James, my wife (Sylvia), I, and Julia, with James's and Lien's daughter and twins.

James, my wife (Sylvia), I, and Julia, with James’s and Lien’s daughter and twins.; the studio portrait for book publicity

Christmas 2017 in Maui

With Ashley, Alyssa and Alexis: August 2018

Alyssa and Alexis, during my weekly Facetime reading session (May 17,  2020)

Today: ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. Next week: ‘Spycatcher’



“Ha! Again: /Said he young Harry Percy’s spur was cold?/ Of Hotspur, Coldspur? that rebellion/Had met ill luck?” (King Henry The Fourth, Part 2)

 “The shadow of Percy Hotspur still hovers over the town – the Politics of the Duke are the Politics of the Town – Transport House is a rash dream, the Daily Herald a red rag! and Communism a nasty nightmare.” (Durham miner, Methodist preacher and writer Sid Chaplin, about Alnwick, the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland, in 1945)

“On Poppy Day/our schools bought red paper flowers. They were for Flanders./I saw Hotspur cursing the smoke through which a popinjay/minced from the battle. Those raging commanders from Thersites to Percy, their rant is our model./I pinned the poppy to my blazer. It bled like a vowel.” (from LII in Midsummer, by Derek Walcott)

COLDSPUR is the personal website of Tony Percy. I was born in the UK, and moved to the USA in 1980. I retired in 2000, and moved from Connecticut to Southport, North Carolina a year later. COLDSPUR is the phlegmatic alter ego of HOTSPUR, my pseudonym as a Listener Crossword Puzzle setter (see www.listenercrossword.com ). (Hotspur.com was already taken, and I was too stingy to buy the owner out.) If you want to learn more about one important aspect of my life, try the following link: An American Odyssey.

This website has been created  to publicize various reports and articles that I have written, as well as alert others to my interests.  To contact me on any matters arising from content on this site, please email me at antonypercy@aol.com.

On October 26, 2017, the University of Buckingham Press published my book ‘Misdefending the Realm’.  For further information, see MisdefendingtheRealm. The book was published in the USA in early May, 2018.

I have decided to list here all the monthly blog entries that I have written since I moved to the new platform, so that readers may have a quick way of finding any piece they are interested in.

August 31, 2020: Liverpool University – Home for Distressed Spies?

(After the war, MI5 and the Ministry of Supply conceived a shoddy plan to remove spies and communists from AERE Harwell to Liverpool University. It predictably failed, but remained largely buried for seventy years.)

July 31, 2020: Sonia & MI6’s Hidden Hand

(A detailed account of MI6’s attempt to manipulate Sonia, including its enabling of her passage to the UK in early 1941. It all rebounded disastrously on MI6  – and MI5 – when Sonia acted as a courier for the atom-spy Klaus Fuchs.)

June 30, 2020: HASP: Spycatcher’s Last Gasp

(In his best-selling memoir Spycatcher, Peter Wright cited a mysterious set of wireless messages in an attempt to seal his case against Sir Roger Hollis. It is time to re-inspect Wright’s claims for the so-called ‘HASP’ traffic.)

June 28, 2020: Sonia and the Mail on Sunday

(The Mail on Sunday publishes a feature on Sonia, and her recruitment by MI6, undertaken by Professor Glees and me after my recent postings on The Letter from Geneva, and my enduring saga of Sonia’s Radio .)

May 31, 2020: Late Spring Round-Up

(I provide an update on the various research projects that have occupied my time this year.)

April 30, 2020: On ‘Wilmington’s Lie’

(Reading a book on the local city’s murderous coup of over a hundred years ago leads me to explore the undercurrents that still endure.)

April 23, 2020: Special Bulletin: The Letter From Geneva

(A close examination of an overlooked letter in the Kuczynski archive at Kew provokes some fresh searching questions about the relationship between Sonia, and her husband Len Beurton, and SIS and MI5.)

March 31, 2020: The Mysterious Affair at Peierls (Part 2)

(I conclude my investigation into Rudolf Peierls by exploring the network of physicists that allowed Fuchs to thrive, and analysing Peierls’s accounts of his dealings with the spy.)

