WORLD EXCLUSIVE. George Blake betrayed his country and his family. Then the unknown story: the betrayal of George Blake by the Soviets — and now by the Russians at his graveside.

11 January 2021 By Paul Martin

World Exclusive: Text and Copyrighted Pictures in 1991 and 2018 are by Paul Martin, founder and editor of Correspondent.World.

I watched in amazement as George Blake and his KGB mentor General Oleg Kalugin raised glasses mixed with Russian champagne and imported brandy, and toasted ‘The Good Old Days’.    It was August 1991, and a coup against Gorbachev and Yeltsin by hardliners, led by a former KGB chief, had just failed.


Those ‘good old days’ saluted by the KGB general and his ex-protégé were the decade after Blake had turned traitor and had been handing over crucial information to the vicious Soviet regime. 


The clinking glasses of champagne-and-brandy cocktail brought back a significant memory, Blake explained.  “I used to be amazed you could go to the Gastronom [a grocery] and order a glass of Russian champagne, to drink on the spot.  I thought: that’s what true Communism brings — champagne for the masses, not just the elite.  I was naive in those days.”


Over the years, Blake became disenchanted with Communism, but never, it seemed, with what he called ‘the Service’ — meaning the KGB and its post-Soviet successors, the SVR intelligence service and the FSB internal security operation. He said he considered the KGB to be a force for purity compared with the ruling Communist Party — just as the Jesuits had been a pure elite compared with the corrupt Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.  

Though Blake denied it, saying the KGB had “promised me” they would not kill anyone he uncovered, his activities had led to dozens of executions, according to British security calculations.


When it was once rumoured that the Russian security services might hand him over to Britain, where he would have to resume his 42-year jail sentence, Blake told a reporter on camera: ‘The Service would never do that, I’m absolutely sure.’


In that respect, he was right.  But he was unaware that the KGB had not been anything like as loyal to him as he had been to it.


The Russian intelligence service, we can reveal,  betrayed him even after death.  Blake had told me, and had written in his book, No Other Choice, that he had arranged to be cremated, with his ashes scattered in the woods near his KGB-supplied  dacha, an hour’s train-ride and a half-hour walk from his KGB-supplied Moscow flat.  

Yet, to gain maximum kudos, the Russian intelligence chief insisted Blake had to be buried; first displayed in an open casket, and saluted by a military escort — just as had been done for one of the other three British traitors, Kim Philby who died in 1988.  President Putin, an ex-KGB officer himself, sent a fawning message of praise to Blake, saluting his loyalty and professionalism.


Controlling Blake, and the other British traitors, was a task assigned, fittingly, to the man who had himself been a spy and had risen rapidly up the ranks of the KGB.

Kalugin headed the KGB’s foreign counter-intelligence branch.  General Kalugin had for years held that top role in the First Directorate, before his outspokenness led to him being shifted to Leningrad, as the KGB’s deputy head there.  


“We needed to know if Blake, and Philby, and Maclean, and (before my time) Burgess, could really be trusted. We were under pressure from above to find out if any one of them could be a liar and was actually a double or a triple agent, ” General Kalugin told me last week, days after Blake’s funeral.


Now ensconced in a house not far from Washington DC, former KGB general Kalugin revealed to me that the KGB had known Blake and Philby’s every secret. That was not just through bugging their apartments, but also thanks to a line of women they had supplied to them — to engage in sex and to uncover any intimate secrets.  


 General Kalugin explained: “These females — and in the case of the homosexual Guy Burgess, males — reported back to the KGB on whatever we needed to know.


“Also, George was womaniser and we were worried he might associate with the wrong type of woman — one who might tease out some information, or even be spying for Britain. George would himself sometimes say he was worried the British might kind a way to kidnap him.


“Let’s just say we helped George to find the right women, just as we did with Philby,” General Kalugin told me.  “Actually, when Blake found the woman who became his wife, we had her checked out and found that Ida was acceptable to us. I knew if and when we needed information from the lady we would get it. 

Blake and Ida (above and below).
Blake and wife Ida outside their dacha.


“The females that Blake and Philby were supplied with were not usually actual KGB officers.  They were just what we called ‘informers’.  That was part of the Soviet system.  


“And by the way, we were benefiting Blake and Philby by setting these liaisons up for them.  No woman would find it easy to meet up socially with a brand name like Philby or Blake. 


“So we sanctioned it. It was rather easy. Russian women are usually rather attractive anyway.  


“Even if a girl did not want to report back to us, they would have to.

“If Blake or Philby got tired of the girl, we didn’t mind when they were booted out of their apartments. We knew we could arrange for another one soon enough. We are talking about dozens.

“Setting up these encounters for Philby was a little trickier as he was rather less outgoing.  But we managed. In fact, when I was at Philby’s wedding, I was pleased to reflect that we had chosen his wife, and she was going to continue reporting back on him to us.”

It beggars belief that the Soviet spy agency still had its suspicions about men who had risked everything to betray their country — and had each done so for ideology not money. 

