Archive for the ‘Intelligence Services Background Operational Fact Sheet’ Category

Secret Intelligence Service MI6 (Foreign Operations for United Kingdom of Great Britain)

May 29, 2012

Secret Intelligence Service MI6

SIS armorial bearingsIn this version of the SIS armorial bearings, the arms portray a grey brain, contained within a green ‘C’. The Royal Crown surmounts the arms. The motto: ‘Semper Occultus’ ,‘Always secret’ refers to the ethos of the Secret Intelligence Service.

The brain represents intellectual power and intelligence and the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge. The green ‘C’ is an allusion to the founder of SIS — and original ‘C’ — Sir Mansfield Cumming. The tradition of the Service is that all Chiefs are known as ‘C’ and sign their documents using green ink. As the Director of the Cook Trust I regularly dealt in green ink.

The Secret Intelligence Service, sometimes known as MI6, originated in 1909 as the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau, under RNR Commander, later Captain, Sir Mansfield Cumming, which was responsible for gathering intelligence overseas. By 1922 Cumming’s section had become a separate Service with the title SIS. Cumming signed himself ‘C’; his successors have done so ever since.

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was established in 1940, partly from the then Section D of SIS. After the War it was disbanded and some of its members were reabsorbed into SIS.
With the passing of the Intelligence Services Act, SIS was placed on a statutory footing under the Foreign & Commonwealth Secretary to whom it is responsible for all aspects of its work. The Act defines the functions of the Service and the responsibilities of its Chief, as well as establishing control and oversight arrangements. The Service’s principal role is the production of secret intelligence in support of Her Majesty’s Government’s security, defence, foreign and economic policies within the framework of requirements laid upon it by the JIC and approved by Ministers. It meets these JIC requirements for intelligence gathering and other tasks through a variety of sources, human and technical, and by liaison with a wide range of foreign intelligence and security services. Specific operations are subject to longstanding procedures for official and ministerial clearance.

As the CIA is known as “The Company,” SIS is known internally as “The Firm” and to other agencies as “The Friends.” SIS is based at 85 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall Cross in London (known to those who work there as “Legoland”).

SIS HQ known as Legoland

MI6 also paid for a number of telephones located in a busy street in south London (Borough High Street in Southwark, opposite the Police Station) which has been identified as the spy training centre. The main training centre is Fort Monckton, a Napoleonic fort on the south coast at Gosport in Hampshire. What is thought to have been MI6’s former City of London office is located in an office block in the Square Mile.

Century House Lambeth
An aerial shot of the former SIS HQ,
Century House, in Lambeth
Fort Monckton SIS Training Base
Soviet satellite shot of
Fort Monckton SIS Training Base
Entrance to Fort Monckton
Entrance to Fort Monckton
Hanslope Park -Technical Security Department

SIS (MI6) Technical Security Department
Hanslope Park

In May 2004, John Scarlett was named the new head of MI6.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is a Crown Service responsible for obtaining secret information and conducting operations in support of the UK’s foreign policy objectives, and to counter threats to UK interests worldwide. This involves a variety of activities, including conducting operations to obtain intelligence and working to disrupt threats to UK citizens or assets.

SIS is separate from other Government departments, with its own terms and conditions and recruitment procedures. The Service offers long-term careers with the possibility of promotion to high levels of responsibility.

The Intelligence Branch (IB)

The SIS Fast Stream (IB) recruits high calibre graduates with exceptional interpersonal skills and intellectual capabilities, who are interested in working in an international environment, with periods spent living overseas. Curiosity about political affairs is important, as is the resourcefulness, drive and creativity to produce solutions to difficult problems under testing circumstances.

The role of an SIS Fast Stream Officer is primarily to mount and run intelligence operations to promote and protect British interests and security overseas. SIS does not recruit specialist intelligence analysts – this work takes place under the auspices of the Joint Intelligence Committee in the Cabinet Office.

Successful candidates are likely to have a strong academic record coupled with evidence of interest in foreign peoples and cultures, positions of influence in extra-curricular activities and a commitment to public service. Applications are welcome from candidates with public and private sector backgrounds, those considering a career change, and university students. Age should not be a major factor, but most recruits will be under 35. Undergraduates should not apply until their final year.

The Executive Branch (EB)

The Executive Branch (EB) is responsible for a variety of administrative roles within the Service. It is a generalist branch, where we would expect employees to work in all departments within the Service, such as Finance, Human Resources and operational sections.

We recruit at three different entry levels:

Grade 8 (B3 equivalent) candidates should have some previous administrative experience and good analytical skills. A typical job at this level would involve research and analytical work for operation, manpower planning, financial management and procurement. Minimum qualifications are 2 A levels and 5 GCSEs at Grade C and above (including Maths and English) equivalent qualifications or relevant experience.

Grade 9 (A2 equivalent). A typical job at this level would involve providing administrative support within various departments, such as operational sections, Human resources and Finance. Minimum qualifications are 2 A levels and 5 GCSEs at Grade C and above (including Maths and English), equivalent qualifications or relevant experience.

Grade 10 (A1 equivalent). A typical job at this level would involve data inputting, retrieval of information, organising meetings and handling enquiries. Minimum qualifications are 4 GCSEs and Grade C and above (including English) or relevant experience.

There are limited opportunities to work overseas at the Grade 8 and 9 levels but all jobs at the Grade 10 level are UK-based.

The Scientific and Technical Branch (S and T)

SIS relies upon cutting edge technology for the flexibility and security of its operations. The Scientific and Technical branch recruits high calibre engineers and professionals in the communications and IT fields. These will form the technical leadership of the future.

The S and T also recruits technicians, and IT support staff to operate and maintain sophisticated and sometimes novel Information and Communications Technology. Successful candidates are likely to have a strong focus on service delivery, an understanding of the importance of security, and commitment to public service. Previous experience, either in the public or private sector, is an advantage, but applications from final year undergraduates are welcome.


There is a small number of openings for dedicated linguists. Linguists candidates should possess degree level fluency in their chosen language together with strong interest in the relevant regional issues. Analytical ability and a high level of written presentation are also key criteria.

Other Roles

The Trades and Services branch of the Service is currently recruiting Security Guards, Drivers and House support staff (e.g. messengers). Candidates should have a clean driving licence.


Candidates must be British, with at least one parent who is a British national. You must have lived in the UK for the majority (but not necessarily all) of the last 10 years. You will have to pass an extensive security clearance process prior to joining.

Getting in Touch

If you would like to apply for SIS positions please send your CV to: P.O. Box 1300, London, SE1 1BD specifying which of the positions you are interested in.


Because of the nature of the work, potential candidates should not divulge to others their application to SIS. Failure to observe the confidentiality of an application may affect eligibility for employment.