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Kenneth COHEN





Kenneth COHEN   Cohen, Kenneth Herman Salaman (1900-1984), intelligence officer, was born on 15 March 1900 at 1 Lower Terrace Branch Hill, Hampstead, London, the son of Jewish parents, Herman Cohen (d. in or after 1932), a barrister and his wife, Bessie Salaman (d. in or after 1932).

     He was educated at Elstree School and then at Eastbourne College before joining the Royal Navy as a 'special entry' cadet in 1918.

     He subsequently served on HMS Iron Duke, and later became an expert on torpedoes. In 1935, as an interpreter in French and Russian, he transferred to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).

     On 22 July 1932 he married Mary Sarah, daughter of Ernest Martin Joseph, architect, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

     Soon after joining SIS Cohen was placed in charge of the London headquarters of a European network known simply as Z, which operated under commercial cover in parallel to the more overt SIS organization that depended upon a string of passport control offices attached to diplomatic premises abroad.

     Masquerading as Kenneth Crane and designated Z-3, Cohen worked through a front organization, Menoline Ltd in Maple Street and an office in Bush House, to recruit sources, including several distinguished foreign correspondents of British newspapers in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and Italy.

     Upon the outbreak of war Z's assets were amalgamated into SIS's main organization and Cohen was attached to the French country section known as A5, becoming head of the Vichy section, designated P1 in May 1940. His task was to recruit sources from within the unoccupied zone of France, and one of his successes was Jacques Bridou, who was parachuted into France in March 1941 to establish the Alliance network, based in Pau and Marseilles and later to be headed by the formidable Marie-Madeleine Meric (Sister of Jacques Bridou and well known as Fourcade).

     In summer 1943, in anticipation of an invasion of Europe, Cohen was selected to take charge of Brissex, the British component of a large scheme, codenamed Sussex Plan, to parachute fifty-four two-man allied intelligence teams behind enemy lines. This huge paramilitary enterprise was intended to disrupt Nazi communications and logistics immediately after D-day and then liaise with local resistance organizations until overrun by the allies. The role played by Cohen required considerable tact and diplomacy because the American volunteers were inexperienced and the French intransigent.

     Cohen was appointed CMG in 1946, and in the aftermath of the war he held senior posts in SIS (chief controller of Europe and director of production).

     He retired in 1953 and was created CB.

     "With his sensitivity, astringent mind and understanding of international problems” (The Times) he served as European adviser to United Steel Companies from 1953 to 1966.

     During the last twenty years of his life his main interest was in promoting cross-channel friendship, and he served as chairman of the Franco-British Society from 1967 to 1972.

     He died in the Westminster Hospital, London, on 19 September 1984, survived by his wife.

                                                                                                                                                Nigel West



The Times (27 Sept 1984) ■ WWW ■ N West, MI6: British secret intelligence service operations, 1909-45 (1983)
Wealth at death
£541,491: probate, 1985, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
© Oxford University Press 2004
All rights reserved: see legal notice
Nigel West, 'Cohen, Kenneth Herman Salaman (1900-1984)',
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
[accessed 9 Dec 2005:]




Based on "Who Was Who"



COHEN, Kenneth Herman Salaman, Commander




CB 1954; CMG 1946; RN

Officier de la Légion d'Honneur (France) [1945];

Croix de Guerre avec palmes (France) [1945];

Legion of Merit, Degree of Officer (USA) [1945];

Officier de la Couronne (Belgium);

Order of the White Lion (Czechoslovakia);

Commandeur de l'Etoile Noire (France), 1960.


European Adviser to United Steel Companies, 1953-66;

Vice-President: European League for Economic Co-operation, since 1972; Chairman of Franco-British Society (1967-72).

Personal Details

Born 15 March 1900; son of late Herman Cohen, Barrister-at-Law, Inner Temple;

Married 1932, Mary Joseph [1910-], daughter of late Ernest Joseph, CBE, FRIBA [architect of Shell-Mex House, the NAFFI, etc]; one son [b 1945], one daughter [1935-92].


Elstree School; [Harrow School],

Eastbourne College,

['Short Courses', Caius College, Cambridge, ?1920 or 4.1923 or are these separate?]


'Special Entry' R N Cadet, 1918, H M S Iron Duke;

Specialised in Torpedo Duties,1926;

RN Staff College, 1932;

Interpreter in French and Russian [ND]

Retired (Lt-Commander), 1935;

[Joined SIS or Z, 1936* {17 years to 1953 per SIS}]

* KC's diary says that in 1936 he 'returned' to NID and was recruited [in a car in the Mall by Dansey, posing as a Mr Mansfield] in 1937 and shortly he was part of Z, as Z2, 'we were two! - at least to start with']

Appointed HMS President [HMS Sheffield according to Daily Telegraph], 1939;

Commander [and Head of French Country Section], 1940;

[Controller Western Europe, 1943]

Attached Foreign Office [Chief Controller Europe], 1945;

[European** Advisor to United Steel Companies, 1953-66]

Councillor, RIIA, Chatham House 1963-75;

[Chairman & Vice President Franco-British Society, 1967-72]

** This took him and my mother to the US, Mexico and Iran for long periods while I was a boarding school which even by today's standards is quite a fluid interpretation of Europe!


Articles in national press on problems of European integration.


33 Bloomfield Terrace, SW1. Telephone: 01-730 3228.


Garrick, [MCC]


Died 19 September 1984.