Donald Maclean’s Handiwork

Donald Maclean

News Items

  • For those of you who were intrigued by the career of Lt.-Col. Adrian Simpson a few months back, a research colleague, Dr. Giselle Jakobs, has performed some spectacular sleuthing, and uncovered a host of new facts about his life. Please see for her blog of December 3.
  • It may interest others that the yearly rainfall for the area where I live (near Wilmington, North Carolina) reached almost 102 inches on December 30. The previous record was 83.65 inches, in 1877. Our average annual rainfall is 57.61 inches. (Final year’s total came out at 102.40 inches.)

I was intending to pick up the story of ‘The Mystery of the Undetected Radios’ this month, and had written much of the piece by the end of November, when a startling discovery made me decide to change my plans. An overseas contact casually referred me to a document in the CIA archives that turned out to be the first of two articles from the British Sunday newspaper, the Observer, from early 1980. One sentence in this piece made me gasp with amazement, and I immediately convinced myself that I should investigate the story, and report on it as soon as possible. (My contact has since provided me with one or two important documents, including a copy of the New Statesman from February 1980 that he tracked down in his local library, and he has also offered me many encouraging words. Yet he prefers to remain anonymous.)

The sentence ran simply, as follows: “Krivitsky, the first major Soviet defector, saw specimens of Maclean’s handiwork in Moscow”, and it was reported by Andrew Boyle that Goronwy Rees had said it.  That was it. Now, a casual reaction today might run as follows: “Goronwy Rees? Wasn’t he mixed up with Guy Burgess somehow? Well, of course Rees would have been aware that Maclean had spied for Russia. And it is common knowledge that Maclean absconded to Moscow with Burgess, but that was all a long time ago, in 1951. Was Maclean still alive in 1980? Oh, yes, so he was. Died in 1983. And Boyle? Didn’t he write the book that led to the outing of Blunt? Yes, The Climate of Treason. So Boyle must have known what was going on. As for Krivitsky, what were his dates? Okay, he died in suspicious circumstances in 1941. But you can’t always trust what these defectors say. So Krivitsky knew about the spies. What’s the big deal?”

Yet the potential dynamite behind this statement could have been enough to destroy the good name of a senior retired intelligence officer, and to drag the reputation of MI5 into the mire. The constant challenge over Maclean (and Philby) issued to the British intelligence services by historians has been: “Did you not receive enough hints from Krivitsky in 1940 to identify them and haul them in?”. These two articles offered some enticing suggestions that some information was still being withheld.

The first article appeared on January 13, 1980, exactly forty years on from the time when Walter Krivitsky was on his way across the Atlantic to be interrogated by officers from MI5 and SIS. But Goronwy Rees was dead: he had died from cancer at Charing Cross Hospital in London on December 12, 1979. Andrew Boyle had published his exposé The Climate of Treason in November 1979, making a veiled reference, after the flight of Burgess and Maclean in 1951, and then Philby in 1963, to the Fourth and Fifth Men in the scandal as ‘Maurice’ and ‘Basil’ respectively. Shortly after his book was published, the periodical Private Eye had revealed that Maurice was in fact Anthony Blunt, and Margaret Thatcher had, in two separate sessions in the House of Commons, on November 15 and 21, admitted that Blunt had been granted a pardon sixteen years earlier in exchange for giving his interrogators a full confession. (The authorities had no way of gauging how comprehensive the information was that Blunt gave them: not surprisingly, he held back.) The responses to the outing of Blunt, both from those who hounded him and those who defended him, are not the concern of this report. Nor is the overall embarrassment of the Security Service at the fact that the closely-guarded secret of Blunt’s confession and pardon had been revealed. The focus is on the secret source that Boyle dared not describe openly.

Goronwy Rees’s Quandary

Goronwy Rees

Why did Rees grant Boyle such an extensive interview at this particular time – on his deathbed, when the revelations had already been published? Rees had had a chequered career, and a very troubling relationship with Guy Burgess. Burgess had recruited him as an informer in late 1937 or early 1938, when Rees was a Fellow of All Souls’ College at Oxford University, and had passed on to Burgess high-table titbits in which Burgess’s masters in Moscow were interested. Burgess had told Rees that he was working for the Comintern: we know this as Rees shared that fact with his lover, Rosamond Lehmann, and Lehmann later confirmed the story. (In an interview with John Costello, Lehmann provocatively dated the disclosure to ‘late 1936’, and declared that Rees threatened to strangle her if she mentioned it to anybody.) Burgess also confided to him at that time the name of Anthony Blunt as a fellow-conspirator: Rees described the incident in his 1972 memoir A Chapter of Accidents, but did not name the individual. (“I don’t suppose he could have named a person who could have carried more weight with me.”) When Burgess and Rees both learned, in late August 1939, of the Nazi-Soviet pact (which dashed any pretensions Communism had for being an antifascist force), however, Burgess had to claim that he had given up work for the Communists, since Rees defiantly declared he wanted nothing more to do with them. A few years later, in July 1943, Burgess was so afraid that Rees might betray him (and also Blunt, now with a critical post within MI5) that he even told his controllers he was willing to murder Rees, a suggestion that Moscow rejected as too melodramatic and dangerous.

I stay here with Rees’s account of the saga in his memoir. Some time after the war, in July 1950, when Burgess had been sent to Washington, Rees encountered Donald Maclean, whom he had not seen for fifteen years. Maclean got drunk at the Gargoyle Club, and made the famous observation to Rees: “I know all about you. You used to be one of us, but you ratted”. Rees immediately realised that a) Maclean was surely another spy in the Foreign Office, and b) Burgess had at some stage told Maclean of Rees’s pivotal ‘betrayal’ of the movement in 1939. Several months later, in May 1951, when Burgess had returned from Washington, Rees, now Estates Bursar of All Souls, met him for a drink. He decided, however, not to mention to Burgess the challenge he had received from Maclean. A few days later, on Friday May 25, not many hours before the defectors took flight, Burgess called Rees’s wife, Margie, on the telephone, and carried on a long incomprehensible monologue with her. When Rees returned home on Sunday evening, he interpreted what Burgess had said as some kind of warning and farewell message.

Rees’s first reaction was dramatic. He claimed he told his wife: “He’s gone to Moscow” – perhaps not a surprising conclusion. But he then took it upon himself to sound the alarm. He called an unnamed ‘friend’ in SIS (MI6), saying that he thought MI5 should be told that he had a hunch that Burgess had defected to Moscow. Was such an action really justified? The only cause for concern was that ‘Jimmy’, Guy’s live-in boyfriend (actually Jackie Hewitt), had also called Rees’s wife in a great state of agitation, since Guy had not returned home on the Friday night, something that, according to ‘Jimmy’, he had never done before. Margie Rees, however, remarked to her husband that staying overnight with them without telling anyone was something that Burgess had done ‘often enough’. Another twist to the story, as told later by Miranda Carter in Anthony Blunt: His Lives (2001), is that Hewitt called Blunt first to report Burgess’s disappearance, and then – against Blunt’s advice – called the Reeses.

For Rees to insert himself so speedily in the hunt for a missing person – if indeed Guy would truly have been considered ‘missing’ so soon – seems on reflection to have been either reckless or the work of a busybody. Whatever Rees’s precise intentions, his contact in SIS arranged for a meeting to be set up between Rees and MI5. That same evening, however, according to A Chapter of Accidents, Rees called another unnamed friend of Burgess’s, ‘who had served in MI5 during the war’ to tell him of what he had done. This ex-officer was apparently so troubled that he visited Rees on the Monday, trying to convince Rees that it would be rash to disclose what he knew about Burgess, as it might all rebound unpleasantly on him. Rees rejected his friend’s advice, and went ahead with his meeting, convinced that now was the time to open up. He writes in his book that appointment with MI5 occurred the next day. He then told his contact in MI5 that he thought Burgess had gone to Moscow, and was then informed by the officer (whom he also knew from his wartime days: one might ask why he did not contact this officer directly in that case, rather than going through an intermediary) that Burgess and Maclean, about to be dubbed ‘the missing diplomats’, had absconded together. In his memoir, he claims he then experienced ‘a terrible sinking of the heart’, and that ‘matters were even worse than I thought’.

That was in fact not how matters evolved. What Rees did not say in his memoir was that when he had his first meeting with the (unnamed) Guy Liddell, which was set up after a provocative delay (i.e. not the very next day), the latter was improbably accompanied by Anthony Blunt – the ‘ex-officer’ from the preceding paragraph. (I shall examine the whole timetable in more detail later.) This was a somewhat inhibiting experience, since, in Blunt’s presence, Liddell tried to ward Rees off making extravagant claims about Guy Burgess. When this casual meeting was followed by a more formal appointment with Liddell, Liddell was accompanied by Dick White, who was heading the investigation into the disappearance of the Cambridge duo. Upset at the way he was being treated by the two counter-intelligence officers, Rees identified Blunt as a further conspirator, but Liddell and White responded stonily, making Rees feel that he was the transgressor. They gave signs of knowing then of Blunt’s past treachery (the evidence for which I have shown in Misdefending the Realm, but which is not a fact that has been recognised in print elsewhere, I believe: see below). At this stage Blunt showed all the calmness of one who knew that the authorities were on his side.

It was not the way for Rees to win friends and influence people. After an embarrassing flurry of media attention in the following months of summer 1951, when he even chose to deny, in the Daily Mail, Burgess’s possible malfeasance, or even that his friend had been a Communist, Rees bit his tongue for a few years. He was appointed Principal of the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, and then ruined his career in March 1956 by some ill-conceived articles, published anonymously, but soon undeniably attributable to him, in The People. Spurred, and annoyed, by a press conference given by Burgess and Maclean in Moscow, Rees had described the treacherous behaviour of the pair, and warned of other traitors who needed to be rooted out. The reaction was almost uniform: Rees was accused of being disloyal to his friends, and was largely ostracised by former acquaintances. (I have written about the bizarre exchange between him and Isaiah Berlin over the incident in Misdefending the Realm.) He was fired from the Principality, and surely did not lunch in Aberystwyth again. At his death the University even refused to lower the flag to half-mast. He struggled out of the limelight, issuing his rather sad but not completely honest apologia in 1972, until Andrew Boyle sought him out (according to Jenny Rees) in October 1978.