March 19, 2020: Special Bulletin: A Response to Denis Lenihan

(Because of its length, and some new material, I have separated my response from Denis’s second contribution.)

March 7, 2020: Special Bulletin: Denis Lenihan, with More on Sonia

February 29, 2020: War In 1944: Howard’s Folly

(A paragraph in Professor Sir Michael Howard’s autobiography startled me so much that I investigated the facts behind the almost concurrent Warsaw Uprising and the Monte Sole Massacre.)

February 6, 2020: Special Bulletin: Denis Lenihan on Sonia/Quebec

(A coldspur correspondent has submitted a fascinating commentary on my piece Sonia and the Quebec Agreement. Readers are encouraged to contribute to the debate.)

January 31, 2020: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios – Part 7

(I amplify my conclusions about the history of RSS up to the end of 1943 by analysing some fresh research, and attempt to enliven the proceedings by introducing it with an imagined important conversation between Menzies and Gambier-Parry in early 1941.)

December 15, 2019: Border Crossings: Coldspur & Stalin

(The controversy over illegal immigration prompts me to recall my own experiences, while a reading of new correspondence between Stalin and Churchill reminds me of the Soviet dictator’s disastrous inattention to border issues.)

November 30, 2019: A Thanksgiving Round-Up

(I provide a summary of the status of my research projects, highlighting my frustrations with Christopher Andrew and the BBC.)

October 31, 2019: The Mysterious Affair at Peierls (Part 1)

(My investigation into the suspected spy Rudolf Peierls begins with an analysis of his pre-war visits to the Soviet Union, many details of which he tried to conceal from the public.)

September 30, 2019: On Appeasement

(A letter sent to the New York Times about Tim Bouverie’s book prompted me to investigate the appeasement of Hitler, and compare it with that of Stalin.)

September 4, 2019: Special Bulletin – A Letter to Frank Close

(The publication of Professor Close’s biography of Klaus Fuchs prompts me to pick up a dialogue I had with the Oxford scientist in 2017-2018.)

August 31, 2019: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios – Part 6

(I bring the story up to the end of 1943, with plans for invading Europe advancing. A pattern of self-deception affects both German and British intelligence organisations, especially those responsible for illicit wireless interception.)

July 31, 2019: A Rootless Cosmopolitan

(A light-hearted and partly autobiographical analysis of how cultural habits are – or are not – passed on from generation to generation.)

June 30, 2019: Dick White’s Devilish Plot

(A detailed study of Kew archives and various memoirs, and especially what the sometime chief of MI5 and SIS told his biographer, shows that Dick White engaged in some deceitful work to protect himself during the messy business of unveiling the Cambridge Five.)

May 30, 2019: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios – Part 5

(In this chapter, I contrast the direction-finding strategies of Great Britain and Germany, and bring the story up to the autumn of 1942)

April 29, 2019: The Importance of Chronology (with special reference to Liddell and Philby)

(I explain one of the tools of my methodology, a detailed Chronology, and illustrate its use by analysing a controversial episode in MI5’s 1951 investigation of Kim Philby’s possible treachery)

March 31, 2019: Guy Liddell – A Re-Assessment

(A new book on Liddell, wartime head of MI5’s B Division, prompts me to examine why two conflicting views of Liddell’s worth as a counter-intelligence officer have never been addressed, let alone resolved.)

March 22, 2019: In Search of Henry Hardy

(A Special Bulletin to record an email discussion I had with Henry Hardy, after reading his book ‘In Search of Isaiah Berlin’, about his attempts to clarify some aspects of Berlin’s thoughts.)

February 28, 2019: Two Cambridge Spies: Dutch Connections (1) & (2)

(Two entries, one updating my researches on the ‘hunt’ for the Imperial Council spy, Donald Maclean, and the other on the mysteries surrounding the ‘suicide’ and mission of the Abwehr spy, Willem ter Braak)

January 31, 2019: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 4)

(I compare the wireless-related espionage and counter-espionage strategies of the Abwehr, MI5, SOE and the NKVD up to Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.)

