From Epsom to Moscow (and Back) | Epsom College
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From Epsom to Moscow (and Back)

On Tuesday, the College was privileged to welcome Sir John Scarlett, alumnus of Epsom College and former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, who gave a fascinating talk on his career to a packed-out audience

Sir John Scarlett engaged the audience with stories of his formative life at Epsom College, where he found his love of learning and developed his leadership skills. Awarded a first-class degree in history from Oxford University, following a short time in industry, Sir John joined the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) – more commonly known as MI6.

From 1971 to 2009, Sir John held postings in Moscow, Nairobi, Paris and London. Moscow required fluency in Russian, which he achieved, along with fluency in French as well. Sir John’s first stint in Moscow coincided with the fall of he USSR, during which time he was closely watched by the KGB and his role required him to learn to think like the enemy. Amazingly, he said that he never feared for his own safety, however he did for his agents, who could have been executed if their covers were blown; discretion was paramount.

As Chief of the SIS, Sir John regularly met with prime ministers, Sir Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Serving during a very turbulent time in the world, his priorities included the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR, the invasion of Iraq, South Africa and apartheid, plus global nuclear threats.

Pupils, staff and parents enjoyed a captivating hour filled with Sir John’s encounters, we are very grateful to him for taking the time to return to the College.