“The Soviet Union’s apparatus was built on a very different mindset,” Kalugan said.

The KGB had also, according to Kalugin, hidden microphones in the apartments they had provided for Blake — as they had also done for Philby, Maclean and Burgess. 

The KGB had also, says Kalugin, hidden microphones in the apartments they had provided for Blake — as they had also done for Philby, Maclean and Burgess. 

But it was by no means the first time the paranoid leadership of the KGB were betraying their own foreign defectors.

One of them, and American military officer who supplied key secret information before having to flee to the Soviet Union, had originally been ‘turned’ by Kalugin.

Kalugin as a young KGB officer.

Kalugin was shocked when the KGB later had that officer arrested and jailed for eight years — supposedly for currency dealing, but in reality because they thought he might be spying for the USA.

Battling for a reversal of that jailing, says Kalugin, prevented him from rising further inside the KGB. It started with a sideways move. The KGB’s youngest man ever to be appointed general, Kalugin was sent to Leningrad as KGB deputy head — and a slow sidelining ensued.


In his last role within the KGB, General Kalugin had been put in charge of a programme to make the lives of the remaining three British traitors as pleasant as possible. Not out of gratitude, but for cynical KGB-related ulterior motives.

“In the 1970s and 1980s we were losing some of our top men.  They were defecting – to the British and to other Western powers. 


“Our KGB boss Yuri Andropov was furious that in 1985 Oleg Gordievsky, a top KGB officer, who ran our London operations while pretending to be a senior diplomat, had defected to Britain, and had named 25 of our agents, all of whom were then expelled.


“I explained to Andropov why life in the West could seem more attractive than here in the Soviet Union.

“Andropov – later general-secretary of the Soviet Communist Party — felt we should respond by creating at least an illusion that the British spies, and other foreign defectors, were given good conditions in Moscow.  It could help, he told me, in getting foreign spies to defect, thinking life would be pleasant here.


“But, unlike in our heyday, hardly any defectors came over to us — and that’s the way it stayed.”

As for Blake, the KGB ‘spy-upliftment’ programme aimed also to give him an interest in life — for example travelling and giving some lectures to Russia’s intelligence officers. But it was all intended so Blake would not see first-hand the disintegration of life for the common man and woman, and became embittered.  Even here though, the KGB was not entirely successful.


Blake told me, in the presence of by-now increasingly liberal former KGB General Kalugin, that he was so disillusioned he had even anonymously gone in to the streets the week before — to celebrate the hardline Communists’ failed coup.


He described Soviet Communism as having made a “cardinal mistake to think that people can be forced into a Communist strait-jacket… Communism cannot be implanted by force, by strict discipline and terror… What then about the sacrifices, the untold human suffering this experiment has required?  Was it all in vain?”


He blamed Soviet Communism’s disintegration on “humanity’s failure to be sufficiently refined and kind”.

Blake in a North Korean prison camp in 1951, when he offered to work for the Soviet Union.

I could feel that Blake’s new perceptions of reality had evoked serious if unstated regrets over his own life and actions. After all, he had abandoned the country that had given him shelter during World War II and beyond.

His choice of wall display was, I felt, revealing.  Just behind his desk was a framed photo of himself — as a young British Royal Navy cadet serving King and Country.

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Blake in his dacha, photographed in a SVR Russian security propaganda exercise.
George Blake, infamous Cold War spy who escaped from prison and fled to  Moscow – obituary
Blake as a British Royal Navy cadet.

What Kalugin also told me — but had never told Blake — was that the KGB had poisoned one of the three men who had sprung Blake from Wormwood Scrubs, where had served five years of his 42-year sentence for treason. 

One of them, Sean Bourke, was a hard-drinking Irish-born former petty-criminal who had stayed on in Russia after he and two Englishmen had driven Blake,  concealed in a camper-van, from London to east Berlin in 1966. 

Beached: Bourke and his dog.

Bourke had quickly become, says Kalugin, “extremely dissatisfied with life in the Soviet Union” and the KGB feared he might return to Britain and reveal Blake’s exact location.  As the KGB  feared this information could allow MI6 to recapture or assassinate him, “I discovered in Bourke’s KGB file that the KGB had given him a drug that damaged his brain and made it look like he’d had a stroke.”  

Gen. Kalugin quotes from a Russian book, as Paul Martin interviews him recently near Washington DC. [Screen grab.]

According to General Kalugin, when Bourke did go back to the UK, he was in a ‘debilitated condition’ and died a few years later, ostensibly because of his alcoholism but, unknown to anyone, also from the after-effects of the Soviet drug.

Kalugin said he also had “never had the heart” to tell Blake that his espionage had led to dozens of deaths. “My job was to let him live in a fantasy land, and not let him bump into reality, ” said the ex-KGB general.

