Humanities scholars who worked in military intelligence in the Second World War

In 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the British Academy began to commemorate, by means of a simple list, those men and women who helped bring about victory through their work in military intelligence and who were already – or, more usually, would go on to become – humanities academics.

This list began as a supplement to the British Academy Review article by Nigel Vincent and Helen Wallace entitled ‘Lost without translation: Why codebreaking is not just a numbers game’ (February 2015).

This list remains a work in progress (lasted updated 31 July 2023). Amendments and additions to this list would be welcome and should be emailed to [email protected]

The lists below include the names of humanities scholars who were recruited to work at Bletchley Park (BP) or other cognate units working on military signals intelligence during the Second World War. Many were classicists (among the non-academics were poets, novelists, politicians, insurance agents, etc.). They were mostly not German scholars (though there must have been more than are included in this list); the bulk of German-speaking posts seem to have been recruited from among young women who had studied or who planned to study German at university or who had some other reason for being fluent – the team of all women which Edward Rushworth led was so composed. There were two particular reasons for favouring classicists: in those days some of the brightest students (mostly boys) were encouraged to study the classics; and classicists were accustomed to working with fragmentary information and unfamiliar terms – apparently the study of Greek and Roman military history was especially useful in figuring out German military operations. Note: An initial list that formed the starting point of this webpage was compiled by Helen Wallace FBA; particularly helpful in tracking down the classicists were two articles by John Richmond: ‘Classics and Intelligence: Part I’, Classics Ireland, vol 8 (2001), and ‘Classics and Intelligence: Part II’, Classics Ireland, vol 9 (2002); other names were extracted from among the numerous volumes on the story of BP, as well as oral memories.

In 1942 one group of around twenty classical scholars were recruited to do a special 6-month crash course in Japanese, at Bedford, close to Bletchley, as it became clear that more work was needed to break and interpret Japanese codes. Several subsequent intensive courses were organised. At the time SOAS was the only UK university that taught Japanese. Its initial proposal to the War Office to train personnel in Japanese and other languages had initially been rebuffed, but subsequently SOAS was to train many. Some of these went on to develop Japanese studies at other universities. See the books by Peter F Kornicki FBA: Captain Oswald Tuck and the Bedford Japanese School, 1942-1945 (2019); and Eavesdropping on the Emperor: Interrogators and Codebreakers in Britain’s War with Japan (2021).

FBA = became a Fellow of the British Academy

BA obit = British Academy obituary available

BPRoH = entry in the Bletchley Park Roll of Honour

JR = mentioned in John Richmond’s articles, (1) ‘Classics and Intelligence: Part I’, or (2) ‘Classics and Intelligence: Part II’.

PK = mentioned in Peter Kornicki’s books, (1) Captain Oswald Tuck and the Bedford Japanese School, or (2) Eavesdropping on the Emperor.

The following is a list of humanities scholars who appear in the Bletchley Park Roll of Honour. The list is almost certainly incomplete, since so many BP veterans took their stories to their graves.

