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942,085 . 

West, Rebecca, pseud, 

The new meaning of ^treason, 
N,Y M Viking Pr " 

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JI25S Kansas city, missouri 


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K A N L . A , C I 1 > M O I U U L I ( I I H f I <\ l( V 

D DDD1 D3"43aSE 



Dornco, Inc, 

When Rebecca West s The Meaning of 
Treason was published in 1947, Joseph 
Barnes in the New York Herald Trib 
une hailed it as "an adventure story, a 
prose hymn to her native land, and a 
morality tale for the whole world," 
Now, almost twenty years later, Dame 
Rebecca has revised and expanded to 
almost twice its original length her 
classic work on traitors and defectors 
of World War II, to include some of 
the famous spy and subversion cases of 
the 1950s and 1960s. 

Part I and the beginning of Part II 
contain revised versions of her famous 
accounts of William Joyce (Lord Haw- 
Haw) and John Amery from the origi 
nal edition, to which she has added 
later findings. The rest of Part II, 
which is entirely new, deals chiefly 
with the scientists, such as Dr. Alan 
Nunn May, who transmitted atomic 
secrets to the Soviet Union in the late 
ISM Os and 1950s, Dame Rebecca uses 
Dr, Nunn May as a prime example of 
that postwar breed of scientists who 
claimed that, because they were en 
dowed with superior technical knowl 
edge, they comprised an elite which 
should be allowed to ignore national 

Dame Rebecca goes on to add her 
shrewd and original insights into such 
oases as those of the Rosenbergs and of 
Klaus Kmil Fuchs; and she analyxes 
with great perception why England 
was so susceptible to the scandal caused 
by the defection of Burgess and Mac 
lean, Finally, using as an example 
Lieutenant Waters, who, taken as a 
(dontinurd on back flap) 



Black Lamb and Grey Falcon A Train of Powder 


The Return of the Soldier The Judge 

Harriet Hume The Thinking Heed 

The Fountain Overflows 


The Harsh Voice St. Augustine 

Henry James The Strange Necessity 

Lions and Lambs The Rake s Progress 


The New Meaning 

of Treason 


The Meaning of Treason 

Copyright 1945, 1946, 1947 ty Rebecca West 

The New Meaning of Treason 
Copyright @ 1964 by Rebecca West 
Published in 1964 by The Viking Press f Inc. 
6*5 Madison Avenue, New York f N.Y, loost 

Published simultaneously in Canada by 
The Macmitlan Company of Canada Limited 

Grateful acknowledgment is made to The New Yorker, m which portions of 
Parts I and II originally appeared, in somewhat different /orm; and to 
Esquire, in which a chapter from Part Ul was first published. 

The lines from "If and "Recessional " by Rudyard Kipling, quoted on page* 
136 and 139, are from Rewards and Fairies, Copyright 1910 by Rudyard 
Kipling, and are reprinted by permission of Mrs, George Cambridge, Double- 
day to Company, Inc, t and The Macmitlan Company of Canada Ltd, 

Library of Congress catalog card number: 64-25703 

Set in Baskerville and Bulmer types by The Colonial Press, Inc. 

Printed in U.S.A. 


PASEO JAM 29 1968 


THROUGHOUT this book, when I write of con 
victed persons whose trials received no great publicity and who 
are likely to return to the outer world after a short period, I 
allude to them by names other than their own. The reader should 
be warned that these persons and all others mentioned in these 
pages must not be regarded as holding the same opinions and 
performing the same sorts of action as they did when they broke 
the law. A number of them have not changed, but there are those 
who can hardly be considered as the same persons. This is either 
because they committed their offences under pressure, or because 
they went on growing. For two of those who have made other 
lives, I have come to feel great respect and admiration, 

The first version of The Meaning of Treason was written be 
cause I had reported the trials o William Joyce and John Amery 
for The New Yorker, and my interest in these two men made me 
attend the trials of some other pro-Nazis who had been involved 
with disloyalty of one kind or another. I was encouraged to make 
a book about these people by an eminent lawyer who was con 
cerned because the shortage of newsprint due to the war meant 
that these trials were either not reported or were reported too 
briefly for the public to gain any real information regarding a 
significant tendency. When I began my book I was under the 
impression that I was dealing with a spent force only interesting 
as part of the past, but when I was halfway through it Alan Nunn 
May followed William Joyce into the clock of the Old Bailey, and 
I became aware that the force still lived, and that its significance 
was even more grave than had been supposed. 

Since then I have attempted to keep abreast with the story of 
disloyalty as it has unfolded, and the present version of this book 
carries it on to the end of 1963. The subject is now so large that 
I have been obliged to leave unanswered many questions which 
will occur to the reader. For this reason I would like to recom- 



mend Mr. Sanche de Gramont s The Secret War (Putnam, 1962), 
which gives much information about the espionage and counter 
espionage organizations of the world, as does Mr. Allen Dulles s 
The Craft of Intelligence (Harper and Row, H)(>jf); the report of 
the Royal Commission appointed by the Canadian Government 
to investigate the Atom Spy Ring (194(5) and the United States 
Government publication, Soviet Atomic Espionage (1951)* which 
gives a concise and accurate account of transactions often mis 
represented; Mr. James B Donovan s Strangers on a Bridge?: The 
Case of Colonel Abel (Atheneum, 1964), which thoroughly ex 
plores a modern case of espionage; and the Report of the Royal 
Commission appointed by the Australian Government to investi 
gate matters arising out of the defection of the Soviet diplomat 
Petrov (1955) , which gives a vivid picture of unfamiliar aspects of 
the problem. 


i: The Revolutionary i 

ii : The New Phase 123 

ni: Decline and Fall of Treason 253 

Conclusion 3 6 1 

Index 3 7 1 

The Revolutionary 

J.HE IDEA of a traitor first became real to the Brit 
ish of our time when they heard the voice of William Joyce on 
the radio during the war. The conception of treachery first 
became real to them when he was brought to trial as a radio 
traitor. For he was something new in the history of the world. 
Never before have people known the voice of one they had never 
seen as well as if he had been a husband or a brother or a close 
friend; and had they foreseen such a miracle they could not have 
imagined that this familiar unknown would speak to them only 
to prophesy their death and ruin. A great many people had 
experienced this hideous novelty, for it was easy to chance on 
Joyce s wave length when one was tuning in on the English 
stations, and there was a rasping yet rich quality about his voice 
which made it difficult not to go on listening; and he was nearly 
convincing in his assurance. It seemed as if one had better 
hearken and take warning when he suggested that the destiny of 
the people he had left in England was death, and the destiny of 
his new masters in Germany life and conquest, and that, there 
fore, his listeners had better change sides and submit; and he had 
the advantage that the news in the papers confirmed what he 
said. He was not only alarming, he was ugly. He opened a vista 
into a mean life. He always spoke as if he was better fed and 
better clothed than we were, and so, we now know, he was. He 
went farther than that mockery of his own people s plight. He 
sinned that sin which travesties legitimate hatred because it is 
felt for kindred, as incest is the travesty of legitimate love, When 
the U-boats were sinking so many of our ships that to open the 
newspapers was to see the faces of drowned sailors, he rolled the 
figures of our lost tonnage on his tongue* When we were facing 
the hazard of D-day, he rejoiced in the thought of the English 
dead which would soon lie under the West Wall 

So all the curious went off to the Central Criminal Court on 
September 17, 1945, when he came up for trial The Old Bailey 


was as it had not been before the war and is not now. Because of 
the blitz it stood in a beautiful desert of charred stone. Churches 
stood blackened but apparently intact; birds, however, flew 
through the empty sockets of the windows, and long grass grew 
around their altars. A reel brick Georgian mansion, hidden for a 
century by sordid warehouses, looked at the dome of Saint 
Paul s, now astonishingly great, across acres where willow-herb, 
its last purple flowers passing into silver clouds of seed dust, and 
yellow ragwort grew from the ground plan of a city drawn in 
rubble. The grey stone of the Old Bailey itself had been gashed 
by a bomb. Its solidarity had been sliced as if it were a cake, and 
the walls of the slice were crude new reel brick, Inside the 
building, because there was not yet the labour to take down the 
heavy black-out, the halls and passages and stairs were in perpet 
ual dusk. The courtroom the Court No. i, where all the most 
famous criminal trials of modern times have taken place was lit 
by electric light, for the shattered glass dome had not yet been 
rebuilt. Bare boards filled it in, giving an odd-come-short look to 
what had been a fine room in its austere way. 

The strong light was merciless to William Joyce, whose appear 
ance was a shock to all of us who knew him only over the air. 
His voice had suggested a large and flashy handsomeness, but 
he was a tiny little creature and not handsome at all His hair 
was mouse-coloured and sparse, particularly above his ears, and 
his pinched and misshapen nose was joined to his face at an odd 
angle. His eyes were hard and shiny, and above them his thick 
eyebrows were pale and irregular. His neck was long, his shoul 
ders narrow and sloping, his arms very short and thick* His body 
looked flimsy and coarse. There was nothing individual about 
him except a deep scar running across his right check from his 
ear to the corner of his mouth, But this did not create the savage 
and marred distinction that it might suggest, for it gave a minc 
ing immobility to his small mouth. He was dressed with a 
dandyish preciosity which gave no impression of well-being, only 
of nervousness. He was like an ugly version of Scott Fitzgerald, 
but more nervous. He moved with a jerky formality and, when 
he bowed to the judge, his bow seemed sincerely respectful but 
entirely inappropriate to the occasion, and it was difficult to 
think o any occasion to which it would have been appropriate* 

He had been defying us alL Yet there was nobody in the 


court who did not look superior to him. The men and women in 
the jury box were all middle-aged, since the armies had not yet 
come home, and, like everybody else in England at that date, 
they were puffy and haggard. But they were all more pleasant to 
look at and more obviously trustworthy than the homely and 
eccentric little man in the dock; and compared with the judicial 
bench which he faced he was, of course, at an immense disadvan 
tage, as we all should be, for its dignity is authentic. The judge 
sat in a high-backed chair, the sword of justice in its jewelled 
scabbard affixed to the oak panel behind him, splendid in his 
scarlet robe, with its neckband of fine white linen and its deep 
cuffs and sash of purplish-black taffeta. Beside him, their chairs 
set farther back as a sign of their inferiority to him, sat the Lord 
Mayor of London and two aldermen, wearing antique robes of 
black silk with flowing white cravats and gold chains with pen 
dant badges of office worked in precious metals and enamel. It 
sometimes happens, and it happened then, that these pompous 
trappings are given real significance by the faces of men who 
wear them. Judges are chosen for intellect and character, and 
city honours must be won by intellect combined with compe 
tence at the least, and men in both positions must have the 
patience to carry out tedious routines over decades, and the story 
is often written on their features. 

Looking from the bench to the dock, it could be seen that 
not in any sane community would William Joyce have had the 
ghost of a chance of holding such offices as these. This was tragic, 
as appeared when he was asked to plead and he said, "Not 
guilty." Those two words were the most impressive uttered 
during the trial. The famous voice was let loose. For a fraction 
of a second we heard its familiar quality. It was as it had 
sounded for six years, reverberating with the desire for power. 
Never was there a more perfect voice for a demagogue, for its 
reverberations were certain to awake echoes in every heart tumid 
with the same desire. Given this passionate ambition to exercise 
authority, which as this scene showed could not be gratified, 
what could he ever have done but use his trick of gathering 
together other poor fellows luckless in the same way, so that they 
might overturn the sane community that was bound to reject 
them, and substitute a mad one that would regard them kindly? 

That was the reason why he was in the dock; that, and Irish 


history. For it was at once apparent that this trial, like the great 
treason trial of the First World War, which sent Sir Roger 
Casement to the gallows, had started on the other side of the 
Saint George s Channel. There had been rumours that Joyce was 
Irish, but they had never been officially confirmed, and his accent 
was difficult to identify. But there was no doubt about it when 
one saw him in the dock. He had the real Donnybrook air. He 
was a not very fortunate example of the small, nippy, jig-dancing 
kind of Irish peasant, and the appearance of his brother, who 
attended the court every day in a state of great suffering, proved 
the family s origin. Quentin Joyce, who was then twenty-eight, 
was eleven years William s junior. He was the better-looking of 
the two, with a sturdy body, a fresh colour, thick lustrous brown 
hair, and the soft eyes of a cow. Nobody could mistake him for 
anything but a country-bred Irishman, and there were as clear 
traces of Irish origins in many of the followers of Joyce who 
watched the trial. True, his best friend was visibly a Scot: a 
black Highlander, with fierce black eyes blazing behind thick 
glasses, a tiny fuzz of black hair fancifully arranged on his 
prematurely bald head, and wrists and ankles as thin as lead 
piping. He was Angus MacNab, the editor of a Fascist paper. He 
was plainly foredoomed to follow odd bypaths, and a variation 
in circumstances might have found him just as happily a spirit 
ualist medium or a believer in the lost ten tribes of Israel. As it 
was, he was wholly committed to Joyce. So too were the rank and 
file of the faithful, who were for the most part men of violent 
and unhappy appearance, with a look of animal shyness and 
ferocity, and, in some cases, a measure of animal beauty. They 
were on the whole rather darker than one would expect in 
subscribers to the Aryan theory. One, especially, looked like a 
true gipsy. Many of them had an Irish cast of feature, and some 
bore Irish names. It was to be remembered that Joyce had 
seceded from Mosley s movement some years before the war and 
had started his own. These were not at all like Mosleyites, who 
were as a rule of a more varied and more cheerfully brutal type. 

The case was tinged with irony from the start because the 
prosecuting counsel for the Crown was Sir Hartley Shawcross, the 
Attorney-General appointed by the new Labour Government. 
People in court were anxious to see what he was like, for when the 
JLabour Party had previously held office it had experienced some 


difficulty in getting law officers of the quality the Tories could pro 
vide; and it was a relief to find that he was a winning personality 
with a gift for setting out a lucid argument in the manner of a 
great advocate. He was, in fact, certain to enjoy just that success 
which the man he was prosecuting had desired so much as to put 
himself in danger of a capital charge; a capital charge of which 
he was sure, it seemed in the earlier parts of the case, to be con 

There were three counts in the indictment brought against 
him. He had offended, it seemed, against the root of the law 
against treason: a statute in which Edward III, in the year 1351, 
"at the request of the lords and commons" declared that "if a 
man do levy war against our Lord the King in his realm or be 
adherent to the King s enemies in his realm, giving them aid 
and comfort in the realm or elsewhere," he was guilty of 
treason. So the Clerk of the Court, Sir Wilfred Knops, said: 
"William Joyce, you are charged in an indictment containing 
three counts with high treason. The particulars in the first count 
are that on the i8th September, 1939 anc ^ on ot her days between 
that day and the 2gth May, 1945, you, being a person owing 
allegiance to our Lord the King, and when a war was being 
carried on by the German realm against our King, did trai 
torously adhere to the King s enemies, in parts beyond the seas, 
that is to say in Germany, by broadcasting propaganda. In a 
second count of the same indictment, it is charged that you, on 
the 26th September, 1940, being a person owing allegiance as in 
the other count, adhered to the King s enemies by purporting to 
become naturalized as a subject of Germany. And in the third 
count, the particulars are the same as in the first count, that is to 
say, you are charged with broadcasting propaganda, but the dates 
are different, and the dates in this case are the eighteenth day of 
September, 1939, and on days between that day and the second 
day of July, 1940, being then to wit, on the said several days, a 
person owing allegiance to our Lord the King." Later the first two 
counts were amended, for reasons emerging during the trial, and 
he was described in them as "a British subject," but, significantly, 
no such change was made in the third. 

It seemed as if William Joyce must be found guilty on the 
first two of these counts. What was first told of his life in court 
showed it as an open-and-shut case. William Joyce s dead father 


had been a Galway man named Michael Joyce, who had worked 
as a builder and contractor in America during the nineties; he 
married in May 1902 a Lancashire girl named Gertrude Emily 
Brooke in New York at the Roman Catholic Church of All 
Saints on Madison Avenue and iggth Street, and had settled 
down with her in Brooklyn, where William had been born in 
1906. Later inquiry into the story behind the evidence showed 
their life to have been very pleasant. The Joyces must have been 
quite prosperous. They lived in a very agreeable house, now a 
realtor s office, on a corner lot in a broad street planted with 
trees, charming with the square, substantial, moderate charm of 
old Brooklyn. Now that street is occupied at one end by Negroes 
and at the other by Italians, but then it was a centre of the 
staider Irish, and the solid petty-bourgeois German quarter was 
not far off. 

In 1909 he took his family back to Ireland, a decision he 
must often have regretted. But at the time he must still have 
been very happy. By the time the First World War broke out he 
was the owner of considerable house property in County Mayo 
and County Galway, and he was manager of the horse-tramway 
system in Galway. 

In 1922 he left Ireland, because it had become Eire. He was 
one of those native Irish who were against their own kind and 
on the side of the English oppressor. Nowadays we recognize the 
existence of such people, but fancy them quislings, which is 
quite often unjust. Doubtless some of them were seduced by 
bribery dispensed by Dublin Castle, but many, and amongst 
those we must include Michael Joyce, were people who honestly 
loved law and order and preferred the smart uniforms and 
soldierly bearing of the English garrisons and the Royal Irish 
Constabulary to the furtive slouching of a peasantry distracted 
by poverty and revolutionary fever. The error of such people was 
insufficient inquiry into first causes, but for simple natures who 
went by surface indications the choice was natural enough. 

In any case Michael Joyce paid the price of his convictions, 
and it was not light. He came to England for three very good 
reasons. The first was that the horse-tramways in Galway were 
abolished. One may deduce that he was a man of courage be 
cause he apparently ranked that reason as equal in importance 


to the other two, which were that his neighbours had been so 
revolted by his British sympathies that they burned down his 
house, and that he had been confused in many people s minds 
with an informer, also called Michael Joyce, who had denounced 
a priest to the Black and Tans. (It must be noted that William 
Joyce s father was indeed innocent of this crime, and, so far as is 
known, of any other; the identity of the other Michael Joyce was 
well established.) 

On arriving in England the Joyces settled in Lancashire, 
and William alone made his way down to London, where he 
enrolled as a science student at Battersea Polytechnic. In August 
1922 he, being sixteen years of age, sent a letter of application to 
the London University Officers Training Corps, in which he 
said he wanted to study with a view to being nominated by the 
university for a commission in the Regular Army. This letter was 
read in court, and it is very touching. It must have startled the 
recipient. It would not (nor would the note Joyce s father wrote 
later in support of the application) have convinced him that by 
the still snobbish standards of 1922 this was a likely candidate 
for the officers mess, but it had another point of interest. "I 
have served with the irregular forces of the Crown in an Intelli 
gence capacity, against the Irish guerrillas. In command of a 
squad of sub-agents I was subordinate to the late Captain P. W. 
Keating, 2nd RUR, who was drowned in the Egypt accident. I 
have a knowledge of the rudiments of Musketry, Bayonet Fight 
ing, and Squad Drill." The Egypt was sunk off Ushant in May 
1922; which meant that, if this story was true, the boy was 
engaged in guerrilla fighting with the Black and Tans when he 
was fifteen years old. The story was true. A photograph of him 
taken at that time shows him in a battle dress, and a number of 
people remembered this phase of his life. Later, on an official 
form, he gave the duration of his service as four months, named 
the regiment with which he had been associated as the Worcester- 
shires. Further confirmation was given during his trial by an old 
man from County Galway who stood in the crowd outside and 
expressed to bystanders his hearty desire that William Joyce 
should be hanged for treason against the King of England, on 
the ground that he had worked with the Black and Tans in 
persecuting the Irish when they were revolting against the Eng- 


lish. The crowd, with that toleration which foreigners possibly 
correctly suspect of being a form of smugness, was amused by the 

But there was something in the letter more relevant to his 
trial. "I must now," wrote Joyce, "mention a point which I hope 
will not give rise to difficulties. I was born in America, but of 
British parents. I left America when two years of age, have not 
returned since, and do not propose to return. I was informed, at 
the brigade headquarters of the district in which I was stationed 
in Ireland, that I possessed the same rights and privileges as I 
would if of natural British birth. I can obtain testimonials as to 
my loyalty to the Crown. I am in no way connected with the 
United States of America, against which, as against all other 
nations, I am prepared to draw the sword in British interests. As 
a young man of pure British descent, some of whose forefathers 
have held high position in the British army, I have always been 
desirous of devoting what little capability and energy I may 
possess to the country which I love so dearly, I ask that you may 
inform me if the accident of my birth, to which I refer above, 
will affect my position. I shall be in London for the September 
Matriculation Examination and I hope to commence studies at 
the London University at the beginning of the next academic 
year. I trust that you will reply as soon as possible, and that your 
reply will be favourable to my aspirations." At an interview 
with an official of the OTC he conveyed that he was "in doubt 
as to whether he was a British subject of pure European* 
descent/ " a doubt which must have been honest if he ex 
pressed it at all in view of the ardent hope expressed in his 
letter; but he asserted that his father had never been naturalized. 
This the father confirmed when the official wrote to him for 
further particulars. "Dear Sir, your letter of the sjrd October 
received. Would have replied sooner, but have been away from 
home. With regard to my son William. He was born in America, 
I was born in Ireland. His mother was born in England, We are 
all British and not American citizens." 

Now, there was some doubt in William Joyce s mind about 
his status. Throughout his life when he was filling in official 
forms he was apt to give his birthplace as Ireland or England, 
although he had a birth certificate which gave it as Brooklyn. 
But his disquiet was vague. In the statement he made to the 


Intelligence officers on his arrest he expressed himself un 
certainly. "I understand, though I have no documents to 
prove my statement, that my father was American by naturaliza 
tion at the time of my birth, and I believe he lost his American 
citizenship later through failing to renew it, because we left 
America in 1909 when I was three years old. We were generally 
treated as British subjects during our stay in Ireland and Eng 
land. I was in Ireland from 1909 till 1921 when I came to 
England. We were always treated as British during the period of 
my stay in England whether we were or not." But when his 
defence counsel began to outline his case, there was not the 
faintest doubt about it: William Joyce had not been born a 
British subject. Documents were brought into court which 
showed that Michael Joyce had become an American citizen in 
1894, twelve years before the birth of William at 1377 Herkimer 
Street, Brooklyn. In 1909 he had travelled back to England on 
an American passport. When he and his wife had oscillated 
between Lancashire and Galway during the First World War 
they had had to register under the Aliens Act 1915. An old man 
gave evidence, who had known Michael Joyce all his life. On 
Joyce s advice this witness had gone to America, worked as a 
civil engineer, and taken American citizenship, but he had re 
turned to Great Britain during the First World War and had 
been greatly inconvenienced by his alien status. He spoke of a 
visit to Mrs. Joyce, who was known as Queenie, and who seems 
to have been very well liked, at her house in a Lancashire town. 
They had exchanged commiserations because they both had to 
report all their movements to the police. His cracked old voice 
evoked a picture of two people cosily grumbling together over 
their cups of good strong tea thirty years ago. 

William s brother Quentin went into the witness box. There 
passed between him and the man in the dock a nod and a 
smile of pure love. One realized that life in this strange family 
must sometimes have been great fun. But it evidently had not 
been fun lately. Quentin told the court that his father had died 
in 1941, shortly after the house in which he had lived for eight 
een years had been destroyed by a bomb, and his mother had 
died in 1944. Out of the wreckage of the house there had been 
recovered a few boxes full of papers, but none had any bearing 
on the question of the family s nationality, and there was a 


reason for that. Michael Joyce had told young Quentin, when he 
was ten years old, that he and all the family were American 
citizens but had bade him never to speak of it, and had in later 
years often reiterated this warning. Finally, in 1934, the boy, 
who was then sixteen, had seen him burn a number of papers, 
including what appeared to be an American passport. He had 
given a reason for what he was doing, but the witness was not 
required to repeat it. The date suggests what that reason may 
have been. By that time the police knew William Joyce as a 
troublesome instigator of street fighting and attacks on Commu 
nists and Jews, and in November 1934 Joyce was prosecuted, 
together with Sir Oswald Mosley and two other Fascists, on a 
charge of riotous assembly at Worthing; and though this prosecu 
tion failed, it indicated a serious attempt by the authorities to 
rid themselves of the nuisance of Fascist-planned disorder. Mi 
chael Joyce had every reason to fear that, if the police ever got 
an inkling of his secret, they would deport his son and, not 
improbably, the whole family. 

Now it seemed as impossible to convict William Joyce as it 
had been, when the prosecution was opening its case, to imagine 
his acquittal. The child of a naturalized American citizen, born 
after his father s naturalization, is an American citizen by birth. 
Therefore William Joyce owed the King of England no alle 
giance such as arises out of British nationality. It seemed he must 
go scot free. He had committed no offence whatsoever in becom 
ing a naturalized German subject on September $6, 1940. That 
would have been high treason had he been a British subject, for 
a British subject is forbidden by law to become the naturalized 
subject of an enemy country in wartime. But when he took out 
his naturalization papers in Germany he was an American cit 
izen, and even the American government could not have ques 
tioned his action, being then at peace with Germany, which did 
not declare war on the United States until December u, 1941. It 
followed, then, that his broadcasting was, if only his nationality 
had to be considered, an offence against nobody. After Sep 
tember s>6, 1940, he had been a good German working for the 
fatherland. But our law is not really as arbitrary as all that. 
Allegiance is not exacted by the Crown from a subject simply 
because the Crown is the Crown. The idea of the divine right of 
kings is a comparatively modern vulgarity. According to tradi- 


tion and logic, the state gives protection to all men within its 
confines, and in return exacts their obedience to its laws; and the 
process is reciprocal. When men within the confines of the state 
are obedient to its laws they have a right to claim its protection. 
It is a maxim of the law, quoted by Coke in the sixteenth 
century, that "protection draws allegiance, and allegiance draws 
protection" (protectio trahit subjectionem, et subjectio protec- 
tionem). It was laid down in 1608, by reference to the case of 
Sherley, a Frenchman who had come to England and joined in a 
conspiracy against the King and Queen, that such a man "owed 
to the King obedience, that is, so long as he was within the 
King s protection." That is fair enough; and indeed very fair, if 
the limitations which were applied to this proposition are con 
sidered. For in Hale s History of the Pleas of the Crown, in the 
seventeenth century, it was written: "Because as the subject hath 
his protection from the King and his laws, so on the other side 
the subject is bound by his allegiance to be true and faithful to 
the King. And hence it is, that if an alien enemy come into this 
kingdom hostilely to invade it, if he be taken, he shall be dealt 
with as an enemy, but not as a traitor, because he violates no 
trust nor allegiance. But if an alien, the subject of a foreign 
prince in amity with the King, live here, and enjoy the benefit of 
the King s protection, and commit a treason, he shall be judged 
and executed, as a traitor, for he owes a local allegiance." 

There could be no doubt whatsoever that William Joyce 
owed that kind of allegiance. He had certainly enjoyed the 
protection of the English law for some thirty years preceding 
his departure to Germany. The lawyers for the defence, in prov 
ing that he did not owe the natural kind of allegiance which 
springs from British birth, had found themselves under the 
necessity of disproving beyond all doubt that he owed this other 
acquired kind; and there were the two damning sentences in his 
statement: "We were generally counted as British subjects during 
our stay in Ireland and England. . . . We were always treated as 
British during the period o my stay in England whether we 
were or not." Thus, though an alien, William Joyce owed the 
Crown allegiance and was capable of committing treason against 
it. Again he was heading for conviction. But not for certain. 
There was a definition of the law which was likely to help him. 

In 1707 an assembly of judges laid it down that "if such 


alien seeking the Protection of the Crown having a Family and 
Effects here should during a War with his Native Country go 
thither and there Adhere to the King s Enemies for the purpose 
of Hostility, He might be dealt with as a Traitor. For he came 
and settled here under the Protection of the Crown. And though 
his Person was removed for a time, his Effects and Family contin 
ued still under the same Protection." 

Now, the letter of this judgment did not apply to William 
Joyce. He had taken his wife with him to Germany, and by that 
marriage he was childless. He had two children by a former 
marriage, but they were in the care of their mother and did not 
enter into this case. The effects he possessed when he quitted 
England were of such a trifling nature that it would be fairer to 
regard them as abandoned rather than as left under the protec 
tion of the Crown. Had he retained any substantial property in 
the country he would not have had to avail himself of the 
provisions of the Poor Prisoners Defence Act. But he was within 
the sphere of the spirit of the judgment. Joyce disappeared from 
England at some time between August 29, 1939 when he issued 
an order dissolving the National Socialist League, the Fascist 
organization of which he was the head and September 18, when 
he entered the service of the German radio. He was the holder of 
a British passport; it was part of his lifelong masquerade as a 
British subject. He had declared on the application papers that 
he had been born in Galway and had not "lost the status of Brit 
ish subject thus acquired." He obtained his passport on July 6, 
1933, and there is perhaps some significance in that date. He had 
become a member of the British Fascists in 1923, when he was 
seventeen, but had left this organization after two years, to be 
come later an active member of the Conservative Party. In 
January 1933 Hitler seized power, and later in the year Mosley 
formed the British Union of Fascists, which William Joyce joined. 
This passport was, like all British passports, valid for five years. 
When July 1938 came round he let it lapse, but applied on 
September 24, 1938, for a renewal for the customary period of 
one year; and there is, perhaps, some significance in that date 
also, for the Munich Agreement was signed on September 29. 
The next year he was careful not to let it lapse. He made an ap 
plication for renewal over a month before its expiry, on August 
2 4> 1 939 an( i there was certainly some significance in that date. 


for war broke out on September 3. Each of these renewals was 
dated as if the application had been made when the passport ex 
pired. So when William Joyce went to Germany he was the holder 
of a British passport which was valid until the beginning of July 
1940. That was why the third count of the indictment charged 
him with committing high treason by broadcasting between "the 
eighteenth day of September, 1939, and on divers other days 
thereafter, and between that day and the second day of July, 1940, 
being then to wit, on the said several days, a person owing al 
legiance to our Lord the King." It was, in fact, the case for the 
prosecution that a person obtaining a passport placed himself 
thereby under the protection of the Crown and owed it alle 
giance until the passport expired. 

No ruling on the point existed, because no case of treason 
involving temporary allegiance had been tried during the com 
paratively recent period when passports, in their modern sense, 
have been in use, so the judge had to make a new ruling; and for 
one sultry afternoon and a sultrier morning the prosecuting and 
defending counsel bobbed up and down in front of the bench, 
putting the arguments for and against the broadening of the law 
by inclusion of this modern circumstance. People with legal 
minds were entranced, and others slept. Joyce enjoyed this part 
of the trial very much, and frequently passed down to his coun 
sel notes that were characteristically odd. Like all prisoners in 
the dock, he had been given octavo sheets to write on, and could 
certainly have had as many as he wanted. But when he wrote a 
note he tore off irregularly shaped pieces and covered them with 
grotesquely large handwriting; so large that it could be read by 
people sitting in the gallery. One ended with the words, "but it 
is not important." His enjoyment of the argument was not 
unnatural in one who loved complications, for no stage of it was 
simple. Much depended on the nature of a passport, and this 
had never been defined by the law, for a passport has been 
different things at different times and has never been merely one 
thing at a time. It was originally a licence given by the Crown to 
a subject who wished to leave the realm, an act as a rule prohib 
ited because it deprived the King of a man s military services; 
but it was also a licence given to an alien to travel through the 
realm; and it was a pass given to soldiers going home on leave, 
or paupers discharged from a hospital. Through the ages it 


changed its character to a demand by the issuing state that the 
person and property of one of its subjects shall be respected by 
other states when he travels in their realms; a voucher of his 
respectability, demanded by the states he intends to visit, as a 
precaution against crime and political conspiracy; and a source 
of revenue to the states, which charged heavily for such permits. 
Of its protective nature in our day there can be little doubt, 
since the preamable on every British passport announces that 
"we," the Foreign Secretary of the day, request and require in 
the Name of His Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow 
the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford 
him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she 
may stand in need." In 1905 the Lord Chief Justice of that day, 
Lord Alverstone, defined a passport as "a document issued in the 
name of a Sovereign, on the responsibility of a Minister of the 
Crown, to a named individual, intended to be presented to the 
governments of foreign nations and to be used for that indi 
vidual s protection as a British subject in foreign countries." 

It is a strange thing that many people found something 
distasteful in this argument that William Joyce, alien by birth, 
who had acquired a temporary and local allegiance, did not lose 
it when he left England to take service with the Naris because he 
took his British passport with him. They did not reflect on what 
would have followed from the rejection of this argument. If it 
had been established that a temporary allegiance could not be 
carried over by an alien to the Continent, that he divested 
himself of it by the mere act of passing beyond the three-mile 
territorial limits, then an alien who was resident in England and 
for some reason had been given a British passport (as some 
times happens in the case of one who has rendered special 
services to England) could pop across the Channel, conspire 
with an enemy of England at Calais, and pop back again, not 
only once but hundreds of times, and never be tried for treason, 
because at three miles from Dover he lost his duty of allegiance. 

Joyce s counsel also argued that his client s passport could 
give him no protection because he had acquired it by a false 
statement; yet it was hard to see how it could fail to protect him 
until the fraud was discovered and the passport was withdrawn. 
Supposing that William Joyce had fallen out with the Germans 
during 1940 and had become a civil internee; he could have 


called on the assistance o the Swiss Embassy in Berlin, as Switzer 
land was "the protective power" appointed to safeguard the 
interests of Britons in hostile territory during wartime. 

All this filigree work delighted the little man in the dock, 
who watched his lawyers with a cynical brightness, as if he were 
interested in seeing whether they could get away with all this 
nonsense but had no warmer concern with the proceedings. He 
showed no special excitement, only a continuance of amused 
curiosity, when on the third day of the trial, at the end of the 
morning, the judge announced that he would give his ruling on 
these legal submissions after the luncheon interval; and at two 
o clock he returned to the dock with his usual eccentric excess of 
military smartness and his sustained tight-lipped derisiveness. 
The judge announced that "beyond a shadow of doubt" Wil 
liam Joyce had owed allegiance to the Crown of this country 
when he applied for his passport, and that nothing had hap 
pened to put an end to that allegiance during the period when 
the passpport was valid. In other words, he ruled that a person 
holding a British passport owed allegiance to the Crown even 
when he was outside the realm. This ruling made it quite certain 
that William Joyce was going to be sentenced to death. 

If the sentence was carried out he would die the most 
completely unnecessary death that any criminal has ever died on 
the gallows. He was the victim of his own and his father s 
lifelong determination to lie about their nationality. For had he 
not renewed his English passport, and had he left England for 
Germany on the American passport which was rightfully his, no 
power on earth could have touched him. As he became a Ger 
man citizen by naturalization before America came into the war, 
he could never have been the subject of prosecution under the 
American laws of treason. 

It is not easy to understand why the family practised this 
imposture; Michael Joyce is an enigmatic figure. Since he loved 
England it would have been more natural for him to emigrate to 
England than to America. There were, of course, some pro-Eng 
lish Irish who went to America to act as informers on the anti- 
English Irish, who were at that time fomenting the Fenian and 
other separatist movements. It is said that Michael Joyce was a 
candid and honourable man, but even such could, even against 
their own wish, be entangled in the fierce intrigues and counter- 


intrigues of those days. It is very difficult to see why, when 
Michael Joyce returned to England and found his American 
citizenship such a burden that he warned his children to keep it 
a deadly secret, he never took the simple steps which would have 
readmitted him to British nationality. It would have cost him 
only a few pounds, and he was in those years well-to-do. It 
cannot have been the legal technicalities which baffled him; his 
wife s brother was a solicitor. The official resistance to the proc 
ess was not great. Can Michael Joyce have feared to remind 
either the British or the American government of his existence? 
Had he once been involved in some imbroglio and got a black 
mark against his name? Was he working his passage home when 
he gained the good opinion of the Royal Irish Constabulary? 
There is probably nobody alive now who knows. All that we can 
be sure of is that the story was probably incredibly complicated. 
Nothing was simple in that world of espionage and counteres 

William Joyce was being sentenced to death because his 
father had tried to save him from what must have been a lesser 
danger; and sentence was passed on him in a terrible way, 
because nobody in court felt any emotion at all. People wanted 
Joyce to pay the proper legal penalty for his treason, but not 
because they felt any personal hatred against him. They wanted 
to be sure that in any other war this peculiarly odious form of 
treachery, which invaded the ears of frightened people, would be 
discouraged before it began, and that was about the limit of 
their interest in the matter. At no other such trial have the 
spectators, as soon as the jury went out to consider their verdict 
and the judge retired from the bench and the prisoner was taken 
down to the cells, got up from their seats and strolled about and 
chattered as if they were at a theatre between the acts. At no 
other such trial have the jury come back from considering the ver 
dict looking as if they had been out for a cup of tea. And at no 
other such trial has the judge assumed the black cap which is 
not a cap at all but a piece of black cloth that an attendant lays 
across his wig as if it were in fact just a piece of black cloth laid 
across his wig. He spoke the words of the sentence of death rev 
erently, and they were awful, as they always must be: "William 
Joyce, the sentence of the Court upon you is, that you be taken 
from this place to a lawful prison, and thence to a place of execu- 


tion, and that you be there hanged by the neck until you are dead; 
and that your body be afterwards buried within the precincts 
of the prison in which you shall have been confined before your 
execution. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul." 

But the effect of these words was, on this uniquely shallow 
occasion, soon dissipated. It was indeed pitiful when Joyce was 
asked if he wanted to make a statement before sentence was 
passed on him, and he shook his head, the hungry and inordi 
nate voice in him at last defeated. He had been even more 
pitiful earlier in the trial, when the judge had warned the jury 
to consider very carefully their verdict because a person found 
guilty must be sentenced to death, for he had put up his hand 
and touched his neck with a look of wonder. That he deserved 
pity was noted by the intellect; pity was not felt. Nor was 
anybody in the court very much moved by the extreme courage 
with which he bore himself, though that was remarkable. He 
listened to the sentence with his head high, gave one of his 
absurd stiff bows, and ran down to the cells, smiling and waving 
to his brother and his friends, acting gaiety without a flaw. Such 
a performance would once have moved us, but not then. All had 
changed. Even a trial for a capital offence was then quite 
different from what it had been before the war, when the specta 
tors were living in a state of security, and the prisoner was an 
exceptionally unfortunate person who had strayed into a district 
not generally visited, perhaps for lack of boldness. But every 
man and woman who attended Joyce s trial had at some time 
during the last six years been in danger of undeserved death or 
pain, and had shown, or seen others showing, great courage. 
William Joyce could not make any claim on them by being 
pitiful and brave. He could not arouse their interest because it 
was exceptional to meet violent death, since he was in the dock 
by reason of failure to acquit himself well when that had been 
their common destiny. So they turned away from him and left 
the court as if it had been a cinema or concert. But in the dark 
corridor a woman said, "I am glad his mother s dead. She lived 
near us in Dulwich. She was a sweet little lady, a tiny little 
woman. I often used to stand with her in the fish queue. In fact, 
that s how I met her. One day after the blitz had been very bad 
I said something about that blasted Lord Haw-Haw, and some 
one said, Hush, that s his mother right beside you/ and I felt 


dreadful. But she only said but she was ever so Irish, and I 
can\ speak like she did Never mind, my clear, I m sure you 
didn t mean it unkindly. " This story recalled the lilt of 
affection of the old man in the witness box when he had spoken 
of having tea with Queenie. 

The dark corridor passed to a twilit landing. Down a shad 
owed staircase the band of Fascists were descending, tears shin 
ing on their astonished faces. Joyce s brother walked slowly, his 
eyes that were soft and brown like a cow s now narrowed and 
wet, and the slight blond solicitor just behind him. There was a 
block, and for a minute the crowd all stood stilL The solicitor 
plucked at Quentin Joyce s jacket and said kindly, "This is just 
what he expected, you know." "Yes/ said his brother, "I know 
it s just what he expected," The crowd moved on, but after it 
had gone down a few steps the solicitor plucked at the young 
man s jacket again and said, "It s the appeal that matters, you 
know," and Quentin said, "Yes, I know. The appeal s every 
thing. 1 

At the counter where the spectators had to collect their 
umbrellas and coats, a jurywoman was saying good-bye to one of 
her colleagues. They were shaking hands warmly and expressing 
hopes that they would meet again* They might have been people 
parting at the end of a cruise. Jostling them were the Fascists, 
waiting for their raincoats, garments which those of their kind 
affect in all weathers, in imitation of Hitler. The young man 
who looked like a gipsy held his head down. Heavy tears were 
hanging on his long black lashes. He and his friends still looked 
amazed. They had wanted people to die by violence, but they 
had not expected the lot to fall on any of their own number. 
Another dark and passionate young man was accosted by a 
reporter, and he cried out in rage that he had been four years in 
Brixton Jail under Security Regulation i8B, all for patriotism, 
and he had come out to see the persecution of the finest patriot 
of all. His black eyes rolled and blazed about him. It did not do. 
About him were standing people who had been in the Dieppe 
expedition, at Arnhem, in submarines, in prison camps; even the 
women knew about fear, had been, perhaps, on the Gestapo list 
of persons to be arrested immediately after the Germans con 
quered England. There was this new universality of horrible 


experience, this vast common martyrdom, which made it no use 
to play execution as if it were a trump card. 

The little band of Fascists gathered together in a knot by 
the door, and after they had wiped their faces, and composed 
themselves, they went into the street. In the open space in front 
of the building was a line of parked cars, and behind them stood 
a crowd of silent people. The Fascists walked away from this 
crowd, down a street that narrowed and lost itself in a network 
of alleys. Nobody followed them, but they began to hurry. By 
the time they got into the shelter of the alleys, they were almost 

THE fight between the Crown and William Joyce was 
waged throughout four months and all across London. It began 
in a golden September in the Old Bailey, came up again during 
bright November in another damaged building, the Royal 
Courts of Justice, usually called the Law Courts, and then went 
to the House of Lords, where he made his last stand in the 
precincts of Westminster Palace, which, still hugger-mugger 
within from bomb damage, looked across the river through 
December mists at one of the most moving memorials of the 
blitz, Saint Thomas s Hospital, still treating the sick, but itself 
architecturally sick after much bombing. 

For a week the trial imposed its routine on Westminster Palace. 
In the morning the spectators, either journalists or the faithful 
in their Hitler raincoats with their look of Irishry and their wild 
unhappiness, went up the stone staircase to a lobby full of 
gossiping lawyers, outside the chamber where the Lords were 
meeting temporarily because they had given their chamber over 
to the Commons, whose home had been damaged by a bomb. 
They were then taken in hand by the attendants of the House of 
Lords, a body of spare and anonymous-looking men in ordinary 
white-tie evening dress, with the silver-gilt badge of the Royal 


Arms at their waists, under the supervision of a most elegant 
retired general, whose appearance and manners would have de 
lighted Ouicla. They shepherded all the pressmen and the pris 
oner s friends into the Royal Gallery, a hall conceived and 
executed in the brownest style of Victorian interior decoration, 
which held that everything rich, and not just plum cake, should 
be dark. On the wall strips of mulberry and gold brocade divide 
vast blackish frescoes in which a welter of arms and legs set at 
every angle round a few war horses suggests military effort; dingy 
gilded figures of kings and queens guard the doors; and in an 
alcove two togaed figures, quite black, though obviously they 
represent persons belonging to the white race, make expansive 
political gestures of a meliorist type. Brightness comes only from 
one object. In a corner there is a glass-covered display table lit 
from within, in which there lies a book inscribed with the names 
of peers and their sons who were killed in war, but not the last 
war, the one before that, of 1914 to 1918. Each day a fresh page 
is turned. 

Every morning, while we waited, a bishop in black robes 
and huge white lawn sleeves hovered at the door of the chamber 
in which the Lords sat, ready to go in and say the prayers 
which open the day s session, until an attendant cried, "Make 
way for the Macel" and we were all ordered off the strip of 
oatmeal matting which runs across the tiled floor. Then a proces 
sion came in, never quite at ease, it was so small and had never 
had enough start to get up the processional spirit. The Sergeant- 
at-Arms came first, carrying the great golden pepper-pot on a 
stalk which is the Mace. Another attendant followed, carry 
ing a purse embroidered with the Royal Arms, representing the 
Great Seal. Then came the Lord Chancellor, Lord Jowitt, superb 
in his white full-bottomed wig, its curls lying in rows on his 
shoulders, and wearing a long black silk gown with a train 
carried by an attendant. He carried between the forefinger and 
thumb of each hand his black velvet cap. The ritual is not mere 
foolishness. The procession and the symbols are a mnemonic 
guide to the constitutional functions of the House of Lords, and 
are part of a complicated convention into which most of the 
legislative and judicial activities of Parliament fit conveniently 
enough, and which nobody would much care to rewrite, in view 
of the trickiness of procedure. 


While prayers were said by the Lords we stood and waited. 
Around the room ran a shiny quilted red leather bench, but 
nobody ever sat on it except Joyce s solicitor, a slight and 
pensive dwarf with blond hair. This man, who was much 
respected in his profession, looked much older than he had at the 
first trial, and indeed he shortly afterwards became ill and died. 
It is not easy to estimate what it must have cost him to have 
conducted for four months, with an efficiency remarked on by all 
the lawyers who followed the case, the defence of one whose 
opinions were unattractive to him and whom he had not chosen 
to defend, simply having been allotted to him under the Poor 
Prisoners Defence Act. He conferred, his appearance of fatigue 
daily increasing, with William Joyce s brother Quentin, who 
also looked much older. At the Old Bailey he had been a fresh- 
faced boy but now he might have been getting on for forty. Deep 
furrows were grooving his forehead, and his eyes were small and 
sunken and, in the mornings, red with weeping. With him were 
always two friends: one was tall Angus MacNab, who was plainly 
the cranky gentleman so often (as the great American Henry 
Adams so memorably complained) produced by the British peo 
ple. The other was a young Fascist of Scottish origin, whose 
remote blue-grey eyes showed that he had escaped from the 
world into dreams, not vaguer and kinder than the existence 
round us, as the dreams of most people are, but harsher and 
more troubled. All three were lifted to the heights of dignity by 
their grief for William, whom assuredly they were mourning as 
early Christians might have mourned a brother about to go into 
the arena. 

There was a real cult around the little man. Some rumour 
of it had been spreading abroad since the trial began. The City 
of London greatly respected a certain aged stockbroker, belong 
ing to a solid Scottish family, who conducted a large business 
with the strictest probity and was known to his friends as a 
collector of silver and glass and a connoisseur of wine. He had a 
beautiful house, kept for him by his sister, a tall and handsome 
maiden lady given to piety and good works, whose appearance 
was made remarkable by an immense knot of hair twisted on the 
nape of her neck in the mid-Victorian way. The old man s last 
years were afflicted by a depressing illness, during which he 
formed a panic dread of socialism, and for this reason he fell 


under the influence of Sir Oswald Mosley, to whom he gave a 
considerable amount of money and whose followers he often 
entertained. This is a sad thought when it is remembered that 
many of those followers were very ugly scoundrels; one was 
prosecuted for living on the earnings of a prostitute. The old 
man had a special fondness for William Joyce, who, being a 
lively, wisecracking, practical-joking little creature, as well as 
intelligent, was able to cheer up an invalid; and after his death 
his sister, who carried on all his enthusiasms, treated Joyce like a 
son. She let him use her country house as a meeting-place for the 
heads of his organization and entertained him there so often that 
it was one of the first places searched by the police at the 
outbreak of war when they found that Joyce had left his home. 

This woman, then over eighty and crippled by a painful 
disease, rose from her bed to travel up to London, an apocalyptic 
figure, tall and bowed, the immense knot of hair behind her 
head shining snow-white, and went to see William Joyce in 
prison. She returned weeping but uplifted by his courage and 
humility and his forgiveness of all his enemies and his faith in 
the righteousness of his cause. To all those whom she specially 
loved she sat down and wrote letters describing her visit to this 
holy and persecuted man which truly might have wrung the 
heart, and she followed them with copies of the letters that he 
wrote to her from prison, in which he said that he knew well 
that the issue o his trial might be against him but was not 
dismayed, since he could think of no better death than dying for 
his faith. These pretensions on behalf of a man who worked to 
enable Hitler and Goring to set up Nazism in England were 
obviously fantastic, and there was only a minute and crazed 
fraction of the population which would have accepted them at 
that time. His luck at other times would have been variable. 
There is always a market for Messiahs, but some (and surely he 
was one and that was his tragedy) are never quoted very high. 

Presently we were let into the room where Joyce was tried. 
We found ourselves in a twilit space under a gallery, quite close 
to the barristers, sitting in their wigs and gowns, who were silhou 
etted against the brightness of the lit chamber beyond, Their faces 
turned to one of their number who stood speaking to the Lord 
Chancellor, who, dressed in his robes, was sitting at a table in the 
broad aisle which ran down the middle of the chamber, together 


with four old judges who were dressed in lounge suits and 
swathed in steamer rugs. There was, of course, not enough fuel 
available at that time to heat the place, and it was bitterly cold. 
In the farthest corner of the darkness under the gallery, with four 
warders to guard him, was William Joyce, his face altered by new 
wisdom and yellowish prison pallor. Like his brother, he had 
changed greatly since the trial at the Old Bailey. There he had 
seemed meanly and repulsively ugly, but at the Law Courts, where 
his first appeal was heard, he was not so. He was puny and colour 
less, but his face had an amusing, pleasant, even prettyish char 
acter. It was not good-looking, but it could be imagined that 
people who knew him well would find it easy to believe him far 
better-looking than he was. This alteration was due in part to 
improvement in his health. He had arrived in England from 
Germany shabby and tousled and sickly, pulled down by the 
hardships he had endured when he was on the run between his 
last broadcast and his capture by English troops, and by the 
wound in his leg he had sustained when he was arrested. During 
his imprisonment he had eaten and slept well and was among 
those prisoners who had put on weight while under sentence 
of death. But he looked better because he had sat at the Old 
Bailey with the right side of his face turned towards spectators, 
while at the Law Courts it was the left side we saw; and a deep 
scar ran from the lobe of his right ear to the right corner of his 
mouth, destroying the contour of the cheek. 

There was a certain mystery about this scar. His friends were re 
ticent about it. At the time he received it he was a student at Bat- 
tersea Polytechnic, and it was then believed by his fellow students 
and at least one of the staff that he had either been slashed with 
a razor or mauled with the leg of a chair by a Communist in a 
street fight arising from a British Fascist meeting. But he had sus 
tained the wound in the General Election of 1924 when defending 
the platform at a Tory meeting in Lambeth from an ugly rush; 
and it was perhaps embarrassing to the anti-Semitic Joyce that the 
Tory candidate he had defended was Jewish: a Mr. Jack Lazarus. 
In any case it added to the handicaps already laid on him by his 
smallness and oddity. 

In the Law Courts one saw what he would have been like 
had he not been, on some occasion, cut to the bone; and one saw 
the humour nothing had taken from him. Prisoners in the dock 


laugh more freely than is generally imagined; judicial jokes 
which so often annoy the newspaper reader are to them an 
opportunity for relaxation. But Joyce s amusement at his own 
appeal was more subtle than that. One of the judges on the 
bench was most picturesquely comic in appearance and might 
have come straight out of the commedia dell arte. William 
Joyce watched him with delight; and he followed the legal 
arguments with an unusual detachment, once nodding in ap 
proval when a point was decided against him. 

But here at the House of Lords he had endured a further 
change. He still followed the legal argument with a bright eye. 
But the long contemplation of death had given him a dignity 
and refinement that he had lacked before. It could be recognized 
when he turned his eyes on the spectators who paused to look at 
him before they went up to their seats in the gallery. At the Old 
Bailey he had soon come to recognize those who were sitting 
through the whole trial, and it had entertained him to catch 
their eyes and stare them out. At the Court of Appeal he gave the 
spectators an inquisitive and gentler eye. That he was a civilized 
man, however aberrant, was somehow clear before our eyes, and 
mournful. At the House of Lords he had gone past comparison, 
looking at us from a territory whose clocks kept another time, 
and listening to the striking of an hour that had not yet struck 
for us. A steep staircase led up to the gallery, where one sat 
under the huge shapes of Edwardian frescoes dedicated to the 
obsessive devotion felt by the British aristocracy for the horse. 
That had been traceable outside in the Royal Gallery, for in the 
blackish frescoes the horses had been the only living creatures 
which in a scene of catastrophe had remained the right way up. 
Within, the tribute was even more ardent. The fresco beside the 
gallery had the word "Hospitality" written underneath it, and 
showed a lot of people in old Covent Garden Wagnerian cos 
tumes on a Covent Garden abbey set, all of them welcoming a man 
who, oddly enough, was riding in on a horse. But that was not 
really hospitality. They were plainly glad to see him because he 
was riding a horse. Behind the gallery the word "Generosity" 
was written under a fresco showing a horseman refraining from 
killing a man lying on the ground, on the advice of his horse, 
who was turning an elder-statesman muzzle toward him. There 


was a horse in every fresco except one, in which there was a 
divine person instead. 

At the end of the chamber were the two royal thrones the 
Queen s carefully built a little lower than the King s raised on 
a dais with two steps. In front of the thrones, on the floor of the 
house, was the Woolsack, a red stuffed pouf on which the Mace 
was lying; during normal sessions of the House the Lord Chancel 
lor sits on it. On the floor of the House there was also a table 
covered with very new and bright red leather, at which a cleric in 
wig and gown sat throughout the trial, doing some official task 
not to be comprehended by the uninitiated, cutting up paper 
with scissors as if he were preparing to amuse an infinite number 
of children. Running lengthwise on each side of the floor were 
the three rows of benches on which the peers sat, and there some 
were sitting. But they were no part of Joyce s trial; they were 
spectators like the rest of us. For though a prisoner appeals to 
the whole House o Lords for judgment on his case, the House 
refers the matter to a small committee of judges, drawn from a 
panel of law lords. In Joyce s case these judges numbered four, 
with the Lord Chancellor as a fifth. The counsel address this 
committee not on the floor of the House but from the bar of the 
House, which was just under the gallery where we were all 
sitting. To follow the case we had to listen to a thin thread of 
sound emitted by invisible speakers under our feet. Quentin 
Joyce had to partake in this general inconvenience, and surely 
Hell could provide no greater torture than to follow a brother s 
destiny in these conditions. 

The lawyers swung their argument back and forth for four 
days. Midmornings a stately attendant glided across the scene of 
baronial pomp, bearing a very common little teatray for the 
comfort of the shivering judges. Peers dropped in to listen and 
sat about on the red rep benches; some of their eldest sons 
exercised their curious right to sit on the steps of the dais 
beneath the thrones. One peer lived through a most painful 
moment of his life during the trial. Following an intricate point, 
he ran his finger thoughtfully up and down behind the lapel of 
his coat, but suddenly stopped. A look of agony passed over his 
face, and he turned back the lapel. He had found a moth hole 


and {or a long time was unable to think about William Joyce. 
These were the days of clothes coupons. 

The story became more ironical each time it was restated: 
here was a man who was being strangled by the sheer tor- 
tuousness of his family destiny. He was an American by birth 
who, by his father s wish, had pretended all his life to be British. 
Why? In the third trial, as in the first and the second, that 
question was never answered. It had become more perplexing as 
more knowledge about William Joyce had come into currency. 
He had stood as a candidate at a London County Council 
election and had at that time had to declare that he was a 
British subject; and that false declaration might have brought on 
him, had he been elected, a fine of 50 for every occasion on 
which he had sat on the council. Why did the father who had 
by all accounts loved his eldest son very dearly, and must have 
acquired a reasonable notion of the law s view of such ongoings 
in the course of his life as a close friend of the British Police 
Government of Ireland keep his own and his family s status a 
close secret as if their lives depended on it? Perhaps they did, but 
it is not likely. This mysterious imposture was bringing Joyce 
closer and closer to the gallows as we listened to the thread of 
sound beneath our feet. 

The legal content of each of Joyce s trials was slightly 
different; different as, say, three performances of the same con 
certo by the same conductor and the same soloist but by three 
different orchestras. At the Old Bailey the fantastic novelty of 
the case, and the disturbing presence of the Judas whose voice we 
all knew so well, had overwhelmed the court, and the proceed 
ings were rough-hewn. In the Court of Appeal the performance 
was more delicate. The contentions on which Joyce s counsel 
asked the Court of Appeal to reverse the verdict returned at the 
Old Bailey were four, and they were by that time strictly 
lawyers meat. The argument which impressed the public most 
was in fact the least respectable: that a man who obtained a 
passport by fraud as Joyce had done could not owe allegiance in 
return for the protection he derived from it. This is not horse 
sense, for it means that a man who fraudulently obtained a 
British passport would be better off than a man who obtained it 
legally. He would get protection without having to give alle 
giance. It is not easy to imagine why the public conceived tender- 


ness for this argument, and perhaps less would have been felt had 
it been realized on what grounds Joyce s counsel justified it. 
First, he claimed, that protection which attracted allegiance was 
not protection de -facto but protection de jure, not actual protec 
tion but the legal right to it, and therefore a man who obtained 
a passport by fraud and was not getting its protection lawfully 
could use it to what benefit was possible and then walk off 
whistling. The other argument was that the moment the holder 
of a passport committed treason the power which granted the 
passport withdrew its protection, so the whole transaction regard 
ing the document was null and void. One o the three judges at 
the Court of Appeal, the one who looked like a character in the 
commedia dell arte, thought little of this point and showed it, 
puffed out his cheeks and spouted out air through his leathery old 
lips dolphin-wise, while William Joyce watched him with amuse 

Here in the House of Lords the performance became even 
quicker, finer, subtler, and Joyce enjoyed himself thoroughly. 
When the four old judges had a passage with counsel, it was not 
only, presumably, great law; it was also as good entertainment as 
first-class tennis. All of them had supremely good minds, as well 
as the physiological luck that makes a man able to go on 
through the seventies into the eighties doing what he has done 
all his life better and better, even though he may not be able to 
address himself to new tasks or work continuously. The voice of 
each old man was characteristic enough to be easily identifiable, 
and often, in the quieter moments, recalled what was generally 
known about him. One amongst them had a small manor-house 
set in a forest lying under the Wiltshire Downs. He lived there 
with a wife much younger than himself, who was perhaps the 
most celebrated professional horsewoman in England. At night 
he sat at his end of the table, surrounded by his pupils, who had 
come to learn from him the subtlest mysteries of the law, and she 
sat at her end, surrounded by her pupils, who had come to learn 
from her the subtlest mysteries of fox-hunting and horse-break 
ing. The two groups were hardly able to communicate with each 
other, owing to the extreme specialization of each, but, as there 
is nothing so civilizing as scholarship and craftsmanship which 
have not lost touch with life, the judge and his wife lived 
together in the most agreeable amity. 


