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Blue Plaque for Local Schoolgirl Who Became Spy

Published: 29/10/2021 By Allan Fuller

A blue plaque has been unveiled at the former home of Milicent Bagot CBE.

The former Putney High School girl went onto become the first woman ever appointed to a senior rank in MI5 and is widely believed to be the inspiration for the character Connie Sachs from John le Carré’s novels Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People.

Milicent Bagot had a reputation as a formidable security officer and specialised in international communism throughout her service, advising on the threat posed by the Soviet bloc to Britain during the Cold War.

After the war Milicent spent some time working with British authorities in the Middle East, guiding them on how to overcome Soviet subversion. By 1949 she was recognised as a leading expert on the matter for her unparalleled knowledge and was promoted to Assistant Director of MI5 in 1953.

Although most of the details about her career remain shrouded in secrecy, one of her most significant cases involved an investigation to decipher the infamous Zinoviev Letter of 1924, a document which detailed Soviet plans to encourage a revolution from British workers and called on them to strike.

The letter was leaked, possibly by MI5, amid a divisive general election and is thought to have contributed to the defeat of the Labour government. Although the true origins of the letter are still unconfirmed, Milicent’s work contributed to further investigations which concluded that it was most likely the result of forgery crafted by anti-Soviet emigrants living in Latvia.

This will be the first plaque that the Putney Society has ever awarded to commemorate a woman and recognises the significant impact that Milicent made to her field whilst living in Putney.

The plaque will be unveiled by Putney High School Headmistress, Suzie Longstaff.