General Kalugin outside the International Spy Museum in Washington DC, in 2018

In a book Blake wrote called ‘No Other Choice’, the British traitor  had expressed his reservations about Soviet society, even though it was in cautious terms. “I liken my relationship [to the Russian people] to a love affair with an immensely attractive woman with a somewhat difficult character to whom I have linked my fate and with whom I will stay come what may, for better or for worse, till death us do part.”

Even when the Soviet Union disintegrated, the successors to the KGB would have used similar methods in dealing with Blake, said General Kalugin. “They would keep him under surveillance, while occasionally portraying him as a shining example of the intelligence asset they had obtained.”

The SVR, intelligence organisation that took over from the KGB, even commissioned a painting of their ‘asset’. He was dressed up like an old-fashioned English gent — even with a bow tie. He, or they, chose a red one.

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The SVR commissioned a Blake painting – while still spying on him.


During our visit to his Moscow apartment there were clues as to what else may have influenced Blake’s life.



Apart from a black-and-white framed mantelpiece photo of one of his sons, his living-room walls displayed Russian church icons and a framed quotation from the Bible adorned a table, where there were also magazines in English and Russian. 

“Communism is the same as Christianity, but it’s put on a scientific basis,” Blake said.  

Brought up by a Protestant Christian mother in Holland, in his teenage years Blake had hoped to become a pastor.

Above a selection of liquor bottles and cut-glass decanters and wine-glasses, a framed poem Desiderata hung on Blake’s living-room wall.  Written in 1927 by an American, Max Ehrmann, it read: ‘Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.’

It ended: ‘Be careful. Strive to be happy.’

Blake even speculated that God’s existence was more likely than not.

He had one year asked Kalugin to take him to a Russian Orthodox Easter Service. To his chagrin Kalugin found himself thrust to the head of a procession. This, if observed, might have cast suspicion on both men’s commitment to Soviet Communism. They managed to slip inconspicuously into the crowd.

“From my teens I’d been used to deception, though not on this scale,” Blake told me. “I’d been a courier for the Dutch underground during World War II, cycling around Holland pretending to be carrying school books in my satchel. Actually I was carrying intelligence reports or banned pamphlets. 

“It was good training for what was to come.

“When you adopt the profession of an intelligence officer, you must be ready to deceive and lie – or else take another job.”

The greatest betrayal was, though, a personal one. He married an MI6 secretary, a strongly Christian woman called Gillian Allan, and had two children with her — knowing that at any time he might have to abandon them by defecting to the Soviet Union, or being uncovered and jailed. 

Gillian Blake, the wife of British diplomat and spy George Blake, in London, 1967. In 1961, he was found guilty of betraying British secrets to the...
Gillian Blake, soon after her husband’s exposure as a spy.

Gillian was eight months pregnant with their third son when her husband’s treachery was uncovered. Initially, she would bring the baby, but not the two older children, on her occasional visits to see Blake in prison. 

This week I spoke to that youngest son, Patrick, 59, who, guitar in hand, leads an ecumenical Christian congregation in Surrey, along with his wife Rosie. The former missionary and his two brothers, one a retired fireman, were only told who their father was when in their teens.  They had been given the surname, Butler, of the man Gillian had married — and have kept it.

Yet after not seeing Blake for a quarter of a century they began to visit him — even travelling together to Moscow to celebrate his 90th birthday. 

“At least we had 35 years of knowing him,” the Rev. Patrick Butler told me.  He declined further comment, except to say he and his brothers had decided not to fly to the funeral. It had, he added, been “very tough” to read the British media’s comments and reportage following their father’s death.

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Rosie and Rev. Patrick, pictured on their church website.

 In the final analysis, Blake tried to convince himself he could not be blamed for anything he did, since it was all predestined. “I believe I am a sinner.  But it’s justified to say: You can’t punish me for me for my sins because my sins were put inside me and are not my fault.”

I wondered what Blake would want his legacy to be. The answer: nothing.

The unrepenting Communist had chosen to explain his final wishes for oblivion with a quotation from the Bible’s most depressed prophet   [Job 7:10]:

“No, scatter my ashes where I so often walked and skiied, so it can be said: ‘Neither shall his place know him anymore.’ “

Yet his masters had buried, not cremated, him. They had insisted placing Britain’s most lethal double agent in an open casket, as soldiers goose-stepped alongside his coffin amid a plethora of flowers and blaring patriotic music. 

Betrayal by the Russians, it seems, has continued for George Blake — even beyond the grave.

ENDS


When he met me in 1991, Blake was able to see the writing on the wall for Soviet communism.  A coup against Gorbachev and Yeltsin, led by a former KGB chief, had collapsed. Blake said he too had been out in the streets, protesting at the attempted coup – a claim which I strongly doubt was true, but the fact that he said it  nevertheless spoke volumes.

QUOTES 

Perhaps my greatest disappointment in coming to this country was to find that this society had not given birth to a new type of man. Socialist man did not differ fundamentally from capitalist man. If the experience of the last seventy years has taught us one thing, it is that Communism cannot be implanted by force, by strict discipline and terror…. What then about the sacrifices, the untold human suffering this experiment has required? Was it all in vain?’

