Naval Intelligence Division (NID)

Date Founded:  1887
Mission When Founded:  To collect and analyse intelligence on all aspects of naval warfare and to prepare and keep up to date a complete plan for mobilisation of the Royal Navy.
Mission During the War:  To collect and analyse naval intelligence for the Admiralty, and to provide security and counter-intelligence to the Fleet.
Jurisdiction:   Anywhere in the world.
Headquarters:  The Admiralty, London
# of Personnel:  aprox. 2000 (1943)
Annual Budget:  Unknown

History/Profile:  The Naval intelligence Division was formed out of the Admiralty’s Foreign Intelligence Committee, which had operated since 1882, collecting and analysing intelligence on naval matters under Captain William H. Hall. In 1887, the requirement for a more ambitious and dynamic intelligence operation was identified, and the quite modest FIC was swept aside in favour of a large scale Naval intelligence Division under Rear Admiral Reginald Custance with full responsibility for intelligence and war planning. Infighting in the Admiralty over war plans, however, eventually led Ministers to the conclusion that NID had become too powerful, and in 1909 it was reduced to the point at which it was performing much the same functions as the FIC had been in 1882 - compiling, cataloguing and occasionally interpreting intelligence.

Between 1909 and the start of the First World War then, NID was known primarily as an ‘archive’ or ‘library’ of intelligence. All this changed in November 1914, when Admiral Reginald ‘Blinker’ Hall (the son of the FIC’s Captain Hall) was appointed Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI). Now a legendary figure in intelligence circles, Hall revolutionised the Division, in the process inventing many techniques and practices still used by modern day intelligence organisations. He famously brought civilians into the department in order to augment the cryptanalysis bureau in Room 40, and towards the end of the war established what was to become GC & CS. Hall also set up an extensive network of agents in neutral countries, and embroiled himself in many complex political manoeuvres. It was Hall who was responsible for bringing the United States into the war, following his deft handling of the infamous Zimmermann telegram.

With the war’s end and Hall’s departure, NID was slowly scaled down again, reduced eventually to just a skeleton staff. Political Intelligence was by now the sole province of SIS at the Foreign Office, and Naval Intelligence - in wartime concerned chiefly with the movements of hostile or potentially hostile ships, and the protection of their own shipping and lines of communication - had little peacetime application. From the twenties onwards the services were starved of funding thanks to Churchill’s notorious ‘Ten year rule’ - that when outlining defence budgets it should be assumed that Britain would not be engaged in any great war for at least the next ten years. As the Admiralty struggled to rebuild and maintain the Navy on a shoestring, NID was not a high priority. Things began to change only from 1936 onwards, when the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff - Vice Admiral William James, a former Deputy Director of Naval intelligence himself - started to make provisions for NID following the Abyssinian crisis. Foremost among the modest achievements of this period was the creation of an Operational Intelligence Centre - a central point for the reception and communication of intelligence - to eliminate the compartmentalisation that hindered the distribution of intelligence in the last war. It was from here that NID would track the movements of the enemy’s U-boats and Surface ships during the war.

Then in January 1939, Rear Admiral John Godfrey was appointed DNI; his brief was to prepare NID for the coming war. NID expanded rapidly between 1939 and 1943, with the lion’s share of the wartime budget going towards the OIC. Godfrey continued Hall’s policy of recruiting civilians of ‘unorthodox’ character, leading to the appointment of stockbroker Ian Fleming as his personal assistant. Although the Division’s priority was always Naval Intelligence, Godfrey was quite happy for NID to live up to the reputation established by Blinker Hall in the last war. Before the creation of SOE, NID was responsible for initiating many of the Allies’ early Special operations, and the fact that SIS's networks had been seriously compromised by the Venlo incident of 1939 meant that NID found itself collecting political and diplomatic intelligence as well. Godfrey also became closely involve din the initiative to bring America into the war - becoming good friends with William Donovan and sending NID personnel to the US to a sist him in setting up the COI.

Godfrey, however, clashed with Churchill on numerous occasions, and in 1943 paid the price for this when Rear Admiral Edmund Rushbrooke replaced him as DNI. By the time Rushbrooke took charge, SOE was well established and SIS had at least in part recovered from its disastrous start to the war - consequently the work NID typically undertook under Rushbrooke was considerably less glamorous, but ultimately more focused and effective. By the end of 1943 NID had broken the back of the U-Boat conflict, and began planning for the invasion of France.

Intelligence activity in NID was divided between Geographical Sections; -

NID 1. Northern (Germany & German occupied territories, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland)
NID 2. Western (The Americas, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, West Indies, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands)
NID 3. Southern (Italy, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Portugal, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa)
NID 4. Eastern (USSR, India, Burma, Malaya, Siam, East Indies, French Indo-China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand)

Product was fed from these and other departments into the Operational Intelligence Centre (NID 8). As well as being the main consumer of NID’s own intelligence efforts, OIC also received product from SIS, MI-5 the RAF and GC & CS (the OIC enjoyed a direct line to Bletchley Park).

In addition to these, NID had a myriad number of other departments and sections. The assistant DNI was responsible for supervising the security of the fleet, and ran a small department (NID 10) that set the Navy’s Codes and Ciphers. There was also a section responsible for interrogating POWs (NID 11) and an Information Section (NID 19), which liased with the Press and produced a Weekly Intelligence Report for distribution amongst the fleet. Closest to the DNI was NID 17 – Godfrey’s personal staff in Room 39 – which bore the responsibility for liasing with other Services, intelligence planning and co-ordination of intelligence. Primarily a ‘consumer’ of intelligence, NID did not ‘run’ agents as such, but it did maintain a network of Naval Attaches in allied and neutral countries around the world that usually enjoyed their own informal networks of contacts and informers. The attaches based in the neutral cities of Stockholm, Madrid and Ankara proved to be particularly enterprising and effective in the early stages of the war.

Occupational Templates

Intelligence Officer: Conceal, Credit Rating, Fast Talk, Other Language & any four of the following: Handgun, Bargain, Boating, Listen, Martial Arts, Navigation/Sea, Persuade, Psychology, Sneak

Intelligence Analyst: Library Use, Persuade, Spot Hidden & any three of the following: Accounting, Bargain, Cryptography, History, Law, Other Language, Psychology + any one skill as a personal speciality.

Sample Character

Commander Alec MacGarry
Race: Caucasian
STR: 10     DEX: 12     CON: 11     SIZ: 10     INT: 16
APP: 15     POW: 13     EDU: 17     SAN: 65     HP: 11
Damage Bonus:  None
Education:  St Andrews University
Occupation:  Intelligence Officer
Skills:  Credit Rating 46%, Fast Talk 52%, Bargain 55%, Boating 41%, Navigation/Sea 31%, Persuade 63%, Psychology 55%, Swim 40%
Languages:  English 90%
    Enfield Mk II Revolver 65%, 1D10
    Fist/Punch 55%, 1d3+db

Written by Nick Brownlow

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.