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William Melville

Melville joined the Metropolitan Police in 1872 and within a decade, was promoted to the newly erected Criminal Investigation Department (CID). In 1882, he was depicted to be one of the first inspectors of the Special Irish Branch, founded to operate against Fenians. Between 1885 and 1888 he was secretly stationed in Le Havre. In 1887, he had been selected with inspectors Sweeney and Burke to serve Chief Inspector John Littlechild in what was now called the ‘Special Branch’, which increasingly focused against anarchists and for the benefit of foreign governments. Political subversives were systematically recorded, watched, infiltrated, encouraged by agents provocateurs. Besides, he assisted foreign secret police agencies directly. For instance, he arrested the infamous French anarchist bombers Francis and Meunier in London. Melville soon was well-known among ‘all embassies in London’. On the other hand, the Special Branch also requested the assistance of foreign police forces to carry out enquiries on their behalf. Between 1888 and 1892, direct cooperation took place with forces in the United States (Chicago, Denver, New York and Omaha), Africa (Griqueland and Kimberley) and Australia (Melbourne). Within Europe, officers operated in the main channel ports in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and also in Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Melville maintained close relations with, among others, Pjotr Rachkovsky, the infamous head of the Russian Okhrana’s Paris agentura, and Gustav Steinhauer, the bodyguard of the German emperor. He retired unexpectedly in November 1903. As the British-German relations cooled, he lobbied the government to create a counter-espionage service. Melville obtained German mobilization plans, investigated their financial support of the Boers, hired informers in Hamburg and personally recruited agents in Germany. After his efforts, the War Office officially the creation of the Secret Service Bureau with nineteen military intelligence departments in October 1909, of which MI5 and MI6 came to be the most recognized. In August 1914, he identified and expelled a German spy ring.

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