“‘Posting a chap’: Attaching a Canadian intelligence officer to British intelligence in Cold War Germany”

Timothy Andrews Sayle, University of Toronto |

This is a short description of a minor episode – a small snapshot of Canada’s intelligence history.

On one hand, it is little more than a factual description of correspondence between offices in London and between London and Ottawa, all of it making arrangements for a Canadian to be attached to the British scientific intelligence unit in West Germany in 1954.  There are fascinating nuggets: The British urging Canada to develop its own opportunities to collect intelligence, the Canadian willingness to find these opportunities, the challenge of the British declaring their intelligence organizations to their German enemies-turned-allies, and the oddity of inserting a Canadian into the Anglo-German minuet.

But, on the other hand, there is the hint of much more here: This is a vignette that reveals the complexity and richness of Canada’s intelligence history. More important, it suggests how much foreign (that is, non-Canadian) archives have to reveal about that history — just as it suggests that Canadian archives have much to reveal about the intelligence history of other states. Indeed, it suggests that Cold War intelligence history itself is not so easily split upon national lines. It is truly international or transnational in scope, depending on one’s methodological predilections.

Perhaps the most peculiar element of this post is that what follows is drawn exclusively from a single folder of British archival records. The folder contains only 18 pages of substantive documents. These documents are all openly available at the National Archives of the United Kingdom in DEFE 21/18, “Canada: Liaison with S.T.I.B.” They are also available from Gale’s “Declassified Documents Online: Twentieth-Century British Intelligence” database. I accessed the scanned documents using my library’s subscription to the Gale database.[1]

***

In November 1953, Hugh S. Young, the Acting Head of the United Kingdom’s Directorate of Scientific Intelligence, visited Ottawa to meet with his colleagues in Canada’s Defence Research Board (DRB). The DRB was the home of Canada’s scientific intelligence organization, at the time known as Scientific Intelligence Section.[2]

Young sought to persuade the Canadians that “it would be useful to have some active [scientific intelligence] collecting agencies of her own.”[3]  He suggested that a Canadian be sent to the UK’s Scientific and Technical Intelligence Branch (STIB) in the Federal Republic of Germany.[4] STIB wanted “somebody in the Guided Weapons field” to back up their man, Stern.[5]

By April 1954, the Canadians were proposing to send a Scientific Information Officer, Jacob Koop, to STIB. Just how this came about in Ottawa is unclear — it is a topic ripe for further research in Canadian archives. The process was even unclear to some Canadians involved in the correspondence. G. P. Morrison, the Defence Research member on the Canadian Joint Staff in London, wrote to Young in order to pass on Koop’s name – and that he knew “absolutely nothing about” the plan. It had been “cooked up” between Young, and the Canadians Roy Carrie and Ivor Bowen, who served as director of Canada’s Joint Intelligence Bureau and as director of Scientific Intelligence.[6]

Although STIB wanted a German-speaking engineer with experience in guided weapons, the Canadians had few to offer. Guided weapons experts were “in extremely short supply in Canada” and scientists fluent in German “with the right background and personality for the job” were “almost as hard to find.”[7] Instead, they selected Koop, who had experience “of the defence interest on the physical chemistry side,” spoke German and Russian, and had the “right personality for this type of work.” He had no intelligence background, and so the Canadians proposed attaching him to DSI in Ottawa before travelling to Germany – and also suggested he spend time doing intelligence work in London on the way to Germany if the British preferred. In April he was attending the Joint Services Guided Missile Indoctrinate Course, a two week course – presumably he had been assigned to this course to brush up on the topic that met STIB’s needs.[8]

Koop was born in a German (Mennonite) settlement in Ukraine in 1923 and emigrated to Canada the next year, in 1924. He had served as a Gunner with the Royal Canadian Artillery from 1943 to 1946, with service overseas beginning in 1944. In 1945 he was in Holland, and then served on occupational duty in Germany after the war. He was the unofficial interpreter for the battery commander, and also taught German to fellow soldiers.

