London, Sep 22 (ANI): A range of useful products for spies including a pen that fired tear gas and an exploding safe to get rid of secret documents was developed by MI6's legendary "Q branch".
In an echo of the James Bond films, an experienced army quartermaster colonel, with the designation "Q", headed the Directorate of Training and Development.
The branch issued a newsletter in September 1947, detailed in the new official history of the Secret Intelligence Service, which explained some of the products they were working on, reports the Telegraph.t included a red light torch for "operators on burglarious enterprises" a "knock-out ampoule or tablet" designed to work on different metabolisms in a "reasonably predictable manner", an electronic device for opening combination safes and a "gun silencer which does not become less silent with use."
Other projects included drugged cigarettes - cocaine was thought to be the best substance but Q branch could not find enough - an investigation into "the use of hypnotism and/or drugs during briefing and interrogation" and "the uses of plastic lenses as a method of simulating sever cataract of the eyes so as to avoid conscription for forced labour."
There were also cameras hidden in matchboxes and a pen that fired minature tear gas pellets at pursuers, along with innumerable ways of hiding smuggled messages in objects like shaving kits and thermos flasks.
As part of the challenge of infiltrating agents into foreign territory after the Second World War, Q branch came up with a number of options for throwing tracking dogs off the scent.
They included aniseed - dismissed after experiments that were supposed to prove dogs could not resist it actually found they "couldn't care less" - and "bear fat or cheetah fat" supposed to awaken "atavistic memories" that would scare the dogs but actually was "eaten faster than a week's meat ration."
Similar problems were experienced when they tried to work on "the destruction of all those files you have kept till the last moment...and the last moment comes a little sooner than you expected."
The Q branch newsletter added: "There is no time now to shovel the stuff in the fire because a determined man could hit you with one hand and pull the stuff out of the stove with the other."
The aim was to destroy a filing cabinet full of files using acid. The report said: "We hope the paper will disappear in the short time it takes a man to run up a flight of stairs" but "the way things are going it will have to be a short, fat man with gout and broken wind."
Eventually they settled on nine pounds of paper - equivalent to code books with their hard covers removed and three "top secret" files - and inserted an unidentified "oxygen carrying material" into the safe.
When forty spectators assembled for an outdoor trial, they reported that the safe seemed to be "on the point of explosion" and the gas issuing out of holes in the bottom of the safe meant it was "lifted some inches off the ground" forcing observes to retire to a "place of safety behind the building."
A less combustible version was produced which destroyed the documents in just under two minutes, although it still produced a lot of smoke. (ANI)