December 31, 2018: Donald Maclean’s Handiwork

(The surfacing of a newspaper article from 1980 provokes an analysis of whether the British authorities learned more about the spy Donald Maclean than they admitted when Walter Krivitsky came over for interrogations in 1940.)

November 30, 2018: Four More Books on Espionage

(A review of four recent books – two novels, two non-fiction)

November 5, 2018: Special Bulletin: B2B or not B2B?

(I take apart the confusing nomenclature concerning MI5’s wartime counterespionage units, a topic not addressed by the authorised history.)

October 31, 2018: Confessions of a Conspiracy Theorist

(Here I explain why I believe the role of a curious historian is to develop theories that may describe conspiracies, and describe my efforts to gain greater attention to some of the remaining conundrums of twentieth-century intelligence, 26 of which I identify.)

September 2018: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 3)

(I pick up the story of undetected wireless activity by focussing on the bizarre story of the German spy ter Braak, and suggest that the evidence points to an extrajudicial murder arranged by MI5.)

September 17, 2018: Special Bulletin: Hurricane Florence

(An interruption to the normal schedule to report on the effect of the hurricane on SE North Carolina.)

August 2018: Four Books on Espionage

(Reviews of four books on espionage, three very recent.)

July 2018: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 2)

(I carry on my analysis of the puzzling goings-on in MI5 as the Security Service wondered what to do with the Radio Security Service, and describe the puzzling conclusion that Walter Gill came to concerning Abwehr signals.)

June 2018: Homo Sovieticus 

(Musings prompted by a letter written fifty years ago, lamenting the fact that the lessons of Communism risk being forgotten.)

May 2018: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 1)

(I introduce my research on the interception of illegal wireless signals in WWII, explaining some of the organisational challenges that Britain faced.)

April 2018: Double-Crossing the Soviets? 

(I explore the dubious claims that Britain used its experience in double-crossing the Abwehr to apply similar techniques against the Soviets, something even Moscow believed was happening for a while.)

March 2018: Struggles at the Desktop

(Experiences in dealing with various PC support networks lead me to a diatribe against several technology companies, who clearly do not know how to deliver good software.)

February 2018: Sonia and the Quebec Agreement

(I analyze the highly dubious claim that agent SONIA was actually in the right place at the right time to betray the agreements made in Quebec to her masters in Moscow.)

January 2018: Soviet Espionage: Transatlantic Connections

(I explore some of the lesser-known connections between Soviet espionage in the UK, Canada and the United States.)

December 2017: Isaiah in Love 

(An elegiac essay about Isaiah Berlin’s romantic fortunes, and how they overlapped with some interesting characters involved in atomic secrets in WWII.)

November 2017: Krivitsky, Churchill and the Cold War

(What if? I pick up the promotional campaign for Misdefending the Realm to explore alternative history. Could parts of the Cold War have been diverted if MI5 had acted on Krivitsky’s advice?)

October 2017: Misdefending the Realm

(My book is launched.)

September 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Envoi

(A summarisation of the SONIA story, with my reflections on its further implications.)

August 2017: Sonia’s Radio -Part IX

(Here I describe the background of MI5’s surveillance of Communist activity, with special attention to its tracking of the movements of SONIA and Len Beurton. The chapter includes a comprehensive analysis of the history of wireless techniques in intelligence. I offer my conclusions about the truth of the SONIA affair.)

July 2017: Web Woes

(Some dire experiences, mainly with my bank, which showed a bureaucratic ineptitude that was beyond belief.)

June 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Part VIII

(This chapter inspects the highly provocative story of SONIA’s acquisition of a British passport, her moving to the UK and getting installed in Oxfordshire, and her illicit use of a wireless transmitter.)

May 2017: Officially Unreliable

(A critique of ‘authorised’ histories, and those who agree to write them.)

April 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Part VII

(In this chapter, I analyse the backgrounds and possible motivations of the contributors to the ‘revisionist’ theory of Ultra dissemination, namely that it was fed to Soviet intelligence in Switzerland by SIS – probably via Alexander Foote. All these claims were then magisterially denied by the official historian.)

March 2017: POLARBEAR Has Landed

(An account of my visit to the UK to accept my doctoral degree.)