After the war, Koop earned a B.Sc. (Honours), specializing in Chemistry, at the University Manitoba where he then lectured while earning his M.Sc. in Physical Chemistry. Next, he did some post-graduate work at McGill from 1950-1951 before joining the Defence Research Board in 1951 as a Scientific Information Officer. His work at DRB included nuclear sciences, atomic warfare and civil defence, materials, and electro-chemistry.[9]  Bowen personally vouched for Koop[10] as “one of the best young people” in his area.

Intriguingly, Bowen also told the British that the Canadians were “very glad of this opportunity to contribute to active procurement outside our own frontiers … especially now that you have had to cut down your German organization.” “We look forward to increasing co-operation of this type in future,” Bowen indicated.[11]

In London there were “mixed feelings” about Koop’s qualifications[12] — presumably because his background was not precisely what the British had hoped for. But they decided he was “a good egg”[13] who would be useful as the bureau was “grappling with the problem of cooperation with the Germans.”[14] Koop’s “German origins,” they expected, would make him a “great asset in the country,” even if he should “keep quiet on the fact that he is of German extraction when he deals with the Germans themselves.”[15]

Still, by the time the Canadians got around to responding to Young’s November 1953 proposal in April 1954, the politics of the British intelligence presence in Germany had shifted.[16] When Young made his initial suggestion in 1953, and even into 1954, STIB had not been “declared openly to the Germans.”[17] But this was going to change. The British had decided “that the time for us to cooperate as fully as possible with the German Intelligence Organisations,” and so the Germans would be told about STIB.[18] Peter Hope, the Chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee (Germany) worried there would be “awkward questions” if “a Canadian is declared to the Germans as a member of S.T.I.B.”[19] The British plan did raise some questions in Ottawa, and the Canadians wanted details as to how the Germans would learn about STIB. Bowen wanted to know “what cover S.T.I.B. was going to have.”[20] The British plan was to declare STIB to the Germans as “a Ministry of Defence out-station in Germany who are studying the scientific and technological aspects of the threat from the East to the West.” STIB would be attached to the Northern Army Group but have an “out-station in Bonn or Cologne.”[21]

Given the political sensitivities, Young told Patrick Dean, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC, but not JIC (Germany)), that the Canadian could work in the headquarters, but “not necessarily be used for field activities.”[22]  The British thought it best if Koop was posted to the Canadian Embassy as a Scientific Attaché, but “do all his work” with STIB.[23]

Young asked Patrick Dean what he could do to “clear the lines for the chap” to work with the British.[24] In Ottawa, in May 1954, the Department of External Affairs gave “the go-ahead” for Koop’s appointment.[25] By late May, the British told the Canadians that they “look forward to seeing Koop in Germany” as soon as the Canadians made their own “necessary arrangements.”[26]

But by September 1954, Koop had not arrived. Young wrote to Ottawa, explaining that STIB was “having an exceedingly busy time” and would benefit from “additional help.”[27] By October, Young was told that arrangements would be “completed very quickly” but thought everything should have been settled six months earlier.[28] Were the arrangements completed? The archival folder ends without an answer to this question – or several others.

***

Did Koop go to Germany? If not, why not? If he did go, what did he learn? Did it help the British? The Canadians? The Western allies in general?

Koop certainly had an impressive career in Canadian scientific intelligence in the decades that followed.[29]

And what about Bowen’s suggestion that Canada was looking forward to greater intelligence collection opportunities? How far did these expand – and was the STIB a direct or indirect step toward more such intelligence collection?

The answers to these questions lie in the records held at Library and Archives Canada but also, perhaps, other records at the National Archives of the United Kingdom. An intrepid graduate student might find the answers in records already open in Ottawa, or might pursue this subject using the Access to Information Act to request the release of more of Canada’s intelligence history. There is much of – perhaps most of! – Canada’s intelligence history that remains to be discovered, in archives in Canada and abroad.

