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Frederick Forsyth, born in Ashford and started out working at the Kentish Express, reveals his MI6 past in Sunday Times interview

Ashford-born author and journalist Frederick Forsyth today revealed his past working as an MI6 operative at the height of the Cold War.

Forsyth, famous for his espionage novels including The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File, speaks about his time working undercover for more than 20 years in an interview with The Sunday Times. 

He started out working for his hometown newspaper, the Kentish Express, as a 17-year-old cub reporter in 1956 before starting his National Service.

Ashford-born author Frederick Forsyth has revealed he carried out missions for MI6 throughout the Cold War. Picture: wikicommons
Ashford-born author Frederick Forsyth has revealed he carried out missions for MI6 throughout the Cold War. Picture: wikicommons

In the interview, published today, he tells of his time working in East Germany, running several missions to help out MI6 throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

It comes as he publishes his memoir called The Outsider.

Speaking to Sky News this morning he said: "It doesn't do any harm now to mention various adventures that were had way back. We're talking a long time ago.

"I was asked to run a couple of errands, that's all, no James Bond work. They would say Freddie, we've got this little problem." Ashford-born author Frederick Forsyth

"It was the Cold War, it was serious and dangerous.

"I was asked to run a couple of errands, that's all, no James Bond work, that's rubbish.

"They would say Freddie, we've got this little problem could you see your way clear slipping into East Germany and pick something up. So the answer was 'oh, I suppose so'."

He also reveals many of his novels have been based on his experiences and had to be vetted by MI6.

He added: "If I wanted to use stuff which I knew might be sensitive I would call. The reply was usually 'look, write it first and we'll vet it'."

Forsyth, who recently celebrated his 77th birthday, was born in Ashford in 1938.

His parents were shopkeepers in North Street, just a stone's throw away from the current offices of the Kentish Express.

His father ran a fur shop on the first floor and his mother a dress shop on the ground floor.

The Forsyth shop can be seen immediately on the left of this picture of North Street, Ashford in 1971. Picture courtesy of Steve Salter
The Forsyth shop can be seen immediately on the left of this picture of North Street, Ashford in 1971. Picture courtesy of Steve Salter

He wrote for the Kentish Express again in 2005 recalling his time at the paper in a column marking the paper's 150th birthday.

"I had already decided that after two years in the RAF I wanted to be a journalist and foreign correspondent.

"In that year, the editor of the Kentish Express was a Mr Francis," he wrote.

"Of course, I had not a clue what to do. So, I was simply attached to a reporter.

"I got my first taste of magistrates court, town council, cat show, Corn Exchange and involving wonderful rides to the myriad villages that made up east Kent in 1956.

"My first words ever printed for the public concerned a small item of tittle-tattle, stemming from the vibrant metropolis of Peasmarsh, or was it High Halden?

"No matter, after six weeks my call-up papers arrived and I was gone.

"But I have never forgotten my sunny six weeks with the Kentish Express."

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