Orsam Books

The Untold History of the Special Branch

Prior to the formation of the Criminal Investigation Department in 1878, the small group of detectives who comprised the Detective Branch within the Commissioner's Office were sometimes described as being part of a 'special branch' at Scotland Yard. During questioning before the Detective Police (Departmental) Commission on 29 November 1877, Detective-Inspector George Greenham, whose responsibility was to keep track of foreign criminals operating in the Metropolis, was asked by one of the Commission members, Colonel Fielding, 'How many detectives are connected with your special branch?'  (HO 347/2).

Greenham said there were four in total, a few of whom had the ability to speak French and German (while he himself spoke both these languages fluently and Italian too).  These four detectives were: Chief Inspector George Clarke, Inspector John Shore, Inspector Edward Sawyer and Greenham himself.  At the same time, Greenham informed the commission that, if he died or fell sick, there was no-one in that branch with sufficient language skills capable of taking over from him. The Detective Branch was a bit of a small ramshackle department in other words.

The number of detectives increased with the formation of the Criminal Investigation Department in the following year but we find mention of another special branch in the policing report of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for the year 1880.  The Commissioner said:

'On the 1st June 1880, the Secretary of State was pleased to sanction the formation of a special branch under my direction for the assistance and control of convicts discharged upon licence, and persons under sentence of police supervision in the metropolitan police district.  This branch consisting of specially selected officers, is in constant communication with the various excellent societies for the succor of those who, having been convicted of crime, are in special need of friendly help.'

So yet another special branch!  This was a reference, incidentally, to the Convict Supervision Office under the supervision of Chief Inspector Neame of the C.I.D.

It was not until some years later that a proper Special Branch, as we would recognize it, was created within the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police. The purpose of this article is to provide a fresh history of some aspects of the creation of this Special Branch and to look critically at what writers have previously said on this topic.  I would go so far as to say that everything that has been written about the formation of the Special Branch until now has been wrong.

***** 

The Phoenix Park murders in Dublin in May 1882 shook the British establishment to the core with subsequent investigations into the Invincibles and the Fenian Brotherhood revealing significant Fenian activity in London.  There was, at the time, no dedicated police unit within London tasked to deal with Fenian offences but a dynamite explosion during the evening of 15 March 1883 which damaged a new block of Government offices in Westminster, mainly comprising the Local Government Board, together with a less successful explosion at the offices of the Times on the same evening, forced the Metropolitan Police into action.

Two days after the explosions, the Commissioner of Police, Sir Edmund Henderson, applied to the Home Office for an augmentation of officers in the Criminal Investigation Department. On 19 March 1883, it was announced in Police Orders that a total of eight uniformed officers, a number of whom were of Irish descent, were authorized to be employed in plain clothes at the Central Office in a special new unit, on a temporary basis, under the supervision of Chief Superintendent Williamson along with four local C.I.D. detectives. 

The uniformed officers were Inspector Pope of 'C' Division, Inspector Ahern of 'R' Division, Constable O'Sullivan of 'D' Division, Constable Walsh of 'E' Division, Constable McIntyre of 'L' Division, Constable Foy of 'M' Division, Constable Jenkins of 'V 'Division and Constable Thorpe of 'Y' Division.  The four local detectives were Sergeant Melville of 'W' Division, Sergeant Regan of the Thames Division and two constables named Enright (probably Patrick and Timothy) from 'H' and 'K' Divisions respectively. There were no special funding arrangements for this unit.

It should be noted that, according to Police Orders, the Sergeant Melville was Sergeant 'J. Melville' but from other evidence it appears that this must have been incorrect and that it was William Melville, the man who later became head of the secret service. 

News of the existence of this unit reached the newspapers very quickly.  A press agency release dated 22 March 1883 (and published in a number of newspapers such as the Derby Daily Telegraph on 24 March 1883) stated:

'In conjunction with Sir William Harcourt, the Scotland-yard authorities have decided on important measures with reference to the Fenian element in this country and the United States. The force of secret service agents in the pay and acting under the directions of the British authorities at Washington and New York is to be completely augmented. A special force, consisting of picked men, is being organised to beat up the Fenian and Socialist quarters here. The policy of cheese paring economy and masterly inactivity is dismissed, and no money or trouble will be spared. The director of criminal investigation will take exclusive charge of the special department, and report to the Home Secretary in person.' 

It wasn't entirely accurate to call this unit a department, and there is no reason in the Home Office papers to think that it was concerning itself with any anti-socialist work at this stage, but we may note that the description of 'special department' is equivalent to 'special branch'. 

On the same day as the formation of this unit, an order appeared in Police Orders as follows:

'Superintendents are to submit, 31st, a return giving the name and rank of any Inspector, P.S. or P.C. able to speak foreign languages (stating the language), including Welsh and Irish dialects; the degree in proficiency to be stated. Defaulters sheets and usual particulars of service to accompany the Returns.'

Clearly the plan was to create a team of mainly Irish officers able to work undercover and mix freely with the type of men they were keeping under surveillance. In his book M: MI5's First Spymaster, Andrew Cook refers to an operation by Melville, Regan and Enright to follow a man called O'Connor around London. 'Quite who he was', says Cook, 'is lost to us' and he suggests that, 'O'Connor, whoever he was, was probably drawn into some sting inspired by a London informer of Anderson and Jenkinson.'

In fact, the man being followed was John O'Connor, alias Henry Dalton, who, as a result of the surveillance operation, was convicted of treason for planning dynamite outrages, with Timothy Featherstone and Patrick Flanagan, at Lancaster County Assizes in Liverpool on 9 August 1883.  Home Office papers reveal that, from as early as 24 March 1883, only a few days after the formation of the new unit, O'Connor was being kept under surveillance by a four man team comprising Melville, Regan, McIntyre and Patrick Enright (HO 144/116/A28493). According to Jenkinson, O'Connor was 'pointed out to the detectives of Scotland Yard by me personally' (HO 144/721/110757)  He was watched up until 5 April and, in that period, according to evidence given by Enright and Melville at his trial, was observed wandering around the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Lambeth Palace and appeared to be taking notes at the same time (Times, 9 August 1883).  He was then arrested by Inspectors Littlechild and Ahern on 6 April 1883 (HO 144/116/A28493).

The funding of this new unit, operating within the Metropolitan Police District, was from the Metropolitan Police Fund.  It would come to be referred to in 1886 (by Home Office officials) as the 'anti-Fenian detachment' and 'the Irish branch of the Criminal Investigation Department' and (by James Monro) as 'the special men' employed to deal with Fenian matters. 

There was an immediate success for the police on 5 April 1883 with arrests of the members of the Whitehead/Gallagher gang in London and Birmingham while a second group based in Glasgow and Liverpool, involving the aforementioned John O'Connor, was also broken up.  The arrests of the Whitehead/Gallagher gang had no connection with the surveillance being carried out on O'Connor, which was entirely separate, although the arrests of Whitehead and Gallagher prompted the police to arrest O'Connor as well.

Outside of London, Edward Jenkinson, the Assistant Under Secretary at the Chief Secretary's Office, responsible for police and crime in Ireland, based at Dublin Castle, had members of the Royal Irish Constabulary stationed in various major cities in England such as Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham under the supervision of a resident magistrate, Nicholas Gosselin, who was sent over to London by Jenkinson to be his agent in England. Some R.I.C. officers were also based in London as well. In the United States, the British Consuls had various agents and private detectives working to monitor Irish-American activists and they were reporting to Jenkinson.

On 12 April 1883, as part of the police plans against terrorism, more than 560 uniformed officers were authorized by the Home Secretary to protect important buildings, although it seems that not all of them were actually utilised (HO 144/208/A48000M). This had been proposed by the Commissioner on 17 March and funding arrangements discussed between the Home Office and the Treasury on 31 March. As recorded in a letter from the Home Office to the Treasury on this date (HO 65/46), the funding for this was initially to come from the Metropolitan Police fund - requiring an increase in the rates - but, as it was subsequently argued by the Commissioner that this was being done in the national interest rather than purely in the interest of Londoners, such building protection work would, eventually, be wholly funded by the Treasury.

By the summer of 1883 it seemed that things were under control and there was less undercover anti-Fenian work to be done.  Constables Walsh, Foy, Jenkins and Thorpe were removed from C.I.D. back to their divisions and reverted to ordinary duties on 20 July 1883.  At the same time, Detective Enright of H Division returned to C.I.D. duty in his division (the other Detective Enright of K Division had already been removed from special duties on 24 May due to a disciplinary breach, having been reprimanded and cautioned).  On 26 September, Inspector Ahern reverted to ordinary duty.

Things changed, however, on 30 October 1883 when there was an explosion on the Metropolitan Railway between Charing Cross and Westminster and a separate explosion near Praed Street.  There was clearly another dynamite gang at work in London.  On 2 November 1883, a new batch of seven uniformed officers, including Inspector Nunan from 'K' division and Sergeant Quinn from 'G' division, were drafted in to Scotland Yard to work in plain clothes with the special unit.  More officers were added in December.

Given that much Fenian activity seemed to be based in France, Inspector Moser was sent to Paris in mid-February 1884 'to co-operate with the Paris Police in watching the arrival at Havre of suspected dynamitards from New York' (Edinburgh Evening News, 29 February 1884).  It was said that:

'The French Government instructed the Paris police to assist the English officer, and the Prefecture placed at Inspector Moser's disposal twenty agents of police under two commissaries of police. At the same time that Moser went to Paris Inspector Stephens of the Dublin police was sent to Brussels...The French police soon succeeded in detecting the arrival at Havre of six "suspects" all of whom were traced to Paris.  Their names and addresses when at home, with other information about them, were obtained by Inspector Moser from the French police and communicated to Scotland Yard.'  

Yet the London gang was not found and, on 25 February 1884, there was an explosion in a cloakroom at Victoria Station.  Two days later there was a discovery of a bag containing dynamite and detonators at Charing Cross Station with a similar discovery made the following day at Paddington.

Further measures were needed.   The Home Secretary wrote to the Metropolitan Police on 29 February 1884 suggesting that Customs thoroughly examine the luggage of passengers from the United States (MEPO 3/3070).  It was also noted that passengers from America often came via France and Belgium so that these needed to be searched too.

On 1 March, more explosives were discovered at Ludgate Hill Station.  On 4 March 1884 the St James's Gazette reported that:

'Several English detectives have arrived in Paris to work under the direction of Inspector Moser, of Scotland Yard, in the hope of tracing the authors of the explosion and attempted outrages in London.  The Prefect of Police has promised the assistance of the Paris gendarmerie.  Special surveillance is being exercised over all authorized manufacturers of dynamite as well as over their workers. The ports of Brest, Havre and Bordeaux are especially watched. All travellers arriving at these ports from New York are to be subjected to strict inspection....Inspector Moser is assisted in his mission by Sergeant Frost (sic) [Froest]'

The following day the same newspaper reported:

'Inspector Moser of Scotland-yard, has returned to Paris from Havre, where he has left a number of English detectives watching the steamers which arrive from New York, and also the movements of several suspicious Irishmen who are now living at an obscure inn there. The police, it is stated, are convinced that the criminals who left the packets of dynamite at various London railway stations went to France afterwards, and it is supposed that they took passage for New York on the French transatlantic boat St Laurent...The English detectives are said to be extremely satisfied with the cordial co-operation given them by the police authorities'.

With the London dynamite gang still at large, and the Metropolitan Police seemingly clueless, further drastic measures were needed and it was proposed by the Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, in the first week of March, to bring Edward Jenkinson over from Dublin to London (into the Home Office) in order for him, and his agents, who had more experience in covert surveillance, to work with the Metropolitan Police.  On 6 March 1884, Jenkinson wrote:

'If I am to go over to England making London temporarily my Head Qs as proposed by Sir William Harcourt it will be necessary that I should continue to keep under my own direction and control the work belonging to the Secret or Special Branch of my office in Dublin.' (HO 144/721/110757).

Jenkinson also said that he wanted all reports by Chief Superintendent Williamson at Scotland Yard, Robert Anderson at the Home Office and Major Gosselin, as well as reports from foreign and other offices, sent directly to him.  His demands were agreed to and he sailed over from Dublin the next day.

At the same time, plans were made for Metropolitan Police officers to be stationed at key ports in France, Belgium and Holland.  

There was no question but that having men at ports around the country and abroad was in the national interest rather than in the interest of London alone and, accordingly, on 7 March 1884, the Home Office wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Treasury requesting that the cost of watching the ports be borne by Imperial funds (HO 144/133/A34848B).  The Home Office's letter to the Chancellor stated:

'The Secretary of State considers it is necessary that measures of greater precaution should be taken against the Dynamite Plots which are notoriously planned in the United States.  For this purpose it is requisite that a close observation should be kept upon all suspicious persons landing at the Ports of the United Kingdom.  It will be necessary to have a special addition to the detective forces in the Ports thoroughly to carry out their watch.  It would be unfair in the opinion of the Secretary of State to cast the burden of the extra charge for a matter which affects the whole country upon this special locality...The Secretary of State will of course undertake to ask for a supplementary vote of money which he anticipates no difficulty in obtaining.'