What emerges from all this is that Rees was a psychological wreck. Having refrained from informing MI5 about the treachery of Burgess (and Blunt) back in the thirties, partly because he was to some extent guilty himself, but also because he did not want to snitch on friends, it became more and more stressful to bottle things up. If he did finally break his silence, he also feared that his interviewers might ask him: ‘Why did you not do this before?’ And if he said nothing, and the authorities discovered from another source of his complicity in the subversion, it would be too late to declare his knowledge of what was happening, and he would be as guilty as his friends. This crisis contributed to his telling some untruths, and making some rash statements that found favour with nobody. But how did he know of Krivitsky in Moscow, and why would he make extravagant claims about Maclean’s handiwork?

Andrew Boyle’s Quest

Andrew Boyle

Andrew Boyle was best-known as the editor of the BBC Radio 4 programme The World at One, and had written some well-received biographies. Having witnessed the fugitive Kim Philby follow his conspirators to Moscow in 1963, Boyle set about discovering who the ‘Fourth and Fifth Men’ in the group were. He stated in his Prologue to The Climate of Treason (published in the USA as The Fourth Man) that he had gained much of his information from CIA and FBI files in Washington.  That may have been partly true, but it was also a feint to protect a number of retired and serving intelligence officers in Britain who knew they were breaking the Official Secrets Act when they divulged inside information to him. One major figure who spoke to him was Dick White who, having headed both MI5 and SIS, and served as an intelligence advisor to the Cabinet, had by then retired to Sussex. While Boyle minimised the importance of the direct conversations he had had with White, he was fascinated enough by them, after the publication of his book on the Cambridge Five, to start to gather research for a biography of White. The project was eventually abandoned, ostensibly because of Boyle’s illness and untimely death. Instead, the journalist Tom Bower was given access to Boyle’s files, which resulted in his profile of White, The Perfect English Spy, which was published in 1995.

Boyle also understated the contributions to his research provided by Goronwy Rees. In The Perfect English Spy, a rather undisciplined, and certainly mistitled, compilation, Bower states that Boyle met Rees as early as May 1977, where the academic, now a journalist, soon disclosed to him that Blunt was the Fourth Man, a fact that Boyle managed to have confirmed by speaking to other intelligence officers. He thus arranged a series of interviews with White, who was writing a history of MI5 that was planned to be part of the series of British Intelligence under the overall editorship of Professor Harry Hinsley. In the wake of the attempts to identify Communist moles within the intelligence services, White was trying to rebuild the reputation of MI5 and SIS by describing its successes, primarily the wartime Double Cross Operation. After long discussions, Boyle let drop his suspicions about Blunt, and was testily warned by White to stay off ‘that difficult and embarrassing ground’. White added, rather paradoxically, that he ‘knew nothing about that subject, whatsoever’. After a few months, however, White had to change his tune, as general media coverage, and what Boyle had uncovered, suggested to him that journalists were better at uncovering skulduggery than were his own officers. He decided to face the inevitable while trying to protect MI5’s reputation in the whole sordid affair. He effectively confirmed Blunt’s treachery, and made only trivial comments when he reviewed Boyle’s manuscript in April 1979. (For libel reasons, the text concealed the names of Blunt and the gentleman considered at that time to be the Fifth Man, Wilfrid Mann.)

The account by Jenny Rees, Goronwy’s daughter, in Looking for Mr. Nobody (1994) differs, not only chronologically. She complemented the evidence derived from her father, not always the most reliable of witnesses, with information gained from later publications, but still stressed her father’s role as a collaborator with Boyle, as ‘together, they were putting together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle’. But Boyle may not have told Rees immediately about everything he had gathered, as Goronwy wrote a letter, a few months before the book was published, to his friend Micky Burn (who had been a friend of Burgess’s), saying: “He told me, among other things, that our friend AB [Blunt] had actually confessed, but it would have caused too much of a scandal to do anything about it. This was on the personal authority of Dick White, but please don’t mention it  . . .”  Boyle may have kept that observation out of the notes that eventually fell to Bower: it might also explain his reluctance to conclude the biographical project, as it might have turned out to be unfavourable. Rees was by then, however, a very sick man. He was admitted to Charing Cross Hospital because of cancer at the beginning of November 1979, and soon experienced an unpleasant jolt when, because of a missing line in a Daily Mail review of The Climate of Treason, the article suggested that Rees himself had recruited Kim Philby.

After Private Eye made the identification clear, Blunt made a statement blaming Rees for his unmasking, and then went into hiding. This is an important fact, as the fatally ill Rees was to become a convenient dumping-ground for all manner of accusations that must have been preying on Boyle’s mind. Prime Minister Thatcher’s admission of Blunt’s guilt, and of his confession to the authorities in 1964 (after a broad pointer from Michael Straight in the USA) referred to Rees’s act of informing MI5 of Blunt’s treachery (without identifying Rees by name), claiming that the accusation had been dismissed because of lack of evidence. That was another lie prepared for the PM. I have shown, in Misdefending the Realm, how White and Liddell had assuredly had to face the truth of Blunt’s espionage when they caught his accomplice Leo Long (arguably the Sixth Man) in the act of purloining secrets from MI14 during the war. Moreover, Blunt’s communism had already come under the very opaque MI5 microscope when he was recruited by Military Intelligence in 1939, and then by MI5 in July 1940. Rees watched Mrs. Thatcher’s announcement from his hospital bed, and derived much satisfaction from the knowledge that the villain had been brought out into the open at last. In the Observer the following Sunday, Boyle acknowledged Rees’s contribution in nailing the art historian. That same day, Rees went into a coma.

With the consideration that the exact timing – or even genuineness – of all these events may be open to some debate, the documentary evidence of what Boyle engineered in the winter of 1979-80 is incontrovertible. Rees came out of his coma after a week, but his health steadily declined. Nevertheless, Boyle arranged to speak to him, and encouraged him to contribute to a testimony that appeared as the two Observer articles. On the day he died, December 12, Rees wrote to Jenny of the long pieces that Boyle had written based on their recent conversations: “They will appear after Christmas, and are, I think, very good.” It is clear that he approved of the texts, and supported Boyle’s aims. Jenny Rees informs us, according to what her sister Lucy told her (Jenny lived in Brittany at the time), that her father resisted seeing Boyle at first, but Boyle was then a man on a mission, and must have persuaded Rees to participate in creating the bizarre testimony that ended up in the Observer.

The first of the articles, published on January 13, can be seen at .  Immediately, we can note a discrepancy in the accounts: Boyle claims that, when he regained consciousness after his coma, ‘the only visitor he asked to see was Andrew Boyle’. If Rees had indeed had a preview of the articles, that would appear to contradict what his daughters passed on to us. Perhaps Rees did not think that his coma was ‘consistent with his malignant condition’ (as one doctor had advised his family) and may have been induced by a malevolent outside agent, and thus wanted to impart extra information to Boyle in a hurry. As Boyle tells the story, Rees was roused to anger by Blunt’s ‘disingenuous replies’ in an interview broadcast on November 22. Yet, as Jenny rightly points out, the text that follows does not sound like a natural conversation, especially from a dying man. It is scripted, unnatural, with Rees melodramatically appealing to Boyle as if in a poorly constructed novel: “You, Andrew, [who else, in a duologue?] were largely instrumental in exposing him publicly as a Soviet spy.” What follows is a narrative about Rees’s life that must have also been very familiar to Boyle, not meriting the dying man’s wasted breaths. It was a show designed for the chattering classes.

And then we come to the critical leading questions on Maclean: “Was that the only occasion on which Maclean came into your life? Did anything occur at that time which might have alerted you to the double life he was already leading as a Soviet agent?”, asks Boyle. Rees has to think about this, as if it were all impromptu. He then comes up with new details about ‘Barbara’, a mutual friend, a photographer with a studio in Mayfair, who one day told Rees about Maclean’s skill with a camera. And suddenly, after all those years when, in decent health, he might have considered such details more constructively, he comes up with the linkage to Krivitsky, and how the defector had seen, in Moscow, specimens of Maclean’s handiwork (presumably photographs he took rather than documents with Maclean’s signature on them, although how Krivitsky knew that Maclean had photocopied them himself is not explained). Yet the vital salient fact is that, according to the report on Krivitsky compiled by Jane Archer in the spring of 1940, Krivitsky had never identified Maclean by name, and thus had been unable to ascribe documents he had seen in Moscow to Maclean’s doing. It was that failure by MI5 to follow up on clear hints to Maclean’s identity that had brought a heap of justifiable criticism to the Security Service, and especially to Guy Liddell and Dick White. To what source could Rees (and Boyle, his stooge in this conversation) possibly have been referring?

Mysterious Clues

Walter Krivitsky

Before I switch to exploring Krivitsky’s role in this adventure, however, I must inspect two clearly stated hints that appear in The Climate of Treason, but seem to have been overlooked by everyone, including Dick White, presumably, when he had a chance to vet the proofs. While the Archer report (which was eventually released to the National Archives in KV2-805, and can be read in Gary Kern’s 2004 package of documents on Soviet intelligence, Walter G. Krivitsky: MI5 Debriefing) gives vague background hints to Maclean’s identity, Boyle went to two outside sources for some of his information. In chapter 6 of his book, he records the verifiable evidence that Krivitsky asserted that the second spy in the Foreign Office ‘was a Scotsman of good family, educated at Eton and at Oxford, and an idealist who worked for the Russians without payment’. Krivitsky was wrong about the candidate’s precise educational background, but was giving reasonably warm tips. Then without defining the exact source, Boyle goes on to say that the spy ‘occasionally wore a cape and dabbled in artistic circles’, as if Krivitsky had also provided this information.

This line has been quoted also by Robert Cecil (in his 1988 biography of Maclean, A Divided Life), merely giving a reference for it of ‘FBI’, and by Roland Philipps (in his 2018 A Spy Named Orphan), with Phillips giving a precise reference (WFO 65-5648 from the ‘FBI Vaults online’), while suggesting also that Victor Mallet, the chargé d’affaires in Washington, heard of the statement. The phrase was reputedly included in the report that Mallet, on behalf of Lord Lothian, sent to MI5, and which prompted London to invite Krivitsky there for discussions. The archives at Kew inform us that, after Levine’s visit on September 3, Mallet immediately communicated with Alexander Cadogan, the Permanent Under-Secretary in the Foreign Office, who then delegated action to Gladwyn Jebb, the Foreign Office liaison to the intelligence services. Levine, on the other hand, in his Plain Talk article written in 1948, asserted that he dealt solely with Lothian until the latter received confirmation from London a couple of weeks later that King had been identified as a spy, and that it was only then that Lothian introduced Mallet to him. The cables indicate otherwise. We must therefore bear in mind that Levine’s accounts may not be completely reliable, and that he could have been trying to elevate the role he played.

