cyprus, Palestine and the Suez before finally being assigned to the Istanbul station in 1924 as a military attaché. By this time, both of Cornwall's parents were dead and he had inherited a modest fortune. Cornwall used his wealth to fund his extra-curricular interests in all things 'preternatural', which had become something of an obsession with him.

Around the time Cornwall was posted to Istanbul, the British were facing increasingly stringent opposition in their Middle Eastern holdings from Islamic fundamentalists. The SIS head of Station in Istanbul was particularly concerned about the presence of charismatic Arab leader Selim Makryat in the city; a man who enjoyed not only widespread popular support, but also appeared to be extremely well connected in Turkish officialdom. Selim had expressed overtly anti-British sentiments many times in his public speeches, and his following appeared to be growing larger and increasingly fanatical. Selim made the British very, very nervous.

Cornwall's initial task was to placate the HoS's fear that Selim had links to the Comintern. Whilst he was able to quickly put the issue to rest, the strange fates of the agents he employed to acquire this knowledge - they either became fanatical devotees of Selim almost overnight or disappeared completely - convinced Cornwall further investigation was required. It took him a great deal of time and money to discover the truth. Selim's public persona as a fanatical Islamic fundamentalist leader was just a front. Selim and his inner circle (which included several high-ranking government officials) were members of a secret society known as the Brothers of the Skin. Claiming a lineage that could be traced back to the Crusades, the Brothers worshipped ancient desert gods and djinn, including a pre-Moslem pagan deity known as the Skinless One. After an attempt was made on his life using preternatural means, Cornwall hit back by planting evidence on several of Selim's close associates and exposing them as traito rs to the Ataturk Government. All were subsequently tried and executed. Without the political protection of his lieutenants, persons unknown then assassinated Selim shortly after. Rumours abounded at the British Embassy that Cornwall had somehow been behind that as well.

Whilst a success in SIS terms, the Foreign Office was not pleased with the outcome. The Turkish government were embarrassed by Cornwall's accusations, and the Foreign Office had to admit that they were spying on them as well, putting a severe strain on Anglo-Turkish relations. In the aftermath of the scandal, Cornwall begrudgingly resigned his commission, fully intending to retire from public life and write about preternatural phenomena from a seafront property he'd purchased with his inheritance, close to where he was born. It was at this point, however, that Cornwall was approached by the strange and awkward figure of Commander Frederick Ramsey - formerly of the Admiralty's Naval Intelligence Department and now head of MI-13 - the Foreign Office's Special Reconnaissance Section.

These were hard times for MI-13; the former head of SIS - the legendary Mansfield Cumming - had always seen the Special Reconnaissance Section as his intelligence ace in the hole, but his successor Admiral Hugh Sinclair was rather more sceptical. Considered something of an 'eccentric' even by his close friends, Ramsey was unsuited to fighting the bureaucratic battles needed to keep the department afloat; nor did he enjoy the kind of influential connections that might have helped, having relied far too heavily on his close relationship with the former 'C'. Despite the humiliating conclusion to his career with SIS, however, Cornwall still enjoyed the good favour of many senior SIS officers, and so Ramsey persuaded him to come out of retirement and join MI-13 as his assistant, placating Sinclair and effectively running the department whilst Ramsey continued obsessive quest for the truth. When Ramsey died in 1932, Cornwall was quickly appointed his successor.

Whilst a lack of funding imposed severe limits on what could be accomplished at MI-13, Cornwall was determined to make the best use of the resources that he had, and fostered a large network of contacts in the occult underground both in Britain and abroad. This proved vital to the survival of MI-13 in the run up to World War Two, as the network yielded a steady stream of low-grade but extremely interesting intelligence on the occult interests of the Nazi High Command. Whilst not everyone in the War Office took Cornwall's reports seriously, there was enough interest to justify the department's continued existence. For Cornwall, the intelligence he received made for uncomfortable reading; he was able to track over a number of years the evolution of a super-secret department within the SS with responsibility for using the occult as a weapon of war. Access to decrypts finally allowed Cornwall to confirm the existence of this unit - the Karotechia - in late 1939.

