MI5 - Security Service

What's in a name?

The Security Service has had a variety of names, most famously MI5, since it was established in 1909. This has often led to confusion about what the Service has been called at various points in its history.

This page provides a quick reference to the evolution of the Security Service over the past century.

October 1909

photo of Major-General Sir Vernon Kell

The Security Service is founded as the Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau, under Captain Vernon Kell. (See "The establishment of the Secret Service Bureau"). It is placed under the nominal supervision of the Directorate of Military Operations of the War Office, the predecessor of today's Ministry of Defence. The branch of the DMO responsible for the Secret Service Bureau is called MO5.

April 1914

The Secret Service Bureau is absorbed into the War Office for the duration of the war. It becomes part of section 5 of the Directorate of Military Operations and is given the name MO5(g).

September 1916

MO5(g) is moved across to the newly established Directorate of Military Intelligence within the War Office. It becomes section 5 of the Directorate of Military Intelligence - hence MI5.

1929

MI5 is renamed as the Defence Security Service.

1931

The Defence Security Service becomes the Security Service, the name by which it is still known today. However, "MI5" is still widely used as a short alternative to our official name.

See also "SIS or MI6: What's in a name? opens in a new window" on the Secret Intelligence Service's website. You can read more about the history of the Security Service in our history pages.

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