Chief Constable To Chief Spy Catcher
In November 1945 Chief Constable of Kent Sir Percy Sillitoe received a letter from Sir Alexander Maxwell, Permanent Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, asking if he would allow himself to be considered as a candidate for the post of Director-General of the Security Service. The cold war between the western allies and soviet countries was escalating and concerns had been raised about espionage within the senior levels of the Security Service.
Sir Percy Sillitoe was subsequently appointed Director-General of the Security Service by Prime Minister Clement Attlee and took up his new post on 1st May 1946. During the war years and until long afterwards, the Prime Minister, not the Home Secretary, was the minister to whom the Security Service was directly accountable and reported.
During the seven years that Sir Percy Sillitoe was Director General of the Security Service, better known as MI5, between 1946 and 1953, several cases of espionage made the headlines.
Much has been written about what those engaged in espionage did. Less well known is their background and how they came to be recruited.
On the day that Sir Percy Sillitoe took up his new post on 1st May 1946, the trial began at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey in the City of London of Dr. Allan Nunn May, who was accused of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet foreign military intelligence directorate, the GRU.
Revolutionary Marxist Émigrés
There were three categories of exile leaving Russia in the nineteen thirties: those who fled racial persecution and economic discrimination; those who fled religious persecution; and those who fled political persecution, with Marxist interpretations of anarchism, socialism and trade unionism.
Melita Sirnis’s Latvian father Alexander Sirnis was in the third category, as a revolutionary Marxist. After her mother Gertrude Stedman’s first husband died in Spain, she returned to England and was a frequent visitor to nearby Tuckton House, a Victorian mansion outside Bournemouth, the home of Count Vladimir Chertkov, Count Leo Tolstoy’s exiled literary executor. Tuckton House was a meeting place for Russian revolutionary political émigrés in England. Evening political discussions were held, attended by Theodore Rothstein, who was Vladimir Ulyanov’s first secret agent in Great Britain.
Vladimir Lenin. Photo credit German Federal Archive.
Alexander Sirnis married Gertrude Stedman, a suffragette, on 3rd November 1909. By the following year, most of the revolutionary group had returned to Russia with Vladimir Chertkov. The couple had three children: Wilfred, born 31st May 1910 and who died just over a year later on 7th August 1911; Melita, known as Letty, was born on 25th March 1912 in Pokesdown, East Bournemouth; and Gerty, born 22nd March 1914. Alexander Sirnis died from tuberculosis, on 12th November 1918, the day after Armistice Day.
Theodore Rothstein’s eldest son Andrew graduated in History from Oxford University. After visiting Moscow at the end of 1920, Andrew Rothstein was appointed to manage the Soviet trade delegation’s Information Bureau, the forerunner of the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, TASS.
In 1921 Gertrude Sirnis worked with the Society of Friends (Quakers) on famine relief during the Russian famine that year and made contact with Willi Munzenberg’s International Workers’ Relief, where she met N.V. Garilov, head of the Moscow National Bank in London.
In 1924, Andrew Rothstein was appointed the London correspondent for a new press agency, the Russian Telegraph Agency, ROSTA and was admitted to the inner circle of the Russian-British section of the Communist underground movement, which was responsible for clandestine intelligence operations in the United Kingdom. Under the alias of C.M. Roebuck, to make his detection more difficult, he was appointed to the Communist Party of Great Britain’s Central Executive Committee and served, as the main link between Soviet institutions in the United Kingdom and the party.
In July 1925, Moscow Centre issued instructions for Andrew Rothstein to resign his management of ROSTA and to take over as London correspondent of TASS.
In 1926, Garilov was known to be helping striking miners during the General Strike. Gertrude Sirnis was also connected, prompting the Security Service to open files on their activities. A telegram between the Moscow and London offices of the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, TASS, established a further link between those two.
In 1928 the Sixth World Congress of Communist International adopted Joseph Stalin’s policy of “Class against Class”, where all social democratic parties were condemned as social-fascist. The Communist Party of Great Britain was ordered to stop supporting the Labour Party at elections and drop its policy of affiliation to the Labour Party.
Following the election of a minority Labour Government in May 1929, Andrew Rothstein was summoned to Berlin by the Communist Executive to explain his support for the opposite policy to theirs. He had fallen from grace. In January 1930 he left England to work with his father, who was Director of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs Press Department in Moscow.
The British Non Ferrous Metals Research Association had expanded and moved its offices in 1930 from Birmingham to the Reynsart Buildings off Euston Street in London, where the opening ceremony was performed by 1908 nuclear chemistry Nobel Laureate Lord Ernest Rutherford.
In Spring 1931 the Sirnis family travelled to Heidelberg for the summer. On their return in September, they rented a flat in Earls Court, before moving to a house in Golders Green. Following their experiences whilst in Germany, Melita joined the Independent Labour Party and her sister Gerty joined the Communist Party. Melita Sirnis took a secretarial course in Paddington and moved into a basement flat in the same house as the Nussbaum family, who had known the Sirnis family for almost twenty-five years.
Disputes over unemployment and the means test during the 1929 to 1931 parliament led many Labour Party supporters to seek radical solutions. Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald’s formation of a National Government in August 1931 was regarded as an act of betrayal by both the left and the right of the Labour movement. The Independent Labour Party itself was split, with the Revolutionary Policy Committee’s leader Jack Gaster, a friend of Hilary Nussbaum, convinced that in coming off the gold standard capitalism was collapsing and that the ILP’s reformism must give way to a revolutionary programme and calling on the ILP to co-operate with the Communist Party and the Communist International’s policy of “Class against Class”.
