Chapman Pincher was a journalist who gained considerable notoriety in the 1960s and 70s by his high profile pursuit of traitors in the British secret service. But his first job after leaving university was as a science teacher at the Liverpool Institute school.
He was born Henry Chapman Pincher on 29th March 1914 in Ambala, India where his father, Major Richard Chapman, was serving with the East Surrey Regiment. His stay in the sub-continent was cut short by the outbreak of the First World War which caused the family to return to England. They settled in the north where, after leaving the army in 1922, his father managed a pub and a theatre and his mother, Helen, was an actress. After attending Darlington grammar school he took a degree in botany and zoology at Kings College, London.
After graduating in 1936 he secured a post as biology master at the Liverpool Institute paying the princely sum of £249 per annum. His financial situation was eased slightly when the headmaster arranged for him to teach gymnastics and boxing to boys at the Florence Institute for seven shillings and sixpence a week (about 37p). His first Liverpool home was a bedsit “within walking distance of the school” (I have yet to discover the address). A fellow tenant was Eric Williams who gained fame after the war when he drew on his wartime experiences escaping from a German POW camp to write the book The Wooden Horse, made into a film in 1950. In 1938 he married a Liverpool girl, Margaret Stanford, whom he described as “so strikingly beautiful that she, literally, turned heads in the street”.
Needing more room the newly married couple moved into a larger flat at 56 Devonshire Road L8. The financial pressures of supporting a wife led him into his first foray at writing. Given his upbringing in the country and his scientific background he began to write for farming magazines, expanding later into scientific and then general magazines. He also published a book, The Breeding of Farm Animals. Called up in the autumn of 1940 he was posted to the Royal Armoured Corps but after a motorcycle accident his medical status was downgraded and he was effectively barred from combat duties. He spent several years working on the development of rocket weapons.
Leaving the army in 1946, his marriage having by this time broken down, he joined the Daily Express as a defence correspondent. Assigned to cover stories of exposed Soviet spies such as Alan Nunn May and Klaus Fuchs he developed a fascination for espionage and it became a focal point for his investigative journalism. He cultivated close links with MI5 and MI6 and other members of the establishment which brought him notable scoops. The historian E.P. Thompson wrote “The columns of the Daily Express are a kind of official urinal where high officials of MI5 and MI6 stand side-by-side patiently leaking (to Chapman Pincher)”. In 1981 he published the book Their Trade Is Treachery in which he voiced his suspicions that MI5’s former Director General, Roger Hollis, had been a Soviet spy.
Chapman Pincher died, aged 100, on 5th August 2014 in West Berkshire.
Pincher and his wife Margarate moved into a flat at this address after their marriage in 1938.
There is an extensive biography of Chapman Pincherat the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Also worth a read is the obituary in the Guardian. He published an autobiography Chapman Pincher: Dangerous to Know [Biteback 2014] but only four pages deal with his time in Liverpool. There are a variety of bits on YouTube, notably a Channel 4 interview with Jon Snow just before his 100th birthday.
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