Daphne Park , Baroness Park of Monmouth

 

Daphne was born in Surrey on 1st September 1921 and brought up in Tanganyika in Africa until she was 11 years old when it was decided she should go to school in Britain.

 

She walked for three days to the nearest road and then hitched a lift on a lorry to the coast where she caught a boat back to England. She went to live in Clapham with her grandmother and for the next seven years attended Rosa Basset School in Furzedown before going on to study at Somerville College, Oxford at the beginning of World War Two.

 

Known as the Queen of Spies, she worked for the Special Intelligence Service (later known as MI6) for over 30 years. She was one of MI6’s most senior controllers until her retirement in 1979 when she became the Principal of Somerville College.

 

She was a most unlikely-looking spy, more Jane Marple (Agatha Christie’s detective) than Mata Hari or any of the glamorous female spies in the James Bond stories. Indeed she described herself as a “cheerful fat missionary”. She dressed dowdily in sensible shoes and frumpy cardigans and her favourite drink was Earl Grey tea “stirred, not shaken” rather than martinis, and she drove a battered old 2CV car.

 

During her career with MI6 she served in North Vietnam where she infiltrated the regime, ran agents in Moscow and served in  post-independence Congo. She claimed she was in danger of being shot many times but always survived. While in the Congo she smuggled men out of the country in the boot of her car. In every posting she had two roles, the public one as a diplomat and the secret one as a spy.

 

Daphe Park died recently, on 24th March 2010.