UK Directorate of Military Intelligence MI1 to MI19 sections a brief history

UK Directorate of Military Intelligence

MI1 to MI19 sections a brief history

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Part of the British War Office the first glimpse of the DMI was back in 1854 when Major Thomas Best Jarvis formed the  Department of Topography & Statistics during the Crimean War.

An intelligence branch was formed in 1873 under the leadership of Henry Brackenbury and attached to the Quartermaster General’s Department and comprising of seven (7) officers, their main objectives where intelligence gathering and advising the decision makers.


Brackenbury’s title changed when in 1888 the section was transferred to the Adjutant General’s Department, from then on, he was known as the Director of Military Intelligence.

1899 and the section now had thirteen (13) officer who produced some very credible intelligence prior to the second Boar war.  In 1904 there was a complete reshuffle at the top which resulted in the Commander-in-Chief post being abolished and replace with the Chief of General Staff.

During WWI the British Secret Service was reformed and the Military Intelligence (MI) sections where born each branch, section, sub-section where given numbers, example of which is currently still in use today with MI6 & MI5.

Throughout the early period including WWI they had sections raging from MI1 to MI19 with each section having a different objective.



Main objective was code breaking but it also had seven (7) sub-sections which were has follows:

Its sub-sections in World War I were:

  • MI1a: Distribution of reports, intelligence records.
  • MI1b: Interception and cryptanalysis.
  • MI1c: The Secret Service/SIS.
  • MI1d: Communications security.
  • MI1e: Wireless telegraphy.
  • MI1f: Personnel and finance.
  • MI1g: Security, deception and counter intelligence

This section was closed down and merged with Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) which later became Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) at Cheltenham.


Originally set up to handle geographic information gathering, it had two (2) sub-sections which were:

  • MI2a: handled the Americas (excluding Canada), Spain, Portugal, Italy, Liberia, Tangier, and the Balkans
  • MI2b: handled the Ottoman Empire, Trans-Caucasus, Arabia, Sinai, Abyssinia, North Africa excluding French and Spanish possessions, Egypt, and the Sudan

In 1941 its sections were merged with MI3.


Originally set up to handle geographic information gathering, it had five (5) sub-sections which were:

  • MI3a: France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Morocco.
  • MI3b: Austria-Hungary and Switzerland.
  • MI3c: Germany.
  • MI3d: Holland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
  • MI3e: Military translations.

In 1945 its sections were merged with MI6


Its main objection was aerial reconnaissance and interpretation. Today is it known as the Defence Intelligence Fusion Centre and part of GCHQ


This sections main objective is Counter-espionage and military policy in dealing with the civil population and still active today.


Legal and economic section dealing with the MI finance as well as economic intelligence and personnel records. Monitoring arms trafficking and still active today.


This section had four (4) sub-sections which were as follows:

  • MI7 (a) – censorship.
  • MI7 (b) – foreign and domestic propaganda, including press releases concerning army matters.
  • MI7 (c) – translation and (from 1917) regulation of foreign visitors.
  • MI7 (d) – foreign press propaganda and review (part of subsection (b) until subsection (d) was formed in late 1916).

During WWI its main objective was press liaison and propaganda, it was defunked after the signing of the Armistice but then reformed after the outbreak of WWII with its new objective being necessary liaison link between the War Office and the Ministry of Information and Political Warfare Executive.


Main objective was illicit radio transmissions during WWII, their brief was to “intercept, locate and close down illicit wireless stations operated either by enemy agents in Great Britain or by other persons not being licensed to do so under Defence Regulations, 1939”. As a security precaution, RSS was given the cover designation of MI8(c).

They actually worked out of prison cells in Wormwood Scrubs prison in London.


This section was tasked with supporting available European Resistance networks and making use of them to assist Allied airmen shot down over Europe in returning to Britain.  Mi9 agents would be dropped by parachute into occupied Europe, link up with resistance cells in that area and help organize escape-and-evasion for downed airmen.  They would carry false papers, money and maps to assist the downed airmen.

Later they worked in every area of conflict to include, Africa and China.


During WWII this section was responsible for weapons and technical analysis, it was later merge with MI16 (scientific and technical intelligence) later MI10 was responsible for road intelligence.


Main objective was to protect British military personnel from enemy agents, field security, this section was closed down after WWII.


This sections objective was Liaison with censorship organisations, military censorship, operational status, unknown.


This section specialised in German (and any of the countries they occupied) intelligence gathering, including aerial photography.  They also used pigeons during WWII to carry information to agents in occupied countries.  Closed down after WWII, all foreign intelligence is now handle by MI6.


Established 1942 with a primary objective of aerial photography, in 1943 this responsibility was transferred to the Air Ministry and MI15 became responsible for coordination of intelligence about enemy anti-aircraft facilities.  Closed down after WWII.


 Main objective was the gathering of scientific intelligence, it was formed in 1945, current operational status, unknown.


 No longer operational this section handle all departmental administration duties.


Not used


 Main objective was the gathering and collection of intelligence from POW’s during WWII,   created in 1940, this section had interrogation centres around the UK, these were called Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centres (CSDIC) based at Beaconsfield, Wilton Park, and Latimer, they also had centres in Belgium, Italy and Germany.



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