David Ranson

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David Ranson was a senior officer of the Security Service, MI5.

Peter Wright refers to a 'David Ransome' in Spycatcher. Stephen Dorril refers to a 'David Ransom' in The Silent Conspiracy. They are clearly referring to the same person, and both are most likely mis-spellings.[1][2]

Ranson was awarded the OBE in 1972. The citation described him as "David Walter RANSON, Technical Adviser, Ministry of Defence."[3]

F2 Officer

Wright describes a meeting of senior A Branch and MI5 F Branch officers to discuss the "far and wide left" early in Michael Hanley's tenure as head of MI5:

The Prime Minister and Home Secretary had left him in no doubt that they wanted a major increase in effort on this target. He then handed over to a young and ambitious F Branch officer, David Ransome, who outlined the activities and structure of a host of left-wing splinter groups , like the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) and the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP).[4]

Stephen Dorril states that Ranson was an F2 officer at the time of this meeting, which he places in 1972.[5]

According to Stella Rimington, Ranson played a role in the 1974 miner's strike.[6]

Northern Ireland

According to Stephen Dorril, Patrick Walker served in Northern Ireland in 1980, "fighting the IRA as a lowly deputy to David Ransom, on the Liason Staff which acts as a cover for intelligence personnel."[7]

On 26 May 1981, Ranson attended a meeting with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Northern Ireland Secretary Humphrey Atkins to discuss the political situation in the midst of the 1981 hunger strikes. Others present included RUC Chief Constable Jack Hermon, General Sir Richard Lawson and Sir Kenneth Stowe.[8]

A Downing Street letter records:

Mr Ranson said the IRA recognised that they could not win through terrorism. Their thinking was concentrated on the need to find a way to win back the support of the Catholic community which they had lost in recent years. They saw the hunger strike, about the launching of which they had grave doubts, as a way to drive a wedge between the Catholic community and the Government. They knew that the situation was delicately balanced and that their effort might already haved "peaked" in PR terms. There might be an opportunity in the next few weeks for the Government to attempt to reassure the Catholic community.[9]

On 17 June 1981, Robert Armstrong sent the Mrs Thatcher's Private Secretary Michael Alexander, a paper entitled "The Provisionals - Political Activity", which he describes as an "intelligence-based analysis prepared by Mr Ranson of the Northern Ireland Office."[10]

Ranson's presence as an MI5 officer at the Northern Ireland Office in a position to attend meetings alongside senior security officials such as Hermon and Lawson might suggest that he was the Director and Co-ordinator of Intelligence (Northern Ireland).

F Branch Director

Stephen Dorril places Ranson as Director of F Branch in an order of battle dated 1981-83.[11]

According to Christopher Andrew, Ranson had been appointed head of the branch by July 1981, at which point he took over the counter-subversion responsibilities of John Deverell who had been posted out of F Branch.[12]

Seumas Milne states that 'Ransom' was head of F Branch at the time of the 1984-85 miners' strike, and had just returned from a stint in Washington as Security Liaison Officer.[13]

CND

According to Stephen Dorril, Ranson presided over F Branch surveillance of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, following a request from a Ministry of Defence unit, DS19, set up in 1983:

"I got a message via my branch director [David Ransom]", recalled Massiter, "that the deputy director-general [Cecil Shipp] was prepared to consider favourably an application from me for a telephone check on a suitable CND target i.e. a member of the Communist Party who could reasonably be classified as a subversive." The target was CND vice-president John Cox, even though he did not meet the criteria of a subversive.[14]

Retirement

Stella Rimington states in her autobiography that she succeeded Ranson as a Deputy Director General of MI5 in 1990:

I was appointed on the retirement of David Ranson a long-time Security Service officer who had made his reputation in the counter-subversion branch at the time of the 1974 miner's strike and had been very involved in the early days of the service's work fighting international terrorism. His retirement turned out to be sadly short, as he died only a couple of years later.[15]

The Guardian's Andrew Moncur reported in January 1990:

Another intriguing question touching on the New Year honours list - which, as yesterday's diary pointed out, included a knighthood for the head of MI6. One David Ranson, described as a deputy secretary, Ministry of Defence, was awarded a CB (Companion of the Order of Bath). Strangely, his name does not appear in the Civil Service Year Book. Could he possibly be related to the David Ranson who was head of MI5's F (counter-subversion) branch in the 1970s? With a particular interest in trade unions? By a curious coincidence, MI5 uses MoD cover, although, in theory, it comes under the Home Office.[16]

The official citation for the award in the London Gazette read:

David Walter RANSON, O.B.E., Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Defence.[17]

Notes

  1. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.8.
  2. Peter Wright, Spycatcher, Viking, 1987, p.360.
  3. London Gazette, Supplement 45678, page 6265, 23 May 1972.
  4. Peter Wright, Spycatcher, Viking, 1987, p.360.
  5. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.8.
  6. Stella Rimington, Open Secret, Arrow Books, 2002, p.222.
  7. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.55.
  8. Letter from Michael Alexander to Stephen Boys Smith, 27 May 1981, UK National Archives file PREM 19/505.
  9. Letter from Michael Alexander to Stephen Boys Smith, 27 May 1981, UK National Archives file PREM 19/505.
  10. Letter from Robert Armstrong to Michael Alexander, 17 June 1981, UK National Archives file PREM 19/505.
  11. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  12. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.673.
  13. Seumas Milne, The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners, 1994, p.344.
  14. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.26.
  15. Stella Rimington, Open Secret, Arrow Books, 2002, p.222.
  16. Andrew Moncur, Diary, The Guardian, 5 January 1990.
  17. London Gazette, Issue 51981, p.3, 30 December 1989.