Harold (Kim) Philby, the son of the diplomat, John Philby, was born in Ambala, India, in 1911. He was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. While at university he metGuy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt. All of them became secret supporters of the Communist Party.
After university Philby went to Vienna where he met Litzi Friedman, a member of the Austrian Communist Party. With the emergence of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, Friedman was in danger of being arrested. Philby married Friedman and was then able to take her to England. Soon afterwards Philby became an agent of the Soviet Union.
To provide a cover, Philby began openly expressed right-wing opinions. Philby and Guy Burgess, who also renounced his communism, joined the Anglo-German Fellowship, a pro-Nazi pressure group. Philby got himself appointed as a reporter with The Times and on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War he was sent to Spain. Over the next couple of years he provided articles that were very sympathetic to General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist Army. Franco was grateful for the support Philby gave to the Nationalists and on 2nd March, 1938, awarded him the Red Cross of Military Merit.
These reports convinced those on the right-wing of British politics that Philby had abandoned his former political views. In 1939 Guy Burgess suggested to Marjorie Maxse, chief organization officer of the Conservative Party, and chief of staff of MI6 Section D's training school for propaganda, that she should recruit Philby. Maxse agreed and he was given security clearance by Guy Liddell of MI5.
Later that year Walter Krivitsky, a senior Soviet intelligence officers, who had defected to the West, was brought to London to be interviewed by Dick White and Guy Liddell of MI5. Krivitsky gave details of 61 agents working in Britain. He did not know the names of these agents but described one as being a journalist who had worked for a British newspaper during the Spanish Civil War. Another was described as "a Scotsman of good family, educated at Eton and Oxford, and an idealist who worked for the Russians without payment." These descriptions fitted Philby and Donald Maclean. However, White and Liddle were not convinced by Krivitsky's testimony and his leads were not followed up.
Walter Krivitsky was found dead in the Bellevue Hotel in Washington on 10th February, 1941. At first it was claimed that Krivitsky had committed suicide. However, others claimed his hiding place had been disclosed by a Soviet mole working for MI5 and had been murdered by Soviet agents.
During the Second World War Philby was placed in charge of the propaganda training programme for the Special Operations Executive. By 1943 Philby had responsibility for Spanish, Italian, French and African affairs. He came to the attention of Major General Stewart Menzies, Director-General of MI6. Menzies was impressed with Philby and in October 1944 he was placed in charge of Section IX (Soviet Affairs).
After the war Philby was responsible for monitoring Soviet espionage. In this role he was able to protect other Soviet agents such as Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt. In September 1945, a Russian diplomat, Constantin Volkhov, approached the British vice-consul in Istanbul with information about three Soviet agents working in the Foreign Office and the counter-espionage service in London. Philby was able to tell the KGB who quickly arrested Volkhov and took him back to the Soviet Union.
On 5th September 1945, Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in the Russian Legation, defected to the West claiming he had evidence of an Soviet spy ring based in Britain. The case was passed on to Philby. He suggested that Gouzenko should be interviewed by Roger Hollis.
Gouzenko provided evidence that led to the arrest of 22 local agents and 15 Soviet spies in Canada. Information from Gouzenko also resulted in the arrest and conviction of Klaus Fuchs and Allan Nunn May. Gouzenko also claimed that there was a Soviet agent inside MI5. However, he was later to argue that Hollis showed little interest in this evidence. "The mistake in my opinion in dealing with this matter was that the task of finding the agent was given to MI5 itself. The results even beforehand could be expected to be nil."
In 1949 Philby became the MI6 liaison officer in Washington. In this post he was able to discover that SIS planned to overthrow Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator of Albania. Philby was able to communicate this information to the Soviet Union and the Albanians involved in the conspiracy were arrested and executed.
In 1950 Stewart Menzies and John Sinclair discussed the possibility of Philby becoming the next Director General of the MI6. Dick White was asked to produce a report on Philby. He asked Arthur Martin and Jane Archer to carry out an investigation into his past. They became concerned about how quickly he changed from a communist sympathizer to a supporter of pro-fascist organizations. They also discovered that the description of the mole provided by Walter Krivitsky and Igor Gouzenko was close to that of Philby's time in Spain as a journalist. It was now decided that Philby could in fact be a double-agent.
When Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean defected in 1951 Philby became the chief suspect as the man who had tipped them off that they were being investigated. Under pressure from Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison, Stewart Menzies agreed that Philby should be interrogated by MI6. However, they cleared him of being part of a spy ring. However, the CIA insisted that he should be recalled to London. In September 1951 Philby officially resigned from MI6 but continued to work for the organization on a part-time basis. He was also paid £4,000 to compensate him for losing his job.
On 23rd October, 1955, the newspaper, New York Sunday News, reported that Philby was a Soviet spy. Two days later Marcus Lipton asked Anthony Eden in the House of Commons: "Has the prime minister made up his mind to cover up at all costs the dubious third-man activities of Mr. Harold Philby". Eden refused to reply but, Harold Macmillan, the foreign secretary, issued a statement a couple of days later: "While in government service he (Philby) carried out his duties ably and conscientiously, and I have no reason to conclude that Mr Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country, or to identify him with the so-called 'Third Man', if indeed there was one."
Philby now called a press conference where he denied he was a spy. He added that "I have never been a communist and the last time I spoke to a communist knowing he was one, was in 1934". Philby accused Lipton of lying and challenged him to repeat his claims outside the protection of the House of Commons. Lipton was forced to issue a statement where he withdrew his comments about Philby.
In December 1961, Anatoli Golitsin, a KGB agent, working in Finland, defected to the CIA. He was immediately flown to the United States and lodged in a safe house called Ashford Farm near Washington. Interviewed by James Angleton Golitsin supplied information about a large number of Soviet agents working in the West.
Arthur Martin, head of MI5's D1 Section, went to to interview Anatoli Golitsin in America. Golitsin provided evidence that suggested that Kim Philby had been a member of a Ring of Five agents based in Britain. The same spy ring that had included Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean.
It was now decided to send the MI5 agent, Nicholas Elliott to interview Philby in Beirut. Elliott got the impression that he had been tipped off to expect a visit from MI5. This encouraged rumours that a Soviet mole still held a senior position in the security services. Philby admitted that he had been a member of the Cambridge Spy Ring. However, except for Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, he refused to name other members of the group.
Philby was now aware that he was in danger of being arrested and therefore on 23rd January, 1963, Philby fled to the Soviet Union. In his book, My Silent War (1968), Philby admitted that he had been a Soviet spy for over thirty years.
Kim Philby lived in the Soviet Union until his death in 1988.
I've only happy memories of him. I liked boys who used their wits and didn't shirk the grind of hard work. The regime of (Westminster School) was liberal, and I believe young Philby benefited from that. He probably suffered by missing the guidance of a father whom in some ways he resembled. The boy had no problems of adjustment. I found him intelligent, amusing, charming. He was a rebel at heart, I knew, but he had little of his father's eccentricity. Perhaps he strove too slavishly to imitate him later when the maggot got into his brain at Cambridge.
It was the Labour disaster of 1931 which first set me seriously to thinking about possible alternatives to the Labour Party. I began to take a more active part in the proceedings of the Cambridge University Socialist Society, and was its Treasurer in 1952/35. This brought me into contact with streams of Left-Wing opinion critical of the Labour Party, notably with the Communists. Extensive reading and growing appreciation of the classics of European Socialism alternated with vigorous and sometimes heated discussions within the Society. It was a slow and brain-racking process; my transition from a Socialist viewpoint to a Communist one took two years. It was not until my last term at Cambridge, in the summer of 1933, that I threw off my last doubts. I left the University with a degree and with the conviction that my life must be devoted to Communism.
A born adventurer like Kirn, with very little political subtlety and an eye always to the main chance, was almost certainly attracted by this Anglo-German nonsense. It would have been quite in character. He admired Goebbels and once told me he could easily have worked with him. Don't forget at this stage, in 1936, the bandwaggon between London and Berlin hadn't stopped rolling, and Kim would have been quite ready to jump on it for that very reason.
