Intelligence agent and senior civil servant

Born December 25, 1921; Died November 20, 2011

Malcolm Mackintosh, who has died aged 89, had a quiet demeanour in later life that belied the fact that he had been a British intelligence agent who parachuted behind German lines during the Second World War and became a key analyst and Sovietologist during the Cold War years. As such, he was named Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) in 1975.

James Malcolm Mackintosh was the son of Dr James Mackintosh, a professor at the University of Glasgow and one-time chief medical officer for Scotland.

Young Malcolm, as he became known to distinguish himself from his father, attended St Mary's preparatory school in Melrose, and then Edinburgh Academy on Henderson Row before enrolling at Glasgow University to study history and Russian in 1939. War broke out as he started his studies and he was called up at the end of his first term in the summer of 1940 to train as an officer.

His apparent innate sense of privacy, even secrecy, and his interest in Russia and its language, brought him to the attention of the campus-prowling Special Operations Executive (SOE), which would later be absorbed into the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

They sent him to study the Serbo-Croat language followed by military and parachute training in Cairo and British-run Palestine. As part of the Allied efforts to counter the advances of the Axis powers in Greece and across the Balkans, Mackintosh found himself far from the bar of the Glasgow University Student's Union, parachuting into Yugoslavia to aid Tito's partisans. Nice stories to tell his fellow students if he ever got back (which he eventually would, but he was not one to talk about his wartime experiences).

From Yugoslavia, Mr Mackintosh was part of a top-secret mission into Romania, where he helped free a group of senior Polish officers and fly them safely to Italy, where they became major players in the Allied war effort. As the Axis powers crumbled, he was assigned to the Allied Control Commission, including the victorious Soviets, towards the end of the war when he was based in Sofia.

It was in the Bulgarian capital that he met Lena Grafova, daughter of a Russian officer, whom he married soon after the war and who remained his wife until his recent death.

In 1946, he was able to return to the peace of Gilmorehill to complete his degree at Glasgow University, graduating in history in 1948, before using his linguistic skills at the BBC Radio's Overseas Service in London as a programme organiser for the next 12 years. It was a job that kept him very much within the radar, shall we say, of his old colleagues at British intelligence and in 1960, with the Cold War approaching freezing point, he was invited to join the Foreign Service in Whitehall as an intelligence analyst, latterly as assistant secretary to the Cabinet Office, advising the prime minister and his cabinet.

In that role, he was arguably the first to warn Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1968 that the Soviet Union would not sit on their hands and admire the "Prague Spring." They were, he said, far more likely to invade Czechoslovakia "in self-defence of the Warsaw Pact nations," despite the predictable criticism from not only democratic nations but would-be progressive communists around the world. He was proved very much right.

Such was his importance, and the ability to think on his feet, that then Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home took him along as special adviser on an official visit to Moscow in 1973, just in case the Soviets made a diplomatic chess move that required an on-the-spot counter-attack.

After retiring from the Cabinet Office in 1987, Mr Mackintosh was in demand as a lecturer on his military and diplomatic expertise at such places as Sandhurst military academy, the Royal United Services Institute and Chatham House, London, one of the world's leading non-governmental organisations which analyses major current affairs issues, and, not least, the University of St Andrews, where he was honorary lecturer in International Relations from 1991-97.

In retirement, Mr Mackintosh wrote several books and magazine articles on defence issues and was a Senior Fellow at King's College London and the International Institute of Strategic Studies. He was also an Honorary Visiting Fellow at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London. But he also found time to enjoy rambling around Scotland on his trips up from the south.

Malcolm Mackintosh, CMG, died in London after a long illness. He is survived by his wife Lena and their children Liza and Jimmy. Another son, Bobby, predeceased him.