Frank Adcock FBA, ancient history, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1)
W A C (Ian) Adie, international relations, Oxford; BPRoH; PK(1)
Donald J Allan FBA, classicist, Glasgow; BPRoH; BA obit
J K Anderson
, archaeology, Berkeley; BPRoH; JR(2), PK(1,2)
D R Shackleton Bailey FBA, classicist, Harvard; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1,2)
John W B Barns, Egyptologist and priest, Oxford; BPRoH; JR(1)
Geoffrey Barraclough, historian, Oxford; BPRoH
Geoffrey W S Barrow FBA
, history, Edinburgh; BPRoH; PK(1,2)
Charles Bawden FBA, Mongolian Studies, SOAS; BPRoH; BA obit; PK (1,2)
Charles Beckingham FBA, Islamic studies, SOAS; BPRoH, also Naval Intelligence; BA obit
Ralph Bennett, historian, Cambridge; BPRoH
David Bentliff
, Japanese, Central London Polytechnic; BPRoH; PK(1)
Carmen Blacker FBA, Japanese studies, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit; PK(1,2)
T S R Boase FBA, art historian, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit
Godfrey Bond, classicist, Oxford; BPRoH; JR(1)
Geoffrey Bownas, Japanese, Sheffield; BPRoH; JR(2), PK(1,2)
Asa Briggs FBA, historian, Sussex; BPRoH; BA obit
Christine Brooke-Rose, English literature, Paris; BPRoH
J A C Brown, economics, Oxford; BPRoH; PK(1)
Walter H Bruford FBA, Germanist, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit
Peter Calvocoressi, international relations, Sussex; BPRoH
Archibald H Campbell, lawyer, Oxford; BPRoH
I M Campbell, classicist, Edinburgh; BPRoH; JR(2)
Charles Telford Carr, German, St Andrews, and lexicographer; BPRoH
Eric Ceadel, Japanologist, Cambridge; BPRoH; JR(1), PK(1,2)
John Chadwick FBA, classicist, Cambridge (worked on Linear B); BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1), PK(1,2)
Maurice H Charlton, classics, Oxford (before switching to medicine); BPRoH; JR(2)
L Jonathan Cohen FBA, philosopher, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(2), PK(1,2)
Noel Currer-Briggs, modern linguist and historian who became a professional genealogist; BPRoH; JR(1)
Alec Dakin, Egyptology, Oxford; BPRoH; JR(1)
Amy Marjorie Dale FBA, classicist, Birkbeck; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1)
Albert Davis, Chinese, Sydney; BPRoH; PK(1)
E W (Denny) Denham, Public Record Office, taught palaeography at University College London; BPRoH; PK(1)
Oswald Dilke, classicist, Leeds; BPRoH
A E Douglas, classicist, Birmingham; BPRoH; JR(2), PK(1)
Michael Dummett FBA, philosopher, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit; PK(1)
Kenneth Ellis, history, Durham; BPRoH; PK(1)
J B Emerson, French, Chester College of Higher Education; BPRoH; PK(1)
Alison Fairlie FBA, French studies, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit
Anthony Fitton-Brown, classicist, Leicester; BPRoH; JR(1)
Leonard W Forster FBA, Germanist, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit
David Foxon FBA, English literature, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit; PK(1,2)
Charles Garton, classics, Buffalo; BPRoH; PK(1)
David M Gaunt, classicist, Bristol; BPRoH; JR(1,2)
George P Goold, Corresponding FBA, classicist, Yale (editor of Loeb Classical Library for 25 years); BPRoH; JR(2)
Julius Gould, sociologist, Nottingham; BPRoH; PK(1)
H John Habakkuk FBA, economic historian, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit
David Hawkes, sinologist, Oxford; BPRoH; JR(2), PK(1,2)
T F Higham, classicist, Oxford; BPRoH; JR(1)
Ronald F Hingley, Russian studies, Oxford; BPRoH
F Harry Hinsley FBA, historian, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit
Michael Holroyd, ancient history, Oxford; BPRoH?; JR(1)
C L Howard, classicist, went to US, worked on Oxford Latin Dictionary; BPRoH; JR(2), PK(1)
Romilly J H Jenkins, Byzantine studies, KCL – many connections with British School in Athens; BPRoH; JR(1)
D Mervyn Jones, classicist, Oxford, then to FCO; BPRoH; JR(2), PK(1)
Trevor D Jones, Germanist, Cambridge (editor of Harrap's German-English Dictionary); BPRoH
Alexander H King, British Museum (head of Music Library 1944-1976); BPRoH
Alan R Lacey
, philosophy, King’s College London; BPRoH, PK(1)
Charles Anthony Ladd, English, Oxford then St Andrews; BPRoH; PK(1)
T Peter R Laslett FBA, historian, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit; PK(1,2)
Hugh M Last, ancient history, Oxford; BPRoH; JR (1)
Peter Lawrence, anthropology, Sydney; BPRoH; PK(1)
Frank Lepper, classicist, Oxford; BPRoH
Barnabas [F C] Lindars, theology, Manchester; BPRoH; PK(1)
Hugh Lloyd-Jones FBA, classics, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1), PK(1,2)
Michael A N Loewe, sinologist, Cambridge; BPRoH; PK(1,2)
Donald W Lucas, classicist, Cambridge; BPRoH; JR(1)
Frank L Lucas, classicist then literary criticism, Cambridge; BPRoH
Matthew D MacLeod, classics, Southampton; BPRoH; PK(1)
Robert B Marchant, music, Hull; BPRoH
A R Milburn, Spanish/Portuguese literature, Cambridge; BPRoH
G Christopher Morris, historian, Cambridge; BPRoH
Roland Oliver FBA, historian of Africa, SOAS; BPRoH; BA obit
Denys Page FBA, classicist, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1)
Leonard Palmer, comparative philologist, Oxford; BPRoH; JR(1)
Alexander Parker, hispanist, Aberdeen; BPRoH
E J Passant, Germanist, Cambridge; BPRoH
Frederick Pickering, Germanist, Sheffield then Reading; BPRoH
J H Plumb FBA, historian, Cambridge; BPRoH; BA obit
J O Prestwich, medieval historian, Oxford; BPRoH
Edwin Pulleyblank
, Chinese, British Columbia; BPRoH; PK(2)
Stuart E Rigold, archaeologist, Ancient Monuments Inspectorate; BPRoH
Colin H Roberts FBA, papyrologist, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1)
Edward Rushworth, classicist, Leicester; BPRoH
Donald Russell FBA, classicist, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(2), PK(1,2)
Keith Sainsbury, politics, Reading; BPRoH; PK(1)
Nancy Sandars FBA, archaeologist; BPRoH; BA obit
John Saltmarsh, economic historian, Cambridge; BPRoH
Michael A Screech FBA, French; BPRoH; PK(1,2)
William Skillend, Korean, SOAS; BPRoH; PK(1,2)
R Morton Smith, Sanskrit, Toronto BPRoH
Francis E Sparshott, philosophy, Toronto; BPRoH; PK(1)
David L Stockton, classicist, Oxford; BPRoH; PK (1)
Alan Stripp
, music, Cambridge; BPRoH; JR(1), PK(1,2)
Graham Sumner, classics, Toronto; BPRoH; PK(1)
Rosemary Sumner, English, Goldsmiths; BPRoH; PK(1)
Thomas W Thacker, oriental studies, Durham; BPRoH
Joan Thirsk FBA, agrarian history, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit
Stanley Thomas
, archaeology, Leicester; BPRoH?; PK(1)
A Dale Trendall FBA, classical art historian, Australian National University; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(2), PK(2)
Eric G Turner FBA, papyrologist, University College London; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1)
Eric R P Vincent, Italianist, Cambridge; BPRoH
Alexis P Vlasto, Slavonic studies, Cambridge; BPRoH; PK(2)
Pamela J Waley, Hispanic/Italian languages, Westfield College London; BPRoH
Gilbert Waterhouse
, German, Queen’s Belfast; BPRoH; JR(1)
Thomas B L Webster FBA, classicist, Stanford; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1)
Maurice F Wiles FBA, theologian, Oxford; BPRoH; BA obit; JR(1), PK(1,2)
Peter Wiles FBA, economist, London; BPRoH; BA obit
Nancy Wilkinson, modern languages and music, Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia Ruskin University); BPRoH
L Patrick Wilkinson, classicist, Cambridge; BPRoH; JR(1)
H Bernard Willson, German, Leicester; BPRoH; PK(1)
Frederick D D Winston, African languages, SOAS; BPRoH; PK(1)
D E W Wormell, classicist, Trinity College Dublin; BPRoH; JR(2)
James M Wyllie, classicist and lexicographer; BPRoH

