George Blake, who died in Russia on Saturday at the age of 98, was the last in a line of British spies whose secret work for the Soviet Union humiliated the intelligence institution when it was found at the peak of the Cold War.
Britain says he uncovered the identities of lots of of Western brokers throughout Eastern Europe in the 1950s, some of whom had been executed because of this of his treason.
His case was among the many most infamous of the Cold War, alongside these of a separate ring of British double brokers generally known as the Cambridge Five.
Unmasked as a Soviet spy in 1961, Blake was sentenced to 42 years in London’s Wormwood Scrubs jail. In a basic cloak-and-dagger story, he escaped in 1966 with the assistance of different inmates and two peace activists, and was smuggled out of Britain in a camper van. He made it by Western Europe undiscovered and crossed the Iron Curtain into East Berlin.
He spent the remainder of his life in the Soviet Union after which Russia, the place he was feted as a hero.
Reflecting on his life in an interview with Reuters in Moscow in 1991, Blake mentioned he had believed the world was on the eve of Communism.
“It was an ideal which, if it could have been achieved, would have been well worth it,” he mentioned.
“I thought it could be, and I did what I could to help it, to build such a society. It has not proved possible. But I think it is a noble idea and I think humanity will return to it.”
Becoming a dedicated communist
Blake was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands on November 11, 1922, to a Dutch mom and an Egyptian Jewish father who was a naturalised Briton.
He escaped from the Netherlands in World War Two after becoming a member of the Dutch resistance as a courier and reached Britain in January 1943. After becoming a member of the British navy, he began working for the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, in 1944.
After the battle, Blake served briefly in the German metropolis of Hamburg and studied Russian at Cambridge University earlier than being despatched in 1948 to Seoul the place he gathered intelligence on Communist North Korea, Communist China and the Soviet Far East.
He was captured and imprisoned when North Korean troops took Seoul after the Korean War started in 1950. It was throughout his time in a North Korean jail that he turned a dedicated Communist, studying the works of Karl Marx and feeling outrage at heavy US bombing of North Korea.
After his launch in 1953, he returned to Britain and in 1955 was despatched by MI6 to Berlin, the place he collected info on Soviet spies but additionally handed secrets and techniques to Moscow about British and US operations.
“I met a Soviet comrade about once a month,” he mentioned in a 2012 interview revealed by Russian authorities newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Blake described how, for these conferences, he had travelled to the Soviet-controlled sector of Berlin on a rail hyperlink becoming a member of completely different elements of the divided metropolis. His contact can be ready for him in a automobile and they might go to a protected home.
“I handed over films and we chatted. Sometimes we had a glass of Tsimlyansk champagne (Soviet sparkling wine).”
Blake was ultimately uncovered by a Polish defector and introduced house to Britain, the place he was sentenced and jailed.
When he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs, he left behind his spouse, Gillian, and three kids. After Gillian divorced him, Blake married a Soviet lady, Ida, with whom he had a son, Misha. He labored at a overseas affairs institute earlier than retiring along with her to a dacha, or nation home, exterior Moscow.
Sipping martinis with Philby
Blake, who glided by the Russian identify Georgy Ivanovich, was awarded a medal by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007 and held the rank of lieutenant colonel in the previous KGB safety service, from which he obtained a pension.
“These are the happiest years of my life, and the most peaceful,” Blake mentioned in the 2012 interview marking his 90th birthday. By then, he mentioned, his eyesight was failing and he was “virtually blind”. He didn’t voice remorse about his previous.
“Looking back on my life, everything seems logical and natural,” he mentioned, describing himself as glad and fortunate.
Though he labored individually from the Cambridge Five – a spy ring of former Cambridge college students who handed info to the Soviet Union – Blake mentioned that in his retirement he received to know two of them, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.
He reminisced about ingesting martinis, the popular cocktail of fictitious British spy James Bond, with Philby however mentioned he was nearer in spirit to Maclean.
Maclean died in Russia in 1983, and Philby in 1988. Of the remainder of the Cambridge Five, Guy Burgess died in Russia in 1963, and Anthony Blunt in London in 1983.
John Cairncross, the last to be publicly recognized by investigative journalists and former Soviet intelligence officers, died in England in 1995.