Jimmy James

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Edward Foster (Jimmy) James, CMG OBE, former MI6 officer and Deputy Director General of the CBI.

Born: 18 January, 1917 at Chiswick, London Died: 23 January, aged 85.

EDWARD "Jimmy" James had to deal with the fall-out of the treachery of George Blake, the MI6 officer who was a double agent for the KGB. This presented the Secret Intelligence Service with its most catastrophic post-war spy problem.

James, always known as Jimmy, was a slick social operator. Bald with a high forehead and trademark thick spectacles decorating his face in later years, he had the ability to make opponents feel indefensibly wrong and hopelessly compromised. He was not a man to be easily crossed.

One colleague recalls: "He was absolutely charming, but behind that smile lay a loaded revolver. While he certainly inspired respect and admiration, he was a ruthless operator."

James was serving in Berlin at the time of Blake’s arrest in 1961, and he faced the urgent task of salvaging what he could from Blake’s actions, including the lives of agents he had betrayed.

Blake had also served in Berlin, posted there in 1955 with the task of recruiting KGB officers. After defecting to the KGB, he betrayed a reputed 400 agents to his Soviet controller.

James, known for lateral thinking and energetic intellect, brought his efforts to bear and thanks to his prompt action, many of the MI6 agents whose names Blake had given to the KGB were saved.

Educated at Chiswick County School, West London, Edward Foster James worked on the commercial side of trade and technical publications for three years until the start of the Second World War. He later recalled how valuable this early experience of administration proved in later years with the SIS.

Commissioned into the Royal Artillery, he served until 1946 in India, Burma, Malaya and Indo-nesia, ultimately as lieutenant colonel. His personal bravery earned him two mentions in dispatches, while his ability was recognised by his appointment as OBE (military) in 1946.

In 1947, he joined MI6, soon becoming head of station in Rangoon. In later years, while he never referred to his secret intelligence work, his use of the euphemism "diplomatic service" gave enough of a hint to those who might have guessed.

In 1951, he moved to Hong Kong, charged with the task of dismantling the MI6 organisation for fear that it had been built on suspect intelligence.

Thereafter, he served under the aegis of the Foreign Office in London and Rome before returning to London again in 1958. This latter experience he used to good effect in consoli-dating his wider contacts.

Some months after his posting to Berlin in 1960, Blake was suspected as a traitor, and it was during James’s service in Berlin that the vital piece of evidence confirming Blake’s treachery was brought to light.

Blake, sentenced to 42 years in prison for espionage, was later spectacularly sprung from Wandsworth Jail.

In 1961, James again worked under the umbrella of the Foreign Office (later the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), serving with MI6 until 1974. He was appointed CMG in 1968.

His final appointment, as director of administration, brought the same chilling cold-blooded approach to improving efficiency as he had as a young agent in the field.

Headhunted by the Institute of Directors in 1975, he joined the Confederation of British Industry the following year as deputy director-general. Working under the gifted director general, Sir John Methven, he formed a formidable partnership, expanding the membership base and increasing the influence of the CBI with consummate skill.

He is survived by his second wife, Janet, the children of his first marriage, Sue, Penny and Peter, and grandchildren, Harry and Eliza.