Also note:

Dilly Knox, papyrologist at Cambridge, who between the wars had already permanently switched from academia to code-breaking work; BPRoH; JR(1,2)

In addition to several of those in the ‘Bletchley Park Roll of Honour’ list above, other humanities academics learned Japanese for intelligence purposes. These include:

Louis Allen, French, Durham; PK(2)
William Beasley FBA, Far East history, SOAS; BA obit; PK(2)
Cecil William Chilton, classics, Hull; PK(2)
Ronald Dore FBA, sociology, LSE; PK(2)
Kenneth Gardner, Japanese books, British Library; PK(2)
Gerald Harriss FBA, history, Oxford
George K Hunter, Corresponding FBA, English Literature, Yale; PK(1,2)
Barry Sloan MacKay, theology, Cambridge; PK(1)
John McEwan, Japanese, Cambridge; PK(2)
Peter M K Morris, theology, St David’s College, Lampeter; PK(1)
Ian Nish, Japanese history, LSE; PK(2)
Patrick O’Neill, Japanese, SOAS; PK(2)
Arthur Pollard, English, Hull; PK(2)
R H Robins FBA, linguistics, SOAS; BA obit; PK(1,2)
G Walter Robinson, Japanese history, SOAS; PK(1,2)
Saul Rose, international relations, Oxford; PK(1)
Richard Keith Sprigg, phonetics, SOAS; PK(1)
Peter Stein FBA, law, Cambridge; PK(1)
Richard Storry, Japanese history, Oxford; PK(2)
Denis Twitchett FBA, Chinese, Cambridge; BA obit; PK(2)
Brian H Warmington, ancient history, Bristol; PK(1)
Hugh E Wilkinson, modern languages, Aoyama Gakuin University; PK(1)
Ian Willison, book history, British Library; PK(1,2)

(Note that several of those who first learned Japanese for intelligence purposes subsequently pursued academic careers in Japanese and other oriental studies.)

