Brian Tovey

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Person.png Brian Tovey  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Born15 April 1926
Died23 December 2015 (Age 89)
A former head of GCHQ.

Employment.png Director of GCHQ Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
December 1978 - December 1983
Preceded byArthur Bonsall
Succeeded byPeter Marychurch

Sir Brian John Maynard Tovey was a former director of GCHQ, a post he held from December 1978 to December 1983.[1]


Born in London, Tovey was educated at St Edward's School, Oxford, St Edmund Hall, Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies,[2] where he studied modern Chinese.


After national service in the Royal Navy, Tovey joined GCHQ in 1950. He was thus the first GCHQ director not to have worked at Bletchley Park. He was knighted in 1980.

Industrial action in 1981 during Tovey's tenure as Director at GCHQ led later to the banning of trades unions from GCHQ.[3] The decision was also taken to inaugurate the controversial Zircon project.[4]

Later life

Tovey maintains an interest in Italian art of the 13th to 17th centuries. He is currently working on a biography of the life and times of Filippo Baldinucci.[2] It is alleged that while he was Director of GCHQ, Tovey shared this interest with the head of the French SDECE, Alexandre de Marenches, and as a result GCHQ gained valuable intelligence on the war in Afghanistan.[5]

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  1. Document:UK Intelligence And Security Report, 2003
  2. a b Learning Skills foundation profile
  3. Union crusade rewarded as Cook lifts GCHQ ban The Independent, 16 May 1997
  4. Federation of American Scientists: For UK Eyes Alpha
  5. John K. Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, Pluto Press, 1999

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