Hugh Sinclair

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For other people named Hugh Sinclair, see Hugh Sinclair (disambiguation).
Hugh Sinclair
Allegiance United Kingdom Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Service Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6)
Active 1923–1939
Rank Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service
Award(s) KCB

Born 18 August 1873
Died 4 November 1939 (aged 66)
Nationality British
Occupation Intelligence officer

Admiral Sir Hugh Francis Paget Sinclair, KCB (18 August 1873 – 4 November 1939), nicknamed "Quex", was a British intelligence officer. Between 1919 and 1921, he was Director of British Naval Intelligence, and helped to set up the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, commonly MI6) before the Second World War.


Sinclair educated at Stubbington House School, he joined the Royal Navy at 13 in 1886[1] and entered the Naval Intelligence Division at the beginning of the First World War. He became Director of Naval Intelligence in February 1919 and Chief of the Submarine Service in 1921.[2] He became the second director of SIS in 1923.

Beginning in 1919 he attempted to absorb the counter-intelligence service MI5 into the SIS to strengthen Britain's efforts against Bolshevism, an idea was finally rejected in 1925. The SIS remained small and under-funded during the inter-war years.[1] By 1936 Sinclair realized that the Gestapo had penetrated several SIS stations and Claude Dansey, who had been removed from his station in Rome, set up Z organization, intended to work independently of the compromised SIS.[3]

In 1938, with a second war looming, Sinclair set up Section D, dedicated to sabotage. In spring of 1938, using his own money, he bought Bletchley Park to be a wartime intelligence station.[4]

Sinclair was asked in December 1938 to prepare a dossier on Adolf Hitler, for the attention of Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, and Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister.[5] In the dossier, which was received poorly by Sir George Mounsey, the Foreign Office assistant under-secretary—who believed that it did not gel with Britain's then contemporary policy of appeasement—Sinclair described Hitler as possessing the characteristics of "fanaticism, mysticism, ruthlessness, cunning, vanity, moods of exaltation and depression, fits of bitter and self-righteous resentment; and what can only be termed a streak of madness; but with it all there is a great tenacity of purpose, which has often been combined with extraordinary clarity of vision".[6]

Sinclair became seriously ill with cancer, causing Alexander Cadogan to note on 19 October 1939, that he was "going downhill". On 29 October, he underwent an operation for his cancer and died on 4 November 1939, aged 66, five days before the Venlo incident.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Christopher Andrew, "Sinclair, Sir Hugh Francis Paget (1873–1939)", rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008
  2. "Senior Royal Navy Appointments" (PDF). Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  3. M. R. D. Foot, "Dansey, Sir Claude Edward Marjoribanks (1876–1947)", rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008
  4. Michael Smith, Station X, Channel 4 Books, 1998. ISBN 0-330-41929-3, p. 20
  5. "Spy secrets failed to win Whitehall's trust". 31 March 2005. Retrieved 1 Jul 2012. 
  6. Foreign Office files
  7. Andrew. pp. 436–438.
Military offices
Preceded by
William Hall
Director of Naval Intelligence
Succeeded by
Maurice Fitzmaurice
Preceded by
Douglas Dent
Chief of the Submarine Service
Succeeded by
Wilmot Nicholson
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Mansfield Cumming
Chief of the SIS
Succeeded by
Stewart Menzies