The funding proposal was agreed in principle by the Treasury the next day (HO 144/133/A34848B).  As mentioned in the letter from the Home Office, the money would actually come from a new parliamentary vote called the Special Police Vote submitted by the Home Office which meant that the ratepayers of London would not be asked to subsidize it as they did the Metropolitan Police Vote. The ultimate funding of the Special Police Vote would be from the Treasury.  

Also on 8 March 1884, the Board of Customs was ordered to take measures to institute 'a minute and rigorous search of all passengers baggage immediately upon arrival in the country with the view of preventing the importation of explosives and related apparatus' (HO 144/133/A34848B). 

On the same day, Sir William Harcourt told the Metropolitan Police chiefs that Edward Jenkinson's wishes should be carried out as if they were the Home Secretary's wishes and that they should take steps to give effect to the measures advised by Jenkinson (HO 144/721/110757).  He explained his thinking in respect of his employment of Jenkinson in an internal memorandum dated 8 March 1884 as follows (HO 144/721/110757):

'In the urgent dangers at present existing in respect of Fenian outrages and emissaries sent from abroad I consider it of the greatest importance that all the information available in regard to these matters should be gathered into one focus with a view to concurrent action under the guidance of the mind of a single person to whom all information may be brought with the least possible delay, and who will have the means of disposing of all the resources both of Ireland and Great Britain with a view to defeat these conspiracies.  

For that object I have requested Lord Spencer to allow Mr Jenkinson, who has more knowledge of these matters than anyone else, and who has the control of the Irish Police, to come to London for a time to assist the Secretary of State in his efforts to grapple with these conspiracies as a whole.  

It is not possible without encountering difficulties which are at present insurmountable to give Mr Jenkinson here an official position with nominal authority similar to that which he holds in Ireland, but virtually, and substantially it is my desire for these purposes to place at his disposal under my name and upon his advice the resources of the Home Office and of the Metropolitan Police.

have seen today the Under Secretary and the assistant under secretary of this department, and the Chiefs of the Metropolitan Police in the presence of Mr Jenkinson, and informed them that my instructions are that Mr Jenkinson's wishes shall be carried out, and that whilst Mr Jenkinson will consult with me on all matters of importance they will take the proper steps to give effect to such measures as he may advise.  

I therefore confirm in substance the memorandum of Mr Jenkinson of the 6th instant, though it is not possible to carry it out exactly in the form he proposes of a regular official appointment and though matters must be transacted under the authority and in the name of the Department, no practical obstacle will be placed in the way of giving effect with promptness to such measures as he may deem necessary.'

 Jenkinson, who, as the Home Secretary made clear, had no official position, later wrote that:

'The resources of the Home Office and of the Metropolitan Police for the purpose of grappling with these Fenian conspiracies as a whole, were placed at my disposal under the name of the Secretary of State and upon my advice' (HO 144/721/110757).

Jenkinson immediately commenced the investigation into the explosion at the cloakroom at Victoria Station.  He wrote:

'The services of Chief Superintendent Williamson and a certain number of men under him in the Criminal Investigation Department were placed at my disposal.  I was put into telephonic communication with Scotland Yard and Mr Williamson was directed to call at the Office to report to me and to receive instructions daily in all matters relating to Fenian and dynamite conspiracies' (HO 144/721/110757).  

The situation was unprecedented but extraordinary times required extraordinary measures and Chief Superintendent Williamson seemed happy to co-operate with Jenkinson as did Howard Vincent, the director of the C.I.D.

In his book, M: M15's First Spymaster, Andrew Cook claims that a number of the Metropolitan Police officers who were sent to watch the ports reported directly to Major Gosselin.  This is not quite right and Cook has evidently misunderstood a list which shows that officers sent to the northern and north-western ports in England would be inspected by Major Gosselin while those in the southern ports would be inspected by Chief Superintendent Williamson or by one of his staff.  It was a practical geographical arrangement to ensure that those officers in the north would be properly inspected but they all reported to Williamson who now reported in turn to Jenkinson (not Gosselin as Cook claims).  

This is confirmed not only in a later memo from the Assistant Commissioner of the C.I.D. to the Commissioner dated 14 May 1886 in which it is stated that: 'All the officers employed whether belonging to the Met Police or the R.I.C. were directed to report to the Chief Superintendent Scotland Yard'  (HO 144/721/110757) but also in a memo by Jenkinson himself dated 28 May 1886 in which he wrote: 'Mr Williamson was to receive all the reports from these officers [at the ports] and was to keep me informed of anything which might occur' (HO 144/721/110757). 

By Police Orders of 19 and 21 March 1884, thirty-one Metropolitan Police officers, under the supervision of the Criminal Investigation Department (although only three were from the C.I.D. itself) were 'authorised to be employed beyond the Metropolitan Police District' and were sent to UK and European ports. A further twenty-two were assigned on 4 April 1884, including four from the C.I.D. 

Commissioner Henderson sent out the instructions for the men at the UK Ports.  He said:

'Your duty will be to carefully watch the arrival of passengers from continental or American ports specially with a view to prevent the introduction of explosive materials, and for the arrest, immediate or otherwise, of any person having them in possession, or of whose intentions reasonable suspicions are entertained. Passengers who from their appearance are either Irish or American should be carefully observed.' (HO 144/133/A34848B; draft version). 

As at 10 April 1884, five officers were posted abroad, namely Sergeant Melville and Constable Durham at Havre, Constable Bann at Antwerp, Constable Bulterman at Rotterdam and Sergeant Froest at Paris, Inspector Moser having already returned to London (MEPO 3/3070).  Their purpose was 'to watch movements of Fenians and dynamitards' (HO 144/133/A34848B).   Froest was withdrawn shortly after this without being replaced (as Paris was not a port) and Inspector Radtke was sent out to Hamburg (MEPO 1/40).

In England there was an early breakthrough for Jenkinson, as John Daly, who Jenkinson had been keeping under surveillance for some considerable time, was arrested at Birkenhead Railway Station on 11 April 1884 with three hand bombs in his pockets (HO 144/721/110757), although it appears that Jenkinson had arranged for these bombs to be given to Daly in order that he could be arrested.

At this time, there were thirteen Metropolitan Police officers listed as being employed on special duties for the C.I.D 'within the Metropolitan Police District' including a number of those who had been assigned to the unit from the start in March 1883 such as Inspector Pope and Sergeant McIntyre (PO 12 April 1884) but a number of men from the original team had been sent to the ports.  In a memo dated 21 April 1884, Chief Superintendent Williamson wrote to Commissioner Henderson to explain what the thirteen officers were doing and to ask for additional assistance:

'We now have employed in this office thirteen officers from various divisions for enquiry and observation in connection with this business [i.e. Fenian matters], of these two are employed to attend to the search of the baggage at Charing Cross and Victoria, and to be waiting for any emergency that may arise, two are employed from 6 to midnight and two from midnight to 10am on reserve at office to be prepared to follow any suspected person who may be telegraphed from the ports, one is employed as an assistant clerk, the remainder are employed in enquiries and in keeping observation on suspected persons.  All these officers are Englishmen except three, and it appears to me to be desirable and to Mr Jenkinson with whom I have spoken on the matter that there should be attached to this office some officers of Irish constabulary for the purpose of making enquiries amongst these countrymen in various parts of London, to acquaint themselves with their sentiments and movements. I therefore beg authority of Commissioner for four officers (Irishmen) to be attached to this office.  If Commissioner approves I will select four officers (MEPO 3/3070).

Commissioner Henderson subsequently put in a request for the Home Secretary to authorize the augmentation of four constables to be Irishmen and to be attached to the C.I.D (HO 144/133/A34848B).  This augmentation was approved on 22 April 1884 with the request from the Under Secretary at the Home Office that 'Sir William Harcourt would be glad to be furnished with an estimate of the cost incurred by the employment of this new Detective Force to make enquiries in connection with Fenianism' (HO 151/2).

The press remained generally well informed about recent developments, with a Press Association report published in the Dublin Daily Express of 22 May 1884 stating that:

'Mr E J Jenkinson, who for some time was engaged in connection with the Irish Detective Department at Dublin Castle, has taken up a permanent position at the Home Office, his private secretary being Mr Strickland. Mr Jenkinson's special department is the supervision of the detective force formed for the prevention and detection of political crime.'

For all the efforts of Jenkinson and the police, they were unable to prevent an explosion at Scotland Yard on 30 May 1884 along with two explosions at St James' Square.  A discovery of dynamite and detonators was also made in Trafalgar Square.  The government's response was to authorise a further 170 officers to protect public buildings and offices.  Contrary to a claim by Christy Campbell in Fenian Fire (2003), however, Howard Vincent did not resign as director of the C.I.D. in response to this explosion; his resignation had already been announced in the press on 12 May 1884 - his reason being that he wanted to travel the world and then stand for parliament - and he formally departed, having given a month's notice, on 13 June, being replaced by James Monro who was appointed an Assistant Commissioner.

On 5 June 1884, the Times stated:

'The police are reticent as to what they are doing. It may not be known that there is a special department of the Criminal Investigation Office created to deal with the operations of the dynamitards and the officers engaged are mostly Irish. They are pushing on their investigations in all quarters.' 

Once again, the existence of a so-called 'special department' (i.e. special branch) was mentioned to the British public.

On 13 December 1884, there was an explosion under London Bridge but, due to protective measures taken in advance, there was little damage to the bridge itself and it seems that the perpetrators had managed to blow themselves up while attempting the act.

At this time, it was no simple matter for an officer at a foreign port to take any action if they wanted a suspect detained.  They would have to obtain the assistance of the British Consul in the relevant town or city who would then need to liaise with both the police of that town and the relevant judicial authorities in order to commence extradition proceedings. But the British Consul would do nothing without instructions from the Foreign Office.

At Jenkinson's request, in response to a reluctance by the British Consul at Havre to assist Sergeant Melville in detaining a suspect (HO 144/133/A3484B), a letter was sent by the Foreign Office to Her Majesty's Consular offices in Havre, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg on 19 December 1884 asking the Consuls there to give the officers based at the ports every assistance 'and procure if required cooperation of local police' (HO 144/133/A34848B). At the same time (or, rather, two days earlier) a separate letter had been sent directly by the Foreign Office to the British Consul at Havre saying: 'Should Serjeant Melville apply to you give him all assistance in your power and if necessary obtain aid of French police' (FO 5/1930).

Further explosions occurred on 2 January 1885 in the Gower Street tunnel of the Metropolitan Railway and there was an explosion in the Tower of London twenty-two days later but, on this occasion, the perpetrators, Burton and Cunningham, were caught and convicted.  More police were put on protection duty, with fifty Royal Irish Constabulary men attached to the Metropolitan Police for this purpose.   Still, an explosion occurred at the Admiralty on 9 March and there could be no relaxation of the watching.

The new Assistant Commissioner at the C.I.D., James, Monro, was not particularly keen from the start on Jenkinson's role but, as Monro later explained, Sir William Harcourt tried to reassure him by describing the arrangements as constituting a 'special bureau in the disposal of Fenian business' (HO 144/721/110757) and, in this 'special bureau system' (Ibid), all matters were supposed to be dealt with directly and equally between Monro, Jenkinson and the Home Secretary. 

In June 1885, however, there was embarrassment for Jenkinson after Scotland Yard discovered that one of his agents was apparently, and secretly, paying men to pretend to be terrorist suspects for Scotland Yard to follow.  The surveillance of the suspects and subsequent investigation into the bizarre scandal was conducted under the supervision of Chief Inspector Littlechild by Sergeant Quinn and constables McIntyre, New, Enright, Boulter, Bryant and Allum in co-operation with a number of officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary (HO 144/721/110757). The Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, now expressed his view that Jenkinson's functions should be limited to collating information outside London (HO 144/721/110757), something that was very different to the all encompassing power that Jenkinson had been given a year earlier. 

Harcourt was replaced as Home Secretary in late June 1885 by Sir Richard Cross who ruled in July that Jenkinson was not to carry out secret watching in the Metropolis but was nevertheless allowed to employ secret agents there (HO 144/721/110757).  In January 1886, a minute from Cross to Monro stated that: 'Mr Jenkinson will report to you any information he may have about London daily...You will also communicate information to him either direct or through myself'.' (HO 144/721/110757).  Jenkinson was also instructed to send copies of despatches from Consuls in America on Fenian matters to Monro (HO 144/721/110757). Meanwhile the Globe of 20 January 1886 commented on the 'differences' that had arisen 'between the authorities at Scotland-yard and the chief of the Special Department at the Home Office'.

