Britain’s most treacherous spy Kim Philby once wrote that deciding to work for Russia was like ‘joining the army’
Newly released classified documents reveal how Britain’s most treacherous spy helped recruit numerous fellow British communists into the KGB – indicating that the ‘Cambridge spy ring’ could have been much bigger than thought.
In a list provided by Kim Philby to the MI6 as he fled the country for Moscow in 1963, the spy claimed he had urged the KGB to contact many of his contemporaries.
Names on the list of his recommendations to the group included fellow Cambridge students Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess as well as previously unidentified individuals such as two scientists, a journalist and a Labour politician’s son.
Appearing on the list are; scientists Denis Stott, a distinguished child psychologist, and Wilfred Leslie Stevens, a statistician; Journalist Fred Pateman, reporter and editor for The Dailyworker, a communist newspaper; David Haden-Guest, the son of Labour MP Leslie Haden-Guest.
Despite being listed in the file no further information to suggest whether those individuals were successfully recruited by the KGB has been made available – all four of the men above are believe to have died.
The list was handed to MI6 officer Nicholas Elliott in January 1963 as a part confession after the intelligence service confronted Philby in Beirut with evidence of his betrayal of Britain.
He escaped from Lebanon just 11 days later on a Soviet freighter departing Beirut harbour to Moscow, where he lived his remaining 25 years.
Philby also wrote in the file marked ‘Philby’s notes’ that deciding to work for
Kim Philby attempted to justify his decision to spy for the enemy by comparing it to carrying out duties as a soldier.
The files reveal how the then university student was recruited as one of the Cambridge spies in the 1930s.
The ‘self-confessed Russian intelligence agent’ wrote of his recruitment: ‘None of the OGPU [Soviet secret police] officials with whom I had dealings ever attempted to win my total acceptance of the party line.
‘All they required was rigid adherence to instructions on the technical level. In short, I joined the OGPU as one joined the army.’
The file is dated 1963, the year that Philby, a former MI6 officer, fled to Russia. He was the most damaging of the Cambridge spy ring, and is thought responsible for hundreds of deaths.