What Mallet wrote, thereafter, in the only extant memorandum to Jebb, was a profile that indicates that lines had been crossed somewhere: ‘a Scotsman of very good family, a well-known painter, and perhaps also a sculptor’, in connection with someone who had abetted in providing arms to Spain. (Despite Mallet’s belief to the contrary, Krivitsky did know the name of his agent who bought ‘arms for Spain’: it was Henri Pieck.  And Pieck was, indeed, a painter and graphic artist. Typical of the confusion sown was a message from Washington where a character named ‘K’ was being interpreted as meaning ‘King’, when it in fact meant ‘Krivitsky’.) Yet, even though the ‘cape’ delineation is the closest indication we have of a description from someone who actually met Maclean, it never appears in the Archer report. There is, furthermore, no record of it in the Krivitsky files at Kew, where the single confidential memorandum above is presented, but not the full correspondence between Mallet and Jebb. Krivitsky presumably did not repeat the phrase in London, or, if he did, for some reason the team overlooked it.

The intricacies of the supposed statements by Krivitsky – or, more accurately, by his guide, ghost-writer and translator Isaac Don Levine, who told officials of the British Embassy in Washington facts without letting Krivitsky know what he was doing – and where they were recorded, and how they have been distorted, are such that they merit a complete blog to themselves, and I shall thus defer a full analysis for another time.  Suffice it now to clarify five important points:

  1. The extended communication chain of Krivitsky-Levine-Lothian-Mallet-Cadogan-Jebb-Liddell was bound to introduce some misunderstandings at some stage.
  2. It is probable that Mallet and Jebb concealed from MI5 and SIS exactly what Mallet exchanged with Jebb in their ‘most secret’ communications;
  3. We must remember that, when Krivitsky faced his interrogators in London, he did not know that Levine had told them anything about Soviet spies in the UK government (or, at least, that is what we have been led to believe);
  4. Krivitsky himself behaved very deviously with his interrogators: if he had really wanted to help identify the anonymous spy in the Foreign Office, he would have provided them with clearer clues rather than the deliberately vague and misleading hints that Jane Archer extracted from him.
  5. If Archer and her colleagues had really studied all Krivitsky’s pronouncements from articles published in the USA more thoroughly, they would have been able to apply far more pressure on him.

I thus return to the statement about the cape – the visual clue which is the closest we get to a suggestion that one of Krivitsky’s informers had actually encountered Maclean. Where did it originate? A startling item of data appears on page 460, as Note 24 to the ‘cape’ sentence (only) in Chapter 6 of A Climate of Treason. Boyle writes of the source: “FBI/CIA files, incorporating testimony of Isaac Don Levine and Walter Krivitsky. Apart from the Lothian report to the Foreign Office [sic, not to MI5], earlier evidence had been submitted on Krivitsky’s behalf by Wilfrid le Gallienne, a British diplomat *. In this evidence the unnamed ‘idealist of a good family’ had already proved his value by providing photocopies of proceedings of the Committee of Imperial Defence, seen by Krivitsky on his final visit to Moscow before defecting to the West. The photocopying was done in a Pimlico flat ” (my italics). Yet no explanatory information for this cryptic reference is provided. The apparently French connection is intriguing, since Krivitsky had, according to Kern and others, left massive amounts of testimony about his European spy network with the Sûreté in Paris before he left for the Americas in 1938. These volumes mysteriously disappeared at some stage, but is it possible that a British diplomat in the French capital had glimpsed what Krivitsky revealed of the UK group?  Lastly, I remind readers that Krivitsky’s ‘final visit to Moscow’ concluded on May 22, 1937.

[* Probably Wilfred Gallienne, 1897-1956. Gallienne was born in Guernsey. Having been chargé d’affaires and consul for four years in Tallinn, Estonia, he was appointed Ambassador on April 26, 1940. How Gallienne might have been encountered Krivitsky is not easily explained: Kern does not mention him. After the Soviet invasion of Estonia, Gallienne undertook a train journey from Moscow to Tokyo in August 1940: the timing is inappropriate, the connection to Krivitsky obscure. Gallienne was intriguingly appointed British consul in New York in January 1941, a couple of weeks before Krivitsky’s death, but Boyle writes of ‘earlier evidence’ suggesting, at the latest, summer 1939. Alternatively, but less probably, Boyle could have meant Richard de Gallienne, 1866-1947, poet, essayist and critic, who wrote from Paris to H. Montgomery Hyde in 1938, and could have thus run across Krivitsky there. The Hyde lead is intriguing, since he joined SIS in 1940, and then worked for British Security Coordination in New York. He later wrote several books on intelligence. A promising letter from Gallienne’s step-daughter, Gwen, to Montgomery Hyde, however, turns out to be concerned with Hyde’s enthusiasm for homosexual law reform, not espionage. (My thanks to the Record Office at Liverpool Libraries for providing a photocopy of the letter.) A longshot could be that Boyle misinterpreted his source, and was referring to GALLENI, the alias of the illegal Dmitri Bystrolyotov, who almost became Maclean’s (or King’s) handler in 1936, and also managed Henri Pieck for a while. Yet supplying motivation and opportunity for Bystrolyotov to speak up for Krivitsky is a struggle. Whichever source is correct, it is astonishing to me that the ‘de Gallienne’ lead was not substantiated, verified, or followed up by anyone. A research task for another day.  Lastly, I should declare an interest: I am a descendant of the Galliennes of the Channel Islands through my maternal grandmother. See: ]

The first part of Boyle’s explanation does not make sense. To begin with, the CIA was not created until after the war, and it is highly unlikely that original statements made by Krivitsky about a spy in the British Foreign Office would appear only in an FBI file. Philipps’ citation of a detailed reference appears to be false: I have asked the author about it, and he states that he was relying on Cecil, and inserted it as a kind of guess by default. (Research at the National Archives and Records Administration indicates that the record cited concerns a possible Soviet double-agent, Nosenko.) One can find another statement about the hints to Maclean in an article, Who Killed Krivitsky?, by the American journalist Flora Lewis published in the Washington Post of February 13, 1966, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Krivitsky’s death. (It appears as an Appendix to Krivitsky’s In Stalin’s Secret Service). A clipping of the article appears in the Krivitsky file at the FBI Vault, which might explain later references. This text reads as follows: “Krivitsky described another agent in the British Foreign Office, a dashing Scotsman given to smoking a pipe and sometimes wearing a cape.” But no mention of ‘dabbling in artistic circles’. (And smoking a pipe was hardly a characteristic likely to distinguish a British civil servant from the herd in the 1930s.) Astonishingly, Lewis provides no source for her citation, and she includes multiple egregious errors in her account of the Krivitsky/Levine approach to the British. (One of the few weaknesses of Kern’s book is that he pays close attention to what she writes about Krivitsky’s death while ignoring her very palpable errors concerning transatlantic matters.) But was there a missing Krivitsky document to which she referred, perhaps?

This whole farrago is muddied even further by John Costello, who wrote his in-depth analysis of the whole business, The Mask of Treachery, in 1988. Costello did not help his cause by writing imprecisely about who was saying what. “He also referred to another traitor in the Foreign Office ‘whose name was Scottish and whose habits were Bohemian’”, he wrote, on page 345, as if Krivitsky had said this before the initial message arrived on Alexander Cadogan’s desk, when we know that it was Levine who provided the information.  Furthermore, Costello attributed this statement in his Notes to one of the Saturday Evening Post articles from April 1939, as well as to Levine’s Stalin’s Great Secret (p 140). Yet neither source shows evidence of any such description: Jane Archer of MI5 had read the Saturday Evening Post articles that summer, and would surely have noticed such a statement, anyway. Levine’s book did not come out until 1956: it contains only 126 pages, with no mention of Krivitsky. (In Plain Talk, in November 1948, Levine did write, however, that he “learned that the second agent was of Scottish origin, with an artistic background”.) Costello then shed doubt on the case for Maclean, agreeing with the author Richard Deacon, and pointed his suspicion towards Lord Inverchapel (then Archibald Clark Kerr), who would in 1942 replace Stafford Cripps as His Majesty’s Ambassador in Moscow. Yet Kerr was posted to Iraq between 1935 and 1938.

Even if Krivitsky did not know the name of his agent, Lewis’s phrase would suggest that he knew what the spy looked like. And in his 1973 memoir, Eyewitness to History, Isaac Don Levine reinforced that notion, on p 191, with the following startling revelation: “Krivitsky could describe his appearance, he knew something of his background, he did not know his name.” (In his 1956 evidence to Congress, Levine merely paraphrased what Krivitsky told him as follows: ‘a member of a Scottish family and a young intellectual communist with artistic interests’, echoing his Plain Talk description.) To be able to describe someone’s appearance strongly suggests that one is not relying on second-hand impressions. Unfortunately, Levine shed no new light on capes, pipes, artistic circles, bohemian habits, or even hints of Caledonian élan, but it is worth mentioning that, in making the arrangements for Krivitsky’s passage to England at the end of 1939, Levine said that Krivitsky was nervous because he had travelled to the UK once before, probably undetected, but no doubt on a false passport, and thus might have feared being arrested. And, as I indicated above, Krivitsky told Levine his knowledge about the spies in the Foreign Office in confidence, and did not know that Levine had passed on the hints to the British Embassy in Washington. One of the benefits to the British was that they were able to impress Krivitsky with the fact that King was already behind bars when he arrived in January 1940, and thus give the defector the impression that British Intelligence was much smarter than he thought it was. Yet Krivitsky never told his interrogators that he could ‘describe the spy’s appearance.’

Given this muddle, and the absence of evidence elsewhere, the second part of Boyle’s Note has therefore to be taken more seriously. But what was the purpose of presenting, in 1979, this gratuitous factoid, and why could Boyle not be more explicit about the ‘de Gallienne’ informant? If the source of the original documents was not identifiable, why was the location of their copying, but not the camera-operator, worth mentioning? Why would Boyle refer to Pimlico as the location, but encourage Rees to cite a studio in Mayfair? Yet the Note does suggest that someone not only knew that Maclean had provided photocopies, but could also locate the studio where he had performed the job. Was that a hint that the purloiner had been the copier? If that was known, why could it not be declared openly? I shall return to this point later.

