Officers working for MI6 have long been viewed as hardened James Bond types, conducting covert operations around the world to thwart villains bent on global domination.
But like Bond, today’s MI6 officers also know how to enjoy themselves. The FT has learnt that hundreds, from across the organisation, are set to let their hair down later this year when they hold a gala ball to celebrate the organisation’s foundation 100 years ago.
As is typical of the Secret Intelligence Service, the timing and location of the secret agents’ ball is being kept, well ... secret. However, details about the event are gradually emerging from the organisation’s fortress-like headquarters in London’s Vauxhall Cross.
The ball will be a black tie affair for several hundred MI6 officers. Spouses will be invited, in order to ensure that MI6’s predominantly male staff have someone to dance with.
Above all, MI6 officers are keen to make clear that, in these cash-strapped times, they are paying for tickets to the event from their own hard-earned wages.
As it prepares to mark its centenary, MI6 believes it has much to celebrate. It was founded in October 1909, amid deep concern in Whitehall about Germany’s military and naval expansion.
Today, the organisation says it helps the government fight “regional instability, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and illegal narcotics”.
Serious stuff, of course. But what about the ball, the FT asks. Surely there will be vesper martinis, roulette tables, a car park full of Aston Martin DB5s? We can’t say, comes the reply. This is all very much For Your Eyes Only.