It was not fair. Here were these old men, full of honours 
because of an intellectual distinction which Joyce shared with 
them to a considerable degree; otherwise he would not have felt 
the admiration for them he expressed to those who visited him 
in prison. Here was the Palace of Westminster, built to house 
and glorify a system which he would have liked to adorn. Every 
morning he was taken into court by his guard while the public 
was still waiting for admission, and on all four days he owned to 
his warders, laughing at himself yet quite in earnest, how much 
he enjoyed making this ceremonial entrance into the Mother of 
Parliaments. Had he been able to range freely round the pom 
pous halls and corridors, he would have seen the reason for the 
pomp far better than most visitors. With real reverence he would 
have bent over the glass-covered display table and looked at the 
book inscribed with the names of the peers and their sons who 
had fallen in the First World War; the procession of the Mace 
into the House of Lords would have been recognized by him as 
having a meaning. His relationship with the state might have 
been perfect, had it not been that he had made one stipulation 
which could not be fulfilled. He wanted to govern, not to be 
governed; and that, for reasons which were not fair, was quite 

That became visible as the trial came to its conclusion, 
which was painfully protracted. This third trial began on a 
Monday, and it looked as if the verdict would be given on 
Thursday afternoon. At one o clock on Thursday counsel had 
finished their arguments, and the Lord Chancellor dismissed the 
court and bade it reassemble at three, Joyce s brother Quentin 
and his friend the Scottish Fascist rose miserably and went off to 
look for some lunch. This would be difficult to get, for in those 
days, just after the war, people lunched early, and in few res 
taurants would there be tables free or much food left. Outside 
the House of Parliament everyone knew who they were and eyed 
them with wonder, aware of their peculiar grief, their terrifying 
sympathies. They crossed the street and passed into the crowds of 
Whitehall, and there they became two young men in raincoats 
among ten thousand such. 

When everyone had reassembled, the Lord Chancellor an 
nounced that the judges required more time to consider their 
verdict and dismissed the court again until Tuesday morning. 


Tears stood in Quentin Joyce s eyes, and he and his friends 
pressed forward to get out of the hated place as soon as might be. 
But the attendants held all of us back, and we stood together at 
the head of the steep stairs, looking down on William Joyce as 
he was marched out among the four policemen on his way back 
to jail. Now his courage was impressive. At the Old Bailey he 
had behaved well, but under a simple though supreme danger of 
which most of those present had some experience. But now he 
was doing something more difficult. He had lived four months 
under the threat of death, and now he had not heard the decisive 
sentence he had been braced to hear, and after this disabling 
moment had had to walk through a crowd of his enemies, a little 
ill-made man surrounded by four drilled giants. He held his chin 
high and picked his feet up, as the sergeant majors say, and 
though he held his chin so very high that his face was where the 
top of his head ought to have been and though his feet flapped 
on his weak ankles, his dignity was not destroyed, but was made 
idiosyncratic, his very own. It appeared that there could be such 
a thing as undignified dignity. Yet in that moment when he 
compelled respect, it became quite clear that he could never have 
been one of our governors. Even if he had not been a Fascist, if 
he had been sponsored by the Tory or the Labour or the Liberal 
Party, he would never have been given power. 

There was a bar between Joyce and advancement, no matter 
what he made of himself. He had taken a good degree in English 
at London University; but that could not be guessed from any of 
his writings or his speeches, and it is said that he became a coach 
because his application for posts in schools and colleges met with 
embarrassed discouragement. Though he had developed his gifts 
for public speaking in the service of the Conservative Party, 
there had never been any question of any local committee s 
nominating him as Parliamentary candidate. There was some 
element in him that resisted the cultivation of all his merits. It 
was even manifest in his body. He was a good rider, a still better 
swimmer and diver, he fenced and had tried hard as a feather 
weight boxer; but his little body looked as if he never cared to 
exercise it. He seemed mediocre when he was not, perhaps be 
cause of some contrary quality, which put people off, an exag 
geration amounting to clownishness. For example, he always 
retained the love of England which he expressed in his boyish 


letters to the London University Committee for Military Educa 
tion; but in after life it led him to make a demand, which struck 
many of his English acquaintances as a sign of insanity, that any 
social evening he spent with his friends, even the quietest, should 
end with the singing of the National Anthem. 

When Tuesday came, the press and the Fascists no longer 
had the Royal Gallery to themselves. It was thronged with Mem 
bers of Parliament, a comradely and self-assured crowd, hap 
pily gossiping on their own stamping-ground and much less 
respectful to the ceremonies of the place than the press and the 
Fascists had been. They had to be pushed off the carpet by the 
attendants when the Mace and the Lord Chancellor went by, so 
busy were they exchanging comments on Joyce which were not 
meant inhumanly but sounded so, because they themselves were 
in such good health and so unlikely, if things went on as they 
were going, to be hanged: "They say he isn t here today." "No, 
if he were acquitted, it would be awkward. They d want to 
arrest him immediately on defence-regulation charges, and no 
body can be arrested within the Palace of Westminster. They d 
have to let him go down the street, and he might get away." 
"Perhaps he s chosen not to come today. Shouldn t blame 
him." "He s very plucky. I saw him at the Old Bailey." "So 
did I. What a queer little fish!" Joyce s brother was standing 
beside the last speaker, but he seemed not to hear. Both the 
Fascists and the pressmen were all preoccupied with the need to 
dash up into the gallery the minute the signal was given, because 
the announcement of the verdict would take only a few seconds 
and might be over before they had climbed the stairs. 

The Lord Chancellor and the four judges were sitting 
around the table at the bar of the House, as they had done every 
day, but now the red benches were fully occupied, the House was 
crowded with peers; there seemed so many it was remarkable 
that nobility had kept its distinction. As the press and the public 
took their seats in the gallery, the Lord Chancellor rose and 
stood until there was silence, and then said, "I have come to the 
conclusion that the appeal should be dismissed. In common with 
the rest of your Lordships, I should propose to deliver my 
reasons at a later date." Then the four old judges rose in turn 
and gave their opinions. While the first was saying, "I agree," 
Joyce s brother and his friends got up from their seats beside 


mine in the second row and clambered down to some seats in the 
front row which had been assigned to newspaper agencies and 
were not now occupied. Suddenly one of the suave attendants 
was standing behind them and was saying, in a tone of savagery 
the more terrifying because it was disciplined and was kept low 
so that the proceedings should not be disturbed, "You get out of 
there and go back to the seats where you belong." This seemed a 
most brutal way of behaving to men who were listening to a 
judgment that doomed one whom they loved; for all the judges 
except one were saying, "I agree/ and that meant that Joyce 
must hang. But on the face of the attendant, and of others who 
had joined him, there was real fear. Innocent though Quentin 
Joyce and his friends were, they had become associated with the 
idea of violence, and from the front of the gallery a violent man 
could have thrown grenades into the court. 

Meanwhile the ceremony went on, affecting in its beauty 
and its swiftness. The Lord Chancellor moved backward down 
the floor of the House, in his black robe and curled white wig, 
the only figure in a historic dress in the assembly, the symbol of 
the continuing rule of law. He halted at the Woolsack. He 
stretched out his hands to the peers on each side of the chamber 
and bade those vote who were content with the judgment. This 
was the last sad stage of the outnumbering of Joyce by the law. 
Now scores of judges faced the dock, and he was gone from it. 
The peers nodded and murmured and raised their hands. At this 
point a young man with hollow eyes and pinched nose and a 
muffler round his scrawny neck, who was sitting on the public 
bench of the gallery among the Negroes and the Hindus, cried 
out some words which some among us could recognize as Scottish 
Gaelic, and then proclaimed in English but with a strong north 
ern accent that William Joyce was innocent. Attendants formed 
a wall around him, but did no more, for fear of interrupting the 
proceedings. The Negroes beside him expressed horror with 
rolling eyes; the Hindus looked prim. Joyce s friends threw a 
glance at him which was at first startled and then snobbish. The 
interrupter was not one of their sort of Fascist. Meanwhile the 
Lord Chancellor bade those peers who were not content with the 
judgment to vote and there was silence. He declared, "The 
contents have it," and strode from the chamber. The peers 
streamed after him. The place was empty in a moment. 


Quentin Joyce and his friends ran down the stone staircase 
into the street. They did not look so upset as might have been 
expected. The man who had shouted made his way out of the 
gallery without being touched by the attendants, who looked 
away from him, having taken his measure. In the lobby outside, 
crowds of pressmen gathered round him and questioned him and 
took down his answers, which he delivered with the gasping 
haste of the evangelist who knows he never keeps his audience 
long. The elegant general who was in charge of the attendants 
murmured to the Superintendent of Police, "I say, do we want 
this sort of thing, or don t we?" The Superintendent said he 
thought that the man would probably go away of his own accord 
if he was left alone. So the eccentric held an audience in the 
House of Lords, the very considerable crowd that was coming in 
to take part in the debate on the American loan neatly dividing 
to avoid disturbing him and joining again, until the pressmen 
left him, having insufficiently appreciated the remarkable quality 
of his utterances. A young reporter asked him, "But don t you 
think it mattered that William Joyce betrayed his country?" 
and he answered in the accents of Sir Harry Lauder, "William 
Joyce didna betray his country. Ye canna say a man betrays his 
country when he goes abroad to better himself. Millions of 
people have done that and nobody s accused them of betraying 
their countries, and that s what William Joyce did. He had a 
fine position waiting for him in Germany, and he just took it." 
Surely this was a mind as fresh as Shaw s. His was a voice which 
was to be heard again, nearly twenty years later. Strangely 
enough, it was the only voice lifted on that occasion which was 
to be heard again, echoing through the decades. 

Down in the street, Quentin Joyce and Angus MacNab and 
the Scottish Fascist were waiting, eager to speak to the press, 
eager to give praise to their martyr. That was why they had not 
looked so very greatly upset when the appeal was dismissed; they 
were like the people who, leaving a deathbed so painful to them 
that they could not have borne to contemplate it for another 
instant, find relief by flinging themselves into elaborate arrange 
ments for the funeral. Angus MacNab, in his easy and gentle 
manly but hollow and eccentric voice, was telling a reporter how 
calm William Joyce had been when he saw him in prison during 
the week-end. "He was in excellent spirits," he said, his eyes 


gleaming mystically behind his spectacles, "and he was 
discussing, quite objectively, and with all his old brilliance, the 
psychology of the four judges. He was wonderful. . . . But I 
must leave you now and go and tell my wife what has happened. 
My name? Angus MacNab, and please do not spell it M-c-N-a-b. 
The correct spelling is M-a-c-N-a-b." And Quentin Joyce was 
talking freely in his careful voice, which, without being mincing, 
was more gentlemanly and more English than any English gentle 
man s voice, because this ambitious and Anglophile family con 
sciously ironed out the Irish brogue from their tongues. Some 
reporters were asking him to write an article or make some 
statement about his brother, which he was refusing to do, evi 
dently out of loyalty to some code of family relationships. He 
seemed to be saying primly that it was for his sister-in-law to tell 
the story of Joyce when she was free, since a wife was nearer than 
a brother, and as such must have her rights. It was plain that he 
and all this group had felt themselves not less but more disci 
plined than the rest of the world, solid upholders of order. He 
went on to speak of some demonstration the Fascists would make 
against the sentence. "And believe me, there will be plenty of 
us," he kept on repeating, while the Scottish Fascist nodded. A 
year later, and for many years, this man was to insert in the 
Daily Telegraph an "In Memoriam" notice for William Joyce. 
But there were not plenty of them outside Wandsworth Prison 
on the morning of January 3, 1946, when William Joyce was 

That prison lies in a shabby district in South London, so old- 
fashioned that it begins to look picturesque to our eyes. It is 
a mid- Victorian building with a facade of dark stone, inspired by 
a brooding and passionate misunderstanding of Florentine archi 
tecture, and it is divided from the highroad by a piece of ground 
not belonging to the prison, consisting of some cabbage patches 
and a dispirited nursery garden, planned whimsically, with thin 
streams trickling under toy bridges and meandering between the 
blackened stems of frosted chrysanthemums. The prison looks 
across the highroad to a monstrous building built in the style 
of a Burgundian chiteau and set in the midst of a bald and 
sooty park an endowed school for the children of soldiers and 
sailors with the curious name of "The Royal Victoria Patriotic 
School/ 1 This title had become ironical during the war, for 


persons who escaped from the occupied countries were detained 
there often for dreary weeks, until they had satisfied the authori 
ties that they had not been sent over by the Germans. An avenue 
runs between the cabbage patches and nursery gardens to the 
prison s great doorway, which is of green panelled wood with a 
heavy iron grille at the top, set in a coarse stone archway. A 
small notice board hangs on this door, and on it was pinned an 
announcement that the sentence of death passed on William 
Joyce was to be carried out that morning. On these occasions 
there is nothing whatsoever for a spectator to see except at one 
moment, when a warder comes out of a small door which is cut 
in the large one, takes down the notice board, and replaces it 
after two other notices have been added to the first: one, a 
sheriff s declaration that the prisoner has been hanged; the other, 
a surgeon s declaration that he has examined the prisoner s body 
and found him to be dead. But about three hundred people 
gathered to see that minute shred of ceremony. 

They gathered while it was still dark and the windows of 
the cells were yellow in the squat utilitarian buildings which 
stretched away from the Italian facade, and waited through the 
dawn till full daylight, stoically bearing the disappointment that 
the hour of the hanging was at the last moment postponed from 
eight to nine. Some of those who waited were pressmen, lament 
ing that there was no story here; and there was just one yellow 
Movietone truck. Some people had brought their children, since 
the little dears, they said, had clamoured for the treat. Others were 
people drawn by personal resentment. An old man told me that 
he was there because he had turned on the wireless one night dur 
ing the V-i blitz when he came back from seeing his grandchil 
dren s bodies in the mortuary and had heard Haw-Haw s voice. 
"There he was, mocking me," he said. There were many soldiers 
who had strolled out for a little after-breakfast diversion from a 
nearby demobilization centre. As time went on, all these people 
danced to keep their feet warm on the frozen earth. 

There were some who did not dance. Most of these, how 
ever, were not particularly interested in William Joyce. They 
were opponents of capital punishment, who would have 
stood and looked disapproving outside any prison where any 
body was being hanged. The most conspicuous of these were two 
tall and gaunt Scandinavian women dressed in black, who in- 


dulged in silent but truculent prayer. Quentin Joyce and his 
friends were not there; they were attending a Requiem Mass. 
During William Joyce s imprisonment he became reconciled to 
the faith in which he was born. But there must have been many 
Fascists who would not attend that service, either because they 
were not Christian or because they were not close enough to 
Joyce s family to hear of it. Of these a handful waited outside 
the prison, and of these only one grieved openly, standing bare 
headed, with no effort to hide his tears at the moment of Joyce s 
hanging. Three others slipped through a gap in the trees of the 
avenue and stood in the nursery garden, where some rows of 
cabbage stalks veiled with frost flanked a rubble rockery, naked 
with winter, and at that moment they practised a highly tenta 
tive reverence. Their bodies betrayed that they had had no 
military training, and they wore the queer and showy sports 
clothes affected by Fascists, but they attempted the salute which 
looks plausible only when performed by soldiers in uniform. It 
was the poorest send-off for a little man who had always loved a 
good show and done his best to give one; who, so the prison 
gossip went, halted on his way to the scaffold, looked down on 
the violent trembling of his knees, and calmly and cynically 

DURING the trials there had flowed into the mind 
of the community a conviction that Joyce had not been 
guilty of any offence against the law. This was in part due to the 
inadequate reports of the proceedings which were all that the 
press could find space to publish because it was starved of news 
print. The public read almost nothing about the Joyce trials 
which was not so brief and disjointed as to be unintelligible, and 
it came to a conclusion which was summed up in the pubs in 
some such terms as these: "Of course he can t be guilty of 
treason," was said in all the London pubs. "He s a dirty little 


bastard, but we ve no right to hang him, he s an American." 
And so it went on. "A miscarriage of justice/ said the clerk in a 
government office, handing out a legal document concerning 
Joyce to an inquirer some months later, "that s what the verdict 
was. I hold no brief for the little man, though he was a wonder 
ful speaker. I m no Fascist, but I always used to listen to him 
when he spoke up our way by the Great Northern Hospital; but 
it stands to reason that giving an American a British passport 
can t change him into an Englishman. A miscarriage of justice, 
that s what that was." 

But this was not a tenable point of view. It had no legal basis, 
since Joyce had got himself out of the safety of American citizen 
ship by obtaining an English passport. It had no basis in the 
world of fact, which is sometimes, we must admit, divided from 
the world of law. William Joyce was not an American in any real 
sense; and indeed during the war the United States had passed 
an Act concerning Naturalization confirming this view of the 
reality of citizenship. 

In 1940 the United States had declared that persons who 
owed the sort of allegiance to another country which William 
Joyce and his father had owed to Great Britain could not retain 
their American nationality. At the time Joyce was tried it 
appeared by an act afterwards declared unconstitutional that 
Michael Joyce s American naturalization would have been nul 
lified because he had resided continuously for more than three 
years in the territory of the foreign state of which he had been 
a national before he was naturalized a citizen of the United 
States. William Joyce would have lost his American nationality 
under the same act, had it been passed earlier, because he had 
served in a British military unit (after the age of eighteen) and 
because he had participated in British elections. But there was 
some merit behind the public s regret that Joyce had been 
sentenced to death, ill-argued though it was. We were all afraid 
lest the treatment of Joyce had been determined by our emotions 
and not by our intellects; that we had been corrupted by our 
Nazi enemies to the extent of calling vengeance by the name of 

The legal profession also showed a discontent with the 
verdict which was startling. For of the nine judges who had 
considered the case, one at the Old Bailey, three at the Court of 


Appeal, and four at the House of Lords, together with the Lord 
Chancellor, only one (a Lord of Appeal, Lord Porter) had 
dissented from the verdict of guilty, and he did not fundamen 
tally disagree with his colleagues in their view of allegiance. His 
objection related to a passage in Mr. Justice Tucker s summing 
up at the Old Bailey, which he regarded as a misdirection of the 
jury on a minor technical point. But the lawyers were, like the 
public, misled by the inadequate press reports. One thinks of 
lawyers as having a collective consciousness and becoming aware 
of all legal proceedings as they happen, but that is childlike 
faith. "I d thought," one said, "that Joyce s appeal in the 
House of Lords was going well for him." His reason for think 
ing thus was a remark addressed by the Lord Chancellor to 
Joyce s counsel: "Surely the proposition is elementary that alle 
giance was only due from an alien while he was in this 
country." Read out of its context, this sounded like an encourag 
ing invitation to pass on after a point had been proved. Heard, 
the sentence conveyed with crystalline peevishness that the coun 
sel was hammering home the obvious, and it was followed by the 
statement, "The question, surely, is whether there are any excep 
tions to this rule." 

The lawyers, like the rest of us, had insufficient information, 
and they also were afraid lest the law had been tainted by 
revenge, and this they felt sharply and personally, since it was 
their mystery which was being profaned. 

Such scruples were honourable, and it would be an unhealthy 
community which did not recognize them. But the situation was 
not simple. A number of people were saying, "William Joyce was 
a vile man but he should not have been hanged" and smiled 
as they said it, claiming to speak in the name of mercy. But they 
were hypocrites. They were moved by hostility to the law, being 
destructive by nature. 

Nowhere has the law been finally analysed and defined. To 
make laws is a human instinct which arises as soon as food and 
shelter have been ensured, among all peoples, everywhere. There 
have been yellow people who have flashed on horseback across 
continents, apparently too mobile to form customs, apparently 
preoccupied with slaughter and devastation. There have been 
black people who have squatted on their haunches through the 
centuries, their customs degenerating to superstition round them. 


These have been thought by men of other kinds to be without 
law, but that was an error. Both kinds of society had reached a 
general agreement as to how to order their lives and ordained 
penalties against its violation. But neither they nor any other 
society could define exactly what they were doing when they 
were making that agreement and ordaining those penalties. De 
mosthenes said that every rule of law was a discovery and a gift 
from the gods, and he added that it was also an opinion held by 
sensible men. Nine hundred years later the great Justinian 
prefixed that same definition to his Digest of Laws, only chang 
ing "gods 7 to "God." Both seemed guilty of paradox, for 
assuredly men are not gods, and the last thing a god or God 
could fairly be compared with is a sensible man. Yet pagan and 
Christian alike realized that the law should be at once the 
recognition of an eternal truth and the solution by a community 
of one of its temporal problems; for both conceived that the 
divine will was mirrored in nature, which man could study by 
the use of his reason. This is the faith which has kept jurispru 
dence an honest and potent exercise through the ages, though 
the decline in religion has made it necessary to find other and 
secular names for its aims and technique. 

A number of the British who thought that Joyce should 
have been acquitted had wholly lost this conception of the law. 
It seemed to them an interference with life, although life is what 
likes to make laws. They like to lay unfair stress on the inability 
of the courts to adapt themselves immediately to the age, which 
indeed is one of their characteristics. Politics and the law are 
always lagging behind the times, because the course taken by our 
existence is unpredictable, and it takes days and months and 
even years to present Parliament and the courts with knowledge 
of the eventualities they have to meet. Such people saw William 
Joyce as having smartly outmanoeuvred the law and as deserving 
of safety in recompense for having worsted that decrepit enemy. 
They even enjoyed the technical nature of his defence, which 
linked onto the delight that is often felt in people who have 
found a way through the law in grosser exercises than treason. 
Many people at the turn of the century were ready to cheer the 
cold shark Horatio Bottomley, because he had exploited the un 
foreseen situation created by the existence of a class which had a 
certain amount of investable capital and was ready to invest it 


without taking advice from a banker and stockbroker. It touched 
them neither in their hearts nor in their sense of self-preservation 
that most of Bottomley s victims were people like themselves, 
whose savings were their only shield from actual want in old age. 
Simply they derived pleasure from thinking of him as drinking 
three bottles of champagne a day and keeping a racing stable on 
the proceeds of a form of financial crime which the law then had 
not learned to check. It opened to all of them the prospect that 
one day they might find some such opportunity of gain, easier 
than honesty, and unpunishable, and that life would be proved 
moral nonsense. 

Half a century later the emphasis was not on wealth but on 
license of conduct. Those who hankered for a meaningless uni 
verse wanted Joyce to go free so that they could see a man whose 
crime they knew by the testimony of their own ears escape the 
law. Joyce himself would have had none of this. As might be 
expected, he was not with those who said that he was a vile man 
but should not have been hanged. What might not have been 
expected was that his attitude was the exact reverse. He main 
tained that he was not a vile man, but thought England was 
right in hanging him. He would have taken it as proof of our 
national decadence that since the year he died no spies have been 
sentenced to death. 

THE life of William Joyce is worth while studying in 
detail because he represents a type of revolutionary who is for 
the moment obsolete, though it is possible, if the later models 
fail, that he may yet be found in currency again. He begins by 
being a touching figure. For there is no sight more touching than 
a boy who intends to conquer the world, though there is that 
within himself which means he is more likely to be its slave. 
Young William Joyce was such a boy and took the first step to 
conquest all right, for he was brave. Perhaps he really lay deep 
in the heather so that he might tell the Black and Tans whether 


the three men they were looking for were still in the farmhouse 
in the fold of the hills; perhaps he only pressed on the Black and 
Tans information that was of no service to them. But he did go 
through the forms of attachment to a dangerous cause because he 
was ready to die if death was nobler than life. That he was 
mistaken in his estimate of where nobility lay is not a great 
count against him, since he was only fifteen. And behind his 
political folly was a grain of wisdom. He liked the scarlet coats 
of the English garrisons, but it was Mozart himself who asked in 
a letter if there was anything in life finer than a good scarlet 
coat, and all scarlet coats take up a common argument. They 
dissent from the dark earth and the grey sky; they insist that the 
bodies that wear them are upright; they are for discipline, either 
of drill or of the minuet. It was not to be held against the boy 
that he preferred the straight-backed aliens in scarlet coats to his 
compatriots who slouched with hats crushed down on cowlicks 
and collars turned up round unshaven jaws as they went about 
their performance of menial toil or inglorious assassination. His 
family and he was loyal to his own blood cultivated that 
preference. That the smart soldiers created the slouching assas 
sins he could hardly have been expected to work out for himself 
at that age. 

He came to London before his family; and his destiny sent 
him down to South London, and there was significance in that. 
South London is not the London where England can be con 
quered. It is not London at all, even calling itself by a vague and 
elided locution. "Where do you live?" "South the River/ The 
people on the other bank never speak of their landscape as 
"North the River." They may go down East, or up West, but 
they move within London, where the Houses of Parliament are, 
and the Abbey, and Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square, 
and the Law Courts, and Saint Paul s and the Mansion House, 
and the Bank and the Mint, and the Tower, and the Docks. The 
house where William Joyce first took up his dwelling on the 
other side of the Thames stood in one of those streets which 
cover the hills round Clapham Junction like a shabby striped 
grey counterpane. It was a tiny little house, and he was there 
only as a lodger while he got the formalities arranged for his 
studies at Battersea Polytechnic. It was from there that he sent in 
the completed enrolment form to the University of London 


Committee for Military Education, thus taking what he believed 
to be his first step toward the conquest of England. It was going 
to be of no consequence at all that he and his family had had to 
leave Ireland. He would conquer the larger island instead. 

When his father came south in the following year, he became, 
with superb adaptability, a grocer; and he took the step, 
unlocked for in a dazed immigrant, of establishing his family in 
a house as delightfully situated as any in London. Allison Grove 
is a short road of small houses which has been hacked out from 
the corner of the gardens of a white Regency villa in the greenest 
part of Dulwich, a queer cheap insertion in a line of stately 
properties. It has its own great sycamore tree and many syringas, 
and the most agreeable surroundings. Not far off is Mill Pond, 
still a clear mirror of leaves and sky, and beyond it Dulwich 
College amidst its groves and playing-fields. To the south a golf 
course makes a wide circle of mock country, bound by suburbs 
rising on round hills. To the north, behind the line of man 
sions into which Allison Grove intrudes, lies the handsome Vic 
torian formality of Dulwich Park, with its winding carriage 
drives and its large sheet of ornamental water. An Irish family 
that had to come to London could not have more cleverly found 
a part of London more spaciously and agreeably unlike itself, 
and the house was cleverly found too. One side of Allison Grove 
had been built in Victorian times; the harsh red brick had been 
piled up in shapes as graceless as outhouses and to heights 
obviously inconvenient for the housewife. But the houses were 
amply planned for their price; and one of them gave room 
enough for the Joyce parents and William and his two younger 
brothers and his little sister. The neighbours, who thought the 
Joyces outlandish but likeable, though curiously arrogant, all 
noted that William was the apple of the family s eye, and they 
could understand it, for the boy had an air of exceptional spirit 
and promise. But during the day at Battersea Polytechnic he 
must have suffered many defeats, being tiny, alien, and ineradica- 
bly odd. In 1923 he was to experience what was to his inordinate 
pride, the pride of a very small man, the crushing defeat of 
failure in two subjects in his Intermediate Science examination. 

His reaction was characteristic. There was nothing disgrace 
ful in his failure. He was only seventeen; his schooling had been 
much interrupted, first by his disposition to argue with his Jesuit 


teachers, since as the son of a Catholic father and a Protestant 
mother he never accepted Roman Catholicism easily. Later he 
was distracted from his books by civil war and change of country. 
He could have tried again. But on this failure he immediately 
abandoned his intention of becoming a Bachelor of Science and 
turned his back on Battersea Polytechnic. It is to be noted that 
more depended on his failure or success than he can have ex 
pected when he was a child. With exile his father, Michael 
Joyce, had entered on a declining scale of prosperity. He had 
come back from America thirteen years before with a substantial 
captial sum; he was to grow poorer and poorer, and when he 
died in 1941 left only 650. He himself attributed his impoverish 
ment to the failure of the British government to compensate him 
adequately for the burning of his house and the destruction of 
other property of his at the hands of the Sinn Feiners. This 
complaint was, in the opinion of a detached observer with some 
knowledge of practical affairs, well founded. William Joyce must 
have felt he could not afford to waste time. It is interesting to 
speculate just what effect this step had on his destiny. His ambi 
tion was very strong, and it just might have happened that if he 
had become a Bachelor of Science he would have recognized the 
easy and brilliant future which this age offers to the Communist 

As it was, he went to the Birkbeck College for Working 
Men, which is a part of the University of London, a physically 
sombre though intellectually vigorous institution, hidden in the 
dark streets between Holborn and the Law Courts; and there he 
studied the English language and literature and history. He 
made an excellent, though odd, student and passed with first- 
class honours, though for the first two years of his course he was 
subject to a new distracting influence. In 1923 he joined the 
British Fascists. This was an odd instance of his inability to get 
the hang of the world he meant to conquer. Mussolini had come 
to power in 1922, and warm admiration was felt for him by 
numerous persons of influence in England; and a young man 
might well have sincerely shared that mistaken admiration and 
at the same time have wished to use that admiration as a means 
of personal advancement. But joining the British Fascists was 
not the way to make that advance. This body was never nu 
merous and had few links with the influential admirers of Musso- 


lini, having been promoted by an elderly lady, member of a 
military family, who was overcome by panic when she read in 
the newspaper that the British Labour Party was sending a 
delegation to an international conference in Hamburg. Her crea 
tion was patronized by a certain number of retired Army men 
and a back-bench MP and an obscure peer or two; but the great 
world mocked at it, and it had as aim the organization of 
amateur resistance to any revolution that might arise; it was a 
charade representing the word "barricade." 

If William Joyce wanted either to hold a commission in the 
Regular Army, or to teach, or to become a journalist, member 
ship in this universally unfavoured movement was certain to be 
prejudicial to his hopes. It may be said that he was still young, 
but many a boy and girl of seventeen, determined to rise in the 
world, has cast a canny eye on such strategical pitfalls. He, 
however, had from first to last none of the adaptability normally 
given by ambition. But there were more positive factors than 
mere obtuseness at work here. The party, as well as holding 
meetings of its own, made a practice of interrupting and break 
ing up the Communist meetings which were being held in Lon 
don, especially in the East End, often with the aim of explaining 
and defending Bolshevik Russia. Joyce, according to a tutor who 
coached him at this time, took these affrays with extreme serious 
ness. He spoke of the Communists with real horror as, in fact, 
Orangemen would speak of Sinn Feiners. There was working in 
him a nostalgia for the Irish situation. Later, in the air raids, we 
were all to learn that danger is a better stimulant than cham 
pagne until the fatigue is too great. William Joyce had expe 
rienced that gaiety when he was too young to know real fatigue. 
Hence he enjoyed, with a constant driving esurience, street 

No sport could be meaner. The thin boy wearing spectacles 
is cut off from his friends, he is hustled into an alley, his arms 
are twisted, his teeth are knocked in. But the sport was recom 
mended to William Joyce by the memory of his courage in its 
springtime, and excessive deaths in Russia gave him his excuse. 
He was led into temptation. 

In 1925 he left the British Fascists. This may have been 
because he became involved in certain internal dissensions which 
appeared, inevitably enough, in the movement; dog of a certain 


sort is always eating dog. Or it may have been because he feared 
to fail in his arts course as he had failed in his science course, 
and sacrificed his hobbies. But before long he had another and 
more urgent distraction. 

A week after his twenty-first birthday, on April 30, 1927, he 
married a girl of his own age, a chemist s assistant, the daughter 
of a dentist, who was remarkable for her pleasant good looks. 
Because she was a Protestant, he, the son of an Irish Roman 
Catholic father, the pupil of the Jesuits, married her at the 
Chelsea Register Office. He set up house in that district and 
started on a phase of his life which gave him and his family a 
great deal of satisfaction. After he had taken his degree, with 
first-class honours, he continued in his studies in a postgraduate 
course in philology and later began a course in psychology at 
King s College. He had no difficulty in paying his way, for he 
had already, as a student, joined the staff of a tutorial college 
and was regarded as one of its best teachers. He had a real 
passion for teaching. He had a trick, another teacher remem 
bered, of getting command of the minds of pupils who could not 
get going by teaching them chess. 

It must be remarked that all these achievements brought 
him not an inch nearer any position of real power. He could 
never by any chance have been invited to join the staff of any 
school or college of conventional type, because of the curious 
atmosphere of illiteracy which hung about him. Only unedu 
cated people accepted easily that he was learned. Educated peo 
ple were always astounded to hear that he had been at a univer 
sity. Even his handwriting, which was spiky and uneasy, sug 
gested that he rarely took up his pen. Though he then went to 
work for the Conservative Party, not only speaking for it but 
learning the technique of organization, and showing aptitude for 
both activities, it got him nowhere. He was not acceptable, in a 
deep sense. A police officer who had known William Joyce for 
many years and had liked him said hesitantly, for he was speak 
ing a few days before the execution, that sometimes Joyce had 
reminded him, even in the days beforfc the war, of a real 
criminal, of the sort that make lags, convicts. It was not that he 
had then committed any crime, but because he, like the lags, 
"did not seem to fit in anywhere." 

Between 1930 and 1933 his enthusiasm for the Conservative 


Party flagged, and during this time he renewed his connections 
with British fascism, which had now much more to offer him and 
his special case. A number of obscure people in London were at 
that time conscious that a disaster was overhanging Europe. 
Those who foresee the future and recognize it as tragic are often 
seized by a madness which forces them to commit the very acts 
which make it certain that what they dread shall happen. So it 
was natural that some of these should join with the young men 
who were gratifying a taste for street fighting under the plea that 
they stood for order and fascism, while others joined with the 
young men who were gratifying a taste for street fighting under 
the plea that they stood for order and communism. Both were 
undermining the civilization which gave them power to pursue 
these curious pleasures. In this way the Fascists and Communists 
had destroyed order and enabled Mussolini to seize power, and 
the same process was then taking place in Germany. 

In Great Britain a Fascist movement of some apparent 
substance had been formed by Sir Oswald Mosley, who was 
inspired by that impatience with evil which often produces evil. 
In 1931 he appeared at a by-election at Ashton-under-Lyne to 
support the candidature of a member of his new party, which 
was to be a socialist party more drastic and dashing than the 
Labour Party. His supporter was standing against a Conservative 
and an orthodox Labour candidate. When the results were an 
nounced at the town hall on election night he looked down at a 
sea of jeering faces who were exulting at this defeat for several 
reasons. Some were guffawing because a rich baronet should 
profess socialism and because a man who was brilliant and 
handsome had suffered disappointment and humiliation; others 
because such a man had split the orthodox Labour vote and let 
in the Conservative. So Mosley said to a friend, These are the 
people who have got in the way of everybody who has tried to 
do anything since the last war." It was a sensible enough ob 
servation; but making it in his pride violated the just pride of 
others. He abandoned the attempt to wrestle with the vulgarity 
of the vulgar by argument and by example and decided to court 
them in their own fashion. Thereafter his agitation might have 
deceived the vulgar into crediting himself with a like vulgarity, 
and it looked as if he might seize power through their support. 

Joyce was, therefore, valuable to Mosley for just those quali- 


ties which would have prevented him from becoming an Army 
officer or a don. So the Fascist movement was ready to give him a 
place in a hierarchy, with which there went acclamation, a 
certain amount of money, travel abroad, and company which was 
of a certain distinction. The movement was not in all respects as 
Joyce would have had it. Though it happened to be led by Sir 
Oswald Mosley, he was in fact its follower rather than its leader. 
It had sprung up because people who, living in an established 
order, had no terror of disorder had read too much in the 
newspapers about Mussolini and Hitler and thought it would be 
exciting to create disorder on the same lines. If it had not arisen 
spontaneously it would have been fomented by foreign agents. 
It was a dynamic movement with roots that went deep and wide, 
and it did not impinge at any point on the world inhabited by 
the existing executive class. With the people that controlled 
politics, or commerce, or the professions, it had nothing to do. It 
grew beside them, formidable in its desire to displace them from 
that control, but separated from all contact with them as if a 
vast plate-glass window were between them. To no movement 
could the isolated William Joyce more appropriately have be 

It was Sir Oswald Mosley s peculiar function to give false 
hope to the British Fascists, to seem to lead them out of limbo 
and introduce them into the magnetic field of national power. 
Ill-informed about all conspicuous persons, they did not know 
that he was an outsider; he also had been born outside and not 
inside his environment. He had been born into the old govern 
ing class of the Tory aristocracy but had brought his own plate- 
glass window into the world with him; and he had penetrated 
into the new governing class of the Labour Party to the extent of 
holding office in the first Labour government, but had formed no 
tie of liking or trust which would prevent it from preferring any 
other of its members to him. It is probable that William Joyce, 
with his incapacity for drawing any social inference whatsoever, 
was as blind as the rank and file to the qualities of failure 
inherent in Sir Oswald. 

Within two years after Sir Oswald had founded the British 
Union of Fascists, William Joyce became his Director of Propa 
ganda and deputy leader of his party. He lived then in a home 
which, though cheap and unfashionable, possessed its pictur- 


esque distinction. He was staying in a flat in a road clinging to the 
lip of an escarpment in the strangest spot in the strangeness of 
South London. It was far south of the river, where the tameness 
of town overspreads heights which, though insignificant in eleva 
tion, are wild in contour; and if it covers them with the tame 
shapes of houses it has to stack them in wild steepness. But above 
this suburban precipice the buildings themselves were wild with 
the wildness sometimes found in Victorian architecture. Outside 
the windows of his flat in Farquhar Road, two towers ran up 
into the sky, and between them the torso of the Crystal Palace 
was at one and the same time a greenhouse and a Broad Church 
cathedral. In summertime the night behind this didactic architec 
tural fairy tale was often sprayed with the gold and silver jewels 
of Messrs. Brock s fireworks, while a murmur of ohs and ahs and 
cheers rose from the crowds that walked in the gardens among 
the cement prehistoric animals which had been placed there in 
the mid-nineteenth century as illustrations to some thesis regard 
ing the inevitability of progress and the usefulness of knowledge. 
A little way up the road was the Crystal Palace railway station, 
the most fantastic in London, so allusive, particularly in its cast- 
iron ornamental work, to uplifting Victorian festivity that it 
would not be surprising to find its platforms thronged by a choir 
singing an oratorio by Parry or Stainer. The windows on the 
other side of the house where Joyce lived looked down on the 
whole of London, across the Thames, over the imperial city, up 
to the green hills of Hampstead and Highgate. Tufts of treetops 
and a lack of roofs told where there were public parks; Joyce 
would point them out and say he had spoken in all of them. At 
night the lights of London make a spectacular theatre, and it is 
said that keen eyes can distinguish the light which burns above 
Big Ben to show that the House has not yet risen. It was from 
this flat, on July 4, 1933, that William Joyce addressed the 
application for a passport which cost him his life. He desired it 
for the purpose of travelling to France and Germany. 

It was a consciously illegal act, as he was not British. Or was 
it not quite that? The statement he made after his arrest makes 
it appear that he had never been sure about his nationality 
which is to say, that he never made sure about it, that he never 
paid the visit to a solicitor which would have told him every 
thing. He took a gamble on it. He took yet another gamble on 


standing for the two-seat constituency of Shoreditch as a Fascist 
candidate in the municipal elections o 1937. But success was far 
away; 2564 people voted for him and 2492 for another Fascist, 
out of a total poll of 34,128. 

He took another gamble when he gave rein to his passion for 
street fighting in his new post and in cold deliberation and 
with burning appetite applied himself to the technical problems 
of creating disorders; for a conviction might mean deportation, 
if he were discovered. It was about this time that Michael Joyce, 
who had long been reconciled to his beloved firstborn, tore up 
his American passport and all documents relating to his Ameri 
can citizenship before the round astonished eyes of his son Quen- 
tin, muttering his secret and commanding that it should be kept 
a secret, clairvoyant in his perception of the existence of the 
awful danger threatening his blood, but wrong, as clairvoyance 
nearly always is, concerning its precise nature and the point in 
time and space where that danger waited. He thought it was to 
be a common exile of his family across the sea, and must have 
seen it near at hand about eighteen months after William Joyce 
took his first post with Mosley, when he and his chief, together 
with the Fascist officer for Sussex, Councillor Bentinck Budd, 
and a ranker named Mullan, appeared at Lewes Assizes on a 
charge of riotous assembly at Worthing. They were acquitted 
after a trial that lasted for two days. 

The incident at Worthing had followed a rhythm by which 
the normal course of life in provincial towns of England, and 
even in London itself, had been disturbed again and again 
during the past few years. First the local Fascists would an 
nounce well in advance that Sir Oswald Mosley was coming to 
hold a meeting in the largest local hall. Truculent advertise 
ments and parades would prevent the town from forgetting it. 
The idea of violence would suddenly be present in the town. 
The proper course for those who were anti-Fascist was to abstain 
from all action on the day of the meeting, to stay in their houses 
and ignore it; but the idea of violence would enter into them 
also, and they would feel under a compulsion to attend the 
meetings and interrupt and provoke the stewards to throw them 
out. Then relatives and friends would know what they were 
thinking, and grow tense with dread. On the day of the meeting 
Sir Oswald Mosley and his party would arrive in a town already 


in the grip of hysteria, and there would come with them sinister 
paraphernalia: a complete counterfeit of all necessary prepara 
tions for the battle which could be regarded as defensive. There 
were men in uniform carrying weapons, truncheons made of 
shot-loaded sections of hose-pipe sealed with lead, armoured cars; 
ambulances complete with doctors and nurses making a picture 
that meant danger, that aroused fear, that provoked the aggres 
sion which is fear s defence. The anti-Fascists, who had at first 
expelled the idea of violence from their minds and then reluc 
tantly readmitted it, gathered, unstrung by this abhorred mental 
guest, round the hall in which the Fascist intruders were holding 
their meeting, spinning out words to cover the emptiness of a 
programme that contained nothing but anti-Semitism and an 
intention to establish dictatorship against the general will, When 
the Fascists came out they paraded in front of the crowd, bearing 
themselves insolently, until they provoked hostile demon 
strations. Having provoked these, they assaulted the demon 
strators, who struck back. So the civil order which generation 
after generation of Englishmen had insisted on creating in de 
spite of tyranny and the lawlessness of their own flesh, lay dead 
in the street. 

At Lewes this foolish and horrible story was told once more. 
The meeting had been over at ten. A hostile but inactive crowd 
had been waiting outside the hall. Mosley s lieutenants came 
into the street, bearing themselves in the jackbooted way, with 
elbows bent and clenched fists swinging. They began to speak in 
offensive tones to the people standing by. One paused in front of 
a boy of seventeen, a post-office messenger, and said something to 
him. The boy did not answer, and the Fascist asked, "Don t you 
understand English?" The boy, looking at the Fascist s black 
shirt, said, "I don t understand Italian/ and the Fascist hit 
him. At Lewes Assizes, Sir Patrick Hastings, while cross-examin 
ing this boy, asked him, "Can you think of anything more 
insulting than what you did say?" It is of course a barrister s 
duty to get his client out of the dock, and Sir Patrick was 
defending the four Fascists; and he had the right to ask any 
question he thought proper. But it is interesting to remember 
that Mosley had visited Fascist Rome not long before and had 
taken the salute with Mussolini at a review. 

Sir Patrick was no doubt encouraged by the atmosphere of 


the court. There were sound reasons why this should not be 
wholly unfavourable to the defendants. It was obvious that the 
Fascists could not be regarded as solely responsible for the riot. 
That the anti-Fascists had sinned as well as being sinned against 
was shown by the number of tomatoes they had thrown at 
Mosley and his lieutenants; these could hardly have been found 
lying about the street of Worthing at ten o clock at night. And, 
truth to tell, some of the anti-Mosley pamphlets sold in the 
streets contained a great deal of nonsense. They implied that 
Mosley had promised Malta to Mussolini and parts of the British 
Empire to Hitler. And, as it would have been impossible for 
either dictator to give Mosley effective help to seize power in 
England, and as once he was the dictator of England he would 
have been their superior in resources, it is hard to see why he 
should have made any such commitment. It is possible that some 
of the anti-Fascist organizations were providing an opposition 
hardly less irresponsible and professional and dangerously itiner 
ant than the Fascists. 

During the trial the judge made certain interventions. A 
witness for the prosecution affirmed, when questioned about an 
incident in a certain street, that "the whole affair seemed to be a 
joke on the part of the crowd." This statement made Mr. 
Justice Branson request, "Tell us one of the jokes. I am always 
interested in good jokes." The witness replied, "They were 
singing Mosley s got the wind up and that sort of thing." Mr. 
Justice Branson majestically inquired, "Do you call that a 
joke?" He also had passages with the police witnesses. It ap 
peared that a prominent Fascist member and his wife in Worth 
ing had sent several passionately apprehensive telephone mes 
sages to the police station before and during the meeting. One 
was sent from the hall where the meeting was being held. "Tell 

Superintendant B to send some men down to restore order. 

If it is not done I shall go out and take the law into my own 
hands." The constable who received this message took no 
action, because his superior officers were already on the spot 
outside the meeting. Mr. Justice Branson commented severely on 
his failure to act. Later a sergeant was examined who gave a 
picture of the debauch of savagery with which the police force of 
this seaside town had had to deal that night. In a typical passage 
a witness described how he had seen Fascists rush to the door- 


way of a chemist s shop, and followed them and when they had 
run away had found a person lying on the pavement 
unconscious, and then had turned round and seen another per 
son, who was one of the witnesses in the trial, lying in the road, 
also unconscious. Mr. Justice Branson interrupted this witness to 
say, "I understood you to use the phrase, The crowd which first 
chased down South Street. Was there a crowd which chased 
down South Street?" The sergeant answered, "There was a large 
number of people." Mr. Justice Branson asked, "Why do you 
change your language? One expects in these cases that police will 
give their evidence fairly and frankly. Just bear that in mind in 
answering the rest of the questions." 

It was not surprising that William Joyce was acquitted at 
Lewes. There was no evidence to connect him with the riot that 
had taken place, and it was said by Sir Patrick Hastings that his 
name did not appear in any of the depositions. The other three 
defendants were also acquitted. At the close of the case for the 
prosecution the judge said he must take the responsibility of tell 
ing the jury that it should find a verdict of not guilty. As the jury 
expressed its full concurrence with its direction, and an 
nounced that it had been its intention to request that the evi 
dence for the defence should not be heard, since the prosecution 
had failed to make out its case, and as the cases of assault which 
had been brought against some of the defendants in the local 
courts had been dismissed, the effect of the trial on William 
Joyce must have been intoxicating. Nevertheless, the Lewes trial 
may well have exercised a powerful influence on William Joyce s 
determination to travel the road that led to the gallows. 

Indeed, the courts of law, civil as well as criminal, provided 
considerable encouragement for any ambitious Fascist at that 
time. But in the civil courts it was hardly the lawyers who could 
be held responsible. Virtue has its peculiar temptations, particu 
larly when it is practised as a profession. The good are so well 
acquainted with the evil intentions of the wicked that they 
sometimes write as if the wicked candidly expressed their inten 
tions instead of, as is customary, veiling them in hypocritical 
dissimulations. This has on many occasions led to the award of 
heavy damages against the good in cases brought under the laws 
of libel and slander by the wicked. The anti-Fascist press was not 
mindful enough of this danger when it dealt with Mosley, whom 


it considered to be wicked. In one libel action Sir Oswald Mosley 
won, and rightly won, a verdict entitling him to 5000 in dam 
ages, and his costs. It must have seemed to William Joyce that 
society had gone a long way towards certifying that fascism was 
not incompatible with its institutions, and it must have seemed 
to him that the opposition was unscrupulous and antisocial. 

The daily routine of his work must have encouraged him in 
this delusion that he and his kind enjoyed the acquiescence, even 
the fondness, of society. It was unfortunate that the police liked 
him. They did not show him this favour because they shared his 
faith. It is a mistake to think that the police favoured the 
Fascists over the Communists as they certainly did on polit 
ical grounds. There were, of course, policemen, as there were 
generals and admirals, who were deceived by the Fascists use of 
the Union Jack and slogans about Britain into thinking them 
conservative patriots instead of international revolutionaries. 
There were others who regarded the Communists as blood 
stained bolsheviks and admired the Fascists as their enemies. But 
there were many who thought, and both common sense and 
wisdom was with them, that if the Communists had ignored the 
Fascist meetings and refrained from interrupting them, the Fas 
cists would have been checkmated, since they would not then 
have been able to exercise violence and plead that they were 
defending the right of free speech. They would then have had to 
attack Communist meetings or make unprovoked assaults on 
Jews in order to get their street fighting; and in that case police 
men who arrested Fascists would have been able to get them 

As it was, they were constantly forced by the Communists 
actions into arresting Fascists who were discharged by magistrates 
because they pleaded that they acted under provocation; and 
there is nothing a policeman likes less than seeing the charge 
against a man he had arrested being dismissed. This is partly, 
though not entirely, a matter of pride. It also concerns his 
promotion. If there is any blame to be attached to the men 
involved in these proceedings, it should not fall on the police 
but on the magistrates, who were so very often satisfied that the 
Fascists had been provoked. But for magistrates and police alike, 
the situation was exasperating. If a man went to a meeting held 
by a party which advertised its loyalty to King and country 


through every material and spiritual loudspeaker, and which was 
notorious for its easy resort to violence, and he remained seated 
during the singing of the national anthem, police and magistrates 
alike felt a disinclination to concern themselves with what sub 
sequently befell him. They were, of course, wrong. Their busi 
ness was to suppress violence, however it had been provoked. But 
such citizens, and all those who played the Fascist game by accept 
ing their challenge, were either irritating masochists or trouble 
makers obeying Communist instruction. 

If the police liked Joyce it was because he persuaded them 
he was alleviating this ugly situation. He was a fine discipli 
narian. His men were truly his. On them he now could play 
all the tricks of charm that take in young hero- worshippers: 
the recollections of a previous encounter, stated with a suggestion 
that an ineffaceable impression had been made, a permanent 
liking engendered; the sternness broken by a sudden smile. He 
had also learned the trick of turning his puniness into an asset of 
terror; a little man can be terrible when he outstares a taller and 
stronger subordinate who has been insolent to him, and coldly 
orders another subordinate, still taller and stronger, to inflict a 
brutal punishment on him. "J o 7 ce really had his men under 
control/ said a member of the police force, "and he was always 
fair to us. We could never come to an understanding with the 
Communists; if we saw the leaders it was hard to get on terms 
with them, and if we did persuade them to alter a plan they 
didn t seem able to make their men carry out the alteration. But 
if I went to Joyce and told him that his men were doing some 
thing that wasn t fair on the police, trying us too hard or 
interfering with our time off, he d have his men right off that 
job in half an hour, and there d be no grumbling. And he 
always kept his word, we found him very straight." 

This officer and he spoke for many of his colleagues 
thought Joyce a far abler man than Mosley. It is possible that 
William Joyce was, at that time, a person of real and potent 
charm, offering the world what Blake said pleased it most, "the 
lineaments of gratified desire." He saw his path to greatness 
clear before him. He experienced the sharp joys of public speak 
ing and street fighting nearly every night, and every month or so 
the more prolonged orgy of the great London or provincial 
meetings. Moreover, the routine of fascism freshened and liber- 


ated the child in its followers. Mosley had taken a black old 
building in King s Road, Chelsea, formerly a teachers training 
college, where he housed his private army of the whole-time 
members of the British Union of Fascists, and there life was a 
boy s dream. Uniforms were worn that were not really uniforms, 
that at once claimed and flouted authority, as adolescence does; 
there was discipline, savage (and therefore sadistically sweet) 
while it lasted, but perfectly eluctable, not clamped down on a 
definite period of time by the King s Regulations; corridors were 
patrolled by sentries beetling their brows at nothing, executive 
officers sat at desks laden with papers alluding to mischief as yet 
too unimportant to justify authority in taking steps to check it; 
dead-end kids that could call what was dead alive and the end 
the beginning, innocently and villainously filled rubber trun 
cheons with lead. There is nothing like infantilism for keeping 
the eyes bright and the skin smooth. 

At this time, too, Joyce must have been intoxicated by new 
experiences of several kinds. His family now denies that he ever 
went to Germany before 1939. But others believed that he made 
the journey more than once and shared in the long, sterile 
orgasm of the Nuremberg Rally, held on the great barren place 
which once had been rich farmland, where crowds drunken with 
the great heat entered into union with a man who was pure 
nihilism, who offered militarism and defeat, regulation and anar 
chy, power and ruin, the cancellation of all. That was a deep 
pleasure, surrounded by shallower ones: the drives through the 
entrancing country, scored with the great works which German 
Joyces had ordained by a wave of the hand, the visits to the fine 
villas which German Joyces had made their own and stuffed with 
works of art, the eating and drinking from the Gothic and 
Renaissance tables of German Joyces, where the heavy goblets 
stood on Genoese velvet. In his own country he frequented the 
homes of the wealthy Mosleyite supporters, and there perhaps 
knew less than the absolute enjoyment Germany could have 
given or did give him. 

Few of the upper-class supporters of Mosley were intellec 
tually distinguished in any way that induced the relinquishment 
of social prejudice. Only an eccentric, equally distinguished as a 
physicist and a steeplechaser, and a peer whose enthusiasm for 
fascism was part of his passion for the grotesque and wholly 


conditional upon its failure to realize its objects, come to mind 
as probably unbiased by class feeling in their response to charm; 
and of what they would have considered charm William Joyce 
had none. Of course he had his wit; everybody who met him in 
England or Germany agrees that he never talked for long with 
out putting a twist on a sentence that surprised the hearer into 
laughter. He had also the same pleasantness that was remarked 
on so often by the officials who had charge of him during his last 
days. But he was not, as they say, a gentleman. The other upper- 
class supporters of Mosley were for the most part professional 
soldiers and sailors, usually in their fifties; and of these some 
asked William Joyce to their houses out of a sense that they 
should recognize his services to the movement. He was to them, 
nevertheless, like an officer risen from the ranks. Awkwardness 
occurred. One week-end he was a guest at the country house of 
an Army man who kept a large stable; and on Sunday morning 
the host let his guests try some of his less valuable horses. 
William Joyce, who had learned to ride as a boy in Mayo and 
Galway, handled his horse so well that he was allowed to try 
another one, a fine and difficult thoroughbred. The host s father, 
an old gentleman so deaf that he could not tell whether he was 
shouting or whispering, stood among the other guests and 
watched. "How marvellously Mr. Joyce rides!" a lady bawled 
into his ear. "Yes!" he bawled back, "but not like a 
gentleman/ Nobody was sure whether Mr. Joyce had heard. 

When a man s social horizon widens, his sexual horizon 
rarely stays where it was. There was a rackety recruit to fascism, 
a wealthy young man who had suffered the initial handicap of 
being expelled from an ancient school, not for any perversion 
but for precocity induced by the enterprise of an American 
actress who took a cottage near the school for the summer term. 
He invited Joyce to a shooting-party, where he met the sister of 
an Irish peer and was profoundly impressed by her. She felt no 
corresponding emotion and probably never knew of his. It may 
have been such disturbing encounters which first suggested to 
William Joyce what might not have occurred to him if he had 
stayed where he was born, that he need not always stay married 
to the same woman. From the beginning, it is said, his life with 
the girl he had married when they were both twenty-one had 
been a cycle of romantic ecstasy and quarrels and impassioned 


reconciliations; he would turn anything into a fight. He took it 
for granted, too, that he should spend an amount of time with 
men friends which must have made home life exiguous. During 
his time of service with Mosley his relations with his wife grew 
more and more purely quarrelsome, and in 1936, although they 
had by then two little daughters, this marriage was dissolved. 

At a Fascist rally in Dumfries, William Joyce met the 
woman who was to be his second wife, a pretty and spirited girl. 
Like his mother from Lancashire, which had been his second 
home as a boy, Margaret White was the daughter of a textile ware 
house manager and an enthusiastic member of the BUF. A devout 
Protestant, she was a secretary and a trained dancer, who often 
performed at cabaret shows given at festive gatherings of North 
Country Fascists. She was slender and graceful and took her art 
seriously, but she gladly threw away her ambitions to serve her 
husband and his ambitions. Though outsiders thought that 
Joyce s second marriage followed the same pattern of ecstasy and 
dissension and reconciliation as his first, there was apparently a 
deep and true love between him and his wife which was to 
endure to his death. There is indeed to be recognized in the 
conventional prettiness of her face a certain not conventional 
solemnity and submissiveness, as if she knew she should bow to a 
great force when it visited her; and it appears certain that she 
believed William Joyce to be that great force. 

He left South London, which had been his home since he 
was a boy with the exception of a few brief periods; which was 
still the home of his father, Michael Joyce, and his mother, 
Queenie, and his brothers and sister; which was his appropriate 
home. Where the drab rows of little houses and the complacent 
villas shamed their builders by losing their drabness and their 
mediocrity because of the hills on which they were set, there he 
should have gone on living, this puny and undistinguished little 
man who was wild with a desire for glory. He moved to the 
north side of the river, but not to imperial London. When he 
married his second wife he was living in one of the dreariest 
spots in the dreariness east of Brompton Cemetery: a place where 
the cats limp and have mange, and the leaves bud brown in the 
spring. It was the first of his London homes which was character 
less. He might have chosen it when he had ceased to care 


whether the routine of life was pleasant because he was so 
preoccupied with the crisis of the future. 

SHORTLY after his marriage William Joyce began 
to contemplate deserting Mosley and becoming an agent of Nazi 
Germany. He did not get on well with his leader. It can be taken 
as certain that, if the police thought him more able than Mosley, 
he held the same opinion with some intensity. Moreover, it is 
impossible that Joyce was blind to the gulf that yawned between 
one part of the Fascist movement and another. The wife of one 
of the few Fascist leaders who were in the inner ring with Mosley 
was asked, "Did you and your husband ever ask Joyce to your 
house?" She answered in horror, "Oh, no, never. That was the 
great thing that worried us all, about what we were to do after 
Tom" as Mosley was known to his familiars "had become 
dictator. We didn t know how we were going to get rid of all 
those dreadful common people we had had to use to get 
power." It is unlikely that the sentiments behind the remarks 
would have remained hidden from the cold eyes of William 
Joyce, and that he would have missed the political implication 
behind them; and he may have asked himself just why Mosley 
had chosen him as deputy leader of the party. It would have 
seemed more natural that the position should be filled by one of 
the high-ranking Army or Navy officers who supported the move 
ment, rather than by an insignificant little man with no social 
influence, for whom Mosley had no personal liking. William 
Joyce was tough enough to put the question in that form, and 
shrewd enough to answer it by admitting that his charm for 
Mosley was the obvious unlikelihood that he would set up as a 
rival for leadership of the movement. 

