Photo of Peter Mason, date unknown.

Captain Peter Mason, a figure whose life was as intriguing as any spy novel, served in the British Special Air Service (SAS) during World War II. Very little is known about his early life. Much of his life and experiences have been largely kept confidential due to the nature of his work. Mason’s life and autobiography, Official Assassin. Winston Churchill’s SAS Hit Team, provides the basis of some of the James Bond exploits, as recreated by Ian Fleming. Mason was known to be a friend of Fleming. Mason’s autobiography reportedly got him in a bit of trouble with the British government.

Mason served in both the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Special Air Service (SAS) during World War II. He was a Grenadier Guards officer who joined the SOE, trained Chinese guerrilla troops, and participated in commando raids in Norway.

Cover of Captain Peter Mason’s autobiography.  Fair use.


The SOE was a secret British organization established during World War II. It was officially formed on July 22, 1940, with the purpose of conducting espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance in territories occupied or attacked by the Axis forces.

The SOE was created by merging three existing secret departments shortly after the outbreak of World War II. The organization was known for its unconventional operations and was often referred to as “The Baker Street Irregulars,” or the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”.

The SOE’s main mission was to aid local resistance movements in Europe and Asia. They operated in all territories occupied or attacked by the Axis forces, except where demarcation lines were agreed upon with Britain’s principal Allies, the United States and the Soviet Union.

The SOE employed more than 13,000 people, about 3,200 of whom were women. The agents were people from all walks of life, including former chefs, electricians, and journalists. The organization was dissolved in 1946.

War in the Far East exhibit in the Imperial War Museum London. Among the collection are a Japanese Good Luck Flag, operational map, photographs of Force 136 personnel and guerillas in Burma, a katana that was surrendered to a SOE officer in Gwangar, Malaya in September 1945, and rubber soles designed by SOE to be worn under agents’ boots to disguise footprints when landing on beaches (bottom left). Photo: Wolcott / CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED.


The SAS is a special forces unit of the British Army. It was founded as a regiment in 1941 by Lieutenant David Stirling during World War II. The idea was for small teams of parachute-trained soldiers to operate behind enemy lines to gain intelligence, destroy enemy aircraft, and attack their supply and reinforcement routes.

The SAS initially consisted of five officers and 60 other ranks. Their first operation, Operation Squatter, was a parachute drop behind Axis lines launched in support of Operation Crusader. However, due to enemy resistance and adverse weather conditions, the mission was not successful, with 22 men killed or captured Despite facing challenges in their initial operations, the SAS went on to conduct successful missions, destroying 60 aircraft without loss in one of their early missions. In 1944, the SAS Brigade was formed.

Post World War II, the SAS was disbanded only to be reformed as a Territorial Army regiment in 1947, which then led to the formation of the regular army 22 SAS Regiment. The SAS has taken part in most of the United Kingdom’s wars since then.

Today, the SAS is known for its rigorous selection process and its varied roles, including counterterrorism, hostage rescue, direct action, and special reconnaissance. Its motto, “Who Dares Wins”, reflects its demanding nature and the high level of skill and courage required of its members.

Lt. Colonel David Stirling, founder of the Special Air Service, with an SAS jeep patrol in North Africa, 18 January 1943. Closest to him is Lt Edward McDonald.

A License to Kiil

Following the war, Mason was assigned to a Baker Team after World War II. This team was tasked with hunting down and eliminating Nazis who had escaped prosecution at Nuremberg but were complicit in war crimes.

The Baker Teams were part of the SAS. These teams were given a so-called “license to kill” by Winston Churchill, which essentially meant they were authorized to use lethal force in their mission. Mason’s team was successful in finding and eliminating many war criminals in the first few years after the end of the war.

It was personal for the SAS. The notorious “Commando Order” (Kommandobefehl) that had been issued by Adolf Hitler on October 18, 1942, stated that all Allied commandos encountered by German forces in Europe and Africa should be killed immediately without trial, even if they were in proper uniforms or if they attempted to surrender. This order was a direct breach of the laws of war. After World War II, at the Nuremberg trials, German officers who carried out illegal executions under the Commando Order were found guilty of war crimes.

It’s worth noting that the term “license to kill” is often associated with the fictional character James Bond, and in fact, Mason was known to be a friend and consultant to Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels.

For the actual termination of the Nazi war criminals, Mason’s team chose to use German weapons, such as this P38. Photo: Askild Antonsen / CC BY 2.0 DEED.

MI6 Career

Mason and his spouse Prudence (“Pru”), were integral members of the British Secret Intelligence (SIS), commonly known as MI6, from the inception of the Cold War until the 1970s. His wife had served as a transport pilot during the Second World War. Her linguistic skills and her marriage to Mason were key factors in her recruitment. She reportedly successfully completed a solo mission to infiltrate the Haganah in British Palestine before the declaration of Israel’s independence.

However, very little verifiable information about Mason and his wife’s exploits has been declassified by the British government. His wife is still under a “D Notice”. A “D Notice”, now known as a DSMA-Notice (Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice), is a request from the British government to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security.

After the war, Mason and his wife operated a “Dude Ranch” in England complete with horses, western tack, and cowboy firearms. The couple later toured Europe as part of a Wild West show, performing as trick-shooting cowboys. This guise allowed them to carry out covert operations behind the Iron Curtain. Mason also operated an arms shop in Lewes, England.

Later Years

He and his wife moved to the USA where he was active in the rodeo circuit for a while. They eventually moved to Western Canada. In his later years, Peter donated an extensive collection of his personal weapons and espionage equipment to various museums. The Combined Military Services Museum in Maldon, United Kingdom, houses hundreds of the Masons’ knives, firearms, and spy gadgets, as well as a copy of Prudence’s unpublished memoirs.

Mason was also prominently showcased in a television series known as Spy-Tek, which was broadcast on the Discovery Channel. The series delved into the clandestine world of espionage during the Cold War, exploring the origins of secret services, the art of espionage, assassinations, and covert killings. During his appearance on the show, Mason exhibited an array of covert firearms that he had either personally utilized or possessed extensive knowledge about. You can watch it here: Discovery Ch_Spy Tek_2of3_The Deadly Game – video Dailymotion.


Combined Military Services Museum

Imperial War Museums

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Eugene Nielsen

Eugene Nielsen provides intelligence and security consulting services. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California. His byline has appeared in numerous national and international journals and magazines.

One thought on “Captain Peter Mason: Official Assassin”
  1. I live in Alberta Canada only kilometers away from the Masons final home. I have only recently discovered who he was as he passed just about 2 years ago. The property has always been of interest to me and once listed for sale, I inquired. The stories and the people who knew him absolutely amazes me.

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