Other humanities scholars used their skills in different types of intelligence gathering and analysis. Examples include:

J L Austin FBA, philosopher, Oxford; worked at supreme allied command; BA obit; JR(1)
A J Ayer FBA, philosopher, Oxford; BA obit
A J Beattie, classicist, Edinburgh; worked with J L Austin
Eric Birley FBA, archaeology, Durham; BA obit; JR(1)
Robert Blake FBA
, history, Oxford; BA obit
Geoffrey Elton FBA, history, Cambridge; BA obit
Norman Gash FBA, history, St Andrews; BA obit
Stuart Hampshire FBA, philosopher, Oxford; BA obit
H L A Hart FBA, law, Oxford; BA obit
Anthony Hobson FBA
, book historian; BA obit
James Joll FBA
, history, London; BA obit
Peter Russell FBA
, history, Oxford; BA obit
Richard Southern FBA, history, Oxford; BA obit
Hugh Trevor-Roper FBA, historian, Oxford; BA obit
Daniel Waley FBA, Italian history, British Library; BA obit
J.M. Wallace-Hadrill FBA
, history, Oxford; BA obit
William Watson FBA, art historian, SOAS; BA obit
Thomas S Wyatt
, French & German, Cambridge; RAF intelligence gathering from German prisoners (including at Latimer House)

A number of archaeologists were deployed to RAF Medmenham to work on photographic intelligence. Scholars working in this area of intelligence included:

W Sidney Allen FBA, linguistics, Cambridge; BA obit
Grahame Clark FBA, archaeologist, Cambridge; BA obit
Howard M Colvin FBA, art historian, Oxford; BA obit
Glyn Daniel FBA, archaeologist, Cambridge; BA obit
Dorothy Garrod FBA, archaeologist, Cambridge; BA obit
Charles McBurney FBA, archaeologist, Cambridge; BA obit
Charles Phillips, archaeologist, Cambridge (excavated Sutton Hoo)
Stuart Piggott FBA, archaeologist, Edinburgh; BA obit
Terence Powell, archaeologist, Liverpool
E Clive Rouse, archaeologist
Arnold J Taylor FBA, archaeologist, Ancient Monuments Inspectorate; BA obit

Further teams of academics worked for the Naval Intelligence Division, compiling and analysing information for the Navy. Many were based in two centres – one in Oxford, headed by Kenneth Mason, the first Professor of Geography there, the other in Cambridge, headed by Clifford Darby – from which compendious ‘Handbooks’ emerged. Examples of scholars working in naval intelligence include:

W Spencer Barrett FBA, classicist, Oxford; BA obit; JR(2)
Charles Beckingham FBA, Islamic studies, SOAS; also BPRoH; BA obit
John W Crowfoot, archaeology, British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem
H Clifford Darby FBA, geographer, Cambridge; BA obit
Raymond Firth FBA, social anthropology, LSE; BA obit
Paul Grice FBA
, philosophy, California Berkeley; BA obit; PK(2)
Kenneth Mason, geographer, Oxford
S F C (‘Toby’) Milsom FBA, legal historian, Cambridge; BA obit
John L Myres FBA, ancient historian, Oxford; BA obit
F H Sandbach FBA, classicist, Cambridge; BA obit; JR(2)
A N Sherwin-White FBA, ancient historian, Oxford; BA obit
W S Watt FBA, classicist, Oxford; BA obit; JR(2)
A Frederick Wells, classicist, Oxford; JR(2)

Other scholars who may have been involved in military intelligence work about whom more specific information is needed:

[Sel R Arch-Niwrad, classicist (apparently became a professor but not known where)]
John Morrison Hon FBA, classicist, Cambridge (work led to reconstruction of Greek trireme); not sure if BP
Hector Thomson, classicist, Aberdeen; diplomatic service

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