 Obviously it has failed. It has not been possible to build that society. It set very high standards, because not only would life in the Soviet Union or in any other country which adopted that system, have to be just as good as in the Capitalist world, it would have to be better. So that other peoples, other nations would want to join it, and obviously we have failed in that. There can be no question about it.

The reason I’ve worked out for myself is that a Communist society is in a way a perfect society, and we are not perfect people. And imperfect people cannot build a perfect society. 
People have to change a great deal still and it will take many, many, many generations and perhaps thousands and thousands of years before we can build such a society. I also think that it is a very noble experience, which deserves experiment, which deserved to be successful. But which wasn’t successful, because of human frailty.

Does that make you wonder whether your giving your life to this cause was worthwhile?  Yes.  Because I think it is never wrong to give your life to a noble ideal, and to a noble experiment, even if it doesn’t succeed.

I’m sure that’s how Donald Maclean felt. That’s how Philby felt. That’s how we all felt. It wasn’t wrong.  The idea was very noble, and it is still very noble.  But at this stage in human history, it’s unattainable.

BLAKE TALKS ABOUT HIS EARLIER LIFE:

WHEN WE MET IN HIS MOSCOW APARTMENT IN 1991, George Blake was willing, even eager, to tell me his life story as a double agent. 

He had managed to get a job with MI6 after what he said was minimal vetting, even though he had become a Communist during the Korean civil war  in 1951.  

After Seoul fell to the Communists in 1950 he had been among nine other Western diplomats held prisoner in stark conditions by the Communist North Koreans and their Chinese allies.   He was angry at American bombing of civilians, but seeing his captors shooting dead anyone unable to keep pace with the convoy did not seem to dim his growing admiration for the North Koreans and their allies the Soviets.

As a prisoner Blake had been reading Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and Lenin’s The State and the Revolution, in Russian, to a fellow-prisoner who had lost his glasses.  These books had been supplied to the prisoners by the Soviet embassy in Phnom Penh.  

‘I realised the Communist ideals were right — especially their efforts to eliminate the class system, which I found was a horrible feature of British life, ‘ said Blake.  

That may have sprung from his experience, despite being inside the diplomatic community, that, having grown up in Holland, he was still not accepted in the elite of British society.


Blake wrote a note in Russian for his North Korean captors to take to the Soviet embassy, and was soon recruited as a Soviet spy.  

Released in a prisoner exchange in 1953, Blake and colleagues were feted as heroes when they stepped off a military aircraft in the UK.   Back with MI6, he began his deadly effective espionage for the Soviets, using a small camera.  

This was especially useful when he was stationed in Berlin, as he could cross over unsuspected from West to East with his diplomatic passport and report to his KGB controllers.  

‘From my teens I’d been used to deception, though not on this scale. I’d been a courier for the Dutch underground during world War II, cycling around Holland pretending to be carrying school books in my satchel. Actually I was carrying intelligence reports or banned pamphlets.  It was good training for what was to come.

‘When you adopt the profession of an intelligence officer, you must be ready to deceive and lie – or else take another job.’

The greatest deception was that he married an MI6 typist, a strongly Christian woman called Gillian, and had two children with her knowing he might have to defect to the Soviet Union, or be uncovered and jailed, at any time.  She was eight months pregnant with their third son when her husband’s treachery was uncovered. Initially, she would bring the baby, but not the two older children, on her occasional visits to see Blake in prison. 

Wormwood Scrubs prison, from which Blake escaped in 1966 (Photo: Hulton Archive)

Today I spoke to that youngest son, Patrick, 59, who, guitar in hand, leads an ecumenical Christian congregation in Surrey.  He and his two brothers were only told who their father was when in their teens.  Yet after not seeing Blake for a quarter of a century they began to visit him — even travelling together to Moscow to celebrate his 90th birthday. 

“At least we had 35 years of knowing him,” the Rev. Patrick Burton told me.  He declined further comment, except to say it had been “very tough” to read the British media’s comments and reportage following their father’s death.

The Reverend Patrick Butler, son of George Blake, strums his guitar and sings during a videoed Church service.

 In the final analysis, Blake felt he could not blame himself for anything he did, since it was all predestined. “I believe I am a sinner.  But it’s justified to say: ‘You can’t punish me for me for my sins because my sins were put inside me and are not my fault.’ “

MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE TRAITOR GEORGE BLAKE

In 1991, as the Soviet system was collapsing, General Oleg Kalugin took me to meet Blake in his Moscow apartment, provided by the KGB.


The British former MI6 officer seemed in no way contrite about his acts of espionage, and claimed the KGB had promised not to kill anyone who he could disclose was working as a spy or agent of the West behind the Iron Curtain.

General Kalugin later told me: ‘I didn’t have the heart to tell Blake that his actions had led to the Soviets executing dozens of agents for the West.’   