There was also a difference between their outlook on policy, 
which became more marked as time went on, and in which the 
advantage lay with Joyce so far as simplicity was concerned. 
Mosley had started his movement before Hitler came to power; 


Mussolini had been his inspiration. But very shortly after 1933 
the emotional interest of the British Fascist movement shifted to 
Germany. This was in every sense natural, for what makes every 
Fascist and Communist movement go round is the pickings for 
the boys; and the boys in Italy had never had anything like the 
swollen and novel pickings that came to the boys in Germany. 
Mosley seems, like many people, to have believed that Hitler was 
a man of supreme ability, and perhaps felt some personal liking 
for him. That he married his second wife in Hitler s presence 
may have signified either real affection for Hitler or a desire to 
build up an alliance by intimacy. William Joyce on his side 
venerated Hitler as he had never been able to venerate Mosley. 
While William Joyce was cold but naive, Mosley was hot-headed 
but sophisticated; he could argue with his own passions in de 
fence, not of the truth, but of his own ends. Hence Mosley could 
bear to proclaim the Nazi doctrine of a totalitarian and anti- 
Semitic state without overt propaganda for Hitler. His line was 
to admit admiration for Hitler and Mussolini, but to deprecate 
any excessive interest in Continental affairs and profess belief in 
isolationism. "Mind Britain s Business" was his slogan; and he 
assured the public that if Hitler was given a free hand in Europe 
and was returned his mandated colonies, while we at home 
suppressed the Jews, the peace of the world would be 
guaranteed, and the British Empire would be immune from 
attack. But he was careful to say that if Hitler should ever attack 
the British Empire, its people would, of course, defend them 
selves, and would be victorious. William Joyce wanted to preach 
acclamation of Hitler as the saviour of the world on such uncon 
ditional terms that by implication it must be the duty of every 
good Briton to resist any British government which took up arms 
against him. 

Both these policies would work out to the same result. If 
Great Britain had pursued an isolationist policy and let Hitler 
conquer Europe as Mosley wished, Hitler would have had no 
reason to refrain from crossing the Channel and setting up what 
government he pleased; and there the matter would have re 
mained, for it would have been extremely difficult for America to 
come to the aid of an invaded Great Britain which had ac 
quiesced in the invasion of all the rest of Europe. In these 
circumstances it would certainly have been the Fascists from 


whom Hitler would draw his quisling government. On the other 
hand, if the Fascists had devoted their energies in peacetime to 
the proclamation of the greatness of Hitler, as Joyce wished, and 
preached collaboration freely and frankly up to the declaration 
of the war (within the limits set down in the law of treason), 
then again it would seem the Fascists would furnish the quislings 
when they were needed. Of the two policies, Joyce s policy 
frankly admitted the international character of fascism, which 
makes a man ready to be a traitor to his country, his county, his 
town, his street, his family, himself, and loses its dynamic power 
if it does not act by and through this readiness for treachery. 
Moreover, it was designed on the plane of heroism, and for that 
reason, had England been defeated in 1940, might have been 
more corrupting, since a quisling has more power if he has shown 
himself a brave man. This was outside the framework of Mos- 

But policy was not the only subject of disagreement between 
Mosley and Joyce at this moment. Joyce was, for the first time 
in his life, troubled about money. He had been brought up in a 
household where there had always been enough to maintain the 
simple satisfaction of all needs. He had supported himself and his 
wife adequately on his earnings as a tutor, which he had been 
able to stretch by taking on extra classes. For his chief pleasures, 
which were public speaking and street fighting, he did not pay 
but was paid. In his lesser pleasures he could afford to pay. For 
example, he had a fine radiogramophone and a large library of 
records, chiefly operatic. Now, however, he had to make a home 
for himself and his second wife and support his first wife s chil 
dren, and Mosley was paying him a small and inelastic salary. 
He needed an increase in pay just at the very time when 
Mosley was least likely to give it. Mosley must have been 
in genuine financial difficulties. It is said that he was spend 
ing nine-tenths of his income on the cause, but that went 
nowhere in maintaining a private army of anything from twelve 
hundred to two thousand, together with a great number 
of subsidized hangers-on. It is true that he was financed by some 
industrialists, and by some City firms, even including one or two 
who by reason of their origin should have been most careful not 
to compromise themselves in this direction. But these industrial 
ists were not the great magnates who were persistently rumoured 


to be contributing to Mosley s funds; they were for the most 
part old gentlemen at the head of minor firms with only moder 
ate means at their disposal. If ever the bigger City firms were 
more generous they were also more canny, and both alike were 
beginning to be less forthcoming. They had contributed because 
they had believed Mosley to be a stabilizing force in society. But 
do what he could, he could not prevent his movement from 
looking what it was, revolutionary. The increasing brutality of 
the brawls with Jews and Communists was betraying the nature 
of its inspiration. 

Also, time was to reveal that the right sort of recruits were 
not coming in. It is true that the movement enlisted Sir Arnold 
Wilson, an extremely able colonial administrator. Another 
writer of some standing and much charm supported the party, but 
it was too generally recognized that he had not been sober for 
thirty years for his political opinions to carry much weight. 
There should have been some appeal to the Kipling tradition in 
Francis Yeats-Brown, a soldier and the author of a best-seller 
about Army life in the East, but he was handicapped by his 
devotion to Oriental mysticism in its quainter manifestations. 
About this time a Fascist leader was driving a banker whom he 
regarded as a possible convert back from a week-end which had 
seemed very profitably spent, when he realized that they were 
passing the home of this officer-author and suggested that they 
should stop and call on him. The banker was delighted. But the 
butler repelled them. The major was in, and the butler would 
take a message to him, but he could not possibly be seen. The 
Fascist persisted and finally the butler, who was a traditional 
butler, for this was a traditional home, broke down and said, 
"It s no use, this is the day he spends sitting on the roof with his 
Yogi having his perpetual enema." 

British fascism did hardly better with its aristocratic sup 
porters. One of these bore a title founded by a historic personage 
of the first order. If anybody alluded in his hearing to his great 

ancestor "the great Duke of " his brows would contract 

and he would say huffily, "The first Duke of ." Later he 

was to give his life nobly in the war against fascism, and this 
anecdote relates to a superficial oddity and not to the sum of 
him. It is worth while recalling only to explain the difficulties 
that Mosley was having in creating an impression of normality. 


Even with his numerous service members he had his difficulties. 
He had to handle these with care, lest possibly an officer of 
personal attractions and gifts for oratory and administration 
should dispute his leadership. But all the same, it was a pity that 
his most active service supporter should be stone-deaf, although 
it is true that deafness has more than once played a decisive part 
in our great island story; our pro-Bulgarian policy, which so 
disastrously endured for generations, was largely the work of a 
Times correspondent who travelled through the Balkans cease 
lessly but without being able to hear a word that anyone said to 
him. Worst Mosleyite disappointment of all, however, was a 
wealthy and aristocratic young man, now dead, who created a most 
favourable impression at one of the Nuremberg rallies but was, 
like the friend named Guy Burgess who had accompanied him, a 
Communist deputed to infiltrate the Mosley movement. 

Naturally enough the movement was short of subscriptions. 
Joyce was paid no advance on salary commensurate with his 
services to the movement and he was therefore left in a state of 
insecurity and with a feeling that Mosley had failed to fulfil the 
promise he had seemed to make to his obscure followers, the 
promise that those outside should find themselves at last inside, 
that the powerless should find themselves as equals among the 
powerful. Sometime in the beginning of 1937 a police officer who 
knew Joyce found himself alone with him in a compartment in a 
late train from the Midlands which had had a breakdown. For a 
time they talked of impersonal matters, then, as the delay length 
ened, fell into silence, which the police officer suddenly found 
himself breaking with the question, "Jy ce > what do you really 
think of Mosley?" He had no idea why he asked that question; 
he had heard nothing of any breach between the two. The little 
man, who had been huddled in fatigue, now fixed the police 
officer with eyes cold as ice. Joyce was famous among the British 
Fascists for his power to curse, and for the next ten minutes, 
quietly and steadily, he used it, then sank back into apparent 
slumber. The police officer paid him the classic compliment of 
saying that he never once repeated himself, and added that 
"there was nothing ordinary in it," and he summed up its 
content as an opinion that "Mosley was letting them down by 
doing his job so badly." A few weeks later it was announced 
that Mosley had dismissed Joyce from his post as the Director of 


Propaganda and deputy leader of the Party, for the reason that 
he was under a necessity to cut down on his salaried staff. 

Within three weeks of leaving the BUF, Joyce had founded 
his British National Socialist League; and very soon afterwards 
he had an office in London and an official organ, The Helms 
man. This was quick work; it also cost money. It is true 
that it did not cost much money, but then Joyce had almost 
none. He had gone back to his work as a tutor and was doing 
well, but not so well that he could earn much more than would 
support himself and his wife and meet other obligations. The 
British National Socialist League could never boast a member 
ship that was more than a fraction of the strength of the BUF, 
and never pretended to live on its subscriptions. The only sub 
scriber to British National Socialist League funds who has been 
identified with any certainty was the old Scottish stockbroker 
whose sister was later to visit Joyce in prison, and he gave 
generously, but nothing that went into thousands. Joyce himself 
declared that he was financed by certain industrialists, but it 
seems most unlikely that any industrialist shrewd enough to have 
maintained his business would have thought it worth while to 
subsidize this lone little man who, however great his gift for 
organization, had now only a handful of followers to organize. 
There was, on the other hand, a great deal of German money 
lying about in England at that time, to be picked up by anybody 
who chose to take a certain amount of trouble. 

How little that trouble needed to be, how that money could 
petition to be picked up, can be illustrated by the case of the 
two young women with strong right-wing views who thought it 
would be amusing to write and publish a newsletter. After a 
couple of numbers appeared they were approached by a man 
holding a teaching position in a certain university, who told 
them that he would finance their newsletter to the extent of two 
or three thousand pounds, provided only that they published a 
certain amount of approving references to Hitler. If William 
Joyce accepted money from such sources, he was breaking no 
law. In the United States it is a crime to take money from the 
representative of a foreign power without registering as a foreign 
agent, but in England such an act is lawful and it would be 
easy to name a number of English persons on the Right and the 
Left who have benefited by transactions with Continental govern- 


ments anxious to have friends in England. The United States 
law is, however, rendered nugatory by the power of bribery to 
take forms other than cash payments. There, as in England, 
publishing houses specially founded for the purpose can commis 
sion propagandist works, and the managements of societies for 
friendship toward specific countries offer well-paid jobs, while 
alien governments can buy whole editions of books or subscribe 
for thousands of issues of a journal. It is not impossible that 
Joyce accepted money, directly or indirectly, from those with 
whom he conspired, but it is quite certain that he did not 
commit treason for the sake of gain. 

Some time after Joyce had left the British Union of Fascists 
and set up his own movement, he and his wife had moved to a 
very pleasant home, the most expensive home he occupied in his 
whole life: the top flat of a doctor s house in a soberly agreeable 
square in South Kensington. It would never have been let to him 
had he presented himself as the prospective tenant. But it was 
taken by Angus MacNab, whose obvious good breeding and 
gentleness impressed the doctor and his wife very favourably. He 
explained to them that he was setting up in business as a coach 
in partnership with a friend named William Joyce, and at a 
second interview brought with him Mrs. Joyce, whom they 
thought not so well bred as he was, but pretty and agreeable. On 
these samples of the household they concluded the transaction, 
and were disconcerted when its third person arrived with the 
removal van, which contained a prodigious amount of books and 
some poor sticks of furniture, and proved to be a queer little 
Irish peasant who had gone to some pains to make the worst of 
himself. The wearing of uniforms by private persons was by then 
illegal; so he and MacNab always wore black sweaters of a shape 
calculated to recall the Fascist black shirt. He wore a suit and 
trenchcoat in imitation of Hitler s turn-out, and they were de 
liberately kept dirty and shabby; he cropped his hair in the 
Prussian style and never wore a hat; he always carried a very 
thick stick; and he bore himself with a deliberate aggressiveness. 
The doctor and his wife instantly took a dislike to him, which 
they were to find not unjustified when they saw more of the 
household. They liked his wife and thought he treated her 
tyrannously, overworking her and giving her no thanks, in the 
peasant way. He was tiresomely exigent about his meals; and not 


only had she to cook them, but she had to wash up afterwards 
and then run off to help at the league office in the daytime, and 
in the evenings at meetings. But the doctor and his wife had to 
admit that she adored him and that he evidently made her very 

They had other complaints against him. Their new tenants 
were indubitably noisy. Joyce had always loved noise. A young 
man who knew him during his first marriage tells how he 
learned chess from him in a tiny room just big enough to hold 
two chairs, a table, and a radiogramophone which blared con 
tinuously at full blast. It was torture for the pupil; Joyce took it 
as natural. Here the household banged doors and stamped about 
when they came in excited from their meetings, and sometimes 
gave rowdy parties. To one of them they invited the doctor s 
wife, who happened to be alone that evening. She was not 
reassured. Some of the guests were wild Irishmen the same that 
attended his trial. These were for the most part from families 
with the same roots as the Joyces, who had been supporters of 
the British occupation of Ireland and who had had to leave the 
country for safety s sake when Home Rule was granted. One 
among these was the son of a man who had performed an act of 
charity towards a man dying of gunshot wounds beside the road 
without inquiring into his political affiliations, was consequently 
victimized by his neighbours till he was obliged to take refuge in 
England, and there died in poverty, leaving his family aggrieved 
because they had received no adequate compensation from the 
British government. The doctor s wife was unaware of the pa 
thetic antecedents of these merrymakers, but she was disconcerted 
by the vehement quality of the merriment they made, and she 
came to her own conclusions about a gentleman with long hair 
who was wearing a scarlet cloak and a pectoral cross, and who in 
troduced himself as the monarch of an Eastern European nation. 
It was not revealed to her that he had once been sentenced to a 
term of imprisonment for the publication of obscene poetry, but 
she felt there was something a little odd about him. 

Nevertheless, the doctor and his wife did not attempt to termi 
nate the lease. They were moved to this forbearance partly by 
their kindly feeling towards Mrs. Joyce, who, they foresaw, 
would suffer greatly in one way or another through her marriage. 
They also liked MacNab, who was amiable and fantastical Once 


when Joyce had gone off with the key to the flat and a pipe had 
burst inside it, MacNab, explaining that he had been a leading 
member of the Oxford Alpine Club, swarmed up the back of the 
Kensington house, by pipes and window ledges and gutters, till 
he found a window open on the fifth story. But the doctor and 
his wife developed more serious reasons than these for tolerance. 
One of their sons was taken ill and had to miss a term or two at 
his boarding-school, and during this period MacNab and Wil 
liam Joyce coached him, one in Greek and mathematics, the 
other in Latin and French. The parents found the boy was 
getting better teaching than he had ever had in his life, as they 
discovered that these two strange men really cared for the things 
of the mind, really possessed unusual intellectual capacity. After 
that they sometimes asked their tenants down to their sherry 
parties; and they found to their surprise that though William 
Joyce was so obviously odious in so many ways, so vulgar, so 
pushing, so lacking in sweetness, many of their guests found his 
conversation interesting and amusing and even charming. They 
were baffled. They did not know what they wanted to do about 
their odd lodger, and the doing of it might not have been easy. 
The rent of the flat was paid with perfect regularity. It would 
have been difficult to break the lease except on very contestable 
grounds, and contest was certainly not out of Joyce s line. 

So it seemed as if this exile was to lose his rootlessness in a 
place that asked roots to grow and promised the grown plant 
pleasantness. Joyce s flat looked down on a communal garden of 
the sort that makes South Kensington so pleasantly green; the 
houses which back on it have their dining rooms built out into 
this garden. In summertime the ladies of these houses often sat 
with their friends among tubs of flowers on the flat roofs of these 
dining rooms, taking tea and looking down on their well- 
schooled children, who played on the lawns below. In late sum 
mertime, in the year 1938, William Joyce sat in his pleasant 
home and applied for the renewal of his passport. It might be 
assumed that he had been sent for by someone who wished him 
to go abroad. It might also be assumed that he had not expected 
this summons, for he had let his passport expire without apply 
ing for its renewal. It had run out on July 6. This was Septem 
ber 24: five days before the Munich Agreement was signed. 
Nothing is gained by the postponement of an application for the 


renewal of a passport. At whatever date the application is made, 
it is renewed from the date of its expiry. It is possible that 
William Joyce felt no exultation at all while he was filling in his 
application form. He had faced danger as a boy, but that was 
nearly twenty years ago. Ever since then he had lived cradled in 
the safety of the civil order of England, which he and his Fascist 
friends and Communist enemies were vowed to destroy, and 
safety becomes a habit. He must have liked the green dignity of 
this garden part of Kensington; it was like the home of his 
boyhood, which was also in one of the green corners of London, 
down in Allison Grove. He must have liked the setting of his 
life, and also its core. He liked teaching and he had his meetings, 
and he was still deeply and romantically in love with his wife. If 
he had given an undertaking to leave that home when a certain 
voice called him, then he must daily have known a real distress. 

That time Joyce was let off and the wind of danger blew and 
fell again; and immediately after Munich Joyce lost his most 
valuable colleague. Just about this time Joyce began to lose the 
friendship of his landlords; and the German radio sounded too 
loud through the house, the hiccupping piano achieved the 
Horst Wessel song too often. The breach widened when Hitler 
walked into Czechoslovakia; the doctor and his wife were stand 
ing in the hall, aghast at the news, when Joyce came in, and 
asked him, "Now what do you think of Hitler?" Joyce said, 
without a smile, "I think him a very fine fellow," and went on his 
way up to his flat. MacNab came in a little later. The doctor and 
his wife pressed him for his opinion, and he too approved. The 
curious friendship between the two households, so unequal in 
social background and in character, faded from that moment, 
though the doctor and his wife still showed kindliness to Mrs. 
Joyce. Joyce, working alone, worked frantically. He spoke to 
every society that would let him inside its doors, in the warmer 
weather he had an open-air meeting every day, and sometimes 
several in one day. It was as if he was trying to leave an impres 
sion on the public mind that could be counted upon to endure; 
and indeed he partially succeeded in this aim. An enormous 
number of people in the low-income groups heard him speak, 
some during the years when he was with Mosley, and even more 
during the period when he was his own master. 

Many people in the higher-income groups had also their con- 


tact with Joyce, but they did not know it. Anybody who was 
advertised as a speaker at a meeting appealing for funds or 
humane treatment for refugees from Nazi persecution would 
receive by every post, for many days before the meeting, threaten 
ing messages, couched always in the same words, and those words 
always so vague that the writers of them could not have been 
touched by the law. They were apt to come by the last post, and 
the returning householder, switching on the light, would see 
them piled up on the hall table, splinters from a mass of stupid 
ity that might not, after all, be finite and destructible, but 
infinite and conterminous with life. Their postmarks showed 
they came from Manchester, Bristol, Bournemouth, Bethnal 
Green, Glasgow, Colchester. All over the country there were 
those who wished that the stranger, being hungry, should not be 
fed; being naked, should not be clothed. Goats and monkeys, as 
Othello said, goats and monkeys; and the still house would seem 
like a frail and besieged fortress. This device was the invention 
of William Joyce. The people who heard him in the streets 
sometimes saw this alliance with crime displayed. A number of 
his meetings were provocative of the violence he loved; he was 
twice tried for assault at London police courts during the year 
preceding the outbreak of war, though each time the wind that 
sat in so favourable a quarter for Fascists blew him out with an 
acquittal. But at many others of his meetings he used all his 
powers: his harsh, sneering, cajoling, denatured, desperate voice; 
his quick and twisting humour; his ability to hammer a point 
home on a crowd s mind, to persuade the men and women he 
saw before him of the advantages of dictatorship, the dangers of 
Jewish competition and high finance, the inefficiency of democ 
racy, the greatness and goodness of Hitler, and his own serious 
ness. His audiences were not much interested in his arguments 
and were shrewd enough in their judgment of him. Many remem 
bered him seven years afterwards. Only a very few said, "I liked 
him." Most said, "He has the most peculiar views, but he really 
was an extraordinary chap," or some such words. "Extraordi 
nary" was what they called him, nearly all of them. This impres 
sion might not have served Joyce so ill had the days brought 
forth what he expected. If the Germans had brought him with 
them when they invaded England and had made him their 
spokesman, many Londoners might have listened to him with 


some confidence because in a scene which conquest would have 
made terrifying in its unfamiliarity he was a familiar figure. 

William Joyce seemed to hear a second summons from abroad 
eleven months after the first. During that time his circum 
stances changed. In July he had left his agreeable home in South 
Kensington, at his own instance. In June he had suddenly writ 
ten to the doctor saying that, with much regret, he must confess 
himself unable to carry out his three years lease, which had still 
another year to run; the number of his pupils had, he explained, 
suddenly showed a sharp decline. The doctor answered, possibly 
not without some feeling of relief, that Joyce was at full liberty 
to sublet the flat, and this Joyce undertook to do. One day, 
before the Joyces left, the doctor s wife met Mrs. Joyce on the 
stairs and, with the extreme sweetness and generosity this couple 
always showed their strange tenants, paused to tell her how sorry 
she was that their connections must end for so sad a reason. She 
said, "All our fortunes vary, you know. One goes up and one 
comes down and then one comes up again, so you mustn t worry 
if things are bad." To her astonishment Mrs. Joyce burst into 
tears, flung her arms round her neck, and sobbed out, "You do 
not know how bad they are, you have no idea how bad they 

About this time Joyce was importuned by a strange visitor; a 
man who, like so many of the British National Socialist League, 
was Irish, rang the bell marked "Joyce" that was beside the 
doctor s bell at the front door. Joyce came down, opened the 
door, looked at the visitor, slammed it, and went upstairs again. 
The visitor went on ringing and began to pound on the knocker. 
MacNab came down, white-faced, and opened the door, parleyed 
with the visitor, but, like Joyce, retreated. Out on the porch the 
visitor rang the bell and hammered on the door and began to 
shout. The doctor s manservant went out and tried to send him 
away; he cried out that he must see William Joyce, no one else 
would do. The door was shut, he remained outside, crying out in 
accusation, in imploration, in panic, as one who knew a great 
shame was to be committed and could not stop it. The police 
would have been fetched, but at that moment the doctor arrived, 
a tall, authoritative man, and took him by the arm, and turned 
him round towards South Kensington Station, and told him to 
follow the road to it. He went off, mumbling about a catastrophe. 


What is significant is that Joyce, for all his volubility, could not 
find an explanation for this incident. 

Paying their rent up to the last minute, leaving no trades 
men s bills unsettled, the Joyces moved to a lodging as poor as 
any he had known since he had left home as a boy. It was a 
basement flat in a short street of dreary and discoloured houses, 
mean in size, which lies on the Warwick Road side of Earl s 
Court Station. Over their roofs, making them more dwarfish, 
looms the stadium, in formless height, morbid with the sick 
pallor of concrete; and at the end of the street is the wall of 
Brompton Cemetery, pierced with openings covered by wire 
netting, which disclose the sparse tombs among the long grasses 
on the cemetery s edge, and the distant white crowd of stout 
Victorian dead round the central avenues. This was not only a 
melancholy home for Joyce; it was minute, no broader than a 
henhouse. It might have been chosen by a man who believed 
himself about to go on a long journey and to need no more than 
a place to keep his clothes and his baggage till the time came to 
pack the one inside the other. 

William Joyce must have been sure, in the summer of 1939, 
that there was going to be war, for we were all sure of that. And 
with half of his mind he knew what part he was going to play in 
it; but with only half, for again he let his passport expire. He 
did not apply for its renewal until August 24; and that date 
destroys William Joyce s last claim on our sympathies. For it is 
one day after Hitler signed his pact with Stalin. Then this man 
who all his adult life had hated Communists must have known 
that his leader was an opportunist and not a prophet; that he 
himself was apostle of a policy and not a religion; that there was 
nothing in the cause to which he had devoted his life that was 
equal in worth to the ancient loyalties. Now he should have seen 
what was on the underside of the banners stamped on the over 
side with the swastika that hung between the sky and the 
stadium at Nuremberg. Now he should have recognized that the 
words he had been saying since 1927 were "Evil, be thou my 
good." But he would not open his eyes or unstop his ears and 
he stood fast and chose damnation. It is here his happy marriage 
helped to contrive his doom. He had made his decision to go 
over to Germany with the knowledge of his wife. To have gone 
back on it would have been a confession that he had been 


unwise when he made it; and he may have feared that such a 
reversal might have looked like a failure in courage. There are 
risks the most loving will not take with the beloved. 

It is said that William Joyce went to Germany on the eve of 
the war on an off chance and offered his services to a surprised 
propaganda machine. But that some people from England were 
anticipating his departure for Berlin, and tried to stop it, is 
proved by the recollection of one who, in September 1939, was 
still a schoolgirl. One summer evening she was walking in 
the Fulham Road with her uncle, a young man who was a 
member of the British National Socialist League, when they met 
William Joyce, who was well known to both of them. He seemed 
strangely excited, and he told them, laughing extravagantly, that 
when he had been driving his car on the previous day he had 
been pulled in by the police for a trifling breach of the traffic 
regulations. The schoolgirl and her uncle were puzzled by his 
emotion. The uncle said, "But this is nothing. All sorts of people 
get run in for motoring offences." Joyce answered, waving his 
hat and clapping it back on his head, "Do you call this a 
motoring offence? I would call it a holding offence!" and went 
on his way. A "holding offence" is a device often and properly 
used by the police. When the police suspect a man of a serious 
crime but cannot prove him guilty of it, they watch him to see if 
he commits some minor offence, such as a breach of the traffic regu 
lations. If they are lucky and he acts according to their expecta 
tions, then they can serve him with a summons and until he has 
faced his trial can exercise a certain amount of control over him. 
During this time they can prevent him from leaving the country. 
Late in August 1939, in a street near Queen Anne s Gate, William 
Joyce met an acquaintance who had long ago been his neighbour 
in East Dulwich, and they halted and had a chat. When they 
parted Joyce s acquaintance noted that he turned into the build 
ing beside which they had halted, and realized that this was the 
Passport Office. Even before that the name of William Joyce 
must have been posted at every port; and as soon as he fetched 
and had in his possession a renewed passport the warning signal 
should have been repeated. But a few days afterwards the police 
were searching for him all over the country; the old lady in 
Sussex was questioned, and her house was watched. William 
Joyce left England by the ordinary Continental route from Vic- 


toria Station without hindrance. Here was either a breakdown of 
routine fantastically fortunate for him or another traitor, work 
ing with him on the same pattern of treachery. 

IN Germany autumn is not as it is in England, a time 
of sleepy mellowness. The red and gold of the foliage is hard to 
the eye, the air is like iron; those who sail on the waterways 
which run all the way from the Wannsee to the Baltic find their 
lips seared, though they may not feel very cold, by the air which 
has come down from the Arctic. Into this season, in its fierce and 
icy brilliance, which is one of Germany s particular enchant 
ments, William Joyce was brought by his treachery. One day his 
little feet twinkled up the area steps of his basement flat near 
Earl s Court. His eyes must have been dancing. No matter what 
his misgivings might have been, the risks of the adventure must 
have delighted him. It must, indeed, have been intoxicating for 
him to go through London, where he had never been of any 
importance, where he was at best a street-corner speaker better 
known than most, and know that, if he won his gamble, he 
would return to it as the right hand of its conquerors. There 
would be then no building he would not have the right to enter, 
bearing with him the power to abolish its existing function and 
substitute another. There would be no man or woman of power 
whom he would not see humiliated, even to the point of impris 
onment and death. The first should be last, and the last should 
be first, and many would be called and few would be chosen, and 
he would be among those that were chosen. He left the damp 
and the fog which would soon close in on London, and the 
obscurity which had closed in on him ever since he was born, 
and he went out to the perfect autumn of Germany and the 
promise of power. Very soon he was established in a home in the 
Kastanien Allee Chestnut Avenue in that most delightful sub 
urb of Berlin, Charlottenburg, where there are broad streets of 
wide windowed flats and little avenues of villas in flower 


gardens. On September 18, 1939, exactly fifteen days after the 
outbreak of war, he joined the German radio as an announcer of 
the news on the English service and had very soon become a 
reader of the news. 

His voice was very soon recognized by the doctor and his wife 
in South Kensington, who had already begun to wonder about 
their former tenants. When an officer of the National Fire Serv 
ice had come to examine their attics for combustibility they had 
found an inexplicable addition to their home. In a cistern loft, 
accessible only from the fiat the Joyces had occupied, a bed had 
been put up and was there with its bedding. There was plenty of 
room to put up a bed in the ordinary rooms of the flat; the loft 
could be entered only by a very small trapdoor, and it must have 
been very difficult to get the bed up through it; there was almost 
no space to spare round the bed. It must have been put up there 
during William Joyce s tenancy, for somebody who had to be 
sheltered without the knowledge of the doctor and his wife. We 
shall never know who this was. Now William Joyce had lost a 
friendship which he had found it hard to win, and perhaps it 
occurred to him already in Germany that he might have made a 
bad bargain. He had not been given a warm welcome by his 
new friends the Nazis. They showed no consciousness of his 
experience as an agitator, and they underrated his remarkable 
powers as a broadcaster and gave him nothing to do but read 
news bulletins. But he was used to being thought little of by 
people when he first met them. That the news he was broad 
casting was often fatuously untrue, and rendered all German 
propaganda suspect by its untruth, was probably unknown to 
him. When he told England that in September or October 
1939 long before any bombs had fallen on the British mainland 
Dover and Folkestone had been destroyed, he may well have 
believed it. It is worth while noting that this period of Joyce s 
service to the Nazis was given an interest in England which it 
lacked for him. The local details by which Joyce was supposed to 
show that he had a direct channel of communication with Eng 
land, such as allusions to stopped town-hall clocks and road 
repairs, are not in fact found in the records of his broadcasts. 
They were invented as part of a whispering campaign designed 
to weaken public confidence, which was carried on by Fascists, 
some of whom, if not all, belonged to organizations other than 


Joyce s British National Socialist League. Ignorant of the inaccu 
racy of his broadcasts, and the use that was being made of them, 
Joyce may have been bored with his work; but he cannot have 
felt such a passive emotion about the conditions in which he 

He must very soon have looked round the office of the English 
section of the Rundfunk in panic. It is said that the Duke of 
Wellington, on seeing some troops for the first time, exclaimed, 
"I don t know if these fellows frighten the enemy, but, by God, 
they frighten me!" So might William Joyce have exclaimed 
when he first saw the colleagues who had been artlessly assem 
bled by Dr. Goebbels propaganda machine. The most sympa 
thetic was an elderly lady called Miss Margaret Frances Botham- 
ley, who before the war had helped to found a body called the 
Imperial Fascist League and run it from her flat in the Cromwell 
Road. She was in a state of extreme confusion. She had brought 
with her to Germany photographs of the King and Queen and 
the Princesses, with which she ornamented her flat; and she 
believed that in her youth she had made a secret marriage with a 
German music-master named Adolf, whom she appeared to iden 
tify with Hitler. During the first months of the war Joyce was 
forced to recruit a member of Miss Bothamley s organization 
who had been spending the summer in Germany: a colonel s 
daughter who belonged to one of the most famous literary fami 
lies in England on her father s side and was related to a most 
exalted peer on her mother s side, but who had, through a series 
of unhappy accidents, found herself in her late forties lost in less 
distinguished worlds. She began by being an enthusiastic pro- 
Nazi, but, being fundamentally not without honesty and decency, 
turned against the regime and annoyed Joyce by sitting about in 
the office and doing knitting with an air of silent criticism. 

There was also Mr. Leonard Black, who must have been a 
disappointing colleague for William Joyce. He was under thirty, 
and he had a long history behind him of inextricably confused 
idealistic effort and paid political adventure. He had at one time 
been a member of the BUF, but had left it and had later been a 
paid organizer in the service of the Conservative Party, while at 
the same time which was odd carrying on pacifist agitation. 
Then he went abroad and taught English at various branches of 
the Berlitz School of Languages, and was so doing in September 


1939. It was his story later that the day before war was declared 
he went down to the station and tried to buy a ticket to England 
and found they would not sell him one for German money, and, 
as he had no foreign currency, went home. Few of us do not 
know the mechanism employed. He had wanted to stay in Ger 
many. He said, "I ought to go and see about that today. But 
tomorrow will do just as well. I have a lot to do now. I will go 
tomorrow." He did that until one day when somehow it became 
possible to put aside all engagements and take the necessary 
steps; and on that day it happened that those necessary steps 
could no longer be taken. Then he returned home, saying, 
"Well, I have done all I could. Nobody could have told that 
today it would be too late. It is not my fault." And at the back 
of his mind a voice must have said with cold cunning, "Yes, I 
will be able to tell them that, if things go wrong and I am called 
to account," while another voice said, "Look, you Nazis, I have 
stayed with you." Most of us except the people who are in fact 
intolerable nuisances by reason of their incapacity for comprom 
ise have at some time or other behaved according to this for 
mula. William Joyce, having just abandoned this formula at the 
great crisis of his life, was unlikely to feel sympathy with Leo 
nard Black or other recruits of his type. 

He owed the presence of Black in his office to the activities of 
a certain Heir Albrecht, whose business it was to see what 
Englishmen stranded in Germany would do for their hosts. He 
sent for Mr. Black and a friend of his called Mr. Smith and 
questioned them as to their readiness for cooperation. Mr. Black 
went home and wrote Herr Albrecht a typically ambiguous 
letter. "Dear Herr Albrecht," he wrote, "I write to make it 
perfectly clear that I have not offered to work for the Gestapo. I 
would never think of doing that, and I absolutely refuse to sell 
my country. There is a certain price I will not pay. The most I 
would do is radio propaganda." And he ended with a postscript 
which bears a significance beyond his intention. "Mr. Smith," 
he wrote, "will not even do radio propaganda." Mr. Smith, 
using that term in its generic sense, did not even do radio 
propaganda. Only a small proportion of the civilian internees or 
prisoners of war lost their loyalty; and of those that did, many 
found themselves too noble to be the instruments of their own 
ignobility and went back to their camps, where some of them 


were punished till they died, and all suffered grave torment. 
They were not many, the men who could split their minds in 
two and pretend that while they were serving Germany they 
were making contact with anti-Nazi elements and sabotaging 
Nazi activity, which was the defence that nearly all of them kept 
at the back of their minds and produced at their trials. All such 
men hated William Joyce, who did not split his mind, who 
desired to make England Fascist and, to procure that end, was 
ready to help Germany to conquer England, and never denied 
that desire or that readiness, either during the war or after it. 

He sat among the hatred of these poor silly creatures and 
knew a more humiliating hatred from some others who worked 
in his office. A certain number of Germans had been drafted into 
the office, men who had a special knowledge of the English 
language and English life. As such men had usually acquired 
their knowledge through having English relatives or having been 
educated in England, many were anti-Nazi. They despised Joyce 
as a traitor to his own country and an enemy to their own 
country, the true Germany; and they were gentlemen and cruelly 
knew he was not a gentleman. But there was another painful 
element in the office, which must have cut William Joyce far 
deeper. The Nazis were prone, in all sorts of circumstances, to 
make a peculiar error. When one of their enemies became their 
friend, they went on treating him as an enemy. However ready 
he might be to serve their interests, however much they might 
need his help, they continued to savage him. The great historic 
example of this curious trick is their treatment of the Russian 
soldiers and civilians who, by tens of thousands, gladly surren 
dered to them as they invaded Russian territory in 1941 and 
1942. These people, who might have been their most valuable 
aids then and forever after, they packed into cattle trucks and 
sent off to camps where they were starved and tortured. Later 
they were fetched out and invited to fight alongside the 
Germans, but by that time their enthusiasm was not what it had 
been, and the treatment they received in training and at the 
front failed to revive it. The Germans acted on the same per 
verse principle towards the British broadcasters, who were all 
favourably disposed towards them to start with, and, having 
burned their boats, had every reason to remain firm in the faith. 
But at the head of the British section, which they had as if in 


mockery called the Concordia Bureau, they placed a certain 
official who was detested by his staff, English and German. 

Two Germans were to tell a British court what this man had 
been, in evidence that was disinterested and, indeed, unaware of 
its own portent. When Mr. Black was tried at the Old Bailey 
early in 1946, the prosecution called as a witness one of the 
German technicians who had recorded his talks. He was an SS 
man, a lank and hollow-cheeked young man, who might have 
been carved in wood in the thirteenth century, and he spoke a 
peculiar wooden German which might come to be natural in a 
man who had been drilled all his youth in tyranny and then 
marched along a straight road for many years in the direction of 
defeat. He was called Krumpiegel; surely one might as well be 
called Rumpelstiltskin. As he gave evidence, there stood beside 
him the interpreter who was then one of the chief glories of the 
Old Bailey, that slender and distinguished old gentleman of 
Spanish Jewish descent, Mr. Salzedo. He was very courteous to 
the defeated barbarian but plainly savoured a certain satisfaction 
as, in his silvery voice, he translated the comic expressions used 
by barbarity. "Did Black look happy when he was at the Concor 
dia Bureau?" asked the defending counsel. Mr. Salzedo trans 
lated: "He says that he does not consider happy (glucklich) an 
appropriate word to use in connection with Black s personality, 
but for the greater part of the war he could fairly be described as 
contented (zufriederi)" The defending counsel continued: 
"But did Black seem to be contented in his relations with the 
head of the bureau?" Krumpiegel looked more wooden than 
ever; he folded his arms behind him, said some words, and 
looked blank as an ill-treated child that has told the truth about 
its tormentors and does not believe that it will not be punished 
for it, whatever the grown-ups say. Mr. Salzedo translated: "He 
says the chiefs relations with his employees were never a source 
of gratification." There came later to give evidence for Mr. 
Black one of the anti-Nazi Germans who had worked in the 
Concordia Bureau, a sad being wearing an air of desolation more 
usually presented by places than by persons, a human Golgotha. 
A question made allusion to this same chief. The anti-Nazi 
paused before answering. In accomplished, springless, exhausted, 
pedantic English, he said, "He was . . . the . . . prototype . . . 


of the Nazis." The Concordia Bureau had been battered by huge 
irrational waves, tides obeying the moon of Hell. Joyce must have 
been devoured by rage to find himself subordinate. But there he 
had to sit, at this command, with his idiot compatriots around 
him. There was one last irony in his situation, of which, fortu 
nately, he was unaware. Among the English who had come to 
Germany to broadcast for the Nazis, some were Communist 
agents. The party thought it wise to have eyes and ears here also. 
One of these at least denounced several of the genuine British 
Fascists to the German authorities as spies. But in the first 
years of the war, no doubt these poor wretches refused to worry 
about what were obviously only temporary conditions. When 
there were gathered in as Nazi harvest first Norway, then Den 
mark, then the Low Countries, then France, there was nothing on 
earth to prevent the fall of England; and all the poor misfits in 
the Concordia Bureau must have had their heads stuffed with in- 
fantilist dreams. In dreams a fast car, long as a bus, would be sent 
down to Dulwich to pick up the family and bring them to Joyce s 
office; which would have been in Buckingham Palace, or in the 
War Office, or Downing Street. . . . 

It would, in fact, have been in none of these places. Inexorably 
the law that to him that hath it shall be given would have come 
into operation again; there would certainly have come forward 
as quislings after the first few days of the German occupation 
this popular historian and that expert in foreign affairs, this civil 
servant and that leading Communist, and these would have been 
given precedence over William Joyce, who would have found 
himself fulfilling just the same subordinate role in the new 
dispensation as in the old. But that he would not have suspected. 
He must have imagined himself saying to his father and mother, 
smiling, "Well, this is my room. Do you like it? And the next 
one is mine too, that s where my three secretaries work." He 
would have talked his young brothers and his sister into taking 
good jobs and would have found admiring Angus MacNab a 
post that would keep him close to him. In the evening his wife 
would have worn fine new dresses, like the wives of Goring and 
Goebbels, in a home he had no doubt long since chosen as he 
passed it in his little car, on the way back from a meeting. 
Joyce s unbeloved aide, Mr. Black, had friends at Brighton, and 


in his daydreams would have extended his protection to them, 
for he was generous. They were afterwards to put up bail for 
him at the London police court. 

Miss Bothamley, no doubt, would have explained the 
beneficent intentions of the invaders to Queen Elizabeth and the 
Princesses; and the colonel s daughter, who was a kindly crea 
ture, would have looked after the interests of her former hus 
bands. It must have been a sickening blow to the inhabitants of 
the Concordia Bureau when weeks and months passed, and the 
Nazis still did not invade Britain. Then came the air raids, and 
the apotheosis of William Joyce. He was a revolutionary, which 
is to say that he hated order and loved it. For the revolutionary 
wants to overthrow the order which exists because he believes 
that he can substitute for it another which might be superior. 
This may be an absence of order which, by a mystical logic, he 
has proved more orderly than the presence of order. Or it may 
be an order which, if he be the suicidal type, he subconsciously 
knows will be inefficient and will thus restore nothingness to a 
universe so obstinately created, so stuffed with things. But what 
ever the revolutionary dreams of in the sense of reconstruction, 
his will is directed towards the destruction of a system which 
cannot be destroyed. It has come into existence as a result of the 
interaction of innumerable forces, some invested in man, some 
diffused through earth and air and fire and water. Not in the 
short space of even the most massive revolution will the nature 
of man or of earth and air and fire and water be substantially 
modified. So when they set to work on a new system it is inevitably 
very like the old. In revolution there is first destruction of what 
has been created, followed by its re-creation, on less favourable 
terms, owing to shock and waste. The appetite for death that is 
in us all is immensely gratified, and that is all. 

The French Revolution has given pleasure to all subsequent 
generations, because it was an outstanding event which after 
wards proved never to have happened. A number of revolutionar 
ies overturned the monarchy of France because of its tyranny and 
its financial and economic inefficiency, in order that they might 
substitute a republic which should give its people liberty, make 
them equal, and join them in fraternity. When the din settled, 
France was ruled by a self-crowned emperor who wielded power 
more absolute than any French king had ever been given by the 


priests who crowned him; and the society which reconstituted 
itself after his fall conferred on its people increases of liberty and 
equality and fraternity no greater than were won by other na 
tions untouched by revolution. The Russian Revolution, which 
is plainly going to be a source of still greater satisfaction, 
achieved a more perfect balance; for, with an enormously greater 
expenditure of blood than France ever saw, it slowly reconsti 
tuted the Tsardom it destroyed, identical in spirit, allowing for 
the passage of time, and reinforced in matter. The scientific 
genius of Peter the Great even rises again from his tomb for the 
delectation of Sir Charles Snow. William Joyce was among those 
who set their hands to the Nazi Revolution, which with an 
infinitely greater expenditure of blood than either France or 
Russia had seen was to tear down Europe, which was then 
twopence coloured, in order that it should be built up again, 
penny plain. 

Now that the RAF was let loose on Germany the Berlin night 
above Joyce s head was sprayed with such gold and silver and 
precious stones as he had seen when he stood with his young wife 
at the windows of his flat near the Crystal Palace, watching the 
firework displays. An American correspondent who broadcast 
from Berlin up to the time of Pearl Harbor has described how 
one night he could not leave the Rundfunk building because of 
the bombs, and took shelter in the cellar in the company of 
Joyce and his wife, and how Joyce snarled out in his queer voice 
a stream of amusing and inventive curses on the raiders. With 
gusto he sneered at the English over the radio, telling them how 
their planes were wasting their bombs on the sham cities, 
Doppelganger Berlins and Hamburgs and Essens laid out on 
fields with lights, where mock fires were started to make believe 
they had hit their targets, and rolling on his tongue the "gross 
registered tons" of the English shipping which were being sunk 
by Nazi submarines. 

Very early in this new air war a bomb fell on Michael Joyce s 
house in Allison Grove. Nothing remained of it except a hole in 
the ground beside the remains of a neighbour s basement. At the 
time of his son s trial long grasses, and lilacs and syringas grown 
wild-branched for lack of pruning, gave the place a certain 
elegiac beauty. The family lost all their possessions except a 
trunkful of old papers and a few pieces of furniture, and they 


went to live at a rest centre until they were found another house. 
To strangers they seemed arrogant and unmoved by the shame of 
being kin to Joyce, who by now had been identified by many 
people, particularly in this district, as the news reader on the 
German service known all over England as "Lord Haw-Haw." 
But when a worker in the centre came to Mr. and Mrs. Joyce 
and told them that she was a friend of the doctor and his wife 
who had been Joyce s landlords in South Kensington, and that 
she herself had met Joyce, the old man and his wife broke down. 
William had always been the difficult one of the family, they 
said, but they had never thought he would be led away into 
doing anything so terrible as this, for he had always been a good 
boy at heart. It was perhaps his trouble, they pleaded, that he 
was too brilliant. They were ultimately found a house, a charac 
terless little modern villa in an uninteresting part of Dulwich, 
which must have been too small to hold a family of such num 
bers and such strong individualities. It is not easy to understand 
why Michael Francis Joyce, who was by then over seventy, and 
his wife, who was growing very frail, did not go to the country 
under the evacuation scheme. But there was no reason why Lear 
should have wandered on the stormy heath instead of taking 
shelter from the storm. Men sometimes feel that if a certain 
hammer falls it is their part to act as anvil. Michael Francis 
Joyce lived among the amazement of the news and the bombs 
until he died five months later, on February 19, 1941. 

It is not known whether Joyce heard of the destruction of his 
family s home and the death of his father at the time of these 
events; but it is not impossible that he did, however loyally his 
relatives kept their obligation not to communicate with him, for 
the Joyces had connections and friends in both Eire and the 
United States. Certainly he showed signs of stress, notably in his 
relations with his wife. That he and his wife loved each other 
deeply cannot be doubted, but as the war went on his manner 
towards her became noticeably unkind, and their marriage 
seemed for a time to be at an end. His position in the Rundfunk 
would have been by itself enough to drive a man of his tem 
perament to distraction. He was learning that traitors are in the 
same unhappy state as prostitutes: their paymasters think they 
have a right to employ them, but hate and despise them for 
being so employed. Moreover, his work itself was growing more 


degraded in kind. From the beginning he had been engaged in 
the unhandsome business of recruiting announcers and speakers 
in the camps of British civilian internees; but a gloss could be 
put on its unhandsomeness. Some of the internees were British 
only from a legal standpoint, such as the people who had been 
brought up in Germany since childhood or who were the chil 
dren of mixed marriages,* and of these a number were sincerely 
glad to have an opportunity to perform any service asked of 
them by what they considered as their fatherland. But as the war 
went on William Joyce was obliged to do more and more of his 
recruiting among prisoners of war, first drawn from the Mercan 
tile Marine, then from the regular services, the Army, the Navy, 
and the Air Force. In only a very few cases could Joyce have the 
slightest reason to suppose that the men he was approaching 
would have any ideological bias towards fascism. What he was 
doing was to seek out men who as prisoners of war were undergo 
ing an extreme physical and mental ordeal, and to bribe them by 
promises of freedom and food and drink and the society of 
women into sacrificing their honour which was no empty 
phrase in this connection. When they went to the microphone 
with William Joyce, they broke their oath of allegiance to the 
head of their state and cut themselves off from their comrades for 
reasons that were apparent and contemptible, and they com 
mitted in little such an act of cruelty to their kin as Joyce had 
committed to his, on his own grand scale. They transferred their 
loyalty to the people who were dropping bombs on their parents 
and wives and children. It was an ugly business, and it grew 
uglier in the handling. 

At first few prisoners yielded to temptation. The British au 
thorities had foreseen the situation and had made provision for 
it. In theory, all soldiers, sailors, and airmen were warned before 
they left England that the Germans would ask them to 
broadcast, pointing out that they could thus reassure their fami 
lies regarding their safety, and they were ordered to refuse in all 
circumstances. But even though this theory often broke down, 
the British officers who were in charge of prisoner-of-war camps 
under the German staff constantly warned all ranks of the at 
tempts that would be made to seduce them, and kept an eye on 
those who seemed likely to succumb to seduction. 

Moreover, certain men, mostly noncommissioned officers, were 


given training before they went abroad which prepared them for 
the ordeal of fooling the Germans and serving as British agents. 
Few of these Pimpernels came into action at once; so the Ger 
mans could count on getting only an odd prisoner or two who, 
dazed by shock or by natural imbecility, consented to be inter 
viewed before the microphone regarding the circumstances of his 
capture. The Germans did not take serious steps to improve this 
position till 1942, and the big drive they made did not show its 
results until 1943 and 1944. There were never many traitors, but 
there were some, and this was inevitable, because the number of 
prisoners of war was so large that it was bound to include a few 
representatives of the Fascist minority in Great Britain, and 
rather more than a few rogues and madmen. Moreover, some 
sane men were losing their balance under the pressure of the 
conditions peculiar to the life of a prisoner of war, the worst of 
which is the uncertainty concerning the duration of his impris 

The most interesting example of the sincere Fascist traitor was 
a pilot officer in the RAF, a man of forty who joined the SS and 
wrote broadcasting scripts for Joyce. He uttered a revealing 
remark when a court martial sentenced him to ten years impris 
onment for an extreme act of treason which might well have cost 
him his life. He said indignantly to his lawyer, "This just shows 
how rotten this democratic country is. The Germans would have 
had the honesty to shoot me." The Nazis made curiously little 
use of this honest and lettered fanatic or any of his kind. They 
seemed more at ease with the rogues and the madmen and the 
sane men off their balance, whom they took great trouble to 
procure. They established holiday camps, at which the condi 
tions were comfortable and even, to the eyes of many privates 
and ratings, luxurious; and the German welfare officers in the 
ordinary prisoner-of-war camp approached men whom they had 
marked down as likely prospects and told them that, as they had 
of late been working especially hard or seemed to be in poor 
health, it had been decided they should go for a month to one of 
these special camps. It would very often be true that these men 
were overworked and ill, and therefore the invitation seemed to 
them a welcome sign of humanity in their captors, and when 
their own officers told them not to accept it, the advice seemed a 
sign of their inhumanity. Most of the men thus tempted kept 


their heads, but some did not. These were exposed during their 
sojourn in the holiday camp to gentle propaganda, and at the 
end of the month were returned to the normal discomfort of 
their original camp. After they had had a few days in which to 
brood on the change, Joyce or one of his agents paid them a visit 
and suggested that a permanent return to comfort might be 
arranged if only they would read some scripts before the micro 
phone. It would be explained that these broadcasts would be 
extremely pro-British and would simply aim at the affirmation of 
German good will towards Great Britain, and this was often 
true, for this was the early radio policy of Dr. Goebbels. 

All these proceedings were quite uneconomic. The money was 
laid out to little purpose, and there we have come on an early 
instalment in a serial story which has become progressively more 
dismal. Expenditure on weapons may at least bear indirect fruit 
in the form of advances in scientific knowledge, but every year 
more and more money is spent by the great powers in maintain 
ing an army of traitors and spies, many of whom serve imper 
fectly the purpose for which they were hired and can make no 
contribution to any higher purpose. How this operated in the 
Second World War on the German side can be judged from the 
tale of Mr. Walter Putney, the son of a Barking widow, a junior 
engineer on HMS Vandyke, who was captured at Narvik. He was 
an eccentric creature with some real but superficial ability, but 
he cannot have done much for the Nazi cause. Putney consented 
to go to the famous British prison camp at Colditz to spy on the 
occupants, but there he broke down and gave way to a Do- 
stoevskian weakness for confessional collapses and told all to a 
senior British officer. It was typical. Prison camps are not funny 
places, but poor Putney made them so. It is a complicated story, 
and how little use and how much bother he can have been to the 
Germans can be judged from what happened to him after the 
peace. There then began for him the nightmare that all the 
traitors knew at that time: they were treated like unloved chil 
dren whose parents are doing a moonlight flitting, stuffed into a 
van and told to hold their noise or else. The SS sent him with a 
mixed bag of traitors down to Italy, and there they were moved 
about from town to town until he and a Dutch broadcaster stole 
a motorcycle and rode towards the German front lines, where 
they managed to be captured by Italian partisans, who, thinking 


they were ordinary prisoners of war, handed them over to the 
American Army. It repatriated Putney to London, where he gave 
an immensely long statement to Scotland Yard, which had had 
only incomplete reports on him and decided it could not be 
bothered about him, as it had so much more important business 
on its hands. His life and liberty were handed back to him on a 

He then proceeded to get himself, all over again, into terrible 
trouble. What happened illustrates a curious strain of silliness 
present in nearly all traitors. He fell in love with a young typist; 
and his emotion had the curious effect of making him write a 
complete account of what he had done in Germany. This was 
many thousands of words long and was almost the same, sentence 
by sentence, as the statement he had given to the police weeks 
before. He put this in an envelope and gave it to the typist, 
telling her she was to send this to a solicitor if he should be 
arrested, a possibility he had not been able to dismiss. He then 
had the extreme imprudence to fall out of love with her before 
recovering the envelope. She opened it and read its contents, 
which were a complete surprise to her. From motives not so 
much of greed as of anger, she told him she would take the letter 
to the police if he did not give her a sum of money far too large 
for him to raise. This threat need not have meant anything to 
Putney, as the document was a replica of the statement he had 
already made to the police. However, it inspired him to go to the 
nearest police station and, in a dramatic monologue delivered 
with great force and brilliance, appeal to the law to protect him 
against this attempt at blackmail. 

The dazed constabulary appealed for guidance to Scotland 
Yard, which had, by an unhappy coincidence, just received much 
fuller reports of what Putney had been doing in Germany; and he 
was arrested and charged with high treason, because he was 
suspected of betrayal of the secrets of his fellow prisoners at 
Colditz, though on that charge he was acquitted. But on the 
other charges, which related to his broadcasting and the prepara 
tion of leaflets for the SS, he was found guilty and sentenced to 
death. He was returned to Wandsworth Jail, where William 
Joyce was awaiting execution, and was put in another con 
demned cell, but hardly noticed it, being rapt in a new interest. 


The police like no crime less than blackmail, which is indeed an 
icy sin, far farther from love than murder. As soon as they had 
Putney s case well under way they prosecuted the typist for de 
manding money from him with threats, and immediately Putney 
became inflamed with a desire to give evidence in her favour. 
The girl, however, pleaded guilty and was bound over. It is 
probable that disappointment over this rejection clouded 
Putney s relief when, after his appeal had been rejected, he was 

It is to be noted, as characteristic of the problems of security 
and espionage and treachery, that this eccentric had occupied the 
time and energies of a large number of Germans. It had taken a 
welfare officer and an official called a Gruppenfiihrer and Wil 
liam Joyce to recruit him. Once he was incorporated into a 
system he was dealt with by a small army of men who had 
university degrees or service rank Dr. Springben, Dr. Kurt Eg- 
gers, Dr. Menzel, Dr. Ziegfeld, Dr. Adams, Dr. Hafferkorn, Dr. 
Wansche, Dr. Hempel. They lavished interviews and correspond 
ence and telephone calls on him, and at least two SS agents (in 
cluding one bearing the delightful name of Herr Wockenfuss Mr. 
Distaff-foot) seem to have followed him about for long periods. 
It is hard to avoid suspecting that the organization of British 
treachery had become a racket, and that a number of Germans 
were exploiting it to find themselves easy and remunerative jobs 
at a safe distance from the front; and that their success was not 
paid for in efficiency. In spite of all this wealth of personnel, 
German security was not good. Labour in Berlin being short, 
four British prisoners of war were sent to do the cleaning in a 
villa used by the German Foreign Office; and all four spent some 
time sitting on the floor and reading the contents of the wastepa- 
per baskets, being highly trained intelligence agents, who had, 
what was more, the means of communicating their discoveries 
direct to England. 

All this must have disgusted William Joyce, with his pride in 
his own competence. It is possible that he may have been re 
volted morally. He does not seem to have been a sneak, and he 
cannot have liked a stratagem employed by the Germans to 
overcome the reluctance of prisoners to turn traitor, which is 
worth noting because, like the uneconomic nature of treachery 


from the employer s point of view, it has endured until the 
present day. There were British subjects who said that they 
might have considered broadcasting but were restrained by the 
fear of what would happen to them if the British won the war; 
and they were told that this was no real obstacle. "You can 
always say that you thought you would have a better chance to 
escape once you were out of the camp and that you meant to 
send messages home over the air in code, or put sugar into the 
petrol tanks of vehicles, and were in general carrying on a 
private war against the Nazis. Nobody will be able to say you did 

The traitors accepted this idea, which is proof that excessive 
egotism is an ingredient in treachery. It never occurred to any of 
them that if this advice was proffered to him it would be 
proffered to a number of other people. Hence, at court martial 
after court martial, soldiers and airmen turned up with defences 
which were often word for word the same, a coincidence which 
could not but be remarked. This ingenuous practice has been 
carried on from the time when traitors were Nazi to the new age 
of the Communist traitor, and still persists. The Germans and 
the Russians who have briefed the traitors in their employment 
must have known that the prescription is unlikely to work, 
but they do not care. They did not care even then, when they 
overcame Mr. Putney s timidity by helping him to find an alibi 
in advance. He carried on a prolix and animated correspondence 
with his family in London, suggesting in veiled terms, by mis 
spellings and snatches of verse, that he was incorporating in his 
broadcasts information to the Royal Air Force about the weather 
over Germany and the probability of German raids over Eng 
land. If he ended with "Good night," there would be no raid, 
but if he said, "Good, good night," the German bombers would 
be over. His family, highly respectable and well-meaning people, 
gave them to a Red Cross official, who forwarded them to the 
proper quarters. Putney stuck to his story to the very end, and 
only when he was under cross-examination in the Old Bailey did 
he realize that the British authorities knew that his broadcasts 
were not live but recorded, and that the recordings were not 
always used the same day that they were made. In consequence 
his warnings must always have been valueless, and that he must 


have known; and the Germans must have known that the British 
authorities would know that Putney knew this. The lot of traitors 
is very hard indeed. 

The Concordia Bureau was getting shabbier and shabbier; it 
was providing broadcasters for what was known as the New 
British Broadcasting Station, which pretended to its listeners 
that it was operating on British soil One broadcaster, with a 
duplicity which would never have been suspected in one who 
privately was full of idealist pretensions, frequently tried to 
convince British listeners by assuming a Cockney accent and the 
sort of wheeze affected by impersonators of Dickens characters 
in order to breathe: "You ll probably ear us tomorrer night at 
the same hour, but it s getting ard, the police are always on our 
eels nowadays." Another speaker called himself Father Dono 
van, but was obviously not a priest, since his chorus-boy falsetto 
would have led to his rejection by the broadest-minded seminary, 
and in fact he was a seaman in his late twenties. It is unfortu 
nately not open to us British to laugh at this ridiculous enter 
prise, since the Allies engaged in similar follies. There was 
"clean" broadcasting, which told the truth, and "dirty" broad 
casting, which took the proposition that the end justified the 
means and bolted with it. The bolting went so far that there 
were sent over the air in the Allies name such nasty fantasies as 
broadcasts purporting to come from microphones secretly in 
stalled in the bedroom of an enemy leader who was raping a girl. 
These broadcasts are not only objectionable in principle, but 
also injurious to the morale of the people whose officials sent 
them out. Either the people detect the fraud and learn to dis 
trust their own government, or they do not detect the fraud and 
come to believe such falsities as the existence of sympathetic and 
constructive resistance movements in the country they are 
fighting, when in fact these do not exist 

William Joyce was labouring under the strain of ugly impos 
ture, and with idiot companionship. A fair sample was an eccen 
tric and passionate Salvation Army officer who, knowing either 
less or more about Eva Braun than we do, believed that the 
personal purity of Hitler was about to redeem the sinful world. 
He also lost some of his better comrades. He had not liked the 
colonel s daughter on his staff. But after sitting about the Concor- 


dia Bureau for years knitting in a sullen manner, she made her 
departure in a way which must have compelled his respect. She 
gathered her tattered integrity about her, sold all she could lay 
her hands on to pay back to the Germans every mark they had 
ever paid her, and was swept off into a concentration camp, from 
which she was to emerge, at the end of the war, into twelve 
months of prison and such subsequent exclusion from the society 
of her kind, such bleakness and hopelessness, that one may count 
her as having paid her bill and more. She was the victim of 
denunciation by a fellow traitor. The organization was ravaged 
by contending forces. 