Hilary Nussbaum introduced Melita Sirnis to Jack Gaster and Andrew Rothstein, the later having returned to England in 1931 again as London correspondent for TASS. Andrew Rothstein began setting up Scientific and Intelligence Networks in Great Britain. The British Non Ferrous Metals Research Association was a prime target, having been formed by a group of manufacturers of alloys of copper, lead, zinc and titanium on 1st January 1920 with the specific aim of co-ordinating research into non ferrous metals for the armaments industry. Affiliated members included the Admiralty, the Aeronautical Research Committee, the War Office, the Research Department at Woolwich Arsenal and the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.
In 1932 Hilary Nussbaum was studying chemistry at the Northern Polytechnic Institute and teaching Russian part-time. Melita Sirnis was working in the offices of an engineering firm in Praed Street, Paddington, where she worked for several months. Later that year, she started work for the British Non Ferrous Metals Research Association as a clerical officer, subsequently becoming personal secretary to the Assistant Director of Research and Development, G.L. Bailey, whose work focussed on developing a comprehensive theory of corrosion.
Adolf Hitler Becomes German Chancellor
Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany on 30th January 1933. One of the families subsequently fleeing the intensified Nazi hunt for German communists after the burning of the Reichstag parliament building on 27th February, by former member of the Communist Party youth organisation in Holland Marinus van der Lubbe, was the Kuczynski family, who came to England to join German speaking political exiles from Austrian and German fascism in London. Melita Sirnis’s sister Gerty, with help from their mother, found Robert Kuczynski’s family a house to rent: 12 Lawn Road, Hampstead, London. Gerty Sirnis had met Professor Robert Kuczynski in May 1933, two weeks after his arrival in England, whilst she was studying at the London School of Economics for her degree and they both attended a meeting of the Communist Group. Robert Kuczynski had been a leading member of the German Communist Party (KPD) and chairman of the committee set up to oversee the expropriation of the property of the former kaiser’s family and land owning nobility of the Weimar Republic years.
In 1934, the Isokon building, as the Lawn Road Flats became known, opened opposite the Kuczynski’s house. The flats were commissioned by a well connected entrepreneurial couple, Jack and Molly Pritchard. Gertrude Sirnis knew the Pritchards from her Quaker work and arranged for Robert Kuczynski daughter Brigitte and her husband A.G. Lewis to move in to flat 4. Barbara Kuczynski also moved into a Lawn Road flat, as did several English born spies including Andrew Rothstein and the Colman-Reckitt’s mustard heiress Eva Collett Reckitt, owner of Collett’s bookshop in Charing Cross Road. Flat seven was occupied by Arnold Deutsch and his wife Josefine, a trained wireless operator. In the same year, Melita Sirnis was vetted and recruited to the Russian Secret Service, the Narodnyi Kommissariat Vnutrennikh Del, which was the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), by Andrew Rothstein.
In July 1935 Gertrude Sirnis took Melita and Gerty to a meeting in Finchley of Friends of the Soviet Union, whose president was Andrew Rothstein and with whom Melita Sirnis’s mother had arranged a private talk after the meeting for Melita. Later that year, after another FSU meeting, on the shortage of spare parts for tractors on Soviet collective farms, Melita Sirnis approached Andrew Rothstein with an offer of spying, which he accepted. At that time, Gertrude Sirnis’s address of 173 Hendon Way was regarded as a safe address for correspondence between Moscow Centre and the Communist Party of Great Britain’s headquarters in King Street. Gertrude Sirnis was an important point of contact in the recruitment of volunteers in Great Britain to attend the Wilson Radio School in Moscow to train as wireless operators.
On 31st October 1935 Melita Sirnis, along with the bulk of the Revolutionary Policy Committee, resigned from the Independent Labour Party and joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. The following month and with Jack Gaster acting as his solicitor, Hilary Nussbaum changed his name to Norwood by deed poll, to anglicise his surname before his marriage to Melita Sirnis in December. Andrew Rothstein advised Melita Norwood to resign from the “open” Communist Party and to join their secret organisation, which was disguised as a vegetarian group.
By 1936, Lawn Road houses and the Lawn Road flats had become the headquarters of Soviet intelligence in Great Britain, taking over the role
previously carried out from Paris and The Hague.
One of Robert Kuczynski’s daughters, Ursula, better known as “Red Sonya” after the espionage network she was involved with, was later to become the Soviet intelligence controller for the three years from 1941 to 1943 for Melita Norwood and also for Klaus Fuchs from 1942 after he was recruited by Ursula Kuczynski’s brother Jürgen and who, after fleeing Germany in 1936 lived in the Lawn Road Flats with his wife Marguerite before moving to nearby Upper Park Road from where he organised the KPD underground in Great Britain.
Tube Alloys was the cover name for the directorate of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which co-ordinated research efforts in British universities into nuclear weapons.
In 1944 G.L. Bailey became Director of Research and Development at the British Non Ferrous Metals Research Association and appointed Melita Norwood his personal assistant, who was then granted access to classified information on the British atomic bomb project.