Krivitsky’s Supervision

Ignace Reiss

An accurate recording of Krivitsky’s chronology is essential for setting Boyle’s claims in a proper context. (I shall not provide here a full summary of his life: readers can go for that to Misdefending the Realm, or, better still, to Gary Kern’s superlative biography, A Death in Washington.) All that is necessary to know here is that Walter Krivitsky had been head of Soviet Military Intelligence (the GRU) in western Europe, had defected in 1937 after seeing his colleague Ignace Reiss killed by Stalin’s assassins, survived two assassination attempts in France, and had made his way to the USA. There he struggled with residency permits, suspiciousness on the part of the FBI because he was defector, attacks from the right because he was a communist, and from the left because he was anti-Stalin, and disdain from the White House because he was rocking the boat against the USA’s future ally, for whom Roosevelt harboured some ideological sympathy. After his intermediary Isaac Don Levine revealed to Lord Lothian, the British ambassador in Washington, the existence of a Soviet spy named King in the Foreign Office, and hints of a second agent there, Krivitsky was brought over in January 1940 to London, under conditions of extreme secrecy, to be interrogated by officers of MI5 and SIS about possible other infiltrators in Britain’s political hallways. It was then that he gave broad tips to the identities of Kim Philby and Donald Maclean that were not followed up. Krivitsky died in a Washington hotel, in January 1941, almost certainly shot by Stalin’s hitmen, in circumstances that were made to look like a suicide.

What is critical to this story is the fact that Krivitsky’s last visit to Moscow took place in May 1937: he left there for the Hague on May 22. Thus any evidence of espionage records that he described to his British interrogators must refer to a period before then. This fact is important, as Maclean’s chief courier (and soon lover) was one Kitty Harris, a Moscow agent who had travelled widely, and had even engaged in a probably bigamous marriage with the founder of the Communist Party of the USA, Earl Browder. The leading biographers of Maclean, Roland Philipps (A Spy Named Orphan, 2018) and Michael Holzman (Idealism and Espionage, 2014) both suggest that Harris and Maclean met for the first time some months after Kitty returned from Moscow after intensive training (in wireless and photography) in May 1937. Philipps sets the date as late as April 1938, indicating that Harris had spent some time in the USA: Holzman merely states ‘early 1938’. Both appear to derive their information from Igor Damaskin’s The Spy With Seventeen Names (2000), a work that the author claimed was based on reliable Soviet archives, but which, he has since admitted, contains some romantic flourishes and innovations. What neither author points out, however, is that Damaskin relates how Harris was working as a courier between London and Paris as early as 1936, before being summoned to Moscow in January 1937 for training. Thus she might well have been used as an intermediary for Maclean in this period, and the dramatic first encounter (using coded phrases) that Damaskin describes could have been an invention. Overall, Kitty Harris’s movements in the late thirties are more easily verifiable than her exploits in China the previous decade.

Kitty Harris

What Damaskin does not report, however, is that, while in Moscow, Harris, who was an NKVD operative *, had a meeting with Krivitsky, as they were both staying at the Savoy Hotel. In his memoir, In Stalin’s Secret Service, based on his 1939 Saturday Evening Post articles, Krivitsky explained that he was looking for a woman agent for Switzerland, and Harris was sent to him to be interviewed, as if he did not know who she was. (“She had been described to me as the former wife of Earl Browder . . .”) It is a rather disingenuous statement by Krivitsky, as he later admitted, to Ruth Shipley of the State Department, that Earl Browder’s sister, Marguerite, going under the name of Jane Montgomery, had been an agent working for him in Berlin, while in his book he declares only that Marguerite ‘was then in our service in Central Europe’, and that Kitty ‘spoke well’ of her. It was this encounter that enabled him later to recognise Kitty in a photograph, but he seemed to want to distance himself from both agents in any written account.

[ * The state intelligence service, the future KGB, previously the OGPU, was titled the NKVD between 1934 and 1941.]

Nevertheless, Krivitsky claimed that he approved Kitty’s assignment to a foreign post without resolving for us the issues of how NKVD and GRU responsibilities and agents were shared or allocated, or why she was not suitable for Switzerland, or how the coincidence of her ending up as the handler for Maclean occurred. The details he provided, however, constitute reasonably solid evidence that the encounter did in fact happen. And one can understand, perhaps, why the Moscow organs did not want to have Krivitsky’s name soiling the heroic biography that Damaskin was concocting. It is another reason why Damaskin’s accounts have to be taken with some scepticism, and his assertions verified from another source, if possible. Yet we have to remind ourselves that Krivitsky was devious too, as the ‘kriv’ origin (= ‘crooked’) of his assumed name tells us.

When Kitty Harris landed in London in April 1938, Maclean advised her to rent an apartment where she could perform photography, and she took up a flat in Bayswater, where, so Maclean said, he went from his own place in Oakley Street, in Chelsea, twice a week with papers ‘borrowed’ from the Foreign Office, to have them photocopied. Other accounts suggest that Kitty came to his flat, and copied them there: that is unlikely. We must draw two conclusions from this timeline: even if the district of Pimlico, indicated by Boyle, might have been a mistake, Kitty Harris was certainly not the agent responsible for getting documents to Moscow that Krivitsky would have been able to see, but it is quite possible that Kitty could have been the source of Krivitsky’s impressions of the character and employment of Maclean if she did indeed act solely as a courier in 1936.

Maclean Delivers the Goods

Alexander Orlov

1936 was a very productive year for Maclean, although the evidence is a little contradictory. John Costello and Oleg Tsarev, in Deadly Illusions (1993), claim that he was ordered by his ‘illegal’ * NKVD handler Alexander Orlov not to supply any documents in the first few months of the year, but instead focus on finding his way properly around the Foreign Office. Orlov, when he had to make a speedy exit from London in October 1935, had taken with him a copy of a letter from Lord Simon congratulating Maclean on his acceptance into the Foreign Office, something that was ‘read with glee in the Lubyanka’, according to Costello and Tsarev. Orlov thus had to leave another renowned illegal, Arnold Deutsch, in charge. A few months later, Orlov wrote, in a memorandum to Slutsky, the head of the Foreign Department of the NKVD, that Maclean was ready for ‘full activation’ on March 26. Yet the same authors report that Maclean had already provided Deutsch with his first batch of documents in January. Maclean and Deutsch must have ignored Orlov’s instructions.

[* ‘illegal’: an agent operating without protection of Soviet diplomatic cover, probably in the country on a false passport]

Arnold Deutsch

In April 1936, the Politburo decided that Orlov should be sent to Spain, and Theodore Mally, another Great Illegal, who had originally been sent to the UK, in January 1936, to handle the other spy in the Foreign Office, was appointed the chief illegal rezident in England. Deutsch thus started working for Mally. This was also the time when Kitty Harris was assigned to Mally, and started acting as a courier. Moreover, Deutsch was to meet Krivitsky for the first time, in Paris, in June 1936, so that encounter could have provided another opportunity for the achievements of their young star to be communicated and lauded. Nigel West and Tsarev, in The Crown Jewels (1998), assert that Deutsch started working for himself again at the end of August, only to be re-assigned to Mally in January 1937. It might have all been rather confusing for Maclean, and the NKVD infrastructure was not very stable, but the documents got through.

Theodore Mally

Krivitsky referred to some important documents that he had seen on three occasions, in 1936 and 1937, in Moscow. On the last, he had called on Slutsky (see above), who was a friend. Slutsky, clearly well-briefed by Orlov, handed him the latest book of extracts of information from the ‘Imperial Council’ source, which were treated with special respect, as they dealt with vital information concerning the political situation in Berlin. They were in fact minutes of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and we can rely on the inspection of the same by Tsarev to understand that Maclean had been the source of the originals that had been photocopied in London. Security in the western department, where Maclean worked, was notoriously lax, and Maclean was able to help himself to any number of telegrams, reports from SIS, and transcriptions from deciphered foreign reports, as well as to re-assure his controllers that Britain was not making breakthroughs in cryptology against Soviet ciphers. The trove from the latter part of 1936 was especially valuable, culminating in the delivery of the complete minutes of the meeting of the Imperial Defence Committee of December 20, at which Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was not the only prominent attendee.

How were these documents photographed? Costello and Tsarev tell the story as follows: When Maclean handed over bundles of documents “ . . . they were then photographed in the apartment of HERTA, another codename used by the female courier PFEIL. They were returned to Maclean the next day, so he could take them back the following day. For the most secret ‘blue jackets’ containing signals intelligence which Maclean could only obtain access to during office hours, he had been given a roll-flex camera so that he could photograph them himself in situ.” Michael Holzman, using information from the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service in Moscow (‘Sketches of History’), says that the documents ‘were photographed on a “flat carrier” at the NKVD residency and given back to him so that the next day he could return them to their proper places in the Foreign Office files.’ Holzman echoes the claim that Mally gave Donald a miniature camera. Thus Maclean may have been an occasional photographer, but there was no indication that he maintained his own studio.

Edith Tudor-Hart

PFEIL (German) or STRELA (Russian), in English ARROW, was the cryptonym initially given jointly to Alexander Tudor-Hart and his wife, Edith (née Suschitsky). Edith had been born in Vienna, and was a close friend of Philby’s first wife, Litzi Friedmann. She was a renowned photographer, and, according to West and Tsarev, maintained a studio in Brixton, which was not really convenient for quick turn-rounds from Chelsea, but could have served as an overnight operation. Ironically, MI5 kept a constant watch on Tudor-Hart: she was implicated in the Percy Glading spy affair, since a Leica camera belonging to her had been found on Glading’s premises. MI5 interviewed her in March 1938, but again failed to join up the dots: Tudor-Hart simply denied knowing how Glading could have acquired the camera, and MI5 dropped the investigation.  She was later divorced from her husband, in 1940: he had gone to Spain with the Republicans Medical Aid Committee. Tudor-Hart has obtained a somewhat mythic status among the friends of Stalin, a reputation that is probably overstated.

Philipps claims that Deutsch ‘would meet Maclean on his way home to Chelsea, take the files to his photographer and then meet Maclean again in Chelsea late in the evening so that he could give the documents back for their return to the office.’ That sounds like a dangerous routine that should have been avoided, as it was too predictable and regular, and presumably also made Maclean’s social life rather dreary. A visit to Brixton and back, including a session in the dark room, would have been well nigh impossible. The source, however, was Kim Philby in a STASI training-video, so we should not rely on that too heavily. Other accounts suggest that Maclean was encouraged to pass on documents on Fridays, so that the photographer would have more time to work on them before the next business day. Tudor-Hart was also reported to have acted as courier, taking photographs clandestinely to Copenhagen, which would indicate that dealing with the Soviet Embassy was considered too risky. Yet it would have taken Tudor-Hart out of action for long stretches, provoked suspicion as she returned through customs each time, and extended the delay after which Moscow could view the secrets. Deutsch wrote for her file that she was ‘modest, diligent, and brave’, but also rather careless, though he might have been covering up his own clumsiness in that memorandum. And, since Tudor-Hart was also a well-known photographer for children, she attracted more attention than was appropriate. (But not the scrupulous attention from MI5 that she merited.)