The troubles of the Concordia Bureau were not merely inter 
nal. Though a small staff worked for the German Foreign Office, 
the Concordia Bureau was a part of Goebbels Propaganda 
Office, which was the hated rival of the German Foreign Office. 
The primary cause of the rivalry between these ministries was 
the fact that the Propaganda Office was a Nazi creation and the 
German Foreign Office was full of Junker stuff whose roots had 
not been torn up during the Weimar Republic because they had 
been so deeply planted in the soil of Germany under the Hohen- 
zollerns. The rivalry had deteriorated, as all else in German life, 
and had become something very like a struggle between two 
gangs to get the bigger share of loot in a "protected" area. 
Perhaps because of simple departmental jealousy, and perhaps 
because of the large number of jobs connected with the Concor 
dia Bureau, the Foreign Office took more and more interest in 
the bureau as the war went on. The office must have looked like 
any manifestation of the civil service. Actually insane cantrips 
were taking place. The German official described as "the pro 
totype of the Nazis," was now a prey to ungovernable rages and 
once had it in his mind to send the inoffensive Mr. Black to a 
concentration camp, for what reason no one could ever discover. 
The people who intervened and saved his life were members of 
the German Foreign Office staff belonging to the group concerned 
in the attempt on Hitler s life in 1944. They were apparently 
anxious to take control of the Concordia Bureau out of Goebbels 
hands. There were political cross-currents here which resulted 
, in the arrival of a visitor to Berlin whose presence must have 
seemed to William Joyce a gross personal slight. 


JOHN AMERY, who at the time of his trial had 
lived thirty-three years and had been in trouble for most of 
them, was the son of a gifted Englishman who had rendered 
liberal service to his country, and his wife, who was loved by 
many for her kindness. 

John Amery was not insane, he was not evil, but his character 
was like an automobile that will not hold the road. As a child, 
he would be taken by his parents to a hotel at some holiday 
resort, and would be discovered in a corner of the gardens or in 
the lounge, after dinner, amusing the guests with some mimicry 
or musical fooling. But the entertaining monologue would be 
come a dribble of nonsense, the dance would go on too long, and 
there would break in a hint of frenzy. The child would turn 
from a pet to a pest, and sooner or later there would be trouble 
of an odd, unpredictable kind, arising out of behaviour which 
was not cruel or cowardly but slapped the normal process in the 
face. What is one to do with a boy of fifteen who from school 
issues prospectuses for a film-producing company and collects 
money from investors, not with the intention of embezzling it, 
but inevitably with that effect? What is one to do with him when 
he is so pitifully delicate that it is not possible to subject him to 
the discipline of work? One can but say hopefully that he will 
not always be fifteen. This is, however, not necessarily true. 
There are some who are always fifteen. When he came to Berlin 
he was, as the years went, about thirty. He had been convicted 
seventy-four times for automobile offences, which included some 
quite unforeseen embroideries on the commonplace process of 
travelling from one point to another with the aid of an internal 
combustion engine. Marriage he had complicated as effectively as 
transport; credit to him was what orchestral tone is to a conduc 
tor, and his business enterprises were unimaginable. He once 
stranded an entire motion-picture outfit in Africa in circum 
stances which struck even the motion-picture industry as extraor- 


dinary. When he was twenty-four his loyal but exhausted family 
let him become bankrupt. He failed for 5,000, and his assets 
were nil. He went abroad on a generous allowance, so generous 
that it meant some sacrifice for his parents. 

This was in 1936, when the Spanish Civil War offered a 
theatre for both left-wing and right-wing gallants. John Amery 
was a not unsuccessful volunteer on Franco s side. He had a 
fairly continuous career serving as a gun-runner and as liaison 
officer with the French Cagoulards. When the war broke out he 
remained on the Continent, still travelling between Paris and 
Madrid, and it is believed that the traffic which he carried on 
then took a reverse direction, and that his Cagoulard friends 
now received alms and money from certain Spanish elements to 
aid them in their opposition to the war against Hitler. It is useless 
to conceive of Amery as either a mercenary trafficker or a dogmatic 
Fascist. He was in France when it fell and fled to the south; but the 
Vichy government treated him as an unwelcome guest. It was 
trying to preserve its credit with the French people by dissociating 
itself from the frankly pro-German Cagoulards, and, being ir 
ritated on its prudish side by his revelry, treated him as an un 
welcome guest. Its distaste for him increased, and at the end of 
1941 it put him in prison for eighteen days and released him on 
condition he live in the mountainous district round Grenoble. 
He was at the time, so those that saw him say, very addled, very 
bored with the provincial life to which he was thus restricted, and 
in need of money. It is not surprising, therefore, that he offered 
his services to the Italians, who never answered his letter, and then 
to the Finns then engaged in their anti-Soviet war who de 
clined them. 

But the local German armistice chief, Graf Ceschi, took him 
under his protection. Amery said that this association was not of 
his seeking, that the overtures came from the Graf, and in view 
of what happened this is not incredible. In the autumn of 1942 a 
German officer took him and a French woman who was perhaps 
his wife to Berlin. There they were received by a Dr. Hesse, who 
belonged neither to the German Foreign Office nor to the Propa 
ganda Office but to Hitler s personal staff. Thereafter, for a 
period of several months, John Amery was the most petted and 
best advertised English propagandist that had ever been put on 
the German radio. Immense trouble was taken to draw the 


world s attention to his broadcasts, which were repeated several 
times in an evening on one particular night in the week. He was 
given luxurious hotel accommodation, with a heavy expense 
account. He was sent all over Europe to address internment 
camps and give interviews to the local press, and he was photo 
graphed and filmed as if he were a Hollywood star. 

In many ways Amery must have got Joyce on the raw. Amery 
was an Englishman, and the conflict between England and Ire 
land had never quite resolved itself in Joyce s mind. He adored 
the English, he had fought for them as a boy, or had at least 
performed some services which he thought of as fighting for 
them, and he genuinely believed that as a Fascist he was labour 
ing to confer benefits on England. All the same, it was to Eng 
land that he had come as a boy and had been sniggered at as a 
queer little bog-trotter with a brogue. It was England which had 
been ungrateful to his father and refused to compensate him for 
the loss of his property in Ireland. It was in England that he had 
been denied the power and position which he felt to be his right 
by virtue of his intellect. Ancient hatreds, however much they 
may be adulterated, often revert under stress to their first purity. 
When William Joyce cursed the raiders who were bombing 
Berlin, he cursed them as an Irishman cursing the English. Now 
here an Englishman had come, late in the day, and was put 
ahead of those who had been drudging in exile for years. 

Moreover, Amery was a gentleman. He had been born on the 
imperial side of the River Thames, heir to every advantage 
which William Joyce had craved, and he had thrown all of them 
away. Joyce had a right to despise Amery morally; for though he 
liked a glass of whisky as much as the next man, he kept himself 
hard as nails for his work, and paid his debts. As for his intellec 
tual superiority to Amery, that must have stung him. He had a 
limited but avid mind and he had tried to put some thought 
into his broadcasts whenever the Germans gave him the chance. 
Words flowed from Amery s mouth in the conventional group 
ings of English culture, but he had no intelligence, only a 
vacancy round which there rolled a snowball of Fascist chatter 
picked up from Doriot and Dat. Yet here he was installed in a 
suite at the Kaiserhof, while Joyce had only a flat in the suburbs, 
with an unlimited expense account which meant opulence com 
pared to Joyce s unimpressive salary; and here was the German 


radio cupping its hands round its mouth and shouting to the 
whole world that it must listen to Amery s broadcasts, though 
they could have no propaganda value whatsoever. 

That Amery was an excellent broadcaster, that the radio, 
which is one of the greatest liars in the world, transformed him 
into a pure and eager boy, burning with sincere indignation at 
the moral evils of bolshevism, was beside the point. He was 
known to every newspaper reader in England as the problem 
child of distinguished parents, who had made countless appear 
ances in the police courts, and the sole result of putting him on 
the air would be to make English listeners feel sympathy with his 
family and a reiterated conviction that the Germans were terri 
ble cads. 

Worse still as propaganda was Amery s project, known at first 
as the Legion of Saint George. This was a body to be drawn 
from British prisoners of war who were to fight alongside the 
Germans against the Russians to save Europe from bolshevism, 
and the idea of it made the former director of Mosley s propa 
ganda squirm in his seat. None knew better than he did what 
chance there was of raising such a legion. He knew that only a 
sprinkling would join and that these would be mad or bad. He 
knew also that a recruiting campaign whose appearance would 
be interpreted by the ordinary soldier as a call to the joys of 
peace rather than to the tasks of war would make English treach 
ery a laughingstock; and traitors have their pride, like other 
people. He must have perceived that the Germans were in some 
ways very stupid, and perhaps he doubted whether they were 
going to gain the victory which was necessary if he was ever to 
realize his ambitions or even save his life. 

Yet German propaganda was perhaps never less stupid than in 
the exploitation of John Amery. For propaganda has many uses 
beyond persuasion. What it sometimes aimed at in this case can 
be deduced from the character of Amery s gospel, considered in 
conjunction with the date. Though Amery s speeches held a few 
drops of anti-Semitic poison, his real preoccupation was hatred 
of Russia and communism. He made it a condition that the 
Legion of Saint George should be regarded as an exclusively 
anti-bolshevist force and should be used only on the Russian 
front. His conception of the war was as a struggle between holy 
nazism and corrupt communism, contrived by the Jews, and he 


wanted not peace but another war in which the West should 
sink its differences in order to attack the Soviet Union. 

Now in the autumn of 1942 the Germans were beginning to 
feel nervous. It had appeared from the end of August that the 
situation in North Africa might not end as they wished, for Rom 
mel s great offensive had been halted, and that because of a lack 
of aircraft. The Allies air attacks on Germany were becoming 
more and more formidable. The Japanese were not doing so well 
as had been hoped. A group of Germans in and around the 
Foreign Office were not certain that Germany was beaten, but 
then again they were not certain that it was going to win. So 
they formed the idea that it had better sacrifice some of its 
ambitions and get rid of some of its liabilities. If they could stop 
war with Russia, so rashly initiated in 1941, Germany would 
have its energies free to fight Great Britain and the United 
States. But if it was to start peace negotiations with Russia, these 
must be kept secret, for two reasons. One was that if Great 
Britain and the United States heard of them they might use 
argument and force to dissuade their ally from the proposed 
desertion; and the other that, even if they failed, they would 
surely cut off the stream of supplies which they were sending out 
to the Soviet Union. But these shipments would go on to the last 
moment and would be shared with Germany when it again joined 
forces with Russia. It might throw dust in the eyes of Great Britain 
and the United States if, just at the time when these secret negoti 
ations were opened, the Germans started a new anti-bolshevik cam 
paign. They made their first overtures to Moscow, and John Amery 
was fetched out of his retreat in Savoy in October 1942 and broad 
cast during the first part of 1943 and began his recruiting tour of 
the camps. Nobody else could have drawn such widespread at 
tention to an anti-bolshevik campaign. If William Joyce had made 
these broadcasts and gone on that recruiting tour, not a soul 
would have taken the slightest notice. It was the unique and 
fatal distinction of John Amery to be the one person out of the 
earth s population who could serve the German purpose; and 
the Nazis did not mind looking fools so long as they could 
create the impression that they were still actively anti-bol 

It is to be remarked that from the middle of 1943 the fortunes 
of John Amery suffered a marked decline. The negotiations 


between Germany and Russia had broken down. Only a small 
group had ever participated in them. He was no longer welcome 
in Berlin; and when he lost most of his personal belongings in 
one of the famous raids which, on every night between Novem 
ber $2 and 26, 1943, assailed Berlin, he was awarded a decoration 
for exceptional bravery and packed off to Paris. From there he 
was sometimes sent to the occupied countries, such as Norway, 
Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, out of sheer nastiness; 
to prove that the British were degenerate, that a leading British 
statesman could have a son who betrayed his country and hic 
cupped as he did it. Soon they stopped letting him do even that, 
and in September 1944, with savage and indecent irony, they sent 
him down next to act as confidant to Mussolini, now at liberty 
and a poor figure of fun after his undignified rescue from Allied 
hands. "Enter Tilburina, stark mad in white satin, and her 
confidant, stark mad in white linen." What is the sin against 
the Holy Ghost? It is perhaps to deal with people as if they were 
things: to pick them up and set them down, without respect for 
their uniqueness, for their own wills. 

In Germany, William Joyce sat and waited for the end. He 
moved about; most often he was in Berlin, but sometimes he was 
in Eupen and at Luxembourg, at the end he was in Hamburg; 
but always there was over him the same sky, the sky which 
is clearer than the English sky and is not loaded with dreary 
fogs, but has its own nocuments, which are madness and de 
feat. He was involved for the last year or so with Amery s creation, 
the Legion of Saint George, now known as the British Free Corps. 
After Amery had been ejected from Berlin, having served the Nazi 
purpose, the legion had been handed over to the SS and 
its name had been changed; and thereafter its recruits either 
were drawn from Joyce s broadcasters or broadcast for him 
afterwards. This must have been sheer torture to him. Some 
of them were pathetic. One, Kenneth Edward, had been 
taken by the Germans off a torpedoed ship when he was fourteen 
and kept in a prison camp for two and a half years, had been 
recruited by John Amery, whom he believed to be Foreign 
Minister of Great Britain who had somehow been ejected from 
his country and was being kindly assisted by the Germans to 
regain his rights. Another had given a false age when he volun- 


teered for the British Army in 1941 and was just seventeen when 
he was captured in Italy, and he believed that the British Free 
Corps was six divisions strong. Some had another significance, 
such as Herbert George. 

He had not the excuse of youth as these two had; but on the 
other hand it could be said that he had been in such trouble all 
his life that he had had no time to grow up. He was of medium 
height, but had the look of a Disney dwarf, but not a happy one, 
for too often the Thames-side police courts had claimed him. 
Once a chicken had been stolen; then a gas-meter slot had been 
opened and emptied; once someone had missed a shirt and a 
scarf. It was too much. He had attempted to commit suicide, and 
when he had served the mild punishment inflicted on him for 
that offence he enlisted in the Army, but they would not have 
him, he was discharged as daft. This was, however, only the 
beginning of a military career which was to be unique. He had 
always been interested in politics, and when the Spanish Civil 
War broke out he volunteered to serve in the International 
Brigade and actually fought in Spain. He soon deserted, and the 
incident was purged of the sordid by the candour with which, 
having crossed the Pyrenees and reached the Channel on foot, he 
sought the London offices of the International Brigade and re 
ported as a deserter. Hurt at his reception, he went to sea and 
continued as a sailor after the war broke out. In 1940 he was 
taken off an oiler torpedoed in Norwegian waters, and was in 
one prison camp and another until 1944, when he received a 
letter from his mother telling him that his wife had had a baby. 
After thinking this over for some time he decided that it could 
not be his baby and was deeply distressed, and when two mer 
chant seamen came to enrol recruits for the British Free Corps, 
he enlisted, just as a sad little dog, finding himself far from 
home in streets where they throw things, with rain falling and 
the dusk thickening, will follow any passer-by. Herbert George is 
not a negligible figure. There axe so many of him. 

Some of the British Free Corps had a great deal more excuse r 
than the poor little man. Six of them, known as the Big Six, had 
natural endowment and education enough to realize what they 
were doing. One, the son of a Lithuanian merchant settled in 
England, had been at an English public school. It was surprising 


that he should have been in the British Free Corps, for he was a 
Jew on his father s side. He may not have known this, for he 
had been brought up out of contact with his father s family, 
though the Germans must have known it, if any intelligent 
officer examined his papers. He joined because he wanted to find 
himself a niche in the international society which he thought 
would be erected after the inevitable defeat of the Allies. An 
other of the Big Six, Francis McLardy, a qualified pharmacist, 
had been a member of the British Union of Fascists from 1934 to 
1938, but this need not have been a determining factor which 
made him a traitor. He had been a sergeant in the RAMC and, 
having been captured at Dunkirk, was sent to work in a prison- 
of-war hospital in Poland. 

There he was caught breaking a rule and was told that he was 
to be sent to the worst camp in Poland, which was famous for its 
abominations. Rumour had it that there the starved prisoners 
fell on the bodies of their comrades that dropped dead and tore 
out their livers, their kidneys, and the soft part of the thighs, 
and ate them. An American prisoner who was found in the camp 
when it was liberated has testified that this happened, though 
not many people could bring themselves to do it because the 
bodies were so lousy. To avoid being sent to this camp, McLardy 
wrote to the authorities and expressed that he wanted to join the 
Waffen SS and fight the Russians. That he was moved by the 
desire to save himself from this hell cannot be regarded as an 
absolute excuse, for thousands of men, finding themselves in the 
same position, chose to suffer the pains of hell rather than serve 
the men who made them. But few of us would care to judge 
him. It is to be noted that McLardy was perhaps the nearest to a 
Mosleyite traitor that *the Second World War provided. The 
other adherents of the BUF who appeared among the traitors 
had lapsed from membership some time before the outbreak of 
war, and their cases prove nothing except that silly young men 
were apt to join the BUF in some circumstances and in others 
were apt to become traitors. Neither here nor in any other 
theatre of war was there proof that the BUF had issued instruc 
tions to any member of the armed forces. 

The most obvious trace of ideological action in the camp was 
furnished by two priggish little negativists named Denis John 
and Eric Reginald. Denis John was the son of a stoutish middle- 


aged man, with watchet-blue eyes and a quiet way with him, who 
owned two baker s shops in North London, notably bright and 
clean for the grey streets of those parts a German, the son of a 
German immigrant, who had had the sorrow of feeling it his 
duty to fight the Germans in the First World War. His son could 
not feel it his duty to fight them in the Second World War, for 
his parents marriage had broken up when he was seven years 
old, and he had been brought up by a German grandmother and 
had been at school in Germany, and there had been a lot of 
trouble. He did not want to be a baker, for one thing; and he 
was a Lohengrin or Siegfried, with clear-cut features and waves 
of blond hair like golden wire, and he drew to himself the 
attentions of some young people with more money than he had, 
who, according to his family s friends, did him no good. When 
the time drew near when he should register for military service, 
he felt a natural reluctance to fight against Germany, which, 
strangely enough, he, a German s grandson, knew and loved 
better than his father, who was a German s son. If he had gone 
to the proper authorities they would have explained to him the 
means by which people in his position could appeal for exemp 
tion from military service as conscientious objectors. 

But one of his new friends persuaded him to go to the offices 
of a pacifist organization and ask for assistance in evading mili 
tary service, and it was arranged that he should take advantage 
of a scheme which exported registered conscientious objectors to 
do farm work in various districts, including the Channel Is 
lands. It is not clear how Denis John was brought under this 
scheme; he never claimed to have become a conscientious objec 
tor, and cannot have been registered as one, for he had never 
even been called up. He was under age. But Denis John was sent 
off on a travel warrant issued by the Ministry of Labour to 
Jersey, which in neither this war nor the previous war would 
ever have seemed the safest of refuges, but was particularly 
unsafe on the day of his departure, which was May 17, 1940, 
seven days after the Germans had invaded the Low Countries. It 
is not at all surprising that by August Denis John was working for 
the Todt organization, the Nazi sappers; and the pacifist organ 
ization must have been unusually silly if it felt any astonishment, 
though it showed no guile in planning these events. There was 
not even the sense of a treasonable agreement behind these 


imbecile proceedings. The Germans were not prepared to accept 
these unhappy children, and Denis John and a number of others 
were dragged about Europe, from camp to camp, for five years, 
exposed to every sort of degrading influence, till he and Eric 
Reginald landed in the British Free Corps. 

They joined it apparently only because the recruiting leaflets 
had caused an uproar in the English prisoner-of-war camp where 
they happened to be, and they wished to show how superior they 
were to the common herd. They were the best of a shameful 
crew. Most of the legion had left their original camps after being 
warned by their senior officers that they were taking a step which 
would cut them off from the society of their own kind, and 
passed into a state of degradation which made it inevitable that 
society would carry out its threat, not from nursed intention but 
as a result of the natural recoil from something that stinks. The 
Germans had, of course, far too much sense to keep on with the 
legion because they thought they could raise enough men to 
form a fighting unit for use on the Russian front or anywhere 
else. They wanted them for quite another purpose. 

They put these men in villas in various pleasant parts of 
Germany, and dressed them in German uniforms with badges 
bearing the letters BFC and the Union Jack to show that the 
wearers were British soldiers, and let them go rotten with idle 
ness and indiscipline and debauchery. They did a little drill and 
learned German and, as one of them said, "otherwise did noth 
ing except lay around, and go into the town, where we drank 
and associated with women." There were never many of them. 
It appears that of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war 
in Germany only thirty-odd volunteered for the corps. But even 
so small a number, split into groups and sent into the German 
towns, drunken and with prostitutes on their arms, did some 
thing to raise national morale in 1944 and 1945 and persuade the 
Germans that it was all true, what they had been told, and that 
they could not possibly be conquered by those degenerate people 
the British. It is worth while looking at these drab and de 
bauched people because this type of traitor was not to pass away 
but was to reappear on the other side of the world in another 
phase of time. 

With what horrified embarrassment this crowd of scalawags 
was regarded by William Joyce, who had been so proud of his 


association with the Worcestershire regiment, who carried him 
self like a midget sergeant-major, can be judged from the effect 
they had on a young man called Thomas Haller Cooper, who 
was very different from William Joyce except in his detestation 
of what comes "all along o dirtiness, all along o mess, all along 
o doing things rather more or less." Cooper s father, a photo 
grapher in southwestern London, had been a soldier in the army 
of occupation after the 1914-1918 war and had brought home a 
German bride. When he was nineteen his mother took him back 
to Germany, as a woman taking her child to present him at the 
temple, herself returning to London. The year was 1939. A short 
time before war broke out he joined the Adolf Hitler Division of 
the Waffen SS and served in Poland, and then in Russia, where 
he was wounded. When he was convalescent he was recalled to 
do traitor s work, visiting the English prisoner-of-war camps and 
talking with the prisoners and giving them corrupting literature, 
and finally was made an NCO in charge of the British Free 
Corps and practically became camp commandant. At first he 
enjoyed the work, and many of the members of the British Free 
Corps liked him. There was probably a real geniality, an honest 
tenderness, between them. Cooper had come from the Eastern 
Front, the others had come from years of hunger and 
confinement; they found themselves clean and well fed and could 
exchange tales of woe in what was their native language and his 
father s tongue, in a good villa that was more than comfortable, 
that was cosy, among the woods, the sweet aromatic German 
woods. He was a good-looking young man, tall and slender and 
dark, with that neatness which amounts to a form of piety, a cry 
to Heaven for approval. He had the look of the more thoughtful 
of many young Germans who became Nazis: the look of the 
white-collar man who cannot climb up because he has no special 
talent to make his own ladder and society will not let him use its 
existing ladders, which are reserved for other people. 

Spiessburger is the German word for it. He was loaded with 
frustrated ambition. He had been a clerk in London and had 
tried hard to get out of the groove. He had a great love of the 
East and, though he had not a very good record at school, had 
worked hard at learning Japanese and Chinese, and as he 
reached his later teens had tried to find employment in branches 
of the government service which might take him to the Far East, 


but was rejected because his mother was a German. For the same 
reason he had been rejected as a candidate for the English and 
colonial police force. The conflict in the boy s mind regarding 
the nationalities of his parents must have been painful, the more 
so because his mother was a woman of distinctive character. Her 
home was distinguished from all other dingy houses in the road 
by the wealth of flowering bulbs, jonquil and narcissus, crocus 
and grape hyacinth, which crammed the bow windows. This 
interesting parentage was, however, denied him by the Germans. 
He was presented to the British Free Corps as the son of Mr. 
Duff and Lady Diana Cooper, a remarkable fatuity, since the 
sophisticated members must have realized that the only child of 
the most publicized character of our time was not yet of military 

Cooper travelled all over Germany with his charges. (It is one 
of the curious features of the Nazi regime that it made the 
German passion for travelling into a guiding principle of its 
administration. Prisoners of war, whether loyal or traitors, were 
moved round and round and round the country long before the 
time when they had to be hustled out of the way of invading 
Allies. It was as if in England we had moved the prisoners we 
held in the Isle of Man to the West Highlands, to Wales, to the 
Isle of Wight, and so on.) Always the billets were good, comforta 
ble villas with gardens, set among the woods and heaths. The 
custody of these louts was not the enterprise Thomas Haller 
Cooper had foreseen when he was detailed to it, and he found he 
could keep himself sane by withdrawing into his favourite and 
unusual studies. In his room, instead of the usual portrait of 
Adolf Hitler, there hung a fine Japanese print. He had a solemn 
and sentimental love affair with a respectable young girl called 
Gisela, to whom he expounded Oriental philosophy in im 
mensely long letters. He was really only a boy. In company he 
would murmur, as if in absence of mind, such phrases as Om 
mani padme hum; being overheard and questioned as to what 
they meant, he would start, give a translation, and explain that 
such phrases were always running through his mind, since he 
was, as a matter of fact, a Buddhist. At the same time he showed 
himself to be a Western-reading schoolboy under the skin by boast 
ing quite untruthfully that he had had to come to Germany be- 


cause in an East End street fight he had killed a Jew. Unfortu 
nately his confidant was a British agent. 

But no amount of sitting about in the sun among the pines 
and mooning over Oriental grammar and writing to Gisela could 
reconcile him to the degradation of his charges. He tried to 
apply a mild form of SS discipline to them, and they mocked at 
him and staged a mutiny. He behaved with courage. But when 
D-day came and went, and the gales blew and did not blow away 
the Allies, and the Atlantic Wall was as if it had never been, 
then he was frightened. He said, "I have been a bloody fool/ 
and announced his intention of working thereafter "for the 
other side." But again it was to a British agent that he said 
those words. Thereafter this strong and proud young man had to 
cringe and smirk and flatter in the hope of survival. He was 
obliged by orders of his superiors to visit prisoners of war and 
thrust kindnesses on the prisoners under the sceptical eyes of 
noncommissioned officers, terrible beings, worst when they were 
little creatures burned up by Indian suns till there was left in 
them not a scrap of blandness. These looked straight at him and 
without speaking said things about rats leaving sinking ships. 
But these missions were easier than his duties at base with the 
British Free Corps, who daily grew more drunken, more desper 
ate, more maudlin in the arms of their whores. Often they 
openly cursed him and disobeyed his orders, and sometimes he 
let it pass, because he did not dare to do anything else, but at 
the same time he was prodded in the back by his superiors, who 
did not know yet whether they were beaten. If they were beaten, 
they meant to pull off their jackboots and run; but it was hard to 
find this out for certain, and in any case they had obeyed orders 
for so long that they had forgotten how to take the initiative. 
Everybody s brain was boiling. 

Sometimes authority thought that, yes, it would pull off its 
jackboots, and left Cooper to do what he would with the British 
Free Corps. Then he and his louts sat in a kind of vacuum. 
Then authority would change its mind and would buzz about 
Cooper s ears again and ask what he was thinking of to let 
discipline run down, and he would disentangle the louts from 
their weeping whores and insist they do a little drill. On the 
night of February 13, 1945, authority finally lost its head. The 


British bombed Dresden, as a result of an order which has since 
been studied exhaustively but which remains mysterious; and 
they slaughtered thousands of refugees and turned to rubble one 
of the fairest cities bequeathed to our time by people possessed 
by virtues which we lack, Authority then announced to the unit 
that it was to be sent to Russia. At this news the British Free 
Corps took to its bed as one man. Authority then turned on it 
and alleged that in some way the corps was responsible for the 
bombardment and clapped them all in prison. Some of them had 
been there already. The baker s son, Denis John, and his compan 
ion, Eric Reginald, had joined the British Free Corps only to 
flout the prejudices of their fellow prisoners of war, and, once 
they were in the corps, organized a revolt against the confirmed 
rebels, such as the poor little Herbert George, he who had 
always been in trouble, chickens, the gas-meter, the International 
Brigade. For that they were sent to a Straflager, a punishment 
camp, and learned what it could be like to be entirely protected, 
either by the police or by the recognized authorities of a 
prisoner-of-war camp. After seven weeks they had petitioned the 
German authorities to let them go back to the British Free Corps 
on any terms and were allowed to do so. The corps, on hearing it 
was faced as a whole with a Straflager., revolted. Authority was 
overcome by panic, pretended to take seriously the complaints 
against Cooper. He walked off with a straight back, on his way, 
and he must have known it, to the Old Bailey. 

William Joyce now sat in his office, conducting his business 
with a quiet sacramental order. He had become wholly recon 
ciled to his wife. D-day had been a crushing blow to him. All 
through his life he had been anxious, with the special anxiety of 
a very small man, not to make a fool of himself, and the first 
consequence of such wariness is to dread making prophecies that 
prove untrue. In his broadcasts he had mocked again and again 
at the idea of an Allied invasion of the Continent; and they had 
often been followed by songs, abominable and amusing lyrics 
coldly and lightly sung, which jeered at the Englishmen who 
were to attempt invasion and would lie dead under the Atlantic 
Wall. But now the Atlantic Wall had been broken. He had made 
a fool of himself. 

Also he realized that, if the Atlantic Wall was broken, it did 
not matter how much effort it had taken to break it; henceforth 


it was insubstantial as a dream. Henceforth it was not to be 
Germans who were to kill Englishmen. There were perhaps to be 
more Germans killed by Englishmen than Englishmen killed by 
Germans, perhaps Germany itself was to be killed, perhaps Wil 
liam Joyce himself was to be killed, certainly William Joyce was 
to be killed. That possibility had always been clear in his mind. 
In his preface to his book, Twilight over England, published in 
Holland in 1942, he had written: "When, however, the writer is 
a daily perpetrator of High Treason, his introductory remarks 
may command from the English public that kind of awful ven 
eration with which 5,000 confessions are perused in the Sunday 
papers, quite frequently after the narrator has taken his last 
leap in the dark." He must also have been conscious of what 
had happened to him. He had proved that there are no half- 
measures in treachery. If a man does not love his country 
enough to concede its right to self-government, he will end by 
not loving it at all, by hating it. Again and again Joyce had 
spoken with icy approval of the murder wrought by Germans on 
his fellow countrymen. He had not felt this unnatural emotion 
was important, for it was temporary, he would go back to Eng 
land as a bearer of benefits and would be reconciled to his own 
people. But now he had to wonder whether they would forgive 
him; not forgo punishment, that he knew could not be, but for 
give him. 

As a revolutionary he must have known a sort of peace as 
catastrophe flowed towards him from the east and the west 
during the first months of 1945. There had been much doing, 
and the fruit of it was to be nothingness; there had been a 
fullness of life, there was to be an emptiness of death. To this 
end he had worked since youth, and he would have been disap 
pointed by victory. But that he himself should die must have 
brought him the torment that the prospect of death brings to us 
all. That is the weakness of the revolutionary idea; human beings 
only want to play with the idea of death. They do not want to 

Waiting for the end, William Joyce sat in his office and dis 
tracted himself by doing his work extremely well. His last 
broadcasts were, in form, ably and carefully written political 
essays, much superior to anything he had put over the air 
up to that time. In substance they were self-exculpatory. They 


warned England that she was being ruined by her partici 
pation in the war and, destitute, would have to face a new 
and insatiable imperialist Russia; and rebuked her for hav 
ing fought Germany instead of aiding her to fight against the 
bolshevization of the world. This was nonsense. The week before 
Germany had brought England into the field against her by 
invading Poland she had signed a pact with Russia, and she 
remained in close friendship with her for the best part of two 
years; and no intelligent Englishman had wanted his country to 
go to war with Germany, because none was unaware that, if the 
price of defeat would be the reign of the Gestapo in England, 
the price of victory would be the disruption of Europe, the 
destruction of its political and economic and intellectual har 
mony, which is the highest level man has yet attained. It was the 
horrible and unique achievement of Hitler to force the West to 
fight the most terrible of wars without the sustenance of faith in 
victory. So the tired man, night after night, stood in the 
Hamburg studio of the Rundfunk and warned his fellow country 
men of a danger which they had always anticipated and which 
now no longer could be avoided. There came a night when he 
spoke as if he were either very tired, or drunk, or perhaps both. 
On April 30, 1945, he made a broadcast in which, speaking 
slowly and with dignity and obstinacy, he admitted defeat. It 
ended with the sentences: "Britain s victories are barren; they 
leave her poor, and they leave her people hungry; they leave her 
bereft of the markets and the wealth that she possessed six years 
ago. But, above all, they leave her with an immensely greater 
problem than she had then. We are nearing the end of one phase 
in Europe s history, but the next will be no happier. It will be 
grimmer, harder, and perhaps bloodier. And now I ask you 
earnestly, can Britain survive? I am profoundly convinced that 
without German help she cannot." Saying these words, he 
plainly thought himself a statesman, but he had said nothing 
that could not be answered with a phrase from an old comedy, 
"Tu I as voulu, George Dandin!" This was the last time that 
the insatiable hunger of his voice was to travel over the air. 
English soldiers came into his office a day later and found it not 
disordered but empty. 



EACH traitor took a different path to the end. Some 
hid themselves and were never found, and one of these was of 
some importance. But most of them found their way to the court 
martial or the Old Bailey, and there revealed more of themselves 
than might have been expected. For most of them were destitute, 
and had to take advantage of the Poor Prisoners Defence Act, 
and a lawyer chosen under this act has not the usual amount of 
control over his client. He cannot tell him to go to the devil and 
find another lawyer, should he disregard advice; hence many 
traitors made the mistake of giving evidence on their own behalf 
and gave away much that might otherwise have been concealed. 

Most of them walked to the Allied lines and presented them 
selves as escaped prisoners of war. The men who followed this 
course enjoyed a false sense of security which lasted for some 
time. Their stories were naturally accepted, and those of them 
who had acquired a good working knowledge of the German 
language during their captivity were useful as interpreters to the 
advancing British and American troops. Such men continued in 
this magical state of immunity for a matter of weeks or months. 
Till VE-day, and for a long time after, the Army had many other 
things to do than to chase unimportant traitors; and during this 
period of disorganization the men were sheltered by the rule of 
the British Free Corps and the British section of the Rundfunk 
that all traitors except the most important should work under 
assumed names. This did no more, and the Germans must have 
known it would do no more, than give them a short respite 
before arrest. 

Little Mr. Black smugly reported at the British Embassy in 
Brussels, making no secret of having worked at the Concordia 
Bureau but claiming that he had merely sought cover for doing 
kindnesses to victims of Nazi persecution. One of the more 
hopeless members of the British Free Corps carried on him to 
the end the photographs of thirteen German prostitutes, as well 


as mementos of a steadier attachment. John Amery was captured 
by the partisans in Italy; and when he was questioned by a 
British Military Intelligence officer he asked for a typewriter and 
proceeded to type a statement some thousands of words long, 
which was brilliantly composed, put the noose around his neck, 
and gave the history of two different people. One of these was a 
wise young man of lofty principles who sought to reconcile 
England and Germany in order that together they might fight 
the rising tide of communism, and to that end travelled about 
Europe, a weary Titan urging common sense on statesmen who 
for some reason would not heed the voice of sanity; the other 
was a crazy Harlequin enmeshed in unfortunate adventure. 
"After a few days in Paris and travelling under the names of Mr. 
and Mrs. Browne, I arrived in Berlin early in October 1942," he 
wrote. For a time this inveterately companionate "I," who was 
always travelling under the names of Mr. and Mrs. Somebody, 
was to be alone. "On April 7-8," he wrote, "my beloved friend 
and political revolutionary, Jeannine Barde, died." The poor 
creature s death was said not to be natural. By some accounts she 
killed herself, life being rendered unendurable by the sour 
flavour of treachery, the air raids, the humiliations of depend 
ence on the openly contemptuous Nazis, who knew that these 
two had no alternative employers. By other accounts she died 
because of a blow received at a wild party. The Germans feeling 
for etiquette was outraged by Amery s failure to attend her 
funeral, though as like as not it was through unbridled grief that 
he absented himself. But to the wandering wit sorrow is no 
prison. "In the end of September/ he wrote, "I returned to 
Paris. Once more much political talk, and on October 4 I re 
married at the German Consulate. Politically, the situation re 
mained almost unchanged." And at the end of the statement 
comes Harlequin s supreme antic. This man awaiting a capital 
charge writes: "Moreover, the colonel commanding the Piazza di 
Milano, who brought me from Saronno to Milan, undertook at 
the time to have returned my property that was seized by the 
partisans when they arrested me. Of this nothing has so far been 
seen. It consists of one suitcase (important documents and per 
sonal effects), one overcoat, one fur coat, and two silver foxes, a 
20-litre petrol tin, full, one Lancia Aprilia motor car No. 78410 


A statement well worth reading was contributed by Herbert 
George, the Disney dwarf. He described how he met a German 
girl called Hilda Henschel, and after speaking to her "found she 
was pro-English. I told her I wanted to escape, and she said she 
would help me. I told her I had studied the theory of piloting a 
plane and eventually she told me she could find out where I 
could get hold of a plane, which she did. The plane was in an 
aerodrome about thirty kilometres away from Hildesheirn. On 
the night we had a nasty raid and the airfield was damaged so I 
could not carry out my plans/ He returned to England, and at 
his Thames-side home rejoined his wife in perfect domestic bliss, 
although he had taken steps to divorce her when he was in the 
prisoner-of-war camp; and, determined to pick up all the 
threads, he became the life and soul of the local Communist 
Party. The poor little man had to leave this happy and busy life 
for two years hard labour. 

It would have seemed a pity to bother about this odd little 
soul, but such segregation was in his own interests. It was cer 
tainly a great relief to the licensed trade of his Thames-side town. 
On Saturday nights Herbert George would come into a bar and, 
after a drink or two, would be filled with a desire to entertain the 
company and would therefore relate his adventures, first in the 
International Brigade and then in the British Free Corps. This 
never worked out well. His imprisonment must also have been a 
relief to the officers of the local Communist Party, who were 
doubtless serious-minded men. This odd creature, and all the 
other odd creatures, then went into a world abhorrent to con 
template: a world of cold cells, of dirt, of mind-slaying monotony. 
Not that it would have mattered so much to this most resilient of 

William Joyce left his Hamburg office and went out, in the 
company of his wife, to seek a safety which, by then, he knew 
could not be found. First he slipped into his pocket a passport 
made out in the false name of Wilhelm Hansen. It is significant 
that the imaginary Hansen was described as a teacher. Joyce 
liked teaching; he was proud of his gifts as a teacher. It was 
dated November 3, 1944, but the date may have been as false as 
the name. It is unlikely he would have given in and taken this 
precaution till the last possible moment. Then it would be easy, 
for all over Germany people were sitting in government offices 


forging papers to deny their curious Christs at the third cock 
crow. Joyce s wife had a separate passport. It had occurred to 
them that anything might happen: the worst might happen; they 
might have to part. So they started on their journey, and, like all 
the traitors who then closed the door behind them on the misery 
and futility which had grown thicker and thicker round them for 
the previous five years, they stepped out into the spring. But for 
the Joyces there was not any season of respite, for they could not, 
like their underlings, go into the British or American lines and tell 
a lying story and be given work, and be at ease for a little and hope 
for the best. Joyce, who at that time had only a vague suspicion 
that there was any doubt about his British nationality, knew that 
there was no hope for him at all if he fell into Allied hands; he 
had issued too definite a challenge. 

So the Joyces went out into the forest, the beautiful German 
forest toward the Danish frontier. It is said that they spent a night 
in a town or village; and sometimes they found a bed in a barn or 
outhouse on the wood s edge, and by day they sat on the soft 
pine needles. They were now united in their earlier love. But 
their joy in each other must have been transfused. Each must 
have said, "No, it was not your fault we came from England, it 
was mine." At all times they were horribly uncomfortable. The 
Allied troops were everywhere, and they were under a real neces 
sity to hide. They fed at irregular intervals on what they could 
get, and William Joyce had always been exacting, in his sergeant- 
major way, about his food. They both grew very thin and could 
not keep themselves clean or neat. Joyce developed a skin disease 
affecting the scalp. 

On May 28, 1945, they had been on the run for some weeks. 
That evening he was walking among the trees near Flensburg 
when he came on two English officers, Captain Lickorish and 
Lieutenant Perry. Had he gone on his way they might not have 
noticed him, for he was by then a miserable figure, and they were 
busy searching for kindling wood. But he halted and watched 
them, and in the end he had to speak to them. He had been 
reared by his father to regard the British Army as a symbol of 
the power and glory of earth; he had hoped to be a British officer 
himself; he had boasted as a boy that he had served under the 
orders of British officers. Also they were men of his own people, 
from whom he had been exiled for five years and more. He 


called to them in French, "Here are a few more pieces." Noth 
ing was more certain to catch their attention. They stared at this 
strange little figure who was talking French to them in the depth 
of the German forest. He said in English, "There are a few more 
pieces here." He was lost. At once his voice betrayed him. 

The two officers conferred together, and Lieutenant Ferry said, 
"You wouldn t happen to be William Joyce, would you?" Joyce 
put his hand in his pocket, meaning to draw out his forged 
passport, and the lieutenant, nervous as every member of an in 
vading force must be, thought that he was feeling for a revolver 
and drew his own and shot him in the leg. Joyce fell to the 
ground, groaning, "My name is Fritz Hansen." But so little 
store had he set on his sole means left him for escaping detection 
that he had not troubled to memorize his own false name. His 
passport was made out to Wilhelm, not Friedrich, Hansen; and 
he was still carrying his real military passport, made out in the 
name of William Joyce. 

One of the officers went away and made contact with 
authority, and eventually Joyce was taken to the military hospi 
tal at Liineburg. Mrs. Joyce had been arrested and taken to a 
prison camp, spent and dishevelled, saying in her habitual 
manner, which was jaunty and mechanically cynical, that she 
and her husband had expected this for a long time and that 
there was no use making a fuss about it. They were not to see 
each other again until after he had been sentenced to death. The 
news that Joyce was coming to the hospital arrived before him, 
and his stretcher was carried from the ambulance through a 
crowd of soldiers who were chiyiking and crying out, "This is 
Jairmany calling." This must have been the first intimation to 
him that he was considered by the British public as a comic 
character, and there could be no more perplexing anticlimax. On 
May 31 an Intelligence officer came and sat by his bed and in 
terrogated him. To that officer he dictated this statement: 

I take this opportunity of making a preliminary statement con 
cerning the motives which led me to come to Germany and to 
broadcast to Britain over the German radio service. I was actu 
ated not by the desire for personal gain, material or otherwise, 
but solely by political conviction. I was brought up as an ex 
treme Conservative with strong Imperialistic ideas, but very 
early in my career, namely, in 1923, became attracted to Fascism 


and subsequently to National Socialism. Between the years of 
1933 and 1939 * pursued vigorous political activities in Eng 
land, at times as a Conservative but mainly as a Fascist or 
National Socialist. In the period immediately before this war 
began I was profoundly discontented with the policies pursued 
by British Governments, first, because I felt they would lead to 
the eventual disruption of the British Empire, and because I 
thought the existing economic system entirely inadequate to 
the needs of the times. I was very greatly impressed by con 
structive work which Hitler had done for Germany and was 
of the opinion that throughout Europe as also in Britain there 
must come a reform on the lines of National Socialist doctrine, 
although I did not suppose that every aspect of National So 
cialism as advocated in Germany would be accepted by the 
British people. 

One of my dominant beliefs was that a war between Britain 
and Germany would be a tragedy, the effects of which Britain 
and the British Empire would not survive, and I considered 
that a grossly disproportionate influence was exerted on British 
policy by the Jews, who had their reasons for hating National 
Socialist Germany. When, in August 1939, the final crisis 
emerged I felt that the question of Danzig offered no just cause 
for a world war. As by reason of my opinions I was not con 
scientiously disposed to fight for Britain against Germany, I 
decided to leave the country since I did not wish to play the 
part of a conscientious objector, and since I supposed that in 
Germany I should have the opportunity to express and propa 
gate views the expression of which would be forbidden in 
Britain during time of war. Realizing, however, that at this 
critical juncture I had declined to serve Britain, I drew the 
logical conclusion that I should have no moral right to return 
to that country of my own free will and that it would be best to 
apply for German citizenship and make my permanent home in 
Germany. Nevertheless, it remained my undeviating purpose to 
attempt as best I could to bring about a reconciliation or at 
least an understanding between the two countries. After Russia 
and the United States had entered the war such an agreement 
appeared to me no less desirable than before for, although it 
seemed probable that with these powerful allies Britain would 
succeed in defeating Germany, I considered that the price 
which would ultimately have to be paid for this help would be 
far higher than the price involved in a settlement with Ger 

This belief was strengthened from month to month as the 


power of Russia grew, and during the later stages of the war I 
became certain that Britain, even though capable of gaining a 
military triumph over the Germans, would in that event be con 
fronted with a situation far more dangerous and complicated 
than that which existed in August 1939; and thus until the 
very last moment I clung to my hope of an Anglo-German un 
derstanding, although I could see that the prospects thereof 
were small. I know that I have been denounced as a traitor and 
I resent the accusation as I conceive myself to have been guilty 
of no underhand or deceitful act against Britain, although I 
am also able to understand the resentment that my broad 
casts have in many quarters aroused. Whatever opinion may 
be formed at the present time with regard to my conduct, I 
submit that the final judgment cannot be properly passed until 
it is seen whether Britain can win the peace. Finally, I should 
like to stress the fact that in coming to Germany and in work 
ing for the German radio system my wife was powerfully in 
fluenced by me. She protests to the contrary, but I am sure that, 
if I had not taken this step, she would not have taken it either. 
This statement has been read over to me and it is true. 

(Signed) William Joyce 

This was a remarkable statement to be dictated by a man who 
had been brought into hospital three days before, not only 
wounded but suffering from malnutrition and exposure. Of 
course it was nonsense. It would certainly have been in Great 
Britain s interest to form an alliance with a strong and sane 
Germany, in order that the political and economic balance of 
Europe should be maintained. But it was to nobody s interest to 
be yoked with Hitler, who was for internal and external unrest. 
Had Great Britain submitted to Nazi Germany, few characteristi 
cally British people would have survived to have the benefit of 
Nazi leaders in a war against the Soviet Union. They would have 
died in British versions of Buchenwald and Belsen. That was 
why, whether Britain could win the peace or not, she had to 
fight the Second World War. Nevertheless the statement was 
remarkable as the effort of a beaten and exhausted man. 

Sixteen days later Joyce was flown to England. One of the 
soldiers in the plane asked him for his autograph as they were 
crossing the Channel and he wrote him a scrawl "This is the 
most historic moment in my life, God bless dear old England" 
which reeked of that illiterate quality never dispelled by his 


university education. He was taken to Brixton Prison and there 
he did well. He had, after all, escaped from the alien forest, he was 
no longer forced to take part in an alien tragedy out of which he 
might well have contracted. He had food to eat, a roof over his 
head, and the English about him, the unexcitable, matter-of-fact, 
controlled English whom he admired. There were no Nazi officials 
here and no concentration camp. He had always liked the police 
and got on well with them, and his passion for discipline was so 
great that he may have found a sort of pleasure in conforming to 
prison routine. Into this cold grey snugness came his family, 
most often his beloved and loving young brother Quentin. From 
them, it is true, he must have learned that though his parents 
had not actually been killed by the forces whose cause he had 
espoused, they had been tormented by them in their last hours. 
Though he may have heard of his father s death not long after 
it happened, it must have been now that he heard for the first 
time of the death of his mother. That tiny and spirited being 
had been persuaded to go into the country after her widowhood, 
but had returned to London to be with her sons and daughter, 
and when she was stricken with a painful disease she was taken 
to Saint Mary s Hospital, Paddington, where she lay dying dur 
ing the summer of 1944, while the V-is broke over the town. 

But to distract Joyce he now was faced with an intellectual 
exercise more complex and more unusual than any he had engaged 
in when he was free to study as he liked. When he had entered 
prison he believed he had no defence to the charge of high 
treason which had been brought against him. But his solicitors 
drew his attention to the passage in his statement in which he 
had alluded to his belief that his father had been a naturalized 
American citizen and had forfeited his naturalization by failing 
"to re-register." If his father had been a naturalized American 
citizen when he was born, they told him, then he himself was an 
American citizen by birth, and nothing which had happened 
afterwards could affect that. Did he ever believe that safety lay in 
that resolution of his doubts regarding his status? It may be so. 
But it is said that, in conversation with a prison official, he 
described the defence which was to be put up for him and 
added, with a faint smile, "It will be amusing to see if they get 
away with it." 


Perhaps the gentle cynicism was honest enough. He had lived 
by his ambition. That part of his ambition which lived on his 
lips and in the forefront of his mind, had been utterly frustrated. 
He was not going to be king. In all the world there was not one 
man, not the most pitiful blind beggar nor the most eroded 
leper, of whom it could be more certainly said that he would 
never, till the end of time, exercise the smallest grain of power. 
The other ambition, which lived in his heart and in the secret 
governing chamber of his mind, was as utterly fulfilled. The 
revolution had succeeded. He had seen Hamburg and knew 
that more than a city had been destroyed; he had a nice historic 
sense and perhaps he recognized that a civilization had been 
murdered. Into his cell, each morning, came something like the 
white light which comes at dawn into a house where a corpse lies 
awaiting burial. If the dead was loved, then those who wake and 
see such light feel grief; if he was hated, his enemies wake to 
emptiness and bereavement, because the hunt is over. If the 
corpse was both loved and hated, then those that still live feel 
aching conflict; and if the corpse did not die a natural death but 
has been helped on its way, then their own consciences tell them 
that they should pay for their guilt with their lives. The suc 
cessful revolutionary feels all these things about life, which 
he has killed in part. Hence his own death is truly a release 
from pain, and Joyce went serenely to his trial, which was 
the pattern of such trials as must happen in the hereafter. 
For we shall be judged at the end unjustly, according to the 
relation of our activities to a context of which, being hu 
man and confined to a small part of time and space, we know 
almost nothing. It is said that in few murder cases has it 
been wise for the accused person to give evidence on his own 
behalf. But here was a trial where a person under a capital 
charge could not conceivably give any evidence bearing on his 
guilt or innocence. He might, indeed, have embarrassed the 
prosecution to the point of impotence if he had given false 
evidence that he had not used his passport for the purpose 
of leaving England for Germany; and he must surely have 
known enough of the means employed for getting German spies 
in and out of England to have been able to spin a plausible tale. 
But he was not a perjurer. He had chosen to play out his drama 


in the real world. If sentence was to be passed on him, let it be 
based on the truth. But that condition was all he could con 
tribute to his own trial. He could not speak of his own knowl 
edge concerning his father s naturalization, or his status at birth, 
or the kind of allegiance he owed to the Crown, or the conse 
quences flowing from possession of a passport. He might have 
been the poor soul in a theologian s dream, waiting to hear if 
the divine caprice poured wine of grace into his cup and made it 
saved and unbreakable, or left it empty and damned. 

He was found guilty and he was taken to Wormwood Scrubs, a 
prison standing on the western edge of London next to a school 
and a hospital on flat and greasy fields where the seagulls gather. 
It has a peculiar character, for it was built about seventy years 
ago in the full flush of the late Victorian enthusiasm for social 
reform, with the intention of reclaiming prisoners serving their 
first sentence by providing them with beautiful surroundings. It 
is a work of great vigour, which recalls at one and the same time 
Ravenna and Pisa and a giant model of a lodging-house cruet, 
and it has the merit of presenting extraordinary shapes which 
the inmates may well find appropriate to their own extraordi 
nary destinies. A prison built as simply as the ordinary hospital 
or school might well seem heartless to convicts who know that 
they have lost their liberty by no event as natural as falling sick 
or growing up, and the oddity of the Scrubs is like a recognition 
by authority that their life became quite strange and different 
from other people s when a demon entered into them and they 
said "Yes" when they should have said "No." It was there Joyce 
waited for the hearing of his appeals, in which he did not 
believe, and changed to the man we saw at his later trials, who 
no longer troubled himself about his demon s unfortunate reply 
but pondered on an answer he must make to another question. 

As it happened, the prison was seized by a spasm of madness 
and ejected him. The news that Joyce was within its walls spread 
amongst the other prisoners, and they raged against his presence. 
Perhaps they were trying to upset the social verdict of worthless- 
ness passed on them at the same time as their legal conviction; 
perhaps they were idiotically responding to the call of tradition, 
for throughout history treason has always been the crime most 
abhorred by the English, as parricide has been the crime most 
abhorred by the French. Perhaps it was true of the criminal 


population, as it was of the rest o us at the end of the war, that 
the sanest were a little mad and the half-mad quite demented. 
Whatever their reasons, they howled against him with the sim 
plicity of wolves. In his cell he heard the riot, lifted his eyes 
from the book he was reading, and forced them back again, but 
finally laid the book aside and said hesitantly to the prison 
official who was sitting with him, "Those people are not calling 
out against me, are they?" He received an evasive answer, but 
was later to learn the truth, for one day as he was taking exercise 
some prisoners in cells overlooking the yard realized his identity 
and, though they knew they would be punished for it, shouted 
curses at him and threw down on him what missiles they could 
find through the windows. It is said that some of the craziest 
convicts formed a plan to make a dash past the warders at a 
favourable moment, to seize William Joyce and to murder him. 

There was little reason for fearing that this plan could have 
been carried out, but this was not the atmosphere in which a 
man under sentence of death could be left to await the hearing 
of his appeal. So Joyce was taken away from Wormwood Scrubs 
and sent to Wandsworth Jail, a shabby old prison, black as a 
coal-tip, set among the trodden commons and the discoloured 
villas, the railway viaducts and the long streets of little houses, 
which lie "south the river." The last days of his life in London 
were to be spent only a mile or two from the house in Long- 
beach Road where it had begun. Now his second wife, with 
whom he had lived only in his aspirant exile north of the 
Thames, was received into the district which was his real home. 

A man condemned to death has the right to see whom he 
chooses, and the authorities brought his wife over from Germany 
and lodged her in Holloway Prison, sending her over the river to 
visit him almost every day. They took great delight in each 
other s company, and on the morning of his hanging she re 
treated into a frenzy of grief which for long did not abate. It was 
necessary afterwards to send her back to Germany, for she had 
automatically become a German subject when her husband be 
came a naturalized German. There it was necessary to put her in 
a camp from which she was not released for two years, for she 
was passionately pro-Nazi and could no more be let loose than 
any other Nazi propagandist; and, indeed, had she been allowed 
to return to England and her own family, she could not have 


been left at liberty, for her own sake. These two people had 
contrived their own ruin with a finality that not their worst 
enemy could have achieved by unremitting malice. lago was a 
gentle child compared to their suicidal selves. 


BUT there remains a mystery about William Joyce 
and all his kind of Fascist leader. Why is it so important to them 
that they should stand on the political platform, hold office, give 
commands with their own voices, and be personally feared? A 
man who is not acceptable as a national leader is given by our 
system the opportunity to exercise as much political power as is 
necessary for his self-respect and the protection of his right. He 
can vote in Parliamentary and local elections; and he can serve 
his country as a private Member of Parliament or as a member 
of a local authority or as a member of a special committee. Why 
should William Joyce and his kind howl after impossible emi 
nence when in the common run they had no occasion for humil 
iation? There are other means of establishing exceptional value. 
If Joyce was not loved by the mass he was loved well by some 
near to him, and to some was a good lover; to his brother 
Quentin and to his second wife he was light and warmth. He was 
also a very good teacher. Happily he transmitted knowledge, 
and was happy to see it happily received. That surely should 
have been enough for him: to be a good brother, to be a 
good husband, to be a good teacher. Many are given less. Yet he 
hungered for the mere audience, for the wordless cheering, the 
executive power which, if it be not refined to nothing by restraint, 
is less than nothing. 

Perhaps right was on his side. Perhaps it is not enough to be a 
good brother, or to be a good husband, or to be a good teacher. 
For human relationships are always qualified by questioning. A 
brother, and a wife, and pupils have their own selves to main 
tain, so they must sometimes defend themselves and keep back 
their secrets. They will sometimes pass over to the attack and 
seek out the secrets of the brother, the husband, and the teacher, 


and often time changes them so that there Is no acceptance, only 
this questioning. It would be better for a man to have a relation 
ship with a person who knew all about him and therefore had 
no need to question him, who recognized that he was unique and 
precious and therefore withheld no confidence from him, who 
could not be changed by time, though by his steadfastness he 
might change time and make it kind and stable. Those who 
believe in God enjoy such a relationship. It would be imper 
tinent to speculate about Joyce s relationship with God, about 
which we know nothing relevant save that he left the Church in 
which he was born, returned to it before his death, and in the 
meantime had inscribed himself on the Nazi records as a "be 
liever/ But it can be taken that his mind had been trained over 
the trellis erected round him by society, and that that trellis was 
cut in a non-Christian or even anti-Christian pattern. Whether 
he enjoyed his relationship with God or not, he must often have 
believed that it did not exist 

Those who have discarded the idea of a super-personal God 
and still desire an enduring friendship must look for it in those 
fields of life farthest removed from ordinary personal relation 
ship, because human personality lacks endurance in any form of 
love. The most obvious of these is politics. There a leader can 
excite love in followers who know nothing of him save his public 
appearances. That love is unqualified; for no party can cause its 
enemies to rejoice by admitting that its leader has any faults, 
and what parties profess they soon sincerely feel, especially in 
crowded halls. That love swears itself undying, too; for no party 
can afford to let itself be overheard contemplating the exchange 
of its leader for another. 