The British Non Ferrous Metals Research Association worked closely with Tube Alloys, increasingly during the post war period after America had withdrawn British access to nuclear power and weapon development information following multiple Soviet espionage defections. Radioactivity from
uranium distorted the shape of aluminium container tubes and material improvement solutions were needed.
In 1947 the Norwood’s moved from Cheshunt in Buckinghamshire to Bexleyheath in Kent, where they bought a semi-detached house when Hillary Norwood was appointed Head of Science at Erith Grammar School.
Eighty-six years ago, on 24th September 1933, aged twenty-one, Emil Klaus Fuchs arrived in England and registered as an alien. He was a German citizen, whose father was a Lutheran clergyman who became a Quaker and taught his children not only to know right from wrong but to follow their conscience, no matter what the cost. The outcome of that teaching in Germany at the time resulted in one of Fuch’s sisters committing suicide after Nazi persecution and another sister and his older brother going into exile. Fuchs went underground with the communists, who opposed the fascist Nazis, to hid from the Sturmabteilung (SA), known as brown-shirts, who were the para military wing of the Nazi Party. His mother committed suicide and his father was thrown into prison. Independent consciences were not welcome.
Whilst at Kiel University, Fuchs published a pamphlet condemning the Nazi Party. The following year, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Students in Kiel joined up with the brownshirts but Fuchs condemned them, for which he was beaten and then thrown into the river. The only political opposition in Germany to the Nazi Party was the Communist Party.
Fourteen months later, the German Consulate in Bristol reported informally to the Bristol police that Fuchs was a communist wanted by the Gestapo. The Bristol chief constable correctly forwarded details to London, together with confirmation that, as an alien, Fuchs had been checked three times at intervals, had behaved himself and was not taking part in any community activity locally.
It was common Nazi practise for the Gestapo to allege that German émigrés were communists, when there was insufficient evidence for arrest.
Fuchs lived with Quaker families in England and received a grant from the Academic Assistance Council, established in May 1933 by London School of Economics Director Lord Ernest Beverage and scientists Lord Ernest Rutherford, William Bragg and others to help academics expelled or fleeing from Germany. Friends he met in Germany included the Wills family, who were benefactors of the University of Bristol where Fuchs subsequently researched for his Doctorate of Philosophy.
Klaus Fuchs was awarded a Carnegie Research Scholarship to carry out research at the University of Edinburgh for his Doctorate of Science, where he worked as an assistant to Tait Professor of Natural Philosophy Max Born, a leader in the development of Quantum Mechanics and who had supervised theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer for his Doctorate of Philosophy awarded at the University of Göttingen in 1927.
Before 1939 there was unrestricted co-operation between scientists around the world on progress in nuclear physics.
In July 1939 Klaus Fuchs applied for British naturalisation, however, before completion of consideration of his application, war was declared. The Aliens Tribunal in Edinburgh considered all the evidence, including his not declaring any communist membership or sympathies. Fuchs was permitted to return to work at the university.
However, after the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, enemy aliens were detained on the Isle of Man and later sent to Canada, where Klaus Fuchs was interned as the citizen of an enemy nation and regarded as a prisoner there.
In January 1941 scientists and university friends obtained Klaus Fuchs release, enabling him to return to England and work at the University of Birmingham with Professor of Applied Mathematics Rudolf Peierls, who in March 1940 with Robert Frisch, had written a Memorandum describing the theoretical calculations needed to achieve critical mass for nuclear detonation.
In 1943, Doctor Klaus Fuchs was sent to join the Manhattan Project in America, as part of a British team of scientists. He played a key role in the project over the next three years, developing many of the designs, equations and techniques used to build the first atomic bombs.
When Klaus Fuchs returned to the United Kingdom in 1946, he was offered a post at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire, having been cleared to work there by the Security Service after carrying out an investigation that reviewed his record, including pre-war allegations of communist activity and found nothing incriminating.
Klaus Fuchs had by now been vetted for sensitive posts three times. He continued passing on confidential information until he was finally exposed in 1949 and admitted his activities.
After a short trial in which he pleaded guilty to charges of breaching the Official Secrets Act, Klaus Fuchs was given the maximum sentence of fourteen years’ imprisonment. After his release he went to East Germany.
Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross were members of what became known as the Cambridge Spy Ring, who passed secret Foreign Office and Security Service military and economic documents to the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War. The Cambridge Five were recruited into Soviet intelligence by academic Doctor Arnold Deutsch, when they were up at the University of Cambridge.
The first of the five to be recruited was Harold Adrian Russell Philby, known to his family and friends as Kim Philby, whose supervisor at Trinity College Cambridge when he read Economics was leading Cambridge Communist Maurice Dobb, who Philby asked on the last day before his graduation in 1933 how best to devote his life to the communist cause.
Edith Suschitsky was born in Vienna. She came to London and worked as a teacher and had been observed in conversation with leading Communist Party of Great Britain figures at a demonstration in support of the Worker’s Charter in Trafalgar Square in 1930. She went to Austria in January 1931 and became the official photographer in Vienna for TASS, the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union.
After graduating Kim Philby went to Vienna, working for the communist backed Workers Relief Organisation and acting as courier for the Austrian Communist Party. In Vienna he met and married Litzi Friedmann on 24th February 1934, to save her from certain arrest by taking her to England.