MI-13 by this time, however, consisted of only a few small, unregarded offices in Whitehall, and was not in a position to act on this intelligence. Cornwall was running MI-13's network almost single-handedly, and given his extensive experience of the Middle East, there was considerable pressure on him from SIS to dissolve MI-13 and transfer out to the newly formed SIME station in Cairo. Then one of Ramsey's retired 'talents' - Amanda Chalmers - had a premonition concerning the impending advance of German troops into Belgium and France, including details of the British rout at Dunkirk. Taking his chance, Cornwall sealed the details of Chalmer's prediction into an envelope and had it delivered to Prime Minister Winston Churchill with instructions that it should not be opened until June 5th. When Churchill did open the envelope - the day after Dunkirk - he saw that Chalmers had precisely predicted the events of the last few days. He became a believer. Bypassing the other heads of service, including Cornwall' s nominal superior, the newly appointed 'C' Stewart Menzies, Churchill invited Cornwall to Downing Street for a meeting.

After being briefed by Cornwall on the role of MI-13 and the existence of the Karotechia, Churchill decided to turn Cornwall's undermanned unit into an inter-agency task force, jointly funded by the existing intelligence services, and drawing on all of them for personnel and other resources. Cornwall, promoted to the rank of Colonel, took charge of the new organisation - PISCES - that he would lead for the next fifteen years. As with the creation of SOE and BSC, this was a hugely unpopular move within the existing services as they felt the Prime Minister was undermining them. Stewart Menzies in particular - incensed that Cornwall had gone to Churchill behind his back - bore a grudge that would sour relations between SIS and PISCES for long after his retirement in 1953. Cornwall had taken a calculated risk in going to Churchill, but it had paid off. Now, as head of Britain's occulted war effort, the real work began.

Role Playing Notes: The word most often used to describe Cornwall by those who meet him is 'intense'. He dislikes social pleasantries, often appearing abrupt and rude. Ruthlessly pragmatic and somewhat cynical in his outlook, Cornwall is a staunch Imperialist with little faith in the bulk of mankind's ability to govern its own affairs. Those who know him well will testify to the tremendous, almost insane sense of stamina and endurance he exudes; Cornwall frequently gives the impression of someone who has seen and heard things that would have driven most men mad, but is holding it together (just) by sheer force of will alone.

References:

COUNTDOWN

p.14-21

 

Horror on the Orient Express

 

 

Cthulu Live: Delta Green

p.39-45

 

STR: 12

DEX: 13

CON: 15

SIZ: 11

INT: 16

APP: 10

POW: 18

EDU: 20

SAN: 40

HP: 13


DOB: 1888
Race: Caucasian
Nationality: British
Damage Bonus: 0
Education: Sandhurst College
Skills: Accounting 30%, Anthropology 21%, Archaeology 16%, Bargain 55%, Conceal 35%, Credit Rating 65%, Cthulu Mythos 19%, Fast Talk 45%, History 45%, Library Use 45%, Navigate 40%, Occult 55%, Persuade 60%, Psychology 65%, Spot Hidden 45%
Languages: English 100%, German 65%, Turkish 50%, Arabic 44%, Hebrew 39%
Attacks:
    Fist/Punch 60%
    Grapple: 35%
    Handgun: 70%
    Rifle: 52%
Spells: None
Magic Items: None
Physical Description: Cornwall is tall, lean and wiry. Despite his age, he looks like (and is) a tough customer. His skin is leathery and worn from his years in the sun, whilst his hair has turned grey and begun to recede. He rarely smiles and his stare could best be described as 'piercing'.


Original content for this page is copyright 2003 Nick Brownlow and may be freely copied, posted on other websites, or used in other media in whole or in part with the following mandatory conditions imposed on usage: (1) any usage must respect and protect copyrights on all material, and specifically must obey restrictions placed on use by Pagan Publishing on its copyrighted material, and (2) regardless of alterations or additions, Nick Brownlow must be credited as author of parts © Nick Brownlow.

 


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