Relations between Jenkinson and Monro continued to deteriorate during 1886 as Jenkinson sent precisely no reports from America to Monro, claiming not to have any, but Monro was not told until 2 March about a plot against the Prince of Wales emanating from America which Jenkinson had learnt of on 18 February (HO 144/721/110757).

On 17 March 1886, Monro sent a memo to all superintendents to ask all officers to look out for any suspicious activity and said that this was not only the responsibility of 'the special men' employed to deal with Fenian matters but of everyone in the force (MEPO 3/3070).

At the same time, Monro continued his war of attrition against Jenkinson and wrote a memo to the Home Secretary on 27 May 1886 protesting about Jenkinson's  use of agents in London interfering with Scotland Yard investigations (HO 144/721/110757).  He was particularly unhappy that Jenkinson had expressly stated in a letter to Sir Charles Warren that he had 'now only two men of the R.I.C. in London'  when, in actual fact, he was running a much larger, but totally secret, group of agents in the capital who were following suspects without having informed Scotland Yard (HO 144/721/110757). From Jenkinson's perspective, as he would later write: 'My secret agents were hunted up and driven out of London.' (HO 144/721/110757).

Jenkinson lobbied to be appointed to run the Fenian work from Scotland Yard under the Commissioner but Monro threatened to resign if this happened. On 11 June, Monro wrote to the Home Secretary (now Hugh Childers) saying that, 'my confidence in Mr Jenkinson has been destroyed by his action towards me...a man whom I am compelled to say I do not trust.' (HO 144/721/110757). In response, Childers transferred responsibility for all matters within the Metropolis from Jenkinson to Monro with Jenkinson retaining responsibility for matters outside of the Metropolis (HO 144/721/117057).  The Metropolis was essentially the counties of London and Middlesex but also parts of Surrey, Essex, Kent and Hertford.  We may refer to it here for simplicity as London.

After Henry Matthews became Home Secretary in July 1886, Sir Charles Warren, who had replaced Sir Edmund Henderson as Commissioner in March, wrote to him about Jenkinson saying:

'I feel it is my duty to inform you that I have ceased to put any confidence in Mr Jenkinson and that I consider it dangerous to entrust him anything on Police matters which it is necessary to keep secret, and therefore in conjunction with Mr Monro feel in the greatest difficulty as to our relations with Mr Jenkinson' (MEPO 4/487)

On 21 October 1886, Monro stated that co-operation with Jenkinson had become 'practically impossible.' (HO 144/721/110757). Subsequently, Jenkinson was informed by way of letter from the Home Secretary dated 10 December 1886 that he was to be relieved of his duties as from 10 January 1887 with Monro taking them over to become the new Chief of the Secret Department, also known as the Secret Agent, in addition to his role as Assistant Commissioner.  Home Office papers state that, upon the 'retirement' of Jenkinson, Monro was 'appointed Secret Agent for detecting and preventing Fenian Conspiracies' (HO 144/198/A4699B).

In the meantime, James Monro had been giving some thought to the issue of the officers working on special duties connected with Fenianism in the C.I.D. both at the ports and inside London, and, in a memorandum dated 30 October 1886, which was forwarded to the Home Office by Sir Charles Warren on 2 December 1886, he wrote (HO 144/133/A34848):

'The men are withdrawn from C.I.D. and from general duty and have not been augmented for. I feel this weakening in my staff at Head Quarters perceptibly, and each division from which men have been withdrawn feels the same in less degree...there should be an increase to the C.I.D. staff to the extent of the numbers of men employed.'

The strain on the C.I.D. was mainly in respect of the officers sent to the ports because most of the officers working on Fenian matters in the Metropolis had been drafted in from the divisions but, as Monro said in his memo, this was causing problems for the divisions who were now short of men due to the lack of formal augmentation.

When it comes to the creation of the Special Branch, what happens next is critical because, until this point, the arrangements for work on anti-Fenian matters had been  ad hoc, with the use of officers temporarily drafted in from the divisions and the occasional augmentation. Consequently, the unit working on those matters had no formal status within the C.I.D.  It was just an informal team of officers devoted to catching the terrorists without any special funding.

Following Sir Charles Warren's request for an augmentation on 2 December 1886, the change was set in motion in a letter written by Godfrey Lushington at the Home Office to the Secretary to the Treasury on 10 January 1887 which was Jenkinson's last day in office (HO 151/3):

'I am directed by the Secretary of State to acquaint you, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury that he has received an application from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for sanction for certain augmentations in the staff of the Criminal Investigation Department rendered necessary by the employment of police officers for services connected with Fenianism.  These officers being fully employed on services of this special nature, the authorised staff has been found insufficient for the ordinary work of the Department, it is now proposed that the Ordinary Staff should be raised to its normal number, and the officers at present employed on the special services above referred to, formed into a distinctive body' (underlining added).

In respect of the funding of this new distinctive body, the letter continued (underlining added):

'The Secretary of State has conferred with the Commissioner of Police and with Mr Monro on the subject, and is satisfied that the special services on which these officers are engaged involve Imperial as well as merely Metropolitan Police interests and that they frequently necessitate their absence from the Metropolitan Police District.  In these circumstances he would submit that the expenses entailed should be in part borne by Imperial Funds; and I am accordingly to suggest, for their Lordship's consideration that one half of such expenses should be included in the vote for special police services' .

Lushington clarified what this new body would comprise of:

'The scheme now proposed will involve the augmentation of the Force by 2 inspectors, 4 sergeants and 20 constables, the total cost of which is estimated, for the ensuing year, at £4,037.7.2 and their Lordships sanction is therefore requested for the insertion in the Special Police Vote of the sum of £2,018.13.7 to cover one half of such cost.'

The two inspectors were to be Littlechild and Pope.

The Treasury agreed on 26 January (T13/19) to contribute half the cost of these officers, referred to in an earlier Treasury letter, dated 18 January, as 'the special body of men' (HO 144/133/A34848B).  Before the augmentation was approved by the Home Office, however, there was an important development. 

Now that Jenkinson had been forced out, it was realized that the Treasury would save £2,400 a year from not having to pay his salary.  Someone had the idea to use this money, or part of it, to fund additional officers within the C.I.D. who would be needed to replace the agents employed by Jenkinson now that Monro was doing his job.  Consequently, on 29 January, the Parliamentary under secretary at the Home Office, Charles Stuart-Wortley, spoke to the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Reginald Welby, to ask for his approval to an increase in the Special Police Vote by the sum of £640 in order to cover the cost of extra officers (HO 144/721/110757). 

We have a record of this conversation from a letter written by Stuart-Wortley to Sir Reginald Welby later in the year (on 17 November 1887): 

'My dear Sir R Welby, the interview between you and me took place at the Treasury on Jan 29 of the present year.  The object of it was to obtain from you Treasury sanction to an increase of the vote for the "Special Police" (vote 10 of Class III of the Estimate for 1887-8) by the sum of £640 the necessity for which I explained as follows:  

Mr Jenkinson had heretofore been and still was employed at the HO with a small staff upon the business of the secret enquiries necessary to prevent dynamite outrages.  The whole arrangement was unknown to the public, and the charge was debited to the secret service vote.  At the time of our interview Mr Jenkinson's retirement was imminent and under new arrangements consequent thereon it was intended that Mr Monro of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police should undertake the secret inquiries hitherto conducted by Mr Jenkinson.  For this purpose it was necessary that in lieu of the staff employed by Mr Jenkinson men belonging ostensibly to the Metropolitan Police Force should be employed.  

Continued payment out of secret service funds became therefore impossible so the £640 for which I asked your sanction represented the net cost of this staff. You may remember that I explained that through increasing by that sum the amount of the Special Police Vote we are relieving the Secret Service account not only by that amount but also to the extent a large part of the salary (£2000) theretofore paid to Mr Jenkinson which to that extent was to be saved.

I also stated that Mr Matthews regarded the sum asked for as imperatively necessary in the interest of the public safety.  You gave your sanction, and the transfer of staff and duties has since taken place. The sum in question is identified in official HO Papers as the sum for which you gave me verbal sanction on Jan 29 87' (HO 144/721/110757). 

On 3 February 1887, the Treasury's approval having been obtained, an augmentation of one chief inspector and three inspectors, to be 'employed in Special Services connected with Fenianism within the Metropolitan Police District' was approved by the Home Secretary (HO 151/3).  The augmentation was confirmed in Police Orders on the same day and, two days later, Inspector Littlechild was promoted to Chief Inspector with Sergeants Melville, Burke and Quinn all being promoted to the rank of inspector.  These were the four officers who were to be paid out of the £640 agreed by the Treasury.

As the original intention had been for Inspector Littlechild to be part of the new body of officers whose funding (of 50%) was approved by the Treasury on 26 January, there was a subsequent reduction in the numbers required, from two inspectors to a single inspector, within this unit.

As for the three other officers who joined this newly created section, there is a remarkable lack of agreement in the secondary literature as to who they were.  According to Begg & Skinner in The Scotland Yard Files (1992) they were 'Pope, Melville and Burke', for Lindsay Clutterbuck in his 2002 thesis, 'An Accident of History?', they were 'Sweeney, Melville and Burke' while Wilson & Adams tell us in Special Branch: A History 1883-2006 (2015) that it was 'Melville, Pope and Quinn'

In fact, as mentioned above, the three newly promoted officers in the section were Inspectors Burke, Quinn and Melville.  

The Home Secretary approved the augmentation of the unit of twenty-six officers (i.e. two inspectors, four sergeants and twenty constables) on 16 February 1887 using the exact same term, 'for services connected with Fenianism within the Met Police District' (HO 65/55), as had been used about the smaller unit in the letter of 3 February. 

The two new units were given names of sorts in Police Orders of 5 March 1887.  The unit comprising twenty-five C.I.D. officers was referred to as 'Section (b)' while the unit comprising four officers was referred to as 'Section (d)'.   Section (c), which then had six C.I.D. officers, was the officers watching the ports. Section (a) was the main body of C.I.D. officers dealing with normal crime. For the purposes of this article I will refer to the sections as 'Section B', 'Section D', etc.

Section D is usually referred to by modern writers as the Special Branch, so that, it is said, the Special Branch was only created in February/March 1887 (and was formally brought into existence on 1 March 1887) whereas Section B is said to be the Special Irish Branch, which is usually said to have been created in March 1883 (although it was also not formally constituted until 1 March 1887).  Clive Bloom, for example, states in his 2010 book 2000 Years of Riots, Rebels and Revolts:

'...the original Special Branch consisted simply of the four senior officers recruited by Monro in 1887' (p.243)

It's debatable whether the four officers in Section D can be described as 'senior' considering that the three inspectors, having just been promoted from sergeants, were the most junior inspectors within the C.I.D., but here Bloom is clearly saying that Special Branch was Section D only and, indeed, he says that 'Scotland Yard's Special Branch was separate from the Irish Branch.'  The critical question to be addressed, therefore, in order to examine if this statement is correct, is what were the differences between the two sections.

At this stage, by which I mean as at March 1887, I would suggest that there was no difference between Sections B and D, other than that Section B was fifty per cent funded by the Treasury while Section D was to be funded in its entirety by the Treasury, although it should be noted that, for the first year, it was understood that £640 might not cover the full cost of the section, with the balance to be paid from the Metropolitan Police Fund. This was recorded in a letter from Godfrey Lushington of the Home Office to Sir Reginald Welby at the Treasury dated 7 November 1887 as follows (underlining added):

'I am directed by the Secretary of State to request that you will move the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury to sanction the payment of the sum not exceeding £640, for the present financial year from the Vote for Special Police, in respect of the pay of four inspectors added to the Criminal Investigation Department for special duty in February last: the sum of £640 having, as the result of verbal agreement between yourself and Mr Stuart-Wortley, been inserted in the Estimate for this purpose. The sum named will not cover the whole cost of these officers for the year: but the Secretary of State does not propose to ask that the amount actually provided for this service in the Estimate shall be exceeded and the remainder of the cost will therefore for the present year fall upon Metropolitan Police Funds' (HO 149/1).

A background note to this letter in the Home Office files explains that the reason for asking for no more than £640 was because this would involve a supplemental vote for the 1887-88 financial year, which the Home Office wanted to avoid, but thereafter they would claim the full money from the Treasury (HO 144/189/A46281). Lushington also stated that the £640 was not expressly included in the Special Police Vote for 1887-88 because it came out of the existing budget of £37,000, 'the margin for contingencies having been reduced to provide for it'  (HO 144/189/A46281).