Author Bio

Timothy Andrews Sayle is Assistant Professor of History and Director of the International Relations Program at the University of Toronto. His most recent publication on the history of Canadian intelligence is “We Now Know … a Little Bit More: Canada’s Cold War Defectors.” International Journal 76, no. 2 (June 2021): 298–314. https://doi.org/10.1177/00207020211016451.


Notes

[1] Gale’s official citation for these records is: “Canada: liaison with STIB. 1954. MS Ministry of Defence: DEFE 21: Directorate of Scientific Intelligence: Joint Intelligence Bureau: Division of Scientific Intelligence and Division of Atomic Energy Intelligence and Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence: Registered Files DEFE 21/18. The National Archives (Kew, United Kingdom). Declassified Documents Online: Twentieth-Century British Intelligence, link.gale.com/apps/doc/DGZNZS623407437/TCBI?u= utoronto_main&sid=bookmark-TCBI&xid=f6800097&pg=1. Accessed 11 July 2021.”

[2] On the origins of scientific intelligence in Canada, see Matthew Wiseman, “‘The Blitzkrieg has come to stay: Scientific Intelligence in Canada at the Dawn of the Cold War,” paper presented to the International Studies Association, Toronto, March 2019. A copy of the paper is the Canadian Foreign Intelligence History database.

[3] H[ugh]. S. Young to Brigadier C. P. Morrison, April 5, 1954. This document and all following documents are from DEFE 21/18 and the Gale database, as per note 1, above.

[4] Young to Patrick Dean, April 5, 1954.

[5] “Canadian Officer with S.T.I.B.,” Young to D[avid]. E. Evans [STIB], May 5, 1954.

[6] Morrison to Young, April 1, 1954. Morrison wrote that Jim Skey may be “in the picture” but he was unsure. For more on Roy Carrie’s background – and indeed the Defence Research Board itself – see Jonathan Turner’s PhD, “The Defence Research Board of Canada, 1947 to 1977,” 2012, available online at https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/71816/1/turner_jonathan_r_201211_PhD_thesis.pdf.

[7] Ivor Bowen to Young, April 26, 1954.

[8] Bowen to Young, April 26, 1954.

[9] “Personal Details – Jacob Koop,” attached to Bowen to Young, April 26, 1954.

[10] Bowen to Young, April 26, 1954.

[11] Bowen to Young, April 26, 1954.

[12] Young to Dean, May 5, 1954.

[13] Young to Dean, May 5, 1954.

[14] “Canadian Officer with S.T.I.B.,” Young to Evans, May 5, 1954.

[15] Young to Dean, May 5, 1954.

[16] “Canadian Officer with S.T.I.B.,” Young to Evans, May 5, 1954.

[17] Young to Evans, May 5, 1954.

[18] Young to Bowen, May 5, 1954.

[19] Young to Bowen, May 5, 1954.

[20] Dean to Young, May 24, 1954.

[21] Young to Bowen, May 27, 1954.

[22] Young to Dean, April 5, 1954. (The UK JIC discussed the matter of the Canadian attachment at the 8th meeting held on April 27, 1954.)

[23] “Canadian Officer with S.T.I.B.,” Young to Evans, May 5, 1954; Young to Bowen, May 5, 1954. Evans, at STIB, regretted this, preferring a direct attachment to STIB. He expected “a delicate problem in controlling the activities of STIB officers in the difficult period which lies ahead, and in which personal relationships and activities will need the most careful co-ordination.”Evans to Young, May 14, 1954.

[24] Young to Dean, April 5, 1954.

[25] Young to Bowen, May 5, 1954.

[26] Bowen to Young, April 26, 1954.

[27] Young to Bowen, September 17, 1954.

[28] Young to Evans, October 25, 1954.

[29] Jacob Koop’s obituary, with information about his career, is available here: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/ottawacitizen/obituary.aspx?n=jacob-koop&pid=129288938&fhid=6061 Documents with Koop’s signature, tracking his career, are available in the archival records maintained by the Canadian Foreign Intelligence History Project. For more information visit https://carleton.ca/csids/canadian-foreign-intelligence-history-project/

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