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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Secret file 05 – Keith Tyson

Born on 19 March 1933. At the time of the Prague Papers (1975) he was forty-two.

He’s tall, with grey eyes and black eyebrows that arch rakishly, and has a square jaw, a thin face and deep furrows run down both cheeks. 


Tyson was fascinated by technology and always had been. As a young man he enjoyed an active, outdoor life; a sort of contradiction, being a studious type as well. After obtaining his Spanish degree at King’s College, Durham, he drifted for a couple of months then on impulse joined the Royal Engineers. As the advertisements of the time stated, the Army made a man of him. He thrived on the kind of activity they dished up; a fit body and an alert mind, plenty of action, good money and good food. He cut out drinking, save for special occasions, and then always in moderation. He had never smoked as he couldn’t see anything sensible about ingesting smoke into his lungs.

            In his spare time he took a seamanship course and soon obtained a Coxswain’s certificate. His eyes were good and after hours of practice he attained marksman standard with a Browning pistol: heavy but damned accurate – unlike some toy-like automatics he’d tried.

            Two years later (1962) he joined the SAS, successfully passing their rigorous courses, proud to be given his wings and the sand-coloured beret.

            In 1962 he was in Rhodesia and then in Borneo he spent about ten months in a four man team, training Iban/Border Scouts, the local tribesmen, who became the Army’s eyes and ears to defend the Malaysian border with the Kalimantan region of Indonesia. They were good liaison officers with the locals and also acted as additional infantry and guides.

            While his fighting impulse was more than satisfied, he wasn’t being academically challenged until his patrol met up with the Kalabit, a head-hunting tribe who didn’t particularly like the Chinese communists. The Kalabit taught Tyson their customs and, more interestingly, basic Malay, which was far better than the short course he’d undertaken before being shipped out.

            Unfortunately, in September of that year the Long Jawi Scout Post was massacred by a group of Indonesians. Tyson had known and trained many of the dead and openly grieved for them with other Scouts. Thereafter, the Scouts were solely used as intelligence gatherers and acquitted themselves well for another three years. But Tyson didn’t share in their successes as he’d moved on to Aden in April 1964 shortly after two SAS soldiers’ heads had been displayed impaled on stakes in the main square of Taiz, across the Yemen border.

            Tyson and his new team – Dave, Benny and Mark – were ordered to bring back some enemy heads and they did so. It was grisly work and Benny Bateman suffered severe leg wounds that meant he’d never walk again. But they got him out – and brought back six FLOSY heads.

            On his return from that mission he was recruited into the Counter Revolutionary Warfare unit to cope with the insurgents in the port of Aden itself. Here, he learned counter-insurgency skills which later would be honed against terrorists.

            But he didn’t have much opportunity to use these new abilities as he was asked to attend an urgent hush-hush meeting in a shed at Khormaksar airport. Here he was introduced to Admiral Sands, a short man who seemed uncomfortable in civilian clothes.

            They shook hands and it was all very informal. ‘I’m authorised by your CO to put to you an unusual request, Sergeant,’ Sands had said, his sharp features lightening with a slight smile. ‘We’re talking wheels within wheels here, you realise?’

            ‘Sorry, sir, but you’ve lost me already.’

            ‘That’s my fault. I’ve been with the cloak-and-dagger crowd for four years now and you tend to go all cryptic. Let me explain.’

            Admiral Sands was there on behalf of a certain Sir Gerald Hazard from a covert company called International Interprises. ‘An autonomous bit of MI6, actually,’ Sands said.

            Tyson’s life was about to change dramatically. It began with the unorthodox assignment Sands had been sent to set up. Tyson with three other members of the SAS were parachuted into Brazil under the directive of the Defence Minister; top secret diplomatic clearances had been arranged, complete with sweeteners in the form of generous trade agreements. Two Interprises agents, Mason and Cally, had kidnapped a high-ranking KGB Director of Peru. But their plane crashed in the Brazilian jungle. Interprises had no available operatives up to the rigours of jungle tracking; so the SAS had been brought in.

            Tyson and his two comrades rescued the Russian and the Interprises agents, taking them to a secret rendezvous with the country’s first nuclear-powered submarine, HMS Dreadnought.

            Landing at Rosyth, the two Interprises agents spirited the Soviet spy away. Tyson left his three comrades to some well-earned leave in Edinburgh while he caught the train down to one of Sir Gerald’s country homes just outside Morpeth, as instructed.

            ‘I’ve already had a report from Mason and Cally,’ Sir Gerald said. ‘They were greatly impressed and again send their thanks.’

            ‘I was just doing my job, sir,’ Tyson replied, sipping Vichy water. ‘They held up pretty well in that jungle, all things considered.’

            ‘Yes.’ Sir Gerald grinned and Tyson thought that his features slightly resembled a death-mask from Borneo. ‘Think about what I’m going to offer you. No guarantees, mind. We don’t work that way.’ He gave Tyson a card. ‘Should you want to get in touch.’

            There was something about the man that inspired trust. You really wanted to follow him. Tyson wondered what Sir Gerald had done in his war.

            For days afterwards he couldn’t settle. That indefinable ‘something’ that he’d been chasing all his adult life, it seemed to be on offer from this mysterious organization called Interprises. Certainly, it was linked in some way to MI6. Yet it had autonomy, which he liked. And it was run by a man he could believe in.

            On the fourth day he fished out Sir Gerald’s card and telephoned the man.

            Although he was in the middle of a meeting, Sir Gerald made time for him. ‘I’d like to join your team, sir. There’s just the one problem – I’m signed up for-’

            ‘Your release can be taken care of, no problem,’ Sir Gerald interrupted.

            ‘Then I’m your man.’

            ‘You’re happy about doing more training?’

            ‘No problem, sir.’

            ‘And although we’re keen on team players, you’ll often be quite alone in hostile territory. You’re used to working in a four-man team. Being alone won’t bother you?’

            ‘No, sir. I’m comfortable with my own company.’

            ‘I thought so. Welcome to our little organization, then, Mr Tyson.’

            It felt strange, being called that. Mister. He quite liked the sound of it.

            Within the month (in 1965), his resignation was sanctioned and he received instructions about training at the Fort in Gosport, where he met Tana Standish.

Tomorrow, November 26 sees the release of The Prague Papers published by Crooked Cat. The Papers are based on a manuscript handed to me by an MI6 agent, Alan Swann. It needed some knocking into shape, as it had been a collaborative effort by a select group of agents, all intent on telling the story of Tana Standish, psychic spy, whose career spanned 1965 to 1988. They asked that her story be told as fiction.

As a result, the novel The Prague Papers is the first adventure to feature Tana Standish and is mainly set in Czechoslovakia in 1975.

Certain information was divulged in order for me to write the book; yet some has been concealed to date. This is the fifth secret file – and the last – to be released ahead of the book.

Tyson is featured in the short story ‘Hell for Leather’, scheduled for the Saturday Story slot on 29 November.

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