Following Edith Suschitsky’s marriage to Ethan Tudor-Hart and her return to England as an émigré from the fascist Dolfuss regime in Austria, which banned other parties in May 1933, Edith Tudor-Hart opened a photographic studio at 158a Haverstock Hill, London NW3. Her association with Dr Edith Bone and others had been brought to the attention of the Security Service after their having been observed together at the studio by a special branch officer.
Three months after Kim Philby and his new wife returned to England, Edith Tudor-Hart, a friend of Litzi Philby, arranged an introduction for Kim Philby via his wife, who informed her husband that she had arranged for him to meet a man of importance.
At the meeting in Regent’s Park in June 1934, the man describing himself as Otto, later identified by Kim Philby from a photograph in Security Service files as Dr. Arnold Deutsch, emphasised that Philby with his family background and possibilities could do far more for Communism that the run of the mill Party member or sympathiser. Philby accepted and the first instruction received was for he and Litzi to break off all communist contact. Teodor Maly assigned Arnold Deutsch to become Kim Philby’s controller.
It was Kim Philby who attracted Arnold Deutsch’s attention initially to Cambridge, rather than to Oxford. Doctor Arnold Deutsch was an Austrian Marxist émigré, who had travelled from Vienna with instructions from Moscow Centre to “cultivate young radical high-flyers from leading British universities before they entered the corridors of power”. Kim Philby was subsequently codenamed SÖHNCHEM.
Dr. Arnold Deutsch was very academically qualified for postgraduate work at the University of London, giving ideal cover for his intelligence work. He asked Kim Philby to recommend some of his Cambridge contemporaries. The first two nominations were: Guy Burgess, who had graduated from Trinity Hall with a first class honours degree in modern languages; and Donald Maclean, who was researching a thesis for his history doctorate. By the end of 1934, both Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean had been recruited and advised by Arnold Deutsch to distance themselves from communist friends.
Donald Duart Maclean was the son of Sir Donald Maclean KBE, a Liberal Member of Parliament who was Leader of the Opposition from 1918 to 1920 and served as a member of Ramsay Macdonald’s National Government when it was formed on 24th August 1931, as President of the Board of Education, until his death on 15th June 1932 during Donald Maclean’s second year at Cambridge.
Donald Maclean graduated from Trinity Hall Cambridge with a first class honours degree in modern languages. He became a British diplomat and the first of the Cambridge Five to penetrate the “bourgeois apparatus”, as it was considered when he entered the Foreign Office in 1935. He was soon regarded as a high flyer and able to provide Moscow with a regular flow of classified documents.
Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess’s initial main role as a Soviet agent was talent spotting. Early in 1937 and by then a British Broadcasting Corporation radio producer, he arranged the first meeting between Arnold Deutsch and Anthony Blunt, who was a French linguist, art historian and Fellow of Trinity College.
Anthony Blunt was recruited by Arnold Deutsch in early 1937 and then whilst appearing not to share left wing views, talent spotted for the NKVD, including of Trinity College undergraduate Leo Long who became a sub agent of Blunt and went on to become a wartime intelligence officer. Blunt subsequently identified his former pupil John Cairncross as a likely recruit, who graduated from Trinity College in 1936 with a first class honours degree in modern languages and had come top in the Foreign Office entrance examination. Arnold Deutsch first met John Cairncross in May 1937.
Arnold Deutsch and Teodor Maly were recalled to Moscow in 1937, after which the Cambridge Five struggled to contact their Centre for assistance. Arnold Deutsch’s role as a Soviet intelligence officer was not discovered by the Security Service until three years after he and Teodor Maly had been recalled to Moscow.
Anthony Blunt received no guidance from the NKVD during his first six months after recruitment. One of the first documents he handed over was the debriefing report on Russian defector Walter Krivitsky, who had identified the recruiters of the Cambridge Five three years after the Woolwich Arsenal case.
After being a freelance journalist in Spain since February 1937, Kim Philby became a correspondent for The Times newspaper from May onwards, reporting on the Civil War, whilst working for British and Soviet intelligence.
John Cairncross had access to a wealth of valuable information about the Civil War in Spain, before he transferred over to the Treasury in 1938.
In September 1938 Donald Maclean was posted to the British Embassy in Paris as Third Secretary, during which time there he met American student Melinda Marling and they married. When Germany invaded France in 1940, Maclean and his wife returned to London.
In December 1938 Guy Burgess informed his Centre that he had joined the newly formed Section D of the Secret Intelligence Service, responsible for devising dirty tricks ranging from sabotage to psychological warfare.
On the eve of war, Anthony Blunt joined the Intelligence Corps at his second attempt, before transferring in June 1940 over to the Security Service, having been introduced by his Cambridge friend and contemporary Victor Rothschild to Guy Liddell, head of B Division responsible for counter espionage. Following Section D being merged with the Special Operations Executive, Burgess no longer held a Secret Intelligence Service post and was working as a BBC Radio Producer. Kim Philby was recruited as an instructor in clandestine propaganda at the new Special Operations Executive Training School at Beaulieu in Hampshire. At that time Burgess shared a flat with Blunt off Oxford Street, owned by Victor Rothschild. Late in 1940, Anthony Blunt recruited Burgess to the Security Service and he was given the codename VAUXHALL.
After returning to London in 1939, Kim Philby also reported for The Daily Telegraph from British Expeditionary Forces Headquarters.