Therefore many men who would have been happy in the 
practice of religion during the ages of faith have in these modern 
times a need for participation in politics which is strong as the 
need for food, for shelter, for sex. Such persons never speak of 
the real motives which impel them to their pursuit of politics, 
but continually refer, in accents of assumed passion, to motives 
which do indeed preoccupy some politicians, but not them. The 
chief of these is the desire to end poverty. But William Joyce 
had never in his life known what it was to be hungry or cold or 
workless, and he did not belong to the altruistic type which 
torments itself over the plight of others; and indeed there was 


probably no callousness in this, for surely if he himself had been 
destitute he would have been too completely absorbed in his 
rages and his books to notice it. His was another hunger, another 
chill, another kind of unemployment. But the only people in the 
generation before him who attacked the governing class had been 
poor or altruist, and since their attack had been successful their 
vocabulary held a tang of victory, and William Joyce and his 
kind borrowed it. 

Therefore they spoke of economics when they were thinking of 
religion; and thus they became the third wing of a certain trip 
tych. In the third and fourth centuries of this era Europe and 
North Africa and Nearer Asia were racked by economic prob 
lems caused by the impending dissolution of the Western Roman 
Empire. The study of economics was then barely begun; there 
was as yet no language in which the people could analyse their 
insecurity and design their security. But several men of genius 
and many of talent had been excited by the personality of Christ 
and excited by the bearings of his gospel on the discoveries made 
by the ancient philosophers. Hence the science of theology was 
developed to a stage where intelligent people could grasp the 
outlines with which it delineated universal experiences and ap 
plied its phraseology to their particular experiences. Therefore 
those suffering economic distress complained of it in theological 
terms. They cried out to society that its structure was wrong, in 
terms which, taken literally, meant that the orthodox Christian 
faith was mistaken; they rushed from the derelict estates where 
they starved as peons and sought the desert, where they could eat 
better on brigandage, and said that they did this because they 
had had a peculiar revelation concerning the Trinity. The hun 
gry disguised themselves as heretics. Now, in our day, those 
suffering from religious distress reverse the process and complain 
of it in economic terms. Those who desire salvation pretend that 
they are seeking a plan to feed the hungry. Between the two 
wings of the triptych shone the rich panel of European civiliza 
tion, created during a happy interim when, for various reasons, 
man found it easy to say what he meant. 

It is undignified for any human being to be the victim of a his 
torical predicament. It is a confession that one has been worsted, 
not by a conspiracy of enemies, nor by the hostility of nature, but 


by one s environment, by the medium in which one s genius, had 
one possessed such a thing, should have expressed itself; as harsh 
as it is for an actor to admit that he cannot speak on a stage, for 
an artist to admit that he cannot put paint on canvas. So the 
victims of historical predicaments are tempted to pretend that 
they sacrificed themselves for an eternal principle which their 
contemporaries had forgotten, instead of owning that one of 
time s gables was in the way of their window and barred their 
view of eternity. But William Joyce pretended nothing at his 
trials. His faint smile said simply, "I am what I am." He did 
not defend the faith which he had held, for he had doubted it; 
he did not attack it, for he had believed in it. It is possible that 
in these last days fascism had passed out of the field of his close 
attention, that what absorbed him was the satisfaction which he 
felt at being, for the first time in his life, taken seriously. It had 
at last been conceded that what he was and what he did were 
matters of supreme importance. It was recognized that he had 
been involved by his birth in a war between the forces in the 
community which desired to live and those which desired to die, 
a war between the forces in himself which desired to live and 
those which desired to die. It was an end to mediocrity. 

He said that he had had a fair trial; but he had had two trials. 
On the floor of the courts where he was put in the dock there 
was tested an issue of how far the letter is divorced from the 
spirit, an issue which must have come up again and again since 
the birth of law. Centuries ago, or in the part of the world least 
visited by civilization, it might be debated whether a man can 
live all his life among a tribe and eat its salt and in the hour of 
its danger sharpen the spears that its enemies intend for their 
attack on it, and go free because he has not undergone the right 
ceremonies which would have made him a member of that tribe. 
But in the upper air above the courts it was argued whether the 
God with whom man can have a perfect relationship is the 
dream of disappointed sons imagining a perfect Father who shall 
be better than all fathers, or is more real than reality. This other 
trial was not concluded, for it began with some remote birth and 
will not now end till the last death. It is this uncertainty which 
gives life its sickening and exquisite tension, and under that 
tension the fragility of William Joyce was as impressive as his 


strength. He sat in the dock, quietly wondering at time as it 
streamed away from him; and his silence had the petitioning 
quality we had heard in his voice over the air during the war. 
He had his satisfactions. He had wanted glory, and his trial gave 
him the chance to wrestle with reality, to argue with the universe, 
to defend the revelations which he believed had been made to 
him; and that is about as much glory as comes to any man. But 
treason took to itself others not so fortunate. 


The New Phase 


LT TOOK SOME TIME for the law to digest the 
Fascist traitors. John Amery was brought to trial at the Old 
Eailey on a charge of high treason; but it was at first not thought 
that he was going to suffer the same fate as William Joyce. His 
case was postponed several times in order that evidence might be 
collected for his defence, which rested on a claim that he had 
become a naturalized Spanish citizen, and it was known that a 
relative had gone to Spain to collect proof of that claim. His 
mother applied for a seat in court, and, while the officials felt 
some sympathetic apprehension in granting the application, they 
supposed her to have reason to know that she would joyfully 
witness her son s acquittal. But she did not appear, and the trial, 
which was one of the most dramatic the Central Criminal Court 
has ever seen, ended in an enigmatic tragedy. 

The court was crowded, and the atmosphere was hopeful, for 
nearly a whole side of one of the three tables in front of the 
bench was taken up by a number of trim and florid young men 
who were said to be Spanish lawyers who had, presumably, 
brought proof that John Amery could not have committed trea 
son against England because he was not a British but a Spanish 
subject. But at eleven o clock, half an hour after the trial should 
have started, there was no judge on the bench, no jury in the 
box, no prisoner in the dock. Then Amery s counsel, Mr. Gerald 
Slade K.C., later Mr. Justice Slade, who had been William 
Joyce s counsel, "and now dead, and Mr. John Foster, now Sir 
John Foster and a Q.C., left their seats and went through a door 
in the glass walls of the empty dock and, stooping to gather up 
their black gowns, down the stairway into the cells. After half 
an hour there was a flurry of messengers and the trial began. The 
judge entered in shrivelled and eccentric majesty: Mr. Justice 
Humphreys, small in the depths of his red and purple robes, a 
very old man, with wit on his tongue and a fiercer wit on his face, 



where there was often written what he would not let himself say 
in case institutions he respected fell. 

In the dock, John Amery looked like a sick little monkey and 
was yellow with fear, but behaved well. The indictments against 
him were read out. He was charged with having made treasona 
ble broadcasts and speeches and having attempted to seduce 
British subjects from their allegiance, and was asked whether he 
pleaded guilty or not guilty. It had been supposed that he would 
answer "Not guilty." Then the jurors would have been called in 
and sworn, and counsel would have addressed the court, and the 
routine would have rolled on for perhaps as long as four days. 
But when the question was put to him he answered, "I plead 
guilty to all counts/ and the trial lasted eight minutes. 

A murmur ran through the court which was horrified, which 
was expostulatory, which was tinged with self-pity, for this was 
suicide. If he pleaded guilty he must be sentenced to death, for 
there is no alternative sentence for treason, and it is not in the 
power of any judge to substitute a term of imprisonment. There 
is only the possibility that the Home Secretary may advise the 
Crown to reprieve the condemned man; and this happens only 
in certain circumstances, not to be found by any eye in the case 
of John Amery. In effect, the young man was saying, "I insist on 
being hanged by the neck in three weeks time." Very strangely, 
what he did felt like an act of cruelty to the whole court. That was 
why it felt self-pity. It rejected the life that was in all of us. Now it 
could be perceived that the legal tradition whereby a man under 
a capital charge must be urged by every possible means to plead 
not guilty is no meddling excess of humanitarianism, but is an 
expression of the fundamental belief of living things in life. It 
recalled that saying of Charles Dickens which so profoundly 
impressed Tolstoi, that whatever power gave us life, and for 
whatever purpose, he was sure it was given to us on the under 
standing that we defend it to the last breath. It is true, of course, 
that there are conditions in which a man can die without betray 
ing his life, because his death will give it the spiritual value 
without which it is worthless, but these conditions were not to be 
found in the case of poor young Amery. 

The old judge leaned forward and said to the clerk of the court, 
"Before that is recorded " and broke off. Then he said to Mr. 
Slade, "I never accept a plea of guilty on a capital charge with- 


out assuring myself that the accused thoroughly understands 
what he is doing and what the immediate result must be, and 
that he is in accord with his legal advisers in the course he has 
taken." Mr. Slade answered, speaking with obvious fidelity to a 
prepared statement, "I can assure you of that, my lord. I have 
explained the position to my client and I am satisfied that he 
understands it." This passage had the quietness of the worst sort 
of nightmare. It was as if he had said, "Yes, this man chooses to 
be walled up, and all proper arrangements have been made to 
get suitable bricks." The old judge s eyebrows and the corners 
of his mouth made a queer pattern. Yes, life has to be defended 
to the last ditch, but what a damned thing it isl He said, "Right. 
Let it be recorded." Then the clerk of the court asked John 
Amery if he had anything to say. The young man answered, 
weakly and politely, "No, thank you." The attendant placed 
the square black cloth on the judge s head, but the judge did 
not deliver the death sentence. Instead he leaned forward and 
asked, "You do not want to say anything?" Still in the same 
well-bred and dying voice, the young man said, "No, thank you, 
sir." It was quite clear that he was morally satisfied and that he 
was congratulating himself on having at last, at the end of his 
muddled and frustrated existence, achieved an act crystalline in 
its clarity, an act which fulfilled the conditions in which a man 
can choose to die without betraying life. Yet none of the 
hundreds of people who were watching him with the intensest 
interest had the faintest idea what that act was, with perhaps the 
exception of the lawyers, who were bound by professional eti 
quette to keep silent. 

It was immediately spread about that John Amery had sud 
denly insisted on pleading guilty for the sake of his family, to 
spare them the prolonged anguish of his trial. But this could 
hardly be the whole explanation. For if the Spanish lawyers were 
there, they must have attended to give testimony in support of 
his story that he had been naturalized as a Spanish citizen, and 
he had simply to stand by while the case moved towards his 
acquittal, which would have been the best way of sparing his 
family s feelings. There was, in fact, another complication, 
which could be guessed from the curious circumstance that the 
Spanish lawyers did not all belong to one party. Anyone who 
watched them during the period of waiting before the trial be- 


gan could see that they were split into two groups. So, it turned 
out, they were. One group had come to give evidence in support 
of John Amery s claim to be a naturalized Spaniard, and the 
other to controvert that evidence. 

How that situation arose was indicated some months later to a 
traveller in Spain who found himself at a dinner party with a 
member of the Franco government. This traveller remembered 
that a relative of John Amery had gone out to Spain with letters 
from the British authorities asking the Spanish government to 
give all facilities for searching the records for proof of this claim 
to naturalization, and that shortly afterwards a law officer, bear 
ing credentials from the same fount of authority as Amery s 
relative, had also gone out to Spain, apparently on some errand 
of investigation, though it was not known what that might be. It 
occurred to the traveller that perhaps the Spanish politician might 
have known one or both of these visitors, and he mentioned their 
names. "Now tell me/ asked the Spaniard, "just what happened 
in that case. What made the British government change their 
minds about John Amery?" "Change their minds?" echoed the 
traveller. "Yes," said the Spaniard petulantly. "First they wanted 
not to hang him, and then the next thing we knew they wanted 
to hang him." There had been a Spanish misunderstanding of 
British processes. 

It must be remembered that John Amery probably believed 
himself to be a Spanish subject. It was certainly true that when 
he was gun-running for Franco he had received a laissez-passer 
for Spanish territory which, once he had heard of the defence 
raised by William Joyce, would very easily have been trans 
formed by his feather wits into a formal certificate of naturaliza 
tion. He assured his lawyers that he was indeed a Spanish citizen, 
and his relative went to Spain to look for the relevant docu 
mentation in the belief that it existed, and quite unprepared for 
any unusual act of complaisance on the part of any Spanish 
official. It would not have crossed his mind that it was necessary, 
and when he was given the required certificate he took it back 
to England in all good faith. But shortly before the trial the 
private papers which Amery had left behind him on the Conti 
nent had fallen into the hands of British Intelligence officers. 
They found that the date on the Spanish certificate of naturaliza 
tion put Amery in Spain on a date when, his passport showed, he 


had been in another country. Hence a British official also made 
a journey to Spain. 

The judge spoke some words to Amery before passing 
sentence, expressing hatred of his crime. Many people thought 
the judge heartless, forgetting that a very old man might well 
feel himself on an equality with a prisoner under sentence of 
death, and might even think that the prisoner would find a 
precise evaluation of his position, given by one so likely to 
understand it, more interesting than tenderness from a stranger 
with whom he had less in common. True, there was a certain 
ineptness in his enlargement on a passage in the depositions 
which described how Amery had visited the camp at Saint Denis 
to enlist internees for his renegade British Free Corps and had 
been warned by some of the men that he was committing high 
treason but had taken no notice. This is not a point worth 
making, for by that time Amery had been sealed in his magic 
circle, and he must have believed that he was giving the in 
ternees an opportunity to join the winning side. Yet, if what the 
judge said had little application to Amery, he seemed to say it 
because his mind had been shocked into flight to some place near 
the source of our general destiny. He said slowly and 
querulously, "They called you traitor, and you heard them." It 
was as if he spoke for all men, marvelling at our knowledge of 
good and evil and our preference for evil. That was a timeless 
moment; but the case had its aspects which showed the power of 
time. It seemed extraordinary that Amery had been allowed to 
plead guilty. That he had wished to do so was not a satisfactory 
explanation, for he was too volatile to have resisted whole 
hearted pressure, had it been applied. It was widely said that his 
counsel, Mr. Slade, had concurred with his client s wish because 
he thought that should Amery plead not guilty the jury would 
be prejudiced against him if he did not go into the box to give 
evidence on his behalf, and would be still more prejudiced if he 
went into the witness box and babbled in his customary fashion; 
and Mr. Slade hoped that Amery would afterwards be reprieved 
because he was the son of a loved and valued public servant. The 
prosecuting counsel, Sir Hartley Shawcross, did all he could to 
dissuade Mr. Slade, pointing out that the social climate would 
never permit such a concession to one of the governing classes, 
and of course he was right. Mr. Slade was in the wrong century. 


As the historical plays of Shakespeare indicate, it has never 
been the custom in this land to exempt the great or their kin 
from the gallows, and the specific privileges granted to nobles in 
this connection are trial by their peers and a silken rope. In the 
eighteenth century the kind of mercy for which Mr. Slade hoped 
was sometimes practised, but throughout the nineteenth century 
the tide flowed in a contrary direction; and by the time the First 
World War was over few people in any class would have con 
sidered it proper that a great man should be rewarded for his 
greatness by exemption of his son from the penalty which would 
certainly have been inflicted on the son of a poor man. 

This dangerous lapse into archaicism was due to deep-seated 
peculiarities in Mr. Slade s character. In court he was the coolest 
and most resourceful of craftsmen, and he was a notably success 
ful chairman of the Bar Council; but he was not the orthodox 
barrister he appeared. For one thing, he always believed his 
clients to be innocent, not in the highly technical sense with 
which lawyers must hold that belief, but with the Words- 
worthian simplicity which is the privilege of the layman; and in 
general matters he was apt to turn his face against the judgments 
of his fellow men even when these seemed well calculated to 
serve our common convenience. It distressed him that the civil 
ized world had agreed mealtimes, since a man should eat only 
when he is hungry, and different men, and indeed the same man 
on different days, might be supposed to feel hunger at different 
hours, according to the energy they had expended. Such a man 
might easily fail to grasp public opinion on a matter such as the 
favouring of a convicted person because of his birth, rarely dis 
cussed because no longer considered arguable. The error proba 
bly cost Amery his life. For had he pleaded not guilty and gone 
into the witness box, his demeanour would probably have made 
it possible to reprieve him on the ground of insanity. 

At that trial time could be seen moving at quick-march pace; 
at other trials it seemed to be standing still. There were two 
which took place in the world of Kipling, of "If" and "Reces 
sional." The first concerned a Kenneth Edward, who at the 
beginning of the war had been a charming and moderately 
naughty boy of thirteen in a Cornish town, the son of a police 
man employed in a naval dockyard. In 1940 he went to sea as a 
deckboy on an ammunition ship, and within the year was on a 


steamer which was sunk by a German raider. For six weeks he 
was a prisoner on the raider, and then he was landed in France 
and passed through a succession of internment camps. In one of 
them there was an elderly Englishwoman who was released and 
persuaded the camp authorities to let her take the boy home 
with her. As he grew nearer military age the Germans took him 
back again into custody. He described what happened then in 
these words: 

Then I was sent to a camp near Drancy near Paris, in which 
I found myself alone with a lot of Jews. I stayed in this camp 
with them for three months and then I was transferred to St. 
Denis with all the Jews on August 29th, 1942. On June gth I 
escaped from St. Denis and I could not get away from Paris so 
I gave myself up on the loth of July 1943. When I returned to 
camp I had a dog s life from the Jews because they believed I 
gave one of their number away seeing he had escaped and was 
hiding unbeknown to myself quite near to where I was and he 
was caught three days after: I stayed in camp then in a hut to 
myself because even my best friend would not speak to me 
until it was found out that I never gave him away. Soon after a 
man came to our Camp and he called himself John Amery. He 
called some men to a hut in the Gamp and spoke to them about 
a Legion of St. George that had been formed in Germany. Then 
he put some big Posters in the Camp, which said that a said 
Legion had been formed and the strength of this Legion was a 
little 1800 men POW and those RAF planes that had come 
from England to fight Bolshevics which I can truly say I did 
not understand what it meant until a few months ago, he said 
it was our duty to come and fight for England and Europe. So 
I spoke to the Camp Captain Gillis a German who said it was 
good and that most of my friends had vol. but he could not 
tell me their names, so I thought if he said it was good it must 
be so. I told him I would join too. 

A fortnight afterwards he was taken to a private house in Paris 
where he was introduced to a German named Plack, of the 
Foreign Office, and John Amery, who was introduced to him as 
the Foreign Secretary of England. They took a great deal of 
trouble to persuade this illiterate child with no military training 
to enlist in the legion, and this was not folly. A gay and good- 
looking boy, in high spirits because he had regained his liberty, 
and bubbling over with talk of the fine lime .the Germans were 


giving him, might have been a very successful recruiting agent in 
British prisoner-of-war camps. 

About three weeks later Kenneth Edward succumbed, and the 
camp authorities handed him over to an English member of the 
legion named Tunmer, who took him to Paris. There they lived 
in a house managed by French collaborationists in the bleak 
surrealist district on the outer edge of Auteuil, where gaunt 
buildings tower over the fortifications, not far from the fantastic 
viaduct of the Pont-du-Jour. Tunmer took him round the sights 
of Paris and gave him some money to spend on amusements and 
promised him as nice a time in Berlin. There was doubtless a 
real tenderness and pity in the older man s dealings with the 
boy, for after eight days of this holiday two men in civilian 
clothes came to the house and took Tunmer away. He was a 
British agent. Later that same day John Amery paid Kenneth 
Edward a visit to see how he was getting on. When the bewil 
dered boy told him what had happened he showed signs of 
surprise, and, on the plea that it did not seem safe to stay in the 
house when such things were going on, he rang up the Gestapo. 

The immediate consequences were alarming. Kenneth Edward 
was questioned about Tunmer and thrown into prison for a 
week. Then he was taken to Berlin under guard, where he was 
met at the station by Amery, his Cagoulard wife who had suc 
ceeded Jeannine Barde, and Herr Plack. They greeted him affec 
tionately and took him back to Amery s rooms, a suite in the 
Kaiserhof, a luxurious hotel looking out on a great square. Ken 
neth Edward was dazzled by all this splendour and was greatly 
impressed by John Amery s good looks; and he had a good time 
playing with Amery s dog. Amery gave him three hundred marks 
and was with him for some hours, telling him lying stories about 
the growing strength of the legion and preaching a crusade 
against bolshevism. Finally he took him over to the Foreign 
Office, which was not far away, where a Dr. Hesse inquired of 
him with what must have been inhuman irony as to his readiness 
to fight the Russians; and afterwards Plack took him to a board 

But he did not see Amery for a month. Plack kept him sup 
plied with money and cigarettes, and he drifted about Berlin 
with nothing to do. Then Amery summoned him to the suite at 
the Kaiserhof and introduced him to Thomas Haller Cooper and 


a group of German officers who had been engaged for some time 
past in spotting likely traitors in the prison camps. "Drinks," 
Kenneth Edward reported in one of his statements, "were sup 
plied by Amery." The British Free Corps was launched onto the 
sea of alcohol on which it was to sail until its shipwreck. At the 
end of the evening Amery said to the boy, "You will soon be 
with your unit now, and will start training with the Corporal/ 1 
But no call came for him, and it was the last time he was ever to 
see him. For the next three months Kenneth Edward was to live 
in a peculiar limbo. Berlin was constantly raided by the RAF. 
Plack ceased to take any interest in him, and he was so poorly 
fed that he missed the Red Cross parcels he had had in cainp. He 
was unable to write to his family or receive letters from them. As 
he spoke very little German he was repeatedly put under arrest; 
he thought it happened on as many as twenty-three occasions. 
Again and again he wrote to Amery, asking him what he was to 
do, but received no answer. The last time he was arrested his 
captors put him in a cell and beat him with a blackjack in 
revenge for the damage the RAF was doing. In desperation he 
went to the Foreign Office and reminded the authorities of the 
interview he had had when he first came to Berlin; and on 
January i, 1944, he was sent to a house on the outskirts of Berlin 
where there was a handful of men who had volunteered to join 
the British Free Corps and were now under the command of 
Thomas Haller Cooper. 

Kenneth Edward was not very kindly received. As he put it, "I 
wasn t very trusted and had been brought in by Amery." That 
there was some feeling against him was indicated by his position 
as the one and only private in the British Free Corps. All other 
volunteers, without a single exception, were made officers. The 
explanation he gave was probably correct. The Germans had by 
this time found that John Amery was more than they could 
stomach. Nevertheless, they used Kenneth Edward by sending 
him on recruiting tours through the camps. But they had fallen 
into the pit which is dug for all corrupters of youth. Despoiled 
innocence loses its innocent charm. The happy and pretty boy 
they had enlisted to speak fair things to melancholy prisoners 
was no longer happy or pretty, and his words had little power to 
lift the heart. 

He made no recruits; and, on finding himself, in the month of 


May 1944, in the course of a tour, at the merchant seamen s camp 
near Bremen, he heard something o the security officer who was 
in charge, Captain Notman. This man was what the mass of men 
since Homer have wished to be: comely, strong, courageous, 
trusted and trustworthy, not without guile, and much loved. 
Learning his repute, Kenneth Edward wrote him a letter in which 
he threw himself on his mercy: 

But it s not been for the last month that I have realized I am 
a traitor to England and by what I am doing I am causing my 
Mother the greatest agony she has ever felt so I implore you not 
for my sake but for my Parents sake to help me get out of the 
mess I am in. I ll face anything if I can get out, but if it is 
possible to see Brigadier-Major Interne I think he will see that 
I don t get down the mines Because I am scared for my health 
and I would (I have realized) like to come to Milag with Real 
Englishmen, I thank you Sir. 

When Captain Notman got this letter he came out of his office 
and talked to the boy, whose presence in his camp on these tours 
he had till then ignored. But he could do little for him. He 
advised him to stay in the legion, which was probably the best 
advice the boy could have been given at this juncture, when the 
Germans had begun to savage the traitors; and he told him that 
as Switzerland was the neutral power charged with the responsi 
bility of protecting the interests of British prisoners of war, he 
might as well go to the Swiss embassy in Berlin and put his case 
before the officials there. 

This Kenneth Edward did, but nothing came of it. Prisoners 
of war who lose their status by treachery are not a class which 
can be protected by international action, since it is impossible to 
make the threat of reprisals against a similar group within the 
frontiers of the aggrieved state, which is the only weapon guaran 
teeing the protection of prisoners of war. Kenneth Edward had 
to resign himself to the squalid lotus-eating of the legion. A 
leading English traitor gave him his patronage, but this cannot 
have been much help, for the man was of unamiable character. 
In his loneliness the boy made another attempt to get in touch 
with Amery and the Placks: 

Dresden, 4.11.44 
Dear Sir, 

I write you a few lines and hope that you may receive them. 
Well Mr. Amery it is a long time since I saw or heard from you 


last and I sometimes wonder how you are getting on. I hope you 
are in good health the same as this leaves me. I saw in the 
French papers that you were wounded on your way to Lyons, 
but I am glad to know that you have recovered. I am still in 
the British Free Corps we expect to go to the front in two 
weeks s time, but I don t think there is anything in it. We are 
doing Pioneer Training for the past six weeks and I like it 
very much. I speak a great lot of German so I can tell a few 
where to get off. How is your wife and dog? I hope they are 
still in good health. Have you heard from Mr, and Mrs. Plack. 
How are they? Would you tell them I should like to he remem 
bered to them and I would like to have a line from them some 
time, I cannot write to them because I have not there present 
address, also would you be so kind as to give Mr. Adami my 
best regards. I must close now because it is time for rne to go 
on Garde duty. All the Boys sends there Best Regards so good 
bye for the time. 

Yours truly, 

(Signed) Kenneth Edward 

The forced cheerfulness of this letter contrasts with the misery 
of the letter he had written six months before to Captain Not- 
man, which can be assumed to be honest, since it was an attempt 
to get behind prison bars, where a hard fate might befall him if 
the British were defeated. But there was no answer. Inevitably he 
was one of the unhappy residue of the corps dragged to the 
Russian front by Thomas Haller Cooper, who, just released from 
uncomfortable custody by the Germans, nevertheless went for 
ward in Wagnerian ecstasy to die for Germany and actually got 
himself and his reluctant charges into a battle near Schoneberg. 
There Kenneth Edward, not a Wagnerian type, surrendered to 
the Russians. Intelligence officers came on his traces when they 
were trying to find the leading British traitor who had taken the 
boy under his wing, but he had vanished into thin air and had 
never been seen since; he was perhaps one of those traitors who 
were Soviet agents working in disguise. Amery s papers were 
examined and the security officers of the camps reported on the 
legion s recruiting campaigns. So it happened that, in the follow 
ing February, Kenneth Edward was tried at the Old Bailey with 
three other merchant seamen, one of them the eccentric Herbert 

It was an unimportant case, like a number of others brought 


in order to assert the sacredness of prisoners of war and protect 
them from molestation in future wars. If it be objected that he 
was young, it should be remembered that many boys no older 
had shown themselves sturdier of soul. He was given nine 
months imprisonment, the lightest sentence passed on any trai 
tor, and his robust health and resilient character took him 
through it. But his trial lingers in the memory of those who saw 
it because of his reaction to the sight of Captain Notman in the 
witness box. For a minute it could be seen that he would forget 
the terror and the loneliness and the beatings and the bullying, 
but not the injury which had been inflicted on a deeper part. 
Captain Notman was the kind of person he respected, brave, 
honourable, upright; and poor Kenneth Edward had appeared 
before Captain Notman in the past and was appearing before 
him again, as committed to a way of living which the captain 
held in contempt. If by some odd chance somebody in court had 

If you can keep your head when all about you 

Are losing theirs arid blaming it on you, 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 

But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 

Or being lied about, don t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don t give way to hating, 

And yet don t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

there might have been tears shed in the dock, unnoticed by 
Captain Notman, who would have been listening appreciatively 
to the verse. 

In the Kipling world too was the trial of the only traitor that 
gave the Royal Navy reason to hang its head. He was a young 
stoker of faint personality and incurious mind, and the chief 
charge against him was the betrayal to the Germans of informa 
tion about radar equipment in the type of motor torpedo boat in 
which he served, and about the naval and harbour facilities of 
Portsmouth, neither of which subjects could he have had at his 
fingertips. But he was up to his neck in dubious goings-on. A 
slender boy, not unlike lie Duke of Windsor, with a long neck, 
hair pale gold in the light and mousy in the shadow, and pouches 
under his blue eyes, he made a poor show in the dock, sagging 
like a plant in need of staking. When he was cross-examined he 


was pitifully unresentful of injustice and misunderstanding, and 
borne down by noise. 

But he was true to an exalted resolution. He had been a 
coward in Germany, and he knew what cowardice was. That he 
knew because other people were brave. He had a comrade who 
was very brave: a dark boy with bright brown eyes who threw 
back his head and laughed when he was asked if the Germans in 
the camp had beaten him for covering up a friend s escape. That 
had been a pasting. So Stoker Rose was determined not to be a 
coward in England. He was not going to lie to save his skin; and 
in excess of abnegation he bent his neck beneath the yoke laid 
on it by his cross-examiner. At last, when he had covered himself 
with a web of admissions, the investigating officer said to him, "I 
suggest to you that right from the start you knew that what you 
were doing was wrong. Is that not so?" The boy did not answer 
for a long time. His face became greenish-white; then the discol 
ouration cleared and left it steadfast, though still languid. "Yes, 
sir/ he said. It was the truth, and he told it when he was being 
cross-examined on a capital charge. 

The moment was, from his point of view, satisfactory. He had 
always known that he should have resisted the Germans to the 
point of death, and he felt cleansed by his confession of long 
standing cowardice, which was of the sort more usually made to 
a priest or to a parent than to a lawyer in court. Plainly he felt 
about this investigating officer as young Kenneth Edward had 
felt about Captain Notman. He was saying, "I am inferior to this 
man who is questioning me, because I did not uphold the values 
that he has always upheld." A minute later his own counsel 
asked Him., "Did you do what you did with the purpose of 
betraying your country?" He answered with a new strength, 
"Absolutely no, sir." "Why did you do it?" asked his counsel. 
He answered, "I had no alternative," and added with a laugh, 
"I was frightened to death." "You mean," said the counsel 
with a smile, "you were frightened of your life," The exact 
truth eased them both. 

This was an attempt to keep the natural man in check, fully 
justified by the presence of the natural man at his worst in the 
witness box. The legal departments of the armed forces have a 
horrid weakness for tainted evidence. John Gordon, an Irish- 
Canadian, was serving a sentence of twenty-five years impris- 


onment for treachery; he had taken a day off to take a hand in 
condemning to prison or to death a young man with whom he 
had lived in companionship for two years. Because prison was a 
horror to his goatish disposition and he had been there for six 
months, he stood like a dead man not so efficiently raised as 
Lazarus. When he was asked a question his mouth worked under 
the stubble of his moustache and hung open; his hands were 
usually clasped behind him, sometimes he brought them forward 
and rubbed them together. They were marked as if by untidy 
stigmata. Staring upwards at nothing, he repeated names of men 
with whom he had lived for years as if they were words in an 
unknown language. 

But the next day he was well enough. He saw the court as 
comprised of persons who, like all persons gathered together in 
public, purported to believe in virtue. Or did they really believe 
in virtue? Perhaps so. He could believe in virtue too if he forced 
himself. Then let them all be virtuous together. At his own court 
martial he had been described as "the ears and the eyes of the 
Germans" and had been the informer to end all informers, and 
now he unctuously set about persuading the court that his collu 
sion with the Germans had been all for the sake of his comrades. 
"There were a hundred and one little things we could do for the 
prisoners," he declared priggishly. But in this orgy of self- 
justification he spared time to say a good word for the lily-like 
stoker. He described how the boy had gone more than once to 
see certain German officers and begged to be released from his 
post as "trusty" and allowed to resume his status as an ordinary 
prisoner of war, and had wept when he was refused. This crea 
ture was indeed half a child himself. "What did you do with 
your time?" he was asked. He answered, "We played cards. We 
read books. We went walks in the woods. And sometimes," he 
said with sudden gusto, "we went swimmin ." One saw his hairy 
and sweating body raising a diamond spray of water in the 
sunlight; one heard the harsh and meaningless cries with which 
he would have banished tranquillity in order to proclaim his 

This depraved child, companion to Caliban, had brought 
suffering on himself even before he was sentenced to this long 
term of imprisonment. The wounds on his hands were due to a 
beating with barbed wire he had been given by a working party 


of prisoners of war who had discovered that he was an informer. 
They had also left his face a bleeding jelly and broken several of 
his ribs. They counted this as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a 
tooth. He had brought as bad and worse on their comrades. 
When all is said and done, Caliban is dangerous. 

One day the court rose early and the spectators went out into 
the Portsmouth Naval Barracks at a time when the men were in 
their quarters; man s fear of Caliban was made visible. At every 
window in the huge towering blocks there was a row of intent 
and unsmiling faces, crowded together at the side which gave the 
best view of the courtroom door far below, like beads pushed 
along the wire of an abacus. They were watching to see the 
stoker led out. There were thousands of them, and they had paid 
generously for his defence. But none was speaking. The silence 
was absolute. A giant body was apprehensive lest it had lost its 
virtue, which it required as much as its strength if it were to be 
strong. This was the spirit of the "Recessional": 

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, 
Lest we forget lest we forget! 

and it was presently to vanish from all treason trials. 

The prosecutions of British persons charged with treacherous 
relations with the enemy during the Second World War under 
the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, ended with a non 
pareil, a case quite unlike any that had come before or were to 
come afterwards. One of the most famous litigants of the last 
half-century was tried and convicted for broadcasting for the 
Germans in occupied Paris: a man of exceptional gifts, who had 
been brilliantly successful in business, had offered up his life in 
martyrdom to an idea connected with insurance finance. 
Roughly speaking, he thought it wrong of insurance companies 
to invest in commodities, and he crusaded against the practice 
with a fervour which would have been excessive had it been the 
prime cause of cancer, and which brought ruin on himself and 
his family. He had been attracted to Germany because he be 
lieved that the Nazi government was sound on this issue and he 
was hardly conscious of any other and on the outbreak of wax 
he and his family were caught there and were engulfed in a 
series of horrible misfortunes, which finally swept them into 
occupied France. There he took service with the Germans from 


sheer need; and after the war the British authorities might have 
overlooked his offences, had not he been betrayed into provoca 
tive actions by his indignant feeling that too much importance 
was being ascribed to matters which, in his mind, were only 
marginal to the great problem of insurance finance. It is to be 
hoped that in the hereafter a world will be constructed for him 
where the Pearl and the Prudential, the Scottish Widows and the 
Eagle, all alike toe a celestial line and invest their surplus as he 
thinks decent. 

Then an ideological hush fell on the Old Bailey. But not for 
long. Treachery is not a peculiar product of the war between 
Great Britain and Germany. It is a business which has been 
carried on since the beginning of history. Faint cries from the 
past tell us how the Hlyrians were ashamed when those of their 
blood without pride worked for Rome, and how Central Europe 
blushed over the renegades who joined the yellow barbarian 
hordes; and the Republic of Venice entered on its books the 
figures of its competition in the traitor market on the Mediterra 
nean coasts with the great corrupter, Islam, who for centuries 
made aliens like William Joyce beys and pashas and tutors to the 
children of its great, and picked the Christian Free Corps from the 
galley-slaves. The traitors who stood in the dock in the Old 
Bailey were enduring their two-hundredth incarnation or so, 
allowing three generations to a century and putting the first 
complicated civilization in the fourth millennium before Christ. 
There is always loyalty, for men love life and cling together 
under the threats of the uncaring universe. So there is always 
treachery, since there is the instinct to die as well as the instinct 
to live; and as loyalty changes to meet the changing threats of 
the environment, so treachery changes also. 

Six months after the hanging of William Joyce, the most re 
markable representative of the phase of disloyalty which ended 
with the defeat of Germany, there followed him into the dock at 
the Old Bailey Dr. Alan Nunn May, Lecturer on Physics in the 
University of London, who represented the new phase of disloy 
alty. The community condemned in the person of William Joyce 
the extrovert who sought to find in politics what in other ages he 
would have found in religion and made his search on the field of 
fascism, with its marches, its bands, its shouting, its bright col 
ours, its blows, its violence. Dr. Alan Nunn May was the per- 


sonification of the introvert who makes the same transference 
but is better pleased by the secrecy and drabness of communism, 
which is fascism with a glandular and geographical difference. 
He was a scientist, and in that was as representative of his breed 
of fascism as Joyce had been of his. For the new Fascists, who 
stepped forward after the war to carry on the old business of 
disloyalty under a different label, were, in England, under 
scientific domination. It had been the claim of the violent men 
who formed the Nazi-Fascist movement that they should be en 
trusted with power because they were endowed with a greater 
amount of physical strength and vitality than the mass of the 
population, an amount which would enable them to seize power 
if it was denied them. It was now the claim of the scientists who 
formed so influential a part of the Communist-Fascist movement 
that they were endowed with a greater amount of special techni 
cal knowledge than the mass of the population, an amount 
which would enable them to seize that power if it were denied 
them. There is a similarity between the claims of the Nazi-Fas 
cists and the Communist-Fascists, and no less similarity between 
the methods of putting them forward. The claims depend on an 
unsound assumption that the man who possesses a special gift 
will possess also a universal wisdom which will enable him to 
impose an order on the state superior to that contrived by the 
consultative system known as democracy; which will enable him, 
in fact, to know other people s business better than they do 

If this assumption seems less patently absurd when it is ap 
plied to a scientist than to a pianist or a painter, the reason is 
simply the dizzy novelty of science. The study of physics or 
chemistry is no more likely than the study of harmony and 
counterpoint to develop social omniscience in the student; nor 
have these or any other branches of science made any con 
tributions to the technique of government which would give 
their students any right to intervene as experts. It frequently 
happened then that the BBC asked certain Communist scientists 
to speak about the age we live in, and they were all remarkable 
for the vanity with which they claimed that the advance of 
science has at last made it possible for man to contemplate a 
planned and abundant economy for the world. But modern 
science had and has done almost nothing to give man the precog- 


nizance necessary for planning and still less to guarantee any 
kind of useful abundance. It cannot foretell or control the 
foundation of all economy, which is weather. It has not yet 
found a way of providing cheap houses, or a cheap and conven 
ient source of light and heat and energy, or a cheap and reliable 
food supply. The groundless boasts were, like the equally ground 
less boasts of the Nazi-Fascists, covers for a threat. Mussolini and 
Hitler, when they said that they and their followers could govern 
because of their physical strength and ruthlessness, meant that 
they and their followers had enough physical strength and ruth 
lessness to beat and shoot anyone who refused to be governed by 

The Communist scientists, who said that they and their asso 
ciates could govern because of their technical knowledge, meant 
that they and their associates played a sufficient part in the 
development of processes used in modern war and industry to be 
able to blackmail society if it would not accept their dictation. 
One demand was as absurd as the other. Obviously any fragile 
doctor or research worker has as much right as any brawny 
Fascist to have his say in the conduct of the community; and 
obviously any teacher or any factory hand or any housewife is as 
necessary to the state as a scientist and has as much right to self- 
government. If it be asked why some scientists, who of necessity 
must have a certain amount of intelligence, should be Commu 
nist-Fascists, it can be answered that the British and American 
scientists came from a group which had been deprived of its 
defences against absurdity, and especially against totalitarian 
absurdity, by its social origins. 

British and American scientists are drawn from the intellec 
tuals of their two countries: that is, from a section of the English 
middle classes, or from American groups profoundly influenced 
by the culture of that section. Intellectuals may be defined as 
persons whose natural endowments and education give them the 
power to acquire experience of a rich and varied order, usually 
Jinked in some degree or other with learning and the arts, and, 
furthermore, to analyse their experiences and to base generaliza 
tions on the results of the analyses conducted by them and their 
fellows. They are essentially gregarious. They pool their expe 
riences, they conform in their conclusions. Nobody can be an 
intellectual all by himself. That is why William Joyce, though 


he had an intellect capable of passing exacting academic tests, 
could never be called an intellectual. His Anglo-Irish loyalist 
tradition and his early Irish background made it impossible for 
him to fit into the conventional groove. Intellectuals are thrown 
up for the most part by the middle classes. This was not so in 
earlier times, in Tudor or Caroline or Georgian days, but it has 
been the case in the last hundred years. Though there have been 
notable exceptions, such as Bertrand Russell, the old landowning 
class bound its young too closely to the services and to politics 
and to estate management to give them much time for the life of 
debate; and the industrialists have always been too busy. Intellec 
tuals thrown up from the lower classes immediately pass, in this 
country, into the middle classes. 

It is the function of intellectuals to enable society to adapt 
itself to changing conditions which is, indeed, to attack the 
essential problem of politics. But while there are few functions 
so important, there are few so constantly subject to degeneration. 
A lazy intellectual, or an intellectual who has adopted the voca 
tion with insufficient equipment, can pretend that he is discharg 
ing that function simply by attacking the status quo, without 
giving any indication of what he proposes to substitute for it. 
This actually gives him an advantage over the constructive intel 
lectual, for in destruction wit and irony can more easily come 
into play. He will often have dynamic force behind his wit, 
because the intellectual who had not a religious sense of the duty 
of selflessness burned till recently with the grievance that unless 
he was a man of fortune he could not gain a position of power. 
He felt this more and more as the nineteenth century went on, 
for the industrial revolution had created a new field of power 
other than that which had been cultivated by the landed aristoc 

There is an ominous significance in Matthew Arnold s rage 
against the philistinism of the manufacturing classes, which was 
defiling the English mind as the smoke from their factories* 
chimneys was defiling the English sky, and his anguished, nostal 
gic love of the traditional English culture based on classical 
studies and therefore dependent on the existence of a leisured 
class under no compulsion to follow utilitarian studies. Arnold 
rightly supposed that there were far more aristocrats than manu 
facturers who could understand and value him. It was most 


sinister, though it then seemed most innocent, that in his distress 
he looked for comfort to a country other than his own: to Ger 
many, which in that age was the country from which there had 
come the Prince Consort, Christmas trees, the music of Mendels 

Every decade of the nineteenth century was to produce more 
and more Matthew Arnolds, who were to feel furiously that by 
all traditional standards they formed the superior class of the 
community, the sages and the prophets, and that they were 
wholly disregarded by a rising class of industrial tyrants. They 
dealt with their fury in two ways. Either they clung to the old 
landowning aristocracy, with something often difficult to dis 
tinguish from snobbery but actually concerned with deeper mat 
ters. For an example of that form of adaptation we can turn to 
an alien who, when his discontent took the usual form of look 
ing to another country for salvation, looked to ours. The English 
landowning aristocracy, transplanted to America, had found it 
physically impossible to cover the vast and ever-expanding ter 
rain and was a weakly growth except in certain localities; 
whereas the industrial revolution had been, as gardeners say, a 
good grower, and its flowers of philistinism were lush. Henry 
James simply turned his back on the distressing scene and went 
to England and basked in the sunshine which still, though with 
diminishing strength, warmed the terraces of the great houses. 
His correspondence illustrates the curious historical fact that the 
nineteenth century, which knew few material vestiges of the 
system of patronage, can show many more respectful letters from 
intellectuals to aristocrats than can the eighteenth century, when 
peers were real patrons and paid cash. 

But if the intellectual chanced to be neither a rich American, 
nor a writer successful enough to be lionized, nor a scholar 
holding authority in a public school or university, he could not 
range himself with the landed aristocracy, because he would be 
too obscure to attract its attention. Friendless, he would rage 
alike against the old class which had held power and the new 
class which was taking it from them; and he would find relief in 
attacking the capitalist system which maintained them both. In 
this enterprise he found certain important allies. Chief among 
them were the humanitarian members of all classes, who were 
becoming revolted by the cruelties inflicted by capitalism on 


those who were unable, for one reason or another, to share in the 
benefits it was conferring on the country as a whole; and the 
industrial workers, who were gathering together to demand a 
larger share of the profits which industry was creating. This 
meant that the intellectuals joined the procession which was 
formed by a union between the humanitarian section of the 
Liberal Party and the idealistic but legitimately acquisitive La 
bour Party. They were, however, not entirely contented. The 
Liberal Party consisted largely of Whig aristocrats and philistine 
industrialists, who carried more weight than the humanitarians 
and took no notice of their intellectual friends; and the Labour 
Party was dominated by industrial workers who had a deep 
distrust of intellectuals and thought them just another type of 
toff. English intellectuals might have become as purely academic 
and politically ineffective as their French colleagues at this pe 
riod, had they not found exceptional leaders in Sidney and Bea 
trice Webb. 

Both these gifted people were animated by a special 
discontent. Sidney Webb had a deep understanding of the admin 
istrative problems of the modern state; and it was most unlikely 
that he would ever be in a position where he could communicate 
this understanding to society, because he belonged to the lower 
middle class, and, though he had many endearing qualities, 
lacked the social charms which opened the doors of great houses. 
Beatrice Webb had talents of the same sort to an unusual degree, 
and they burned with a fiery brilliance because they had been set 
alight by a fierce resentment. Her diaries frankly confess what 
she was: a member of the wealthy industrialist class, bitterly 
jealous of the landowning aristocracy which had a longer title to 
power and often failed to conceal that they looked on her class 
as intruders. She despised the proletariat, and few people have 
written of the rank-and-file socialist more savagely than she did. 
But even more did she dislike people who lived in houses with 
useless parks round them, people who gave their little boys po 
nies, people who had their own private libraries and picture 
galleries. Now she and her husband recognized that the modern 
state was becoming so complicated that it would have to be 
governed by a bureaucracy of experts, and they embarked on a 
long campaign to form the young intellectuals of their day into 
an army of experts which should be the cadre of this 


bureaucracy, while at the same time they influenced the policy of 
the Labour Party so that it would call this army into action as 
soon as possible. They were, in fact, planning to pick up power 
when it fell from the hands of the industrialists as it had fallen 
from the hands of the landowners. 

They were aided by the support of the two most interesting 
young writers of their time, H. G. Wells and Bernard Shaw, who 
also were animated by discontent. Wells was full of justified 
proletarian resentments. His mother was the housekeeper in a 
great house, and he knew the agreeable life from which those 
without property were excluded. He had been phthisical in his 
youth and had suffered a grave internal injury when playing 
football, and had felt the panic realization of insecurity which 
was then the lot of the sick poor. Worst of all, he had an excep 
tional intelligence and had to fight to get it trained. He was also 
to know the intellectual s sense of impotence in the form most 
relevant to the special case of the Communist-scientist. By a 
miracle of courage and persistence he wrested from society a 
degree in science, and with his quick, glancing mind grasped 
sooner than most of his colleagues what innumerable windows, 
looking on what fantastic views, were going to be opened by 
modern scientific discovery. 

He was therefore repelled by the lack of imagination shown 
by the nonsdentific minds of the age, who were, indeed, quite 
strangely blind to both the threats and the promises which were 
being held out to society by science, even when they might them 
selves have derived profit and security from examining them. It 
is staggering to realize for how long British industry grudged 
spending money on research, and how, though the need for 
mechanization of our armed forces was worked out on paper not 
many years after the South African war, professional soldiers 
were still resisting it till quite a late date after (not before) the 
First World War. Wells had, therefore, a number of legitimate 
grievances against society, and so had Shaw, though his were 
fewer, less searing, and more dryly historical. He was the son of a 
poor gentleman, and was in his youth so literally penniless that 
he often lacked clothes fit to be worn in the street; he was also 
Anglo-Irish, member of one of the ascendancy families whose 
ascendant days were numbered. He was white-hot, and Wells was 
red-hot, and they were as good as a combined fireworks-and- 


bonfire show for drawing sightseers, who, as they gaped at the 
astonishing brightness, necessarily drew into their lungs much of 
the political atmosphere of the group. 

The Webbs were not successful in some of their dearest enter 
prises. Their army of experts was apparently not trained on 
quite the right lines and furnished few of the contemporary 
leaders of the Labour Party. But the Webbs did much positive 
work. Till they set up in business, the English local government 
system was an uncharted jungle, and they took it over as if they 
were a highly efficient Woods and Forests Department. Their 
views on our penal system were also far in advance of their time 
and were both sensible and humanitarian. It would be incau 
tious to ascribe to the influence of the Webbs any great part in 
the making of the Beveridge Report, on which our present wel 
fare state is founded, but it must be remembered that Lord 
Beveridge was for many years Director of the London School of 
Economics, which the Webbs brought into being, and no one 
could direct that mighty engine of research without being in 
some degree also directed by it. The Webbs also urged their 
followers to whip up their energies and follow all sorts of polit 
ical activities, including standing for local government offices, 
and for that reason the English left wing has been preserved 
from the lack of practical experience which makes the northern 
liberalism of the United States so sterile. They were positive 
indeed, and so, following different paths, were their literary 
supports. Wells revolted against them, partly because he found 
any form of cooperation impossible, partly because he was by 
temperament and conviction a democrat and he saw that the 
logical consequence of their bureaucratic theories was dictator 
ship. Giddy with excitement over life, he went his own way, 
alone in his time dreaming dreams of the future which matched 
its strangeness when it came, bringing to life characters rich as 
life itself makes them, spilling over into history and theology 
and by the use of the technique of free thinking coming to an 
oddly Christian conclusion: that there is a glory, and that man 
by himself cannot lay hold on it. 

Shaw, just as excited, but pale, went on with his lifework of 
injecting the tired English prose of the late nineteenth century 
with the genius of the eighteenth-century prose, which had been 
laid up, not in lavender but in some more pungent herb, over in 


Ireland. He refused to follow the fashion set by the Victorian 
and Edwardian playwrights and look at man through the wrong 
end of the opera glasses; his plays showed characters not merely 
as involved in social and sexual imbroglios but as making a 
choice between salvation and damnation. Many of the rank and 
file of the Webbs followers were positive in their own lesser 
ways, as civil servants, teachers, doctors, lawyers, bringing a cer 
tain new initiative and conscientiousness to their work. The 
women among them were moved to much usefulness; many of 
the voluntary institutions for the care of mothers and children 
which were taken over by the National Health Service were 
founded and carried on by such women. But positive as both the 
leaders and followers were, they lived in an atmosphere of nega 
tivism. The foundation of their creed was the assumption that 
there was nothing in the existing structure of society which did 
not deserve to be razed to the ground, and that all would be well 
if it were replaced by something as different as possible. They 
were to do it quietly, of course; but the replacement was to be 
absolute. To them the past was of value only in so far as it gave 
indications of how to annul the present and create a future 
which had no relation to it. 

The condition of these people s children was paradoxical. 
They were brought up in a state of complete immunity from any 
form of physical want. Not only did they never suffer from 
hunger or cold or lack of clothing, they lived in a society from 
which such deprivations were being eliminated more quickly and 
more thoroughly than ever before. They were surrounded from 
birth by the affection and extremely conscientious care of their 
mothers and fathers, who took parenthood very seriously indeed. 
They were exempt from fear of war as we now know it, for the 
airplane was still a toy, the British Navy was the supreme muni 
tion of the world, and it was an article of faith in this group that 
all foreigners (except, for some reason, the French) were 
pacifists. These children were, in fact, more fortunate than any 
groups which had ever existed previously, save certain scattered 
patricians during periods when the wind blew war away from 
their cities and trade was good; and even over them these Eng 
lish children had a huge advantage so far as freedom from vio 
lence and disease is concerned. Yet they were taught and believed 
that they were living in the worst of all possible worlds but that 


they need not despair, as it would be the easiest thing they and 
their parents ever did to tear it down and make a better one. 

The homes where these children were reared were cheerful; 
Victorian frowstiness had been turned out of doors. The walls 
were distempered in light colours, the furniture was made of 
unstained wood which could be scrubbed, the curtains were of 
bright washable materials. Behind this simplicity there was an 
ideological complexity. The furnishing annulled the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries; it cancelled the immediate past which 
had produced the people who were using it. It had gone back to 
peasant art, because it was held that all that was true and beauti 
ful lay so near the surface that primitive peoples had possessed it 
completely and it was only our wicked recent civilization which 
had perversely lost it. Clothes were peasanty too, rough tweeds 
for the men, hand-embroidered smocks for the women, and never 
orthodox evening dress; and the abundant, carefully prepared, 
simple, and often vegetarian food was served on peasant pottery. 

The ideological complex came out into the open in the books 
lying about in their homes, of which the most treasured were the 
green volumes, tooled with gold lettering, which contained the 
plays of George Bernard Shaw. The prefaces of these were prized 
more highly than the plays, for they were battlefields where the 
values of our traditional culture made their last stand and bled 
and died, all except altruism and truthfulness and austerity, of 
which he and they thought well and claimed the monopoly, 
believing that they, and they alone, were the saviours of society. 
Of the other virtues, patriotism, it is to be remarked, was the 
first to get its dismissal. It was naive for a man to feel any 
conviction that his own country was the best, or even as good as 
any other country; just as it was naive to believe that the soldier 
of any foreign army committed atrocities or to doubt that any 
English soldier or sailor or colonial administrator failed to do so. 
The difference between the Webb-minded group and William 
Joyce can be judged from the letter he wrote to the University of 
London Committee for Military Education when he was a lad 
and was seeking admission to the Officers Training Corps. No 
boy or girl in that group could possibly have written with a 
straight face of loyalty to the Crown or professed a desire to 
draw the sword for beloved England. Many were to learn better, 
and prove it with their lives, in 1914 and 1939; but earlier their 


attitude was anti-patriotic. Here the whole group, adult and 
juvenile, was agreed; but there was one point on which the rank 
and file went farther than their leaders. Both Shaw and Wells 
wrote books on religion which showed that they were neither 
atheists nor even agnostics but heretics. Most of these 
households, however, had adopted materialism, but not at all 
tragically, like the mid-nineteenth-century sceptics whom Mrs. 
Humphrey Ward describes in Robert Elsmere. On the contrary, 
it braced them like a cold bath. 

This society had its own brightness and charm and virtue. But 
the position of its children was very difficult indeed. Not only 
were they taught to think of themselves as living in a miserable 
capitalist world when in actual fact they and most of their neigh 
bours were not miserable at all; they were also taught to think of 
their parents and themselves as a courageous minority who were 
attacking the impregnable fortress of capitalism against fearful 
odds, and this also was not true. The capitalist system as these 
people knew it was about to collapse, not in consequence of their 
attack, but because it could not operate confidently (and con 
fidence was necessary to its efficiency) except on an expanding 
market, and the rising ability of the Americans and the East to 
satisfy their own needs was contracting the market at the very 
same time that the system was having to meet the cost of the 
social services and of the rearmament made necessary by the 
threat of emergent Germany. England would have had to social 
ize itself during the last half-century even if there had not been a 
single socialist alive; and though it would have discovered social 
ism for itself, it welcomed every socialist who would save it that 
trouble. It therefore happened that few, if any, socialist intellec 
tuals ever suffered a pennyworth of inconvenience owing to their 
faith, and that, indeed, an ambitious young man or young 
woman might find it a considerable material advantage to hold 
that faith. 

Thus the children of this group were doubly sealed in fantasy 
and were bound to be discomfited by the passage of time. There 
is nothing spiritually easier than being in opposition, and those 
suddenly translated from that ease to the ordeal of responsibility 
must feel like oysters suddenly prised from their shells. That was 
the condition of these children when they became adult and 
found a socialized state forming itself round them. They no 


longer could feel brave in demanding that coal should be nation 
alized, for all-party action had granted that long ago; now they 
had to go on the Coal Board and face opponents who were in the 
favourable position of being in opposition to state power. Many 
of these children were strong enough to find no difficulty in facing 
this reality in their adult years, but some were not and sought to 
go on playing the rebellious part for which their parents had cast 
them, even when the times were not safe for play-acting. Some of 
these were lucky and were able to continue the pretence that they 
were rebels by ascribing a rebellious quality to actions which were, 
in fact, the pink of conformity. Such people feel that they habitu 
ally show courage in reading a left-wing weekly, even when there 
is a left-wing government and there cannot be imagined any safer 
occupation on this globe than reading or writing this publication. 
But other people cannot buy their fantasy so cheaply. They are 
conscientious and feel that, if they were taught to be rebels, then 
they must go on being truly and effectively rebels. The faith that 
inspired their fathers and mothers to rebellion was socialism, and 
since that is now the established practice of their land they must 
find another dissident faith. 

It is obvious that such minds, at once fantasy-bound and lit 
eral, will turn happily to communism. It is on the left, where 
they learned in their infancy salvation lay. It has a materialistic 
basis, and one of its first claims is that it transcends the claims of 
patriotism, which, if one has been brought up to believe that 
patriotism existed only to have its claim transcended, gives it the 
authority of a fulfilment of the prophets. Thus communism can, 
alone of the parties, truly gratify nostalgia. The Conservatives 
cannot re-create the great days of colonial expansion. The Lib 
erals cannot re-create the smoky but glowing dawn when manu 
facturers and factory hands alike knew that the expansion of 
industry gave power into their hands. The Labour Party cannot 
put itself back into the glorious drunkenness of permanent op 
position, but the Communist Party can still do that. It can put 
people farther left than anyone else, and it can relieve its sup 
porters from any nasty fear that a general election may impose 
on them responsibility for government. That is to say, it can 
carry its converts back to the golden days when the flowering 
almonds along the avenues of the Hampstead Garden Suburb 
were saplings, and revolutionary activities could be carried on 


serenely in the lee of an unthreatened British Navy. This is 
especially magical for those who were not born until those al- 
inond trees were tall and sturdy, and have only their elders 
reminiscences to tell them how delightful it was to follow a 
gallant liberal line in the midst of a stable conservative commu 
nity. Communism offers a haven to the infantilist; and since it is 
perfectly possible for a highly gifted intellectual to be an infantil 
ist, it appeared not surprising that a prominent English scientist 
should be a Communist and therefore, since every Communist is 
bound to regard disloyalty to his country as one of his party 
duties, disloyal. 

