Mansfield George Smith-Cumming

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Captain SIR Mansfield George Smith-Cumming, K.C.M.G., C.B., Royal Navy, Retired (1 April 1859 – 14 June 1923) was an officer of the Royal Navy and the first head of the Secret Intelligence Service, more commonly known as MI6.

Life & Career

Mansfield George Smith was born at Lee in Kent on 1 April 1859, the son of John Thomas Smith, Royal Engineers, and Marie Sarah Smith.[1] He joined the Royal Navy as a Naval Cadet on 15 January 1872, being appointed to the training ship Britannia at Dartmouth. He spent the customary four terms, or two years, there, gaining a total of six months' sea time before the rating of Midshipman. On 20 December 1873 he was appointed to the corvette Modeste, joining her in January 1874.

He was appointed to the battleship Sultan on 8 September 1883, with "a report on health to be made in 6 months". It was reported on 11 March 1884 that he "has not suffered from sea-sickness since he joined Sultan & health has been in all respects excellent". He was superseded on 31 July 1884 and on 30 September was appointed to Vernon to qualify for Torpedo Duties at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. It is thought he didn't complete these studies, as on 6 March 1885 he was appointed Flag Lieutenant to Rear-Admiral Sir Walter J. Hunt-Grubbe, Commander-in-Chief on the Cape of Good Hope Station. On 3 October he was appointed to the Pembroke Castle as Transport Officer, but on 5 November was discharged to half pay. On 8 December he was appointed to the trooper Malabar, but was superseded on the 16th "owing to sea sickness". He was placed on the Retired List as "unfit for further service" on 21 December.

While at the Cape he married Dora Cloete, of Great Constantia, Cape Colony, in 1885.[2] She died, aged only 20, on 28 November 1887.[3]

At the parish church of Cossington in Somerset on 13 March 1889 Smith was married again, to Leslie Marian Valiant-Cumming, the daughter of Lockhart Muir Valiant-Cumming.[4]

On 1 August 1898 Smith-Cumming was appointed for Boom Defence at Southampton for six weeks. That six weeks turned into over eleven years. In 1903 he had applied for a step in rank on the Retired List, but this was refused. However, on 25 January 1906 he was granted the rank of Retired Commander. He gave up the appointment on 1 October 1909, when appointed head of the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau, later the Secret Intelligence Service commonly known as MI6. The Secret Intelligence Service's website claims Smith-Cumming had "neither intelligence experience nor linguistic skills",[5] but the former is not supported by the claims of his contemporaries, and the latter ignores the fact that Smith-Cumming was noted as speaking French by successive commanding officers while in the Navy.

Smith-Cumming was given the Acting Rank of Captain on 15 January 1915. On 25 June 1919 he was promoted to the rank of Captain on the Retired List, dated 11 November 1918. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (K.C.M.G.) on 30 June, and was invested with the honour at Buckingham Palace by the King on 26 July. He reverted to the Retired List on 15 November. He died suddenly on 14 June 1923.[6]

Footnotes

  1. Smith-Cumming service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39/377. 1871 census return. The National Archives. RG/10/765. pp. 4-5.
  2. Debrett's (1920). p. 870.
  3. Find a Grave.. "Deaths". The Times". 2 December 1887. p. 1.
  4. Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Somerset Parish Records, 1538-1914; Reference Number: D\P\coss/2/1/6.
  5. SIS – Our History.
  6. Smith-Cumming service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39/377.

Service Records