In the copy of Police Orders for 5 March 1887 at the National Archives (MEPO 7/48), someone (unknown) has written in manuscript that Section D was 'Special' while Section B was plain 'Irish' but this could have been written in much later and is in contrast to fact that Section B was frequently referred to as the 'Special Irish Branch' (or 'Special (Irish) Branch').  There is no doubt that Section D became to be known as the 'Special Secret Branch' or 'Special (Secret) Branch' and Section B became known as the 'Special Irish Branch' or 'Special (Irish) Branch' but there is no evidence that this is how they were known in March 1887. 

 hie

It may be noted that, in October 1888, Charles Murdoch, a Home Office official, referred to Section D as having been created 'For Fenian duties - other than in London'  (HO 144/189/A46281).  On the face of it, this would makes sense of the funding arrangements because it would mean that Section B was for anti-Fenian operations in London while Section D was for similar arrangements outside of London.  It would also make sense of why there were two distinct sections created at the time. 

However, an earlier memorandum of Godfrey Lushington dated 12 October 1887 seems to contradict this, saying that the officers in the smaller section (i.e. Section D) were 'substituted for the private anti-Fenian agents both within & without the Metropolitan Police District'  (HO 144/208/A48000M). Even this does not seem to be right. As we have seen, the Home Office letter of 3 February 1887, which authorized the creation of the section, stated that the officers in the section were to be 'employed in Special Services connected with Fenianism within the Metropolitan Police District'.

From the above, one can only conclude that the Home Office officials who referred to Section D as having been created for operations outside London (i.e. the Metropolitan Police District) assumed this was the case on the basis that the section was wholly funded by the Treasury (just like the section which watched the ports outside of London) and, perhaps, because the agents of Jenkinson they replaced had operated outside London.  By 1888, Section D probably was conducting operations outside of London, there being nothing to prevent it, just as we have seen that Section B was sometimes operating outside of London according to Godfrey Lushington, who had stated in his letter of 10 January 1887 that the special services engaged upon by the team of officers at Scotland Yard 'frequently necessitate[d] their absence from the Metropolitan Police District.'

The other unique attribute which Section D was supposed to possess was that it targeted all political subversive bodies whereas Section B focused only on Fenian groups, hence the latter was called the Special Irish Branch.  As we have seen, however, the Home Office letter of 3 February 1887 referred to the officers in Section D as to be employed on 'Services connected with Fenianism'.  It was not, I suggest, created as a branch with a mandate to investigate other political groups, such as socialists and anarchists, although it undoubtedly did so at some point after its creation.

Confirmation of this appears to be found in a letter written by Monro to Troup at the Home Office, four days after his letter of 24 September 1887 referred to above requesting that half of the cost of Section D be paid for by the Treasury with the other half coming from Met Police Funds.  Monro wrote (underlining added):

'The arrangements for the employment of these officers was verbal, and I understand so far as my memory goes that Mr Wortley included the amount in the special vote, but I should like to be quite sure upon the point. The special purpose was distinctly in connection with Fenianism....' (HO 144/189/A46281). 

According to Porter, however, in Origins of the Vigilant State (1987), 'a distinctive feature of the new 'Special Branch'', which he defines as the 'little cadre of four police inspectors under Monro', was that 'from the beginning it was briefed to take care of 'the observation of anarchists' as well as Fenians, if a report by a much later Head of CID is to be relied upon'  (p.86). In that report, being a memorandum by the then A.C.C., Edward Henry, dated 7 January 1902, it is stated:

'Since 1887 the observation of anarchists has been entrusted to the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police who work under their own officers their reports being submitted through their Superintendents' (HO 45/10254/X36450). 

There are two problems with relying on this rather vague statement written in 1902 by someone who wasn't a member of the police force in 1887 and had only joined in 1901.  The first is that it cannot possibly trump the contemporaneous documents which expressly state that the officers in Section D were to be employed for 'services connected with Fenianism', with no mention made of anarchism.  Secondly, Henry did not make any distinction between Section B and Section D so that Porter cannot possibly know if he was referring to one section or both. 

There is also evidence that Section B did not focus entirely on Irish matters. Most of the early paperwork for this section has not survived but one that has is a Central Officer's Special Report dated 28 October 1887 by Inspector Pope (who was the sole Section B inspector).  The report, which is countersigned by Chief Inspector Littlechild, is entirely about a Socialist named Alfred Oldland, one of the organisers of the Peckham branch of the Social Democratic Federation, who had been arrested for an assault on the police at Hyde Park ten days earlier (MEPO 2/182).

Not only does this report show that Inspector Pope was working on a non-Fenian related matter in October 1887 but the fact that the report was counter-signed by Chief Inspector Littlechild, who was supposedly in a separate section within C.I.D., suggests that the two sections were working closely together and may have been regarded internally as one group.  

Further, another officer within Section B was Detective-constable Edward New (see Littlechild's list below) and we find the following entry dated 12 August 1887 in a Home Office register:

'Expenses for PC Edward New C.I.D. protecting the jewels of the Crown Prince of Germany en route from Thurness to London £0.11.1' (HO 65/56). 

This must relate to the visit to England of the Crown Prince of Germany in June 1887 for the Queen's Silver Jubilee.  Again, this work had nothing obvious to do with anti-Fenian activities, despite Constable New apparently being a member of the so-called Special 'Irish' Branch.

In a letter written by James Monro to Godfrey Lushington on 20 September 1887, Monro referred to the Home Office's letter of 3 February 1887 'sanctioning an augmentation of 1 Chief Inspector and 3 Second Class Inspectors for employment on Special Duty in connection with Fenianism'  (i.e. Section D) and then, in respect of Section B, referred to a Home Office letter of 16 February 1887 'authorizing an augmentation of 2 Inspectors, 4 Sergeants and 20 constables for similar special duty...' (HO 144/189/A46281, underlining added).  The fact that he refers to 'similar special duty' suggests that he thought of both sections as doing essentially the same work.

The idea that there was, in reality, no difference between sections B and D during 1887 is supported by the fact that on 19 December 1887 Chief Inspector Littlechild created a list for both the Receiver and the Home Office of 'each officer employed on special duty in connection with Fenian matters in the Criminal Investigation Department' (MEPO 5/65) which was a combined list of all officers in Sections B and D and which bore his signature and the words 'Criminal Investigation Department, C.O. Special Branch'.

This list is ordered by seniority, not section, and makes no distinction whatsoever between officers in Section B and those in Section D.  In fact, this is undoubtedly what has confused those writers who thought that Inspector Pope was in Section D because Pope, as the most senior of the inspectors, was the first on the list beneath Chief Inspector Littlechild.  The complete list is as follows:

Chief Inspector

Littlechild

Inspectors

Pope
Melville
Burke
Quinn

Sergeants

McIntyre
Sweeney
Walsh
Nowlan

Constables

Gray
Boulter
New
Maguire
Foley
Scott
Kane
McCauley
Craig
Felton
Hunt
Nursey
Haines
Fraser 
Eustace
Hemphrey
Read
Beckley
Tyson
McCarthy

 

We know that the Section D inspectors were Quinn, Burke and Melville not only because these three officers were all promoted from sergeant to inspector on 5 February 1887, and not only because we can find references in Police Orders to them being in Section D, but also because, upon Inspector Pope's retirement in June 1888, Home Office papers state there was no inspector in Section B for some months afterwards, thus confirming that he was the Section B inspector. He was not replaced until the end of the year when Inspector Melville was transferred out of Section D to Section B (Police Orders, 14 December 1888) with Sergeant William McLynchy subsequently being promoted to temporary inspector and transferred from Section C, where he had been on port duty, to Section D, on 6 May 1889, to fill the gap.

Of the original three Section D inspectors, Melville and Quinn feature regularly in the Home Office papers, and indeed in newspaper reports, in respect of anti-Fenian operations so that we know in general terms what they were doing following the formation of the section. Inspector Edward Burke, however, is more of a mystery. His name barely features in the documents, although he was named as one of the twenty-four officers, along with pretty much the entire Special Branch (sections B and D), who received a reward in July 1888 for the convictions of Callan and Harkins the previous year.  

There is, however, a clue as to what Burke was doing within Section D.  Going back to 1884 we find that there was an augmentation for six months on 21 April for one second class police sergeant in the 'A' Division 'To assist in the clerical work of the C.I. Department'.  From Police Orders of 26 April 1884, we can see that this sergeant was the newly promoted P.S. 46A Burke.  He must have had an important clerical role, for in June 1885, as a detective-sergeant, he received a reward for his work on the prosecution of Burton and Cunningham. Almost a year after the formation of Section D, on 20 January 1888, the Home Office wrote to the Commissioner as follows (HO 65/59):

'With reference to your letter of the 12th instant as to the augmentation previously authorized by this Department of a Chief Inspector and three Second Class Inspectors for special duty in connection with Fenianism at the rate of pay sanctioned for the Criminal Investigation Department, I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that he approves of one of such Inspectors being employed on Special Clerical Duty of the Criminal Investigation Department, as a distinction from Special Duty in the same Department.'

This undoubtedly relates to Inspector Burke so that it would appear that he spent most of his time in the Special Branch doing clerical work.

He didn't remain long in Section D, however, for he was appointed to duty in Section C in June 1893 when he was 'authorised to be employed beyond the Metropolitan Police District' (Police Orders 9 June 1893).  He was temporarily replaced by Sergeant Thorpe from Section C (who would have been an Acting Inspector in Section D) and then, in June 1894, newly promoted Inspector John Sweeney from Section B replaced him, with Thorpe switching to Section B (Police Orders 11 June 1894). Burke remained in Section C for the rest of his service and his pension record states that he was on 'Special Port Duty'  at the end of his career (MEPO 21/29), making no mention of the Special Branch as such. 

Although, as mentioned above, Section D is referred to in the documents as 'Special Secret Branch' or, with brackets, 'Special (Secret) Branch', other names and descriptions applied to the section in 1888 were 'Special Confidential Section' and 'Met Police Officers specially employed in lieu of Mr Jenkinson's Department' (both in a Home Office memo dated 29 July 1888 - HO 144/208/A48000M). There was, however, nothing especially secret about the existence of the branch. It was certainly no more secret than Section B and was referred to in internal Home Office papers which were not marked secret or confidential.  It was also referred to openly in Police Orders as 'C.O. (C.I.D.-d')' just like Section B which was referred to as 'C.O. (C.I.D.-b)'.

The word 'secret' in the name of the section does not necessarily mean its existence was secret, in the same way that the Irish Branch was not necessarily composed of Irish officers, and is, I would suggest, an indication of either the type of (secret inquiry) work it carried out or of its origin, having been an attempt to replicate the secret service men, whose existence was secret, who had been working for Edward Jenkinson (and it will be recalled that in 1884 he referred to his own 'Secret or Special Branch' operating in Dublin).   

It is interesting that when one looks at the documents, one doesn't find any mention of Section D as either the 'Special (Secret) Branch' or 'Special Secret Branch' earlier than December 1888.  As late as July 1888, as mentioned above, the section was being referred to as the 'Special Confidential Section' or, more clumsily, 'Met Police Officers specially employed in lieu of Mr Jenkinson's Department', suggesting that the concept of Section D being the 'secret' section had not yet been applied to it.

As early as October 1887, by contrast, we can find mentions of Section B as the Irish Branch or Special Irish Branch - no doubt because the unit which existed prior to February 1887 had been referred to as 'the Irish branch of the Criminal Investigation Unit' (as Warren had referred to it in December 1886. It is later referred to (inaccurately) in a number of Home Office and Treasury papers as the 'Special Clerical Branch.' But there is no indication that, during its entire first year at least of operations, and most of its second year, Section D was referred to in equivalent fashion as the 'Secret Branch'.  

In fact, for some time, it did not even seem to have a name other than Section D.  The Receiver's Estimate for 1888-89, provided to the Home Secretary on 8 February 1888, simply lumped the officers we know as those in Section D together with the officers we know to be in Section B under the heading of 'Other special duties' with a general description in the covering letter that these were all police being employed 'on duties in connexion with Fenianism' (HO 395/1).

It wasn't until 6 April 1893, when providing the 1893-94 estimate, that the Receiver referred to Section D officers as the 'special section' while still referring to the Section B officers as 'Other special duties' (Ibid). Even then he didn't call them the 'secret section.'

It seems to have been in about December 1888, at the time of the preparation of the 1889 financial Estimate, that we find 'Special Secret Branch' being used for Section D by Home Office officials to distinguish it from Section B which, oddly, was now being called the 'Special Clerical Branch'.

But at whatever time it was decided to refer to Section D as the 'secret' branch, the main point is that the word 'secret' in the title did not mean that this was a section whose existence was supposed to be secret.

I disagree, therefore, with the following description of Section D which appears in Andrew Cook's M: The First Spymaster.  He says: 

'Section D, an entirely new, very small and secret section called the Special Branch, would be funded separately from the Metropolitan Police, its money would come from the Treasury via the Home Office.'

