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The Cambridge Spy Ring

Ian Yeung

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Here's my thesis that Ian Fleming's spy novels were part of a psych war operation against the Russians as a direct result of the betrayals of the Cambridge Spy ring. BK


William Kelly


A most interesting read, Bill. Very publishable.

Why did Ian Fleming choose the name 'James Bond'?


The official story is that Fleming believed the name to be "dull and unassuming," and was lifted from the author of the book he just happened to have at his breakfast table. In reality, he considered Bond's book his "Bible."


I will answer more fully in the thead JS started on Fleming, and allow this thread to stay on topic with the Cambridge Spy Ring, and I hope Ian has a chance to respond.


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Therefore to summarize, the Cambridge Spy Ring was arguably the finest and most thorough penetration of any country’s government in living memory. It remains such a supreme and elegant example of an intelligence operation that it must surely be compulsory reading for intelligence services and historians worldwide. However it would be wrong for Oxford University aficionados and fans, to foolishly believe that Oxford did not produce its own share of traitors during this time period. An Oxford Spy Ring did exist at the same time. Members included Phoebe Pool (a courier for the Oxford Ring and a colleague of Blunt’s at the Courtauld Institute), Peter Floud (Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum), Bernard Floud (a senior Labour MP), Jenifer Hart (who joined the Civil Service and married an MI5 officer), Sir Andrew Cohen (a senior diplomat), and Arthur Wynn (who was active in trade union circles and joined the Civil Service).

I am afraid you are wrong to suggest Bernard Floud was a Soviet spy. Nor was Jenifer Hart a spy. Peter Wright named Floud and Hart as spies in his book, Spycatcher (1987):

Floud's attitude, when I began the interview, was extraordinary. He treated the matter as of little importance, and when I pressed him on Jennifer Hart's story he refused to either confirm or deny that he had recruited her.

"How can I deny it, if I can't remember anything about it?" he said repeatedly.

I was tough with him. I knew that his wife, an agoraphobic depressive, had recently committed suicide, but Floud was eager to conclude the interview, presumably lured by the scent of office. I explained to him in unmistakable terms that, since it was my responsibility to advise on his security clearance, I could not possibly clear him until he gave a satisfactory explanation for the Hart story. Still he fell back lamely on his lack of memory. The session ended inconclusively, and I asked for him to attend a further interview the following day. I did not make any progress with him, he maintaining that he had no recollection of recruiting Jennifer.

The next morning I got a message that Floud had committed suicide, apparently with a gas poker and a blanket.

Bernard Floud, the son of Sir Francis Floud, the High Commissioner to Canada, was born on 22nd March, 1915. Educated at Wadham College, Oxford, he became a secret member of the Communist Party.

Floud qualified as a lawyer but on the outbreak of the Second World War Floud joined the Intelligence Corps. Later he worked in the Ministry of Information (1942-45) and the Board of Trade (1945-51).

After the war Floud became an open member of the party and was active in the "Civil Servants Communist Group". Informed that he would never receive promotion as a civil servant because of his political views he resigned and became a farmer in Ongar. He joined the Labour Party and was a member of the Kelvedon Hatch Parish Council (1952-61). In 1955 Floud was employed by Granada as a television programme company executive.

Floud was elected to the House of Commons in October 1964. Soon afterwards Floud began asking questions about the case of Commander Lionel Crabb, an underwater sabotage expert, who had disappeared in April 1956 while on a secret mission to investigate the Russian cruiser Ordkhonikidze. This created a diplomatic row as the ship had brought over Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin on a goodwill mission to Britain. Floud seemed well-informed about the case and appeared to have obtained this information from MI6.

In 1964 Anthony Blunt was identified as a Soviet agent. Blunt confessed to his crimes in return for his immunity from prosecution. According to Peter Wright he named several other agents including Floud and Hart. Nothing was done about this allegation until Harold Wilson became prime minister. MI5 told Wilson that several Labour MPs were Soviet spies. This included Bernard Floud, John Diamond (Chief Secretary of the Treasury), John Stonehouse (parliamentary secretary, Aviation), Barnett Stross (parliamentary secretary, Health), Judith Hart (Under-Secretary of State for Scotland), Stephen Swingler (parliamentary secretary, Transport), Niall MacDermot (Financial Secretary, Treasury), Tom Driberg (National Executive of the Labour Party) and Will Owen (MP for Morpeth). As David Leigh points out in The Wilson Plot: "With the exception of the insignificant Will Owen, the spying allegations were all false."

As Leigh points out: "Of those who became secret members of the Communist Party in the 1930s, quite a few refused to do any spying in later life - Michael Straight, the rich American, for example, or the civil servants Bernard Floud and Jenifer Hart... His (Floud) profile was not that of an active underground mole at all. He had been an open supporter of Communism after the war. As a consequence, he had been 'purged' from Harold Wilson's Board of Trade in 1948 under the blacklisting procedure for civil servants. And if he had only pretended to leave the British Communist Party subsequently, his name would have been on the 55,000 files looted by MI5 from the CPGB under operation PARTY PIECE in 1955."

