In this first episode, Jane Craigie talks to her father, Iain Craigie, about his early life in Intelligence in the 1950s. His career started when he signed up for voluntary service as a Radio Officer in the RAF. His preliminary training was at Beaumanor Hall and Bletchley Park. The primary targets for surveillance, the Russians.
Welcome to the spy who raised me podcast conversations between a daughter and her father. Yes, you've guessed it, he was a spy. My name is Jane Craigie and I'm sitting here with my dad in Craigie. And we've been chatting over many cups of teas and coffee over the years about his career in intelligence, and it's just intrigued me perpetually and it's given me as his as his eldest child. amazing opportunities over my lifetime. We've been to places that most children don't get to see. One of our holidays, for example, was up the Khyber Pass to Kabul, not long before the Russian the Russian invasion so that's, that's Kind of paints a picture really of the life that we've had, and being and I've done that many times as being daughter, a daughter of a spy. And so Dad, can you tell me a little bit about your formative years where you were born and where you were brought up. I was born in Southern Rhodesia. Zimbabwe, of course. 1938. And we left there at the beginning of the Second World War, came back to Scotland, father and mother, two siblings and myself. And we had to find accommodation and resettled in marriage. A little village called, later moved to Kingston. So, and we from there, we moved, I started moving around, but that was basically our early years and that was immediate post war. Of course, my father was in the Air Force during the war and Palestine. So it was an odd mix of of things of political things happening of wars and the aftermath war. So that's where we were at that point in time. so fascinating time and having a father that's that was involved in the military in the airforce, it probably piqued your interest in, in everything militarily. And I know that your uncle was also in the army. You You had family connections to, to, you know, to the military world and to intelligence. And I'm interested in what happened next. So if we fast forward your career, you ended up getting into the world of intelligence, and it's fascinated you ever since I know that. And you joined the Air Force Intelligence Corps as a volunteer in the early 60s. And could you tell me a little bit about that time? Yes. So I joined up for three years I volunteered for less than two years at Aberdeen university but didn't like it that was physics I studied there. So, in 1958, I decided to join up because it was obligatory then at that time everyone under certain age had to do national service. So, when that when that happened, I had no idea what life would be in the airforce. So we had to undergo training and so I was as Jane has said, I always had an interest in other countries and surveillance and strategic situations and so that was very much in line with what the airforce were looking for at that time. And your first posting was to Bomani Hall Nilufer, which I see now is a wedding venue and you can do tours of it which might be interesting to go back and do but yeah You were posted to Pomona Hall. And and the site was fascinating and it was used during the Second World War for military intelligence. And it was one of the most important strategic why stations as they were called. And it was one of the stations that fed into Bletchley Park. What you learned there was just fascinating. And I wondered if you could tell me a little bit more about what you learned. Yes, that was a really interesting time for me. And it was an eye opener to because Romana was a very much an archetypal army station with a brigadier who was in charge of it, even though it was was a civilian mainly. Divya was his name. He was very austere and very well dressed and had a waxed moustache. And he we started there and we had to learn various skills like like, like typing and, and finding targets which was always With the Russians in particular, not that easy. So but once we had established and identified those targets that we were interested in, then we used to follow them with fairly antiquated equipment, as we now look back and think, Wow, how did you manage it, but it was HR or receivers for those of you who, you know, of that era, but they were valve operated and of course, being valve operated frequencies that used to depending on the temperature used to vary quite a bit. So we had to try and follow as best we could. These, these signals, copy it, type type, typing mainly, but sometimes written. And then as Dana said earlier, the product would go to Bletchley Park and other other areas for notice. We're obviously very interested in postwar. Bye What was happening in Europe and with Russia and North America? So yeah, so that was that was a really interesting time plus the fact that they're the German Navy and so on, although no longer active, we're still trying to keep keep an eye on what was happening in Europe. So a lot of our targets were were Russian, but the vestiges of, of the war years do with Germany, we were hugely interested in what they might be doing. And you, I think, when you when you look back to the 1960s, I mean, not only was it the end of the Second World War Two, sort of two decades after the Second World War, or a decade and a half after the Second World War, it was also post Stalin era. So you know, that's, that's MIT context with with which you were within which you were operating, and could tell me a little bit about that era and why there was Such an interest for the British government, British intelligence to scrutinise what was going on in Russia? Yeah, that was that was extremely interesting, the early 60s. And and, you know, not just a couple of decades after the Second World War had had finished a it was very much a question of what people what European countries were doing, what Russia was doing what America was doing. And I was really interested in what you were telling me before we started, which was just how you, you as an intelligence staff, and you were fairly junior at that time, the kind of things that you were doing to, to keep close surveillance on Russia. So how on earth with that rudimentary technology, did you find the information that you needed transmission about the movement of a person, for example, you know, a member of the Russian intelligence, for example, or military, how on earth do you use that basic technology HR a receiver shortwave radio to find somebody. Yeah, that's an interesting era early 60s, and so on. I mean, during the the Second World War, we became expert in hf that's high frequency transmissions because the German fleet threatening threatening the UK and Scarborough had and one of the direction finding stations there, which is actually still there to this day, and they were trying to pinpoint the German fleet submarines and answerfirst. And that that worked well, I mean, the work they did, then absolutely incredible. But it's it's amazing to think that between that era, that's the Second World War, through into the early 60s, and the change from From types of transmission and quality of transmitter transmitters and so on, and that became I can I can recall in the 1960s. In another country in Cyprus, in fact, we had targets Russian targets. By this time, Russia and America had fallen out of love with each other, and they both had their own issues and targets. I can remember sitting, listening to Russian forces, and testing, assess, and they were testing missiles in the past of Russia, a remote semi palatin scores one of the one of the cities that we were interested in, whereas that what they were doing that was in deepest Siberia, so they had set up a test range for missiles, and it's You know when you think from the Second World War through to the 60s and and fantastic deprivation and Russia starvation 20 million people killed all of that. And Stalin was a beast he was a brute, but he he had done enough with with the various things he had brought in for them to be testing missiles between Semipalatinsk and a target j escapes me I can't remember who he is the said listen to these these supporting transmissions that they had to guide themselves and to check out whether they had been successful in terms of accuracy and in terms of disk this theory would sit there on a in a small cabin and listen to these things and we could actually see the progresses some of these miss out and I found That is so interesting. And then we got, as we got more used to the technology that the Russians were using, we could forecast when they were testing those missiles. And we could also find out what the Russians themselves thought of the the quality of the missiles that they were testing. So as I say, that happened in a very short space of time. And of course, that was relevant to the situation and in America, he recognised the importance of connections. And you're explaining to me about the Russians interest in Cuba. There was one thing that you said, which made me piqued my interest, which is they're both communists. Yes, exactly. And that that was at the time that America was building up its strategic cover. They had this problem of a communist Government in Cuba, Fidel Castro, Castro was was the leader. And of course the Russians picked us up very quickly and started cooperating with the communist regime in Cuba. And over over a period of time and secrecy. They had built two or three launching pads in Cuba. Cuba was about 600 miles probably from America and in fact that could I think the the missiles they had that touches the ones I'm talking about the are testing and Russia are capable of hitting targets all over the United States. And they were late in coming in because they hadn't. They hadn't there was no satellite technology then at least it was vestigial. It started being used for surveillance. So they they were not aware that the Russians Transcribed by https://otter.ai [This note may be incomplete because it was exported before processing was finished.]