Blake’s proudest achievement, in his own estimation, was to reveal details and maps of a secret tunnel being dug from West to East Berlin by the Allies during the Cold War.  That had allowed the Soviets to feed the West with false information for several months, then swoop in and trumpet another Soviet counter-espionage success. 

In his extensive dealings with Blake, General Kalugin says he ‘always an optimistic sort of person, in contrast to Kim Philby’.  

During the meeting in his apartment, I was amazed to see Blake and General Kalugin propose a toast to the ‘good old days’, and clink their glasses, which were filled with a mixture of Russian champagne and brandy.  

General Kalugin never told Blake that the KGB had not only bugged his flat but had also taken advantage of his penchant for womanising. 

 ‘Under the orders of our KGB Chief Yuri Andropov, my boss, we would supply young ladies to each of the British spies, without them realising the ladies were working for us or paid by us.  These women would report back to the KGB on what the spies were actually doing and thinking.  We were always suspicious these British double agents could be triple agents or could become disloyal. (There was suspicion around Philby because of the way MI6 seemed to let him escape so easily.)

‘Ida, the woman Blake married, was not chosen by us – though we checked her out to ensure she was reliable.  I was at their wedding.’

 There was only superficial contact, he says, between Blake and the other British spies living in Moscow, Kim Philby and Donald Maclean [Guy Burgess had died, aged just 52, before Kalugin supervised the British spies.  Maclean passed away in 1983, aged 69 and Philby died five years later, aged 76.]

General Kalugin says he would occasionally arrange for the three to meet up – ‘but Philby did not like it. He feared that one or more of these spies might actually betray him.

‘Most spies remain suspicious of everyone and everything all their lives.  Blake, though, was an exception.  He was really sincere in his belief in Communism, no matter how naive and blinded he may have been.  In that respect, I really admired him — even though I was myself realising more and more how rotten our Communist system had become.  

Blake had escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison, five years into a 42-year jail sentence for espionage. The breakout was engineered by an Irish petty criminal Sean Bourke and by anti-nuclear protesters Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, each of whom had just finished serving short sentences there and sympathised with Blake’s plight.   

Not long before his death in 2000 and with considerable pride, Pottle gave me full details at his north London home of how the jailbreak and escape plan had worked, and how it was close to being ruined when police nearly found their hideout, very close to the prison.  They built a wooden compartment under the seat of a camper-van and had driven Blake, undetected, to West Berlin, then crossed Checkpoint Charlie into the East.  

Blake told me he had ‘no pangs of conscience’ over having betrayed many people.   


Now, ensconced in Moscow, he was having ‘the happiest period of my life’, he added.  

But he had endured a degree of disillusionment. Blake said he was frustrated that the Soviet system had not delivered economic benefits equally to its citizens and was not being run correctly. 

He claimed he had even taken part in street demonstrations against aspects of the Kremlin’s policies — though he provided no proof.

In a book he wrote called ‘No Other Choice’, Blake had expressed his reservations about Soviet society in much more cautious terms. ‘I liken my relationship to [the Russian] people to a love affair with an immensely attractive woman with a somewhat difficult character to whom I have linked my fate and with whom I will stay come what may, for better or for worse, till death us do part.’


During our visit to his Moscow apartment there was no sign of his wife Ida, or his son Mikhail.  But there were clues as to what else may have influenced Blake’s life.

Apart from a black-and-white framed mantelpiece photo of one of his three sons by his first marriage, his living-room walls displayed Russian icons and framed quotations from the Bible adorned a table, where there were also magazines in English and Russian. 

‘Communism is the same as Christianity; but it’s put on a scientific basis,’ Blake said.  Blake had been brought up by a Protestant Christian mother in Holland, and in his teenage years had hoped to become a pastor.

Above a selection of liquor bottles and cut-glass decanters and wine-glasses, a framed poem, Desiderata, hung on Blake’s living-room wall. 


Written in 1927 by an American, Max Ehrmann, it read: ‘Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.’

It ended: ‘Be careful. Strive to be happy.’

Blake was willing, even eager, to give us his life story as a double agent. 

He told us that he managed to get a job with MI6 after minimal vetting, and he had become a Communist during the Korean civil war  in nineteen fifty-one.  

After Seoul fell to the Communists in 1950 he had been among nine other Western diplomats held prisoner in stark conditions by the Communist North Koreans and their Chinese allies.  Angry at American bombing of civilians, he also mentioned that his captors would shoot dead anyone unable to keep pace with the convoy – though this did not seem to dim his admiration for the North Koreans and the Chinese.

Blake had been reading Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and Lenin’s The State and the Revolution, in Russian, to a fellow-prisoner, a British official who had lost his glasses when their column containing Communist Korean fighters was attacked by US fighter-planes.  These  books had been supplied to the prisoners by the Soviet embassy in Phnom Penh.  

