Gordon Kerr

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Gordon Kerr

James Gordon Kerr is a retired British Army officer.

Early Career

According to Neil Mackay in the Sunday Herald of November 2000:

As one would expect for a soldier who is among the top six spies in the UK, there are big gaps in what we know about Kerr. Of his early years, there's little information. We know he comes from Aberdeen, is aged 52, and that he graduated from a Scottish university in 1970. The fog begins to lift around the time he arrives at Glencorse, the training depot for the British army in Scotland, in 1971. His high level of education was a military rarity in those days, and marked him out as a potential big-hitter. Second lieutenant Kerr, army number 489090, was nicknamed Craigie, and was, as his peers from those days recall, a good chap.[1]

Mackay seems to have been mistaken about Kerr's army number, which according to the London Gazette was 490901.[2] Kerr received a special regular commission as a university candidate in the Gordon Highlanders to be a second Lieutenant on probation on 1 February 1971.[3] He was subsequently confirmed in that rank.[4] He was promoted to Lieutenant on 15 October 1971.[5]

First tour of Northern Ireland

Neil Mackay writes:

As a young officer in the Gordon Highlanders he served in Cyprus before his first posting to Armagh in 1972 - the bloodiest period of the Ulster Troubles. The high-flyer was appointed an Intelligence Officer, and then the regiment's officer commanding the Intelligence Section. So began his undercover work. Dressed in civvies, he grew long hair to fit in with Ulster's civilian population, drove - and constantly resprayed - an undercover scout car and developed relationships with RUC Special Branch, MI5 and terrorist touts, or informers.
By the time he left Ulster in June 1973, he'd helped arrest four leading Provos: Edward Howell, the OC (officer commanding) 2nd PIRA; Raddo Bradley, adjutant of 1st PIRA; Micky McMullan, the OC of 1st PIRA's B company and Thomas Callan, OC 1st PIRA.

The London Gazette of 19 March 1974 reported that Kerr had been promoted "from Special Reg. Commn., to be 2nd Lt., 5th Nov. 1973, with seniority 6th Jun. 1968. To be Lt., 5th Nov. 1973, with seniority 6th Jun. 1970."[6]

Kerr was promoted to captain on 6 December 1974.[7]

Neil Mackay writes:

In 1974, he was promoted to Captain before being posted to the British Army's Intelligence Training Centre in October 1975. :He was briefly with the Det, the SAS-trained 14th Intelligence Company - the forerunner of the FRU - before being sent to the army's Ulster HQ in Lisburn and then transferring from the Gordons to the Intelligence Corps.[8]

According to the London Gazette, Kerr transferred to the Intelligence Corps on 10 August 1977.[9]

Neil Mackay writes:

At this stage, Kerr vanishes off the radar before resurfacing at the army's Staff College in 1980, where he was promoted to major before moving to Berlin.[10]

Kerr was promoted to Major on 30th September 1980.[11]

Queen's Gallantry Medal

On 15 June 1982, Major James Gordon Kerr of the Intelligence Corps was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for service in Northern Ireland during the period 1 November 1981 to 31 January 1982.[12]

Special Intelligence Wing

Neil Mackay writes:

After Berlin, he undertook a brief stint as senior instructor with the Special Intelligence Wing in Ashford, Kent. It was a CME - or covert methods of entry team - from Ashford which is alleged to have helped FRU men set fire to offices used by the Stevens Inquiry team in Ulster. Detectives under the command of Scotland Yard's commissioner, Sir John Stevens, are currently investigating FRU collusion with loyalist terrorists and are planning to interview Kerr and arrest a number of FRU staff.
In Ashford, Kerr, and his Irish wife, were involved in the resettling of British Army agents whose cover had been blown while undercover in Ulster.[13]

Kerr was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 30 June 1987.[14]

Force Research Unit

Neil Mackay writes:

In 1987, now ranking as a colonel, Kerr took over as OC of the FRU; and it was then that civilians started to die in Northern Ireland at the hands of loyalist gunmen, aided and abetted by the security forces. As one FRU source told the Sunday Herald:
My unit was guilty of conspiring in the murder of civilians in Ulster on about 14 occasions. We were able to take out leading Provos with the help of the UDA. It was a great military coup.
Kerr, according to FRU sources, was not a maverick - he was sanctioned from the top. After leaving the FRU, which still operates today, Kerr returned to Berlin on more intelligence matters and was then promoted to brigadier - hardly evidence that military top brass and the government were displeased with his undercover operations in Ulster.
In army terms, Kerr has what's termed protezione - a Mafia term meaning protection. Kerr has connections going right to the heart of the British establishment and his position as military attache to Beijing makes him the effective joint number two in Britain's entire military intelligence operation. It would have been the current chief of the defence staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, who is also Int Corps' colonel-commandant, who approved Kerr's promotion.
But Kerr's time may be running out. Stevens has already arrested a clutch of loyalists as part of his inquiry, and charged one FRU member with intimidation of witnesses. The fingerprints of British military intelligence personnel are on documents used by loyalist gangs to plan assassinations. New information, reported on our front page today - revealing how Kerr sanctioned illegal incursions over the Irish border by British military intelligence officers - has prompted diplomatic outrage in Dublin.
All the descriptions of Kerr by the intelligence officers and soldiers we spoke to who worked with him throughout his 30-year career, shared the same view - that Kerr saw himself above the law. Both Ulster FRU officers and Berlin intelligence officers, describe him almost identically.
"Kerr wrote his own moral code. He decided what was morally acceptable in Britain's best interests," one Berlin officer said. Or, as FRU sources put it: "Kerr was the boss of the FRU and the FRU were deciding who could live and who should die in Ireland."
Gordon Kerr's Force Research Unit - a covert British military intelligence cell - passed information to loyalist terrorists, recruited as double agents, which was used to kill Catholics and Republicans in Ulster during the 1980s. The FRU's main agent was Brian Nelson, the UDA's chief intelligence officer. Nelson was later jailed, even though Kerr gave evidence for him in court using the cover-name Colonel J.[15]

On 14 May 1991, Lieutenant Colonel James Gordon Kerr was awarded the O.B.E. in recognition of meritorious service in Northern Ireland. David Moyles received an M.B.E. at the same time.[16]

In October 1993, the London Gazette reported that Kerr had promoted to a full Colonel.[17] However, a subsequent edition stated this was incorrect.[18]

Kerr was a full Colonel when he was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service on 8 November 1996.[19]

He was promoted to Brigadier on 30 June 1998.[20]


Brigadier J.G Kerr retired from the Army on 29 December 2004.[21]

External Resources

Liam Clarke, Brigadier ‘led rogue spying on Russia’, Sunday Times, 27 April 2003.


  1. Neil Mackay, The Force Research Unit: The secret wars of a spymaster By Neil Mackay, The Sunday Herald, 26 November 2000, archived at the Pat Finucane Centre.
  2. Issue 49020 Page 7885, London Gazette, 14 June 1982.
  3. Issue 45326 Page 2621, London Gazette, 19 March 1971.
  4. Issue 45480, page 10414, London Gazette, 28 September 1971.
  5. Issue 46239, page 3526, London Gazette, 1 August 1972.
  6. Issue 46239, page 3526, London Gazette, 19 March 1974.
  7. Issue 46469, page 853, London Gazette, 21 January 1975.
  8. Neil Mackay, The Force Research Unit: The secret wars of a spymaster By Neil Mackay, The Sunday Herald, 26 November 2000, archived at the Pat Finucane Centre.
  9. Issue 47316, page 11396, London Gazette, 6 September 1977.
  10. Neil Mackay, The Force Research Unit: The secret wars of a spymaster By Neil Mackay, The Sunday Herald, 26 November 2000, archived at the Pat Finucane Centre.
  11. Issue 48360 page 15274, London Gazette, 4 November 1980.
  12. Issue 49020 Page 7885, London Gazette, 14 June 1982.
  13. Neil Mackay, The Force Research Unit: The secret wars of a spymaster By Neil Mackay, The Sunday Herald, 26 November 2000, archived at the Pat Finucane Centre.
  14. Issue 50979 Page 8356, London Gazette, 30 June 1987.
  15. Neil Mackay, The Force Research Unit: The secret wars of a spymaster By Neil Mackay, The Sunday Herald, 26 November 2000, archived at the Pat Finucane Centre.
  16. Issue 52530, page 7427, London Gazette, 13 May 1991.
  17. Issue 53454, page 16392, London Gazette, 12 October 1993.
  18. Issue 53472, page 17531, London Gazette, 1 November 1993.
  19. Issue 54574, page 14851, London Gazette, 8 November 1996.
  20. Issue 54574, page 14851, London Gazette, 5 September 2000.
  21. Issue 57521 Number 1631, London Gazette, 4 January 2005.