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Duration 00:40:41

Spies like us: The secret life of Ernest Oldham

The security service files held at The National Archives in series KV 2 reveal that many people involved in espionage, like Foreign Office clerk Ernest Oldham, were ordinary folk who entered an extraordinary world by chance – often with tragic consequences. His story, told through phone intercepts, surveillance notes and secret service reports, reveals the human cost of spying in the 1920s and 1930s.

Dr Nick Barratt works in the Advice and Records Knowledge department. Previously he ran was involved in researching and presenting a number of television series. He has published several books, most recently Greater London: The Story of the Suburbs, and he lectures regularly about history and the media.


  1. Fiona Dunning says:

    I was hoping you could help me. After my grandfather’s death late last year, my family and I found out that he was involved in espionage during ww2. It was also revealed that he recieved a letter of thanks from the British governemnt. My Grandfathers name was Lawrence Keegan, he was born on the 09/08/1923 and I believe that his regimental number is R404661 and was in the Merchant Navy.

    I was hoping that we may be able to get a replica of this letter? as it was stolen. Or if you could point me in the right direction if we could get this information.
    Thank you and kind regards,
    Fiona Dunning.

    1. Ruth Crumey (admin) says:

      Hello Fiona – here at the Archives Media Player, we are not able to respond to personal family history research questions. However you can get in touch with the research enquiries team using the form at

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