Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Double-Cross System: The Incredible True Story of How Nazi Spies Were Turned into Double Agents” as Want to Read:
The Double-Cross System: The Incredible True Story of How Nazi Spies Were Turned into Double Agents
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Double-Cross System: The Incredible True Story of How Nazi Spies Were Turned into Double Agents

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  182 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Filled with highly sensitive information about espionage, this secret report was never intended to go beyond a very select audience within the government and security services. The man who wrote it in 1945 was J. C. Masterman, MI5 recruit and leader of the shadowy XX Committee. He was the mastermind behind one of the war’s most remarkable achievements: finding, turning and ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by The Lyons Press (first published February 16th 1972)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Double-Cross System, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Double-Cross System

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
THE DOUBLE CROSS SYSTEM. (1972). J. C. Masterman. ****.
During WW II, espionage played a vital role in contributing to both the strategic and tactical plans of all combatants. A sub-set of espionage was the use of double agents. In this book, originally written as a final report to the Ministry in 1945, the author tells of how an organization reporting to MI5 managed to turn about forty of Germany’s spies into spies for the British effort. These spies were normally apprehended as they tried to e
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: WW2 history buffs
Written shortly after the end of the Second World War but not published for almost 30 years after that, John Cecil Masterman's account of the "double cross" system is meticulous, balanced and well organized. Since it was written relatively soon after the war ended, Masterman's perspective is still very immediate and there isn't too much hindsight to colour the impressions he has. As one might expect of an Oxford don, he writes well, with elegantly long sentences and touches of wry humour (one ex ...more
Zella Kate
Decided to reread this after reading Marks's book. Masterman focuses specifically on how the British infiltrated the German spy system in England and turned the agents into double agents. This was written as a government report shortly after the war ended, so in many ways, it reads like a report, but Masterman has a sly sense of humor that periodically pops up. And the topic itself is fascinating as he relates stories of staged sabotage and deception. Masterman also matter of factly gives practi ...more
A rather dry account of the counter espionage program carried on by Britain in WWII. It was never meant to be the material of a best seller, it seems, and thus the rather amazing information is conveyed in a straightforward, mostly unadorned business-like manner. However, there are a few intermittent touches of wry humor.
Nishant Pappireddi
A good explanation of how the British controlled the entire German spy network in the UK by turning them into double agents and how they made use of the double cross system.
Mohammad Ali
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oh boy, the British took the Germans for a wild ride with their double agents during world war two. Awesome read on how they hired from competition, convinced people to betray their paymasters for their own benefit. A very methodical book, which is primarily a declassified report on the whole affair, submitted right after the war.

It's not just a propaganda book, it describes the nature of double agents, counter-espionage, mistakes that were made, what went well and what not. It shows the uncert
Scott Weeks
Dry, but compelling. Dry because it is a reprint in book form of a government report, compelling because it is a report on how the British government in World War II controlled the German spy network in England. Masterman introduces the work with thoughts on the whys and wherefores of running a double cross system-where the German spies were turned and used against Germany, rather than merely being arrested and thrown in prison-among other reasons, they could control what information Germany rec ...more
Aug 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: WWII and espionage buffs
Shelves: espionage
I'm fascinated by the deception campaigns of WWII. This book was written by one of the men who devised the "double-cross system," in which the British intelligence service fed misinformation to the Germans. Basically, all the German spies in Britain were captured early on in the war and subsequently controlled by the British.

The book is essentially a government report that was written, but not released until 1972. (Basically, the British were not in any particular hurry to disclose their methods
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Masterman, a university professor and mystery writer, was a leading member of the XX Committee--MI6's committee that ran turned German agents during World War II. As nearly as can be told, the British suborned every German agent in England and used them to funnel false information back to German spymasters while allowing the English to learn about what the Germans actually knew. Masterman's book is a reprint of his original report to the British government at the end of the war, just prior to re ...more
Roger Thomas
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really exciting tale of WWII. Most probably true but when I visited the Imperial War Museum in London the had a display out on life in the UK during the war and it included a reward poster for a spy. I wrote them asking about the conflicting claims in the Masterman book. A member of the IWM staff said they were not free to comment at the time but would let me know at some future date....which has yet to arrive if it ever will. Still a good story that hangs together with history almost as I learn ...more
Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was fascinating, both for its straightforward outline of precisely how and where Britain used double agents and for the sheer convolutedness of a lot of its specific examples (especially agents "Scruffy" and "Meteor", and the deception centered around the fake "Major Martin").
Ron Grimes
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting historical book about the spies of WWII. I also have Spycatcher by Peter Wright which makes an interesting foil to Double-Cross, but it's been a long time since I read Spycatcher, and it's time to revisit it.
Jens Hansen
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-2
A classic. All too often the original accounts of history are forgotten in favour of later compilations. Of course the latter often have a broader perspective, but reading the originals is just that little bit more fun.
Steve Coscia
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent look into five, key WWII double-cross agents. A fast read. The psychological warfare played by Great Britain was a key part of their success. The XX Committee took their time and developed strategy that hoodwinked the Nazis. Well researched with lots of historical references.
Jun 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
At times interesting but at times pretty boring. I thought it would be more accessible to the common person. I think it was too in depth for me to enjoy and there were a lot of parts that were hard to follow or remember.
Eric Moore
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally written as a government report on the Double Cross system by the man responsible for running it, the writing is a little dry as you might imagine. Not badly written, but a straightforward and to the point telling of the story. But what a story.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This study of British counter-intelligence during the Second World War is a must read for anyone interested in the period. The author was there, and he tells the amazing tale of how the British confounded German intelligence throughout the war.
Brady R.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic look at the business of counterintelligence. Readily accessible to even the most casual student of World War 2.
Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: raids-ww-ii
All Nazi spies in W.W.II Britain were caught. Many were executed but most were turned into double agents. Here is how, written by the man behind the operation..
Zachary Harless
rated it it was amazing
Jun 26, 2015
rated it really liked it
Feb 09, 2012
Jim Ellis
rated it it was amazing
Jan 22, 2016
David Bessick
rated it it was amazing
Nov 09, 2017
Monica A
rated it liked it
Nov 08, 2014
Tolga Inanc
rated it really liked it
Nov 23, 2016
Nacho Mares
rated it it was amazing
Jul 31, 2017
rated it it was amazing
Dec 27, 2015
rated it liked it
Dec 02, 2011
John Smithwicks
rated it really liked it
Dec 29, 2016
Tom Newman
rated it liked it
Feb 22, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Ultra Secret
  • Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler
  • At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends
  • Brazen Chariots
  • Army of Evil: A History of the SS
  • The Man Who Never Was
  • Scorched Earth: The Russian-German War, 1943-1944
  • Submarine!
  • The Last Days of Hitler
  • A Short History of World War II
  • Paris-Underground
  • Double Death: The True Story of Pryce Lewis, the Civil War's Most Daring Spy
  • Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II
  • The Phantom Major
  • Zig Zag: The Incredible Wartime Exploits Of Double Agent Eddie Chapman
  • September Hope: The American Side of a Bridge Too Far
  • The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea
  • Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk
Born on 12 January 1891, John Cecil Masterman was educated at the Royal Naval Colleges of Osborne and Dartmouth and at Worcester College, Oxford, where he read Modern History.

He later studied at the University of Freiburg where he was also an exchange lecturer in 1914, whicht was where he was when World War I broke out. Consequently he was interned as an enemy alien for four years in a prisoner-of
More about J.C. Masterman...