His skills were honed as a member of Rotha Lintorn-Orman’s British Fascists who imported the ideology of Fascism. He was the group’s spymaster and managed to assemble a large number of amateur sleuths, who reported regularly on Communist group activity. It was his success during these pre-war Fascist interventions that made him a must-have recruit for MI5. Previous books and articles have uncovered aspects of Maxwell Knight’s life, behaviour and psychology to leave readers in no doubt that he wasn’t immune to foibles and human weaknesses. All that glistens is not gold and he would be amongst the first to have admitted that he was indeed just human.
Scratch deeper, though, and “the truth,” as Winston Churchill once said “is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may defend it, but in the end, there it is.” Maxwell Knight’s fascinating contribution to natural history and national history.
He lived two very separate, but equally influential, lives. He had (at times) the ear of Winston Churchill, during the Second World War; the respect of his naturalist peers, which included the professional zoo community, leading wildlife charities and the blessing of the BBC to broadcast confidently to a nation.
This is a man who knew how to be a detective in the field and organise a mine of counter-subversion information and who used his powers of deduction to record The Frightened Face of Nature to forewarn all of us that nature only lives once.