IN many ways the trials of William Joyce and Dr. Alan 
Nunn May were as different as black and white. Both prisoners 
were poorly built; but Joyce had made himself a little knuckle 
duster of a man by hard exercise, whereas Dr. Nunn May had 
plainly never noticed that he had muscles. When Joyce was in 
the dock the court was full of his simple and forthright and 
ungifted followers, open in their grief. When Dr. Nunn May 
stood in the same dock his complicated and secretive and able 
associates were discreetly absent, because only the party was of 
importance. It had been the singularity of Joyce s case that it 
depended entirely on evidence regarding matters of fact and law, 
which he could have neither confirmed nor disproved, since he 
was unaware of them until the time of his trial. His destiny had 
depended on outward events. But there was no evidence at all 
against Dr. Alan Nunn May, except his own statement, which set 
down facts convicting him of guilt which were known only to 
himself. This was in harmony with Soviet policy as it was at that 

In 1948, in a Philadelphia bar during the Progressive Party 
convention which adopted Henry Wallace as a presidential candi 
date, a Russian forgot and talked. He said: "In England, now 
that the war is over and espionage trials take place in open 


court, persons detected in espionage on behalf of the Soviet 
Union are instructed by whichever of our organizations it is 
which has been using them, to plead guilty and to admit to the 
police their participation in the particular crime of which they 
are accused, and nothing more. In the United States such persons 
are at present instructed to proceed in precisely the opposite way 
and to deny everything. This is a compliment to England. It is 
felt that British procedure is so efficient that if a false plea of not 
guilty is entered, it will be detected by the lawyers, the judge, 
the jury, and the press, and other matters may be stirred up 
which will extend the scope of the inquiry into the doings of the 
Communists. It is probable too that the case will be settled so 
quickly and will take such a clear form that the public will see 
what is going on, and it is therefore best to limit the matters 
disclosed. In the United States, where legal proceedings are likely 
to be prolonged and confused, and all sorts of considerations 
may prevent the truth from appearing, it is worth while putting 
up a plea of not guilty, no matter how absurd this may be in 
view of the real facts. This policy would, however, be altered 
and would fall into line with the policy advised for English 
suspects if courts in the United States became more vigilant, as 
altered circumstances may make them at any time/ 

It is true that both Alan Nunn May and the Soviet spy who 
was next to be tried did indeed plead guilty, and that in all such 
cases tried in America the accused persons have denied their 
guilt often on such a wholesale scale that they have got them 
selves into unnecessary trouble by denying minor points which 
the prosecution was able to establish with ease, thus throwing 
doubt on their credibility. But there is nothing to suggest that 
Dr. Alan Nunn May had received such instructions, when he 
told the story of his misdoings, which were indeed deplorable on 
his own showing. He had voluntarily entered the service of the 
British government during the war, as the senior member of the 
nuclear-physics division in the unit devoted to research on the 
atomic bomb, and had gone to Canada to work under Sir John 
Cockcroft in the atomic-energy project, as a group leader in the 
Montreal laboratory of the National Research Council, During 
the course of these proceedings he signed a statement acknowl 
edging his liabilities under the Official Secrets Act. He then used 
his position to collect information and hand it over to a Russian 


agent who forwarded it to Moscow. Later he and his friends 
claimed that he took this step because he had come to the conclu 
sion that his researches were contributing to create a situation 
dangerous to mankind unless steps were taken to ensure that the 
development of atomic energy was not confined to America. 

This is the line his defenders have followed, but it is not an 
honest account of the situation, for it is marked by an important 
omission. It omits the important factor that other members of 
the Communist Party had long recognized him as one of them 
selves, working underground. During the war the English Com 
munist Party carried on a singularly disingenuous campaign for 
deep bomb-proof shelters, which contributed no single valid idea 
to the sum of our knowledge of defence, and neither achieved 
nor proposed any untried method which if it had been adopted 
would have saved a single life, but which fulfilled its real inten 
tion of spreading distrust of the shelters provided by the authori 
ties and suggesting that the Communists alone were taking 
thought for the safety of the public. Douglas Hyde, who was 
then news editor of the Daily Worker, describes this campaign as 
led by our scientist-members, among whom was Dr. Nunn 
May." It must be remembered that a member of the Communist 
Party is obliged to act on all instructions originating from the 
authority in charge of the section to which he belongs and would 
have had to hand over to any person named in those instructions 
any material directed, no matter what relevance his action had to 
the dissemination of scientific knowledge. 

Dr. Nunn May was therefore, though not guilty of treason, in 
other ways on exactly the same legal and moral footing as Wil 
liam Joyce or any of the British traitors who had been inspired 
by adherence to the Nazi creed. Nor would his convictions re 
garding atomic energy explain why, as he himself confessed, he 
gave information about quite other matters. As well as handing 
over notes regarding atomic energy, of what scope and nature is 
unknown, and two samples of uranium, he also gave information 
regarding electronic shells, and these were not the innocuous 
electronic shells known to physicists, but armaments. This last 
information was conveyed to Moscow in a telegram from Colonel 
Zabotin, the military attache" in Ottawa, which read thus: 

On our task Alek [the code name for Dr. Alan Nunn May] 
has reported brief data concerning electronic shells. In par- 


ticular these are being used by the American Navy against 
Japanese suicide-fliers. There is in the shell a small radio-trans 
mitter with one electronic tube, and it is fed by dry batteries. 
The body of the shell is the antenna. The bomb explodes in 
the proximity of an aeroplane, from the action of the reflected 
waves from the aeroplane on the transmitter. The basic diffi 
culties were the preparation of a tube and batteries which could 
withstand the discharge of the shell and the determination of a 
rotation speed of the shell which would not require special 
adaptation in the preparation of the shell. The Americans have 
achieved this result, but apparently have not handed this over 
to the English. The Americans have used a plastic covering for 
the battery which withstands the force of pressure during the 
motion of the shell. 

It would be interesting to know if Dr. Alan Nunn May s 
passion for the universal dissemination of scientific knowledge 
led him to take steps to break down the barrier which he de 
scribed as existing between the Americans and the English in 
this matter. 

Furthermore, Dr. Alan Nunn May rendered the Soviet authori 
ties yet another service which is extremely difficult to interpret as 
springing from a desire for the dissemination of scientific knowl 
edge. There came to Canada in 1945 an Englishman in his mid 
dle twenties, one Norman Veal, a flower nurtured in the parterre 
of the Hendon branch of the Young Communists* League. He 
had worked in the meteorological service of the Air Ministry in 
England from 1939 till the end of 1941, when he was transferred 
to the atomic-energy project in England; he worked there until 
January 1943, when he was sent to the atomic-energy project in 
Canada as an instrument-designer. After two years he ap 
proached the Soviet authorities, anxious to help. Interviewed 
later by the Canadian Royal Commission, he explained that his 
political views changed from day to day, but if he had met a 
Russian agent, and the agent had asked him to turn over to him 
information which he (Mr. Veal) had gained while working in 
the National Research Council and which was secret well, it 
would naturally depend on the circumstances and the situation 
at the time, and he would certainly not have done it in the last 
year or so, because he thought he could put an end to secrecy in 
scientific work by supporting the United Nations and its work 
for international scientific cooperation, but yes, "prior to that 


period," if he had felt anything he could do would help to 
shorten the war, he might possibly have done it, and in spite of 
signing the declaration regarding the Official Secrets Act, "I 
think I can honestly say I might have given information, assum 
ing that I had any information that was worth having." What is 
terrifying about this testimony is that there is no indication that 
young Mr. Veal could have told the difference between a Soviet 
agent and a Nazi agent. A child could have played with him. 

The canny Russians were not blind to his artlessness. They 
consulted Dr. Alan Nunn May, who gave them what information 
he had about him, stating that "Veal occupies a fairly low posi 
tion and knows very little," and pronouncing him "inclined to 
be careless/ as he had begun a conversation with Dr. Nunn 
May on conspiratorial matters in the presence of a third person. 
This really cannot be disguised as activity designed to enfran 
chise science from lowly bonds. 

In any case it is difficult to understand why these scruples 
about illegitimacy of engaging in researches which were not to 
be published did not occur to Dr. Nunn May when the post was 
first offered to him, as he was then made fully aware of the 
nature and conditions of the work he was to do; nor why, when 
these scruples did arise in his mind, he did not take the obvious 
step of resigning from his post, which would have caused serious 
inconvenience to the authorities, and explaining his reason to 
his fellow scientists and to the general public. The one thing he 
could not do from any point of view was what he did: to disclose 
the result of his researches in spite of the understanding between 
him and the government that he was to be bound by the require 
ments of the Official Secrets Act. No society, whether capitalist, 
socialist, or communist, can survive for ten minutes if it aban 
dons the principle that a contract is sacred. 

It has subsequently been pretended that Dr. Alan Nunn May 
forgot this elementary social principle in his desire to give help 
to the USSR so that it might the better defend itself against 
Germany and Japan. But he made no such claim in his own 
statement, though such a claim was made to defend him on his 
release from prison; and indeed it is patently absurd. He handed 
over the samples of uranium and his information about the 
theory of atomic energy in the early days of August 1945, three 
months after VE-day, and some days after the atomic bomb had 


been used at Hiroshima, when the defeat of Japan was quite 
certain. The telegram sent by Colonel Zabotin to Moscow regard 
ing the information received from Dr. Nunn May later fell into 
Canadian hands. It contains a specific reference to the Hiroshima 
explosion. Dr. Nunn May cannot have thought the USSR would 
use the information he had given it except against the United 
States and Great Britain. 

To the very end, to the moment when the sentences were 
delivered, the contrast between the two trials was maintained in 
its acuteness. The guilt of William Joyce was over and done 
with; the guilt of Dr. Nunn May was a continuing force. By the 
time Joyce came to trial it was impossible that what he had done 
could harm anyone. He had tried to do evil and had failed. But 
the samples of uranium and the notes Dr. Nunn May gave the 
Russian agent threw such light on the research into atomic en 
ergy that they were immediately flown to Russia on a flight 
undertaken solely for the purpose; and if ever Russia drops an 
atom bomb on Great Britain or America, the blame for the 
death and blindness and the sores it scatters must surely rest in 
part on this gifted and frivolous man. But whereas nobody in 
court at Joyce s trial, except his kin and friends, was greatly 
moved when the sentence of death was passed on him, the specta 
tors were plainly appalled when the judge passed sentence of ten 
years imprisonment on Dr. Nunn May, though none of them 
was his follower. The Attorney-General, Sir Hartley Shawcross, 
showed that he was heavy-hearted under the necessity of making 
the prosecuting speech, and he waited for the sentence with an 
apprehension rarely shown even by a defending counsel. 

It was the light about Dr. Nunn May s head which made the 
thought of his imprisonment intolerable; the sense of a network 
of perceptions and associations and interpretations which made 
the Nazi-Fascists seem like hogs rooting among the simple unim 
proved beechmast of the world. William Joyce had great 
courage; but though it is a terrible thing not to have courage, to 
be courageous carries a man out of that terror but not a step 
farther, unless he has other qualities to transport him. Millions 
of men have been brave, but have been nothing more, and the 
brute creation also is brave. Dr. Alan Nunn May was precious to 
us as Joyce was not, because he was something which man must 
be and is not yet, save here and there, and with great difficulty. 


They were actually on a perfect parity in the dock. They had 
even been on the same side in 1939 and 1940 when the Stalin- 
Hitler pact was signed and put an end to the pretence that there 
is any real difference between fascism and communism. But the 
kind of mind possessed by Dr. Nunn May had seemed to hold 
out a promise which, it could now be seen, was not to be 

THE conviction of Dr. Alan Nunn May was followed 
by an active campaign for the remission of his sentence. In so far 
as this was conducted by those bound to him by ties of blood 
and friendship it was, of course, above criticism. But other and 
less commendable elements were involved in it. A number of 
scientists gave their support to the demand for his release on the 
ground that his offence was negligible. Of these scientists, some 
would hardly have cared to argue the case. It would be very 
natural for a man to feel great horror at the thought that a 
gifted comrade, with whom he had probably had pleasant social 
relations, was being sent to prison for ten years. It would also be 
unpleasant for a scientist not to join in such a demand in a 
laboratory where the feeling was running strongly in favour of 
Dr. Nunn May, and abstinence would be taken as a sign of 
inhumanity or reactionary views. Moreover, some scientists were 
so genuinely distressed by the imposition of secrecy on scientific 
workers by the government, which had been weighing on them 
more and more heavily since the beginning of the war, that they 
envisaged Dr. Nunn May s treachery simply as a protest against 
that secrecy. 

There is much to be said for the principle here involved. It 
is ridiculous to think of small groups of persons with rare gifts 
working on related facts of high importance to our species, 
at points dotted over the globe, and failing to pool their dis 
coveries. But the universe is constantly forcing us to do ridicu 
lous things for the sake of our survival. It is ridiculous for a man 


to crawl along the ground on his stomach when he has two legs 
and can walk, but if an enemy is looking for him he will be very 
foolish if he does not. It is very hard, however, to believe that 
these scientists held the principle that research must never be 
secret to be absolute, as they pretended. They did not demand 
that the scientists of England, including the German Jewish 
refugees, should smuggle the results of their labours over to Nazi 
scientists during the war. Nor have they burst into cheers on any 
of the later occasions when it became quite certain that the Nazi 
scientists who had escaped from Germany at the end of the war 
had imparted many of their secrets, particularly regarding the 
construction of jet planes, to the Per6n government of Ar 
gentina, though that broke down one national barrier at least, 
which is no more than Dr. Nunn May could have claimed to do. 
There was something genuine in this scientific attitude, but a 
great ideal more that is humbug. 

The irrationality of this campaign has since been proved at 
very great expense indeed. Although the scientists involved as 
serted that Dr. Nunn May had been right in giving away the 
secrets of atomic energy to the Soviet Union on the ground that 
all scientific discoveries should be shared, at the same time they 
asserted that the surrender of these secrets was of no 
consequence, since science was universal, and therefore the Soviet 
scientists were bound to discover all that we knew about atomic 
energy through their own researches, and the only thing to be 
said against Dr. Nunn May was that he had taken unnecessary 
trouble. Again, there is something in this claim, but much more 
humbug. Obviously, since the subject matter of science is the 
human environment, it often happens that a number of scientists 
are attracted by the same problems and arrive at the same conclu 
sions. But not always at the same time. Darwin and Wallace 
made neck-and-neck recognition of the pattern of evolution, but 
often there is a time-lag. The genetic discoveries of the Austrian 
monk Mendel were confirmed by the researches of three men 
who knew nothing of one another or of him: De Vries, Correns, 
and Tschermak. But he wrote his great paper in 1865; they 
provided their triple confirmation in 1900. It would be unlikely 
that a time-lag would be so great today; but it could be great 
enough to inconvenience a competing power, as we have learned 
since with blushes. The Soviet Union was able to send up its first 


disconcerting sputnik and all its dazzling successors, never losing 
its cutting edge of priority, because work had been done on fuels 
in its laboratories which had no parallel in ours. It is quite 
possible that, had Dr. Nunn May and his allies not been disloyal, 
the West might have enjoyed an effective monopoly of atomic 
weapons which would have given the world a far longer breath 
ing-space than it was able to enjoy. 

The real motivation of this campaign was twofold. A large 
number of those who took part in it were animated by a feeling 
for which psychiatrists have a name, that they formed an elect 
class which should be allowed to do as it liked. Their real argu 
ment for the release of Dr. Nunn May was quite simply that he 
was a scientist, and that therefore it was ridiculous to consider 
that he should have been bound by the undertaking he had 
signed regarding the Official Secrets Act, and that if he thought 
it right to give away the result of his researches to a foreign 
power it was disgraceful that a society which consisted in the 
main of nonscientific inferiors should call him to account. 

This is an attitude which had already been detectable in var 
ious writings by scientists on the subject of atom-bomb policy, in 
which it is assumed that this should be left entirely in scientific 
hands. The claim that because scientists had invented the atomic 
bomb they should be given the right to decide what should be 
done with it, and the claim that because Dr. Nunn May was a 
scientist he should be allowed to break the law without paying 
the penalty, rest on the assumption already discussed that be 
cause a man has scientific gifts he is likely to be superior to his 
fellows in all intellectual respects, including that kind of general 
farseeing ability, tender towards the future of the individual and 
the race, which we call wisdom. This assumption is based on no 
evidence whatsoever. All our experience suggests that, though 
special gifts rarely appear in individuals below a certain level of 
general ability, that level is not very high, and gifted individuals 
may appear anywhere in the scale above it; and quite obviously 
the possession of special gifts, such as scientific or musical apti 
tude, which demand technical training beginning at an early age 
and a long and exhausting working day, will prevent the posses 
sor from developing his general ability. The very fact that a man 
took a leading part in perfecting the atom bomb might unfit him 
for forming an opinion as to what should be done with it; and 


Dr. Nunn May must surely have been too busy in his laboratory 
to have worked out a social cement which could replace the idea 
of contract. 

The second strand in this campaign was, of course, 
Communist. Few of the scientists concerned with it in its more 
dignified manifestations were Communists, and few of the well- 
known Communist scientists took a prominent part in organiz 
ing it in any way that would take the eye. But there was often a 
sense of Communist influence guiding a hand which without 
doubt thought itself writing of its own and innocent free will. 
An appeal to the Home Secretary urging him to reduce the 
sentence passed on Dr. Nunn May may seem strange at first 
reading, as it contains statements about the convicted man s 
offences which could not possibly soften the Home Secretary s 
heart, as the files showed him that these statements were wholly 
untrue. But it becomes an intelligible document if, and only if, 
it be recognized that the person who wrote this appeal had been 
naive enough to accept direct or indirect suggestions from some 
other persons who did not care a button about Dr. Nunn May 
but who were extremely anxious to whitewash a criminal known 
to the public as Communist, and thus deceive it regarding the 
essential nature of the Communist Party. The same spectacle of 
enthusiasm for a friend and for science exploited as political 
propaganda was manifest in the demand of various branches of a 
certain association that Dr. Nunn May should be released on 
grounds as wide of the mark as the claim that "the information 
divulged was of a purely scientific character, unconnected with 
the manufacture of the atom bomb, or other form of weapon," 

Communism made its contribution to this movement. There 
was also a certain amount of open and undiluted Communist 
propaganda which maintained quite starkly that Dr. Nunn May 
should be regarded as innocent because his treachery had 
benefited the USSR, which, as one propagandist stated, "had 
torn out the guts of the German Army practically singlehanded." 
Such persons could not envisage the act of handing over to 
Russia a defence secret possessed by Great Britain as a crime at 
all, because Great Britain had no right to defend itself against 
Russia. Among this sort of fanatic the idea that Dr. Nunn May 
had handed over the information about the atom bomb before 
and not after the defeat of the Nazis was widespread; and it is not 


possible that all those who spread it so widely could have been 
ignorant that this was a lie. But what was interesting about all 
grades of these campaigners was their ingenuous readiness to 
show that, if they were for the dissemination of truth in science, 
they were all against it in the press. Fierce efforts were made to 
prevent the publication of the true facts of the Nunn May case, 
whether in a newspaper or in a book. 

The public, indeed, had the greatest difficulty in learning 
those facts; and it was as effectively prevented from learning 
some other facts which made the case much more disturbing by 
showing that Dr. Nunn May was not an individual working in 
isolation but a cog in a complicated machine. For in 1946 the 
world was still in a state of disorder, travel was impossible except 
for those who pleaded a special mission, and the transmission of 
news was almost as gravely impeded by lack of newsprint, the 
eating up of space by items dealing with the peace, and the 
concentration of correspondents in the devastated Continental 
areas. Hence it happened that for a long time there did not 
reach British newspapers any easily assimilable reports concern 
ing the Canadian spy ring of which Dr. Nunn May was a mem 
ber. One night in September 1945 a Russian cipher clerk named 
Igor Gouzenko, employed in the Soviet embassy at Ottawa, on 
the staff of the military attach^, snatched an armful of docu 
ments from his files which would bear witness to the existence in 
Canada of a treasonable conspiracy organized from the Soviet 
embassy and working through a group of Canadian and British 
citizens, and went out into the city with the intention of hand 
ing over these documents to some responsible person connected 
with the Canadian government and of seeking asylum for him 
self and his wife and his child. By this action he put himself into 
the position of the German refugees who aided the Allies against 
the Axis, and laid himself open to the charge of treachery. He 
had the same answer to that charge as they had. Allegiance is 
given only in exchange for protection, and he felt that Stalin 
gave his people as little protection as the German refugees felt 
that Hitler gave his. It is true that British and American Commu 
nists would claim that their governments also did not give their 
peoples protection. That is, indeed, the essence of the contention 
between the Communist Party and the states of the world. 

It might well have happened that Mr. Gouzenko s actions had 


no consequence, except for him and his wife and child. For 
although he spent part of that night and the whole of the next 
day visiting newspaper offices and ministries and police stations, 
he found nobody who appeared to take the slightest interest in 
him or his documents. Actually the police were sufficiently inter 
ested in his story to shadow him, but not as closely as he could 
have wished. In the evening he returned home to his flat entirely 
discouraged and in great fear; and he approached his neighbours 
and asked them to take charge of his child in case he and his 
wife were murdered. The neighbours responded sensibly and 
kindly and took in the whole family, but might have thought 
him a lunatic or a liar, had not the Russians, with that peculiar 
gift for blundering which is a far greater protection for the West 
than any Western merit of character or intelligence, sent along 
the second secretary of the USSR embassy, a member of the staff 
of the military attach^, the military attach^ of the Russian Air 
Force, and a cipher clerk. These four gentleman proceeded to 
enter the Gouzenkos flat by breaking in the front door, and 
when the police were called in to stop this crass burglary and 
asked the burglars to produce their identification cards, they 
produced their own quite genuine ones. No more convincing 
proof of Mr. Gouzenko s story could have been provided; and 
indeed it is hard to imagine what other proof could have been 

The material filched from the Soviet embassy by Mr. Gou- 
zenko was finally investigated by a royal commission appointed 
for that piurpose by the Canadian government; and its report is 
the most complete picture of Communist treachery that we pos 
sess. It is hardly necessary to say that it cast no discredit on the 
Soviet Union whatsoever. Not till the Earthly Paradise is estab 
lished and man regains his innocence can a power which has ever 
been at war be blamed if it accepts information regarding the 
military strength of another power, however this may be ob 
tained; and of course it can be blamed least of all if the informa 
tion comes to it from traitors, for then it is likely to touch on the 
truly secret. There is no need to blame any but the Britons and 
Canadians who formed this spy ring, but they must be blamed, 
for they felt no qualms whatsoever, but great pride and pleasure, 
in handing over to the representatives of the Soviet Union any 
information it required of them, no matter how brutally this 


treachery might conflict with their duty to their employers, pub 
lic or private, nor what dangers it might bring down on their 
fellow countrymen. 

This group cannot have been actuated by the desire to enfran 
chise science, for it included others than scientists and dealt with 
matters which could not possibly be regarded as scientific. Nor 
can it have been inspired by hatred of fascism, for the nucleus of 
the group was in being before the war, and during the Stalin- 
Hitler pact the Canadian Communist Party showed peculiar 
gusto in cooperating with the Russians. Miss Kathleen Mary 
Willsher, for example, was a graduate of the London School of 
Economics who was the trusted assistant registrar in the Ottawa 
office of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom. From 
I 9$b> with n discernible breach on account of the Hitler-Stalin 
pact, she handed over to a Communist agent information which 
she obtained during the course of her day s work in the High 
Commissioner s office, such as a complete account of the size and 
functions and organization of his staff, and a report of Lord 
Keynes s confidential conversations in Ottawa in 1944 on the 
subject of postwar credits. It can hardly be maintained that 
information on either of these subjects can have helped the 
Soviet Union to fight Hitler. 

But it is true that the bulk of the members of the group, so far 
as the Gouzenko papers enable us to identify them, were scien 
tists and that then: proceedings were alarming. Prominent among 
them was Dr. Nunn May; and nobody who has read the Cana 
dian commission s report can visualize him as an individual 
engaged in a solitary battle with his conscience over the question 
of secrecy in science, so plainly do the extracts from Gouzenko s 
files and their confirmation in his own statement show him as a 
Communist snugly working among his Communist fellows under 
party discipline. But even more conspicuous and alarming was 
Dr. Raymond Boyer, a French-Canadian of forty, a handsome, 
popular, spoiled, sulky millionaire, the foremost chemist in Can 
ada, one of the foremost chemists in the world. He had for some 
time been a subscriber to the funds of the Communist Party, and 
he gave before the Royal Commission just the type of evidence 
which the Russian at Philadelphia indicated that Communist 
headquarters advise persons to give who are standing trial for 
Communist activities before a vigilant and competently conducted 


tribunal. It appeared in the files brought in by Gouzenko that he 
had given the Soviet agents the formula of a new method of 
producing an explosive known as RDX. He made a full confession 
of just that: of how he had handed over to a Soviet agent the for 
mula of a new method of producing an explosive known as RDX. 
Alike in his laboratory and as a witness he showed exceptional 
ability. He told nearly nothing. 

This restraint was in marked contrast with the loquacity 
which had evidently characterized Dr. Boyer and his friends at 
all other times. These scientists talked and talked and talked. Dr. 
Boyer had talked about RDX. Dr. Nunn May had talked about 
his own work on atomic energy and about the great experimen 
tal plant at Chalk River, Ontario. Their friends talked about 
radar; they talked about the anti-submarine device known as 
Asdic; they talked about all the explosive propellants that were 
being developed and improved; they talked about the VT fuse, 
which knocked the Japanese Air Force out of the air; they talked 
about the locations of research stations and production plants; 
they talked about everything they knew, with a freedom which 
amounted to what psychologists name "total recall." It might 
even be termed gabbiness. Now this strange disease did not affect 
all scientists working in Canada. The afflicted group formed 
only a small proportion of the whole. But it was large enough to 
have a great quantity of valuable information to give away, and 
though the mass of its members and supporters were drawn 
mainly from the lower grade of scientific workers, it contained 
some men of outstanding ability, even allowing for the extent to 
which Communists in every walk of life, and particularly in 
science, deliberately inflate the reputations of their fellow mem 
bers. But what was really remarkable was that this epidemic of 
gabbiness was spreading amongst scientists all over the world. 

It is perhaps not fair to call it an epidemic. The mass of 
scientists proved immune to the germ. They adhered to the 
normal pattern of behaviour and, in some cases at the bidding of 
their consciences and in others from fear of the police, did not 
consider themselves free to communicate to a foreign power, or 
to a political party which was an agent of a foreign power, 
information acquired in the course of their employment and 
which they had undertaken not to divulge. But it is equally true 
that all over the globe there sprang up these groups of scientists 


which, in the middle of the war, claimed the right to publish as 
they thought fit all information arising out of their labours, 
without either consulting their own governments or informing 
them afterwards. In Great Britain this group had little opportu 
nity to manifest itself during the war, but it was organized to 
become richly vocal as soon as peace was achieved. In America it 
was peculiarly happy and carefree. During the war Communist 
influences romped round the wartime atomic project at the radia 
tion laboratory of the University of California at Berkeley, and a 
group of young scientists kindly and innocently formed what was 
practically a dining club to offer hospitality to Soviet agents. 
Never before has treachery been so sunny and lighthearted, pre 
senting itself not as Judas, conscious of the last suspension from 
the elder tree, but as some innocent little figure in straw hat and 
sailor suit. 

Typical of this new dispensation is a figure who was cleared of 
guilt, a Californian scientist who dined at a restaurant in San 
Francisco with a Russian official on the eve of his departure for 
home, and talked so loudly about his work that he was clearly 
overheard by two officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation 
who were dining at an adjacent table; and who, when he had to 
appear before the Committee on Un-American Activities some 
years later to explain this incident, made little jokes about his 
violin-playing. His conversation was not deemed criminal; but 
the gaiety with which he faced suspicion of treachery gives some 
indication of the curious mental climate in which he and his 
associates had their being, a climate most dangerous to the gen 
eral weather of the world. The consideration which chilled us 
when we contemplated Mr. Norman Veal chills us again. Few of 
these people were experienced in the ways of the world, and a 
number revealed themselves in evidence as even simple-minded 
when they left their own field. Those among them who were 
really Communists would, of course, have gladly handed over 
their country s secrets to the Nazis during the Stalin-Hitler pact. 
But both they and the fellow travellers would have chattered 
away to anybody who told them he was a Soviet agent; not one 
of these chatterers could have told Hans from Ivan. Indeed, it is 
to be wondered why this garrulity was not exploited by acquisi 
tive persons whose only ideology was self-help; for some of the 


information handed over by the Canadian spy ring could have 
inspired them to successful financial speculation. Indeed, we can 
not be quite sure that this did not happen. 

It is one of the oddest manifestations of our governmental 
failure to cope with the giant inconvenience of communism that, 
for a full year after the publication of the Canadian Blue Book 
on the spy ring, it was impossible to obtain it in England. It 
should have been reissued by our Stationery Office, and govern 
ment spokesmen should have directed public attention towards 
it, for it made it quite apparent that we had to deal with a 
closed corporation of the most inconvenient kind any commu 
nity had ever had to fear. At a time when munitions had become 
more deadly than ever before, the designers of the deadliest 
among these were peculiarly subject to emotional disturbance 
which would lead them to handing over their designs to our only 
potential enemy, Communist Russia. The situation had arisen 
because they were members of a negativist generation in 
England, finding a new and picturesque way of falling out with 
their neighbours; but there was another and a special cause due 
to their occupation. They were not mere dilettanti of revolution, 
who made trouble on the scientific field if they happened to be 
scientists. They were making this extreme form of trouble be 
cause they were scientists. 

The reasons apart from social background which make this 
class of intellectual find a special attraction in communism must 
be conceded to be strong. There would seem to be an obvious 
cause in the underpayment of those scientists, not employed in 
well-endowed universities or by prosperous industrial corpora 
tions, who are sometimes paid below their deserts. In England it 
is possible for a first-class scientist who has slipped into an un 
popular and industrially unserviceable branch of science to find 
himself earning a salary of 2000 or 1500 a year. A number of 
men with gifts above the average may earn, not merely at the be 
ginning of their working lives, but in their middle and closing 
years, salaries ranging between 1000 and 2000 a year. In Amer 
ica the popular imagination conceives of the scientist as sure of 
remuneration enabling him to maintain a high standard of com 
fort. But this is not an invariable rule, and even though the Amer 
ican scientist probably has ideal conditions for his work he may 


have a justified financial grievance. The situation is more em 
bittering because learning is in some American communities 
denied the prestige still accorded it in England. There is much 
room for discontent here. One of the less fortunate American 
scientists, working in a university in an industrial town, will 
not be able to afford to buy a new car, though an old car is the 
recognized symbol of outer and inner failure; his wife will not be 
able to hire domestic help or a baby-sitter because she will be 
outbid by the wives of the executives and operatives in the 
neighbouring factories; he will be conscious that he has not 
much command of respect in a society whose reverence goes to 
Ford and Kaiser. It would be strange if these circumstances did 
not stimulate a certain hunger for political power. 

There must be here necessarily a sense that the existing polit 
ical institutions are not working well. For the economic lot of 
scientists would be satisfactory if industry paid them a high 
wage, which the university and the government had to take as 
the norm; and the scientist believes that industry is in such need 
of his service that its reluctance to pay him high wages is proof 
of its own inefficiency, and of the general wastefulness of the 
capitalist system. But in fact the situation precludes any simple 
arrangement by which scientists can be drafted from their univer 
sities to fruitful employment in industry. There are all sorts of 
unexpected and unexplained features in technological develop 
ment which make such planning difficult. Some prosperous indus 
tries need to be maintained by continuous research, but others 
have the slenderest need for it; for example, zip fasteners are 
manufactured in vast quantities and are essential to the produc 
tion of women s cheap ready-made dresses, and are the result of 
a few patents taken out by only two inventors. Some large cor 
porations have found their handsome and costly laboratories 
attracted and stimulated research workers to give them just what 
they wanted, but others again have found their research invest 
ments a dead loss and have been more fortunate in developing 
inventions made within much smaller organizations, where the 
research workers, until the kill was made, were not very highly 
remunerated; or even by single and independent research 
workers. Other industries have found that their most useful ma 
terial has been derived from work done in academic institutions 
with no cooperative needs in mind. The economic landscape 


abounds in such irregular contours, and there is no level site on 
which there could be speedily run up an organization by which 
scientists could supply industry s need for scientific help as the 
Ministry of Health and the Board of Trade perform their func 
tions, with the same guarantee of security for the functionaries. 
But the legend is strong that it is only the ineptitude of our 
present system which prevents such an organization from being 

This is the more unfortunate because there is already a strong 
reason predisposing scientists to think that they could be better 
moulders of the state than professional politicians. A scientist 
knows that he can understand a great many things which are mys 
terious to the nonscientific man. A great scientist knows that 
he can understand a great many things which are mysterious to 
lesser scientists. He would have to possess the gift of humility in 
very full measure, were it not to occur to him that maybe he 
could solve quite easily the economic and social problems which 
have so long perplexed nonscientific men. He is the more prone 
to form this opinion because the long years of his training and 
the long hours of his working day restrict the scope of his expe 
rience, and prevent him from realizing the disorderly quality of 
economic and social problems. He is apt, too, to live in the 
company of his fellow scientists, without meeting men of affairs 
and thus learning appreciation of their special talents and vir 
tues. It must be very tempting for any scientist to think that he 
can solve any major political conundrum, say the housing prob 
lem, by applying to it the same methods he uses in his lab 
oratory: by assembling the necessary apparatus, handling his 
material with dexterous and economical movements, observing 
accurately all the changes set up in that material, and subjecting 
his observations to a process of logical analysis. 

But, in fact, houses come into being on quite another plane of 
creation. Any house not built by a tyrant with unlimited power 
to draw at will on materials and slave labour must represent a 
struggle between conflicting interests, only to be resolved by 
frequent compromises of a sort never called for in the course of a 
scientific experiment. There is an initial conflict between the 
person who is going to live in the house and the person who is 
going to pay for it, which exists even though these are the same 
person, sometimes to the extent of making it impossible for him 


to live in it when it is finished, because he has spent so much on 
it that he has nothing left for upkeep. This conflict becomes 
more bitter in the hard times when housing becomes a major 
political problem (which are the only times when scientists 
would wish to emerge from their laboratories and solve it), 
because the landlord, who is often a hybrid composed of the 
state and a local government body, is therefore at war with 
himself as well as with his tenant, who also often is at war with 
himself, because he is also a hybrid composed of a subsidized pet 
who is paying less than the economic rent of his house, and a 
taxpayer and ratepayer who is paying the subsidy and keeping 
himself as a pet. 

Moreover, as building is rationalized and more and more of 
the component parts of every house are made by specialist firms, 
and more and more people than the actual labourers who work 
on the site are involved in its construction, each of them acts as a 
brake on its rise from the sod. For though these people s de 
mand for higher profits and wages may be controlled, their not 
less natural demand for more leisure and less tension cannot be 
so controlled, and their refusal to work long hours or overstrain 
themselves slows down the speed of building and adds to its cost 
by amounts which may not be less than those involved by a 
spectacular rise in wages and interest, and must always be less 
convenient for actuarial handling, since they are indirect and 
highly variable and often unpredictable. The authorities who 
are building the house must attempt to counter this tendency by 
encouraging the firms least affected by it, but without forgetting 
their concern with efficiency or the accepted principles of in 
dustrial welfare. Bricks and mortar cannot meet and marry until 
there have been countless wrangles of this complicated sort; and 
it may well happen that an administrator responsible for a hous 
ing project may be uttering a worthy apologia pro vita sua when 
he says to himself, "Well, I am building these houses very badly 
indeed. If you judge them with the conception of a house as *a 
machine to live in at the back of your mind, they are all wrong 
from the foundations to the chimney cowls. But I am building 
them, they are going up, soon people will be able to shelter in 
them, and thank God for that." This is not a justification per 
mitted to either the artist or the scientist, who must build his 
work of art or his research right from start to finish, and let the 


people seek their shelter where they can find it. The martyrdom 
of the man of action is that he must take pride in botched work; 
the martyrdom of the man of science and the artist is that they 
must never take pride in their work at all, since, being the work 
of human beings, it is imperfect. 

This does not show the scientist at a disadvantage. The man 
of action is his peer when it comes to making mistakes. 
C. F. Kettering, renowned for his part in developing the opera 
tional efficiency of the automobile by his contributions to the 
discovery of ethylized fluids, tells the story of the great industrial 
ist who inquired from his director of research how long a certain 
piece of research would take to complete. When the director told 
him that it would take his team of six men two years to get it 
done, the industrialist bade him take on six more men and finish 
the job in a year. Every variety of human being, as well as every 
individual, has its peculiar faults; it is unfortunate that the 
Russians know about the faults of the scientist well. It happens 
that throughout the nineteenth century and the early years of 
the twentieth century the Russian mind was strongly attracted to 
science. This was due in part to the experimental nature of the 
Slav; it is significant that the practice of artificial insemination 
was invented by the illiterate horsemen on the steppes and was 
developed to a very high pitch of efficiency by the not too liter 
ate masters of the stables of the Tsars and then: employers. It is 
also significant that Peter the Great believed in nothing but 
what the Americans call "know-how," that Catherine the Great 
was injected by the French philosophers with faith in all kinds 
of learning, including the physical sciences, and during the nine 
teenth century the German people, having begun to manifest 
their terrible genius for producing a vast excess of the very best 
specimens of the white-collar class, exported a number of them, 
including many scientists, to Russia. 

Consequently an understanding of the scientific character is 
one of the Russian traits which were profound enough to survive 
the Revolution and pass unaltered into the USSR. Hence the 
bolsheviks have steadily pursued a policy based on their aware 
ness of the occupational risk to which the scientist is subject: this 
temptation to believe that he is called to wear a double crown 
and surpass Caesar as well as Archimedes. The USSR has there 
fore posed to the scientists of the world as the one country which 


gives their tribe real power. In point of fact, as Nazi Germany 
showed, a totalitarian state must keep art and science in strict 
subjection, since it claims that its creed represents the finality of 
wisdom, and it cannot permit artists and scientists to set forth on 
researches from which they may bring back disconcerting revela 
tions of reality quite inconsistent with that creed. It is significant 
that the word "objectivity," which to all free artists and scien 
tists means a necessary precondition of their work, meant in 
Nazi Germany and means in the Soviet Union a vice implying 
disloyalty to the state. But foreign scientists are invited on flatter 
ing and delightful visits to the state which give them experience 
bound to be uniquely intoxicating. 

When a certain prominent English scientist visited Moscow 
during Stalin s lifetime, the great man always received him. It is 
impossible to imagine his being granted a similar favour by the 
King of England or by the President of the United States or 
France, or that they, geared to their administrative duties as they 
are, would have anything interesting to say to him, geared as he 
is to his highly specialized scientific duties. It is even more un 
likely that Stalin, geared to a highly specialized type of adminis 
trative duty and wholly alien from the West, should have found 
any basis for an intellectually profitable exchange. But though 
the adult self of the scientist would learn nothing from the 
interview, his childish self, which wishes to live more than his 
life, would rejoice at being raised by a ruler to be his com 

At home too there is the same elevation into another sphere, 
the same promise that ordinary human limitations are to be 
transcended and the Communist scientist shall discharge two 
functions and live two lives. During the past quarter of a 
century, both in England and in France, there have been conspic 
uous examples of Communist scientists who, though far from 
brilliant or even sensible outside their own fields, have been 
carefully built up into popular political oracles. It is hard to 
think of any agency which would so transform the destinies of 
their non-Communist colleagues. It cannot be charged too 
heavily against the scientists that they are self-seeking in accept 
ing these benefits from Russian sources or that they show them 
selves blind to the suffering of the millions who are incompe 
tently governed by the bolsheviks. For it must be remembered 


that they believe that political problems should be solved by the 
same methods as scientific problems, and that if it is impossible 
to build a new house without a struggle between conflicting 
interests unless the builder is a tyrant with unlimited power to 
draw at will on material and slave labour, they will consider the 
Soviet Union sensible in becoming such a tyrant and will feel 
there is no degradation in receiving presents at its hands. 

It has to be remembered that at this time history has done a 
great deal to inflate the scientist s suspicion that not merely does 
he know other things than are known to the nonscientist; his 
knowledge is greater and more valuable. Fundamentally it was 
courage which had won the war, but only because it had had 
science for its servant, and that servant had in the end realized 
its own private dream by achieving atomic energy. Men were 
becoming like gods, and some more like gods than others. Thus 
it happened that shortly after Hiroshima a scientist, not a Com 
munist but very much of the Webb-determined world, was talk 
ing with horror of the efforts that the soldiers of America and 
Britain were making to get the control of atomic energy into 
their hands. It should, he maintained, be left with the scientists, 
to whom the world owed the knowledge of atomic energy. One 
of his hearers (thinking, as it happened, of an American scientist 
who was not Communist but Fascist in his sympathies) asked 
what guarantee there was that, if scientists controlled atomic 
energy, extremists among them might not hand over their secrets 
to the most aggressive of soldiers. He, the least arrogant of men, 
replied by a simple claim that he and all his kind were born 
without sin. "How can you suppose that any scientist would do 
such a thing?" he asked, his spectacles shining with anger. "Sci 
ence is reason. Why should people who live by reason sud 
denly become its enemy?" He put into words an implication 
which often can be recognized when Communist scientists write 
on other than technical matters. The comradeship of scientists 
with the Soviet Union, even if it amounts to a transference of 
national loyalty, cannot be wrong and cannot lead to any harm, 
because scientists cannot be wrong and cannot do harm, because 
they are scientists, and science is right. 

We are re-entering by a new door into the old world of fanati 
cism. The Webb-minded world which had produced this genera 
tion was predominantly materialist, but no persons and no peo- 


pie can get rid of religion by becoming atheist. The troubling 
ideas in the depth of man s mind, which religions try to formu 
late and clarify, do not cease to trouble when these attempts are 
abandoned. All that happens is that men continue to debate 
these ideas in terms borrowed from the dominant art or science 
of their time, and swear that it is of this art or science that they 
speak. Today politics and economics preoccupy us, and we carry 
on that discussion in political and economic terms. Joyce and his 
type of Fascist conducted their part of it in vague and general 
terms, seeking to find in political activity the kind of recognition 
of their individualities which in any other age would have led 
them to an altar. But among the intellectuals, who find verbal 
formulas irresistible, not only the problems set by the pious 
persist; the solutions they found, the texts which came to their 
lips, are with them still, changed but recognizable. 

Not one stone may be left upon another, . . . What was that 
nonsense about? What we are so sensibly saying now is that the 
capitalist system is evil and must be destroyed. The Day of Judg 
ment approaches when it shall be declared who are the sheep 
and who are the goats, and we shall be raised to sit on His right 
hand. . . , What moonshine! Let us turn to sense and proclaim 
that there shall be a revolution and then the state will be gov 
erned by us. What the faithful must believe has been decided at 
the councils of the Church. Really superstition is a terrible 
thing. We ask our enlightened selves only what it was that Lenin 
said. If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that 
ye have received, let him be accursed. Bigotry is a vice, but do not 
take that leaflet! The woman who is giving it away is a Trotskyite. 

Mysteriously, such sectarianism acts as fuel to the soul. Four 
years after the trial of Dr. Nunn May, in the beginning of 1950, 
there followed him into the dock a Communist scientist traitor 
beside whom he was a timid amateur. He had all the arrogance 
of the scientists, or rather of the scientists at that date; they were 
not so arrogant before and they are not so arrogant today, but 
then a Spanish hidalgo would have seemed modest beside them. 
He also derived a particular fervour and sense of divine mission 
from a transplanted heresy. The sternest orthodoxy would allow 
Quakerism its special grace and it is a shame that any shadow 
should fall on it. But it is only the truth that Dr. Klaus Emil 
Fuchs was born in a Quaker home, and that, materialist though 


he was, he was inspired to his breach of faith with England, 
which had sheltered him as a refugee, by his memory of the 
doctrine of the Inner Light. 

IN 1874, in the little industrial town of Beerfelden 
in the Odenwald, that district of wooded hills which lies be 
tween Darmstadt and Heidelberg, there was born a child named 
Emil Fuchs. He grew into a man who exerted a great effect on 
his fellow men. Though short and full-faced, he had great physi 
cal charm, he could speak in private and in public with burning 
intensity, he was inflexible in his courage and singlemindedness, 
he never ceased to seek the truth, and in the opinion of some of 
the people who liked him best he was not very intelligent. He 
became a Lutheran pastor and held ministries in various places 
until 1918, when he settled down in the industrial centre of 
Eisenach. His functions must have altered, for he joined the 
Society of Friends in 1955, but he remained in Eisenach until 
1931, when he became professor of religious science at an acad 
emy for the training of teachers in Kiel. He was politically very 
active and was the first pastor to join the Social Democratic 
Party. After 1921 he became very well known throughout Ger 
many as a speaker for a group known as the Religious Socialists. 
He married young and had several sons and daughters, and there 
were few homes in which parents and children seemed to live on 
a smoother plane of happy equality. 

As the Nazi threat grew stronger in the late twenties and the 
early thirties Dr. Fuchs considered what he should do and de 
cided that it was his duty as a Christian to oppose Hitler. 
Throughout the whole of the Nazi regime, in peace and in war, 
he stood by this decision without making the smallest compro 
mise, though he was cruelly persecuted. Meanwhile his youngest 
son, Klaus Emil Fuchs, who had been born in 1911, was helping 
to create the situation for which his father was preparing himself 
by prayer. He was a university student, first at Leipzig and then 


at Kiel, and at both places he was involved in the useless and 
silly and violent political activities by which German undergrad 
uates did so much to destroy the civil order and social coher 
ence of their country and bring down the Weimar Republic. At 
Heidelberg he joined the students group of the Social Demo 
cratic Party, but quarrelled with them because they supported a 
policy of naval rearmament, and he had been brought up to be a 
pacifist. But shortly afterwards he quarrelled with his father s 
pacifism and joined the Reichsbanner, a semi-military organiza 
tion composed of young members of the Social Democratic and 
the Democratic Parties (as it might be in England, the Labour 
and the Liberal Parties). 

This was a union of parties which should have been effective 
as a bulwark against the Nazis, had not so many Germans be 
haved as young Klaus Fuchs was going to behave when he moved 
to Kiel. 

There he transferred to the university branch of the Social 
Democratic Party, but quarrelled with the party when it decided 
to support old General Hindenburg as Reichsprasident, for fear 
that if it ran its own candidate this would split the anti-Nazi 
vote and Hitler would be elected. Fuchs then offered himself as a 
speaker to the Communist Party, and at the same time joined an 
organization, frowned upon by the Social Democratic Party, in 
which members of the Social Democratic and the Communist 
Party attempted to convert those members of the Nazi Party 
whom they believed to be sincere and open to appeals to their 
better feelings. Then, when Hindenburg was elected, Papen, who 
was a soft man ready to succumb to the Nazis, was made Reichs- 
kanzler and he dismissed the elected Prussian government and 
put in the Reichsstatthalter as a kept government. Klaus Fuchs s 
reaction to this news was to run along to the Communist Party 
headquarters and enrol as a member because the Social Demo 
cratic Party was doing nothing effective. 

In fact, what had happened was that the Communists had 
been attacking the Social Democratic Party instead of the Nazis, 
telling all the young idiots like Klaus Fuchs that it was Codlin 
who was their friend and not Short; and there were so many of 
these idiots that the Social Democratic Party was too weak in 
prestige to do anything at all. This had been the intention of the 
Communists, who desired Hitler to come to power because they 


believed that he would soon fall and they would then come to 
power. Hence the doom of Germany, and all of us. 

Klaus Fuchs then became busy and happy, in the suicidal way 
of Germans, in carrying on a silly and mischief-malting campaign 
regarding the internal affairs of Kiel University. The Na2i stu 
dents had started an agitation protesting against the high fees; 
and the organization composed of Social Democrats and Commu 
nists, of which Klaus Fuchs had now become chairman, decided 
to call their bluff and started negotiations with the Nazi 
students, proposing that they should form an alliance to carry on 
a campaign for lower fees and should organize a strike of the 
students. The Nazi students hedged, and after a few weeks Klaus 
Emil Fuchs issued a leaflet describing the negotiations and point 
ing out how little the Nazis had been in earnest. Then the Nazis, 
to get back their prestige, used some dispute between the faculty 
and the students as an excuse to call a strike against the rector of 
the university. 

By this time Hitler had been made Reichskanzler and the 
Nazi students were able to enlist the support of the SA, who 
demonstrated in front of the university. Klaus Emil Fuchs was 
physically weedy, with a large head and a narrow, rickety body, 
but he had inherited his father s courage, and every day he 
walked up and down in front of the SA to challenge his Nazi 
fellow students to do their worst. On one occasion they threat 
ened him with violence, but he escaped. Then, on his way to an 
illegal conference of anti-Nazi students held in Berlin, he read of 
the burning of the Reichstag in the newspaper and realized that 
the Communist Party would have to go underground, and he 
took the badge of the hammer and sickle from his coat lapel and 
prepared to work in secret. 

For some rime he hid. Then the Communist Party arranged 
for him to go abroad, as a refugee, telling him that he must 
continue his studies, because there would come a time, after 
there had been a revolution in Germany, when people with 
technical knowledge would be required to build up the new 
Communist Germany. The Communist Party had a finger in 
every pie during that period. It engaged in street fights with the 
Nazis. But that was for show. Its policy had not been to fight. It 
was not fighting Hitler, it was fighting the Social Democratic 
Party. But it gained a large measure of control over the organiza- 


tions distributing the offerings of goodwill which were made by 
the liberals of the world to the victims of the Nazis. Klaus Emil 
Fuchs was first sent to France and then to England, where he was 
befriended by the Society for the Protection of Science and Learn 
ing, and sent to Bristol University, to get his doctorate of philoso 
phy in mathematics and physics. 

Afterwards he got a scholarship at Edinburgh University and 
there took his doctorate of science, and was given a Carnegie 
Research Fellowship. He carried on the work it enabled him to 
do after the war broke out, for he went before an Aliens Tribu 
nal and pointed to his membership in the Communist Party as 
proof that he was anti-Nazi. It is not possible to know in what 
terms his statement was made, for by an administrative act of 
incredible folly all or most records of the proceedings before the 
Aliens Tribunal were destroyed after the war. Quite apart from 
their bearings on espionage, these records would have been of 
priceless value to the historian. But in May 1940 the Nazis in 
vaded the Low Countries and France, and it became necessary 
for the British to intern all aliens, for the safety of all parties. 
He was one of a group of alien scientists who were taken to 
Canada and placed in a camp on the Heights of Abraham out 
side Quebec. There was a strong and open Communist section in 
this camp, led by Hans Kahle, a veteran of the Spanish Civil 
War, who is described in Douglas Hyde s / Believed and in Mrs. 
Haldane s Truth Will Out. He later became police chief in 
Mecklenburg in the Eastern Zone of Germany. Fuchs was his 
recognized second in command. 

In 1942 Fuchs was allowed to return to Great Britain, and he 
went to Glasgow University to continue his researches. Very soon 
Professor Rudolf Peierls, a young and very eminent German- 
born psysicist, working at Birmingham University on atomic 
research for the British government, asked for his assistance. So 
Fuchs went to Birmingham and in June signed the usual security 
undertaking and a month later applied for naturalization as a 
British subject, in due course taking the oath of allegiance to his 
Majesty the King. The names of his sponsors have not been 
disclosed; it is the custom to regard such persons as acting 
confidentially. It was, however, strange that later these particular 
sponsors did not feel under an obligation to reveal themselves, 
considering who they were. At about the same time he decided to 


inform the Soviet Union about the work he was doing, and he 
established contact with another member of the Comgmnist 
Party. For the following eight years he maintained continuous 
contact with persons personally unknown to him whom he knew 
to be charged with the duty of transmitting to Russia ^1 the 
information he gave them; and he told them all he could about 
his work, without hesitation. For some months he worked 
happily with Professor Peierls, making his home with hip and 
his family in Edgbaston. In 1943 Professor Peierls went to Amer 
ica and worked on the American atomic project for three^ years, 
and so did Klaus Ernil, the British government guaranteeing his 
loyalty. When they returned Klaus Emil was made head^of the 
theoretical physics division of the atomic-energy establishment at 
Harwell, and he held this post, regularly communicating to So 
viet agents information regarding the researches carried on in 
the establishment, until he was arrested in February 1950. 

Meanwhile his father was treading a stony path with great 
courage and endurance. When Hitler came to power Dr. Fuchs 
was deprived of his professorship at Kiel and later was jmpris- 
oned in a concentration camp for nine months. He was not 
singled out for punishment owing to any act of his own; Ije was 
taken in a blanket catch of dissenting ministers. But fye did 
nothing to ward off his fate, though he was invited by the^Minis- 
try of Education to come into the Nazi Party on easy terras, and 
as soon as he was released, though he was under surveillance by 
the Gestapo, he and two of his sons started a car-hire service 
which was a cover for an escape route for refugees. After three 
years the cars were confiscated. At various times his sons G$d the 
country, and a daughter of his, who was a painter, became sub 
ject to recurrent attacks of mania after she had helped her young 
husband to escape, and finally threw herself off a moving train 
and was killed. In complete loneliness, except for his motherless 
grandson of four, Dr. Fuchs lived through the war years/ main 
taining his opposition to the regime, and performing such coura 
geous acts as addressing disaffected Nazis gathered together in 
private houses. 

When the war came to an end his life brightened. He was 
reunited with his scattered children, and though he wa$ now 
over seventy he embarked on an active life as a Quaker preacher 
and teacher, travelling all over Germany to find and reassemble 


the remnants of the Society of Friends and to welcome those who 
wished to join it. In 1948 he went for a year to lecture at the 
American Quaker Centre, Pendle Hill, and then returned to 
Germany to take up his work again, which was lying more and 
more among the members of the German branch of the body 
known as the Fellowship of Reconciliation. All these associations 
are above suspicion. The Quaker movement has been subjected 
to many attempts at Communist infiltration, but these have been 
checked by wise and hardheaded leadership. It is possible that 
the professed Quaker who makes propaganda aimed at weaken 
ing the defences of Great Britain or America is a disguised Com 
munist, but it would be unlikely that a Communist would be 
able to carry on any agitation useful to his cause inside the 
Quaker organization. Some of the members of the Fellowship of 
Reconciliation had dubious political antecedents, but investiga 
tion shows that most of these were due to family connections 
which it would have been hard to waive. But it so happened that 
from 1947 Dr. Fuchs and his followers had had one overmaster 
ing desire, and this certainly looked suspicious when the activi 
ties of Klaus Emil were exposed; for what they wished was that 
Dr. Fuchs should go and live and work in the Eastern Zone of 
Germany. This was, however, not because he and his followers 
liked the Russians, but because they did not. They saw Soviet 
rule as an extreme example of sinful man s tendency to bring 
suffering into the world by violating what is holy; and it was Dr. 
Fuchs s intention to save oppressed and oppressors alike by meet 
ing the Russians with love and recalling them to peaceful ways 
by reminding them of Christ. When Dr. Fuchs became professor 
of ethics and religion in the University of Leipzig, his followers 
did not conceive this as a release into Utopia, but as a descent 
into Hell. 

There could hardly be a more striking example of the 
difficulty of applying security tests to people above a certain level 
of mental complexity. On the face of it Dr. Fuchs s desire to go 
into the Eastern Zone, and the readiness of the Soviet authorities 
to give him a professorship, looked as if the old gentleman must 
be a full member of the Communist Party. But investigation was 
bound to show that he regarded himself as Daniel about to enter 
the lions* den, and that the Soviet authorities were employing 
him as they will employ anyone of good repute who is willing to 


associate with them. When that conclusion was reached, it would 
inevitably happen not only that no black mark was inscribed 
against the head of the theoretical physics division at Harwell, 
but that it was less likely that a black mark would be inscribed 
against him afterwards. If somebody had conceived a suspicion 
that Klaus Emil might be a Communist, it would be examined 
with the reflection that, after all, there would probably be noth 
ing in it, since he came from a quietist family which extended its 
tolerance to Communists not because they were Communists but 
because they were human. It would obviously not be within the 
scope of a security officer to conduct his investigations on a plane 
likely to reveal that in the quietism of the father there was a 
strain which might, to his amazement and distress, emerge in the 
son as Communist treachery, though it was logical enough. A 
glimpse into Dr. Fuchs s mind is given by a remarkable pam 
phlet he wrote, called Christ in Catastrophe, which has been 
widely distributed by the Quakers in America and England. 

It is an eloquent pamphlet, beautiful in its description of the 
joy felt by the mystic when he is aware of the presence of God. 
But it is also egotistical and smug and curiously unsympathetic 
towards the sorrows and achievements of others. It lays stress on 
the divine favours that were showered on Dr. Fuchs, and the 
mission which Christ gave him to carry on in stricken Germany, 
"Was it imagination that enabled people like me to know, from 
the beginning of all propaganda, that the spirit of Hitler was 
not God?" he asks. "Why did so many, very clever and orthodox 
theological thinkers, scholars, pastors, and leaders of churches 
not recognize evil?" He goes on to taunt those who "had Chris 
tianity as doctrine, very elaborate, very refined, very tra 
ditional," but "had not that experience in which the living 
Christ, the risen Lord, gives his call and task for this day and 
this time." There is not one word of praise to be spared for, say, 
the German Catholics, though the heroism of many of them was 
exemplary. There is also an unengaging passage in which he 
describes how, when he came back to Germany from a six weeks 
visit to his son in Switzerland in 1947, he saw the faces of the 
people in the street with a new sharpness, and he describes them 
with singular lack of pity. He admits that "sometimes" he sees a 
face "in which it is written that this man, this woman, overcame 
suffering and despair, that behind the face is serenity, a con 


science at rest and yet awake to love, truth, helpfulness/ but 
concerning the rest he permits himself to make assumptions 
which, considering the time and the place, seem remarkably 
disagreeable. It also seems a pity, when describing the reactions 
of American newspaper-readers to "the lynching of a Negro in 
an unknown township in the South," to say, "they read, shud 
der a little and forget/ A number of Americans, when they 
read of a lynching, shudder but do not forget; and engage in 
activities of a most purposeful kind to prevent another one from 

There is also a curious lack of shrewdness in the pamphlet. At 
one point Dr. Fuchs recounts how, after he had given a talk in a 
German town, a man of about fifty had come to him and told 
him, with tears in his eyes, that he longed to go to church and 
acknowledge God, but he could not because every time he came 
near the church he saw standing by the door the field chaplain 
attached to his regiment in the First World War, and heard him 
saying, as he said then, "Shoot them, beat them, kill them, win 
the attack!" and was therefore prevented from entering the 
church. On inquiry, Dr. Fuchs found that the man was chairman 
of the Communist Party of that district. He regrets that the man 
had rejected Christianity and attributes his rejection to the fault 
of the chaplain in not understanding that a Christian must be a 
pacifist. But he does not remind the man that it is inconsistent 
for one who leaves the Church because it is not pacifist to go 
over to the Communists, who rejoice in the exploits of the Red 
Army. Indeed, he seems himself to forget the existence of the 
Red Army, for he talks of the Communist Party as promising a 
"world of justice, peace, and love/ But at the same time he 
deplores that this man should have been so disillusioned by 
hearing the warlike utterances by the chaplain that he accepted 
it as proven that man will always fight, and therefore all of us 
have not only the right but the duty to fight in the same way for 
our ideals. But one cannot help feeling that if that were the 
man s own conclusion, it was illogical of him, and uncharitable 
to feel such bitterness against the chaplain because he had come 
to the same conclusion. The emotional force behind this passage, 
its incoherence, and its air of confidential moral authority, make 
a painful impression. 

