Tools of the Secret Services: A Brief History
It is a little known fact that the teasmade was first used by British secret agents working undercover in hostile foreign countries. Obviously enough, as they were working undercover, the secret service teasmade had no alarm clock, but the timed device they used to deliver secret cups of essential tea to British agents was a basic part of their kit, along with the suitcase radio and toasting fork disguised as a fountain pen.
These vital items of kit enabled a British spy to have the essential nice cup of tea and hot buttered crumpets they needed to survive deep in enemy territory, while the radio was vital for keeping in touch with the latest football and cricket scores. The football results were – of course - often sent in code so that the enemy forces had no chance of using the signal to check their pools coupons.
Other, now common, household devices first invented by the secret service boffins were of course initially kept secret. Such things as the carpet slipper, invented as a way of sneaking around well-guarded areas such as secret military bases, ports, missile facilities and so forth, were classified military secrets well into the days of the cold war. That it until they were rendered useless by a Soviet counter-measure based on designs they had stolen from a western factory that produced Lego bricks.
The cardigan too, was first developed by the Secret Intelligence Service both to keep its spies warm while they were out observing enemy troop movements and so forth, and as a rudimentary form of stab vest. The wool of the undercover cardigan had a steel mesh woven into it that could stop a small bladed weapon from penetrating it and even low-calibre bullets, providing they were not fired from point blank range.
Most notorious however was – of course – the tobacco pipe. Not only could this – in a moment – be converted into an extremely accurate blowpipe, firing poison darts (providing the operator remembered to blow and not to suck), the highly trained operative could also kill using the pipe stem to poke at an enemy in the precise spot that would stop the heart in an instant. The pipe could also be used to provide a smoke screen to aid in evasion and escape as well as leave enemy guards confused if the spy asked them if they had a light, enabling the spy to overcome the guard as he searched his greatcoat pockets for an elusive match.
All in all then, all these secret weapons provided the British spies of the period from the outbreak of WWII right up to near the end of the Cold War with a formidable array of tools with which to help defeat the enemy and should be regarded as a credit to this country’s great tradition of undercover intelligence gathering.