Aside from the fact that the section was not especially secret, certainly no more so than Section B, the fact that it was funded separately from the Metropolitan Police by the Treasury via the Home Office did not mean that it was a section apart from the Metropolitan Police, which is the impression that Cook is giving his readers. Section C was funded in exactly the same way as Section D, from the Special Police Vote, and the cost of the 174 Metropolitan Police officers guarding the inside of public buildings as at 8 February 1888 also came out of that very same Special Police Vote (HO 395/1).

Before the end of February 1888, the Vote was expanded to include additional officers protecting the outside of buildings (T13/20).  Section B itself was fifty percent funded from the Special Police Vote.  Thus, the source of funding did not by itself indicate anything special about the Special Branch.  It simply meant that its work was being carried out in the national interest rather than in the local (London) interest.

Further, while it was temporarily agreed in a verbal conversation between officials from the Treasury and the Home Office that the first year's (partial) cost of Section D of £640 would be paid by the Treasury, this was only a temporary arrangement (which had not been confirmed in writing) and nothing was decided with respect to future funding.  It wasn't until 9 January 1888, when discussions started for the Special Police Vote for the financial year 1888-89 (with the cost of Section D now being estimated at £1,220), that it was proposed by the Home Secretary that 'the cost of the special section of the Criminal Investigation Department formed in February 1887 shall be entirely defrayed from Imperial Funds'  giving as a justification that it was formed 'for the discharge of special duties of an entirely Imperial character' (HO 144/208/A48000M) 

Moreover, despite the oral agreement between Stuart-Wortley and Welby, official confirmation that the £640 would be paid out of Imperial Funds was not provided by the Treasury until almost a year later, on 3 January 1888 (HO 144/189/A46281) with the delay due to the Home Office having to explain to the Treasury all the details of the arrangement as a result of the Wortley/Welby conversation not having been formally minuted.  Consequently, as late as 20 September 1887, we find Monro, who appears not to have been certain of the details of the Wortley/Welby agreement which, in any event, only covered the funding for 1887, pleading that the Treasury contribute half of the annual cost of Section D (in exactly the same way as Section B was funded).

Thus, after pointing out that 'The Home Office letter of the 16th February last, authorizing an augmentation of 2 Inspectors, 4 Sergeants and 20 constables for similar special duty [i.e. a reference to Section B] directed that the cost was to be defrayed in equal portions from the Police Fund and from the Special Vote', and commenting that, 'The authority given by this letter for the division of the cost of police employed on special duty in the manner above referred to does not appear however to extend to the liability of the Special Vote beyond the numbers of Police specified in the letter', Monro concluded:

'I have therefore to request that the Secretary of State may be pleased to direct that the cost of the augmentation of 1 Chief Inspector and 3 Second Class Inspectors sanctioned on the 3rd February last  [i.e. Section D] may be paid half from the Special Police Vote and half from the Metropolitan Police Fund.' (HO 144/189/A46281). 

That rather puts paid to the notion that the special 100% funding of Section D by the Treasury from Imperial Funds indicates that it was in a different category from Section B considering that Monro himself, as late as September 1887, was only asking for Section D to be 50% funded by the Treasury and 50% funded by the Metropolitan Police Fund, in exactly the same way as Section B, and did not know it would be fully funded by the Treasury until January 1888.

So I think that Cook has got carried away here.  It must have seemed like a good story of a secretive, specially funded, unit having been created within (or apart from) the Metropolitan Police force but the truth is more mundane.  While it is true that Stuart-Wortley referred to Section D as  'ostensibly' belonging to the Metropolitan Police, there is no reason to doubt that it was, as a matter of fact, part of that force even though its officers were not in any sense 'normal' Metropolitan Police officers because they were dedicated to anti-Fenian (and ultimately anti-anarchist and anti-terrorist) operations.    

***** 

One name that is commonly associated with Section D is one which, I believe, is based on a mistake.  That is the name 'Home Office. Crime Department - Special Branch'. 

The error started with Porter in The Origins of the Vigilant State (1987) in which he states on page 86 that Section D was referred to 'on some printed notepaper in November 1887 as 'Home Office. Crime Department - Special Branch'.  Lindsay Clutterbuck doesn't then help matters by repeating this in An Accident of History? (2002) and explaining that this notepaper can be found on a report from Monro to Matthews dated 9 November 1887.  Given the respected nature of both these writers on the topic, this myth has been repeated by virtually all subsequent writers.

It is not so much that an examination of the original report from 1887 shows it is not one from Monro to Matthews but a report from Major Gosselin to Monro, on Gosselin's own headed notepaper, which was forwarded to Matthews by Monro (HO 144/193/A46664B) - there are examples of similar notepaper used by Monro himself in 1888 and 1889 - rather the fact that what was being referred to in the heading on the notepaper of 'HOME OFFICE. CRIME DEPARTMENT - SPECIAL BRANCH'  was a special branch of the Crime Department within the Home Office. This was why Major Gosselin was using this notepaper himself in 1887.  It was not a reference to a branch or section within the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police and was thus not a reference to section D!

 

By contrast, Chief Inspector Littlechild's notepaper was headed 'From Chief Inspector Littlechild, C.I. Department, CO (Special Branch)'.  

 

 The Criminal Investigation Department was a police department.The Crime Department was Home Office department, not a police one.

***** 

The earliest known documentary reference to the Special Branch is found in a memorandum from James Monro to Sir Charles Warren dated 22 February 1887, before the branch had even been formally created, regarding accommodation arrangements in the new Scotland Yard building then under construction.  Monro wrote (MEPO 3/138):

'The arrangements for C.I.D. and special branch will suit'.

The reference to Special Branch is here in lower case but there is only one single branch in Monro's mind, not an 'Irish' branch and a 'Secret' branch.

The next reference of which I am aware is to be found in a letter from Sir Charles Warren to Godfrey Lushington at the Home Office dated 15 March 1887.  In this letter, the Commissioner refers to the previous month's augmentation of 2 inspectors, 4 sergeants and 20 constables which, of course, is a reference to what we would call Section B (although, in the event, only a single inspector was employed in that section) and he makes the point that this was'an augmentation intended for the formation of a Special Branch' (HO 144/133/A34848B).  Clearly, therefore, in the Commissioner's mind, Section B was Special Branch.

Interestingly, on 31 March 1887 the Times reported on a suspicious package that had been sent to Mr Balfour saying (underlining added):

'The divisional police were sent for, and to them the box was given. The divisional police despatched the package to a special branch of the Criminal Investigation Department at Whitehall, where it was more minutely examined...After the police authorities had inspected the contents of the box, they communicated with the Home Secretary.' 

Later the same day, the Globe reported (underlining added):

'It was a subject of inquiry in the Lobby [of the House of Commons] last night when the reported attempt to injure Mr. Balfour was referred to, as to what had been done by the Home Office to utilise the machinery designed by Mr Jenkinson for the discovery of crimes of this character. We learn that, so far, the Government have no apprehension that any dynamite outrages will be committed, as any such act would damage the prospects of the combined party of the Gladstonites and Parnellites.  Persons qualified to form an opinion, however, are not so sanguine that the next few weeks will pass without some attempt of the kind being made. In any case, however, no opportunity is being lost by the special department at Scotland Yard, which is concerned with these inquiries, to investigate narrowly any movements on the part of persons whose connection with Irish Secret Societies has become known to the heads of the police.' 

The most pressing issue facing the newly formed sections within the Criminal Investigation Department was the fear of attempts to create outrages at the time of the Queen's Silver Jubilee in June 1887.  A little known fact is that, during the week prior to Jubilee Day, on 15 June 1887, a total of twenty uniformed officers, made up of two sergeants and eighteen constables were temporarily drafted into Section D to work in plain clothes as detectives (Police Orders, 14 June 1887). Among the constables employed at this time were a number who would end up permanently in Section B before the end of the year, namely John McCarthy, Henry Fraser, George Felton, Edward Nursey, John Kane, William Beckley, William Eustace and George Hemphrey.

On 8 November 1887, in a note by Charles Murdoch of the Home Office. we find the first reference (that I have located) to Section B as 'the Special (Irish) branch of the C.I.D.'  (HO 144/208/A48000M). The fact that the word 'Irish' is in parentheses rather suggests that it was intended to be part of the Special Branch proper.

By 19 November 1887, as mentioned above, Littlechild was using notepaper headed 'From Chief Inspector Littlechild, C.I. Department, CO (Special Branch)'.

Within Home Office papers there are plenty of references to the 'Special Police' but the first reference in Home Office files to a Special Branch, without the qualification of 'Irish' (other than the Commissioner's mention of a Special Branch on 15 March 1887) is in a correspondence register entry which records the receipt of a letter from the Receiver on 2 December 1887 which is described as 'Cost of Special Branch of C.I.D. on services in connection with Fenianism during 5 weeks to 30 Oct' (HO 46/94). Although no further details are available I have no doubt that this, and other similar references which are found in the papers (e.g. in a memo dated 21 December 1887, the Receiver mentioned 'the expense of the Special Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department'  - HO 144/208/A48000M), refers to expenses incurred by officers from both sections B and D without any distinction.  There are certainly no references to expenses specifically incurred by the Irish Branch in the register.

When the Receiver wrote to the Home Office in response to a letter from Charles Stuart-Wortley dated 12 December 1887 requesting 'information as to the commuted rates charged in respect officers of the Special Irish Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department' (MEPO 5/65), he referred to Stuart-Wortley's letter as being in regards to 'the expenses of the Special Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department' (MEPO 5/65) with the summary of the letter stating that it referred to 'rates charged in respect of officers of the Special Irish Branch of the C.I.D'  (Ibid), suggesting that the two entities were regarded as interchangeable. 

By contrast, Charles Murdoch at the Home Office referred to 'the Irish branch of the Criminal Investigation Department (MEPO 5/65) and then, a couple of weeks later, on 23 December, to 'the special anti-fenian branch' (HO 144/208/A84000M).  So there wasn't any great consistency amongst officials and there is no doubt that Section B was identified at times by the name 'Irish Branch' but I suggest that this was simply due to its historical roots.

The issue of temporary accommodation for Section B prior to the move to the new Scotland Yard building also produced some references to that section as the Irish Branch. A Register entry for 26 October 1887 states: 'Temporary accommodation for Special (Irish) Branch of Criminal Investigation - Submits requisition from Commissioner for provision of' (HO 46/91). On 7 November 1887, a Home Office letter to the Receiver stated: 'I have laid before the Secretary of State your letter of 24th ultimo and I am directed by him to authorize you to take steps to comply with the Commissioner's requirements for the provision of suitable temporary accommodation for the Special (Irish) Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department who now use the basement room of 22 Whitehall Place' (HO 65/58).  It will be noted here that it was the Commissioner who was asking for suitable accommodation for the Irish Branch.

During the following year, when space issues were clearly pressing within 22 Whitehall Place, the Home Office wrote to the to Receiver on 21 March 1888 as follows:

'I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform  you that after careful consideration of the available means of accommodating the different branches of the Metropolitan Police, he has decided that the following plan will in all the circumstances be the best at present practicable. The Surveyor's Office and the Candidate's Department to be removed to 5 & 6 Craig's Court. The Convict Office to be removed to the premises now occupied by the Surveyor, and the Secret Detective Branch to those now occupied by the Candidate's Department' .

That particular plan was cancelled within a week but there must have been a similar proposal in May for, on 16 May 1888, a furious Warren wrote to Ruggles-Brise:

'I pointed out to Mr Matthews that the Candidates Dept. is really the Dept. which contains the whole of the administrative records of the Police force & that to remove it would do untold damage to the administration & be an enormous loss to the force, that it was quite out of place to make the Police Force suffer for the sake of the Irish Branch which is really not part of the Police Force & that I altogether objected to Mr Monro's opinion being taken before mine as I was responsible for the Police Force & that if any portion was to leave 22 Whitehall Place it should be those who work in the basement viz - the Irish Branch - to this Mr Matthews entirely concurred.' 

This has been referred to by Porter (in a footnote) as an example of Warren attempting to boot the Irish Branch out of Scotland Yard although it is more a case of him trying to ensure that the Candidates Department remained at 22 Whitehall Place and that the Irish Branch was accommodated elsewhere.  His claim that the Irish Branch was 'really not part of the Police Force' is an interesting insight into this thinking in 1888 which seems to contrast somewhat with his attempt to find the same branch accommodation in 1887 (and appears to have been influenced by his hostility to Monro at the time) but it should be noted that he is saying this about Section B which rather undermines the argument that Section D alone should be considered as not part of the Metropolitan Police Force. 