‘I realised the Communist ideals were right — especially their efforts to eliminate the class system, which I found was a horrible feature of British life, ‘ said Blake.  

That may have sprung from his experience, as a foreign-born Dutchman, that he was not accepted in the elite of British society, even after the diplomatic service.


Blake passed a note to his captors to take to the Soviet embassy, and was soon recruited as a Soviet spy.  

Released in a prisoner exchange in 1953, Blake and colleagues were feted as they stepped off a military aircraft in the UK.   Back with MI6, he began his deadly effective espionage, using a small camera.  

This was especially useful when he was stationed in Berlin, as he could cross over  from West to East with his diplomatic passport and report to his KGB controllers.  

‘From my teens I’d been used to deception, though not on this scale. I’d been a courier for the Dutch underground during world War II, cycling around Holland pretending to be carrying school books in my satchel. Actually I was carrying intelligence reports or banned pamphlets.  It was good training for what was to come.

‘When you adopt the profession of an intelligence officer, you must be ready to deceive and lie – or else take another job.’

The ruthlessness of the KGB was concealed from Blake, says General Kalugin.  The KGB had decided that Bourke, who had liberated Blake, was now “extremely dissatisfied with life in the Soviet Union” and might return to Britain and reveal Blake’s exact location.  As they feared this information could allow MI6 to recapture or assassinate him, “the KGB gave him a drug that damaged his brain and made it look like he’d had a stroke”.  

According to General Kalugin, when Bourke did go back to the UK, he was in a “debilitated condition” and died a few years later, ostensibly because of his alcoholism but, unknown to anyone, from the after-effects of the Soviet drug.

 In the final analysis, Blake felt he could not blame himself for anything he did, since it was all predestined. ‘I believe it’s justified to say: You can’t punish me for me for my sins because my sins were put inside me and are not my fault.’

He told me that when he died he had no desire for his body to return to the UK for burial by his three sons by Gillian, his first wife — Anthony, James and Patrick.  

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Blake (bearded, right), with Kim Philby (second left) at a countryside get-together.

‘I want to be cremated,’ Blake declared, ‘and have the ashes scattered in the woods near our dacha, so it can be said: Neither shall his place know him anymore.’ 

Ironically, the unrepenting communist had explained his final wishes with a quotation from the Bible.  [Job 7:10].

………………………..

NOTES RE Kim Philby

On video: I have [reason to keep silent].  The  efficiency of our security services can only be impaired if their organisations and techniques are discussed in public.

Kim, Head of Anti-Soviet Operations for Section 5. Confronted in 1963

Trial ‘would have been cripplingly embarrassing’ for UK.

……………………….

 Aug 1951, soon after Philby was asked to resign.  In 1955 Eileen, Philby’s wife, phoned his best friend Nick Elliot: he’s gone to Russia. He’s sent me a telegram: ‘Farewell for ever. Love to the children.’   Untrue.

Headline in the Evening Standard:  MP talks of ‘dubious Third Man activities of Mr. Harold Philby.

Monday : Foreign Secretary Harold MacMillan said there was no evidence whatever.  Not a stain on his character…

But Flora Solomon told MI5 hehad  tried to recruit in 1937: She said  ‘They don’t they know he’s a communist’.

Dick White  investigated for a decade.  They let Nick Elliot interrogate him in Beirut. ‘It’s business, unfortunately.  Your past has caught up with you. The game’s up.’

Given an offer of immunity if he revealed all moles etc.

Admitted to tipping off Burgess and Maclean but because of friendship…

Midnight  23 January he fled on board a Russian freighter.  Elliot did not have him followed or tap his phone.  Door to Moscow was left wide open…

British public was not told.  Six months later the Soviet press announced it…

Was a spy from aged twenty to fifty.

Russians extensively debriefed him, but then quietly put out to grass. 

Had a KGB minder in tow – The Times was delivered, but weeks behind.  Cricket matches weeks behind.

Lived in near Moscow’s Pushkin Square…

‘…perhaps you wanted me to do a fade.’ he says in a letter anonymously sent to Elliot…. asking for help to  ‘get one’s bearing in this complicated world’.

His reply: Please, put some flowers from me on poor Constantin.  [Volkov’s grave.]  One of those he had betrayed… Volkov, an NKVD officer,  wanted to defect to the west and had names… also revealed the head of Soviet counter-intel was working for USSR. I.e. him… Philby tipped off Soviets. Volkov and his wife were kidnapped, sedated, bound hand and foot,  and wrapped up in bandages. Flown to Moscow, brutally tortured in the basement of the Lubyanka and both murdered.

Philby sent to their deaths a lot of anti-Soviet Catholics in East Germany. The Soviets had them killed or disappeared so they could not resist Soviet / East German occupation.

Got info from USA when sent to USA. Hundreds killed when pro-Western Albanians were infiltrated into Communist Albania.

He believed in the inevitability of Soviet victory.  But just a year after he died, the Berlin wall fell, the great emblem of political division was torn down.  He did not live long enough to see communism fail.