It was information received from America which led the Brit- 


ish security organization to turn its attention to Klaus Emil 
Fuchs in 1950. It was strange that it had not been actively inter 
ested in him long ago. He had made no secret of his Communist 
sympathies when he came before the Aliens Tribunal which 
granted him temporary exemption from internment at the begin 
ning of the war, and his fellow internees have never doubted that 
he was an active Party member, but though the Americans ac 
tually gave the information which touched off the fuse, their 
record was not more creditable than the British. The existence of 
a courier system transmitting information to Soviet headquarters 
in the United States had been reported to the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation by an ex-Communist spy named Elizabeth Bentley, 
who had repented and made a voluntary confession of all her 
activities in the autumn of 1945. Had her evidence been followed 
up it would have led to Fuchs. No fewer than three of the 
couriers appeared in 1947 before a federal grand jury summoned 
to investigate espionage, and cleared themselves by what now 
seem oddly unconvincing stories. In May 1949 Elizabeth Bentley 
again disclosed particulars of the courier system before a commit 
tee on immigration and naturalization which is a subcommittee 
of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the United States, as in 
Great Britain, the weakness of security is not that it does not 
collect information but that the information it collects is not 
used. It is interesting to note that Alger Hiss was first accused of 
espionage in 1939, and that no effort was made to conduct an 
official investigation into the charges until 1948. This was 
equally unfortunate whether he was innocent or guilty. 

The arrest of Klaus Emil Fuchs on February 2, 1950, and his 
appearance at Bow Street on February 10 and at the Old Bailey 
on March i told the world that a new page had been turned in 
the book of history. On that page were written two facts. First, 
Great Britain and America had lost most of the protection they 
thought they enjoyed against their only potential enemy, the 
Soviet Union, in their monopoly of knowledge concerning the 
atomic bomb. Thanks to Klaus Emil Fuchs and Alan Nunn May, 
its basic elements were now known to the Russians. We had still 
an advantage arising out of our knowledge of the practical prob 
lems concerning the manufacture of atomic bombs, and our supe 
rior industrial equipment; but even so we enjoyed no protection 
which the Russians might not destroy by further spying of a sort 


which they evidently found easy to organize and that on a scale 
which a totalitarian state finds far easier than a democracy; and 
the blame lay on these Communist scientists. And the second fact 
written on this page of history was the complete unmanageabil- 
ity of the Communist scientist, who was an even stranger animal 
than we had imagined. 

When Klaus Emil Fuchs was approached by the security 
officers, he began to talk in a manner which cannot exactly be 
called light-minded, for indeed one might as well call The Sor 
rows of Werther light-minded, but which was not what would 
have been expected from a man charged with this particular 
offence. It has to be conceded that he had been found out and 
that he must have been extremely disconcerted. It also has to be 
conceded that his statement was typically German in the way 
that English people find most difficult to understand. He spoke 
with the subjectivity bequeathed to the German people as a 
legacy from their romantic movement, which makes them pass 
round their emotions as if they were nosegays exhaling perfume; 
and he showed that obsessive interest in political activities of the 
more violent sort, combined with a complete lack of political 
sense, which has too often brought Germany to the brink of the 
abyss and sometimes over it. If this be remembered, it seems less 
strange that Klaus Fuchs should have begun by assuring the 
security officers that he had a very happy childhood, a matter 
concerning which they cannot have expressed any anxiety. They 
were members of the regular police force, who rarely care about 
such things. In the same vein, he recalled that when all his 
schoolfellows wore imperial badges on the anniversary of the 
founding of the Weimar Republic, he alone put on a republican 
badge, and had it torn off. In minute detail he recited all the 
political fatuities of himself, his friends, and his enemies, com 
mitted at Leipzig and Kiel Universities, with a respectfulness 
that no Englishman of thirty-eight would extend to his own 
doings at the age of twenty. We must indeed make allowances 
for his plight and for very considerable differences in national 
characteristics. But all the same his statement is odd and displeas 

It is terrifying, the apology of a man who took on himself the 
responsibility of giving away our defence secrets to another 
power. It betrays Fuchs as a man who had never emerged from 


adolescence and who, on matters outside his special province, 
could not rank as an intelligent adolescent. It has an egomaniac 
quality. He was addressing the representatives of the state, whose 
business it is to consider the interests of all, but he importuned 
them with particulars of his internal condition to which nobody 
could give attention unless he was representative of a God with 
infinite time and love to bestow on each individual. It also 
appears that he believed he could solve any problem; it was as if 
he imagined himself to be Sophia, heavenly wisdom. An occa 
sional consciousness of sin did not affect his self-confidence, 
and he makes it plain that he regarded it as his part to forgive, 
not to seek forgiveness. He also shows extreme inhumanity. 

His great decision of treachery was made in the political 
sphere; yet his statement shows unusual political ignorance. He 
could not understand events even when he had been up to his 
neck in them. It is well known that in the early thirties, when 
the German Communists accused the Social Democrats of not 
opposing Hitler, they were hoping thereby to draw anti-Nazi 
enthusiasts away from the Social Democratic Party, and thus to 
split the Popular Front, so that Hitler had to come to power. 
Their Intelligence service and their judgment were alike so weak 
that they believed that Hitler s regime would be short-lived and 
expected to use its ruins as the foundation of a Communist 
Germany. All sorts of witnesses have testified to this effect, and it 
would be virtually impossible for a non-Communist to write of 
these years without alluding to this party policy, or for a Commu 
nist to write of them without defending it or denying that it 
existed. But plainly Fuchs was so little in touch with political 
discussion that this interpretation of what had happened round 
him had never reached him. He writes of these events as they 
had seemed to him when he was a naive twenty. 

He draws an alarming picture of this political naivetd work 
ing in with the only one of his own characteristics which seemed 
to him doubtful: his readiness for deceit. At Kiel University the 
left-wing organization he had led had started an agitation 
against the high fees; and in this it pretended to cooperate with 
the Nazi students, to whom it had presently proposed that they 
should jointly declare a strike of students, well knowing that the 
Nazis would turn tail when it came to the point. After the 
negotiations had gone on for some time, Fuchs suddenly issued a 


leaflet disclosing the nature of the negotiations and pointing out 
that the Nazis had shown they were in earnest. He had been 
highly praised for taking this step at the Communist conference 
he attended in Berlin just after the burning of the Reichstag, 
but it had been an unfair thing to do. He should first have 
warned the Nazis that he would issue such a leaflet if they failed 
to take action by such and such a date. "I omitted," he said, "to 
resolve in my mind" this point; and perhaps, he thought, it was 
then that he had begun to accept the Communist view that 
scruples "of this kind are prejudices which are weaknesses and 
which you must fight against." Even those of us least inclined to 
sympathy with communism must feel it unfair to saddle the 
party with the responsibility of discovering that a politician may 
often find a lie a most useful help in time of trouble. 

He goes on to describe how when he first went to England he 
tried to make a serious study of the basic Marxist philosophy. 

The idea which gripped me most was the belief that in the 
past man has been unable to understand his own history and 
the forces which lead to the further development of human so 
ciety; that now for the first time man understands the forces 
of history and he is able to control them and that therefore 
for the first time he will be really free. I carried this idea over 
to the personal sphere and believed that I could understand 
myself and that I could make myself into what I believed I 
should be. 

Presenting a report on progress to perfection, he goes on to 
relate respectfully the ill-informed and elementary opinions he 
had held concerning foreign affairs up till the time he was in 
terned, and then suggests that it was a pity that the internees 
were for a long time not allowed any newspapers. It does not 
occur to him that, if newspaper reading had been encouraged 
and the war had gone against us for any length of time, it might 
have been difficult for the guards to keep discipline and even to 
protect the non-Nazi internees against the Nazi internees. "I felt 
no bitterness at the internment because I could understand that 
it was necessary and at that time England could not spare good 
people to look after the internees, but it did deprive me of the 
chance of learning more about the real character of the British 
people." It is implied that he might have spared them if he had 
known more about them. It never crosses his mind that it was 


not for him to spite them or spare them, or that at any time it 
might be right for him to submit to lawful authority and not 
to transcend it. What has happened here is that the Lutheran 
right to private judgment has moved over into the secular field. 
Fuchs is claiming the right of private judgment to supersede 
public judgment altogether. Sometimes a man must say to 
society, "I think that what you are doing is wrong, and I intend 
to make you stop and do what is right." This is one of the chief 
instruments by which society moves towards civilization. But 
private judgment cannot supersede public judgment every time, 
which is what Fuchs was prepared for his own to do, with a 
confidence equalled till now only in those devotees who believe 
divinity to be within them. 

It is the heavy task of the heretic who rejects the authority of 
the Church to make a whole new spiritual cosmos by his own 
unaided efforts. He cannot sit back and face a metaphysical 
vacuum; if that had been possible for him, he would not have 
been a heretic. Fuchs began work at Harwell, handing over the 
results achieved by himself and his colleagues to the Soviet au 
thorities, and built up a system which justified him: 

In the course of this work I began naturally to form bonds of 
personal friendship and I had to conceal from them my inner 
thoughts. I used my Marxist philosophy to establish in my 
mind two separate compartments. One compartment in which 
I allowed myself to make friendships, to have personal rela 
tions, to help people and to be in all personal ways the kind of 
man I wanted to be and the kind of man which, in a personal 
way, I had been before with my friends in or near the Com 
munist Party. I could be free and easy and happy with other 
people without fear of disclosing myself because I knew that 
the other compartment would step in if I approached the 
danger point. I could foiget the other compartment and still 
rely on it. It appeared to me at the time that I had become a 
"free man" because I had succeeded in the other compartment 
to establish myself completely independent of the surrounding 
forces of society. Looking back at it now the best way of ex 
pressing it seems to be to call it a controlled schizophrenia. 
In fact, he had rediscovered the fact that it often serves a 
man s immediate ends to lie and cheat: nothing more than that. 
Further on in his statement, in an equally muddled passage, he 
tells us that later he rediscovered that to lie and cheat and 


deceive is wrong, destructive to oneself and to one s environ 
ment. Many quite stupid little children would have told him as 
much, and although they had learned it by rote, it would still 
have heen worth his while to listen to them. But his vanity was 
too great for him to entertain the idea of ever listening. It was 
for him to be listened to. Perhaps the most terrifying sentences 
in his statement were these: 

In the post-war period I began again to have my doubts 
about Russian policy. It is impossible to give definite incidents 
because now the control mechanism acted against me also in 
keeping away from me facts which I could not look in the face, 
but they did penetrate and eventually I came to a point where 
I knew that I disapproved of many actions of the Russian 
Government and of the Communist Party, but I still believed 
that they would build a new world and that one day I would 
take part in it and that on that day I would also have to stand 
up and say to them that there are things which they are doing 

He had decided that the Western World was unfit to survive 
and betrayed it to the Soviet government; but the Soviet govern 
ment also was not worthy, he would have to correct it in its turn. 
Here we are back in the religious zone again. George Fox be 
lieved that he was filled with the Inner Light and that he then 
"knew nothing but pureness, innocency and righteousness." He 
was followed by James Nayler, whose followers called him Jesus 
and "the dear and precious Son of Zion, whose mother is a virgin 
and whose birth is immortal." The materialist in Klaus Emil 
rejected omniscience as impossible; yet it firmly claimed omnis 
cience, and it was willing to manifest omnipotence as the occa 
sion arose. It happened to be the atom bomb of which he had 
disposal; but if it had been some weapon approaching still 
nearer to the absolute of destructive power he would have dis 
posed of it as blithely. He was unrestrained by any tenderness. 
He makes no mention of the sufferings of his family under the 
Nazi regime; he expresses no concern about the horrors of 
atomic warfare which, owing to his action, henceforward threat 
ened Great Britain and Western Europe. Though he says that 
what he has done may "endanger" his friends, he apparently 
means only that he might endanger their prospects of continued 
employment at Harwell. Though he admits that he recognizes 


his deceitfulness as wrong, he is unabashed, as Madame Guyon 
was when she had to sign what amounted to a retraction of her 
quietist doctrines. She had previously explained that it never 
seemed necessary for her to find a defence for her conduct "for I 
no longer have a conduct, and yet I act infallibly." 

The trial of Klaus Emil Fuchs took place before the Lord 
Chief Justice, Lord Goddard, at the Old Bailey on March i, 
1950, and it had the reticent quality which appertained to trials 
of Russian agents in England at that time. The authorities pre 
ferred that the public should see as little as possible. They 
wanted to lift the cloth hanging over the cage just long enough 
to see the kind of bird inside and sentence it accordingly, and 
then they popped back the doth. It was all over in ninety min 
utes. Klaus Emil came into the dock, a pale, neat young man, 
like innumerable middle-class Germans, with a bulging forehead 
and glasses, not much of a chin, and a weakly body. He was 
charged under the Official Secrets Act on an indictment compris 
ing four counts: that on a day in 1943 in the city of Birmingham 
for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state he 
communicated to a person unknown information relating to 
atomic research which was calculated to be, or might have been 
or was intended to be, directly or indirectly useful to an enemy; 
and that he had committed similar offences on a day unknown 
between December 31, 1943 and August i, 1944, in the city of 
New York, and on a day unknown in February 1945 at Boston, 
Massachusetts, and on a day unknown in 1947 in Berkshire. His 
plea of guilty was entered. The Attorney-General opened for the 
prosecution and read passages from Klaus Emirs statement A 
security officer gave evidence that he had taken down the state 
ment, and an atomic scientist of high standing and unquestioned 
loyalty, who had been used by the security officers to examine 
Fuchs, told how Fuchs had admitted passing on information, and 
that in his opinion it was of a kind valuable to a potential 

Fuchs s counsel made the debatable point that as the first 
three offences were committed during the time that Russia was 
fighting as an ally of Britain, it would be difficult to see how 
giving information to Russian agents could be interpreted as 
prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state; and he pointed 
out, too justly, that the authorities had bought this betrayal with 


their eyes wide open, for Klaus Emil had not concealed his 
Communist convictions when he appeared before the Aliens Tri 
bunal. Then the Lord Chief Justice asked Klaus Emil if he had 
anything to say before sentence was passed on him, and he an 
swered by a last flare-up of his celestial impudence. Compla 
cently he complimented the court on having given him a fair 
trial. When the thin pipe of his voice was no longer heard, the 
Lord Chief Justice went on to deliver judgment. He enumerated 
the four main consequences of Klaus Emil s crime. He had im 
perilled the right of asylum which had extended to political 
refugees; he had not only betrayed the work he himself had 
done, which was the property of his employers, he had handed 
over the work of other scientists, who might therefore have fal 
len under unjust suspicion; he had imperilled the good relations 
between Great Britain and the United States by betraying work 
done in an American project; and he may have brought the 
irreparable ruin of atomic warfare on Great Britain and the 
United States. He then sentenced Klaus Emil to fourteen years 
imprisonment, not for the sake of punishment, but to safeguard 
the country. "How can I be sure that a man of your mentality, as 
shown in that statement you have made," he asked, "may not at 
any minute allow some curious working in your mind to lead 
you further to betray secrets of the greatest possible value and 
importance to this land?" It was the maximum sentence that 
could be given under the Official Secrets Act. 

Little can be said in defence of this policy of trying the crimi 
nal in a manner which concealed the nature of the crime from 
the public which had suffered from it. It helped the Com 
munists, enabling them to present the scientist Communist 
spies as starry-eyed altruists who imparted secrets to other powers 
just because they were scientists and wanted their fellow scien 
tists to have the benefit of their own discoveries, and were so 
unworldly that they did not know that they were doing any harm, 
and hardly knew what ideologies were about. This was the pic 
ture of Fuchs that was spread about the world after his convic 
tion, and it was as untrue of him as it was of Nunn May. Euchs 
had been deep in the Communist movement long before he came 
to England. We know this from the testimony of Harry Gold, a 
courier who handled Euchs s material in the United States. Gold 
reported that at the same time that Fuchs was giving him ma- 


terial he had derived when present at the first atomic explosion 
at Alamogordo, Fuchs said that he was greatly worried because 
the British had got to Kiel ahead of the Russians, and he was 
frightened lest British Intelligence officers find the very full dos 
sier collected by the Nazis concerning his Communist back 
ground and ties, which Fuchs himself described as "very 
strong." He was not a doctrinaire Communist, not a passive 
intellectual; he was a good party underground worker who knew 
all the tricks. He knew all the rules and sternly rebuked Gold on 
one occasion for breaking one of them by arranging a meeting in 
a public place. The material he transmitted to the Soviet Union 
always astonished Harry Gold, who was a qualified scientist him 
self, by its quantity and its quality. Of one consignment he says 
that "there were fifty, sixty, a hundred pages of very close writ 
ing on yellow pads, sometimes white. And he had a very small 
crabbed hand it not only contained a tremendous amount of 
theoretical mathematics, it contained the practical set-up." 

Fuchs had indeed much material to transmit, for he knew 
much concerning the gaseous-diffusion process, which was an 
important method for producing bomb material. To obtain a 
satisfactory chain reaction it was necessary to separate the easily 
fissionable uranium-235 from the more abundant uranium-sgS, 
which constitutes 99.3 per cent of pure uranium. There are 
several techniques for doing this, such as the electromagnetic, 
centrifuge, and liquid-diffusion processes, but none eventually 
proved to be as practical as the gaseous-diffusion process. This 
had been developed in England largely at Birmingham Univer 
sity by the team of which Fuchs was a part, while the Americans 
worked on it in a complex of laboratories and plants grouped 
under the name of K-25- There, on their own, for the British 
built no plant of this kind, they worked out an entirely novel 

It was based on the theory that if a gaseous uranium com 
pound was pumped against a porous barrier, then the lighter 
molecules of the gas, which would contain U-235, would pass 
through more quickly than the heavier molecules containing U- 
238. The problem was to make porous metal membranes, with 
sub-microscopic holes punched in them, some millions to the 
square inch, which functioned within an airtight vessel called 
the diffuser. As the gas was pumped through a long series, or 


"cascade/ of these tubes, it tended to separate, the lighter parti 
cles going ahead and the heavier falling back. There is so little 
difference in mass between the gaseous suspension of these two 
kinds of uranium that it is impossible to sort the two out except 
by using several thousand successive stages, 

Fuchs was in possession of these facts through his own team s 
work on the subject when he was in Birmingham, and through 
the information placed at his disposal by the Americans. But at 
the end of 1943 he went to America and saw the plant in action 
and was given much detailed information. It is obvious that such 
a process raised many engineering problems; for example, the 
effects of gas corrosion on the hundreds of miles of pipes had to 
be minimized, the flow of gas through the pipes had to be regu 
lated, air had to be excluded from them, particularly at the 
welds. Fuchs was informed of all the solutions that had been 
found, and of the multifold mechanical equipment, the pumps, 
seals, valves, and coolers, which had been conjured up to meet 
these unique requirements. To create the scientific and techno 
logical treasure house revealed to Fuchs, the United States had 
mobilized its academic and industrial and financial resources 
with an unsparing hand. The Soviet Union was not in a position 
to duplicate this effort from scratch. It had remarkable academic 
resources, but its industrial and financial resources were not 
comparable to those of the United States, and it could not have 
created .-25, even if it had been a neutral and had not been 
impoverished by war. Fuchs enabled it to make the A-bomb 
without going through this expensive experimental phase, and 
thus brought down on the unhappy world, years before it need 
have happened, the dreariness of the cold war. 

There were other aspects of Fuchs s treachery. The Americans 
learned of it with resentment. He would not have been allowed 
to visit the K-25 project, and receive information from it and 
various scientific agencies who had received him as a trusted 
colleague, had his antecedents been known. His German birth 
would have been reckoned as valid an impediment as his commu 
nism, until he had been screened. General Groves, then in charge 
of the atomic-bomb project in the United States, has recorded 
acidly that he received an assurance that each of the British 
scientists sent over to work in his project had been investigated 
as thoroughly as he himself saw that all his own employees were 


investigated. But in view of Fuchs s record he was of the opinion 
that at that time the British had made no investigations at all. 

There was also some bitterness over a difference between Amer 
ican and English policy regarding compartmentalization. The 
Americans isolated their scientific workers in the individual 
projects (plutonium project, gaseous-diffusion project, and so 
on) and had not allowed them information on regarding one 
another s work. This was obviously contrary to the best interests 
of scientific research, which requires a wide scope for the imagi 
native mind, and it gave the affected scientists a lamentable 
feeling of frustration. The American authorities freely admitted 
the case against it, but said that it was a temporary evil made 
necessary by wartime perils. The English gave way to the protests 
of their scientists and never imposed the system. Now the Ameri 
cans thought grimly that Fuchs s all-round knowledge had ena 
bled him to get an over-all picture of the American atomic 
programme such as was allowed to only a few of the top mem 
bers of their projects. This was the catastrophe which the Ameri 
cans had tried to avert by compartmentalization, and the Eng 
lishmen had flouted them with just those catastrophic results 
which the Americans had foreseen. 

There was further food for bitterness in memories of a not too 
fortunate episode in Anglo-American relations. At the end of 
1943 the British government had sent over to America the scien 
tists and engineers who had been working under Peierls and 
other scientific leaders, to study the developments of the gaseous- 
diffusion process and give what help they could. They spent four 
months on the task, and their American colleagues were sur 
prised by what seemed to them their visitors lack of enthusiasm 
and their unhelpful suggestions. They criticized various features 
in the process and proposed alternatives, all of which seemed to 
their hosts complicated and unpractical. Not one of these was 
adopted, then or subsequently, and this zero seemed odd enough 
in view of the undeniable ability of the members of the mission. 
No doubt the situation was largely the result of war nerves and 
overwork on both sides. But it would be natural enough if after 
wards it was wondered whether this had not been an attempt at 
sabotage, and whether, if it was Fuchs who planned it, those who 
fell in with his plans were not silly and careless. A wedge had 
been driven between the two countries, and this, as they were 


inevitably to be allied for the foreseeable future, was more than 
a mere inconvenience. 

This was the first manifestation of a change in the grand 
tactics of treason, which resulted from the transformation of the 
international situation by the Second World War. Espionage had 
hitherto borne a relationship to counterespionage as simple as 
that which keeps the burglar on evasive terms with the police. 
In the old multinational world a country instructed an agent to 
steal the military or naval secrets of another country, which 
would endeavour to defend itself against such thefts by the use 
of various types of security organizations; and the value of this 
agent to the country employing him would be measured by the 
usefulness of the secrets he stole and the success with which he 
hoodwinked the security organizations. But now, in a world 
where the Soviet Union faced the Western bloc, another system 
of scoring suggested itself. Anything which detached the United 
States from its allies weakened the Western bloc and strength 
ened the Soviet Union. Obviously the United States would not 
want to share its defence secrets or to engage in any expensive 
form of cooperation with an ally whose security organizations 
were proved to be inefficient or infiltrated by Communists. It 
followed that now the Soviet Union might get the best value out 
of an agent by using him to collect enough information in West 
ern countries to establish him as a spy and then allowing him to 
be identified as an agent in circumstances which discredited the 
security organizations of the country where he had been working. 
This might break down the morale of that country and arouse 
distrust in the United States. We were in a new era, and the 
proof is before us if we look back to William Joyce, who had no 
such second string to his bow. His was not a two-power world, 
and if he (or another spy) had thrown his weight into one or 
other of the two scales the balance would not have even trem 
bled. It might be thought the new dispensation was better than 
the old, because the new spy was a man of intelligence and even 
of great talent. 

But this illusion cannot survive a reading of Fuchs s 
statement. We can never be sure that there will not arise some 
other gifted scientist, just a little sillier, just a little crazier, who 
would decide to set fire to the world in order to please the 
dematerialist Red Indian who was his spiritualist aunt s control, 


or the holy men in Mars whom he knew to be waiting for the 
signal of the flame that they might come down and bring us 
salvation. This is unlikely to happen, but it is within the realm 
of possibility. Even far short of this, very disagreeable things 
might happen. Behind the scenes scientists, the most eminent, 
were putting up the most bizarre efforts to exempt Fuchs from 
punishment because he was one of their company. An honoured 
public figure wanted Fuchs to be allowed to go scot-free and take 
a professorship at a university. Many, hardly less distinguished, 
whom one had thought of as harbingers of the future, suddenly 
appeared as ghosts from the past: identifiable ghosts. In their 
demands that the case should be hushed up, they revealed them 
selves as reincarnations of the French officers who would not 
permit the exposure of the forgers and perjurers who had con 
spired against Dreyfus, because nothing must tarnish the honour 
of the French Army. Nothing must tarnish the honour of scien 
tists. This phase passed. Few of these men, except those who 
were orypto-Communists, would not now regret that they made 
this curious plea for privilege. Yet that phase might conceivably 
be repeated. If history took a turn which again placed our mili 
tary destiny at the mercy of a sudden spurt of inventiveness by 
our scientists, they might make anew this excessive claim for 

The Fuchs trial did nothing to acquaint the public with the 
true nature of his offence. Indeed, it did something to disguise it. 
A security officer gave evidence that he had taken down Fuchs s 
statement, and he made the same assertion that was made con 
cerning Alan Nunn May at his trial, that before he took down 
the prisoner s statement there was no evidence on which he 
could have been prosecuted. Now, this must be technically true. 
But all the same there were substantial reasons why the idea of 
making a statement to security officers had seemed good to these 
two persons, and it was a pity to create an impression that here 
were two honest souls who confessed when they had no need. 

The trial was not followed by any organization of petitions for 
the remission of Fuchs s sentence such as had been carried on 
five years before for the benefit of Alan Nunn May. Obviously it 
was better to let sleeping dogs lie. As always after an event which 
draws attention to the criminal side of the Communist Party s 
activities, in Britain and the United States a number of promi- 


nent Communists expressed disapproval of the party policy and 
disassociated themselves from it. This creates an illusion that the 
Communist Party is weakening and that these particular people 
have become innocuous. But some resentment was expressed by 
those dissidents who, though not themselves Communists, have 
been persuaded that it is reactionary to punish a Communist for 
even the most unlawful act. An American radio commentator, 
assuming that Abraham Lincoln look of country shrewdness, 
said: "I always heard that your British justice was the fairest in 
the world, but anybody could see that your Lord Chief Justice 
came into court with his mind made up about the case. Why, the 
minute Fuchs had stopped speaking he started right off with his 
judgment." It was explained to him that the Lord Chief Justice 
would have read Klaus EnnTs statement beforehand, as it had 
been admitted without challenge before the examining mag 
istrate, and would have been told that a plea of guilty was to be 
entered. But it was no use: the American came from a generation 
conditioned to grumble at authority, and it was no more use 
arguing with him than it would have been trying to staunch by 
logic the flow of saliva dribbling from the jaws of Pavlov s dogs 
when they heard the dinner bell. 

Others likened Klaus Emil s statement to the confessions so 
monotonously proffered by persons tried in Soviet courts for 
offences against the state. They were moved by a desire to prove 
that the confessions in the Soviet courts were as freely given as it 
was known that Klaus Emil s statement had been. But the anal 
ogy does not hold good. The confessions in the Soviet courts are 
cut in the same pattern and astonish by their incompatibility 
with all that has been previously known about the persons who 
make them. But Klaus Emil s speech could not have been made 
by anybody who had not been a student in a German university 
in the early thirties, who had not read English left-wing weeklies 
and newspapers in the late thirties, who had not a quietist back 
ground. Only once is there adherence to a pattern, and that is 
one imposed by the Communist Party. 

He remarked that when he accepted the position offered him 
in the atomic project "at first I thought that all I would do 
would be to inform the Russian authorities that work upon the 
atomic bomb was going on/ It is a curious coincidence that in 
the propaganda distributed for the purpose of getting people to 


petition for the immediate release of Dr. Alan Nunn May, it was 
stated that "the real significance of his action was to inform 
Russia of the existence of the vast atomic energy programme." 
It is a strange echo. But for the most part the statement is highly 
individual and bears no trace of being a response to force or 

In prison he was interviewed by English and American secu 
rity officers, who liked him and believed in his candour. But 
towards the end of May there was announced the arrest in Phil 
adelphia of an American citizen named Harry Gold, a biochem 
ist engaged in research concerned with a certain cardiac condi 
tion in Philadelphia General Hospital, on a charge of espionage, 
based on allegations that he had acted as a courier for Dr. Fuchs, 
receiving from him written and oral information about the work 
in the Los Alamos atomic project and handing it over to a Soviet 
official. It was believed in London that Gold s arrest was due to 
information given by Klaus Emil, but this was not so. He talked, 
and talked with great profit to the authorities, but not until 
after Gold had been arrested. It is a curious coincidence that 
Fuchs, who had expressed willingness to aid the authorities in 
the detection of his American courier, at last identified Gold 
from a film shown him in person by the FBI on the same day 
that Gold was arrested. He had previously seen photographs of 
Gold but had failed to recognize him. 

This was the first of a series of arrests made in connection with 
this particular American spy service. Within six months they 
numbered eight. Most of them illustrated a tropism which few 
historians would have predicted. The parents of those arrested 
had left Russia to avoid persecution and had been received hand 
somely in the United States. They themselves had been nour 
ished by the swelling abundance of the last half-century as Amer 
ica had known it; none was poor by European standards. They 
all had had good educations, most had graduated from univer 
sities, all had gone out to steady employment on a high level. At 
the first opportunity they set to working, year in, year out, with 
great pains and at great risk, in order to betray the United States 
to Russia. It is not easy to find out what moved them, for most 
of them refused to testify on their own behalf. The party direc 
tion had changed now that the eyes of the world were on such 
cases, and there were no longer the protestations of innocence, 


the attacks on the probity of the courts, the barracking of specta 
tors, and all the elaborate procedure which had been part of the 
standard American Communist drill till then. Now the direction 
to American Communists was, as it long had been to English 
Communists, to get these trials over as quickly and quietly as 

But there were two among the accused who broke away from 
the party while they were under arrest, and talked. One was a 
young soldier, David Greenglass, who in 1945 had come back to 
his post in New Mexico from leave in New York with a bit of 
cardboard in his pocket, half the side panel of a box of gelatin, cut 
across in zigzags. Later Harry Gold had come down to New 
Mexico with the other half of that panel, and the soldier had 
matched his with it and had known that this was the man to 
whom he was to hand certain information he had learned in the 
course of his work on the atom-bomb project. After arrest this 
young man soon threw in his hand and testified against his sister 
and her husband, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who had got him 
into this trouble. The other accused person who became a gov 
ernment witness was Harry Gold. 

He carried the apotheosis of the new traitor a stage farther. 
He was a little dark man, so swollen with good living that he 
lost fifty pounds during the first six months of his detention. He 
was born in Switzerland in 1910, of Russian parents named Gol- 
odnitsky, who brought him to America three years later. 
Through his adolescence he worked in a laboratory by day and 
at night studied at the University of Pennsylvania and New York 
University. Finally he took his Baccalaureate of Science, summa 
cum laude, at Xavier University, a small but old and renowned 
Jesuit College in Ohio. From then on he held well-paid and 
interesting research posts. But from 1935 to 1946, which included 
his undergraduate years at Xavier University, he was a Commu 
nist agent, stealing industrial secrets from his employers for the 
benefit of the Soviet Union, and undertaking courier work. It 
might have been expected that, when he came to tell of this 
work, the most interesting part of his story must deal with his 
relationship to Klaus Emil Fuchs. But his account of this told us 
few new facts, other than that there had been two meetings 
between them at Santa Fe, the second of which took place on 
September 19, 1945, the very same day that the less fortunate 


William Joyce was sentenced to death for treason at the Old 
Bailey. These meetings are not among those mentioned in the 
indictment brought foward at Fuchs s trial, and presumably he 
had concealed them from the authorities. 

It was at Santa Fe that Fuchs had expressed anxiety to Gold 
because the British and not the Russians had taken Kiel, explain 
ing that the Kiel Gestapo had a very complete dossier on him 
and that he was afraid lest British Intelligence would find it and 
"become aware of his very strong Communist background and 
ties." It was interesting to hear this from Harry Gold s lips in 
March 1951, since in March 1950 Mr. Attlee had told the House 
of Commons that he objected to "loose talk in the press suggest 
ing inefficiency on the part of security services. I entirely deny 
that. Not long after this man [Fuchs] came into this country 
that was in 1933 it was said that he was a Communist. The 
source of that information was the Gestapo. At that time the 
Gestapo accused everybody of being a Communist. When the 
matter was looked into there was no support for it whatever," 

That was a strange remark and typical of the defensive state 
ments made by governments when spies have been detected in 
their countries. Not one single sentence had any relation to 
reality. Nothing could be more absurd than the idea that in the 
thirties the British government was in the habit of discussing the 
eligibility of German refugees with the Gestapo, or any other 
agency of the Nazi government, and we knew well that no refu 
gee was ever kept out or regarded with disfavour because of Com 
munist sympathies. On the contrary, those who dealt with refu 
gees in those days remember that the authorities beamed on 
Communists as certain to be anti-Nazi. So little were the Home 
Office and security organizations interested in communism that it 
was not until 1939, when the British Communists opposed the 
war effort, that it was even sought to draw up a list of party 
members. But as for the statement, "when the matter was looked 
into there was no support whatever," Mr. Attlee must only a 
short time before have read Klaus Fuchs s own statement, with 
its abundant particulars of his Communist youth, and he must 
also have learned recently that Fuchs had never concealed his 
Communist activities, speaking of them freely before the Aliens 

But Mr. Attlee went on to paint the lily by saying that "from 


that time onwards there was no support for it whatever," which 
was strange indeed, in view of Klaus Fuchs s close association 
with the well-known Communist Hans Kahle in the internment 
camp on the Heights of Abraham, under the nose of a notably 
capable security officer. It is unfortunate that espionage was then 
treated as a partisan matter. It meant that a Labour government 
had to defend itself from Tory attacks when it had to report a 
failure of security during its tenure of office, and a Tory govern 
ment had to submit to similar attacks in a like situation. The 
time was ripe for both parties to admit that in modern condi 
tions security organizations have so difficult a task that a certain 
amount of stark, final failure is inevitable, and that no matter 
what party is in power at the time both parties should join 
together in work for the future rather than engage in a dogfight 
over pretence that the Cabinet, and not the stupidity of a West 
ern security agent or the brilliance of a Soviet agent, can be 
blamed for a breach in our safety. The defensive statements put 
up under the system were always foolish and have put many 
misstatements into currency. 

As relevant to the main line followed by modern espionage 
was Gold s account of his life as an industrial spy. For eleven 
years he served the Soviet Union in this capacity with great 
diligence and audacity, on a curious psychological basis. He 
never joined the Communist Party and despised most of the 
Communists he met as "wacked-up Bohemians," except one, 
who fascinated him because he relieved the conventionality of 
life in Jersey City by wearing a neat black snake as a cravat. 
Reluctantly he associated with them, simply because he had to 
have somebody to conspire with against the United States, not 
that he hated his adopted country, but he had to have something 
to conspire against. Gifted with an unusual power of self- 
knowledge, which makes his long statement one of the best confes 
sional set-pieces of modern times, he quite saw that his state of 
mind was odd, but he could do nothing about it, and he aban 
doned himself to his mask-and-domino passion. 

For some time he worked at a Philadelphia sugar factory, 
where the research director was notably kind to him and helped 
him to rise from lab boy to qualified chemist, and presently, with 
the aid of false keys and frequent volunteering for night duty, he 
acquired many of the firm s secret processes regarding paints and 


lacquers and industrial solvents. Later he was withdrawn by the 
Soviet Union and sent, at its expense, to Xavier University. On 
his return to industry he did much courier work with other 
industrial spies. One of them was Alfred Dean Slack, a research 
chemist for Eastman Kodak, who handed over to him Kodak s 
information on colour films: a huge complex of technical in 
formation which had taken many men years to develop. Another 
of them, according to Gold, worked in a steel corporation and 
handed on to Gold over a period of five years countless blue 
prints and drawings of various industrial processes relating to 
high-octane gasoline, turbine airplanes, chemical production, 
and synthetic rubber, which were handed over to Amtorg, the 
Soviet trading agency, which rapidly photographed them and 
gave them back to Gold, so that they got back to the steel 
corporation premises after a few hours. This particular spy was 
being paid a generous salary by his employers. He would of 
course have defended his breach of trust by professing sympathy 
with the ideals of the Soviet Union; but idealism seemed hardly 
a relevant consideration, since the Soviet Union could perfectly 
well have acquired all these industrial processes by simply buy 
ing the patents. 

Usually Gold s courier work was carried on among these in 
dustrial spies, with the single exception of Fuchs. But in June 
1945 he was told to make a double event of a trip to New 
Mexico, by following up a visit to Fuchs at Santa Fe by a trip to 
Albuquerque to meet a low-grade technician who was employed 
on the construction of the atom bomb at Los Alamos, a young 
soldier, twenty-three years old, named David Greenglass. This 
was a more important assignment than Greenglass s quality sug 
gested, for what he was supplying was a description and sketches 
of various patterns of "flat-type lens moulds.* The lens involved 
was nothing like the lens as it is known to laymen, being a 
combination of high explosives which focused detonation waves 
as a glass lens focuses light waves, and so touched off the atom 
bomb. The design of this contrivance had presented new prob 
lems, and again the Soviet Union was receiving material from 
the traitors which would enable it to skip a lengthy and expen 
sive experimental stage in the manufacture of the bomb. 

When Gold arrived at Greenglass s house in Albuquerque, 
and presented half the side of a Jello package, and Greenglass 


took the matching half out of his wife s handbag, Gold greeted 
him with the words, "I come from Julius." This was the rec 
ognition line which he had been instructed to give by his Rus 
sian contact, Yakovlev, a clerk in the Soviet consulate. What is 
surprising is that it related to a person who really was named 
Julius: Julius Rosenberg, the husband of Greenglass s sister 
Ethel. Though Gold did not know Rosenberg, he too was an 
active figure in the Communist world. The son of a well-to-do 
working tailor, he had taken a degree in electrical engineering at 
the College of the City of New York when he was twenty-one 
and had thereafter had a pleasant enough existence. He went into 
the civil service and worked for five years in various Army Signal 
Corps plants, at reasonable salaries, while Mrs. Rosenberg earned 
money as a stenographer and a singer. He was also steadily 
engaged on odd jobs for the Communist Party, of which both he 
and his wife had been open members ever since their 
adolescence. The couple occupied a flat in an agreeable housing 
development in New York at a low subsidized rent. 

Sometime during the war the Rosenbergs passed from the 
open party to the underground section and collected information 
from various spies working for the Soviet Union. They had 
always wanted to get into espionage. When Ethel s brother Da 
vid was drafted into the workshops at Los Alamos, she and her 
husband sent David s young wife, Ruth Greenglass, down to 
New Mexico to tell him that he must give them all the informa 
tion he could for Soviet use. Ethel was then twenty-eight and her 
husband twenty-six, and they were both competent and masterful 
characters; David was much less intelligent and was devoted to 
both of them, particularly Julius, and his wife was just twenty. 
The younger couple demurred, but eventually Julius and Ethel 
talked them out of their timidity and David made his small but 
important contribution to Soviet knowledge. 

As soon as Harry Gold told his story it was inevitable that 
both the Rosenbergs and David Greenglass would find them 
selves in the dock. David saved his life and exempted his wife 
from prosecution by testifying against his sister and her husband, 
and they were sentenced to death on April 5, 1951. This is an 
ugly phase of history, but few modern events have been as ugly 
as this involvement of brother and sister in an unnatural rela 
tionship which is the hostile twin of incest. But the story appears 


even more pitiful if one inquires into the years between Green- 
glass s treachery and discovery. 

In September, Gouzenko handed over to the Canadian govern 
ment the papers he had filched through the Soviet embassy 
concerning the atom-bomb spy ring. The Soviet authorities then 
ordered all agents involved in this ring to disperse, sending the 
Russians back to Russia and telling the non-Russians to change 
occupations and get into nonsensitive fields. Rosenberg was in 
double trouble, for he had been removed from the government 
service in 1945 because security officers discovered that he was a 
Communist. At first he seemed in luck, for he had been working 
as a civil servant in a private firm which had let itself out to the 
government, and after the civil service had dismissed him this 
firm continued to employ him at a higher salary. But soon the 
firm ran into difficulties and closed down. 

The Rosenbergs then went too impetuously into business. The 
Pitt Machine Products Corporation was the American equivalent 
of a small factory in Hornsey or Wandsworth, with six or seven 
thousand pounds behind it. Half this capital was supplied by a 
silent partner found by Julius Rosenberg. The other half was 
supplied by older relatives. It was arranged that David and an 
other brother, Bernard, who were both skilled machinists, should 
work the machine shop and manage it, while Julius was the sales 
manager. All three were to draw equal pay. The business was a 
failure, as such factories in Hornsey and Wandsworth often have 
been. There was bickering. Rosenberg ascribed the failure to his 
brothers-in-law s slipshod management; they blamed his inexpe 
rience as a salesman. By 1949 the till was empty. Bernard and 
David had to seek employment elsewhere, having lost their sav 
ings and being burdened with the obligation to repay the loans 
made by the Greenglass relatives. This was felt as a special hard 
ship by David, for the loan had been negotiated while he was 
still in the Army, without his consent. He had also felt forced to 
fall in with the plan, as Rosenberg was pressing him as an 
alternative to take a civilian job at Los Alamos and continue in 
his espionage. 

He was also distressed by the condition of his wife. She had 
read of the trial of Nunn May and was terrified of the punish 
ment that might be inflicted on her husband and herself. She 
had had a miscarriage which had injured her general health, and 


though she had a child of two she now had to go out to work 
but could not earn enough to pay a proper child s nurse. She 
then became pregnant again, and during her pregnancy sus 
tained in an accident some severe burns which had not healed 
when she gave birth to her second child. She had just returned 
from hospital when Julius Rosenberg visited her. He had already 
arranged for the escape of other Communist agents, notably of 
Morris Cohen, a teacher of Russian origin, a man of great 
charm, and his wife, a handsome and gifted woman of Polish 
origin. Rosenberg showed Ruth Greenglass a copy of the New 
York Herald Tribune reporting the arrest of Harry Gold. He 
explained that this was the agent who had visited them at Albu 
querque, and told her that she and her husband must flee the 

Ruth said, "We can t go anywhere. We have a ten-day-old 
infant." Rosenberg replied, Tour babies won t die. Babies are 
born on the ocean and in trains every day. My doctor says that if 
you take enough canned milk and boil the water the baby will 
be all right." He then gave them $1000 and directed them to go 
with their children to Mexico City, where if they performed 
some conspiratorial mumbo-jumbo in front of the statue of Co 
lumbus in the big square there, a stranger would send them on 
to Sweden, where if they performed some more conspiratorial 
mumbo-jumbo in front of the statue of the great botanist Lin 
naeus there, another stranger would send them to 
Czechoslovakia. The Greenglasses gave in to the extent of having 
their passport photographs taken. Then they decided they could 
not go on. They used the dollars in paying off their debts. Ruth 
was now ill again, for her burns had become septic. 

Presently Rosenberg brought them a further sum of $4000 and 
repeated his instructions for their journey. The Greenglasses 
simply gave the money to a relative to keep in a safe place, and 
when Rosenberg came back in a few days they found the 
strength to resist the man who had been the architect of their 
ruin during the last five years, and told him that they were going 
to stay where they were and face the inevitable judgment. Eleven 
days later the FBI arrested David Greenglass, and though what 
he had to do must appear forever horrible, it must be remem 
bered that he had to choose between his sister and his wife, 
and he chose his wife, in circumstances when he must have 


felt a special tenderness for her. His suffering must have been 
increased by the protracted sufferings of Julius and Ethel Ro 
senberg, which disturbed the whole world. The death sentence 
was passed on them in 1951, but they were not sent to the 
electric chair till 1953. Even though this delay was caused by 
exercise of rights to appeal, it added to the ordeal of capital pun 
ishment, an act as discreditable to our civilization as the crime it 
punished. In the eyes of many, they met death as heroes. 

F U C H S had reported to Gold at Sante Fe in 1945 
that though British and American scientists had been as brothers 
in the early war years, there were by that time frequent signs of 
coldness. Not long after that there was a further fall of tempera 
ture when Alan Nunn May was brought to trial, and when 
Fuchs himself was detected five years later the air became icy. 
The United States forgot its own failures over Harry Gold 
and the Greenglasses and the Rosenbergs; and it preferred 
to remember that it had given Alan Nunn May and Fuchs very 
handsome access to American laboratories and classified material, 
because the British authorities had given them clearance which 
should have been withheld. Such sour feeling between the West 
ern Allies was something the Soviet Union rejoiced to see; and it 
was still more pleased when, five months after Fuchs had been 
convicted at the Old Bailey, a physicist named Bruno Ponte- 
corvo, Italian by birth but, like Fuchs, a naturalized British 
subject, left the British atomic-energy project at Harwell in suspi 
cious circumstances. When his disappearance became known, it 
was learned that he was a Communist of many years* standing 
and the strongest ties. 

Now, this did not raise much panic on the score of what he 
might have told the Russians. Pontecorvo s communism proba 
bly did not mean much to him, and it seems unlikely that he 
would ever have risked more in its service than he needed. He 
was attractive and exuberant, thirty-seven years of age and 
his great gifts did nothing to sober him and take away his 


delight in cocktail parties and mild flirtations, in his happy 
family life with his Swedish wife and three little sons, in tennis- 
playing and swimming, and in the pursuit of professorships at 
the instigation of a cheerful and unjaundiced ambition. It is 
probable that he joined the Communist Party for the same rea 
sons as many another middle-class Italian of his day, because it 
professed to be the farthest extreme from fascism and because it 
looked after its own kind as tenderly as the Mafia or Tammany 
Hall and could be of great assistance to a young man in his 
professional life. In 1936, when Pontecorvo was twenty-three, he 
left Italy for France, where he worked till the Germans came in 
1940, for the most part in the laboratory of the Communist 
scientist Professor Frdric Joliot-Curie. There he must certainly 
have derived considerable advantage from his party connections, 
for in Joliot-Curie s orbit communism meant jobs for the boys, 
but the later years which he spent in the United States, Canada, 
and England could have been filled full by his brilliant talent 
and his gusto, without any political aid. If the party made de 
mands on Pontecorvo, presumably he satisfied them. The chances 
are that he gave no overweight. 

What shocked the British and American public when Ponte 
corvo went at that moment was not the thought of what he might 
have given away in secrets even had he been a fanatic. This was 
not an urgent consideration. The war was over, and what Fuchs 
and Alan Nunn May had not given the Soviet Union would by 
now have been independently deduced by Russian scientists. Nor 
was it the thought that the Soviet Union would thereafter be 
able to use his fine mind; he was getting to the age when many 
physicists lose their power of original thought, and in any case 
there are so many gifted scientists in the Soviet Union that one 
more makes no matter. What was distressing was the light the 
case threw on British security work. 

Pontecorvo had left France in 1940 to go to the United States, 
where he worked for a private company on problems connected 
with the location of oil deposits by radiographic means; and 
then in 1943 he was invited by the British government to work 
on its atomic-energy project, at first in New York and then in 
Canada, at the heavy-water pile at Chalk River, at the same time 
as Alan Nunn May. In 1946 he took a position with the British 
Ministry of Supply atomic-energy organization, but it kept him 


in Canada until 1949. In 1948 he applied for British nationality 
and was granted it. In January 1949 he moved to Harwell as a 
senior principal scientific officer. This means that Pontecorvo was 
five times screened by British security organizations: three times 
after the Gouzenko revelations, twice after the conviction of 
Alan Nunn May. Yet apparently it was news to the chief security 
officer at Harwell when Pontecorvo went to him in February 
1950, when the Fuchs trial was pending and told him he had a 
brother in Italy who was a Communist. This was indeed an 
extraordinary state of affairs. Pontecorvo was speaking of his 
brother Gilberto, who had been a Communist by 1939 and had 
played a conspicuous part as a politician and journalist in the 
party s service ever since. Moreover, that was not the only mem 
ber of the family who was Communist. There were two other 
connections who were far more important. His older sister, 
Signora Giuliana Tabet, who was herself not a Communist, was a 
key worker in the party of that left-wing politician of indetermi 
nate position, Signor Nenni; she was, to use the word applied to 
those British Members of Parliament who in the spring of 1948 
consorted with this borderland figure, a Nenni-goat. But her 
husband, Signor Duccio Tabet, was an open Communist, an 
agricultural scientist who worked on the party staff. And Ponte- 
corvo s cousin, Emilio Sereni, was one of the best-known Commu 
nists in Italy. He was a member of the Central Committee of the 
Italian party and from 1948 had been one of the 131 Communist 
deputies in the Italian Chamber of Deputies. 

It does not need to be argued that this is far from being the 
ideal background for a senior principal scientific officer at Har 
well, and the only point at issue is whether the British security 
organizations should have known of that background. The an 
swer is that they should certainly have known of it. An apologist 
writing under instructions from the Atomic Energy Division of 
the Ministry of Supply naively stated that, "not having posses 
sion of a private army of investigators, British security was in no 
position to send men running all over Europe to check up on the 
family histories of every scientist employed by the government." 
But British security has a public army of investigators, and to 
check up on the family history of Pontecorvo they would not 
have had too run all over Europe but to spend a morning and a 
few shillings on taxi fares. Bruno Pontecorvo was born in Pisa. 


British security had only to find somebody who knew Pisa to 
learn all about the political connections of the Pontecorvos. Pisa 
is a town about the size of Dover, and Pontecorvo s father was a 
prosperous textile manufacturer, and everybody took a friendly 
interest in the family s affairs. Once his connection with Gil- 
berto Pontecorvo and Emilio Sereni was established, the problem 
could not have been simpler. There were many newspaper corre 
spondents, students of foreign politics such as can be found at 
the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and government 
researchers who knew all about these people. At times when 
Pontecorvo was screened for naturalization and for Harwell, 
Emilio Sereni had occupied the not inconspicuous posts of Min 
ister of Postwar Assistance and Minister of Public Works. It is 
hard to avoid the suspicion that someone in security knew the 
truth, and the whole truth, about Pontecorvo, and decided to 
ignore it. 

If this should sound like a lament over an unachieved persecu 
tion, let it be remembered that had Pontecorvo been rejected by 
our security organizations he would have suffered no hardship 
whatsoever. If he had not been given British nationality, he 
would have remained an Italian citizen, which was no hardship 
after the war; and had he been excluded from government serv 
ice in Great Britain or America, he would not have begged his 
bread from door to door. On the contrary, he probably would 
have secured a better-paid and more congenial position in a 
university or industrial organization. He had, indeed, accepted a 
professorship at Liverpool University when he disappeared. It 
must also be remembered that when a security officer rejects a 
Communist for government service in a sensitive area the most 
relieved person must be the Communist, unless he is an insane 
fanatic. He may even have been forced to present himself for this 
employment against his own natural inclinations; and it seems 
most improbable that the natural inclination of the gay and socia 
ble Pontecorvo led him along any road which seemed likely to 
end at the Old Bailey. 

It is even probable that he had no desire to take the other 
road which he was forced to follow at the beginning of Septem 
ber 1950. He and his wife and their three little children left 
Harwell on July 25 in their car for a camping holiday. He was 
due to return some time before the opening of a conference at 


Harwell on September 7; he was not to take up his professorship 
at Liverpool until the new year. The Pontecorvos finally settled 
down on the coast between the Lido di Roma and Naples and 
appear to have seen something of their Communist relatives. On 
August 27 they turned back to Rome, which was natural enough. 
The children were aged twelve, six, and five and presumably 
could not travel too far in a day; and this left little enough spare 
time if Pontecorvo was to be at work before the opening of the 
conference. But they stayed on in Rome for five nights, though, 
it is said, they had to stay with relatives in conditions of con 
siderable discomfort; and on the second day they went to the 
booking office of the Scandinavian Airways system and booked 
tickets for the whole family to fly to Copenhagen by an early- 
morning plane on September i and go on to Stockholm by the 
night train. The fare was $620, that is, 220. The Pontecorvos 
were at the end of their holiday, and the holiday allowance they 
could have exported at that date amounted to 205 in all. At 
Stockholm Mrs. Pontecorvo did not try to see her parents, 
though they lived in the neighbourhood of the airline ticket 
office where they took tickets for Helsinki in Finland. At Hel 
sinki airport the Pontecorvos disappeared. They got into a pri 
vate car and were seen no more, though in March 1955 it was 
definitely ascertained that Pontecorvo was in the Soviet Union. 
Pravda announced that he was a Soviet citizen and had been 
secretly awarded a Stalin Prize the year before; and he made a 
personal appearance with his passport at a press conference. 

There is only one fact that can be deduced from this story. It 
is impossible to gather whether Pontecorvo had in fact acted as a 
spy and had at any time handed over to the Soviet Union any 
secrets he had learned in the United States or in Canada or in 
Great Britain, or whether he had known when he left England 
that he was not going to return. But it is quite evident that his 
flight was planned to attract as much attention as possible. Had 
he been either a law-abiding citizen or a Soviet agent, there was a 
simple way by which he could have left England and gone to the 
Soviet Union without getting a line in the newspapers or even 
causing gossip among his colleagues. He had only to go to Liver 
pool University at the new year, teach for a term, complain 
during that term that he or his wife or children were suffering 
from ill health, send in his resignation to the university authori- 


ties, return to Italy, refrain from taking another academic posi 
tion, and after a suitable period of quiescence take a plane to 
Berlin or Vienna and slip behind the Iron Curtain. Nobody 
could have stopped him from leaving the country, and the depar 
ture of a scientist who had been working, not at Harwell, but at 
Liverpool University, would not have pricked the curiosity of 
the newspapers. Even if there had eventually been gossip among 
his colleagues, it would have been an extremely difficult task for 
the most enterprising newspaper to trace a man of Italian birth 
who had returned to Italy and was living as a private individual 
and might have moved to any other country in the world, con 
sidering that there would be nothing against him definite 
enough to justify the raising of a hue and cry. It is true, of 
course, that this way of getting out of England without scandal 
would have taken some time; Pontecorvo could not have hoped 
to arrive in Russia before Easter 1951. But if the Soviet Union 
was in a hurry for his services he could at least have written to 
the authorities at Harwell, sending them his resignation and 
announcing his intention to go to the Soviet Union. This letter 
would have been sent to the head of the Atomic Energy Division 
of the Ministry of Supply, who would have forwarded it to the 
Minister of Supply, who was then Mr. Duncan Sandys. It would 
then have had to be decided whether the contents of the letter 
should be made public or not. The chances were, for reasons 
well known to the Soviet Union, that the letter would not have 
been published. 

But instead of sending any such letter to the authorities at 
Harwell, Pontecorvo wrote a postcard to a colleague there, in 
forming him that he had been delayed by an accident to his car 
and that he would not return till the actual first day of the 
conference. This was written on August 31, when Pontecorvo 
had made all plans to start on his journey to Russia on the 
following morning, but it was couched in very convincing terms. 
That postcard made it quite certain that Pontecorvo s failure to 
appear at the conference would cause gossip at Harwell; and as 
the weeks went by and nothing was seen of him, a sense of 
mystery grew. It was by now exactly six months since Fuchs had 
been convicted. Security must have had some idea of what had 
happened, but that idea could not be clear-cut. That postcard 
must have weighed with the security officers as well as Ponte- 


corvo s colleagues, for reasons which are quite respectable. They 
had some cause to suspect that Pontecorvo might be detained in 
Italy against his will. It seemed probable that he had really 
wanted to take up the professorship at Liverpool, and he knew 
that security would leave him alone if he behaved himself. 
There was a good reason why he should want to stay in England, 
and still better reason why he should want to stay outside the 
Soviet Union. In 1935 there had appeared in the Proceedings of 
the Royal Society of London an article which was at once to 
become famous, entitled "Artificial Radioactivity Produced by 
Neutron Bombardment," and it was signed by six Italian physi 
cists, Amaldi, D Agostino, Fermi, Raetti, Segr, and Pontecorvo. 
In 1940 these scientists were awarded a patent relating to the 
results of their work which bears the title, "Process for the Pro 
duction of Radioactive Substances." After the war the six hold 
ers of this patent laid claim against the United States govern 
ment for ten million dollars* compensation for use of this proc 
ess during and after the war. The case was still undecided when 
Pontecorvo left England. The hopes of the scientists were 
inflated but not in vain; the case was in fact decided in 1955 and 
the scientists were awarded the sum of $60,000 apiece. Ponte 
corvo was a happy spendthrift, and it seems unlikely that he 
would have chosen to go to the Soviet Union just when such a 
glorious opportunity for enjoying the luxuries of the Western 
world was gilding his future. 

The security authorities may therefore have had some 
doubts as to the likelihood of Pontecorvo s defection, and cer 
tainly no English newspaper would have cared to commit itself. 
But on October 20, 1950, every newspaper in Rome, excepting 
only the Communist organs, carried huge headlines telling of the 
disappearance of Bruno Pontecorvo and the efforts which the 
British government was making to find him. Either the British 
government had asked the Italian police to find out what it 
could about Pontecorvo, and the Italian police had talked to the 
press; or else the Soviet Union, tired of waiting for the fuss to 
start in Great Britain, had itself tipped off the non-Communist 
press, while holding back any confirmation in its own press out 
of a shrewd suspicion that if the mystery was left unresolved the 
hubbub would continue all the longer. The English public 
found it hard to digest the news that Pontecorvo had been at 


Chalk River with Nunn May and at Harwell with Fuchs; and 
the government spokesman who answered questions in the 
Houses of Parliament on several occasions had nothing to say 
which could disguise the huge and ridiculous proportions of the 
failure in security which had permitted Pontecorvo s employ 
ment or naturalization. 

In the United States comment was unfavourable and prolix. It 
was also sometimes unfair. Four days after the Italian newspa 
pers had revealed the disappearance of Pontecorvo, Mr. Gordon 
Dean, then Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy 
Commission, held a press conference at which he said that he 
believed "the record will show that he came over here with a 
British team during the war" and that "the process then was for 
the British to certify that he was a reliable man, or words to that 
effect, and could be used in the program." Mr. Gordon Dean 
had been misled. Pontecorvo s only tie with England when he 
went to the United States was that he had spent a week s holiday 
there five years before. He went to the United States under his 
own steam in 1940 and filed first papers for United States natural 
ization in 1941, two years before he was invited to become a 
member of the joint Anglo-Canadian research team, and the 
British extended this invitation to various scientists working in 
the United States atomic-energy project who were then or after 
wards American citizens. It is to be remarked that the process of 
his United States naturalization, which is supposed to be subject 
to drastic inquiries into character and affiliations, went forward 
without a hitch, and the only reason that it was never completed 
was the failure of Pontecorvo to take the final steps. The British 
might well have taken this as a guarantee that Pontecorvo was a 
blameless character. No marks can be given Mr. Dean. All faces 
should have been red. 

