Fast cars, cocktails on the beach, high-stakes poker and all the adventure you can handle – that’s the life of a top secret agent…or so the stories would have you believe.
In reality, the lives of Britain’s secret operatives are far more clandestine, played out in secret meeting rooms and quiet cafes across the capital. Coded messages, foreign counter-intelligence and assassinations are all very real activities carried out by members of Britain’s mysterious state intelligence apparatus.
On our Spy & Espionage tour, you’ll get to explore the real-life locations that became the invisible battleground for espionage activities since the Second World War. Discover the places where secret rendezvous and grizzly assassinations took place, all under the informative guidance of our espionage expert – a former SIS agent and bodyguard to The Queen Mother.
This week, we’re telling you a little about some of the most special locations on the tour. Expect mystery and intrigue ahead!
This very average-looking building could easily pass as one of London’s many office blocks. However, the reality is that it’s anything but normal. It’s actually the real home of MI5 – the UK’s national security intelligence agency. MI5 works to protect British nationals through intelligence gathering and analysis within the UK. One can only wonder what sort of nefarious plans they’ve fended off from Britain’s shores.
Monument to SOE Agents
Take a walk down the Thames and you’ll see a variety of interesting statues and monuments. One of them, however, is particularly special. This bust of secret agent Violette Szabo commemorates the contributions made by Special Operations Executive agents during the Second World War. These spies undertook some of the most dangerous operations in the war and lived on their courage and ingenuity alone. The inscription reads, “In the pages of history, their names are carved with pride.”
The Millennium Hotel
The poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 was a news moment that shocked the nation. It was a reminder that the world of covert operations is not long gone – espionage activity is happening every day in major cities across the world. And it’s happening right under our noses. You’ll get the chance to see the very place where this former KGB agent was poisoned and hear the story of how it all happened. Or, at least, the story they want us to hear.
SIS Building (MIV HQ Vauxhall Bridge)
This splendid building – affectionately nicknamed Legoland by its occupants – is the home of MI6 in London. It’s the real secret service, made world-famous spy James Bond in Ian Fleming’s exhilarating novels.
However, you won’t see any cocktails and jet packs here – this is a place of serious work, where operatives take risks every day to protect Britain’s interests abroad. On your tour, you’ll get to learn all about the history of MI6 and this fascinating building.
Once you’ve explored these key locations and more, you’ll top the day off with a real martini cocktail in one of London’s classy bars. Remember to ask for it shaken, not stirred!