JRR Tolkien trained as a British spy just before World War Two!

Posted: September 16, 2009 in Fantasy, History, Tech
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

According to previously unseen records, Tolkien trained with the top-secret Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS) and this was just a few months before the Second World War began.

He spent three days at their London HQ in March 1939 and it was just 18 months after the publication of his first book the world famous The Hobbit.

But although he was ‘interested”, Tolkien who was a professor of English literature at Oxford University – declined a £500 a year offer to become a full-time recruit.

The reasons behind his decision are not known to us today.

Instead he went on to write the Lord of the Rings trilogy, one of the most popular and influential works in 20th-Century literature which later became world famous movies.

Tolkien’s involvement with the war effort was shown for the first time this week in a new exhibition at GCHQ, the new name for GCCS, the Government’s spy base in Cheltenham, Glos.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, or ‘JRR’ Tolkien as he became known, was among a selected few of intellectuals that was chosen  for service by the Foreign Office.

The GCCS began preparing for a second World War in the late 1930s, and quickly knew the importance of establishing a code breaking centre to defeat the German forces.

The director of GCCS, known only as ‘Alastair G Denniston’, drew up a list of 50 possible candidates ”earmarked for service” in the event of a war.

Tolkien, a professor of Anglo Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and professor of English Language and Literature from 1945 to 1959, was suggested.

Tolkien and 12 others agreed to a ”tester” day at GCCS HQ in London, where he  received training in Scandinavian languages and Spanish.

He visited the base for three days between March 27th and March 29th 1939.

A record of his training carries the word ”keen” beside his name.

Those who passed the course, and agreed to sign-up, were offered an annual wage of £500 – the equivalent of around £50,000 today.

But Tolkien – who is assumed to have passed the course with flying colours – rejected the offer.

The exhibition opened in a museum at GCHQ HQ this week and will remain on show for the next few months.

It also includes documents from the First World War, and a range of captured Enigma machines, but the exhibition is not open to everyone, the museum is strictly only open for GCHQ’s 10,000 staff.

Read the full article here

Picture from Telegraph.co.uk

  1. Kelli Garner says:

    Really nice posts. I will be checking back here regularly.

    • loleth says:


      Thank you very much for the nice comment! Really made me glad to hear and makes the effort of keeping this blogg running well worth it and wants me to develop it as well.

      Feel free to give me feedback, comments and tips on sites, topics, improvents or other things you might think would be interesting for the blogg. I’m quite open to post about other stuff then archaeology and tech but that is the main topics of the blog. New posts are coming soon as well so stay tuned! Iv’e got a cold and very much work with my archaeology studies which have kept me superbusy. But now I’m back on track so the blogg will get alot more attention from me which it deserves.

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