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Lillian “Mona” Maund – A Forgotten MI5 Agent

Lillian “Mona” Maund – A Forgotten MI5 Agent

The tale of an Old Stamfordian who worked for MI5 under the code name ‘M/2’, her story was almost forgotten. Now, Year 13 student Freya I, brings it to life once more.

Lillian Mona Arrowsmith Maund was born in Worcester around the year 1895. Her father was a conservative solicitor whom Mona Maund was devoted to. Her mother died when she was 3 or 4 years of age, but her father remarried and Mona ended up having two half-brothers. Maund had an upper-class background and before she joined Stamford High School in 1906 at 11 years old, she had attended Worcester primary. Although it is not known what year she left Stamford High School, nor is there anything from when she attended Stamford, she went on to appear in and write for the Old Girls Guild magazine as well as do some very important work for the country during the 1930s.

After Maund left Stamford High School, she served in the “Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps” for a short while. The QMAAC, established in February 1917, was the women’s corps of the British Army during and immediately after the First World War. According to the Old Girls Guide Magazine from 1919, Maund “was acting as patrol at Folkstone, crossing backwards and forwards on the steamers to Boulogne”. Although disbanded on 27 September 1921, it is clear that she hadn’t had enough of taking her place in what back then would have been a man’s world: in 1920, Maund trained for the Women’s Police Service and by January of 1921 she had gone to Ireland as a woman searcher. She wrote in the 1921 issue of the Old Girls Guild that her work not only consisted of typical police work, but also involved social work and other side issues that came up. In her writing, she also advertises the programme and service to other women, saying “It is also the aim of our Service to have better class, well educated women, as they are best able to work among all classes of our sex. I should recommend exservicewomen in particular for this work, and the age for our Service is 25 years.” Maund’s desire for woman to take their place in the working environment is clear throughout her career.

In December 1921, Maund returned to England but not for long. 3 months after her return, in April 1922, she went back to Ireland to continue her work as a policewoman under the Northern Government. By 1926, Maund had left her position in Ireland to work for the West London Vigilance Association, a British society established in August 1885 The tale of an Old Stamfordian who worked for MI5 under the code name ‘M/2’, her story was almost forgotten. Now, Year 12 student, Freya Ibbott, brings it to life once more. Lillian “Mona” Maund #archivestories 32 “for the enforcement and improvement of the laws for the repression of criminal vice and public immorality”. In the 1926 edition of the Old Girls Guild magazine, Maund describes her work as interesting and necessary and says “Fulham is one of my districts, and as I know my way about better I extend my work to Kensington, Hammersmith and Chelsea, a colossal area for one patrol, but I am hoping to have help soon”. However, we do not know if Maund received the help that she was hoping to get as soon after she changed career paths and it would appear she worked as typist/ secretary (perhaps even while still doing her police work) prior to being recruited by Maxwell Knight (MI5’s great Spymaster).

Maxwell Knight was a British naturalist and broadcaster, as well as spymaster, who played major roles in surveillance of an early British Fascist party as well as the main Communist Party. He also pioneered the use of female agents against the instructions of his superiors as he believed that they could be highly effective, not least because a secretary could see everything that was going on, but they could also easily become unnoticed in their role. Maund was instructed by Knight to attend Communist Party meetings. At this time, they were keen for volunteers with practical skills like typing. She persuaded senior members of the Communist Party to see past her right-wing credentials, and they allowed her into the heart of the organisation and after 6 years she was asked by the party if she wanted to work in the Communist Head Quarters. Maund worked unnoticed as a typist, passing back secrets under the code name M/2 and, once inside, she was able to report on an internal mole-hunt that followed Knights exposure of a soviet spy-ring.

Maund was 37 years old when she filed her first report to MI5 in 1932, a report that identified more potential targets, including Melita Norwood. Maund reported information on Norwood that should have been a clue that she was engaging in something secret, saying that Norwood was ‘of a type definitely suitable for underground activity’. All this was true as Norwood had been recruited as a Soviet spy and given the codename Hola. In fact, Maund had identified Soviet Union’s longest-serving British Spy. Although Knight passed Maund’s warnings onto Jasper Harker, his superior, and pointed out that a very high percentage of the greatest coups have been brought off by women, he was completely ignored as Harker didn’t believe women could make good spies. Due to MI5s perceived male-centred outlook, Norwood continued to be able to pass crucial documents to her handlers and in WW2, Norwood ended up working as a secretary within a company that secretly worked on the UK’s atomic bomb project.

In 1940 Maund retired to care for her dying Father. She died in 1966. At this time, no-one was aware of her service to country, until Maund’s identity came to light in the book ‘M’ by Henry Hemming in 2017. In this, it was revealed that Maund’s intelligence might have changed the direction of the Cold War if Jasper Harker, who later became Acting Director of MI5, had not ignored it.

Written by Year 13 student, Freya I, as part of her D of E volunteering project with the archives, and with the support of SES Archivist, James Buckman.

Sources: OGG Magazines,1919 and 1921 SHS Magazines, 1923 and April 1927 Hemmings, Henry, Maxwell Knight, MI5’s Greatest Spymaster (Preface, 2017)

This article first appeared in the Old Girls’ Guild magazine 2020/21

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