UK spy Blunt's memoirs confirm that he passed secrets to Russia in the 60s

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London, July 23 (ANI): British art historian Anthony Blunt's memoirs, which were published for the first time on Wednesday, have confirmed that secrets were passed on to Russia and have shed new light on the 20th century's biggest security scandal.

Blunt was exposed as being a Russian spy in November 1964. He was the so-called Fourth Man in the Cambridge Five spy ring.

According to The Telegraph, at the pinnacle of the spy ring's power and importance, all five were in extremely influential positions.

They infiltrated MI5, MI6, the Foreign Office, and the War Ministry and betrayed some of Britain's most sensitive secrets to the Soviet Union.

While the memoirs shed new light on his friendship with fellow spy Guy Burgess and his version of the escape to Moscow, there is no detail on his own espionage activities.

Blunt does not incriminate anyone not already implicated or any of his Russian contacts.

At one point he wrote: "I simply found it unthinkable that I should denounce my friends."

Blunt was appointed Surveyor of the King's Pictures in 1945, continuing the role under the Queen. He was knighted in 1956.

He confessed to MI5 in 1964 but was granted immunity from prosecution and allowed to continue his privileged life as an art historian.

Blunt died of a heart attack in 1983, four years after being named in the Commons as a traitor by Margaret Thatcher, the newly elected prime minister.

In his 30,000 word memoirs, Blunt tells how, initially at least, he was not impressed because "he (Burgess) began immediately to talk very indiscreetly about the private lives of people who were quite unknown to me".

But he was won over by the brilliance of Burgess's mind.

"He could be perverse both in argument and in behaviour, but in the former he would wriggle back to sense and in the latter he would apologise in such an engaging manner that it was difficult to be angry for long. His sex life was already fairly full, but he did not blazon it about as he was to do later."

Blunt's memoirs disclose the bitterness he felt at the way Burgess rewarded his friendship by defecting to Russia, irrespective of the danger he would be placed in.

After the war, Blunt left MI5, became an art historian at the Courtauld Institute, and moved to the heart of the Establishment as Surveyor of the King's Paintings - a position he would hold until 1972.

He remained close friends with Burgess, who was working in the British embassy in Washington where Philby was a rising star. But by 1951, and with the prospect of imminent exposure, Burgess decided to flee to Moscow with Maclean - regardless of the consequences for his fellow Cambridge spies, according to Blunt. Their departure inevitably threw suspicion on the other Cambridge academics, including himself and Philby.

Most accounts have suggested Burgess was ordered to go by his Soviet controllers because he was cracking up. Blunt denies it and insists he was in "no doubt" that Burgess chose to go even though he knew it would put his friends in danger.

They fled because Philby - the senior MI6 officer in Washington responsible for liaising with the Americans - had discovered that Maclean was about to be unmasked following the cracking of the Russians' wartime codes.

Burgess, who was also at the Washington embassy, was sent home in disgrace after being arrested three times on the same day for speeding. Blunt rejects the idea that it was an "artfully pre-planned" return, as historians have claimed.

Blunt discloses that he could have defected because arrangements were made for his escape, but they were so "primitive" they would have almost certainly led to his arrest.

It came as a shock when, more than a decade later, the truth was to become public as a result of the book, Climate of Treason - a thinly veiled exposi of his treachery. The downfall of Blunt came about only because through his solicitor he made an attempt to stop the book being published.

Written by Andrew Boyle, it did not even name Blunt. The spy was called Maurice - the title of E M Forster's novel, which centered round a homosexual academic. But Blunt's legal move linked him for the first time with the story of the so-called Fourth Man.

The magazine Private Eye made his intervention public and this led to his eventual exposure. Ten days after the book was released, Thatcher, the new prime minister, named him in the Commons.

Faced with public disgrace, Blunt "very seriously" considered taking his own life.

Some would say it would have been the "honourable" way out, he decided it would be a "cowardly solution". "It would have made things as bad as possible for my family and friends; they would have had the double shock of my suicide and the revelations which would have followed immediately," he wrote. (ANI)

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