Spies, double agents and Cambridge men

Richard Moss

Spies like cities. They offer cover for agents and are usually the source of the information foreign governments are seeking to obtain.

London, with its centre lined with the bland, drab offices of government departments or large corporations and encircled by a periphery of sprawling, anonymous suburbs, has been the setting of some of the most dramatic moments in the Cold War.

A walk of a few miles through the capital's centre touches places where individuals out of duty, belief or for gain - variously betrayed their trust, were compromised, arrested and, all too occasionally, unmasked.

The most infamous Soviet spies operating in London during the cold war were the so-called 'Cambridge spy ring' of Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Donald MacLean and Anthony Blunt. Naturally enough there are hundreds of sites in London where the ring operated, and a few can still be discerned and visited today.

Possibly the most prolific double agent to sit within the centre of the British Secret Service, Kim Philby served the KGB for more than 50 years.

After covering the Spanish Civil War and The German Blitzkrieg in 1939 for the Times and Moscow Centre his friend Guy Burgess recommended him for a job in MI6. He finally escaped to the Soviet Union in 1962.

The Markham Arms Pub was Philby's habitual pub. Now sadly converted into a coffee shop cum building society, it is reputed to be the very meeting place where Anthony Blunt re-established contact with Philby in the three-year hiatus that followed Burgess and Maclean fleeing to the Soviet Union.

Having come under suspicion following the 1951 defection of Burgess and MacLean to Moscow, Philby became increasingly suspected of being the 'the third man'. This eventually led to his expulsion from MI6.

But for Philby this latest episode was just another chance to use his years of experience as a double agent to double bluff both the media and the government. Following questions in the Commons regarding his role in Soviet intelligence he called a press conference to roundly deny the claims.

The place he chose was his former residence and mother's flat at Grove Court, Holly Mews, in South Kensington. The Grove Court Press Conference was one of his greatest bluffs and within six months he was working for MI6 again.

Burgess and Maclean may have blown cover and sought refuge in the Soviet UnionWhile at Cambridge Burgess became a communist and met Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, and Anthony Blunt. He was recruited as a Soviet agent in the 1930s. In 1947 he was established with the Foreign Office and was sent to Washington DC as a second secretary of the British Embassy under Kim Philby in 1950.

Burgess and Maclean may have blown cover and sought refuge in the Soviet UnionWhile at Cambridge Burgess became a communist and met Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, and Anthony Blunt. He was recruited as a Soviet agent in the 1930s. In 1947 he was established with the Foreign Office and was sent to Washington DC as a second secretary of the British Embassy under Kim Philby in 1950.

Guy Burgess died at Botin Hospital, Moscow, of a heart disease in 1963.

The Courtauld Institute of Art at 20 Portman Square is the most potent reminder of the life and work of Anthony Blunt. During his long tenure (when he actually resided in the mansion like building of the Courtauld) he used his veneer of respectability to service dead drops and act as a go-between for Soviet spies.

He was appointed as Surveyor of the King's Pictures in 1945 and was also appointed as the Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1947. In 1951 he assisted the defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean yet in 1956 he was awarded a knighthood.

In 1964 he confessed his spying activities to the security services in return for his immunity. However, this was not made public and he remained in his official roles. It was not until 1974 and the publication of The Climate of Treason by Andrew Boyle that his role as a Soviet Spy was revealed. He was vilified in the press and media and lost his public offices.

At 5 All Souls' Place, Near Regent's Park, you will find the former residence of George Blake. This notorious British intelligence agent and Soviet double agent, began working for the Soviet cause in Korea in 1953. Discovered in 1961 he was sentenced to 42 years imprisonment. He escaped from Wormwood Scrubs and surfaced in Moscow where he still lives.

6 Campden Hill Square, Holland Park is the former residence of Sir Roger Hollis, the head of MI5 from 1943 to 1965. Roger Hollis has long been suspected of being the most important Soviet mole inside British Intelligence during the cold war period. During his tenure the intelligence service amongst the litany of botched cases and accusations of incompetence, Hollis is reputed to have destroyed the tapes and transcripts of the first interrogations of Anthony Blunt and tipped off Burgess and therefore Maclean about the latter's impending interrogation.

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