Event date: 15 October, 2021

Blue Plaque for Milicent Bagot – Putney Alumna and MI5 Officer

Achievements, Alumnae, Alumnae Events, Celebration, Events, General, Guests, News, Senior School, Sixth Form, Suzie Longstaff

The Putney Society has erected a blue plaque on the former house of Milicent Bagot CBE, a Putney High School alumna who was the first women ever appointed to a senior rank in MI5, paving the way for increased gender diversity in this field.  

Milicent had a reputation as a formidable security officer and specialised in international communism throughout her service, advising on the threat posed by the Soviet bloc to Britain during the Cold War. After the war Milicent spent some time working with British authorities in the Middle East, guiding them on how to overcome Soviet subversion. By 1949 she was recognised as a leading expert on the matter for her unparalled knowledge and was promoted to Assistant Director of MI5 in 1953. Milicent is thought to be the inspiration for the character Connie Sachs from John le Carré’s novels Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People.  

Although most of the details about her career remain shrouded in secrecy, one of her most significant cases involved an investigation to decipher the infamous Zinoviev Letter of 1924, a document which detailed Soviet plans to encourage a revolution from British workers and called on them to strike. The letter was leaked amid a divisive general election and is thought to have contributed to the collapse of the Labour government at the time. Although the true origins of the letter are still unconfirmed, Milicent’s work contributed to further investigations which concluded that it was most likely the result of forgery crafted by anti-Soviet emigrants living in Latvia. 

This will be the first plaque that the Putney Society has ever awarded to commemorate a woman and recognises the significant impact that Milicent made to her field whilst living in Putney.

Mrs Longstaff had the honour of unveiling the plaque this afternoon, in the company of members of the Putney Society, Putney’s local MP, Fleur Anderson, and leader of the Wandsworth Council, Ravi Govindia. Mrs Longstaff said she was ‘over the moon’ to be able to reveal the plaque, as it was ‘the first to be awarded to a Putney alumna, but most certainly not the last’. 

Mrs Longstaff hearing about Milicent's fascinating life and career
Mrs Longstaff hearing about Milicent's fascinating life and career
Mrs Page-Roberts and Mrs Longstaff unveiling the plaque
Mrs Page-Roberts and Mrs Longstaff unveiling the plaque
Milicent's Plaque is revealed!
Milicent's Plaque is revealed!
Milicent's height (no shoes) 1918. Written inside the house she lived in for most of her life
Milicent's height (no shoes) 1918. Written inside the house she lived in for most of her life
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