London Controlling Section

London Controlling Section

The London Controlling Section (LCS) was established in June 1942 within the Joint Planning Staff at the offices of the War Cabinet, which was presided over by Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. [ The American counterpart of the LCS was the Joint Security Control, under the Joint Chiefs of Staff.] The purpose of the LCS was to devise and coordinate strategic military deception and cover plans. The plans were then executed by other organizations. [ Holt, p. 167.]


The sweeping LCS charter, in part, authorized them to prepare cover and deception plans on a world-wide basis, co-ordinate deception plans prepared by Commands world-wide, and watch over the execution of deception plans. Additionally, and more sweeping, they were not limited to strategic deception, but had authority to include any matter for a military advantage. [ Holt, p. 189.]

Cover and deception are intended to either create or reinforce a belief in one’s opponent which influences the opponents behavior along certain lines. Cover induces belief that something true is something false. Deception induces belief that something false is true. “Cover conceals truth; deception conveys falsehood. Cover induces nonaction; deception induces action.” [ Holt, p. 53.] Since behavior is that which is to be influenced, the enemy does not have to actually believe what is being projected. It is only necessary that the enemy is so concerned that he must provide for it. [ Holt, p. 55.]

To influence behavior, the target of deception is the enemy commander, and the consumer of the deception is the commander’s intelligence organization. [ Holt, p. 56.] For example, for strategic deception in Europe, the target of deception was Adolf Hitler himself through the Supreme Command of the Defense Forces, "Oberkommando der Wehrmacht" (OKW). The consumer was a branch of the intelligence staff of the High Command of the Army, "Oberkommando Des Heeres "(OKH), the Foreign Armies West, "Fremde Heere West" (FHW). [ Holt, p. 99.]

Three essential elements of deception are a firm plan, adequate security, and time. [ Holt, p. 61.] For an operation to be successful, there must be a clear statement of the true situation along with the objective and a road map of how to bring a certain belief into the mind of the enemy. Clearly, there can be no deception if security fails and the enemy knows the true situation. Finally, the higher the target, the more time is required to build up the mosaic presented to the target.

John Bevan, the first Controlling Officer of the LCS, added two additional elements to strategic deception: codebreaking and double agents. [ Holt, p. 125.] Codebreaking in the European Theater was done at Bletchley Park, and the intelligence from this activity was codenamed ULTRA. Generally, the information was used to ferret out enemy intentions. However, in the arena of deception operations, the information was used to assess the effectiveness of the cover and deception operation. Double agents were in the purview of the Double Cross System, also known as the Twenty Committee, run by John Cecil Masterman. Double agents were generally used to collect intelligence and to build the mosaic of cover and deception operations.


Eventually, not including those who were attached, there were 7 primary members of the LCS: [ Wheatley, pp. 16 and 89.]
* Lieutenant-Colonel (later Colonel) John Henry Bevan, MC, Controlling Officer.
* Major (later Colonel) Ronald Evelyn Leslie Wingate, CIE, [ Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire.] Deputy Controlling Officer
* Flight Lieutenant (later Wing Commander) Dennis Wheatley, RAFVR. [ Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve]
* Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Harold Peteval.
* Commander James Arbuthnott, RN. [ Royal Navy]
* Major Neil Gordon Clark
* Major Derrick Morley

As head of the LCS, John Bevan would clearly rank as one of the four preeminent deception planners in World War II along with Dudley Clarke, Peter Fleming, and Newman Smith. Along with Bevan’s talents, he was aided by his friendships with General Lord Ismay, who acted as Military Deputy Secretary of the War Cabinet and was Chief of the Chiefs of Staff Committee within the War Cabinet, Sir Stewart Menzies, who was Chief of MI6, and Sir Alan Brooke, who was Chief of the Imperial General Staff - Bevan dined with him 2 or 3 times a month. And Bevan had both direct contact with Churchill and indirect contact through Churchill’s Chief of Staff, Ismay. [ Holt, p. 167.]

Wingate, the Deputy Controlling Officer, became a member of the LCS through the efforts of Ismay. Wingate and Ismay previously had lengthy associations with each other in service of the Crown in India.

The LCS had considerable clout with Churchill, as he had direct interest in deception, and through both Bevan and Wingate being friends with Ismay, Churchill’s Chief of Staff. Lord Charles Wilson Moran, said Ismay was “the Pepys at Churchill’s court, the ‘perfect oil-can.’” [ Brown, p. 274.]

Dennis Wheatley, in his forties, was a prolific, well-known, best-selling author. While initially only a Flight Lieutenant, he often put his notoriety and skill with words to use in dealing with high-ranking officers. Additionally, his writing skills were put to good use in writing up cover and deception plans.


The most significant operation with which LCS was associated was Operation Fortitude, the cover and deception for the Normandy invasion in 1944. The strategic plan for Allied deception in 1944, Operation Bodyguard, was drawn up by LCS, which set down the general story of Fortitude. Fortitude was however implemented by the "Ops (B)" section of SHAEF, under General Eisenhower. Ops (B) was composed of two sections, one dealing with physical deception and the other dealing with Special Means, [ Major Roger Fleetwood-Hesketh commanded the Special Means sub-sections of Ops (B), and, immediately after the conclusion of WW II, he wrote the official history of Operation FORTITUDE, which was eventually published in 2000.] that is, controlled leakage. Initially, the TWIST Committee of the LCS selected the channels for dissemination of controlled leakage. Ultimately, the TWIST committee was abolished and Ops (B) was allowed to deal directly with Section B1A of MI5, which managed controlled agents. [ Hesketh, p. xvi.]

Cold War

Bevan stepped down from the LCS after mid-1945. The LCS continued on into the Cold War period much changed in composition and size.


* Anthony Cave Brown, "Bodyguard of Lies" (Bantam Books, second printing, 1976) ISBN 0-553-01311-4.

* Roger Fleetwood-Hesketh, "FORTITUDE: The D-Day Deception Campaign" (The Overlook Press, 2000) ISBN 1-58567-075-8.

* Thaddeus Holt, "The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War" (A Lisa Drew Book/Scribners, 2004) ISBN 0-7432-5042-7. This 1148-page book is a well-written, comprehensive, and extensively documented account of Allied deception operations during World War II. It has three large appendixes: I Allied Deception Operations, II Special Means Channels, and III The Phantom Armies.

* Dennis Wheatley, "The Deception Planners" (Hutchinson & Co., 1980) ISBN 0-09-141830-5.

Notes and Citations


* Michael Howard, "Strategic Deception in the Second World War: British Intelligence Operations Against the German High Command " (W. W. Norton & Co., published by arrangement with HMSO, 1995) ISBN 0-393-31293-3.
* Jon Latimer, "Deception in War" (John Murray, 2001) ISBN 978-0719556050

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