SOME SOURCES:

In the film at 56 minutes 33 seconds: Philby’s funeral…11 May 1988, heart failure aged seventy six.

A tale of bloodied friendshio and intimate betrayal, says Ben Macintyre

Film made by  BBC.co.uk/History

Vimeo.com /91782594

See Macintyre  lecture vimeo.com/98537032.

Friendship is the most important thing of all, said Philby in Moscow.

BLAKE’S YOUNGEST BRITISH SON CELEBRATES KNOWING HIS REAL FATHER FOR OVER THREE DECADES.

Double agent George Blake celebrates 90th birthday
George Blake at his dacha in Kratovo in 2012. This photo may be copyright telegraph.co.uk

GEORGE BLAKE’S BRITISH SONS DID NOT ATTEND HIS MILITARY FUNERAL IN MOSCOW. INSTEAD THEY STAYED AT HOME, READING REPORTS ON THE INTERNET — AND ALSO GOING THROUGH THE OBITUARIES AND DESCRIPTIONS OF GEORGE BLAKE’S TREACHERY. “IT WAS VERY TOUGH,” THE REVEREND PATRICK BUTLER TOLD ME.

HE AND HIS BROTHERS HAD BEEN BROUGHT UP BY HIS MOTHER GILLIAN AND THE MAN SHE HAD MARRIED AFTER BLAKE HAS ESCAPED TO THE SOVIET UNION IN 1966. THE CHILDREN HAD NO IDEA — UNTIL THEY WERE TEENAGERS –THAT THEY WERE THE SONS OF BRITAIN’S MOST LETHAL DOUBLE AGENT.

IT WAS CLEAR THOUGH, THAT ONE OF HIS SONS AT LEAST WAS PLEASED THAT THE BROTHERS HAD ESTABLISHED A RELATIONSHIP WITH A MAN HATED AND DESPISED BY MOST OF THE BRITISH PUBLIC. “AT LEAST WE HAD 35 YEARS OF KNOWING HIM,” THE REVEREND PATRICK BUTLER SAID.

HE CHOSE NOT TO SAY ANYTHING MORE, EXPLAINING THAT ALL THREE BROTHERS HAD DECIDED MANY YEARS AGO NOT TO TALK TO THE MEDIA, “EVEN IF PART OF ME WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE TO.”

THE GUITAR-STRUMMING, BALLAD-SINGING FORMER MISSIONARY, WHO RUNS A CHURCH IN SURREY, WAS KEEN THOUGH, TO SEE THE PHOTOS I HAD TAKEN OF HIS FATHER IN 1991, AND ALSO TO FIND ANY VIDEO LINK TO THE FUNERAL.

The Rev Butler, according to the Telegraph in 2012, celebrated his father’s 90th birthday at party in a dacha close to Moscow.

Rev Patrick Butler
Rev Patrick and his wife, on their church website.

For almost a quarter of a century, Patrick Butler and his two older brothers – one a former Cavalryman then a firefighter, the other described as an expert in Japanese – remained estranged from their father.

But at his 90th birthday party Blake – accused of sending Western agents to their certain deaths by betraying them to his Soviet paymasters – will be surrounded by family from both Russia and Britain.

At his side, or else on his lap, will be his beloved Yorkshire terrier Plyushka, or Fluffy in English.

Plyushka, incidentally, shows a loyalty that is in stark contrast to Blake’s treatment of his former, fellow spies.

“Plyushka doesn’t like to leave me and sometimes even sleeps on the bed by my feet,” he said last week.

The food and drink will likely be paid for out of Blake’s KGB pension, which also provides him with certain comforts – such as the spacious dacha in the woods – in his final years.

His eyesight is failing but otherwise he appears in largely good health.

Blake’s first wife Gillian, who was in the process of divorcing him when he made his dramatic escape, will remain at home.

“We have been in contact with him for the last 25 years,” Patrick Butler, 51, told The Telegraph as he prepared to fly out to Moscow for the celebrations.

“We have a very good relationship with him. He adores his grandchildren. But out of respect to our mother we have all agreed not to talk about him. Possibly in the future one day, that will change.”

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Rev. Patrick Blake, from a church website.

Mr Butler, who is married with three children and listed political thrillers as one of his interests on the Emmanuel church website, was born a month after his father was jailed. They would only finally meet for the first time in Moscow in the mid 1980s.

Blake wrote that he had deemed prison visits a “considerable psychological strain” and decided it was best for Gillian not to bring the children.

His brother James, 53, who once served with the Household Cavalry and is now understood to be a fireman in south Wales, has spoken only briefly of their reunion nearly 25 years later.

“I went hoping not to like him,” he once said. Instead he found himself growing increasingly fond of his father.

“The visit turned out a great success,” Blake wrote in his autobiography.

“Although, like all the members of my family, he probably did not approve of what I had done, he did understand the motives and it constituted in no way a barrier between us. From the very beginning, we got on extremely well together and it was as if we had always known each other.”

