British intelligence services experimented with using semen as an invisible ink to write top-secret letters, it has been disclosed.
The revelations are included in ‘MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949′ by Professor Keith Jeffery Photo: PA
A diary entry belonging to a senior member of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) has revealed that during the First World War it was discovered that the bodily fluid could act as an effective invisible ink.
In June 1915, Walter Kirke, deputy head of military intelligence at GHQ France, wrote in his diary that Mansfield Cumming, the first chief (or C) of the SIS was “making enquiries for invisible inks at the London University”.
In October he noted that he “heard from C that the best invisible ink is semen”, which did not react to the main methods of detection. Furthermore it had the advantage of being readily available.
A member of staff close to “C”, Frank Stagg, said that he would never forget his bosses’ delight when the Deputy Chief Censor said one day that one of his staff had found out that “semen would not react to iodine vapour”.
Stagg noted that “we thought we had solved a great problem”.
However, the discovery also led to some further problems, with the agent who had identified the novel use having to be moved from his department after becoming the butt of jokes.
In addition, at least one agent had to be reminded to use only fresh supplies of the ‘ink’ when correspondents began noticing an unusual smell.
The revelations are included in ‘MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949’ by Professor Keith Jeffery.
Prof Jeffery, of Queen’s University, Belfast, was given access to all of MI6’s files between those years. The book is published on Tuesday and is being serialised in The Times.