It is feared that the conflagration destroyed much of the evidence of its origin, but it is felt here that enough remains to support the Nationalist contention that incendiaries on the Basque side had more to do with the razing of Guernica than General Franco's aircraft. . . . Few fragments of bombs have been recovered, the facades of buildings still standing are unmarked, and the few craters I inspected were larger than anything hitherto made by a bomb in Spain. From their positions it is a fair inference that these craters were caused by exploding mines which were unscientifically laid to cut roads. In view of these circumstances it is difficult to believe that Guernica was the target of bombardment of exceptional intensity by the Nationalists or an experiment with incendiary bombs, as it is alleged by the Basques.
As an undergraduate at Oxford I had heard admiring accounts of him from a friend who often travelled with him in vacations. And, sure enough, while we were still waiting for Philby, my old Oxford friend himself appeared in Section Five as a herald of the coming Messiah. I admit that Philby's appointment astonished me at the time, for my old Oxford friend had told me, years before, that his travelling companion was a Communist. By now, of course, I assumed that he was an ex-Communist, but even so I was surprised, for no one was more fanatically anti-Communist, at that time, than the regular members of the two security services, MI6 and MI5. And of all the anti-Communists, none seemed more resolute than the ex-Indian policemen, like Colonel Vivian and Major Cowgill, whose earlier years had been spent in waging war on 'subversion' in the irritant climate of the Far East. That these men should have suspended their deepest convictions in favour of the ex-Communist, Philby, was indeed remarkable. Since it never occurred to me that they could be ignorant of the facts (which were widely known), I assumed that Philby had particular virtues which made him, in their eyes, indispensable. I hasten to add that, although I myself knew of Philby's Communist past, it would never have occurred to me, at that time, to hold it against him. My own view, like that of most of my contemporaries, was that our superiors were lunatic in their anti-Communism. We were therefore pleased that at least one ex-Communist should have broken through the net and that the social prejudices of our superiors had, on this one occasion, triumphed over their political prejudices.
He rarely spoke about politics, though one assumed he took the vaguely Leftist position fashionable among the bourgeois intelligentsia of his generation. Far stronger in him than anything of this kind, as it seemed to me, was his romantic veneration for buccaneers and buccaneering, whatever the ideological basis, if any, might be. Boozers, womanizers, violence in all its manifestations, recklessness however directed, he found irresistible. Hence his, and many others', otherwise unaccountable love for Burgess, and tolerance of his preposterous and unlovely ways. On this showing he would have been more at home among Nazi bully-boys than the pedantic terrorists of the U S S R. He actually said to me once that Goebbels was someone he felt he could have worked with.
Late in 1942 my office had come to certain conclusions - which time proved to be correct - about the struggle between the Nazi Party and the German General Staff, as it was being fought out in the field of secret intelligence. The German Secret Service (the Abivehr) and its leader. Admiral Canaris, were suspected by the Party not only of inefficiency but of disloyalty, and attempts were being made by Himmler to oust the Admiral and to take over his whole organization. Admiral Canaris himself, at that time, was making repeated journeys to Spain and indicated a willingness to treat with us: he would even welcome a meeting with his opposite number, 'C'. These conclusions were duly formulated and the final document was submitted for security clearance to Philby. Philby absolutely forbade its circulation, insisting that it was 'mere speculation'.
He afterwards similarly suppressed, as 'unreliable', a report from an important German defector. Otto John, who informed us, in Lisbon, that a conspiracy was being hatched against Hitler. This also was perfectly true. The conspiracy was the Plot of 20 July 1944, and Canaris, for his contribution to it, afterwards suffered a traitor's death in Germany.
At the time we were baffled by Philby's intransigence, which would yield to no argument and which no argument was used to defend. From some members of Section Five, mere mindless blocking of intelligence was to be expected. But Philby, we said to ourselves, was an intelligent man: how could he behave thus in a matter so important? Had he too yielded to the genius of the place?