It helped their relations, added Blake, that “… my boys happen to be committed Christians”.

At a memorial service in 2000 to Pat Pottle, one of the peace activists who drove him to freedom, James Butler praised him and Michael Randle for helping his father escape.

“James came to the memorial service and somebody recognised him,” recalled Dr Randle, 78. “He was just sat in the audience so we invited him to say a few words and he came up on stage and expressed his gratitude to Pat and myself.”

In 2011 Patrick Butler visited Dr Randle and his wife Anne at their home in Bradford to say thank you.

“He said it made a real difference to him and his brothers,” recalled Dr Randle, who believed it was time to pardon the spy. “Otherwise he said he would have been visiting his father all these years not in Moscow but in Wormwood Scrubs.”

George Blake with fellow British double agent Kim Philby and their wives Rufina Ivanovna Pukhova and Ida Blake at Blake’s home in Russia in 1975 (Rex)

Blake’s British clan, including at least some of his nine British grandchildren, will be joined at the dacha, situated in a pine forest 25 miles from Moscow, by the spy’s Russian wife Ida, whom he married in 1969, and their son Misha and his two children.

image.png
Blake, perhaps with his Russian son Mikhail / Misha, a lecturer in finance..

A table tennis table in the garden is a focal point for the family’s entertainment.

Tracked down to his country villa, Blake, wearing a black beret and a scuffed, lilac-coloured coat, said he was unable to give an interview.

“That [an interview with the state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta] only happened because I had permission from the Service,” he explained.

When The Telegraph photographer presented him with a magazine featuring a portrait of one of Blake’s former KGB spy colleagues, he said: “Thank you, but I will not be able to read it. I have only 20 per cent vision now.”

His wife Ida, 77, who was escorting him on his walk, said: “He doesn’t see at all well now and he suffers from the changes in air pressure: they affect the capillaries in his eyes.

“But we go out for regular walks and I read to him. This week I’m reading to him from a tome on the 1812 war with Napoleon’s army.

“He also enjoys the novels of Gogol and Chekhov. He listens to classical music on Radio Nostalgie and programmes on the Kultura channel on television.

“Several of the neighbours have already been to congratulate Zhora [her nickname for Blake]. We’ve lived here so long now, everybody knows us.”

Before she went inside, Ida added: “I ought to go before I get into trouble for saying too much.”

Blake, who holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the former KGB, remains a Russian hero and to mark his 85th birthday in 2007 was awarded the Order of Friendship medal by Vladmir Putin, the Russian president.

Over the years he has also received the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner, the Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class and the Order for Personal Courage.

In an official interview last week to mark his birthday, he told Rossiyskaya Gazeta: “These are the happiest years of my life, and the most peaceful. When I worked in the West, I always had the risk of exposure hanging over me. That is how it was. Here I feel free.

“All those twists and turns of fate led to a miracle. I have a connection with my children and grandchildren in England, who often come to visit. And here I have my wife and son whom I love very much.

“Looking back on my life, everything seems logical and natural. I have known how to adapt well wherever life has taken me, even when I was in the [Wormwood] Scrubs prison. I always try to find something positive.”

Unlike some of his fellow spies, who never really settled in the Soviet Union and – in the case of Guy Burgess drank himself to a lonely, early death, Blake adapted easily to life behind the Iron Curtain.

This may be because Blake – unlike the Cambridge spy ring of Burgess, Kim Philby and Donald Maclean – was never an Establishment figure, who may have missed Britain, but rather an outsider.

He was born George Behar in Rotterdam in Holland, the son of a Dutch mother and a Jewish father, who was born in Istanbul but who acquired British citizenship fighting for the British army with great distinction in the First World War.

Blake was a member of the Dutch resistance during the Second World war and eventually fled the Nazis, arriving in London in 1943.

A year later he was helping the Secret Intelligence Service and working for MI6 permanently from about 1947. He was posted to the British embassy in Seoul in 1950 where he was captured by the advancing North Korean army and taken prisoner by the Communist forces, who ‘turned’ him.

“I joined the Communist side not because I was well or badly treated. That had nothing to do with it,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I joined because of its ideals.”

He was released three years later and began working for MI6 in Berlin at the height of the Cold War where he began to spy for the Soviet Union, betraying agents until his capture.

Blake has always insisted – most would say naively – that he had an undertaking from his KGB handlers that nobody he named would be executed.

Petr Popov, a Soviet military intelligence officer, was executed in Moscow in 1960

But his actions have been blamed for at least two deaths – those of Lieutenant-General Robert Bialek, an east German who had defected to the West, was captured in west Berlin, smuggled back to the east and executed; and Petr Popov, a Soviet military intelligence officer who was working for the CIA and who was executed in Moscow in 1960.

“He always denied it and said he got a promise from his handlers that the people he unmasked would be punished but not executed,” said Roger Hermiston, a journalist and author.

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