Three former BSA students were commissioned as officers in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR): Richard M. Dawkins (1871-1955), John C. Lawson (1874-1935), and William R. Halliday (1886-1966). Their role was to monitor the activity of German submarines and to be involved in counter-espionage.
Lawson was a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and Dawkins had just resigned as Director of the BSA and was a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Both were in their 40s. Halliday had been appointed Rathbone Professor of Ancient History at Liverpool in 1914. Lawson was commissioned in February 1916, Halliday in May, and Dawkins in December. All held the rank of Lieutenant; Lawson rose to be Lt-Commander. (Dawkins' father had retired from the Royal Navy with the rank of Read-Admiral.) Lawson was based at Suda Bay, Dawkins to eastern Crete (an area he knew well from his excavations there), and Halliday to the western part of the island.
Lawson later wrote about aspects of his activity as an intelligence officer:
He must secure native agents ashore along coastlines of many hundred miles to report sightings of submarines, and movements of ships or persons suspected of communicating with or re-victualling them, and devise codes for the passing of such information. He must direct the tracking and procure the arrest of spies and enemy agents in general.One of Lawson's actions was to annexe (briefly) the island of Kythera in January 1917 as he considered it to be acting as a base for enemy submarines responsible for a series of sinkings.
This work on Crete was conducted alongside other intelligence work through the Eastern Mediterranean Special Intelligence Bureau (EMSIB) in Salonica (see Harry Pirie-Gordon) or through civilian activity in Athens.