I'm afraid the squarespace comments facility isn't working so no comments can be posted at the momernt. You can contact me at rogercdavies(atsquiggle)  If you have a comment ping me using the @ for (atsquiggle)

This blog has evolved into a review of historical and modern explosive devices, and responses to them. Links are drawn between historical activity and similar activity in the world today. Mostly I focus on what are now called IEDs but I have a loose personal definition of that and wilingly stray into discussions of more traditional munitions, the science and technology behind them, tactical employment and EOD responses. Sometimes it's just about interesting people in one form or another. Comment is welcome and encouraged but I do monitor it and reserve the right to delete inappropriate stuff. Guest posts are always welcome. Avoid any stuff that makes the enemy's job easier for them.

A note on moral perspectives. Throughout this blog there are descriptions of all sorts of people using IEDs, explosives, or suffering the consequences. Some of the people using IEDs are thought of as heroes by some and terrorists by others. One person's good guy fighting for a cause is another person's evil demon.  It's complicated, and history adds another series of filters too. All of us too live in a narrative made up around however we were brought up, what we were taught and what we learned along the way, rightly or wrongly. So if you sense moral ambivalence, one way or the other, well, I'm guilty and I'm not perfect.  By and large though, I have unapologetic sympathy for those dealing with the devices, whether they be soldiers, cops, or whatever, even those who are part of Nazi or other nasty regimes. That's the cool thing about EOD techs - we don't really care who the enemy is.

« IED Innovation... or not | Main | Ilya Starinov - The godfather of modern insurgent IED warfare. »

Guy Fawkes, MI6 and the NKVD

In my last, lengthy post discussing the Russian IED Godfather Ilya Starinov and his efforts to encourage sabotage and partisan operations (using IEDs) behind enemy lines, I touched on the resistance to such activity that was prevalent in parts of the Russian government.  Stalin’s purges really started in about 1933/1934.  It was the NKVD that drove the purging activity and Starinov observed them destroy his partisan strategies, and arrest and liquidate those partisans  whom he had trained to make and deploy explosive devices.  At the same time, Starinov felt that production of manufactured explosive devices was prevented by the NKVD, because the availability of a stockpile of sabotage devices might, in the eyes of the NKVD, enable counter-revolutionary warfare against the Soviet Union, and so he emphasised improvised explosive making as a result, before the NKVD prevented even his training activity and associated sabotage schools out of a fear of the capability it might provide to people intent on overthrowing the now established government of Stalin.  Starinov thought such precautions were ridiculous and attempted to work around them. And that generally makes sense.
But. But...  What if the NKVD’s concerns had a real grounding? What if there was evidence that those trained to conduct partisan operations against an enemy really could be a threat to their own nation? What if the NKVD had bought onto that concept, that mechanism, to create a capability, what evidence is there to indicate that?  I think I have found some.
In 1938/1939 a British SIS (MI6) officer made a convincing suggestion that Britain needed a sabotage training school.  It would address how British sponsored partisans would work behind enemy lines, gather intelligence and use explosive devices to disrupt the economy and the warfighting of the enemy nation they operated in. The concept is/was remarkably similar to Starinov’s. I think that might not be a coincidence.  The school was established soon after and the SIS officer who suggested the requirement became its Second in Command and a syllabus was developed by another SIS officer acting as Chief Instructor. Training began in 1939. Amusingly the officer who had the idea wanted to call the facility “The Guy Fawkes School”, but this was turned down and the place was called “D School"
So that’s all fine, I hear you thinking, big deal, what's the connection between this British Sabotage School and Russia, and using the capability of a school against the nation for which it as purported to support?
Well you see... the MI6 officer who suggested the school and became its 2IC was a man called Burgess. The Chief Instructor was called Phiby.  
Guy Burgess and Kim Philby were both double agents of the NKVD. So Britain’s sabotage school was doing in the UK exactly what the NKVD was worried about in Russia. The Sabotage School was completely within their very direct and nefarious interest. No wonder they were nervous about Starinov’s training facilities.
Guy Fawkes indeed.
Guy BurgessGuy Fawkes


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