A study of Tudor-Hart’s files at the National Archives suggests a more complicated story, however. The address at Brixton was probably that of her husband, with whom she was not living permanently. Surveillance reports indicate that she was living alone at Haverstock Hill, in Belsize Park, NW3 (very close to the celebrated Lawn Road flats, where communists and illegals resided). There she maintained her studio, from April 1935 until at least February 1936, and probably until late 1937. For a while, in the summer of 1937, she was reported as staying with her husband in Acre Lane, Brixton – somewhat astonishingly in the company of Margaret Moxon, described as the wife of Arthur Wynn, who would later be unveiled as the leader of the ‘Oxford Ring’ of Soviet spies – and departed thence to collect her mother from Vienna.  On August 27, 1937, landing from Ostend, she gave the authorities an address of 132C, Sutherland Avenue, Maida Vale, and by the following January, she was reported living at that address, with her studio moved to Duke Street, off Oxford Street. To muddy the waters even further, when a suspected communist Siegfried Baruch was interrogated on arrival in February 1938, he communicated with Tudor-Hart at an address in Halsey Street, Knightsbridge. The conclusion concerning Maclean would appear to be that the peripatetic Tudor-Hart, if she did carry out the photographing of documents during 1936, would have performed the procedure from her studio in Belsize Park, and it is highly unlikely that she moved her operation from one side of London to unfashionable Brixton. (By 1939, she had moved to 128 Alexander Road, Hampstead.)

There was, however, another photographer working for Mally at that time, someone called Wolf Levit, and his story really belongs to that of another spy.

The Demise of Captain King

Much has been made of the rivalry between the Soviet GRU (Military Intelligence) and OGPU or NKVD (State Intelligence), but Krivitsky’s close involvement in NKVD espionage operations in Britain in the mid-1930s shows that a more cooperative atmosphere was evolving. The frequent exchanges that he, as a GRU officer, had with NKVD agents and illegals is explained by the MI5 report, which informs us that, under the commission granted to him in 1935, Krivitsky was entitled to look into Mally’s organisation. Krivitsky was based in the Hague in the Netherlands, and was also allowed to use NKVD agents for his own operations if it was convenient. He himself indicated that the NKVD had begun to take over the functions and personnel of the GRU in 1935-36, and in May 1937 the Fourth Department of the Red Army General Staff (which was the official name of the Foreign Branch of military intelligence) was transferred to the Commissariat of Internal Affairs, under Nikolai Yezhov. This background manoeuvring helps explain why Krivitsky became so involved with the decisions concerning NKVD agents.

This was true in the case of John King, a clerk in the cipher department of the Foreign Office. King, who had money troubles, was recruited by the NKVD in March 1935, and quickly provided a steady stream of notes, and summaries of cables – but not yet photocopies. Moscow wanted originals, however.  The NKVD infrastructure was stretched: King was handled by a Dutchman called Henri Pieck, but Pieck was under surveillance, and had to restrict his visits to the United Kingdom. In May 1935, Mally came back to London to review the situation, and recommended that King be handled by Orlov. This suggestion was rejected by Moscow Centre, as Orlov (and Deutsch) were too occupied with handling Percy Glading and the burgeoning Cambridge spies. In June, Moscow then made the superficially astonishing decision that Krivitsky should handle King, perhaps because Krivitsky actually controlled the NKVD agent Pieck, and was geographically close to him. While this was being considered, Mally returned to London to set up an apartment in Buckingham Gate, ostensibly for Pieck’s business, and rented by Pieck’s partner, Conrad Parlianti, which King then visited practically every day, taking documents for a quick turn-round of photocopying.

Henri Pieck

Mally was clearly concerned about King’s status. Because of morale problems, he could not be left unsupervised for long, and Mally doubted that Krivitsky (who at that time did not speak English, and would have had visa problems getting into the UK) would be able to take over such an important responsibility. Hence Mally went to the Hague to speak to Krivitsky in December 1935, and apparently convinced Krivitsky that he should abandon the idea of taking on the supervision of King: he, Pieck and Mally decided that this valuable spy needed to be controlled by Mally himself. Mally thus returned to London, and had his first meeting with King at the 34 Buckingham Gate apartment on January 6, 1936. What is truly significant about this episode is that Krivitsky was fully briefed on John King, his motivations, his employment, his access, and the existence of the convenient address at Buckingham Gate (which is actually in Westminster, close to the Foreign Office, on the border with Pimlico).

Yet complications ensued. MI5 learned that the Buckingham Gate address was registered in the name of Pieck’s company. The British commercial attaché in the Hague, John Hooper, who might have been trying to recruit Pieck to SIS, attended a house-warming party at Pieck’s new apartment in the Hague, and revealed to Pieck that British intelligence knew about his past. Pieck immediately let Krivitsky know of the peril they were now in, and informed Mally that no more rendezvous could be held there. The fact was that Pieck’s business partner Parlianti, with whom Pieck’s wife was in love, was an informer for MI5, and Parlianti discovered the camera studio at Buckingham Gate. As West and Tsarev relate it: “A replacement was rented and the meetings were resumed with the previous frequency.”  They do not tell us where the replacement address was located.

Buckingham Gate may have been used as a drop-off point for some while after that, as Krivitsky told his MI5 interrogators that a young Englishman, Brian Goold-Verschoyle (who met a grisly end in the Soviet Union in 1942, murdered by the NKVD as a ‘Trotskyist’) was used to fetch packages from that location and deliver them to Mally. “If the material contained matter of urgent importance HARDT [Mally] telegraphed its contents to Moscow through the Soviet Embassy. If not, he sent it by Brian Goold-Verschoyle, or by another courier to Wolf Levit to be photographed”, ran Jane Archer’s account. Levit was apparently a GRU man, and Krivitsky had the authority to move him from Paris to London specifically to address the need for photographing King’s documents. William E. Duff, in his account of the Great Illegals, A Time For Spies (1999), locates Levit’s studio off Belsize Park in London NW3, much further away from the centre of London than Brixton, and in the opposite direction, (and, of course, close to Tudor-Hart’s studio). Duff states that Levit also acted as a courier for the photographs he took. It was not an efficient way of doing things.

The time of these Great Illegals was winding down. Mally was appointed chief illegal resident in April 1936. He and his wife had arrived as ‘Hardts’ on their passport: MI5 noticed their arrival with suspicion, but did nothing. Mally quickly concluded that the volume of material coming from Maclean was so great and so important that he needed a dedicated handler. Mally could not give him enough attention, since he was occupied with all his other recruitment and management duties. According to Costello and Tsarev, Moscow Centre responded promptly, saying that another famous illegal, Dmitry Bystrolyotov, would be coming over to handle Maclean. Bystrolyotov’s biographer, Emil Draitser, claims that the agent was sent over to handle King, perhaps to free up Mally.  Irrespective of the exact mission, however, Bystrolyotov fell into disfavour, and was prohibited from travelling. (He later endured a long period of torture and incarceration, but escaped a bullet in the back of the neck.) Mally thus had to continue to handle Maclean himself. Early in 1937 the rezident also realised that there was a lot of overlap in the documents coming from King and Maclean, which diminished King’s importance somewhat. Furthermore, by April 1937 Mally had also recruited John Cairncross, so he had yet another source in the Foreign Office. Mally was also involved in trying to set up another photography studio in May 1937, after the credentials of the MI5 agent Olga Gray had been accepted by the CPG, which was looking for a valuable assistant. She was encouraged to take up an apartment in Holland Street, Kensington, and receive training in photography from a Mr. and Mrs. Stevens – in fact the agents Willy and Mary Brandes. Mally liked to keep his photocopying crews separated. This successful penetration by Gray – when MI5 came very close to capturing Mally red-handed – led to the successful arrest of Glading by MI5 and Special Branch.

Stalin’s purges were now in full swing. In June, Mally was ordered to go to Paris to help organise the killing of Krivitsky’s colleague and friend, Ignace Reiss, something that he rejected, thus signing his own death-warrant. Mally was then summoned to Moscow in July, and shot soon after. Reiss was killed, anyway. King faded from view at this time, as he now had no contacts on whom to pass information. Left without a Soviet handler, Guy Burgess set about recruiting further enthusiasts for the cause, and it was soon after this, probably at the beginning of 1938, that he encouraged Goronwy Rees to provide him with information from the All Souls High Table, ready for the time when a new contact, Anatoly Gorsky, was sent out in December 1938 to take over the ‘legal’ NKVD rezidentura. Moscow Centre was convinced enough of Rees’s seriousness to grant him the cryptonyms GROSS and FLEET, and examples of the fairly trivial information he provided can be found in the Mitrokhin archive.

Krivitsky ignored the recall to Moscow in early October 1937, and made his escape via France, avoiding an attempt on his own life a couple of weeks later. His friend Slutsky was not so lucky, killed by cyanide poisoning in February 1938. And Krivitsky’s survival would mean that King would eventually be ‘betrayed’ by Krivitsky. When Krivitsky eventually reached the USA, and told his ghost-writer and adviser, Philip Don Levine, about the spy in the Foreign Office, Levine decide to inform Lord Lothian in the Washington Embassy, with the result that King (alongside a number of other traitors) was detained and interrogated. The incriminating evidence of payments made to him from the Narodny Bank was discovered: he initially denied that any secret documents had been photographed, but eventually confessed, and was sentenced and in jail by the time Krivitsky arrived in January 1940. Krivitsky did not mind sacrificing a mercenary: though not a Stalinist, the defector was still a communist, and did not want to make it easy for the imperialist enemy to start mopping up the networks in which so much investment had been made.

A. Kitty Harris’s studio                                          E. Wolf  Levit’s studio

B. Olga Gray’s apartment                                      F.  Tudor-Hart’s home & studio

C. Edith Tudor-Hart’s home – 1937                      G. ‘Barbara’s’ studio

D.  Victor Rothschild’s house                                 H.  Tudor-Hart’s studio – 1937

I.  The Foreign Office                                              M.  Henry Pieck’s office

J.  Guy Burgess’s apartment                                   N.  John King’s lodgings

K. Donald Maclean’s apartment                            O.  Tudor-Hart’s 2nd home

L.  The mysterious studio in Pimlico                     P.   A. Tudor-Hart’s home

Espionage Sites in 1930s London

The Pimlico Gambit

What the events of these years tell us is that a) Donald Maclean never developed the skills to operate his own photographic studio, b) while the NKVD may have operated such studios in Brixton, Maida Vale, Mayfair, Kensington, Westminster, Bayswater and Belsize Park (and maybe elsewhere), there is no evidence that it used premises in Pimlico, and c) Maclean’s ‘handiwork’ was never manufactured in the Buckingham Gate office that was closest to the district of Pimlico. Thus we have to conjecture what Andrew Boyle had in mind when he very provocatively claimed that Maclean’s photocopying was performed ‘in a Pimlico flat’. (I note that the real Fifth Man, John Cairncross, lived in Pimlico at the time, but Maclean and Cairncross were unaware of each other’s recruitment by the Soviets.)

