Montgomery Hyde was born on 14 August 1907 in Belfast, Ireland. He attended Queen's University Belfast where he gained a first-class history degree, and Magdalen College, where he received a second-class law degree. Hyde was called to the Bar in 1934 but between 1935 and 1939 he worked as a librarian, hired specifically to research family papers and write their history.
He joined the Intelligence Corp in 1939 working as an Assistant Censor in Gibraltar before he became the Military Liaison and Security Officer for a Censorship Station in Bermuda. There, he helped bring down the largest German spy ring that operated in the United States during the Second World War.
Bermuda was used as a Censorship Station due to the large amount of transatlantic mail that passed through it. Over 1000 British intelligence officers, academics and code-breakers manned the station during the course of the war. Their job was to check letters to see if they contained useful intelligence for the war effort.
The station had its greatest success when it helped bring down the German Spy Ring being operated in the United States by Kurt Frederick Ludwig in 1940-1. The spy ring was passing on information about allied shipping in New York Harbour and other military information to Berlin for it to be used by German submarines in the Atlantic.
Ludwig had been using the alias ‘Joe K’, and, thanks to Censorship Examiner Nadya Gardiner, secret writing had been discovered on the back of letters he was sending to Berlin. The Station passed this information to the FBI, alerting them of the presence of spy ring but not the identities of the members. After some time monitoring his letters, a mistake made by Ludwig led to the ring being brought down. The secret writing on one of his letters revealed he had witnessed one of his agents being killed in a car accident in New York. This was passed to the FBI who identified the accident and then Ludwig. He was placed under surveillance which led to him and ten other members of the ‘Joe K’ spy ring being arrested and indicted in the US District Court for treasonable conspiracy and espionage. Censors from Bermuda were flown to New York to testify against the spies.
As the Liaison and Security Officer, Hyde would have been responsible for exchanging information with the FBI and ensuring the secrecy of the station’s work. Any leak could have destroyed the operation and Hyde’s job would have been to ensure this wouldn’t happen.
This image shows secret writing describing the car accident which helped bring down the spy ring.
From 1941 to 1942, Hyde Montgomery also worked for William Stephenson and British Security Coordination, or BSC, an organisation you can learn more about here
He was with British Army Staff, USA from 1942 to 1944, attached to the Supreme HQ Allied Expeditionary Force in 1944, before being seconded to the Allied Control Commission for Austria until 1945 as a legal officer.
Following the war, he became a published author releasing an autobiography as well as books about William Stephenson and Oscar Wilde. Hyde also spent 9 years as the Ulster Unionist Part MP for North Belfast from 1950 to 1959. He was deselected by his party in 1959 after he argued strongly in favour of decriminalising homosexuality in a debate about implementing the Wolfenden report. The report had recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence" after a number of high-profile men had been convicted of homosexuality. Hyde had been one of the most prominent MP’s in seeking a debate over the report and was one of its most vocal supports. He was then narrowly deselected in a vote he had been unable to attend. He would go on to write the first ever social history of homosexuality in Britain and Ireland, The Other Love.