In 1941 Kim Philby was recruited to Secret Intelligence Service Section V, responsible for offensive counter espionage. He was in charge of the subsection dealing with Spain and Portugal based on his Spanish experience. The following year Philby also became responsible for North Africa and Italy.
In 1944, Kim Philby became head of the new Secret Intelligence Service Section IX, responsible for Soviet and communist counter intelligence, “ensuring that the whole post war effort to counter Communist espionage would become known in the Kremlin”, as one of his colleagues, Robert Cecil, later acknowledged.
In May 1944 Donald Maclean was posted to the British Embassy in Washington, later becoming First Secretary in the German Department, in what was to become a four year tour of duty in America.
In 1945 Kim Philby travelled to Istanbul, primarily to prevent Soviet embassy consular official Konstantin Volkov from defecting. In return for being granted political asylum in Great Britain for himself and his wife and £50,000, Volkov would provide important files and information obtained from his work on the British desk in the Centre. Volkov had already stated to the Istanbul vice consul that amongst the most highly rated British Soviet agents, two worked in the Foreign Office and seven inside the British intelligence system including one “fulfilling the function of head of a section of British counter espionage in London”. Philby quickly warned his controller Boris Krőtenschield of the threatened defection. On 21st September, the Turkish consulate in Moscow issued visas to two diplomatic couriers to travel to Istanbul. Philby did not arrive in Istanbul until 26th September, by which time, Volkov and his wife had been carried on stretchers, heavily sedated, onboard a Soviet aircraft bound for Moscow. Under brutal interrogation before his execution, Volkov confessed that he had planned to reveal the names of three hundred and fourteen agents.
In October 1948, at the age of thirty-five, Maclean was posted to Cairo as councillor and head of Chancery, on a fast track career path. However, by May 1950 the strain of insensitive handling as an agent by Moscow led to him being recalled to London and then given the spring and summer off to recover.
In October 1949 Kim Philby arrived in Washington as SIS liaison officer. The month before, he had been introduced to VENONA. Soon afterwards, he reported to Moscow that the atom spy codenamed successively REST and CHARLES referred to in decrypts had been identified as Klaus Fuchs. Philby’s report enabled Moscow to warn American agents who dealt with Fuchs that they might have flee to Mexico. Among those making their escape were Morris and Lona Cohen.
In 1950 Guy Burgess became First Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington, effectively the head of British intelligence there. He shared a house with Kim and Aileen Philby, overtly to stop him behaving disorderly and covertly to enable documents to be conveyed to Moscow.
In Autumn 1950, Donald Maclean was promoted to head the American Department in the Foreign Office in London, where he had access to top secret information on the nuclear programme.
During his time in Great Britain Arnold Deutsch was credited in KGB files as having recruited twenty agents, of which the Cambridge Five were the most successful and with no suspicions by the Security Service until 1951.
It was not until the partial VENONA decryption of a seven year old NKGB telegram in the spring of 1951 that the first of the Cambridge Five were identified, taking the Security Service by surprise and prompting rapid action. The telegram was one of six leaked from the Foreign Office on the British negotiating position for talks between Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American President Franklyn Roosevelt and Leader of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin. Maclean was identified as HOMER operating in Washington, from details in a decrypted telegram dated June 1944 that could only match those of his pregnant wife who was living with her mother in New York.
In April 1951 Philby used Burgess to warn Maclean that he must flee to Moscow, by arranging for Burgess to be recalled to London in disgrace. On arriving back on 7th May, Burgess contacted Blunt who contacted Yuri Moden, controller of the Philby network. Moden contacted the Centre and two days later they agreed for Maclean to defect but insisted that Burgess accompany him, contrary to Philby’s own concern that it would now cast suspicion on him.
On 17th April 1951, Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison, who had succeeded Ernest Bevin, agreed to Security Service surveillance on Maclean. The Soviet London residency incorrectly believed that Maclean was going to be arrested the following Monday, 28th May. However, they were correctly aware, from studying Security Service watchers working patterns, that the watchers did not work evenings, stopped at Saturday lunchtime and did not work on Sundays. Whilst it is not known whether Donald Maclean was aware that there was no surveillance on his family house due to its isolated location because watchers might be detected, it was known that the pleasure boat Falaise made round weekend cruises from Southampton to French ports which did not require passports.
Donald Maclean was observed leaving the Foreign Office carrying a cardboard box to Victoria Station after work on Friday 25th May 1951, where after having a drink he boarded the 6:10 pm train. Guy Burgess travelled down to the Maclean house, Beacon Shaw, at Tatsfield, near Westerham in Kent, that evening, to celebrate Donald Maclean’s thirty-eighth birthday with his family. Guy Burgess introduced himself to Melinda Maclean as Roger Styles.
Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean departed that night on the pretext of going on a fishing weekend. Guy Burgess had been instructed to buy tickets under assumed names for the cruise leaving at midnight on 25th May. Next morning, they left the boat at Saint-Malo, made their way to Rennes and caught the train to Paris, where they caught another train to Switzerland, where they were issued with false passports by the Soviet embassy in Berne. In Zurich they bought air tickets to Stockholm via Prague. They left the aeroplane at Prague and were met by Soviet intelligence officers.
By the time Melinda Maclean reported to the Foreign Office that her husband had not returned home after the weekend, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean were behind the Iron Curtain.