February 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Part VI

(In this chapter, I examine the career of Alexander Foote in detail, and introduce some evidence that he was indeed employed by SIS.)

January 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Part V

(In this chapter, I start to analyze a further contentious observation by the official historian of British Intelligence in WWII, namely the claim that the British authorities had no involvement in exploiting the Soviet spy-ring in Switzerland to pass disguised ULTRA traffic to Stalin’s government.)

December 2016: Taking the Cake

November 2016: Sonia’s Radio – Part IV

(This chapter steps back to investigate a puzzling story about decryption of Soviet radio transmissions – the claim that Churchill put a stop to such activities immediately Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.)

October 2016: Economists’ Follies

September 2016: Sonia’s Radio – Part III

(This chapter describes how MI5 responded to the threat of illicit radio transmissions to Germany and the Soviet Union, and how the RSS was absorbed into SIS (MI6) in 1941. It also brings readers up-to-date on the movements of Klaus Fuchs, Alexander Foote, and SONIA herself.)

August 2016: Doctor in the House

July 2016: My Experience with Opioids

June 2016: Sonia’s Radio – Part II

(I explain how the Radio Security Service, the body chartered with detecting illicit wireless transmissions, evolved, and describe the circumstances in which SONIA orchestrated her return to the UK as a spy.)

May 2016: Revisiting Smiley & Co.

April 2016: Sonia’s Radio – Part I

(I introduce SONIA, and outline the puzzling manner in which her wireless transmitter was apparently ignored by British Intelligence in World War II.)

March 2016: Hey Big Spender!

February 2016: On Privacy and Publicity

January 2016: The Myth of Buying Market Share

December 2015: Refugees and Liberators

November 2015: The Congenial Richard Dawkins

October 2015: Mann Overboard!

September 2015: Some Diplomatic Incidents

August 2015: The Undercover Egghead

July 2015: Magna Carta and Pluralism

June 2015: Surveying Lake Tahoe

May 2015: Remembering Mr. Popper

April 2015: Richie Benaud – My Part in His Success

March 2015: Isaiah Berlin – Too Hot to Handle?

February 2015: ‘All The News That’s Not Fit to Archive’

January 2015: Turing and Cripps

December 2014: Cleeseana

November 2014: Hugh Walpole

13 Responses to About

  1. Hi Tony

    I like your new website. Much, much more user friendly than the old one. Are you doing it yourself or do you have a paid geek?

    As ever


    • coldspur

      I worked with a template, and had some training. For a while, I found it all a bit strange (unlearning), but then things suddenly clicked.

  2. Awesome blog, going to bookmark it!

  3. Thomas Rees

    Dear Coldspur,

    I’ve discovered your piece Two Cambridge Spies in which you refer to my father, Goronwy Rees, as an inveterate liar. Could you please give me any evidence at all for this accusation. Alternatively, print an apology.

    • coldspur

      Dear Thomas,

      Thank you for your post. I think you should read everything I have written about your father, including ‘Donald Maclean’s Handiwork’, and my book, ‘Misdefending the Realm’. I have to add that a few other historians have warned me about your father’s reliability as a witness, Michael Holzman’s public note to me a couple of months ago (see ‘DMH’ above, where he implied I was being too trusting of what your father wrote) being an example.
      Sadly, mendacity was a trait in many prominent figures in this business. Isaiah Berlin regularly lied (as even Henry Hardy agrees). Gladwyn Jebb lied. Dick White convinced Percy Sillitoe to lie to Attlee over the Fuchs business. Etc. etc. Your father happened to go on record more than most.

  4. PeteB

    Good morning .. After having found your blog on a Google sweep for an image of Robert Hembly-Scales and reading a few posts I realised I might have something of interest with regard to Hembly-Scales’ first foray into Australian affairs.
    The matter involves his apparent involvement in Australia’s ‘most profound mystery’ .. the Tamam Shud case where an unidentified man was found dead on Somerton Beach in Adelaide 1948.

  5. coldspur

    Fascinating, Peter! I shall bring this item to the attention of my Commissioner for Australian and New Zealand Affairs, Denis Lenihan (who introduced me to the Molonglo River Mystery). Please do send me more information.