The naming of these left-wing MPs as Soviet spies was an attempt to undermine the 1964 Wilson government. In 1967 Harold Wilson decided to appoint Floud as a junior minister and MI5 was asked to provide him with a security clearance. Floud was interviewed by Peter Wright. After being interrogated he returned home and committed suicide on 10th October, 1967.

Floud was just another victim of MI5's dirt tricks. Floud's son, Professor Sir Roderick Floud, contacted me and pointed out that Wright was also wrong to suggest that his mother had committed suicide. She in fact died from a long-standing lung disease.


Christopher Andrew has just published "The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5". It received a very interesting review in The Guardian from David Leigh, the author of "The Wilson Plot":


This is a strange and rather suspect production. Inside its more than 1,000 pages, there seem to be two different volumes. The first is a ripping read and just the kind of work one would hope for from a well-qualified academic who has been given the run of MI5's treasure trove of files. It is scrupulously documented, covering both the glory days of war, when MI5's deception operations outsmarted Hitler, and the later nightmare penetrations by the double agent Kim Philby and friends, in which the KGB thoroughly outsmarted the British.

Book two, however, is a different matter. This covers more sensitive occasions when MI5 officers have been accused of batty behaviour, including the persecution of "subversives", deranged denunciations of one another, and the targeting of the Labour prime minister Harold Wilson.

Christopher Andrew's book has been sanitised in "an extensive clearance process involving other departments and agencies". The present head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, writes that information has been censored not only for "national security" but also "if its publication would be inappropriate for wider public interest reasons". So readers are asked to take much on trust as they plough through reams of uncheckable footnotes merely labelled "security service archives" or "recollections of a former security service officer".

When it comes to the Wilson affair, Andrew's scholarship appears to slip. He repeats insistently the MI5 party line that there never was misbehaviour against Wilson or his ministers by "the Service", and that it was all mere conspiracy theories. Yet he withholds the fact that the cabinet secretary Lord Hunt authoritatively confirmed the central allegation. Hunt, who conducted a secret inquiry, said in August 1996: "There is absolutely no doubt at all that a few, a very few, malcontents in MI5 . . . a lot of them like Peter Wright who were rightwing, malicious and had serious personal grudges – gave vent to these and spread damaging malicious stories about that Labour government."

Separately, Andrew is silent on the well-documented case in which Wilson's treasury minister, Niall McDermot, was driven from office in 1968 when Patrick Stewart of MI5 accused his Russian-born wife of having KGB contacts. It was a most unpleasant miscarriage of justice.

Andrew does, however, write his own chapter on Wilson. He calls it "The 'Wilson Plot'". Puzzled readers may conclude that he is seeking, bu using those quotation marks, to explode the 1988 book of that title, written by this reviewer who coined the phrase. Yet no references at all follow in the footnotes or bibliography. It has become an Un-book, and the reader is not able to consider its countervailing evidence.

Nonetheless, it turns out in the end that Andrew must be using a sort of code. To one's surprise, underneath the MI5-approved bluster against "conspiracy theories", there lurks the real story in obscure footnotes and cryptic mentions. Andrew has in fact substantiated the thesis of the "Wilson plot", and more besides. It transpires that there is even more damning material in the MI5 files than was ever realised.

For example, the Labour MP Bernard Floud was indeed bullied with false allegations that he was a communist while in a state of grief after his wife's death. Thanks to the files, Andrew exonerates him and confirms that Peter Wright lied about the relevant dates of interrogations to try to make Floud look guilty. Dramatically, it is confirmed that there was indeed a secret Wilson MI5 file, under the pseudonym "Worthington". (One of my own errors is corrected. It was "Norman" not "Henry" Worthington.) The file was opened in 1947, when a communist civil servant spoke approvingly about Wilson on a tapped phone. It detailed Wilson's postwar trips to Moscow working for a timber firm (which we knew of) and his secretly observed encounters in London around 1955 with an undercover KGB man called Skripov (which we didn't).

There is more. Wilson's Lithuanian manufacturer buddy Joe Kagan was indeed discovered in 1971 to be hanging out with another undercover KGB officer, Richardas Vaygauskas, and the prime minister's friendships were indeed put under prolonged MI5 scrutiny, just as has been alleged. And finally it transpires that a KGB defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn, could have seen the file the Russians once temporarily opened on Wilson. "Golitsyn . . . claimed . . . that Wilson was a Soviet mole. When [the Labour leader Hugh] Gaitskell died suddenly in 1963, Golitsyn developed the . . . theory that he had been poisoned by the KGB to enable Wilson to succeed him . . . Sadly a minority of British and American intelligence officers . . . among them Angleton [head of CIA counter-intelligence] and Wright [MI5 assistant director] . . . were seduced by Golitsyn's fantasies."

So, apparently, the "Wilson plot" was true enough after all. It just seems to be impermissible for an official author to say so too loudly.

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Guest Stephen Turner
Was the Cambridge Spy Ring originally recruited by a Catholic priest?


Maurice Dobb, an economics Don and avowed Communist, had a lot of influence on Kim Philby.

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