A point that is rarely if ever mentioned about Section B is that it was referred to in the Home Office papers as 'the clerical section'  or 'Special Clerical Section' carrying out 'clerical duties' relating to Fenian matters, something which was clearly not the case bearing in mind that its duties involved undercover work and surveillance.  The story behind this is rather complicated, and explains some other issues, so is best to be told in a separate sub-article which can be found here.

Following the successful prosecutions of Callan and Harkins and the foiling of the Jubilee Plot, James Monro wrote to Sir Charles Warren on 10 February 1888 saying of the police officers who were instrumental in the operations:

'I am much indebted to all of them, especially to Chief Inspector Littlechild - Inspectors Melville & Quinn and Sergeant McIntyre.  Although I specially single out these names, all of the officers of the special branch have worked most loyally, and deserve my cordial acknowledgments' (HO 144/211/A48482).

This memorandum is Exhibit A in my argument that the Special Branch at this time was viewed by the Metropolitan Police chiefs as a group combining both of sections B and D.  Sergeant McIntyre was in Section B - there were no sergeants at all in Section D - so when Monro effectively refers to McIntyre as an officer of the Special Branch he reveals that he wasn't referring only to Section D when he used that appellation.

It may also be noted that there were only four members of Section D - Littlechild, Melville, Quinn and Burke - so when Monro singled three of those men out for praise it would have made no sense for him to then say that all of the officers of the special branch deserved praise if he viewed the Special Branch as section D alone. It is true that Monro refers to 'special branch' here in lower case rather than as 'Special Branch' but there does not appear to be any significance in this.

Other officers named in a list of rewards submitted by Monro for the work done in foiling the Jubilee Plot included Inspector Pope and Sergeants Sweeney and Walsh, all of Section B.

We may also note in this regard that a Home Office official - probably H.B. Simpson - noted on 1 March 1888 that 'Callan and Harkins were tracked down by a Department of the Metropolitan Police specially constituted to watch would be dynamiters' (HO 144/211/A48482).

The fact that it was virtually impossible to distinguish between Sections B and D can be seen in separate Home Office letters to the Receiver and Sir Charles Warren on 18 January 1888 and 4 April 1888 respectively which both refer to the 'Special Section of the Criminal Investigation Department' (HO 65/58 & HO 65/60). The only reason we know that these were references to Section B is because both letters also refer to the funding of this section as being split between the Metropolitan Police Fund and the Special Police Fund by way of moiety, which only applied to Section B.  Later in the year, Lushington used exactly the same phrase to refer to Section D when, in a letter to the Commissioner dated 24 October 1888, he referred to 'the four officers in the Special Section of the Criminal Investigation Department' (MEPO 5/65).

Assistant Commissioner Robert Anderson certainly appears to have regarded the Special Branch as including the Irish branch - and, indeed, he believed the Special Branch existed in 1884 - because in a memo dated 18 May 1891 he wrote:'When the 'Special' branch was formed, the control of Police at Ports was entrusted to Mr Williamson who acted in all such matters under the immediate direction of the Secretary of State.'   (HO 45/10427/A52177).  This shows that he felt Special Branch had its roots in the unit formed in 1883.

When Inspector Melville (of Section B) submitted a report on an Italian anarchist called Malatesta on 27 April 1891, it was Chief Inspector Littlechild (Section D) who countersigned his report (FO 45/677) in the same way as we have seen that Littlechild had countersigned the report of Inspector Pope (Melville's predecessor) about an English socialist in 1887. This strongly suggests that all Section B reports were submitted (to the Assistant Commissioner) through the Chief Inspector of Section D.

In April 1892, Sergeants McIntyre and Walsh arrested the printer of an anarchist newspaper in the City Road  (Charles Wilfred Mowbray) for publishing an article containing incitements to murder some prominent individuals, including Inspector Melville.  During an investigation into the journalist who wrote the article (David John Nicholl), Sergeant Sweeney (of Section B) carried out observations of his speeches at Hyde Park to gather evidence while the arrest was carried out by Inspector McLynchy of Section D together with Sergeants McIntyre and Walsh (of Section B) while Chief Inspector Littlechild (Section D) was close by (Times, 21 April 1892 & Evidence at Central Criminal Court, 6 May 1892). This combined operation (on a non-Fenian matter) by officers from Section B and D shows that the two sections were really working as a single Special Branch (within London) with no distinction between them.

On 3 and 8 June 1892 respectively, Assistant Commissioner Robert Anderson forwarded reports to the Home Office by Inspector Melville, then of Section B, relating to the French anarchists Chalderon, who had come to London from Paris a few months earlier, and Dufrounel, who had been expelled from Belgium in February 1891, and had come direct to London (HO 144/587/B2840C). On 8 July 1892, a further report by Inspector Melville regarding four additional foreign anarchists was submitted to the Home Office by Anderson (HO 144/587/B2840C). If Section B was the 'Irish Branch' it is clear from the reports of the sole inspector in that section that its name did not define the work it performed.  

Chief Inspector Littlechild retired in April 1893, with various mentions of his role noted in newspapers. Interestingly, where the Morning Post of 12 April 1893 referred to Littlechild as the executive chief of 'the special branch of the Criminal Investigation Department' (using lower case for 'special branch'), Lloyds Weekly Newspaper of 16 April 1893 called it 'the "special" branch of the Criminal Investigation Department' with quotation marks around the word 'special'. Such grammatical or typographical issues aside, it is obvious that there was no secret in April 1893 about the existence of a body called the Special Branch in the United Kingdom.

Littlechild was replaced as officer in charge of Special Branch by Inspector Melville, who was, accordingly, transferred back from Section B to Section D (being replaced in Section B by Inspector Quinn who was transferred across from Section D) and subsequently promoted to Chief Inspector in April 1894.  It may be noted that Melville was said to by the Morning Post of 21 April 1894 to have been promoted to 'the chief-inspectorship of the special department' and, during this period, the phrase 'special department' was used interchangeably with 'special branch' in the press.

Melville led a raid by 'a large force of armed police' on the Socialist/Anarchist club, the Autonomie, in Windmill Street on 16 February 1894 (Times, 17 February 1894). The Times said that this force, in addition to Melville, included Inspector Quinn (now Section B) and Sergeants Maguire, Flood (Section B) and Thorpe (Section D). Again, therefore, the sections combined (in London) to the point that there was no obvious distinction between them in operational terms.  The Belfast News-Letter of 19 February 1894, incidentally, said that the raid on the club, 'had augmented the information already in the possession of the special or, in other words, secret department of the detective system at Scotland Yard regarding the persons of anarchical tendencies, who were hitherto casuals to the officers of the department.'

By this time, and indeed for the previous five years, there had been a marked reduction in Fenian dynamite plots and Special Branch focused more on monitoring socialist and anarchist activity (as the above examples demonstrate).  As early as 29 November 1889, when Chief Inspector Littlechild gave evidence at a superannuation inquiry, he said, 'I am in charge of the Special Department, dealing with political crime, you may say, or very special crime'  (HO 45/9698/A50055), thus downplaying the anti-Fenian element of his work which is what the Special Branch had been created to deal with.  

We find a couple of interesting mentions of the Special Branch in newspapers in 1894. According to the Evening Standard of 16 April 1894:

'Late on Saturday night Chief Inspector Melville, who was accompanied by Inspector Quinn and Sergeants Sweeney and Maguire, of the Criminal Investigation Department, New Scotland Yard, arrested, in London, an Anarchist named Francis Polti, for having in his possession a loaded bomb. ....A search was here made [of his lodgings] by Chief Inspector Melville, Inspector Quinn and Sergeants Sweeney and Maguire, of the special branch, Scotland Yard....'

What is particularly interesting here is that Inspector Quinn and Sergeants Sweeney and Maguire (all of Section B) are all referred to as being part of 'the special branch' along with Chief Inspector Melville (of Section D).  In the public eye, therefore, there was no knowledge of distinct 'Irish' and 'secret' branches, it was just one special branch.

Then at the end of the year there was a mention of a 'revival of the Fenian movement' in the St James Gazette of 12 December 1894 which had, the newspaper said, led to an application by Robert Anderson 'for four extra men to be attached to the special branch at New Scotland Yard'.   The newspaper continued:

'The request was at once granted, and Detective-sergeant Flood, who had been at Havre for some time watching the movements of suspected persons, was sent for, as was also Detective-sergeant Maguire, who was stationed at Boulogne. All these officers have special knowledge of the Fenian organization. It has further transpired that Detective-sergeant Walsh has been told off for special duty with the Queen, it being thought advisable to strengthen the regular protection afforded by Superintendent Fraser, of the Household Police.' 

Police Orders of 8 December 1894 confirm that four constables: Maurice Fitzgerald, Thomas McNamara, William Bascombe and Francis Carlin, were transferred from the divisions into Central Office (Section B) with instructions from Robert Anderson to report themselves to Superintendent Shore at 10:00am on 10 December.

Again we have here another example of officers in Section B being referred to as part of the 'special branch' while the full report makes clear that officers from Section C (the ports section) would perform Special Branch work.

We may note, incidentally, that Detective Carlin was one of the two officers who arrested the Italian anarchist, Asdrubale Malavasi, in October 1898, under Robert Anderson's directions, as mentioned in Part 1 of the Suckered Quadrilogy, providing another example of a Section B officer being involved in the breaking up of an anarchist conspiracy.  Clearly the 'Irish' element to Section B had been long forgotten by this stage.

Between the time of those two newspaper reports, in August 1894, we find in the Home Office files a report by Sergeant Maguire (of Section B) dated 10 August 1894, countersigned by Inspector Quinn (then the senior officer in Section B), about a pair of Austrian anarchists in London, showing yet again that the Irish Branch did not only do 'Irish' work, despite its name (HO 144/587/B2840C).

Similarly, on 10 April 1902 the then Chief Inspector Quinn (still of Section B) filed a report about a dubious foreign owned press agency called the Continental Press Association (HO 45/10482/X7737), which was nothing to do with Fenians, and he stated in his report that he had conducted his enquiries with Inspector Walsh (of Section D) showing that officers from both sections were conducting joint operations.

The final clincher that B and D were essentially one body is that we find the following entry in Police Orders of 11 August 1903 (MEPO 7/65):

'Chief Inspector Quinn will have charge of the Special Branch from 12th inst., during the absence of Superintendent Melville on special duty.'

Superintendent Melville was in Section D while Chief Inspector Quinn was in Section B. Yet we have a Section B officer placed in charge of the Special Branch in Melville's absence.  If Section D had been a separate body, apart from, and different to, all the other sections, such a thing should have been constitutionally impossible.

*****   

Having seen that there was little practical difference between Sections B and D, I would now like to turn to the most important question of all.  This regards the control of Section D.  According to Porter (1987) in Origins of the Vigilant State (p.86):

'Section D was directly answerable to the Home Secretary rather than to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.'

This statement has been repeated in one form or another by other eminent authors writing about the police. According to Joseph McKenna, in The Irish-American Dynamite Campaign: A History 1881-1896 (2012):

'Section D, also known as the Special (Secret) Branch, was responsible to the home secretary rather than the Metropolitan Police Commissioner' (p.23).

Similarly, we find Neil R. Bell in his 2014 book Capturing Jack the Ripper (p. 197) referring to: 

'Special Branch Section D, which did not come under Warren's authority but reported directly to the Home Secretary'.

I want to challenge all this because I believe that these kind of statements confuse James Monro with Section D.

But even where Monro is individually identified, as in Evans and Rumbelow's Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates (2006), I do not think the position is correctly stated.  They say:

'...as Assistant Commissioner (Crime) and Director of the Special Irish Branch (Section B) he [Monro] was responsible to the commissioner, as head of Special Branch (Section D), which was imperially funded and not paid for out of Metropolitan Police funds, he was answerable only to the home secretary. This meant that the commissioner had no control over a subordinate officer, who, when acting as head of Special Branch (Section D), could draw on police manpower without giving any explanation as to how or why it was being used.' (pp.23-24). 

While it is not being specifically said here that Section D was directly answerable to the Home Secretary, the  emphasis on Monro's role as 'head of section D', which is distinguished from Section B (said, in effect, not to be part of Special Branch), and the claim that the Commissioner had 'no control' over Monro, means that they are essentially saying the same thing as Porter, McKenna and Bell, namely that Section D was not under the control of the Commissioner.

Monro certainly did report directly to the Home Secretary in his role as Secret Agent but Section D, I suggest, remained at all times part of the Metropolitan Police Force under the ultimate authority of the Commissioner.

