Anglican Catholic Church

Church pays tribute to MI5's spycatcher

From the Swindon Advertiser, first published Thursday 11th Jan 2001.

THE congregation of St Brihtwold's Anglican Catholic Church in Worton paid tribute to a real-life George Smiley, the character in John Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Sir Michael Hanley, who died on New Year's Day aged 82, had been churchwarden at St Brihtwold's in High Street, Worton, since 1994. He was a career officer in MI5, rising to become Director General in 1972 and retiring in 1978 when he and his wife Lorna moved to Wiltshire.

But he fell victim to the paranoia of the 1960s and 1970s when many senior MI5 officers came under suspicion for being KGB moles following the Burgess, Maclean and Philby scandals.

In the late 1960s a Polish defector claimed there was a well-placed KGB agent inside MI5 and the description appeared to fit Sir Michael, who was then the director of protective security. He was duly investigated but by 1967 was completely cleared and five years later was appointed Director-General, a post he held under three Prime Ministers ­ Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. The atmosphere of suspicion about possible Soviet penetration of the Security Service continued under Sir Michael's leadership, focusing on the activities of Anthony Blunt, who was later exposed as a traitor.

Sir Michael was born in Leeds in 1918. He won an open exhibition to Queen's College, Oxford, where he obtained second class honours in History. He joined the Army in July 1940 and was commissioned in the Royal Artillery. He joined the Security Service in 1948 and remained until his retirement in 1978. He was appointed KCB in the 1974 New Year's honours list.

He was appointed director of protective security in 1965, responsible for advising on security of the most sensitive Government documents and facilities, as well as the protection of ministers and officials. In 1968 he moved back to counter-espionage and in 1971 was appointed deputy Director-General, a job he held for only a year before taking over at the top from Sir Martin Furnival Jones.

Father Patrick McEune, vicar of St Brihtwold's, said: "He was a professional to his fingertips. If he ran the Security Service the same way he ran the church, we were in very good hands. He never spoke about his career in MI5. All he would say was that he worked for the Security Services. He was forthright, open and a typical Yorkshireman. We will miss him very much. He is not only a loss to history, but a loss to this parish as well."

Sir Michael's wife Lorna and his two children survive him.. A requiem mass was held at St Brihtwold's yesterday at 1.30pm, followed by a funeral service at Haycombe Crematorium, Bath.