Millicent Jessie Eleanor Bagot (1907-2006) could smell a rat at twenty paces and had an illustrious career as one of the UK’s premier spy hunters and what we now call Whistleblowers.
The last decade has been full of Dame Whistleblowers so we should pay particular attention to the woman who made a career of sniffing out the phonies amongst us.
Bagot began her life as the daughter of a solicitor, raised by a French governess, and was later educated at Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall where she studied the Classics. Bagot went to work for the special branch of the Metro police and later moved on to England’s Ministry of Defense working for both MI5 and MI6. This is slim pickings for developing a profile of Millie, and maybe her early life wasn’t as interesting as her career, but it sure would be great to know what made this lady tick.
Bagot the career lady, however, was a lad’s worst nightmare back in the day: a competent female taskmaster with an opinion and a voice. Apparently someone had the good sense to think that such traits recommended her and so Bagot began to move up the ranks.
Bagot specialized in Communism and was a well-regarded Sovietologist. She was the first to warn Intel community that notorious MI6 English double-agent, Kim Philby, was a member of the communist party and not who he appeared to be. She was ignored, of course, but despite Philby’s escape to Moscow in 1963, I hope Millie felt some small measure of satisfaction in knowing she was right.
Bagot was the first woman to reach the rank of Assistant Secretary at MI5. She received the MBE in 1949 for service and later advanced to CBE in 1967 at her retirement. Famed director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, even wrote to Millicent expressing his admiration.
However, even in retirement, Bagot did not call it a day. With her exceptional memory and famed ability at finding patterns in massive amounts of information, she continued working part-time sniffing out active spies and also writing what some call the definitive account of the Zinoviev Affair.
Millicent finally called it quits in 1976, after a debilitating stroke claimed her prized memory and left her infirmed for the rest of her life. A sad and drawn-out end for such an amazing woman with a truly brilliant career.