Prior to the appointment of Monro as Secret Agent, the Home Secretary had a discussion with the Commissioner to ensure he was happy with the proposed dual role of the Assistant Commissioner.  The Home Office notes of this meeting record that 'Sir C Warren made no objection to this appointment, but represented that some control should be exercised by himself, and that for this he should receive remuneration of £300' (HO 144/198/A46998B). Subsequently, the Home Secretary wrote to Warren as follows:

'...what you said at our recent interview satisfied me that it might occasionally be difficult to draw the line between Mr Monro's functions as Secret Service Agent and his functions as Assistant Commissioner. Accordingly, to prevent the possibility of any questions arising I will give directions that Mr Monro's reports to me shall always be forwarded through you (not, however, in your capacity as Commissioner) in order that you may not only have the first intelligence of what is going on, but may have an opportunity of submitting any observations to me, and, if you think fit, of giving any instructions to Mr Monro, and it will be his duty to carry out such instructions.  This arrangement will, I believe, be agreeable to him.  Under these circumstances, I hope you will not press your claim for remuneration.' (HO 144/198/A46998B). 

The Commissioner agreed to withdraw his request for the £300 remuneration but here we have the first indication that Monro's reporting role was not quite as straightforward as might appear.  All his reports to the Home Secretary were provided to Sir Charles Warren, albeit not in his role as Commissioner, but Sir Charles would then have the ability to give instructions to Monro which Monro would have to carry out.  This ability to give instructions to Monro on matters to relating to his role as Secret Agent must either have been in Sir Charles' capacity as the Commissioner or he had some kind of role as supervisor of the Secret Agent.  

As at the date of the above letter, 28 January 1887, Charles Stuart-Wortley had not yet had his conversation with Sir Reginald Welby about the funding of the new Section D - nor had the Home Secretary approved the creation of Section D - so the entire discussion about Monro's role of Secret Agent was unconnected with Section D.  

In the event, in accordance with the Home Secretary's letter of 28 January 1887, the instructions given to Monro were as follows: 

'You will address your reports to the Secretary of State but forward them through Sir C Warren (not in his capacity of Commissioner of Police) in order that he may have the opportunity, if he should think fit, of submitting to the Secretary of State any observations, or of giving you any instructions, and it will be your duty to comply with any instructions so received'  (HO 144/198/A46998B).  

As Secret Agent, Monro would receive secret intelligence reports from foreign consular officials about Fenian activity, including from William Hoare, Vice-Consul in New York, who was himself a secret agent reporting to Monro. He was also entitled to write directly to Foreign Office officials on Home Office headed letter paper, something which would not have been proper for him to do as Assistant Commissioner.  In addition, he had control of Jenkinson's former network, covering the entire country, under Major Gosselin's supervision. What is not widely appreciated, however, is that Monro was reporting regularly to Sir Charles Warren. Thus, on 10 July 1887, Monro wrote to the Commissioner:

'I send you the proposals for conducting secret service operations after 31st inst for which time the current arrangements were sanctioned.  I do not propose to make any changes (except in America) as I have now succeeded in getting everything in working order and it would be folly to disturb arrangements which are working well' (MEPO 1/48). 

Nine days later, Sir Charles wrote to Monro, in respect of secret information, saying (underlining added):

'I ought to send in at some time to Mr Matthews a report as to work in London for which I am directly responsible, will you kindly let me have this' (MEPO 1/48).

Monro replied the same day: 'Attached.  Any details of importance have always been given in weekly reports' (MEPO 1/48).

Sir Charles seemed annoyed by Monro's off-hand response and, in an assertion of his authority, replied as follows the next day:

'I am responsible for all Police action in London, and I will keep myself the weekly reports, you can keep copies' (MEPO 1/48).

At this point in time, relations between Warren and Monro were still relatively civilised and Monro's response on the same day was conciliatory:

'I entirely concur as to the responsibility for Police action in London resting with you, and I should be sorry if I have said anything to make you think otherwise. All that I wanted is to secure the safety of informants which might be compromised if the reports went into the Office. Shall I send the reports in a book like those sent in to HO?  The book to remain with you, and to be sent to me say every Tuesday - This will save copying.' (MEPO 1/48)

This seemed to calm Warren down and he replied immediately:

'I quite concur, but I do not much care for the names of informants. Could you use the letters A. B. C. or other disguise - so that there should not be too many copies of the names and we will arrange any other security - what I want particularly is facts, so that if a sudden emergency arises we can look back and compare notes at a moment's notice.  I think a book would do very well, as you propose.' (MEPO 1/48). 

What we get clearly from this exchange is that Sir Charles Warren, as Commissioner, was responsible for all police action in London.  While Monro had a reporting line to the Home Office, Sir Charles Warren was nevertheless responsible for any police action, including action by Section D, within London. 

What about outside London?  It is true that the Commissioner had no formal interest in any crime occurring outside of the Metropolis.  To that extent, if a Metropolitan Police officer working outside London discovered a Fenian plot to occur in, say, Liverpool, one would not expect any report to go to the Commissioner whereas Monro as Secret Agent would need to know about it and report to the Home Secretary.  But to the extent that the Commissioner had no interest in Section D's activities outside of London, if those activities did not affect London, exactly the same would be true of Section C (for officers at the ports) and, indeed, Section B.  There was nothing unique about Section D in this respect.

We can see clearly that the Commissioner must have been responsible for Section D in a comment in a Home Office note in April 1888 as set out below.

By this time, i.e. April 1888, relations between Warren and Monro had broken down. Sir Charles appears to have been annoyed by Monro's request for an assistant on the basis that he was so busy with secret agent work.  His feeling was that Monro should give up the secret agent work and concentrate on his work as Assistant Commissioner. Further, although Monro was reporting to him in writing about his work as secret agent, the Assistant Commissioner was nevertheless able to speak directly to the Home Secretary, visiting him at the Home Office, which Sir Charles regarded as disruptive to the proper reporting structure and subversive to discipline (HO 144/212/A48606), not to mention that Sir Charles seemed to be paranoid about what Monro was saying to the Home Secretary. On 21 April 1888, Sir Charles complained to Godfrey Lushington at the Home Office about Monro's role as follows:

'...the junction of the two functions of Secret Agent and Assistant Commissioner was only acquiesced in by the Commissioner as a temporary arrangement to tide over an existing difficulty; and I pointed out at the time the grave results I anticipated from such a junction...it is eating into the heart of the discipline of the Police Force having a system under which the Assistant Commissioner can go to the Secretary of State without reference to the Commissioner upon matters connected with the police about which the boundary line between the Secret Service and the Police is so unsettled that even when the duties were in separate hands it was impossible to decide in many cases where the Secret Agent's functions ended and those of the Assistant Commissioner began' (HO 144/212/A48606).  

In the Home Office papers we find a note dated 23 April 1888 by Charles Murdoch in response to this letter (and in particular to the comment about the arrangement eating into the heart of police discipline) which says:

'The Assistant Commissioner is only consulted direct by SS [the Secretary of State] in his capacity as Secret Agent. The SS [Secretary of State] would not consult him in matters of discipline affecting the authority of the Commissioner' (HO 144/212/A48606). 

My reading of this is that the Commissioner retained full control over all disciplinary matters involving the Metropolitan Police, including over Section D, so that Section D did remain answerable to the Commissioner and under the Commissioner's authority.

In support of such a conclusion, I would refer to no less an authority than the Home Secretary himself who, in the House of Commons on 15 November 1888, during a debate on the Special Police Vote, having been asked by a member of parliament whose authority and control the Special Police were under, stated categorically that 'they were entirely under the control of the Commissioner' (HC Deb 15 November 1888 vol 333 ct1258-338).

It must also be pointed out that there were many areas within the Commissioner's sphere of authority in which he had to seek approval from the Home Secretary.  Police Orders are one example of this and Henry Matthews wrote to Sir Charles Warren on 31 October 1887 saying, 'I need scarcely remind you that under the Metropolitan Police Act no Order can be made by the Commissioner except with the approbation of the Secretary of State' (HO 144/208/A48043).  There were often disputes between Warren and Matthews as to whether the Home Secretary could interfere in something which the Commissioner regarded as his responsibility. The sacking of Dr Bond as surgeon to Scotland Yard was one such example where Warren complained of his decisions being questioned by the Home Office in an area where he believed he had absolute power (HO 144/198/A46998B). So the fact that there might have been a grey area regarding Sir Charles Warren's control over Section D, as opposed to the Home Office's control, does not by itself mean that Section D was a section apart from Sir Charles Warren's control.

If we take the police officers at the Ports for example, it is clear that the Commissioner did not have the authority to decide that there should be no officers stationed at, say, Havre, and to give orders for such officers to be removed. The assignment of officers to the ports had been made by the Home Secretary and could not be countermanded by the Commissioner acting unilaterally. This does not mean that Section C was not under his control because, as Murdoch's note made clear, he would have had ultimate authority over disciplinary matters affecting Section C. 

On the issue of the ports, however, we find the following interesting comment in a memo of Robert Anderson dated 18 May 1891 partially quoted earlier.  In that memo Anderson wrote (underlining added):

'When the 'Special' branch was formed, the control of Police at Ports was entrusted to Mr Williamson who acted in all such matters under the immediate direction of the Secretary of State.  The head of the C.I.D. had no responsibility with reference to them. And though when Mr Monro became 'Secret Agent' he assumed the 'control' in a new sense, he never became charged with the duty of inspection. That duty was still fulfilled by Mr Williamson & since his death the Chief Inspector in charge of 'Special' has performed it - all expenses being charged in the usual way.' (HO 45/10427/A52177) 

So there we have Anderson saying that Monro, as Secret Agent, took 'control' of Section C.  Does that mean that Section C was outside the control of the Commissioner? If so, it destroys the argument that Section D was somehow special for that reason. If not (as I suggest is the answer) it means that Monro as Special Agent could have been in control of the Special Branch without the Commissioner having ceded ultimate control.

The assumption of Porter et al seems to be that because Monro was directly answerable to the Home Secretary, and Section D was created as a branch to replicate the secret agents working directly for Jenkinson, and for other reasons that we have looked at but dismissed, such as funding, that Section D was somehow a personal instrument of James Monro, a secret branch separate from the Metropolitan Police and thus itself responsible only to the Home Secretary.  

I disagree with this because the new arrangements could never actually replicate Jenkinson's own secret army of agents. Chief Inspector Littlechild and Inspectors Burke, Melville and Quinn remained Metropolitan Police Officers who were ultimately answerable to the Commissioner. Operationally, like the rest of the C.I.D., they would have received instructions from Monro but, I suggest, in his capacity as Assistant Commissioner rather than Secret Agent, although it is, admittedly, a little hard to be certain of this.

But let's just think of what the arrangements must have been when Monro resigned as Assistant Commissioner in August 1888 yet continued in his role as Secret Agent at the Home Office until December 1888 when he became both Commissioner and Secret Agent.  Given the breakdown of his relations with Sir Charles Warren, is it feasible that Monro could have been giving instructions to Chief Inspector Littlechild et al between August and December 1888 and thus interfering with the work of Metropolitan Police Officers from his base in the Home Office?

While it is unfortunate that there were no anti-Fenian operations involving Monro in the period August-December 1888, so that we don't really know how things worked in practice, I would suggest that it is inconceivable that Monro was issuing instructions to Section D officers during this period or would have been able to. I suggest that all orders would have come from the new Assistant Commissioner, Sir Robert Anderson, or, in his absence, any of the other Assistant Commissioners who deputised for him, or from the Commissioner himself.  

This is not to say that the new Assistant Commissioner would not have been given his own instructions by the Home Office, possibly via the Commissioner, but I don't think that Monro would have been allowed to continue to direct the activities of C.I.D. officers.  He would certainly have continued to receive intelligence from abroad and would have taken charge of all special police from the Royal Irish Constabulary operating in northern towns, and to have reported to the Home Secretary about any threats to public safety in London, but, if he had actually retained control of Section D, or any other section, one would have expected to find complaints by Sir Charles Warren in the Home Office papers but there are none.

In fact, an internal Home Office note by Charles Murdoch to Godfrey Lushington on about 26 October 1888 makes clear that Monro had no control over Section D while he was at the Home Office after his resignation on 31 August 1888. When discussing a request for a reduction of one inspector in the Special Branch, Murdoch wrote (underlining added)

'But has it not also been considered what reduction, if any, is to be made in consequence of the provincial work now done by Mr Monro, which as I understand you have discussed with him.  

The clerical staff for Fenian duties in London was (A) 2 Inspectors, 4 Sergeants, 20 Constables - H.O. letter 16 Feb 87 (B) For Fenian Duties - other than in London: 1 Chief Inspector, 3 Second Class Inspectors - one inspector to be reduced. 

1 of the Inspectors in A has been practically reduced for Littlechild was promoted Chief Inspector and his place was not fixed up but that leaves 3 inspectors additional to do the work which Mr Monro has taken away.

They may be still wanted as the work may have increased but the point wants clearing up.'   (HO 144/189/A46281).

