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MI6 Head's Ink


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23 replies to this topic

#1 DunhillGuru

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 03:49

QUOTE
...To these dissenters, some of whom have hitched their careers to Inkster’s bandwagon, it is intolerable that Scarlett should wield the hallowed green ink with which C traditionally signs off his reports. They insist that the honour should be Inkster’s.


(Full article can be seen HERE)

I came across this little snippet while reading about Sir John Scarlett - head of the British Secret Intelligence Service - MI6

I always thought the green ink story to be a matter of fiction developed by Ian Fleming in the James Bond books. But it seems this piece of information is true.

Reading a book recently on MI6's secret wars, it seems that Sir John Scarlett also uses a Parker fountain pen.

PS. For those of you not in the know - unlike the James Bond stories - the head of MI6 is not called "M" but "C" - the initial of the first head of the service Captain Mansfield Cummings

Edited by DunhillGuru, 02 May 2009 - 03:51.

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#2 LauretteBradley

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 03:20

DunhillGuru -- interesting! So what IS the hallowed green ink, exactly? Does it change from C to C?

#3 Peter from Sherwood Park

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 03:30

Thank you for posting this!

#4 DunhillGuru

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 05:10

QUOTE (LauretteBradley @ May 3 2009, 12:20 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
DunhillGuru -- interesting! So what IS the hallowed green ink, exactly? Does it change from C to C?



Now that's an interesting question. Perhaps I should contact MI6 and ask. These days they are quite open about things like that

In the book on MI6 the description is that the ink is in an antique ink bottle on the chief's desk. Perhaps it is made specially.
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#5 Defacto

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 06:33

Interesting!
What's the title of that book?

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#6 DunhillGuru

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 12:28

QUOTE (Defacto @ May 3 2009, 03:33 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Interesting!
What's the title of that book?


The title of the book is "Secret Wars - One hundred years of British Intelligence inside MI5 and MI6" by Gordon Thomas (published by Thomas Dunne Books)

I hope that helps

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#7 Defacto

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 12:46

QUOTE (DunhillGuru @ May 3 2009, 02:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (Defacto @ May 3 2009, 03:33 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Interesting!
What's the title of that book?


The title of the book is "Secret Wars - One hundred years of British Intelligence inside MI5 and MI6" by Gordon Thomas (published by Thomas Dunne Books)

I hope that helps



Thank you. It sure sounds like an interesting book.
Maybe someday I'll try to find it.

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#8 mucephei

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 19:16

It is common for senior officers in the British armed forces to use green ink as well.

#9 muinteoir

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 19:34

QUOTE (mucephei @ May 3 2009, 12:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It is common for senior officers in the British armed forces to use green ink as well.


I assume this is primarily traditional, but any idea how the tradition got started?


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#10 Chemyst

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 00:10

QUOTE (mucephei @ May 3 2009, 12:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It is common for senior officers in the British armed forces to use green ink as well.


It is also customary in the U.S. Navy. The current version (YMMV) goes something like:

*Green for admirals, commonly attributed to Fisher and Churchill during WWI (who used PORT and STBD light colours to distinguish who had marked up each missive and how it should be handled).
*Blue for commanding officers, to distinguish official policy from subsequent copies. Also, because supposedly back in the day, atomic arms forms had to be signed in blue when copiers had selenide drums and couldn't "see" blue.
*Green or Red for the XO, to distinguish his originals from both the boss' blue ones and the b&w copies.

Rickover was famous for using red pencil and requiring three different colour copies of every piece of incoming or outgoing correspondence. You can still find flimsies with his red pencil capital "R", designating that he personally reviewed the document and found it acceptable.

Chemyst is not and never was a representative of Noodler's Ink. As misrepresentations like this are not allowed on FPN, Chemyst's right to participate on our board was therefore withdrawn, as from March 2016.
 
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#11 HBlaine

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 19:45

QUOTE (muinteoir @ May 3 2009, 03:34 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (mucephei @ May 3 2009, 12:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It is common for senior officers in the British armed forces to use green ink as well.


I assume this is primarily traditional, but any idea how the tradition got started?



If I remember correctly, the tradition in MI-6 started with the first head of the organization in the modern period, Sir Mansfield Cummings, who always used green ink, and who initialled all his documents with his initial, "C". Thus, all succeeding heads of SIS or MI-6 became known as C. (Though the claim now is that the "C" stands for "Chief."
"Here was a man who had said, with his wan smile, that once he realized that he would never be a protagonist, he decided to become, instead, an intelligent spectator, for there was no point in writing without serious motivation." - Casaubon referring to Belbo, Foucault's Pendulum.