Taking the line that it was almost inconceivable that anyone like Burgess, who courted the limelight instead of avoiding it, and was generally notorious for indiscretion, could have been a secret agent, let alone a Soviet agent from whom strictest security standards would be required. I did not expect this line to be in any way convincing as to the facts of the case; but I hoped it would give the impression that I was implicitly defending myself against the unspoken charge that I, a trained counter-espionage officer, had been completely fooled by Burgess. Of Maclean, I disclaimed all knowledge.... As I had only met him twice, for about half an hour in all and both times on a conspiratorial basis, since 1937, I felt that I could safely indulge in this slight distortion of the truth.
He (Donald Maclean) never liked spying. Philby and Burgess were attracted to the adventure and the secrecy of belonging to a small group of people with inside knowledge and they enjoyed the small amount of danger. Maclean didn't like that, but he felt he should do it as that was how he was of most use.
One thing which I have learnt from knowing Philby is that he was not the womaniser he was portrayed to be. You see, he married all the women and not every man marries all his girlfriends. In fact most of them don't. His women were always in trouble in some way and by marrying them he got them out of trouble.
I liked him. I've often asked myself what I would have done if I'd discovered he was a secret agent at that time. I think, perhaps, if in a drunken moment he had slipped a hint, I would have given him twenty-four hours to get clear and then reported him.
I could not claim (Dick) White as a close friend but our personal and official relations had always been excellent, and he had undoubtedly been pleased when I superseded Cowgill. He was bad at dissembling but did his best to put our talk on a friendly footing. He wanted my help, he said, in clearing up this appalling Burgess-Maclean affair.
Mr Philby had been a friend of Burgess from the time when they were fellow undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge. Burgess had been accommodated with Philby and his family at the latter's home in Washington from August 1950 to April 1951 . . . and, of course, it will be remembered that at no time before he fled was Burgess under suspicion. It is now known that Mr Philby had Communist associates during and after his university days. In view of the circumstances, he was asked in July 1951 to resign from the Foreign Service. Since that date his case has been the subject of close investigation. No evidence has been found ... to show that he was responsible for warning Burgess or Maclean. While in government service he carried out his duties ably and conscientiously, and I have no reason to conclude that Mr Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country, or to identify him with the so-called "Third Man', if indeed there was one.
In the 1930s a number of young men at Cambridge University were recruited as Soviet spies. They became known by the KGB as the 'magnificent five' but were better known in Britain as the Cambridge spy ring.
They were not motivated by financial gain but by the belief that capitalism was corrupt and that the Soviet Union offered a better model for society.
The Cambridge spy ring was informally led by Harold 'Kim' Philby. He and his friends later moved into jobs in British Intelligence and the Foreign Office where they had access to top secret information. They spent their working lives passing valuable information to the Soviet Union.
Like many Catholics who, in the reign of Elizabeth, worked for the victory of Spain, Philby has a chilling certainty in the correctness of his judgement, the logical fanaticism of a man who, having once found a faith, is not going to lose it because of the injustices or cruelties inflicted by erring human instruments. How many a kindly Catholic must have endured the long bad days of the Inquisition with this hope of the future as a riding anchor. Mistakes of policy would have no effect on his faith, nor the evil done by some of his leaders.
Kim was never a double-agent. He always only worked for the Russians. Even when he began working for British intelligence, he was already spying for the KGB.
He was tortured by his life of deceit. He would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, tormented by a recurring nightmare in which he imagined himself being caught red-handed.
Kim did not get a kick out of the danger and risk. Far from it. It was against his nature. To the end of his days he openly talked about how the hardest and most painful thing for him had been the fact that he had lied to his friends. Until the very end it is what tortured him most.
I spent many months last year researching the British secret service for my novel Restless - the story of a young woman working in the lower echelons of the British espionage business - and I found this dry and acerbic analysis particularly helpful and revealing. Not least because this was the organisation that had admitted into its ranks at least five double agents for the Soviet Union: Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, John Cairncross, Anthony Blunt and the "super spy" Kim Philby, whose near-effortless rise through the secret-service hierarchy resulted in him being groomed, postwar, for the ultimate top job - that of "C" itself. It would have been an unrivalled coup for Moscow to have their man running the British secret services. And it very nearly came off.