After learning of the defection during a Security Service debriefing five days later in Washington, Philby drove to a wood in the Virginia countryside to bury the photographic equipment he had used for copying documents. His controller then let him down, by failing to find the message and $2,000 left in a dead letter box by the New York residency for Philby.
Following the defection of Burgess and Maclean, General Walter Bedell Smith, Director of Central Intelligence, who was head of the American Central Intelligence Agency, insisted that Philby be recalled back from Washington to London. On arrival in London, Philby was officially retired from the Secret Intelligence Service with a golden handshake. He was then interrogated but there was not considered to be a proven case against him. However, his SIS career had been ended and suspicion was now cast on Blunt and Cairncross.
After Burgess, Maclean and Philby had defected, the Security Service obtained the Cambridge University Socialist Society’s minute book for 1928 to 1935, which showed that Donald Maclean was elected a committee member during his first year at Trinity Hall and was later in charge of publicity. In March 1934, a letter to the Society from H.A.R. Philby appealed for support for persecuted Austrian workers. A collection was agreed and Guy Burgess was put in charge of managing a fund to respond to Philby’s appeal. The Society met in neighbouring Trinity College but was not investigated.
At the time of Burgess and Maclean’s defection in 1951, Moscow Centre calculated that, together with Philby, they had supplied over twenty thousand “valuable” pages of classified documents and agent reports.
Anthony Blunt’s controller urged him to defect to Moscow but there was no desire to leave the Courtauld Institute for a bleak future in Stalin’s Russia. However, Blunt did search Burgess’s flat to remove incriminating evidence but missed unsigned notes describing confidential 1939 Whitehall discussions, which a lengthy Security Service investigation in 1952 identified Cairncross as the author and who was subsequently forced to resign from his Treasury post from where he had access to intelligence on British defence expenditure.
Woolwich Arsenal was a munitions factory established in the middle of the seventeenth century which came to have a central role in the history of Soviet espionage in Great Britain. The Hampstead spies based in Lawn Road were university-educated Austro-Hungarians, whilst the Woolwich Arsenal spies were English working people.
Percy Glading became the ringleader of the Woolwich Arsenal spies. He was a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain’s Executive Committee, who was dismissed from his post of Examiner in the Naval Ordnance Department at Woolwich Arsenal in 1928 for holding un-renounced communist beliefs at a time when it was no longer Admiralty policy to employ communists. His dismissal was a core part of deciding to spy for the NKVD, who in turn wanted information which would shape Soviet warship designs.
Following his dismissal from Woolwich Arsenal, Percy Glading spent six months working for an engineering business in East London. In October 1929 he travelled to Moscow to study at the International Lenin School established by Communist International. The curriculum included practical underground political techniques.
Returning to London, Percy Glading was employed in the Colonial Department of the Communist Party between April and August 1930. Between May 1931 and March 1937, he worked as Assistant Secretary to the League Against Imperialism. In July 1931 Glading met with a leading communist organiser T. Thurlow, who had been selected for “agitation work” amongst Woolwich dockyard workers.
In 1937, Arnold Deutsch and Teodor Maly were running a spy-ring inside the Woolwich Arsenal. The criminal purpose was identified by Olga Gray, from espionage activities carried out in her rented Holland Road flat. On the night of 21st April 1937, Percy Glading and a “Mr. Peters” visited Olga Gray in her flat, when vetting her before arranging for Edith Tudor-Hart to supply a camera and other photographic equipment.
Two days later, Glading returned and told her about another man. Olga Gray received training in photography and began copying documents.
On 16th August 1937, Percy Glading called at Olga Gray’s flat and introduced “Mr. Stevens”, the successor to Mr. Peters “who had gone home” and that his wife would be coming to the flat about twice a month to do necessary photographic work. On 21st October, Mrs Stevens arrived with a large plan, requiring forty-two section photographs. After developing the film, the plan was rolled up and taken away by Mrs. Stevens, who was followed to Hyde Park Corner where she met her husband and gun examiner George Whomack, to whom she handed the plan to return to the Arsenal next day.
In the evening of 21st January 1938, a special branch officer observed Albert Williams, an examiner in the Department of the Chief Inspector of Armaments at the Royal Arsenal, handing over a brown paper package to Percy Glading in Charing Cross railway station yard. Both were arrested. The package contained four blueprints and details of pressure bar equipment for testing detonators. Glading’s house contained two cameras and other photographic equipment together with invoices from EdithTudor-Hart, negatives, a book on explosives used by the military dated 1925, five developed plates of the only plan for an anti-submarine fuse held in Woolwich Arsenal and part of an anti-tank gun with explanatory handwritten notes written by Albert Williams.
On 14th March 1938 at the Old Bailey, Percy Glading, Albert Williams and George Whomack all pleaded guilty to charges brought under the Official Secrets Act 1911 and were sentenced to six years, four years and eighteen months respectively. The most important indictment involving Glading and Whomack was of obtaining “a plan of a naval gun calculated to be, or might be, intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.”
“Mr and Mrs Stevens” were Romanian born Willy and Marie Brandes, French Canadians travelling on false passports obtained from a spy ring operating in Canada and the United States of America. The Woolwich Arsenal network’s role ended with the new fourteen inch navel gun plan photographed. When the Brandes left England for the continent, the complete plans for the new fourteen inch naval gun were in their luggage. The lack of intervention by the Security Service reflected the increasing diplomatic tension at that time.