It seems probable that Boyle knew far more than he was able to let on. By the time he submitted the copy for The Climate of Treason, he must have received some insider knowledge that Maclean’s espionage activities had been known a long time back. Of course, it should not be discounted completely that he was simply making an intelligent assumption about the fact that the copies that Krivitsky saw in Moscow must have been photographed somewhere close to the Foreign Office and Maclean’s apartment. Yet it was a worthless and unsubstantiated squib to throw out in a well-concealed Note. If he had something important to say, he would have brought it out in the main text. As a footnote, however, it is highly puzzling. Were readers supposed to track down who of the spies were known at that time, identify who lived in Pimlico, and therefore work out for themselves who the responsible party was?

We have to accept, of course, that the provocation must have failed, as nobody appears to have noticed it. If Boyle had been challenged on this fact – say by White, who must have failed to spot the reference when he reviewed the text – he might have been able to ascribe it to vagueness, or muddled notes, as it was not specific enough to incriminate a source for the geography. For Boyle had to be very careful: if an ex-intelligence officer had given him information that breached the OSA, he would have been very careful not to have endangered that person’s reputation (and pension) by revealing any undisclosed information that could point unfailingly to a particular source. Moreover, Boyle was surely scared. White had given him warnings not to delve too deeply into the matter of Blunt, even. Yet Boyle was anxious to see the story developed further, as he sensed a massive cover-up.

And then the Blunt story broke, thanks to Private Eye, on November 9. That was one hurdle crossed. Margaret Thatcher made her announcement on November 15. In the Observer of November 18, Boyle revealed how Goronwy Rees had confirmed Blunt’s treachery to him a couple of years earlier, and he also made the claim that ‘two dozen and more accomplices and accessories whom MI5 claims to have neutralised’ still remained at large, and had been responsible for protecting Burgess and Maclean. Matters then must have moved quickly. Blunt came out of hiding on November 20, and made a statement. Maybe another intelligence officer contacted Boyle after the story broke, to encourage him or even give him new facts. At some stage Boyle must have decided that he could use Rees to deflect attention away from himself in his campaign to name the guilty persons. As indicated above, Jenny Rees claimed (based on what her sister told her) that her father did not want to see Boyle at first, ‘though he finally [sic] agreed to do so’. Boyle and Rees did not have much time to share their thoughts.

Maybe Rees was provoked into helping Boyle by a strange incident. As I reported above, the day that Margaret Thatcher made her announcement, Rees fell into a coma. Jenny’s brother Daniel telephoned her to say that a doctor at the hospital believed he could have been injected with insulin, and accounts of unidentified Russians loitering near the wards of the hospital were repeated. Another doctor said that his coma could have been ascribed to his cancer. In any case, Rees took a week to recover, which would take the chronology up to November 22. (In November, I tried to contact Jenny Rees, who has been very helpful to me in the past, to ask whether her father had retained any memory of being injected by non-professional staff, but she has not responded to my email.)

I do not believe this incident has gained any other attention: it sounds a bit desperate for either the KGB or MI5 to want to kill a dying man who had probably already communicated all he knew about the case. As Rees’s other daughter, Lucy, said: “Boyle wanted to talk to him to see what more he could find out, but Rees said he did not know any more and there was nothing he could add.” That was probably true. Yet Boyle must have succeeded in completing some lengthy conversations with Rees, written them up, and given them to the dying man to approve. And that approval was probably sought by David Astor, the editor of the Observer. Ironically, two days before Rees died on December 12, Isaiah Berlin wrote to Margaret Thatcher to decline her offer of a life peerage. Perhaps he recognised that it would have been unseemly for him, as one of the closest conspirators with Burgess, to have accepted such an honour just after Blunt had been deprived of his knighthood.

Yet, if Boyle hoped that there would be a counter-reaction to Rees’s spurious claims about Mayfair and the probably fictitious ‘Barbara’, with a revitalised interest in real photographic studios, he must have been disappointed. How would the Pimlico Gambit play out?

Controversy in the ‘Observer’

I now return to the two instalments that were published in the Observer, on January 13 and 20, 1980, and analyse their arguments and structure in more detail. The first article starts off by trying to change the perception that Rees was a villain to making the case that he was a victim: “But Rees himself, although close to Burgess, was never a spy, or a homosexual, or even a member of the Communist Party”. This statement was certainly true about Rees’s sexual preferences, but mendacious or irrelevant otherwise. Rees had indeed acted as a spy, and avoiding the Communist Party was a key behaviour of the most dangerous of Stalin’s Men and Women. Boyle then brings up the troubling matter of Rees’s coma, even citing the ‘bizarre murder of Georgi Markov’, perhaps to suggest that the KGB had been responsible. He specifically indicates that Rees was in peril from ‘more dangerous intruders’ than ‘over-zealous journalists’.

Boyle then makes the point that the meeting with him was undertaken on Rees’s initiative. It may have been – or Boyle might have convinced him that this was the better way of representing for posterity what happened next. Then follows a long, and largely redundant, account of Rees’s encounters with Guy Burgess. It is stagey, artificial, and includes information which Boyle certainly knew already, or with which readers of A Chapter of Accidents would have been familiar. It has clearly been set up for the benefit of the uninformed Observer readership: Rees would not have wasted his dying breaths on such material otherwise, and would not have requested a meeting with Boyle to tell him what the author already knew.

Guy Burgess

Some of Rees’s testimony is deceitful. He makes the ridiculous claim that ‘Burgess ‘had inexplicably turned a political somersault, declared himself a Fascist and gone down from Cambridge’, adding that he didn’t hear Burgess’s explanation until 1935-1936, when he and Burgess became neighbours in London. Yet Burgess had taken his aegrotat degree at Cambridge in the summer of 1933, and even replaced Rees on a visit to Moscow in 1934, showing openly communist sympathies. Burgess was probably recruited officially by the NKVD early in 1935, and took up his right-wing cover only at the end of that year, when he started working for the Conservative MP John Macnamara, and joined the Anglo-German Fellowship. Burgess told Rees that he was working for the Comintern, and tried to recruit him, probably in late November 1937. Thus Rees’s reputation as someone unreliable with the truth can be seen to be deserved, even on his deathbed. He then makes a disparaging (for 1979) remark about Kim Philby being another of Burgess’s sexual conquests, an assertion that is highly unlikely. He also makes a mention of Burgess’s Chester Square flat – in Belgravia, so not strictly Pimlico, but right next-door, in case that was seen as a marker.

Now comes the critical, but almost parenthetical, section. Rees happens to mention his first encounter with Donald Maclean: ‘his air of empty superiority affronted me’. Here Boyle comes up with the question that must have been on his mind ever since the ‘Pimlico’ reference: “Did anything occur at that time which might have alerted you to the double life he was already leading as a Soviet agent?” After a significant pause, Rees does not respond with any insights on Maclean’s political affiliations or sympathies, his activities at Cambridge, his friendship with Burgess, but a wholly irrelevant and assuredly imagined story of his and Maclean’s ‘mutual friend’, Barbara, who was a professional photographer in Mayfair. I repeat the section, for emphasis: “She told me one day how skilful Donald was with a camera – so skilful that she’d no hesitation in letting him use the studio for his own work.” (We should also recall that Rees earlier stated that he had not seen Maclean between 1935 and 1950, so the reality of this liaison, since Maclean did not start handing over documents until early 1936, must be highly questionable.)  Rees then makes the extraordinary conceptual leap that, because documents probably stolen or borrowed by Maclean had found their way on to Krivitsky’s desk, Maclean himself must have photographed them, and used the highly insecure vehicle of a female friend’s studio to do so.

No other source indicates that Maclean had any disposition to photography as a hobby, that he was outstandingly skilful at it, or had his artwork displayed anywhere. As we have seen, no evidence has yet appeared elsewhere to suggest that Maclean photocopied any documents himself apart from the use of the miniature camera at the Foreign Office. Since the Special Branch had not seen fit to detain Edith Tudor-Hart when she was caught practically red-handed, it was not going to detain Donald Maclean on the grounds that he was in unauthorised possession of photographic paraphernalia. Moreover, why would Rees recall this incident only now, a recollection which would undercut the claim he made that he did not conclude that Maclean was a spy until the unpleasant encounter in 1950? And he significantly does not mention Pimlico.

Yet a more important question must be asked: how did Rees know that Krivitsky had seen specimens of Maclean’s handiwork in Moscow? The information in Jane Archer’s report was tightly held by MI5, and was not declassified until 2002. Moreover, it does not specifically identify Maclean – the whole catastrophe of MI5’s indolence lies around the fact that the Security Service did not follow up the obvious hints. As I have explained in Misdefending the Realm, Jane Archer’s report passed over the desk of Jenifer Williams (soon to be Hart) at the Home Office in March 1940, and was certainly seen by Guy Burgess after that, but the last thing that Burgess, who in 1943 recommended that Rees should be killed as he was a possible threat to his safety, would have wanted to do at that time would be to share the contents of the MI5 report with Rees.

Boyle must have known, however. A possible circumstance – unless excavating the de Gallienne Connection shows some fresh intelligence from Europe – was that a prominent intelligence officer had either described or shown to him the Krivitsky report. Yet more than that: that person might have indicated to Boyle that Krivitsky had told one (or some) of the officers who interrogated him more than appeared in the eventual report, presumably enough to identify surely Maclean as the informer. Having access to the report itself was not enough. Yet an analysis of Krivitsky’s evidence (see below) suggests that off-the-record hints were unlikely. A more probable scenario is that Levine could have told Mallet (and Jebb, vicariously) of some obvious pointers that were concealed from the interrogators, but divulged elsewhere. For example, Boyle claims that Mallet (in the latter’s own words) ‘sent to London a very detailed and secret dossier’. That dossier has, however, not come to light. Thus, whether Krivitsky or Levine actually provided the address of a studio in Pimlico will probably never be ascertainable. (Liddell’s final conversation with Krivitsky before his departure has been redacted from his Diaries.) Boyle could not divulge that person, or the relevant nugget of information, but he presumably believed that, after the vague hint in the book, and the much bolder statement made posthumously by his proxy, Rees, he would be able to bring the controversy into the open.