In the course of writing the novel I became very curious about this covey of British double agents and what united them, apart from their betrayal of their country. All were middle class or upper-middle class, all well educated with solid professional careers in the great institutions of the state. They were members of "the establishment" in every degree - their background, their ostensible values, their speech, their clubs, their dress, their pastimes and pleasures. There was nothing on the surface to distinguish them from the thousands of other privileged, Oxbridge-educated young men working in the Foreign Office or the diplomatic service or the BBC. Yet each chose to become a traitor.
One can understand how in the 1930s, when these agents were first recruited by the Soviets, the ideological appeal of communism presented the only real alternative to the seemingly inexorable rise of fascism in Europe. Yet the more I looked at these men and read about their double lives, considered their fallibilities and their anxieties (Burgess and Maclean in particular), their luck and their unremarked incompetence (Philby excepted) - I began to feel that ideological zeal simply couldn't explain their many years of successful and fatal duplicity. There had to be some other motivation other than the allure of communism - especially after the devastating shock of the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939. Once Stalin and Hitler became allies, only the most perverse reasoning could maintain that there was one true enemy of fascism and that it was Soviet Russia. The tortuous double-think of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) is both revealing and risible in this regard. The Daily Worker, the party's newspaper, had been virulently pacifist and anti-Nazi, but after the 1939 pact all criticism of Hitler virtually ceased in the paper. Then, when Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941, the CPGB became virulently anti-Nazi again. No person of intelligence could take such policy about-turns seriously.
Furthermore, these British traitors both lived in and flourished in a democratic society, each one benefiting from the privileges offered to its educated elite. They were not hounded or embittered, nor victims of repression or state corruption, nor thwarted in ambition, blocked at every turn - so why did they become traitors?
The case of Kim Philby is perhaps the most interesting. Philby was a man universally liked, a highly respected professional - competent and industrious, decorated after the war - and a charming and amusing companion. His wife regarded him as a "divine husband" and classed their marriage as "perfect". He existed at the highest levels of the secret service for 10 years, between 1941 and 1951, without attracting the slightest suspicion. Hugh Trevor-Roper (the author of the caustic judgment on his colleagues above) knew Philby during the war and described him as "an exceptional person: exceptional by his virtues, for he seemed intelligent, sophisticated, even real".
In 1951, after the flight of Burgess and Maclean to Moscow, Philby was obliged to resign from the service, to the regret of his colleagues, because of his close association with Burgess, a friendship that he refused to disown. Even this was regarded as a symbol of his fundamental decency and good fellowship. It was not held against him and he was reintroduced to the service after some years in a minor role (in Beirut) before eventually fleeing to Moscow in 1963 - possibly because a Soviet defector was about to reveal his identity.
No one really knows how many deaths and imprisonments Philby was responsible for. The number is probably in the hundreds. For example, British agents and couriers sent to Albania and Ukraine to foment anti-communist revolution after the war were routinely intercepted and executed thanks to Philby's advance warnings. In Washington in the late 1940s he passed on all secret material that crossed his desk to the Russians - most usefully analysis of America's nuclear capability. One can argue that Philby's information was instrumental in the prosecuting of the Korean war and the Cuban missile crisis. He was an extremely effective and important double agent.
William Boyd's investigation of the rationale for the allegiance to Moscow of the Cambridge spies hovers around an obvious reason without actually landing upon it. They were scions of Britain's ruling elite, and as, counter to Boyd's implication, that elite was very unsure of its future in the 1930s, they looked to a country in which a new elite was creating a modern, dynamic society. They looked to Moscow because they wished to emulate Stalin's ruthless programme of development in Britain, with themselves in the driving seat. Their conversion to Stalinism did not signify a rejection of their elitism, but was a direct expression of it.
Kim Philby was a "Soviet agent", as the sub-heading identifies, not a "double-agent" as William Boyd claims ("Old-school spy", September 23). Crucially, Boyd omits Philby's anti-fascist activities in his reasons for the betrayal. He believed that "England" had been betrayed by a ruling class that had made alliance with fascism. Yes, there were psychological reasons, but you can't totally dismiss this from the analysis.