#12 HBlaine

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 19:48

QUOTE (DunhillGuru @ May 1 2009, 11:49 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE
...To these dissenters, some of whom have hitched their careers to Inkster’s bandwagon, it is intolerable that Scarlett should wield the hallowed green ink with which C traditionally signs off his reports. They insist that the honour should be Inkster’s.


(Full article can be seen HERE)

I came across this little snippet while reading about Sir John Scarlett - head of the British Secret Intelligence Service - MI6

I always thought the green ink story to be a matter of fiction developed by Ian Fleming in the James Bond books. But it seems this piece of information is true.

Reading a book recently on MI6's secret wars, it seems that Sir John Scarlett also uses a Parker fountain pen.

PS. For those of you not in the know - unlike the James Bond stories - the head of MI6 is not called "M" but "C" - the initial of the first head of the service Captain Mansfield Cummings


Anthony Cave Brown's biography of Sir Stewart Menzies, who served as C through WWII, has several references to Menzies writing in "C's distinctive green ink". Unfortunately, he doesn't mention what kind of ink or pen... (I imagine the pen was probably a dip pen, though.)
"Here was a man who had said, with his wan smile, that once he realized that he would never be a protagonist, he decided to become, instead, an intelligent spectator, for there was no point in writing without serious motivation." - Casaubon referring to Belbo, Foucault's Pendulum.

#13 AndrewW

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 10:30

In "The Sandbaggers" - a supposedly quite realistic drama series about MI6 from the 1970s, still available on DVD - you can almost always see a bottle of Quink Green on C's desk. In one episode, you actually see his signature (and thumb-print) in green ink at the bottom of a letter. (I have a feeling that this show, first televised when I was about 12 or so - may have been the start of my relationship with green ink...)

Edited by AndrewW, 05 May 2009 - 10:31.


#14 Treecat

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 23:56

QUOTE (AndrewW @ May 5 2009, 06:30 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
In "The Sandbaggers" - a supposedly quite realistic drama series about MI6 from the 1970s, still available on DVD - you can almost always see a bottle of Quink Green on C's desk. In one episode, you actually see his signature (and thumb-print) in green ink at the bottom of a letter. (I have a feeling that this show, first televised when I was about 12 or so - may have been the start of my relationship with green ink...)


I have the Sandbaggers series on dvd (excellent!). Now I have an excuse to go back and watch it again. It's been a few years since I pulled it out. Thanks! smile.gif


#15 AndrewW

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 07:06

I have a feeling that the letter features in the episode "Special Relationship" (last episode of Series 1). You see C sign it, and then later you see Burnside show it to Jeff Ross.

#16 carlc

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 09:50

Not a military or secret service example but hospital based pharmacists in the UK also use green ink but beware the Green Ink Brigade. In British journalistic parlance is the term for letter writers who are 'pedants,charlatans and eccentrics' (wikipedia).

The wikipedia article also notes C wrote in green ink and states that green ink was the colour used by guardians of under-age Roman emperors.

Carl
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#17 Ondina

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 14:43

QUOTE (carlc @ May 8 2009, 11:50 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Not a military or secret service example but hospital based pharmacists in the UK also use green ink ......

Carl
You're completely right!. Some papers shown to me today as part of an old medical record have an some pharmacist's noted in Parker Green? Waterman Green? Nice!

#18 cfclark

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 15:35

QUOTE (carlc @ May 8 2009, 02:50 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Not a military or secret service example but hospital based pharmacists in the UK also use green ink but beware the Green Ink Brigade. In British journalistic parlance is the term for letter writers who are 'pedants,charlatans and eccentrics'


I'm using Lamy Green today but I don't think I'm one of those. Well, maybe eccentric. biggrin.gif

(In an odd coincidence, it appears we share a first name and last initial...I was really confused for a minute to see "carlc" as I've used that combination in other forums. hmm1.gif

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#19 Souldrifter

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 18:14

Fascinating thread! Thanks for starting it... already today I've ordered a new book from Amazon (the aformentioned "Secret Wars"), read about a nasty row in the upper echelon of MI6 that happened in the early 2000's, and realized that my love of green ink doesn't have to be associated with wack jobs in the Green Ink Brigade. I can say that the head of MI:6 uses it! Much sexier that way, don't you think?


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#20 OPG4711

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 04:15

I noticed this old post while listening to a BBC show called "MI6 - A Century in the Shadows". And, to my surprise, the current head of MI6 still uses green ink! He admits it freely. Like his predecessors, he is known simply as 'C'.

What I am itching to know is what kind of ink is in his pen? Diamine, since it's made in the UK? Any guesses?

By the way, it's a fascinating program to listen to. It's available online.

- OPG4711






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