If Krivitsky did provide the information, who could his informer have been? Of the officers and civil servants who interviewed Krivitsky (Vivian, Harker, Archer, Liddell, White, and Jebb), Jebb, White and Archer were still alive in 1979. Gladwyn Jebb is an unlikely source: he was a shifty character who displayed sympathies for Soviet Russia, and tried to conceal his close association with Burgess in his memoirs. I even classify him as an ‘Agent of Influence’ in Misdefending the Realm. White is, of course, even more unlikely, since he was the person who was going to come under fire from any media onslaught if the news got out. Jane Archer is a possible candidate. She had singularly developed a very strong rapport with Krivitsky. Having been ousted by Liddell from the very expert job she was doing in communist counter-espionage, she was put on the sidelines, and eventually ended up working for Kim Philby in SIS, before returning to MI5. Her moral code would have prevented her from too casually breaking the OSA, but she may have been so disgusted at the deal done with Blunt, and the cover-up after it, that she felt obliged, after almost forty years of silence, to speak to the author when Boyle’s book came out. That argument, however, does not explain where she gained the information, unless Krivitsky gave it to her confidentially, or she perhaps saw a highly secret part of the Mallet-Jebb correspondence. And there was another example of justified righteous feminine indignation. Soon after that, Joan Miller was so disgusted at the treatment of Blunt (she had witnessed Blunt’s and Leo Long’s espionage at MI14 during the war) that in 1986 she published One Girl’s War in Ireland, a book that MI5 tried to ban.

The transcripts of interviews that Jane Archer had with Krivitsky that appear in the Kew archive, but which did not become part of the final report, show that Archer valiantly tried to extract further details about the ‘Imperial Defence’ spy from Krivitsky, but he would not budge, despite giving the appearance of struggling hard. It was probably an act. One very significant item of evidence is the fact that, in an interrogation of January 30, Krivitsky suggested that the ‘Imperial Council source’ was a young man. Furthermore, “the boy obtained the papers from his father who may probably have taken them home.”  Krivitsky encouraged Jane Archer to pursue this paternal aspect: not even Gary Kern has noticed that this was a mean trick.  For a spy whose cryptonym was in Russian SIROTA (or, in German, WAISE), namely ORPHAN, it was a rich and sardonic piece of irony to emphasise his active relationship with his father, a ruse undetected by the stumbling British. (Donald’s father had died in 1932: hence the unimaginative choice.)

Archer and her colleagues should have been familiar with cryptonyms: the Double Cross agents were all given them, and Archer even refers, in a memorandum of May 1939 to GROEHL (or GROLL), which was in fact the code name for Krivitsky himself. In the interrogations, Krivitsky went so far as to provide some cryptonyms (or ‘service names’, as Archer called them), such as FRIEND for Goold-Verschoyle, and HARDT for Maly. It seems now to be an obvious question not asked of what label had been assigned to Maclean, given that there seems to have been an unavoidable tendency on both sides to bestow cryptonyms that had some relevance to the agent (e.g. TATE, because Wulf Schmidt looked like Harry Tate, TONY for Blunt, GIRL for Burgess, and SONNY for Philby). Another later note by Archer claims that Krivitsky was ‘passionate’ to stay in touch with her, should further thoughts come to his mind. The defector and the inquisitor may have built some rapport, but the evidence seems to be that Krivitsky did not want to betray a dedicated ideological spy not motivated by monetary needs, and was having some sport at the expense of his interrogators.

Boyle then changes gears in the first Observer article. The main thrust now is a pointed criticism of the groups that used to gather during the war at Victor Rothschild’s residence, at 5 Bentinck Street (in Marylebone, some distance from Pimlico). “Among the most frequent of the casual visitors I noticed in 1943-44 were J. D. Bernal, the scientist, John Strachey, the politician, and Guy Liddell, a long-serving officer of MI5 whose marriage had recently broken up and who was a colleague of Blunt’s. He was also on close terms with Burgess.”  Then Boyle makes the highly controversial claim that this faction at Bentinck Street was abetting Stain’s objectives in Eastern Europe: “Although many voices were raised at that time in the clamour for a ‘Second Front Now’, Goronwy Rees believed that the Soviet sympathisers of Bentinck Street helped to orchestrate the discord.” He then quotes Rees’s lamenting how Blunt had betrayed the lives of Poles, Finns and Ukrainians.

The chronology is again dubious. By 1943-44, the plans for the invasion of Normandy were well advanced. The dangers of a Soviet propaganda campaign pressing for a premature Second Front had been real back in late 1941 and 1942: it was then one of Stalin’s most urgent appeals, and was not resisted properly, but by this time it was not an issue of debate. And by incriminating such luminaries as Liddell and Rothschild in this cabal, Boyle was treading on very dangerous ground. It was one thing to accuse Liddell of having been negligent or incompetent, but quite another to suggest he had been helping the cause of a foreign power.

Guy Liddell

Yet Boyle made more focussed accusations in the second article, published on January 20, where he reproduced Rees’s further indictments of Liddell, showing how Liddell had behaved evasively when Rees informed him of the Blunt connection in 1951, and intensifying his criticisms. The sub-heading ran “How Burgess and Blunt entangled top MI5 man Guy Liddell in their treachery.” (The full article appears below.) The most damning testimony would appear to be the claim that Liddell had invited Blunt to the meeting with Rees, and essentially ganged up with the Fourth Man against the plaintiff. It should have been a decisive lead to be followed up, but it apparently was lost in the controversy over Rees’s more speculative claims.

The Observer, January
20, 1980

What also hurts Rees’s argument is that his story here changes from that in A Chapter of Accidents. Rees feels free now to name David Footman as the SIS officer (echoed by Jenny Rees in Looking for Mr. Nobody), someone who later also came under suspicion because of his communist sympathies. The ex-officer from MI5 was, of course, none other than Blunt himself, as Rees likewise revealed in the Observer: Boyle identifies him, and records that conversation. Yet Rees’s story in 1979 changes: he oddly dates the call with Footman as happening on the Saturday evening, and also states that he called Blunt that same evening, and that Blunt came down to his house, at Rees’s request, on the Sunday, not the Monday. John Costello, somewhat improbably, has Rees, on the Sunday afternoon telephoning Blunt to ask for his advice, since he (Rees) had still [sic] not heard from Liddell. Given what he knew about Blunt, going to the art historian as a mentor in this situation would appear to be downright lunacy. Blunt apparently ‘read the signs of incipient panic’ in Rees’s voice, rushed to his house, and tried to convince him that it would be best for the authorities to find out the truth about the absconding independently.

In any case, we are thus left with the question as to why Rees contacted Blunt, urging a person-to-person discussion, if his intention was to denounce him to the authorities? Had he at this stage been considering solely describing the fact that Burgess had admitted his Comintern allegiance in 1937? If so, why not simply go to MI5, and leave Blunt out of it? The only possible outcomes from discussing the problem with Blunt could be either that Blunt would talk him out of saying anything about Burgess (and himself!), or that Rees would end up scaring Blunt witless, but allow him to develop a plan to protect himself. Burgess had surely told Blunt of his critical conversation with Rees, as he had indeed told Maclean. Blunt knew what Rees knew: Rosamond Lehman even thought that Blunt knew that Rees had told her everything. The fact that Blunt did not panic suggests very strongly that he knew that, despite his past transgressions, he enjoyed the patronage of the high-ups in MI5. And Rees in fact gave him a very clear warning.

Then there is the conflicting information about the meeting with Liddell and Blunt. In his memoir, Rees said he went up to London, ‘alarmed and despondent’, for his meeting with MI5 the following day. Yet his Observer statement runs as follows: “What I have been wracking my brains over was the extraordinary slowness on the part of Liddell. He let nearly ten days pass before doing anything positive. . . . Not until the end of the following week was a move initiated.” He might have left that detail out of his memoir because he was scared, but if he wanted MI5 to be investigated in 1978 by reporters other than himself, he could have left much broader hints without pointing directly at Blunt’s guilt, and Liddell’s compliance. As it turned out, Blunt and Liddell must have strategized, and concluded that putting on a united front was the best way to silence Rees. Yet it was an extraordinarily stupid move by Liddell, a clear breach of protocol, as Blunt had left MI5 in 1945. What is more extraordinary is that none of the commentariat picked up this anomaly: Rees’s obvious inability to tell a plain truth did not help his, or Boyle’s cause. But Boyle should have been more careful, too.

Jenny Rees adds further complications to the story. She advises us of a further conversation that Rees had on the subject – in between the recognised disappearance by MI5 of the ‘diplomats’ on May 28 and his meeting with Liddell on June 7, which Rees does not mention in his memoir or in the Observer articles. At a party that week, he encountered an old friend, the prominent academic and intelligence officer, Stuart Hampshire, and explained the dilemma he had established for himself.  Hampshire admitted that he had advised Rees not to stir the pot – advice he said he regretted much later. (Implicitly, it would appear that Hampshire knew what was going on, even though he was also no longer employed by MI5, and was then one of the select many who knew the secret of Blunt.) As we see, Rees rejected Hampshire’s counsel, but assuredly went too far, as, in one further interview with MI5, apparently implicated not only Burgess and Blunt, but also Hampshire, the former SIS officer Professor Robin Zaehner, and even Guy Liddell himself. The evidence from Jenny Rees is confusing: it is unlikely that Rees would have accused Liddell in an interview where the latter was present. But it was still an extraordinarily undisciplined and disloyal performance by Rees, seeking advice from his old friend Hampshire and then immediately denouncing him to the authorities. It is another example of how Rees’s erratic behaviour undermined any serious intentions he could have had.