Melita Norwood maintained a safe house for stolen documents obtained by the Woolwich Arsenal espionage network. A slip of paper in Percy Glading’s 1938 diary in his pocket when arrested and a 1937 diary found during the search of his house, included the names of Sirnis and Steadman; and a single address of 2 Station Terrace, Finchley. However, the Security Service failed to systematically follow up all leads, including the entry in Percy Glading’s diary for 13th January 1936 with six names, including Sirner and Steadman.
Two weeks later and a month before the trial of the accused and with no details known, the Security Service asked Major Valentine Vivian, head of counter espionage at the Secret Intelligence Service, SIS and better known as MI6, for help to make sense of the information. The reply was “Personal File 42480 Sirnis” written next to the Station Road Finchley address and referring to it being the address of Melita Sirnis, note for personal file Norwood.
Olga Gray had been a dormant agent in the Communist Party of Great Britain for seven years, having been recruited in 1931 by Maxwell Knight, who had been a member of the Industrial Intelligence Bureau and a member of British Fascists, the first fascist organisation in Great Britain between 1924 and 1930, before establishing the Security Services’ M section agent network.
In 1940 NKVD defector Walter Krivitsky identified “Mr. Peters” as Teodor Maly and the other man as Arnold Deutsch. It was to be another twenty-five years before Arnold Deutsch was discovered to have been the chief recruiter of the Cambridge Five and Teodor Maly one of their controllers.
Allan Nunn May
Allan Nunn May was a physicist who had been an undergraduate at Trinity College Cambridge, overlapping with Donald Maclean’s time there.
On 5th September 1945 Igor Gouzenko, a twenty-six year old cypher clerk working for Soviet military intelligence, the GRU, at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa in Canada, attempted to defect with over one hundred documents hidden under his shirt. However, defection was more difficult than envisaged. The Ministry of Justice and the Ottawa Journal both asked him to return next day and when he did, failed to recognise the spy exclusive of the decade.
Only after the Soviet embassy realised Gouzenko and the documents were missing and Soviet security men broke down the door to his family’s flat and searched it, whilst the family was hiding next door, did the local police come to their rescue at nearly midnight and provide sanctuary. The documents provided the first evidence of the extent of Soviet intelligence penetration in Canada. Documents included GRU telegrams to agent ALEX, who was soon identified as atomic scientist Allan Nunn May, a secret Communist and contemporary of Donald Maclean at Trinity Hall in Cambridge.
In January 1943 Doctor Allan Nunn May joined an Anglo-Canadian nuclear research laboratory at Montreal, having made contact with the GRU in Great Britain the year before but unknown to the GRU in Montreal until 1944, when case officer Pavel Angelov asked Nunn May to obtain samples of the uranium used in the construction of atomic weapons.
On 9th August 1945, Angelov was given a report on atomic research, details of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima three days earlier and two samples of uranium: enriched U-235 in a glass tube; and a thin deposit of U-233 on a strip of platinum foil.
The head of Secret Intelligence Service Section IX, responsible for Soviet and Communist counter espionage, established in 1944, was Kim Philby, who warned Moscow that since returning to London, Allan Nunn May had a series of meetings with his Soviet controller. On a subsequent meeting date arranged outside the British Museum, neither attended, avoiding arrest.
Allan Nunn May was first questioned at Harwell, Great Britain’s first atomic energy research centre, on 15th February 1946 by Commander Leonard Burt of Scotland Yard, the day after the Gouzenko case became public knowledge. Five days later, Nunn May confessed and at his one day trial on 1st May 1946 pleaded guilty to charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act by handing to a person unknown “information which was calculated to be or might be useful to any enemy”. He was sentenced to ten years penal servitude and was released in 1952 after serving six and a half years.
Preparing To Retire
In 1953 when Sir Percy Sillitoe was preparing to retire from the Security Service to write his memoirs in Eastbourne with his wife, he was asked by the Chairman of De Beers, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, to investigate the diamond smuggling from their mines, after an Interpol report stated that ten million pounds of diamonds were being smuggled out of South Africa each year, as well as additional amounts from Sierra Leone, Portuguese West Africa, the Gold Coast and Tanganyika.
Sir Percy Sillitoe subsequently established the International Diamond Security Organisation.
In 1954, James Bond creator Ian Fleming read a story about diamond smuggling from Sierra Leone. He had a meeting with Sir Percy Sillitoe. Ian Fleming’s book “Diamonds Are Forever” mentions that meeting.
Ian Fleming’s 1957 non-fiction book “The Diamond Smugglers” describes the work of the International Diamond Security Organisation established by Sir Percy Sillitoe.
In 1955 Kim Philby became Beirut correspondent for The Observer newspaper and in 1956 also for The Economist magazine, at a time when the Middle East increasingly featured in the news with the Suez crisis developing. In 1957 both the Syrian crisis and the Lebanese crisis occurred, followed in 1958 by the Iraqi revolution, the Arab-Israeli confrontation and the formation of the United Arab Republic between Syria and Egypt. Philby’s wife Aileen and their five children remained in England. Aileen Philby died in December 1957.
Also in 1962, Flora Soloman revealed to Victor Rothschild that Kim Philby had tried to recruit her as a Soviet agent before the Second World War.