It is clear from the above that Monro was now in charge of 'provincial' police work but not of work done by Special Branch (or any work by the Metropolitan Police) and, although, when Murdoch refers to three inspectors who were doing work that Monro had taken away, it is not entirely clear which three inspectors he is referring to (because he has got confused about the numbers), it would appear that it must be the inspectors in Section D that he means.  In other words, he is wondering if Special Branch have any need for Section D bearing in mind that he thinks Section D is supposed to be employed on (Fenian) duties outside London, which is precisely what Monro's provincial force of officers was doing while he was the Secret Agent at the Home Office after resigning as Assistant Commissioner. In trying to avoid unnecessary duplication and expenditure of money, Murdoch's note proves to us that Monro, despite still being the Secret Agent, no longer had any control over Section D. 

Lushington prepared a note about this issue, which is now lost, so we don't know what was decided but events might have been overtaken by Warren's resignation and Monro's subsequent appointment as Commissioner which meant that he returned to his dual role of Secret Agent and Police Chief

We find an interesting example of Warren being consulted (or about to be consulted) by the Home Office on Special Branch matters on 8 November 1888 (the very day of his letter of resignation).  While considering the Police Estimate for 1888-89, an internal Home Office note contains the following:

'Ask Commissioner of Police to furnish...a statement, showing so far as can be forseen at this present time, how many officers of each rank will probably be employed between the beginning of March, 1889 and the end of February, 1890, on the following duties:

(1) Protection of Public Buildings

(2) Special duty at Ports

(3) Special duties at Central Office

distinguishing between officers of the ordinary force and officers of the C.I.D'  (HO 144/222/A49500M).

The phrase 'Special duties at Central Office' meant Special Branch and this is the type of information that one would have expected Monro to have been asked about prior to his resignation.  Indeed, we find that a Home Office official has added the following note dated 8 November 1888:

'When reply comes, the S of S will probably wish to consult Mr Monro as to the margin which should be left for contingencies.'

A further note by a different official adds:

'See that Mr Monro is not overlooked when the Commissioner's reply arrives.

So we have the Commissioner being formally consulted about Special Branch resourcing by the Home Office with Monro (the Secret Agent now at the Home Office) consulted informally on the same issue.  But the formal responsibility was with the Commissioner.  In fact, from correspondence between the Commissioner and the Home Office between 1886 and 1888, it can be seen that Sir Charles Warren was entirely responsible for any augmentations to the force, and funding issues, including to the Special Branch.  

It was Sir Charles Warren who wrote to the Home Office on 2 February 1887 to formally request approval of the augmentation of 1 Chief Inspector and 3 Second Class Inspectors 'for employment on special duties in connection with Fenianism', i.e. those officers comprising Section D (HO 144/189/A46281).  It would be odd if the Commissioner had been requesting the augmentation of officers within his force for which he then had no responsibility.

Although it was Monro who wrote to the Home Office on 20 September 1887 (HO 144/189/A45281) about the funding of Section D, the Home Office reply of 11 January 1888, which finally confirmed the verbal agreement between the Home Office and the Treasury of the previous year, namely that a sum of £640 would be included in the Special Police Vote and paid out of Imperial Funds, was addressed to the Commissioner (HO 65/58).

Furthermore, it was Sir Charles Warren who wrote to the Home Office on 12 January 1888 to request that Inspector Burke of Section D be switched from Special Duty to Special Clerical Duty.  He explained that it had always been the intention for one of the three inspectors to be employed on Special Clerical Duty and that, 'I think this is stated in the original papers but was overlooked' (HO 144/189/A46281.) And it was to Sir Charles that the Home Office wrote when approving the request (HO 65/59).  That alone seems to prove that the Commissioner was ultimately responsible for Section D otherwise he would never have been involved with such a matter relating exclusively to Special Branch, Section D.

When we look at an issue which arose when preparing the Special Police Estimate for 1889-90 we can see clearly that Section D was not a body apart from the Metropolitan Police Force.  

In January 1889, the Home Office wanted to bring the salary of the Commissioner and the cost of the Inspectors of the Constabulary together under the Special Police Vote.  In doing so, they looked to create two separate categories in the Estimate, namely 'Metropolitan Police' and 'Inspectors of Constabulary'. However, for some years past, the Special Police Vote had included funds of a small amount (£234) for three Scottish police officers, from the Edinburgh City Police Force, to protect government buildings in Edinburgh.  If this was retained, it would not fit into either of the two new categories. With the heading of 'Metropolitan Police' being inappropriate for Scottish officers, there would need to be a more general special police heading.  So the Treasury agreed to shift the cost of the Edinburgh police out of the Special Police Vote and into the Scotch Vote. In explaining the importance of this, G.H. Tripp noted in a Home Office minute dated 5 January 1889 (HO 144/222/A49500E) that:

'It would then be clear on the face of the Estimate that all the "Special Police" were officers of the Metropolitan Force, and would prevent any idea that a new body of police was being created.'

This simply confirms that Section D, the funding for which was included under the 'Metropolitan Police' heading, remained part of the Metropolitan Police Force and was not in any way a new national police body.  

In the event, the new sub-heading in the estimate under which Section D fell was 'Pay and Clothing and other expenses of Metropolitan Police officers employed in the protection of Public Buildings and in other special duties' (HO 144/222/A49500E).  For internal Home Office purposes only, there were three sub-categories to this: (1) 'Protection (inside and outside) of Public Buildings', (2) 'Police stationed at Ports' and (3) 'Police employed at Central Office', within which were two further sub-categories: (a) 'Special (Secret) Branch' and (inaccurately) (b) 'Special Clerical Section'. 

It should be noted that it was no secret that some of the Special Police officers operated outside of London.  This was confirmed by the Home Secretary, in the House of Commons debate on the Special Vote on 15 November 1888, who said that Treasury money which funded the Special Police, 'was paid to the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police Fund in repayment of the expenses of the men employed on special duties, some of them inside and some of them outside the Metropolis, but all for Imperial rather than local purposes' (underlining added) (HC Deb 15 November 1888 vol 333 ct1258-338).

This is not to say that there wasn't a certain amount of sensitivity involving the existence of the Special Branch whose officers were involved in a number of controversial arrests on warrants of Irish Members of Parliament during 1888. The most notorious of these was the aborted arrest outside the House of Commons on 10 February 1888, by Sergeants McIntyre and Sergeant Sweeney, of Patrick O'Brien, who was mistakenly believed to be another M.P., James Gilhooly, an error for which Chief Inspector Littlechild had to apologise in person. Later that same day, the real Gilhooly was arrested by Inspector Quinn and taken to Dublin by Quinn and McIntyre.  Before this, on 23 January 1888, the member for East Clare, J.R. Cox, had been arrested by Littlechild at his Charing Cross hotel while, in July 1888, James Kelly, M.P. for North Boscommon was arrested by Sergeant Sweeney.

The sensitivity involved was that Irish members of Parliament had a right to vote on the Special Police Vote and were likely to raise issues about special police activity in the House of Commons.  During the debate on the Special Police Vote on 15 November 1888, for example, Dr Tanner, the member for Cork County, said of the money being asked by the Home Secretary for the special police:

'Increased Votes were now asked for, but no explanation was offered. The real explanation was that the men were wanted to insult Irish Members, and it was intended ruinously to affect any Irishman who was thought to be an enemy of the Government.  These police were not wanted merely to watch public buildings, and he should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, whether the men had been systematically employed for the purpose of dogging Irish Members to and from the house. Otherwise it would be his painful duty to move a reduction in the Vote'  (HC Deb 15 November 1888 vol 333 ct1258-338).

In response, the Home Secretary said that, 'he was able to give the hon Member the most complete assurance that the money to which the Vote related could not possibly be employed in dogging Irish Members.'  Whether this is strictly true is open to debate and, had Dr Tanner posed some less emotive questions, he might have been able to force the Home Secretary to reveal more about Special Branch's existence and activities.  

It is certainly true that the Home Secretary, when asking for money, both in 1887 and 1888, placed emphasis on the role of the special police in protecting buildings, and did not speak of the role of the Special Branch, but this was exactly the same in respect of Sections B, C and D, none of whom were mentioned in terms, so it cannot be said that there was anything special in this regard about Section D.

Now let's consider what happened after Monro resigned as both Commissioner and Secret Agent in June 1890. He was replaced as Commissioner by Edward Bradford and as Secret Agent by Major Gosselin.  Summarising events in a letter dated 10 December 1902, Major Gosselin wrote that after he took over from Monro (underlining added):

 'I was given full charge and am now answerable to the Home Secretary for thwarting and frustrating secret societies of Irish origin in Great Britain (London excepted) and America'  (HO 317/41). 

From this, we can see that operational control of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police must have passed back to the Assistant Commissioner (and/or the Commissioner) in June 1890 with Gosselin's role as Secret Agent only giving him control of agents outside of London.  This explains why, from newspaper reports, Home Office papers and Police Orders (e.g. the promotion of Sergeant John Walsh to Inspector in section D signed off by Anderson on 15 Feb 1896), Robert Anderson appears to be in control of the Special Branch (which must have meant that the whole of the Special Branch was still ultimately under the control of the Commissioner).

During proceedings at the Walsall Police Court on 29 January 1892, following the arrest of a number of anarchists, including John Thomas Deakin, by Inspector Melville and other officers, Superintendent Taylor of the Walsall Police said that, 'Deakin was arrested on the authority of Mr Anderson of the Criminal Investigation Department' (Times ,30 January 1892). Inspector Quinn, then of Section D of the C.I.D., who had been carrying out observations of the Walsall suspects at Euston station in early January 1892, stated in the Walsall Police Court on 4 February 1892:

'It was under Mr Anderson's and Mr Littlechild's instructions that I went to Euston'  (See Times 5 February 1892).

Clearly, therefore, Robert Anderson was giving instructions to Section D officers.

Further, on 8 June 1894, Anderson forwarded to the Home Office a report by Chief Inspector Melville (Section D) regarding the background of the anarchists Giuseppe Fornara and Francis Polti (HO 144/259/A5580). On 3 August 1894, he attached to a Home Office file a report by Chief Inspector Melville dated 2 August 1894, concerning the possible anarchist sympathies of the Countess Hugo (HO 144/587/B2840C). On 23 January 1895, the Assistant Commissioner attached to a Home Office file a report by Inspector Sweeney of Section D with an addition by Chief Inspector Melville of Section D. This all clearly suggests that Section D was indeed reporting to Anderson (HO 144/587/B2840C). On at least one occasion, on 26 May 1893, Commissioner Bradford provided a report to the Home Office by Inspector Melville (then of Section D) regarding the Autonomie club and the Autonomie newspaper showing that the Commissioner was not in any way excluded from knowledge of Special Branch activities (HO 45/9739/A54881). In this particular case, it would appear that the Commissioner was involved because the information had been requested by the Foreign Office at the request of the German Ambassador in London.

On 10 February 1897, Anderson forwarded to the Home Office a report about an anarchist called Tochatti written by Inspector Sweeney and countersigned by Chief Inspector Melville, both officers of Section D (FO 72/2048). 

From various Home Office files, it can also be seen that Anderson was filing regular reports to the Home Office about the movements and activities of anarchists in the country, clearly based on Special Branch reports to himself. 

With fresh Fenian scares and arrests on the continent in September 1896, it was reported on 17 September 1896 that 'Chief Inspector Melville, Inspector Quinn and other officers connected with the dynamite case were in attendance at Scotland Yard special branch on Wednesday' and, at the same time, Robert Anderson was described as 'director of the special branch at Scotland Yard'  (South Wales Daily News, 17 September 1896).

It is conclusively established, therefore, that Robert Anderson was in charge of the Special Branch during his period of office as Assistant Commissioner. 

We may note, finally, that by this time, if not from the start, Section C was incorporated into Special Branch and evidence of this comes from a report by P.C. George Riley who was the Section C officer at Boulogne and whose report dated 14 March 1897 about a Belgian socialist forwarded by Anderson to the Home Office a couple of days later was headed 'C.I. Department, Special Branch, Boulogne' (HO 144/587/B2840C).

One thing that is very clear from Police Orders in this respect is that there was a frequent transfer of officers between Section C and Section B with men moving in both directions, some being sent out to the ports and others coming back.  The same fluid relationship occurred between Section B and Section D (although with so few officers in Section D there was very little change of personnel).

All three sections were merged into one official Special Branch in 1911, with the Home Office writing to the Receiver on 14 June 1911 (HO 148/17):

'....in view of the fact that the whole cost of the Special Branch is now charged to the Metropolitan Police Fund - he [the Secretary of State] agrees that there is no object in retaining the distinct sections "B", "C" and "D" into which the branch is now divided and has approved of the Commissioner's proposal to abolish these sections leaving the general strength of the Branch unchanged.'

I suggest that this reflects what had, in reality, always been the case, certainly in respect of Sections B and D and possibly C as well.

 

David Barrat
6 October 2016