After flying to India, Tindley was commissioned into 6th Field Regiment RA. He served in Baluchistan until 1943, when he was recruited by Inter Services Liaison Department (ISLD), the cover name used in south-east Asia by MI6.
Despite evidence of Japan’s imperial ambitions, the service had neglected its networks in the region during the interwar years. Much of the work of intelligence gathering there after 1940 was accordingly done by SOE, which had far better contacts with resistance groups and prominent local figures. As a result, relations between the two agencies were not cordial.
Most of ISLD’s attempts to insert agents focused on Burma, but Tindley was one of the few case officers working further afield. His first mission was to drop off two spies by submarine on to the island of Phuket. This was a hazardous business, and often a search by the Japanese security police would be sparked by the discovery of a dinghy on a beach. Tindley was then posted to southern China, one of MI6’s few strongholds in Asia, where he ran agents into Thailand and down the Indo-China coastline to spot and report on enemy shipping movements.