Richard Henry Stevens (9 April 1893 – 12 February 1967) was a major in the British Indian Army and from 1939 Head of the Passport Control Office (PCO) of the British Secret Intelligence Service in the Netherlands. His name is closely associated with the Venlo Incident in 1939.
Background and earlier life
Stevens mastered Arabic, Hindustani, and Malay, and until 1939 worked as an Intelligence Officer in India. That year he was transferred to Europe and put in charge of the SIS station in The Hague. His second language was Greek and he also spoke excellent German, French and Russian but he had no specific training or experience of intelligence gathering in Europe.
Abduction at the Venlo Incident
In November 1939 he was abducted to Germany in the Venlo Incident with Captain Sigismund Payne Best. It has been suggested that he may then have revealed vital secrets about the Secret Intelligence Service under interrogation. In any event, the inexperienced Stevens was carrying on his person a plain-text list of SIS agents when he was abducted.
The two officers were imprisoned for over five years in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps before their release in April 1945. Nazi propaganda portrayed Best and Stevens as the alleged masterminds of the Beer Hall attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler by Georg Elser.
Stevens left the army as a lieutenant-colonel, having been promoted to that rank during his captivity. He then worked as a translator at NATO in Paris and London between 1951 and 1952. He died of cancer in 1967.
- Richard Henry Stevens, www.venlo-zwischenfall.de (in German)
- D. Cameron Watt, ‘Best, Sigismund Payne (1885–1978)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Peter Koblank: Die Befreiung der Sonder- und Sippenhäftlinge in Südtirol, Online-Edition Mythos Elser 2006 (in German)
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- Peis, Günter : The Man Who Started The War, London 1960
- Posthumus Meyjes, Herman C.: De Enquêtecommissie is van oordeel - een Samenvatting van het onderzoek naar het parlementaire de regeringsbeleid in oorloogsjaren, Arnhem / Amsterdam 1958
- Schellenberg, Walter: The Schellenberg Memoirs, London 1956 (German Records, Munich 1979)
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