Parliamentary military security department, No.2 (P.M.S.2), also called Ministry of Munitions Intelligence Division(MMLI) was a short lived British intelligence unit during World War I devoted to insure the protection of the British manufacturing industry that was so vital to the war effort. Created in March 1916 its life was short lived after a scandal involving unprofessional agents.

Lead up to creation[edit | edit source]

During World War I the money spent on intelligence within Britain rose rapidly. MI5 July 1914 was budgeted £6-7000, and Special Branch had a budget of £19,000. By November 1918 both organizations had a allocated £200,000 between them. £35.6 million in today’s money

There were many intelligence organizations, and the money spent on each some what resulted in overlapping of information received by the different investigations, however it was seen as worthwhile practice. With the war by 1915 turned into one of attrition much attention was paid to factories, especially those involved in war munitions, against the threat of German espionage. The Ministry of Munitions developed its own intelligence unit that became established on the 19th February 1916.

The first investigations and fears into industrial sabotage existed around 1915 with the changing nature of the war; the sector was keen to protect the most vital components of the war machine, and with fears of a mass German infiltration of Britain still rife much effort was diverted to protecting the mutations systems. Even if by 1914 Special Branch had ruled that there was no evidence to support any mass organised attacks. Money seemed to be spent on prejudice and fear; rather than any substantial evidence.

Creation[edit | edit source]

A further investigations came with reports of a fire in Ardeer factory of Nobel’s explosive company; this was blamed on sabotage rather than the poor design, hurried construction, and improvisation of plant equipment that it was later traced back to. However after a second incident at a different plant Woolwich Arsenal in early 1915 Lloyd George was set on blaming Alien actors; this led to the creation of ‘Ministry of Munitions Labour Intelligence Division’ (MMLI) on 19 February 1916.

MMLI’s function at first was clear, however later on it would develop different roles. At the beginning MMLI’s role was dedicated to the examination of aliens working in factories and munitions plants. Effectively becoming a secret part of the employment process for this kind of work. However, by May 1916, there became a radical change in direction for the organisation. After some Labour leaders started to oppose the Munitions of War Act, intelligence shifted from solely finding German agents, to trying to protect against industrial action too, focusing left on the political spectrum.

This new role was a creation of a new strike on 17 March 1916, what would effect the war machine greatly. Although the service still believed German agents was behind the unrest, it began to investigate.

Reform[edit | edit source]

In June, 1916, MMLI changed its name so P.M.S.2 (parliamentary military security department, No.2) on the grounds of containing as much information about the organisation from the public as possible. There was also subtle transformation in the unit to investigate sabotage, strikes, and labour unrest. Lieutenant Frederick de Valda was quoted with saying ‘The object if P.M.S.2 was political: to keep an eye on foreign agitators and guard munitions and other important establishments against sabotage and other interference agitators or enemy agents’.

Fall of P.M.S.2[edit | edit source]

By September 1916 the methods used became undercover and somewhat questionable. A agent would pose as a conscientious objector on the run from the police, with the guise to make contact with left wing groups in the labour market. By December the ministry started to have doubts about the effectiveness of this campaign. However in January Rickard, the major agent of the unit, discovered ‘A plot to kill the PM and Arthur Henderson’. When the trial of the four men came to light, it was extensively attacked by left wing MP for Leicester on the grounds of being Agent Provocateurs. Three men were convicted, since then the tactics has been widely criticized, and by April 1917 Rickard was sent to South Africa with his family to start a new life.

On the date of Rickards departure the Home Office ordered that Special Branch should have the sole responsibility of all sensitive investigations.

By 23 April 1917 P.M.S.2 was shut down and its functions to be taken over by Kells MI5 division.

References[edit | edit source]

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