TracesOfWar needs your help! We miss photos of important sights in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. Submit your photos to and it will be published!

Ashford-Russell, Brian Harborough

Date of birth:
February 19th, 1907
Date of death:
February 4th, 2003
Service number:
British (1801-present, Kingdom)


Brian Ahford-Russell grew up in South Africa where his father had business interests. At 20 years old he went to South America to work as a cattle buyer. In the 1930s he worked in Peru and Ecuador.
He returned to England shortly before outbreak of war, when he was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps.
He volunteered for commando training and sailed for the Mediterranean with Number 7 Commando as part of "Layforce", commanded by Bob Laycock.
In the Spring of 1941 he was wounded and taken prisoner during operations in the Western Desert. Yet he managed to convince the medical board in the POW camp that he should be repatriated under the Geneva Convention.
In 1943 he was recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
Ashford-Russellís task was to establish contact with Italians able to provide military intelligence and identify targets on or behind the well-sited German lines of defence for attack by Allied aircraft or sabotage.
After the war he worked with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in Italy until he joined the Information Department of the Foreign Office in 1948. Subsequently he served in Bari, Mexico, Paris, with the UN headquarters in New York, Argentina, South Africa and finally as counsellor in Rome.

Do you have more information about this person? Inform us!

Second World War (1939-1945)
Temporary Major
Inter-Services Liaison Department (ISLD), Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), Imperial General Staff, War Office, British Government
Awarded on:
December 21st, 1944
"For his work in command of our Italian section since November 1943. This officer has been responsible for the recruiting, training and briefing of all our agents to N. Italy. Taking into account the inherent difficulty of instilling a sense of discipline and high morale into Italian agents, the greatest credit is due to ASHFORD RUSSELL for the fact that in a space of three months he had placed in the field an efficient net work of agents. His energy and perserverance and particularly his personality when drilling agents in their duties has been beyond all praise. The fact that there is now a good flow of military information coming from enemy occupied Italy is very largely, due to this officer's powers of leadership and exceptional organising ability."

The citation mentions his unit was the ISLD (Inter-Services Liaison Department) which was a cover name for SIS activities.
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
First Secretary (local Counsellor)
H.M. Embassy Rome
Awarded on:
January 1st, 1968

1968 New Year Honours
Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
H.M. Embassy Rome
Awarded on:
in recognition of his services to Italy