The below is from TIME Magazine – June 25, 2001 – P.23, Milestones
DIED. DAVID SPEDDING, 58, who from 1994 to ’99 was the man known as C, the traditional designation for the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6); of lung cancer; in London. The post had its James Bondish arcana (C’s top-secret memos, for example, were supposedly written in green ink, which only C could use). But Spedding became a rather public spy, even though his photograph was never published until his death. The infamous Soviet mole Kim Philby revealed his name in 1971 during a Moscow-London spy spat. Spedding later reorganized the post-cold war service, focusing on his specialty, the Middle East. In 1984 he reputedly helped thwart an Abu Nidal attack on Queen Elizabeth when she was on visit to Jordan.
By Audy Woods
The Associated Press
LONDON – Retired spy chief Sir David Spedding, once the real-life embodiment of James Bond’s fictitional boss “M,” died Wednesday (June 13, 2001) at the age of 58.
The Foreign Office, which did not even publicly acknowledge the existence of the Secret Intelligence Service until 1994, said Spedding died after a long illness.
After nearly 30 years as a spy, Spedding had been appointed in 1994 to head the service long known to thriller readers and the general public as MI6.
He had been the youngest head of the agency since its founding in 1909.
An expert in Middle East terrorism, Spedding was the first MI6 chief not to be a Soviet Specialist, reflecting the post-Cold War shift of emphasis in the espionage agency.
Spedding, who had studied at Oxford University, was recruited into MI6 in 1967 and attended the Middle East Center for Arabic Studies, near Beirut, Lebanon – once a training center for British spies.
CIA director George Tenet called Spedding “a tremendous friend, colleague and mentor not only for me but for all the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency and the entire Intelligence community.
“Sir David was a magnificent partner; together our nations fought the scourges of terrorism, destabilizing regional conflict, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and international narcotics trafficking,” the statement said.
Spedding, like his predecessors, was known in government circles as “C,” for Chief, the inspiration for “M,” the creation of James Bond author Ian Fleming.
Sir David invited Dame Judi Dench to MI6’s Christmas lunch in 1998 after the actress, who has played “M” in recent 007 movies, expressed an interest in learning more about her real-life counterpart.
Traditionally, “C” writes memos in green ink and is the only member of the service who is allowed to do so.
“C” is also the only MI6 member whose identity is made public, but Spedding discouraged the taking of his photograph.