  6. Your Antipodean Commissioner is mildly indignant, having drawn the Tamam Shud case to your attention in February this year.

  7. peteb

    Good morning Commissioner, I didn’t expect this matter to be elevated so handsomely.
    Simply put … a colleague of mine has been to see Paul Lawson in Adelaide and during his visits he asked Lawson what it was was he didn’t want to tell Stuart Littlemore on that ABC interview some years ago.
    I’m hoping you are familiar with the interview, Commissioner, and I’ll wait for your response before letting the cat out of the bag. It will change your understanding of the case completely, as it has mine. My credentials are a website dedicated to the Somerton Man Case and a book (fiction) that sold underwhelmingly, not to mention a ten year itch to find something new about the case.
    For instance. The next time someone tells you the man seen by Strapps in the evening was the same man as seen by Lyons in the morning you, can tell them they’re wrong.
    For this you will have to re-read Strapp’s deposition and make a note of his description of the trousers the man was wearing, then check that info against the trousers the body was found in.

  8. Good morning to you PeteB – or afternoon, depending on your time zone.
    My slender involvement with this case began earlier this year when a correspondent with an interest in the Somerton man case, having seen my pieces on the KGB in Australia on the website academia.edu, got in touch about the Lapstone Conference. Later I undertook some research for him at the Archives at Kew to see if the MI5 files from that time had anything more than the Hembly-Scales report e.g.apparatchiks who later went missing. They didn’t.
    So Paul Lawson, Lyons, Strapp and the trousers mean nothing to me I’m afraid. But if the cat you have in your bag has any security aspect, I would be keen to hear about it – as would our host, Tony Percy, I’m sure.

  9. peteb

    Denis ..
    An unidentified man was found dead on a Glenelg beach in December 1948. He had a small slip of paper tucked into his fob pocket that had been torn from a copy of the Rubaiyat. The book itself was handed in to the police six months later, according to the police, by a Glenelg chemist who found it in his car close to where the body was found.
    I dispute this finding.
    I believe the MI5 was on top of the murder investigation early, and was able to deflect its intended connection to Hembly-Scales. A connection that would have severely forestalled his work in clearing out Russian agents from the Australian security organisation and installing ASIO in its place.

  10. Denis … apologies for the two-in-a-row but I suspect one way to raise the interest hairs on the back of your neck is to put forward something feasible.
    An unidentified dead man. A slip of paper torn from a Rubaiyat hidden in his fob pocket. The Rubaiyat containing an unfathomable code and one phone number.

    The Rubaiyat was found inside a car parked near Chemist Freeman’s pharmacy in Glenelg. But it wasn’t Freeman’s car it was found in. It was Dr Lica Delprat’s. She was thought to be filling a surgery order, her business relationship with Freeman going back many years.

    Dr Delprat didn’t tell the police what she had found because after examining it she spoke to her nephew, knowing he had a wide experience in matters of a mysterious nature. She told him what she had found and where the car had been parked. She described the book with its hole in the back page and phone number written in pencil on the back cover.

    Then Hembly-Scales heard the news that an unidentified body had been found not far from Freeman’s Pharmacy.

    But it all appeared of no consequence.

    On April 19th 1949, Hembly-Scales heard that the missing piece of paper had been found in the clothing worn on the body.

    The hair on the back of his neck lifted and a cold air passed into his room through the closed window.

    His Canberra office immediately liaised and took governance of the case.

    Hembly-Scales traced the phone number to a woman who was once employed by the Australian security services as a low-level go-between in servicing a communist operative with useless naval shipping information.

    He was convinced the book wasn’t lodged in his aunt’s car randomly and whoever did it expected the news to break quickly, as it did with the finding of the piece of paper. For that reason he kept the Rubaiyat, because it would have been the end of him if he had not.

    Interviews with both the woman and her covert contact were completed. Combined legends created for both.

    May passed, June. July: the inquest adjourned.

    Then, on the 23rd of July 1949 an anonymous man delivered the Rubaiyat to the South Australian Police and no untoward complications of a security nature have been encountered from that day to this.

    The body has still to be identified.

    The South Australian Government will not release any DNA results.

    The case remains open but inactive.

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