The Backlash

By the Law of Unexpected Consequences, instead of Boyle’s receiving encouragement for his pains, and attempt at full disclosure, he bore the brunt of a fierce backlash. He made (at least) five major mistakes:

  1. He loaded up the charges against Liddell with so much irrelevant and erroneous information that the strong but smaller points were overlooked. If he had concentrated on i) the Gallienne/Pimlico disclosure, and ii) Liddell’s unprofessional behaviour in drawing Blunt into his meeting with Rees, he might have achieved his goals of more serious attention to the obvious secrecy and conspiracy that cloaked the Blunt case.
  2. While claiming that Rees should not be condemned by virtue of mere association with Burgess, he implied that Liddell was guilty for exactly the same reason – he had consorted with Burgess and company at Bentinck Street during the war. Since this was the only evidence of pro-Soviet conspiracy (as opposed to incompetence), it was very a flimsy argument.
  3. He forgot that Rees had a reputation for being an unreliable witness. Since (for example) his facts about the chronology of his association with Burgess in the 1930s were wrong, it could have led knowledgeable readers of the account to doubt Rees’s other assertions. Readers who bothered to read A Chapter of Accidents would have found further disturbing anomalies. Rees (they would claim) was saying whatever it took to save his own reputation before he died.
  4. Boyle underestimated the wrath of Dick White. Even though he did not mention White in the Bentinck Street Brotherhood, White had been just as frequent a visitor to Rothschild’s premises as Liddell. Thus White would have concluded that he was tarred with the same brush, and he was implicitly under attack.
  5. He overestimated the tenacity of the British press. He left enough leads and inconsistencies in his story to provoke a dedicated sleuth, but even the ‘quality’ newspapers seemed to be more interested in dramatic headlines and hints of sleaze than following-up with simple but arduous digging-around at the coal-face.
Dick White

Tom Bower wrote that White was infuriated by the articles. Not only was his own reputation vicariously under assault, all his efforts to try and redeem the status of the intelligence services he had led were being quashed. While there had been an initial outrage at the covert deal agreed with Blunt, Boyle’s attack on Liddell provoked a recoil the other way. In the Sunday Times of January 20, in an article by Barrie Penrose, David Leitch and Phillip Knightley headlined ‘“A grotesque smear” say top spymasters’, Dick White was quoted as saying, somewhat bizarrely, that ‘accusing him [Liddell] may have possibly have been a way of deflecting accusations against others.’ Why Rees would want to conceal the names of others on his deathbed was not explained. Then the minor character William Skardon, who had an overrated reputation as an interrogator, was wheeled out to give his testimony in favour of Liddell. No notice was taken of Gallienne, or Maclean’s photography, or the Pimlico-Mayfair discrepancy. This was not a very enterprising piece of investigative reporting by the famed Insight team at the Sunday Times, but it surely distracted attention away from the oversubtle allusions made by Boyle.

A minor skirmish followed in the pages of the New Statesman. In the issue of February 1, one Richard Winkler rather laboriously pointed out that much of what Rees was quoted as saying was almost an exact echo of what had appeared in A Chapter of Accidents. The fact that that was no doubt Boyle’s aim eluded him, and, by concentrating on what was re-hashed, Winkler overlooked the really dramatic new material. He did then isolate the major discrepancy in Rees’s story, that concerning the timing of Rees’s meeting with MI5, but interpreted it as a plot by Rees and Boyle to doctor the story to show how ‘sinister’ Liddell’s behaviour was. It was a very obtuse performance by Winkler, who sounded as if he had a grudge against Boyle.

Boyle responded in a letter published on February 15. He essentially confirmed that the statements came, with Rees’s approval, from Rees’s memoir, but that Rees had refreshed them with some new recollections. He then, rather clumsily, attempted to turn the tables on Winkler by saying that it was Blunt who first pointed out the timing discrepancy, and that the meeting could not have occurred as soon as Rees first said it did, because of the contemporaneity of the announcement of the ‘missing diplomats’, as if that absolved Rees of his initial carelessness. It was all rather an inelegant and pointless spat, and added nothing to the resolution of the mysterious references.

The hunt for Boyle’s traitors was apparently on. The Sunday Times did extract a confession from John Cairncross, the ‘Fifth Man’, at the end of 1979. Margaret Thatcher, however, pressed by intelligence chiefs upset about the Blunt admission, was energised enough to cancel publication of Dick White’s pet project, Volume 4 of the series British Intelligence in the Second World War, which would have cast glamour on the successes of the Double-Cross system in an official light. White, who was ‘furious’, according to Boyle’s notes, immediately went underground, and broke all his OSA vows by encouraging Rupert Allason (Nigel West) to use White’s knowledge, and access to the MI5 officers involved, to write an unofficial history of MI5. Then the investigation into Roger Hollis started, and the controlled leaks via Victor Rothschild to Chapman Pincher about Hollis, followed by Pincher’s series of books, and Peter Wright and Spycatcher. Jane Archer died in 1982, a year before Donald Maclean. Volumes 4 and 5 of British Intelligence came out in 1990. Dick White died in 1993. The journalist John Costello continued to pursue the Liddell trail, and included a scathing indictment, in his Mask of Treachery (1988), of Liddell as the likeliest candidate for the mysterious GRU spy within MI5, ELLI, who had been identified (but not named) by Gouzenko in 1945. Costello succumbed to an odd and unexplained, but fatal, bout of shellfish poisoning in 1995, at the young age of fifty-two. But all of this is probably for another story.

It took exactly thirty-nine years from Krivitsky’s death before Rees’s hints to awareness of Maclean’s fabled career in photography were published – and then forgotten. Almost precisely thirty-nine years later, this blog resurrects the strange story of the Pimlico Gambit. Perhaps the puzzle will be resolved in the winter of 2057. The project starts now, with an investigation into (de) Gallienne and Montgomery Hyde, the constitution of the British Embassy in Paris in 1938, and a deeper analysis of the statements left behind by Krivitsky and Levine. The game’s afoot! As always, I encourage insights and leads from my readers.

Sources, and for Further Reading:

The Climate of Treason by Andrew Boyle

A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Phillips

Donald and Melinda Maclean by Michael Holzman

Stalin’s Agent by Boris Volodarsky

The Crown Jewels by Nigel West and Oleg Tsarev

Deadly Illusions by John Costello and Oleg Tsarev

Defence of the Realm by Christopher Andrew

A Chapter of Accidents by Goronwy Rees

Searching for Mr. Nobody by Jenny Rees

MI5 Debriefing by Gary Kern

A Time for Spies by William E. Duff

The Spy With Seventeen Names by Igor Damaskin

In Stalin’s Secret Service by Walter Krivitsky

A Death in Washington by Gary Kern

The Perfect English Spy by Tom Bower

The Sword and the Shield by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

Stalin’s Englishman by Andrew Lownie

Mask of Treachery by John Costello

Anthony Blunt: His Lives by Miranda Carter

A Divided Life by Robert Cecil

The Cambridge Spies by Verne Newton

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Christopher Andrew

Eyewitness to History by Isaac Don Levine

Treason in the Blood by Anthony Cave-Brown

Agent Dimitri by Emil Draitser

Misdefending the Realm by Antony Percy

Archival Material from Kew (TNA), the FBI and the CIA

(Final set of the year’s Commonplace entries can be seen here.)


Filed under Espionage/Intelligence, General History, Literature/Academia, Politics

7 Responses to Donald Maclean’s Handiwork

  1. coldspur

    Reliable sources indicate that Edith Tudor-Hart maintained her photographic studio in St. John’s Wood, not Brixton. A much more suitable location, one might say, although it does not change the logistics much. It will require my map to be redrawn, however, as well as some simple textual changes to be made.

  2. Michael Holzman

    Dear Tony,

    I would not cite Rees except in quotation marks.

    An interesting rumor to pursue about Maclean’s activities during this period is to the effect that he was assigned to facilitate Foreign Office communications during the Munich affair. And, if you will forgive the nit-picking, there wasn’t any photocopying done by these people. They used cameras, not Xerox machines.

    I don’t recall if I have told you that I’ve finished my book on Angleton and Philby, which I call: “Kim and Jim: Kim Philby and James Angleton, Friends and Enemies in the Cold War.” It includes much new material about Philby’s post-MI6 activities and also some interesting bits about Angleton’s post-CIA activities, as well as accounts of their fathers careers.



  3. coldspur

    Thanks, Michael.

    I regret I do not understand your point. Why would Rees be treated any differently from the other actors? Admittedly, he lied more consistently and more blatantly than most, but lying was the name of the game in this business. And one of my main points was to show that Boyle blundered in trying to use Rees as a messenger beyond the grave.

    Yes, you are of course correct about ‘photocopying’. But, since this was the term Boyle used in his book, you had better take it up with him!

    What with all this lying, I find it difficult to deal with rumors. Where does this one derive? I believe Maclean was sent out to Paris about a week before the Munich Agreement was signed.

    I look forward to reading your new book.

    Best, Tony.

  4. coldspur

    Roland Philipps (the author of ‘A Spy Named Orphan’) has informed me that the ‘Barbara’ mentioned by Goronwy Rees is probably Barbara Ker-Seymer, a noted photographer who moved in leftist and literary circles in the 1930s. Readers can learn more about her at

    An astonishing array of photographs by Ker-Seymer can be seen at, where a tentative image of Donald Maclean is identified! Moreover, Roland Philipps tells me that , in Selina Hastings’s biography of Rosamond Lehmann, Ker-Seymer is reported as saying that ‘she adored Rees, but was always wary of him’.

    So it would appear that ‘Barbara’ was indeed a mutual friend of Rees and Maclean. Since Ker-Seymer did not die until 1993, Rees would have had to speak very carefully in 1979. Yet, despite his obvious habitual mendacity, was he telling the truth in this instance?

  5. coldspur

    I have discovered that Wilfred Gallienne did send, in September 1939, a despatch concerning the Nazi-Soviet Pact from Estonia to the Foreign Office. I am asking my London-based researcher to dig out the relevant files at Kew, and am acquiring David Gordon Kirby’s ‘Operation Blunderhead’, which covers the correspondence.

  6. coldspur

    By one of those strange coincidences, last week I finished reading Hilary Spurling’s new biography of Anthony Powell, and completely overlooked the introduction, on pages 107 & 108, of Barbara Ker-Seymer, who was ‘well on the way to becoming one of London’s most up-to-date photographers’.

    The photograph collection at the Tate is fascinating: not only does it include Maclean, but a host of the arty elite of the 1930s, including Anthony Powell. Though I saw no trace of Goronwy Rees, I did see Derek Blakie [sic: should be ‘Blaikie’]. Blaikie was the friend of Guy Burgess who went with Burgess to Moscow in 1934 – in place of Rees – where they met Bukharin.

    And a letter to the Independent in 1993, after an obituary of Ker-Seymer was published, recalled Barbara with her old friend Goronwy Rees sitting on a banquette during World War II.

  7. coldspur

    I have added a paragraph (at the end of the section ‘Maclean Delivers the Goods’) to clarify the erratic movements of Edith Tudor-Hart around London, and made a few textual changes elsewhere. I think it unlikely that she maintained a studio in Brixton, and it seems that she was there for a short time in 1937 staying with her husband – as well as with the wife of another notorious communist, Arthur Wynn. I shall update the chart of London with some new addresses over the next couple of days.

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