On 22nd January 1963 The Observer’s News Editor acknowledged Philby’s request for home leave during the coming summer. The following day, Philby disappeared and it was increasingly considered he might be visiting Yemen, where his father was a legend, to raise money for his retirement by some political service. In practice, Kim Philby had escaped to Moscow from Beirut, travelling aboard the Soviet freighter Dolmatova. His defection increased pressure on Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross to confess, as neither of them wanted to defect to Moscow.
In 1963 American Michael Straight voluntarily disclosed his communist connections regarding his time at Cambridge University and that Anthony Blunt had recruited him. The disclosure occurred during background checks made to enable Michael Straight to take up an American Government post.
On 23rd April 1964, Security Service investigator Arthur Martin visited the Courtauld Institute to ask Anthony Blunt to recall all he knew about Michael Straight. After stating that Michael Straight’s account was rather different from his, Arthur Martin gave Blunt an absolute assurance that no action would be taken against him if he now told the truth. After taking time to consider that assurance, Blunt confessed to his espionage activities.
In 1964 when John Cairncross held a teaching post at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Arthur Martin from D1 branch of the Security Service, responsible for investigating Soviet espionage, obtained his confession about his espionage activities. Cairncross declined a request to return to London to make a statement under caution. Later that year, Cairncross started work for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome.
In 1970 the Director of Public Prosecutions authorise the Security Service to give Cairncross some assurance of immunity from prosecution.
Although John Cairncross had secretly confessed in 1964 to espionage it was to be a further eighteen years before he was confirmed by Oleg Gordievsky, in August 1982, as being the Fifth Man in the Cambridge Spy Ring and an even more important Soviet agent than Anthony Blunt who was not publicly identified until 1979.
The Spy Who Came In From The Co-op
On Saturday 11th September 1999, the day The Times newspaper began serialising “The Mitrokhin Archives”, Melita Norwood confessed her espionage activities to the media. Two days later, Home Secretary Jack Straw announced that the Intelligence and Security Committee would be establishing an Inquiry.
Much information was subsequently revealed before the Intelligence and Security Committee published their Mitrokhin Inquiry Report in 2000.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov became better known globally by the alias of Vladimir Lenin, a devout Marxist, who was head of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic formed in 1917 and of the successor Soviet Union from 1922 until his death two years later.
Donald Maclean never completed research for his history doctorate.
VENONA was the code name for the most closely guarded intelligence secret on both sides of the Atlantic during the early cold war, involving over three thousand intercepted Soviet intelligence and other classified telegrams sent between 1940 and 1948 which used one-time codes more than once.
Robert Oppenheimer became Head of the American Los Alamos Laboratory during the second world war and led the Manhattan Project, which constructed the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
The subsequent Cadogan Report in 1951 produced after the investigation into the defections of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean showed that the Security Service had previously been unaware of their espionage activities and had been slow to act.
Professor Max Born was subsequently awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics for his “fundamental research in Quantum Mechanics, especially in the statistical interpretation of the wave function”.
Ian Fleming died in the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in the early hours of 12th August 1964, which was also his son Caspar’s twelfth birthday.
When London County Council was abolished at midnight on 31st March 1965 and superseded by the Greater London Council, Bexley and Bromley boroughs of Kent became boroughs within the Greater London Council area.
In 1965 Home Secretary Sir Frank Soskice closed the Security Service file on Melita Norwood. His exiled journalist father David Soskice worked closely with Theodore Rothstein, who had recruited Melita Norwood in 1934.
According to the Bank of England’s Inflation Calculator, £10 million pounds in 1953 is equivalent to £265,432,099 in 2017. Inflation averaged 5.3% a year.
The Academic Assistance Council changed its name in 1936 to the Society for the Protection of Life.
The first Soviet intelligence agency, the Cheka, was founded six weeks after the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917 and subsequently became the GPU (1922), OGPU (1923), NKVD (1934), NKGB (February 1941), NKVD again (July 1941), NKGB again (1943), MGB (1946), MVD (1953), and finally the KGB (1954).
Further Reading and Listening
BBC World Service Witness, Tuesday 3 Feb 2015
The Atomic Spy (9 minutes running time)
BBC Oxford, 26 January 2011
Klaus Fuchs, the scientist and spy at Harwell
BBC Radio News, 11 June 1951:
Two of our diplomats are missing! (2 minutes 42 seconds running time)
Report of Cadogan Committee of Enquiry and Consequences of the Burgess and Maclean Affair
The Mitrokhin Inquiry Report June 2000 (Cm 4764)
Published by the Intelligence and Security Committee
Guy Burgess at the BBC
How Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt and Cairncross were unmasked
Cloak Without Dagger
by Sir Percy Sillitoe.
Published by Pan Books.
The Defence of the Realm:
The Authorised History of MI5
By Christopher Andrew.
Published by Penguin Books.
The Spy Who Changed The World:
Klaus Fuchs and the secrets of the nuclear bomb
by Mike Rossiter
Published by Headline.
The Spy Who Came In From The Co-op:
Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage
by David Burke.
Published by The Boydell Press.
by MAUD Committee
Ministry of Aircraft Production, London, 1941.
Frisch-Peierls Memorandum, March 1940
On the Construction of a “Super-bomb” based on a Nuclear Chain Reaction in Uranium
Memorandum on the Properties of a Radioactive “Super-bomb”
by Max Born.
Published by Blackie & Son Ltd.
History of Nuclear Energy
by World Nuclear Association.
The Diamond Smugglers
by Ian Fleming.
Published by Vintage Books.