Light on the Fifth Floor please: A Request for Information

Exploring the seedy side of Scotland Yard, through the spectrum of the 1970s, raises more questions than answers. My Life on Mars blog was conceived as a single essay on Metropolitan Police corruption during the 1970s. I’m now reading, procrastinating, writing and procrastinating on “Part V: Operation Countryman”.

Life on Mars has had 1919 views, and a number of people with personal connections to this period have subsequently contacted me with various tidbits of information. Much obliged.

One aspect of this story I have touched upon, warranting further interrogation, are the institutional politics of Scotland Yard. References to the “Fifth Floor” intrigue me.

I first stumbled across the “Fifth Floor” while reading ex-Detective Commander Leonard “Nipper” Read’s, of Kray-catching fame, ghosted memoirs:

It was clear that the Fifth Floor had taken a distinct dislike to me. There were further disturbing signs when a newspaper article appeared, indicating that the Yard was launching a purge on the personality cult. Headed “Yard takes Star Men out of Limelight”, the report said that the Commissioner, Sir John Waldron, and [Assistant Commissioner Crime] Peter Brodie were worried about two recent cases which had resulted in publicity for the officers leading them. These were the Great Train Robbery and Tommy Butler and the Kray case and me. … The information had been leaked by the Fifth Floor to the newspapers to discredit me. …

Indeed, the reaction by the top brass to the Kray inquiry had been mixed all along. My appointment to the inquiry had been treated with some disdain by the favoured ones on the Fifth Floor, the men who flitted from one department of the Yard to another and who were never involved in anything other than carefully selected inquiries. They received rapid promotion and were always in high profile at functions, chumming it with senior officers. (Leonard Read and James Morton, Nipper: The Story of Leonard “Nipper” Read [London: Macdonald, 1991])

Ex-Detective Constable Jock Murray recalled:

I was one day on the fifth floor of Scotland Yard. This floor was where all the senior officers of various squads had their offices. If a junior officer was seen there colleagues would immediately think you were sucking up to them for something. (Jock Murray, The Whaler of Scotland Yard [Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2011])

I’ve yet to visit the National Archives to find the relevant files. If anyone can recommend any reading on the “Fifth Floor”, or, more pertinently, has any experiences or elucidations on this subject, please contact me. Any information passed on will be received gratefully and confidentially.

Thank you.

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2 Responses to Light on the Fifth Floor please: A Request for Information

  1. You may want to ask Stephen Bentley, very active on twitter these days now he has his book out on his being undercover in a drug squad in the seventies. And Michael Gillard, guess you know his Untouchables. Have a look at our profiles via UndercoverResearch.net, and let me know if you have any documents to share for SpecialBranchFiles.uk

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    • Thanks for the tips. I don’t have, as of yet, any docs to share, but will come across them. Duncan MacLaughlin who also served in the 1980s has some insights into the realities of the Job.

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