The British people looked at their government and their secu 
rity organizations with distrust. The American people looked at 
the British people and their government and their security organ 
izations with distrust. The Canadian security organizations 
looked at both the American and the British security organiza 
tions with distrust, which was embittered by certain past expe 
riences. Alan Nunn May and several members of the atom spy 
ring revealed by Gouzenko had reached Canada only through 
British clearance; and when a branch of British security had 


visited Canada during the war to recruit Yugoslav Communists 
to drop in Yugoslavia as supporters of Tito, the Canadian au 
thorities, knowing these men to be profoundly anti-British and 
anti-American and having had to restrain their pro-Nazi activi 
ties during the time of the Stalin-Hitler pact, rightly regarded 
these proceedings as idiotic. It was also unfortunately true that 
when Canadian Communists got into trouble with the authori 
ties they were apt to slip over the border into the United States 
and get lost as Sam Carr, the Communist leader involved in the 
atom spy ring, did for nearly four years and that the American 
security organizations suspected of Soviet associations a distin 
guished Canadian civil servant and even more distinguished Cana 
dian politician, whom the Canadian security officers thought to 
be innocent. In such matters as this a government must to some 
considerable degree depend on reports from its security organiza 

Consider the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the President of 
the United States, the Premier of Canada, all scanning reports 
sent in by security organizations which were on the de 
fensive and had long been exasperated by their counter 
parts in other countries. Consider also that the Prime 
Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, had the most urgent rea 
son for wishing atomic-energy security to be watertight, since he 
was producing the atom bomb while allowing his supporters to 
attack Winston Churchill as a monster because he had helped 
produce the atom bomb in wartime. Consider also that in the 
United States the Democratic Party, with Truman halfway 
through his last term as President, would wonder very much if it 
was safe to continue the firm alliance with Britain as part of his 
programme, particularly as it could not tell how many more 
Soviet agents might detach themselves from British laboratories; 
and consider also that Canada might wonder what had come 
over the mother country, and that some doubt might cause even 
greater discomfort in Australia, which had let itself in for a close 
cooperation with Great Britain on experiments with nuclear 
weapons, and which was from year to year more fiercely threat 
ened by the Communist transformation of Asia. 

It is doubtful whether Pontecorvo could have transmitted a 
scientific secret which would have enabled the Soviet Union to 
do the damage to its enemies which, without danger to itself and 


at a trifling expense, it inflicted by making him take that spectac 
ular flight from Rome to Russia. 


THE flight of Bruno Pontecorvo was a perfectly 
planned and perfectly executed manoeuvre designed to destroy 
American confidence in British security organizations so far as 
their power to protect their atomic projects was concerned. Now 
there was to be an attack on American confidence in British 
security organizations so far as their power to protect their diplo 
macy was concerned* 

Pontecorvo left Rome on September i, 1950, and the news of 
his departure was published on October 20. On May 25, 1951, 
Donald Maclean, a counsellor in the senior branch of the For 
eign Service and head of the American Department in the For 
eign Office, and Guy Burgess, a second secretary in the junior 
branch of the Foreign Service, left the United Kingdom from 
Southampton on the boat for Saint Malo. They fled because 
Maclean, who had been a Soviet agent for a very long rime, 
probably ever since he entered the Foreign Service in 1935, had 
just been informed, probably by several persons, including an 
other person in the employment of the Foreign Office named 
Philby, that he had been detected and was under surveillance by 
security; and Burgess, who also was a Soviet agent of long stand 
ing, though it is not established that his activities were ever 
illegal, though they were certainly repulsive, had thought it 
prudent to accompany him, for reasons not yet quite clear. 

They left at very short notice indeed. Burgess had been ap 
pointed second secretary at the British embassy at Washington in 
August 1950 and after a series of disasters had been sent back to 
Europe and had arrived at Southampton on board the Queen 
Mary on May 7, 1951. On board he met a young American 
student named Miller and arranged to go with him for a holiday 
in France, starting on May 25 and leaving by the cross-Channel 
steamer Falaise, which sails from Southampton for Saint-Malo at 


midnight. When that day arrived, he spent some of the morning 
with Miller and in the early afternoon hired an Austin car from 
a motor firm in Crawford Street, Marylebone, and drove it away, 
undertaking to return it on June 4. Afterwards he did some 
shopping and bought a suitcase and a mackintosh, and then saw 
Miller again and left him with the promise that he would call 
for him at half past seven. Then he went to the Reform Club, 
where he asked, oddly enough, for a road map for the North of 
England. Later he drove down to Tatsfield, a village in Surrey, 
near the Kent border, not far from Westerham, and he went to 
the house were Donald Maclean was living with his wife, an 
American, who was expecting a child in three weeks, and their 
two little boys. 

Maclean had spent a day which was not less clear of any 
indication of the unusual. It was his birthday, and he had 
lunched with two old friends, a husband and wife, and had 
arranged to stay with them while his wife had her baby. He then 
went to the Traveller s Club and cashed a cheque for five 
pounds, returned to his desk at the Foreign Office, and in the 
early evening travelled down to his home at Tatsfield by train. It 
was Mrs. Maclean s story that she did not know Burgess and that 
her husband introduced him as an office colleague named Roger 
Stiles, and according to Mrs. Maclean her husband and Burgess 
left the house at nine o clock and drove off in the hired Austin 
to Southampton. They arrived there just in time to get on the 
Falaise three minutes before it sailed, leaving the car on the 
quayside, which attracted some attention. It was the impression 
of one passenger that they were greeted by a man on board in 
the morning, and that the same man accompanied them ashore 
when, in a drenching downpour, they went down the gangway 
and got into a taxi. It apparently escaped the notice of all three 
that Burgess had left his luggage behind him on the ship. Then 
Burgess and Maclean, now without a companion, hailed a taxi in 
Saint-Malo and directed the driver to get them to Rennes in 
time to catch the 1:18 train to Paris. This cost them five pounds, 
although there were two trains from Saint-Malo which would 
have taken them to Paris by way of Rennes for the sum of thirty- 
six shillings. At one o clock they got out of the taxi outside the 
Hotel du Guesclin at Rennes. This hotel is situated close to the 
station, and not in the centre of the town, but nobody saw them 


taking a train. From that moment they vanished. It is now 
known that they then made their way to the Soviet Union by 
Switzerland and Czechoslavakia. But then and for four years 
afterwards the Foreign Office said it had no idea where they had 
gone, and it disclaimed any knowledge that they had been Soviet 

Now, this can hardly be described as a flight. It was more like 
a paperchase, the same sort of paperchase indulged in by Ponte- 
corvo. However hurried Burgess might have been, he could have 
sent a message to Miller to say that he could not travel with him 
that night. But Miller was left in a state of bewilderment, to talk 
and spread the news of a mystery, to answer the questions of the 
police with the candour of distress. Burgess had a car of his own, 
and he could easily have got a friend or hired a chauffeur to 
drive him and Maclean down to Southampton and take it back 
to the garage. But he hired a car and abandoned it on the 
quayside, where it was bound to be traced back to the firm from 
which he had hired it in his own name. He must have arrived at 
the Maclean household between half past six and seven o clock. 
We are told, though there is only Mrs. Maclean s word for it, 
that her husband and Burgess did not leave the house until nine 
o clock. Why did the two men, who were under such a su 
premely urgent necessity to catch the boat, leave only three 
hours to cover the hundred miles that lie between Tatsfield and 
Southampton? If they had wanted to go quietly on board with 
the other passengers, they would have started earlier. One must 
suspect that probably they did start earlier and drive round until 
they could mate a last-minute arrival which was bound to leave 
a lasting impression on the onlookers. When Burgess left his 
luggage on the Falaise he left irrefutable evidence that not only 
was it he who had hired the car that was to be found on the 
dockside, it was he who had abandoned it, and it was he who had 
gone to France. His new suitcase could be identified by the 
police far more easily than an old suitcase. To travel by taxi to 
Rennes rather than by rail was to give one last glaring clue to 
their pursuers. 

It must also be realized that there was no reason why these two 
men should have left Great Britain at all. There was no evidence 
whatever that Burgess had committed any acts which brought him 
within the scope of the law in so far as it relates to loyalty. Mac- 


lean had been under suspicion for about six weeks prior to his 
disappearance, since mid-April. It was stated four years later, 
when the government at last adopted a more or less candid atti 
tude to the affair, that in 1949 British security had learned that 
certain information had been transmitted to the Soviet Union, 
and that at first there were six thousand persons who lay under 
suspicion of guilt. This was an odd statement, because it is diffi 
cult to understand how the duties of six thousand persons could so 
overlap that they were all in possession of information of such a 
special nature that it was a matter of grave concern when it was 
handed on to the Soviet Union. Even if there were six separate 
pieces of information, this works out at a thousand civil servants 
per secret, which seems a large allowance. However, the state 
ment was made in good faith, and no doubt there is some mean 
ing to it. As the result of two years steady investigation, it was 
concluded that Maclean was probably the principal agent of a 
group of two or three. (This implies that the security organiza 
tion must have cleared people at a steady rate of fifty-eight a 
week, which surely means that the case against most of them 
must have been so easily refuted that they could hardly rank as 
suspects at all.) 

But no evidence was discovered which would have justified his 
prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. The security officers in 
charge of his case had therefore resolved to question him 
directly. Mr. Herbert Morrison, then the Foreign Secretary, sanc 
tioned this proceeding on May 25, the same day on which Bur 
gess and Maclean left the United Kingdom. This has caused 
some people to form a picture of Maclean and Burgess as having 
learned of Mr. Morrison s action and making a precipitate deci 
sion to take flight. It must be realized that the security officers 
would have debated whether to ask Mr. Morrison for this permis 
sion for some days before they interviewed him, and that a 
refusal by Mr. Morrison would be most unlikely. Anybody who 
was in a position to warn Maclean of Mr. Morrison s action 
would almost certainly be in a position to warn him of the 
debates which led up to that action. It is to be noted that Bur 
gess booked the two-berth cabin on the Falaise on May 23, and it 
would be a simple soul who thought that he had ever designed 
to share it with poor Mr. Miller. 

When Maclean received whatever warning he was given, he 


had (like Pontecorvo) only to take one simple step, i he and 
the Soviet Union wished the matter to pass off quietly. He could 
have resigned his post in the Foreign Office and he could have 
refused to make a statement to the police or to anybody else. He 
must have known that the desire of the security officers to ques 
tion him meant either that they had not sufficient evidence to 
prosecute or that they wanted to stave off a prosecution. For the 
rest of his life he would have heen subject to a gentle though 
unrelenting form of surveillance, and that would have been all. 
His friends need have suspected nothing, for there were, as was 
to be made abundantly clear, good reasons, quite unconnected 
with the ideologies, why there would have been nothing surpris 
ing in a divorce between him and the Foreign Office, 

If Maclean had small need to leave the country, Guy Burgess 
had none at all. The Foreign Office was most anxious that he 
should resign, and even considered ways and means of forcing his 
resignation if he should be difficult, but this was not because of 
any Suspicion that he was a Soviet agent. It was on account of 
personal misbehaviour in the United States. The Virginia police 
had arrested him three times in one day for motoring offences of 
a dangerous nature. On the third occasion his car had been 
involved in an accident, and the police had found that he had 
surrendered the wheel to a man whom he had picked up by the 
roadside, who had no driving licence and was a homosexual with 
a police record. There was no reason why Burgess should not 
have settled down happily in his flat in New Bond Street. 

But let us suppose that they both found themselves unequal to 
the strain of carrying on the perpetual exercise of great and 
small deceptions which make up the life of a foreign agent. They 
still could have managed their flight so discreetly that there need 
have been no scandal. Even though the first stage of their jour 
ney had been indiscreetly patent, they still could have killed 
comment if they had paused in their flight and posted in France 
letters giving the Foreign Office their resignations and announc 
ing to their families that they proposed to spend a long holiday 
together on the Continent. Had they written such letters, not 
one line suggesting that they were Soviet agents could have been 
printed in any newspaper. In the unlikely event that any rumour 
of the two men s Communist activities had reached a newspaper 
e, press investigation would have led straight to the well- 


established facts that both had been in trouble at the Foreign 
Office for drunkenness, and that they had homosexual habits 
which would make it quite comprehensible that they should 
decide to spend a holiday on the Continent together or seek 
refuge there from Scotland Yard. 

There was no need to account for their flight by communism, 
and any newspaper would find it advisable not to mention that 
as a probable cause, for it would be very irritating if a couple of 
homosexuals, bronzed and fit after a Continental holiday, were 
able to win enormous damages because an ideological motive 
had been wrongly ascribed to their expedition. Had Burgess and 
Maclean written those letters, had newspaper curiosity been di 
verted and allayed, the two might have quietly passed into obli 
vion. Others have faded away, nobody now can remember quite 
how or when. But Burgess and Madean did not take time off to 
write those letters; they left a mystery behind them which be 
came a stinking fog. The Foreign Office did not announce the 
departure of the two men, and this might have been a wise 
policy if it had stuck to it quite inflexibly; considering that the 
exit had been planned to get the missing men on the front page, 
it would have been a wise step to keep them off it by pretending 
that both men had resigned and that their departure might be a 
matter of moment to their families but left Whitehall cold. But 
unfortunately the Foreign Office did not remain inactive. It took 
an astonishing step. It asked the French police to find Burgess 
and Maclean for it. 

This was in itself an idiotic request, for the Foreign Office 
knew that Maclean was a Soviet agent who had fled because he 
was threatened with detection and was therefore either safe be 
hind the Iron Curtain or enjoying almost as comfortable invul 
nerability in France, since he had committed no extraditable 
offence. But it was idiotic for another reason. A secret that really 
is a secret may be safe at Scotland Yard or in the hands of the 
FBI. But there are European police forces which see no reason 
why they should seal their lips regarding matters of no impor 
tance to the governments of their own countries, and so, if news 
comes their way which relates to another country, transmit them 
to any foreign journalists who seem interested. At the beginning 
of June, Mr. Larry Solon, the chief Paris correspondent of the 
Daily Express, discovered that the French police had been asked 


by the British police to look for two members of the British 
Foreign Office who had disappeared in France. It is odd that this 
request of the Foreign Office seems to have reached the French 
police a week after the departure of the two men, by which time 
they would be bound either to have left France or to have taken 
effective means to conceal themselves. 

On June 6 Mr. Solon had identified the two men who were 
missing and confirmed the story, and he telephoned the news to 
the London office of the Daily Express that night. It was pub 
lished the next morning. Late that night Maclean s wife and his 
mother, Lady Maclean, received telegrams from him which had 
been handed in at a Paris post office. They were certainly from 
him: the one addressed to his mother was signed by a nickname. 
But they had certainly not been written by him: the word 
"leave" was misspelled, Mrs. Maclean was addressed as Mrs. 
Maclean Melinda, the number seven had a stroke through it in 
the Continental fashion. They were quite uninfonnative and 
added to the mystery rather than explained it. So too did a 
telegram handed in at Rome, which was signed by Burgess and 
addressed to his mother, and announced that he was "embarking 
on long Mediterranean holiday." These telegrams performed 
the same confusing and stimulating function as the postcard 
Pontecorvo sent to Harwell from Rome the night before he 
started on his journey to the Soviet Union. 

Meanwhile the press was working on the story, and month by 
month facts were established which gave a highly disagreeable 
picture. It seemed that the system of selecting personnel for the 
Foreign Office had fallen into a state of chaos, and that our 
principal security organizations had been operating with an 
inefficiency which it had to be hoped was only that. It hardly 
mattered why Maclean and Burgess had suddenly fled from the 
Foreign Office, it was so grave a scandal that they should ever 
have been there at all. At last what had long been known in 
certain circles in London and Washington and New York was 
learned by the whole world. 

Maclean should have left the Foreign Service long before. By 
1940, when he was twenty-seven, he was known as an intermit 
tent alcoholic. He was sent to Washington in 1944 and stayed 
there four years, and during that period he was considered, even 
by American standards, a heavy drinker. He was appointed coun- 


sellor to the British Embassy in Cairo in November 1948, and 
there his misbehaviour became more and more shocking. One 
evening in March 1950 he and his wife organized a felucca party 
on the Nile, during which he became dangerously drunk, seized 
his wife by her throat and tried to strangle her, had a wrestling 
match with an armed night-watchman and took his loaded rifle 
from him, and then fought an English diplomat who tried to get 
the weapon from him and broke the poor man s leg. Two 
months later he and a friend went on a stupid drunken prowl 
round Cairo, which lasted twenty-four hours. At one point they 
went in search of drink to the flat of a girl who worked as a 
librarian in the American embassy, and, finding that she was out, 
broke into the flat, took what drink they could find, smashed the 
girl s bath by throwing a radiator slab on it, broke some furni 
ture, and dropped some of her clothes into the toilet bowl. Not 
unnaturally the news of this exploit enraged the American am 
bassador, who cannot have been pleased on hearing six months 
later that Maclean, who had passed the intervening period on 
sick leave in the care of a psychiatrist, had been appointed head 
of the American Department. 

It is very difficult for an English person to believe that the 
official who made this appointment was not deliberately seeking 
to alienate the American State Department; and it is too much 
to expect an American to put any agreeable interpretation on it 
whatsoever. But there was an argument for keeping Maclean in 
the Foreign Office. His nature would not have been guessed by 
those who met him casually, for though he was charming he did 
not invite confidence. He seemed a perpetual adolescent. He was 
lanky like a lad who has outgrown his strength, and he had the 
brilliance of skin and eye which usually passes with youth and 
seems inappropriate in an adult. His gaiety had the feverish 
quality of overexcited eighteen, and at any moment it might 
have run up the scale to hysteria. He was a delightful person to 
sit next at dinner; he was intelligent, his manners were not only 
good but goodhearted, he was witty, his mind was cultivated. 
But afterwards doubts would cross his companion s mind. Could 
he really be the age that he was said to be, or responsible enough 
for the post he occupied? The answer was that he was a superb 

He was born to be a civil servant; he had the watchmaker s 


mind which understands the workings of a complicated machine 
and is not repelled by complication and feels pride as the shin 
ing cogs and wheels perform the process that runs parallel with 
time. One who should know has said that in all the history of 
the British embassy at Washington it was probably never so 
exquisitely efficient, so impeccably organized, as when Maclean 
was its First Secretary. He belonged to that rare and strange type 
of alcoholic in whom, when everything else is poisoned, the 
capacity to work keeps its virgin integrity. He could go out on a 
debauch which he himself would liken to an alley cat s prowl 
round the garbage pails, sleep, and then arise and address him 
self to some problem set his ambassador by Whitehall and collect 
the relevant information with an inspired competence not to be 
surpassed by any of his colleagues. 

Of course this was not enough. If a man possessed the finest 
mind ever recognized in diplomacy, it would still be wrong to 
send him abroad as a representative of the United Kingdom if 
from time to time he brawled in the streets; and it would still be 
wrong to employ him at home or abroad if from time to time he 
became so demented by drunkenness that discretion could not be 
expected of him. It was also true that when he was drunk he 
engaged in homosexual coquetry and was therefore vulnerable to 

Certainly Maclean s brilliance afforded some reason why the 
authorities should have wanted to retain him at the Foreign 
Office; then they should have reckoned that it was insufficient in 
view of his other qualities. But there was no reason why Guy 
Burgess should ever have been employed by the Foreign Office. 
He too had a good mind, but the counterbalancing disadvan 
tages were so manifest that that should never have weighed for a 
moment with the authorities. He had, of course, a certain charm, 
but this was of a special kind. He was thirty-nine when he 
disappeared, but he still recalled one of the schoolboys in Andr 
Gide s Les Faux Monnayeurs. He was at once obviously well 
bred and obviously squalid. He was short and stocky, always 
grubby, and often drunk. It could be seen that he belonged to 
the world of the favoured, who have wealth and respect by right 
of birth; but it was certain that in his time he had wakened up 
in some very queer rooms. He had many friends. These included 
some of the most unpleasant English men and women now 


living, but some were decent people, and some of these tried to 
justify their liking for him by saying that he was very kind, and 
no doubt he was. But his charm was of a more troubling sort 
than can be accounted for by good nature. 

Sometimes, in a home for children unhappily not like other 
children, there is a small boy who always catches the visitor s 
eye. The brooding darkness of the child s face lights up with 
such an enchanting smile, his response to strangers is so quick 
and gay, he has such a quaint turn of phrase. Surely, the visitor 
says, there cannot be anything very much wrong with this de 
lightful little boy. Well, yes, there is. It unfortunately happens 
that wherever he goes, fire breaks out. By constant watching it 
has been established that the only toy he cares for is a box of 
matches, and up the houses and barns and hayricks go, In crack 
ling flames. That was Burgess s distinguishing mark: the flash 
ing smile of the fire-raiser, full of secret pleasure in mischief and 
destruction. Even his most loyal friends had no illusion about his 
favourite toys. Some were affectionate and benevolent people 
who wanted to help and protect him against this innate vicious- 
ness; and some were people who were mischievous and destruc 
tive but would not risk their own safety and found a vicarious 
gratification in his recklessness. 

It is the most sinister feature of the Burgess-Maclean episode 
that Guy Burgess never lacked employment. He came down from 
Cambridge, where he took a First in History, and did two years 
of postgraduate research. In 1936 he went to the BBC, where he 
remained until 1939; he handled a feature called This Week in 
Westminster. After this he moved to the Times but stayed there 
only a month and acquired a curious job which he retained for 
many years, as financial adviser to Lord Rothschild s Hungarian 
mother, who met him at a week-end party, was deeply impressed 
by him, and paid him 1200 a year to scrutinize her investment 
list. He was then given a position in MI6, one of the three 
principal security organizations in the United Kingdom, which is 
controlled by the Foreign Office. By this time Burgess was well 
known as a drunkard and a homosexual, and also as a Commu 
nist, though here the issue was slightly confused. He had been up 
at Cambridge at the same time as Maclean, and they had both 
belonged to the same study circle, and when Burgess came to 
London he had made no secret of his Communist faith. But in 


1934 he went to Moscow in the company of a well-known Ox 
ford member of the Communist Party and student of Marxism, 
Derek Blaikie, who was afterwards to die in the war. He re 
turned professing deep disappointment and pretended to have 
left the party. For a period during the late thirties he professed 
to be a member of some British Fascist organization and to have 
taken part in a Nuremberg rally. Actually he had been in 
structed by the Communist Party to infiltrate the British Fascist 
movement, in company with a wealthy young man mentioned 
earlier in this book. But at the time he professed sincere conver 
sion to the Fascist faith. 

The security officer who screened him for MI6 presumably 
found out that he was not a Fascist; for we were fighting the 
Nazis, and here was a young man who, on his own telling, had 
only recently been hobnobbing with Hitler. But if the security 
officers found out that he was not a Fascist, presumably they 
found out that he was a Communist; and this was a time when 
the Stalin-Hitler pact was still in force and the British Commu 
nist Party was doing everything it could to aid the Germans and 
defeat its own country. But either the security officers ignored his 
communism, or their reports were ignored on a higher level. 
Burgess was accepted, and he was given a post in an offshoot 
called the Special Operations Executive. This was a cloak-and- 
dagger body which dealt with sabotage in invaded territories and 
the dropping of agents by parachute. It dealt with secrets which 
had to be kept if the lives of our own men and our allies were 
not to be thrown away. 

In 1940 Burgess was charged at Marlborough Street with being 
under the influence of drink while driving a War Office car. His 
solicitor pleaded that he had just been in an air raid and had 
been working fourteen hours a day "at rather confidential 
work" which necessitated travelling to a station thirty miles out 
of London. The magistrate dismissed the case on payment of 
costs, and MI6 continued to employ him. Ostensibly he had left 
it in 1941 to take up a position in the European propaganda 
department, but he was still involved with cloak-and-dagger or 
ganizations. He was at one time entrusted with the business of 
removing anti-Russian bias from Poles whom the British were 
training for sabotage. It is not easy to exaggerate the blackness of 


the mark that this appointment leaves against the security 
officers who passed him for this work. 

Let us consider the situation: a large number of Polish pa 
triots risked their lives to get out of Poland and make their way 
to Great Britain, in order to be instructed in the art of guerrilla 
warfare and then return to their own country and fight the 
Germans. Many of our airmen risked their lives to transport 
these men. These patriots were for the most part pious Roman 
Catholics, and they hated Russia because the Tsarist Russians 
had stolen their country and oppressed them in the past, and 
they suspected, with what turned out to be good sense, that the 
bolshevik Russians wanted to do the same thing in the future; 
and they brought to heterosexuality an enthusiasm which was 
sometimes excessive. Once in Great Britain, they submitted to 
military instruction with fervour and industry; but they were 
also considered as subjects for political instruction, which meant 
that they were handed over to Mr. Burgess, who was obvi 
ously not a soldier, obviously a Communist, and obviously 
homosexual. The situation was not tolerable. Let us imagine 
that Germany had invaded Great Britain in the Second World 
War, and a number of Englishmen of a conventional type es 
caped to the United States in order to be trained and brought 
back as guerrilla fighters, and they were told by the Americans 
that they must submit to political instruction involving recon 
struction of their fundamental beliefs, and they were handed 
over for that purpose to an eccentric American, obviously not a 
soldier, obviously a Communist, and obviously a homosexual. 
The vast majority would have objected. But there was another 
objectionable feature of Burgess s employment in this field. Al 
ready it was becoming plain that the Communists among the 
exiles were compiling dossiers of their anti-Communist compa 
triots, and no intelligent onlooker could think that their inten 
tion was to make life easier for these anti-Communists. To put a 
known English Communist in a position where he would inevita 
bly provoke anti-Communist exiles to express their opinions was 
to take a murderous risk. 

In 1944 the Foreign Office put Burgess into its news depart 
ment This was at the period of the Greek struggle against com 
munism, when there was such an evident attempt to distort the 


news that every effort should have been made to preserve its 
purity at one of the most important sources. In 1946 Burgess was 
made assistant private secretary to the parliamentary under-secre- 
tary to the Foreign Secretary in the Labour government, Mr. 
Hector McNeil, who formed a strong personal affection for him. 
There was nothing sinister in this. Hector McNeil was a simple- 
minded man who had been raised to high office with a speed 
bewildering to himself and even more bewildering to others, 
owing to the war. In 1941 he was thirty-four, a Glasgow journal 
ist obscure even in his own town, when he was elected to Parlia 
ment and was made secretary to Mr. Noel-Baker, who was then 
Minister of War Transport; and he was passed through the mill 
so quickly that in five years time he was second in command at 
the Foreign Office. It was presumably not Burgess s communism 
which recommended him to McNeil, who was vociferously anti- 
Communist and orthodox Labour; and there were many reasons 
for the friendship. He was intelligent enough to appreciate that 
Burgess was an agreeable rattle, framed to lighten the hours of 
overwork and relieve the loneliness of the outsider who was a 
stranger in London and had had no time to make friends. It is 
really hardly bearable to think of their relationship. It was as if 
one had discovered a new novel by Andr Gide and read of a 
horrible little Parisian schoolboy advancing on some earnest 
provincial as the poor greenhorn carries his suitcase out of the 
Gare de Lyon. Hector McNeil should have been protected by the 
permanent officials of the Foreign Office. 

But when he was made Minister of State in 1946 he was al 
lowed to retain Burgess as his assistant private secretary for two 
years. Meanwhile Burgess, who had throughout the years been a 
temporary employee in the Foreign Service, appeared before a 
Civil Service Commission board and was accepted as a perma 
nent member of the establishment. This was a special concession, 
for he was over the prescribed age. In 1948 he was transferred to 
the Far Eastern Department, which was then a peculiarly sensi 
tive area because of the differences which were developing be 
tween Great Britain and the United States regarding the rise of 
Mao Tse-Tung and the fall of Chiang Kai-shek, and the emer 
gence of the Korean War. In 1949 his labours were temporarily 
interrupted because, at one of the disorderly parties which he 
was in the habit of giving at his flat, he was thrown downstairs 


by a guest and had to be removed by an ambulance, suffering 
from a fractured skull, a broken jaw, and arm injuries. 

After that he went for a holiday in Ireland and appeared in 
the Dublin District Court, charged with driving a car while 
drunk, but the magistrate, Mr. O Flynn, was a man of sympa 
thetic character, such as we would all hope to meet in time of 
trouble, and he described Burgess as "a man of brilliance who 
appeared to be overwrought" and dismissed the case. Later in 
the year Burgess went on another holiday and got into another 
sort of trouble. He went to North Africa and on his own initia 
tive called on any local representatives of security organizations 
and expressed disapprobation of British policy in general and of 
the inefficiency of these officials and the bodies to which they 
belonged. Early in 1950 the security authorities gave the Foreign 
Office particulars of this jaunt and he was severely reprimanded. 
But there was such wildness in the offence that, even had it been 
his first, it would have merited dismissal. 

On the contrary, in August of that year he was appointed 
second secretary at the British embassy at Washington. Mac 
lean s last frenetic years at that establishment had been under 
the aegis of Lord Inverchapel, one of the most bizarre human 
beings ever to rise to the rank of ambassador, which is saying a 
very great deal indeed. But he had gone, not, it is sad to say, 
owing to punitive official action but because he had reached the 
retiring age. He had been replaced by Sir Oliver Franks, now 
Lord Franks of Headington, who had won distinction first in the 
academic world and then for war service in the Ministry of 
Supply, and who was a thoroughly civilized person. It is unlikely 
that Lord Franks would have enjoyed having Burgess as a mem 
ber of his staff, even had the new arrival not been preceded by a 
report from a section of Intelligence warning the staff to watch 
the official who was being sent out to it by the personnel officer 
of the Foreign Office. 

The security staff of the embassy soon realized on which side 
of this curious conflict in Whitehall opinion the right lay. Bur 
gess was reported for drunkenness, driving offences, brawling 
argumentativeness at official parties, advertisement of very sordid 
homosexual adventures, and (twice) for negligence in the cus 
tody of confidential papers. It was now twelve years since he was 
first admitted to the Foreign Service and had started running up 


this record. At some point towards the end o seven months an 
incident occurred which is not in itself perhaps very important, 
if it be coldly scrutinized, but caused some curious results. It is 
said that he received a startling communication from another 
member of the staff, Mr. Harold Philby, a temporary first secre 
tary who had been sent to Washington some months before 
Burgess; they were old friends and Burgess had lived in his home 
from August 1950 till April 1951. Philby is said to have received 
from London the secret report of the ML} inquiry into the 
leakage of Foreign Office information revealed in 1949, which 
named Maclean as the principal suspect. He is supposed to have 
told Burgess of the danger overhanging their friend, and Burgess 
is supposed to have been the first to break the news to Maclean 
on his return to England. For that reason Philby has been 
named the "Third Man" of the Burgess-Maclean affair. 

This is one of the most firmly established legends in the ar 
cana of modern espionage, but it is an imprecise version of what 
must have happened. Mr. Philby was a dyed-in-the-wool Commu 
nist and had been so since his Cambridge days. As a young 
newspaper correspondent he covered the Spanish Civil War (and 
was decorated by Franco) but took an active part in organizing 
the Loyalists, and while many of these were not Communists his 
particular friends were among those who were. Throughout the 
Second World War he had worked with MI6. At Washington it 
was one of his tasks to act as liaison officer between British and 
American Intelligence. A Soviet agent with this experience of 
undercover work, gained one way and another, would have seen 
the importance of alerting Maclean at once; and as he must 
constantly have been reporting on his work in the Washington 
embassy to Soviet contacts in America, all he had to do was to 
inform them. They had only to get in touch with the Soviet 
contacts in England who received the material constantly turned 
in by Maclean. It is certain that Philby treacherously divulged to 
Burgess the contents of the report. But it is, on the other hand, 
probable that he told Burgess that Maclean was on the brink of 
being discovered and knew it, that he was about to make an 
escape to the Soviet Union, and that Burgess must accompany 

Philby, for a mysterious reason, was exonerated by the British 
authorities; but the sweat poured down then: foreheads as they 


did it. The scandal the Soviet Union had planned was therefore 
not as vast as they had hoped. But it was spectacular enough. 
The curiously public disappearance of Pontecorvo had thrown a 
searchlight on a long-continued failure of the atomic-energy secu 
rity organization. The curiously public disappearance of Burgess 
and Maclean appeared to throw a searchlight on two even more 
disgraceful failures of three other security organizations. On both 
occasions the United States, forgetting its own failures in this 
field, visibly experienced doubts as to the wisdom of regarding 
Great Britain as a reliable ally with a right to share information. 
Delighted, the Soviet Union kept the pot on the fire to bubble 
and boil for years afterwards. 

A fortnight after the diplomats departure there had been the 
equivalent of the Pontecorvo postcard a Paris telegram from 
Maclean, a Rome telegram from Burgess. The Maclean one had 
been handed in, it was related with a splendid melodramatic 
touch, by a woman "who was heavily made-up." These were 
followed by other mystifying communications. There is no rea 
son why anybody in the Soviet Union should not send a bank 
draft to a resident in England, provided the Soviet government 
gives its consent. Maclean acquired two one-thousand-pound 
bank drafts by the circuitous method of getting someone to go to 
Saint Gallen in Switzerland and purchase them under a false 
name (a transaction about which the Soviet government must 
have been informed, too) and then had them sent not to his wife 
but to his mother-in-law, who was living with his wife. Though 
Swiss banks practise the extreme of secretiveness, news of this 
transaction leaked to the press. Lord Beaverbrook unearthed and 
published this information and deserves commendation on this 
score, for there was no reason why the public should not know 
this fact and there were many reasons why it should. It was also 
learned that there is nothing to prevent people in the Soviet 
Union who wish to write to people in Great Britain from stamp 
ing their letters and posting them and chancing their luck with 
the censorship which Burgess and Maclean could have done 
with some confidence. But the two diplomats kept on sending 
their families letters posted in such places as Reigate and Herne 
Hill and Poplar. 

Mrs. Maclean, who gave birth to a daughter three weeks after 
her husband s disappearance, continued to live at Tatsfield. She 


insisted against the will o the Foreign Office on taking her 
family for a holiday in the South of France that August, but 
otherwise obeyed the authorities request that she should remain 
in England in order that she might help them in their inquiries. 
This was a strange request, as she had claimed to know nothing 
about her husband s disappearance except that he had brought 
Burgess to dinner and then gone off in his company. If the story 
was true she could not help the Foreign Office; and if it was untrue 
she did not want to help the Foreign Office; and the latter 
alternative seemed the more probable, as it would be natural for 
a Communist s wife to be herself a Communist. She made it no 
secret that she would have preferred to leave the country, as she 
was incessantly watched by reporters. 

This was indeed the case, though her complaints were exagger 
ated. She alleged that her children were waylaid and photo 
graphed on their way to school, though the photographers could 
never be identified; and indeed there is a strict rule, agreed on 
by all the newspaper proprietors, against the molestation of chil 
dren, which reporters and photographers dare not disregard. But 
there was certainly an unwinking eye kept on the Tatsfield home 
and it would have been a matter for regret if it had not been so. 
The press believed that the Foreign Office was lying when it said 
that it did not know where the missing diplomats had gone, 
because by that time a cloud of witnesses had arisen to give 
testimony that both had been Communists; and the press also 
believed that Mrs. Maclean was lying when she said that she 
knew no more than the Foreign Office. In both these beliefs it 
was right. 

On July 15, 1952, Mrs. Maclean announced that she was going 
to leave England and live in France or Switzerland. Her last act 
on this soil was to cause a newspaper controversy by denying the 
authenticity of an interview with a reporter. The balance of 
evidence suggests that it was genuine, but in any case it was so 
trivial and so neutral that it was not clear why she considered 
the matter of importance. Perhaps the important factor was that, 
thanks to her well-meaning but foolish friends, the newspaper 
controversy lasted for weeks and was later revived for further 
use. She eventually settled down in Geneva with her children 
and her mother, and there she gave it to be understood that she 
was going to divorce Maclean on the grounds of desertion. 


Among her friends were two people who are reputed to be con 
ducting a movement for bringing ex-Communists back into the 
fold by enlisting them in a bogus Communist Party which claims 
to be free from Soviet control. She performed various mysterious 
actions which both the newspapers and the security organizations 

On September 11, 1953, Mrs. Maclean and her three children 
vanished. There was no reason why she should not have gone to 
her husband quite openly. If she had driven her family down to 
the railway station, taken tickets to Vienna, and there passed 
behind the Iron Curtain, nobody in the world could have 
stopped her, or, indeed, would have wanted to do so. Instead the 
Pontecorvo pattern was repeated once more. She told nobody 
that she was going, not even her mother. She accepted an invita 
tion to a cocktail party which she must have known that she 
could not attend, and she told her mother that she had met an 
old friend from Cairo, who in fact did not exist, and had ar 
ranged to take the children to spend the week-end with him and 
his wife at Territet, near Montreux. She knew that she was 
leaving for good, for she took all her clothes except a mink coat 
and an evening dress, but she told the mechanic at the garage 
where she left the car that she was coming back for it in a week s 
time. Six days later there came the equivalent of the Pontecorvo 
postcard, the Paris telegram from Maclean, the Rome telegram 
from Burgess. A woman, not Mrs. Maclean, went to the post 
office at Territet and handed in a telegram, using the baby s pet 
name, Pink Rose, as a sign it came from Mrs. Maclean, and a 
spelling mistake to show it was not Mrs. Maclean who had writ 
ten it out, and containing a false promise that the boys would be 
back at school in a week s time. 

The required uproar broke out. America was nudged in the 
ribs and asked if it had forgotten Burgess and Maclean and 
British inefficiency, at the exact moment when a discussion be 
tween America and Great Britain on the sharing of atomic se 
crets was taking a critical turn. Nor had interest an opportunity 
to subside. Mrs. Maclean communicated with her mother, Mrs. 
Dunbar, in a letter which had been posted, whimsically enough, 
in Cairo; Burgess communicated with his mother in a letter 
posted, with equal whimsy, in Borough High Street. Later there 
was published a book about the Macleans, written by a close 


friend of Mrs. Maclean, with the assistance of her mother, which 
contained some of the most intimate material ever published 
about living persons. It was not clear why Mrs. Maclean, who 
had been represented as a reserved character, had chosen to leave 
her husband s letters to her and her letters to him behind her in 
Switzerland along with the mink coat and the evening dress, nor 
why her mother had chosen to bring them into the light of day, 
though the effect was sordid. 

THE press and the public wearied at length of the 
names of Maclean and Burgess, and the case would have fallen to 
the back of our minds had it not been for a curious turn and 
twist in Commonwealth relations. Throughout the years the 
British government had denied all knowledge that these two 
men had been Soviet agents. The government was not the same, 
for in 1951 Labour went out and the Tories came in, but the 
denials never altered. It is still hard to guess why our ministers 
persisted in this profitless deception. They cannot have contin 
ued to nourish the hope (if, indeed, they ever nourished it) that 
they could persuade the Russians that they had planted Burgess 
and Maclean on them as British agents disguised as Communists, 
for they had made attempts to purge the Foreign Service and 
security agents of Communist elements such as would hardly 
follow the planting of two bogus agents on the Soviet Union. 
Had these attempts been made in order to deceive the Soviet 
Union, they would have been made to appear vigorous, but that 
they did not; they were lackadaisical. As it was, the Communists 
who were thus ejected would certainly report the manner of 
their ejection to their chiefs. The government cannot have been 
actuated by a desire to avoid giving the full story with its dis 
quieting conclusion that either our security organizations were 
corrupt and inefficient or their corrupt and inefficient superiors 
had ignored their reports, because it did not have to give the full 
story. A simple statement that the men had been Soviet agents 


and were behind the Iron Curtain would have involved it in no 
necessity to make further disclosures. Nevertheless, the govern 
ment continued to suppress the truth, answering questions in the 
House with an air which suggested that the questioners were the 
sort of people who would call napkins serviettes; who were, 
though Miss Nancy Mitford had not yet popularized the term, 
non-U. The Tory government had not abandoned this practice 
in 1954, when an event which it could not have foreseen gave 
these denials a most inconvenient significance. 

In April 1954 Vladimir Petrov, the third secretary at the 
Soviet embassy at Canberra, who was also head of the Australian 
branch of the MVD, sought political asylum with the Australian 
government and was presently joined by his wife Eudocia, who 
was also an MVD official. This was certainly a genuine defection, 
but it was almost as catastrophic for their hosts as if it had been 
a ruse of the Soviet Union. The Liberal Party was in power, and 
Petrov brought with him papers and information which cast 
reflections on certain members of the Labour Party, including 
some persons closely associated with its leader, Dr. Evatt. There 
followed a political battle of a fury not previously known in that 
country, nor ever known in ours. Dr. Evatt and his followers 
alleged that the Petrov papers were forged and Mr. Petrov had 
been procured to give false evidence in order to discredit the 
Labour Party at the general election of 1955. During the sittings 
of the royal commission which investigated the affair Dr. Evatt 
himself cross-examined witnesses with such heat that his permis 
sion to appear was withdrawn from him. The flames spread from 
the political to the religious field, for the Roman Catholic 
Church became involved through a strongly Catholic branch of 
the Labour Party, which now ranged itself against Dr. Evatt. It 
became necessary for the Liberal government to insist for its own 
sake on the authenticity of the Petrovs evidence. It happened 
that Petrov had stated that he had been told by Kislytsin, the 
second secretary at the Soviet embassy at Canberra, an MVD man 
who had previously worked at the Soviet embassy in London, 
that he had handled many documents supplied by Burgess and 
knew that those documents had been photographed for transmis 
sion to Moscow and then returned to him; and that he had 
himself handled many documents supplied by Maclean when he 
worked in Moscow. But if what the British government was 


saying about Burgess and Madean was true, then the Petrovs 
were lying. 

There was some interchange between the Australian and the 
British governments which was apparently based on the assump 
tion that what the British government had been saying was 
perhaps not true. By now Sir Anthony Eden was Prime Minister, 
and Mr. Harold Macmillan was Foreign Minister. On September 
18, 1955, an article on Burgess and Maclean by Petrov which had 
been published in the Australian press was published in the 
English Sunday newspaper The People. A newspaperman, ring 
ing up the Foreign Office to ask for comment on its contents, in 
full expectation that he would get the usual denials, was startled 
to be told that, yes, Maclean and Burgess had been long-term 
Soviet agents, and they were being investigated by security serv 
ices when they fled from Great Britain, and they had left be 
cause they knew they were being investigated. It could not be 
said that now the truth was out, for the press, notably the Daily 
Express, had seen to that a very long time ago. Rather should it 
be said that the lying was over. 

Public excitement and anger rose to a storm. It was perhaps 
one of their consequences that Hector McNeil, the able and 
hopeful provincial who had shown such promise, died of a cere 
bral haemmorhage. It might be argued that perhaps it was a pity 
that the truth was told, that it would have been better if com 
plete silence had been preserved and the Soviet Union had been 
disappointed in its ambition to use the scandal as a wedge to 
drive between the United States and Great Britain. But there 
were three important reasons why the press should have told the 
story and forced the government to confirm it. There was first of 
all the immediate necessity to tell the world what sort of men 
Burgess and Madean were: long-standing members of the Com 
munist party, who were also disorderly and drunken neurotics. It 
was necessary to establish that they were old party members, to 
prevent the Russians from following their usual routine and 
presenting these men as selfless idealists who, in the course of 
their work at the Foreign Office, had become sickened by the 
warmongering policies of Britain and her allies and had there 
fore fled to the peace-loving Soviet Union. The importance of 
preventing this can be realized by remembering again the Com 
munist press campaign regarding the atomic espionage. Actually 


no scientist ever handed over an atomic secret to the Russians 
who was not an old party member and an agent under instruc 
tion. But year in, year out the British public was falsely told that 
the atomic spies were scientists who had nothing to do with the 
Communist Party and had handed over the atomic secrets to the 
Soviet Union simply because they thought that scientific knowl 
edge should be held by all countries in common. That deception 
must never be forgotten. 

It was also important to give an honest picture of the two 
men s characters because it is a common belief, held by people 
not otherwise sympathetic with Communists, that Communists 
are idealists. In fact, the nature of communism is such that it 
must of necessity recruit far fewer idealists than any other party. 
Only an idealist too stupid to notice what is going on round him 
could feel happy in an organization which has no other aim than 
to seize political power against the will of the majority through 
the use of fraud. Karl Marx himself gave us the measure of the 
idealism we need attribute to Burgess and Maclean when he 
foretold that if a revolution was made in the name of the prole 
tariat it would be joined by many members of the middle classes 
who doubted their power to maintain themselves in a world thus 
disorganized. It is to be remembered that when Donald Maclean 
joined the Communist Party at Cambridge he had good reason 
to feel anxiety about the future. 

During his childhood he had known the sense of security 
which comes from an influential father, for Sir Donald Maclean 
was then Chairman of the Liberal Party, which had next to no 
votes but immense prestige, and he later acted as President of the 
Board of Education in the Ramsay MacDonald government and 
was therefore held in high honour by the Labour Party, whom 
he was helping to relieve from the embarrassing shortage of 
qualified ministers. But Donald Maclean s father was not a mem 
ber of a rich or influential family, nor had he made a fortune for 
himself. He was a Cardiff solicitor who had waited till middle 
age to go into politics and to marry, and in 1932, when Donald 
had just gone up to Cambridge, he died at the age of sixty-eight, 
leaving a widow and five children, all still to be educated, and 
an estate of less than 25,000. This is indeed more than a mass of 
Britons are able to bequeath to their families, and many a young 
nnan in Donald Maclean s position has been unperturbed, but 


that is not the point. In the Victorian age a political leader 
would have hardly been able to reach such eminence unless he 
had sufficient means to leave his family an estate three or four 
times as large, and thus enable it to continue its life in an 
atmosphere of ease and respect. A creature so often the prey of 
despair as Donald Maclean might feel the old world had failed 
him and listen to a voice which pretended to speak for a new 
world which would not disappoint; and it might also hold the 
ear of Burgess and his friends, who knew themselves so gifted 
that such opportunities as were still offered by the old world 
should have been theirs, had they not been debarred by their 
strangeness. It cannot be said that that voice did not keep many 
of its promises. It gave them, indeed, a sort of fame. 

There we touch the second reason why the press performed a 
public service by telling the true story. Plainly the system of 
selecting and controlling personnel in Whitehall had broken 
down, and Great Britain was in a fair way to lose what had 
always been reckoned by other nations as one of its greatest 
assets: an efficient and honest civil service, untainted by corrup 
tion. Apart from the national interest, this involved a grave 
injustice to many individuals. There were a great many men of 
the same age as Burgess and Maclean who could have performed 
the duties that they had performed in their various posts and 
who would have remained sober and refrained from breaking up 
American librarians baths. Such men had some grounds for 
feeling aggrieved when they realized that they had failed to 
satisfy the authorities in some way not mentioned in the statutes 
of the Civil Service Commission; and it really hardly mattered 
whether these crypto-requirements related to homosexuality or 

The third reason for telling the story was perhaps the strong 
est Everybody knew that there were Communists, but very few 
people really believed it. They knew with their minds, because 
they had gathered the information from books and newspapers, 
that the Communist Party is an association which requires of its 
members that they abandon their loyalty to their own country 
and obey all instructions issued by the Soviet Union, even when 
these instructions tell them to put the Soviet Union s interest 
first. They knew that there were a number of Communists in 
Great Britain, and some may have vaguely remembered the days 


of the Stalin-Hitler pact, when British Communists did every 
thing they could to secure Britain s defeat by the Nazis. But this 
knowledge seemed to them outside reality, like a dream, the 
recollection of a film seen long ago, a detective story read in 
childhood. This was perhaps because, though there were cases of 
Communist espionage before the war, they seemed almost amus 
ing, so unlikely was it that the Soviet Union should ever become 
a great aggressive power; and although there were more alarm 
ing cases of espionage in the war, those were tried in camera. 
The first case of Communist espionage which took an alarming 
form was the trial of Alan Nunn May, which took place in 1946, 
just five years before the disappearance of Burgess and Maclean. 

It also, very unfortunately, happens that the Communist con 
spiracy repeats a pattern which was exploited by writers at a time 
when the corresponding reality was only faintly discerned by 
observers of society with specialist interests. Fiction ran away 
with the idea and seemed to take it for its own, simply because a 
secret society which is real has to be kept, so far as possible, 
secret. There are myriads of secret societies which stemmed from 
splinter forms of Freemasonry and from the Illuminati and mul 
tiplied before and after 1848; but they seemed tentative and 
unimpressive compared with the majestic machines which, om 
nipotent and omnipresent and unnamed, controlled the nations 
in the works of Eugene Sue; and he had imitators in every lang 
uage when the disciples of the political philosophies of Blanqui 
and Nechaev still numbered only a few thousand. The huge in 
ternational conspiracy was part of the bag of tricks used by most 
writers of the nineteenth-century invention, the detective story. 
Thus it happened that international conspiracy was established 
in the common mind as a feature of a vulgar district in the 
world of fancy, and it seemed quite ridiculous to think of it as a 
real threat. At least the day-to-day reporting of the Burgess and 
Maclean story by journalists, who on other occasions reported 
railway accidents and jewel robberies, and the controversies con 
cerning Burgess and Maclean which raged between known public 
characters, made the newspaper reader realize that the Commu 
nist conspiracy was as much a fact as railway accidents and jewel 
robberies or the atom bomb, and that there were English people 
capable of becoming conspirators. 

When the Petrov disclosures forced the British government s 


hand a White Paper was issued, which was bound to be inept, 
but was so to an unnecessary degree. It suggested that Maclean s 
house at Tatsfield could not be watched by the police because it 
was in an isolated situation in the country. This is a remark 
which could never be worth making, except by a house-agent 
attempting to sell a castle in the Yorkshire moors to an excep 
tionally trusting foreign criminal. It also alleged that there was 
no legal way of preventing the two men from leaving the coun 
try. But it is certain that a bank clerk who was suspected of 
embezzlement as strongly as Maclean was suspected of treachery 
would not have been permitted to board the Falaise. A witness 
in an embezzlement case could not, without the jiggery-pokery of 
a "holding offence," have been prevented from going; but a 
suspected person could have been taken from the dock to a 
police station "to help the police in their inquiries." It also 
contained the naive sentence: "No trace can be found in Bur 
gess s subsequent career" after he left Trinity College "of 
direct participation in the activities of left-wing organizations; 
indeed, he was known after leaving Cambridge to have had some 
contact with organizations such as the Anglo-German Club." As 
Burgess was attached to the Foreign Office during a war with 
Germany, it was precisely those pro-German associations which 
should have been investigated so thoroughly that his commu 
nism was discovered. 

There was a debate in the House of Commons, which was also 
bound to be inept, but, so far as the government spokesmen were 
concerned, was less so than might have been expected. Mr. Har 
old Macmillan and Sir Anthony Eden made handsome admis 
sions of past governmental error. But the House was given se 
rious news when it was announced that the security system of 
checking officials had been tightened since the disappearance, 
and that out of nine hundred officials who had been examined 
four had been asked to leave the service and six others were 
moved to work of less importance or asked to resign. If these 
men had committed offences which made them liable to prosecu 
tion and they had not been prosecuted, then there had been a 
"cover-up" which amounted to an assault on law by the bureauc 
racy; if they had been so guilty that it was impossible to con 
tinue their employment and also impossible to prosecute them, 


then an open society had not been able to defend itself against a 
secret society. 

This conspiratorial situation was novel, and our Western 
world was unprepared to meet it. But both Mr. Macmillan and 
Sir Anthony Eden gave muddled counsel when they declared 
that Burgess and Maclean could not have been restrained by 
justice unless the law was altered and the citizen was deprived of 
his civil rights. Mr. Macmillan said, "It would be a tragedy if we 
destroyed freedom in the effort to preserve it." Sir Anthony 
Eden said: 

Would the House like the law altered? Would it agree that 
the law should allow any British subject to be detained on 
suspicion? Well, you have to face these questions when there is 
no evidence on which the man could be judged. Would you be 
willing that people should be held indefinitely by the police 
while evidence is collected against them? Of course not. But in 
this case detention would have been justified. British justice 
over the centuries has been based on the principle that a man is 
to be presumed innocent until he can be proved guilty. Have 
we to abandon that principle? Worst of all, are we to make 
an exception for political offences? The last thing I would wish 
to see in this country is the Security Service having the power 
to do some of the things which some of our friends in the press 
do not seem to realize would flow from such a policy. If we had 
that power under the law Burgess and Maclean would not be 
where they are today. What would have been the consequence 
to British freedom and to those rights which this House has 
always defended? I would never be willing to be Prime Minister 
of a government who asked these powers of this House. 

This homily was irrelevant. Its irrelevance is worth noting, for 
this is the standard excuse put up by the security organizations 
when a Soviet spy is discovered, They have much better excuses, 
but they perversely insist on using this one. Yes, they say, this spy 
could have been caught, but only at the price of adopting Mc- 
Carthyite methods. This is complete nonsense. It suggests that 
we must choose between Communist conspiracy and sacrificing 
our liberties. But there is no need to make such choice, indeed it 
cannot be made, at least not in the case of Communist espionage. 
There is no instance of Communist espionage which could have 
been more readily detected than it was had the police been free 


to disregard the acknowledged rights of the accused person. It 
has often not been possible to bring a charge against a suspect 
though the police and members of the public knew that he was 
guilty, but the required evidence could not have been produced 
even if the powers of the police had been extended in every 
conceivable direction. 

Our civil rights are the result of a harmony. The individual 
knows that he does not want to be manhandled by the commu 
nity, that he does not want to have his house searched by the 
police unless they can satisfy a magistrate that they have reason 
to believe it contains evidence of guilt, that he does not want to 
give the police statements except by his own free will, that he 
wants to be treated as innocent till he is proved guilty. But the 
community has long ago learned that if people are liable to have 
their houses searched by the police at will, the guilty will destroy 
evidence with a thoroughness that they would otherwise not 
apply, that forced statements are apt to be false, and that to treat 
innocent men as guilty does nothing to produce social order, 
since it engenders contempt for the law, and anyway lets the 
guilty go free to go on plundering the community. Conspiracy is 
the last offence which would tempt the community to disregard 
its age-old experience and throw away the civil rights which it 
has found so useful. It can only be traced by the observation of 
meetings, by the tracing of actual documents or their copies, or 
by unforced confession. None of this evidence could be more 
readily obtained by any tampering with freedom. 

But all these considerations did not apply to Burgess and 
Maclean. The questions about the two men which the Foreign 
Secretary had to answer were quite simple. Why had Maclean 
been suffered to remain in the Foreign Office so long when he 
was a known alcoholic with Communist associations, and why 
was he appointed head of the American Department after having 
committed offensive action against an American s property dur 
ing a drunken brawl in Cairo, which had led to protests from the 
American ambassador? Why was Burgess allowed to remain in 
the Foreign Office so long when he was a known alcoholic with 
Communist associations, and why was he appointed second secre 
tary at the British embassy at Washington, when he had already 
been censured for disclosure of official secrets, and why was he 
kept there for seven months in spite of repeated acts of miscon- 


duct and his superiors protests? The state, like any other em 
ployer, has a right, frequently exercised, of employing or reject 
ing those who apply to it for employment and dismissing those 
who serve it badly. It did not, in fact, require any further powers 
to deal with Burgess or Maclean. It already possessed ample 
powers which could have been turned to this purpose, and had 
not used them. 

The fault seemed to lie with the security organizations. These 
number nine, and four of them were concerned with Burgess and 
Maclean: the Special Branch, at Scotland Yard, which is responsi 
ble to the Home Secretary; ML}, the fifth division of Military 
Intelligence, the counterespionage body which operates in strict 
isolation from the rest of the War Office, but is responsible to 
the Secretary for War; Q, which is an internal organization 
within the Foreign Office, looking after its own; and, more re 
motely, MI6, the espionage body, which is a department run by 
the Foreign Office under a civilian head and is responsible to the 
Foreign Secretary. The question of responsibility is complicated. 
Once a security organization reports to its minister, which it does 
usually in the latter stages of an operation, the report is immedi 
ately referred to the Prime Minister, who is under no obligation 
to inform his cabinet then or at any time, and can deal with the 
matter entirely according to his discretion. In one postwar gov 
ernment it was not the habit of the Prime Minister to inform the 
Secretary of War regarding atomic espionage. The ultimate 
responsibility for all security matters used to rest with the Prime 
Minister, but was transferred to the Home Secretary by a direc 
tive of Lord Kilmuir when he was Lord Chancellor. Unfortu 
nately this directive was not brought to the attention of the 
public, or even the Houses of Parliament. Few secrets in this 
field have been kept so well. 

It appeared that the security organizations had dealt 
inefficiently with Burgess and Madean. But it might also be true 
that the security organizations had given the authorities sound 
advice which they had disregarded. This has often happened. 
Long before the war it was a matter of common knowledge that 
the Special Branch reports regarding the desirability of aliens 
applying for British citizenship were often thrown into the 
waste-paper basket. But in the House of Commons ministers gave 
such strange answers to questions that it became obvious that 


this was not the explanation of this crisis. The security organiza 
tions had themselves been behaving very strangely. 

When the diplomats disappeared Mr. Morrison stated that the 
first time he was informed that the head of the American Depart 
ment had been suspected of being a Soviet agent was on May 25, 
the day he consented to the questioning of Maclean, and the day 
that the two men left England. But the suspicion had become a 
matter for administrative action at a lower level five weeks be 
fore this. This seems an excessive delay. There were signs of 
inaccurate briefing in these Parliamentary statements, too. Lord 
Reading, Minister of State in the Foreign Office, declared that "a 
very experienced under-secretary who supervised the department 
was watching Mr. Maclean with special closeness towards the end 
of the time before his disappearance just to see whether there was 
anything which indicated that Mr. Maclean was not performing 
his duties satisfactorily at that moment, and he came to the con 
clusion that there was nothing to which exception should be 
taken." This under-secretary was later identified by the Foreign 
Office as Sir Roger Makins, by then the British ambassador at 
Washington. This made him look uncommonly silly. But Mr. 
Macmillan, then Foreign Secretary, was afterwards to contradict 
this assertion. Sir Roger Makins had, it seemed, conducted no 
sort of inquiry into Maclean s behaviour at all and was completely 
blameless in this matter. 

Mr. Philby had, as we have seen, informed Burgess when he 
was a guest in his house that Maclean was under suspicion. On 
October 25, 1955, Mr. Marcus Lip ton, a Labour M.P. represent 
ing Brixton, asked in the Commons whether Sir Anthony Eden, 
then Prime Minister, had "made up his mind to cover up at all 
costs the dubious third-man activities of Mr. Harold Philby, who 
was first secretary at the Washington Embassy a little while 
ago." Sir Anthony denied this and suggested that Mr. Lipton 
had better raise the matter in the course of the" debate conse 
crated to this subject, which took place on November 7 of that 
year. Mr. Macmillan then referred to the possibility that Mac 
lean might have been tipped off by a friend, and explained: 

In this connection the name of one man has been mentioned 
in the House of Commons. He is Mr. H. A. R. Philby, who was 
a temporary first secretary at the British Embassy in Washing- 


ton from October 1949 to June 1951, and had been privy to 
much of the investigation into the leakage. 

Mr. Philby had been a friend of Burgess from the time when 
they were fellow undergraduates at Trinity College, Cam 
bridge. Burgess had been accommodated with Philby and his 
family at the latter s home in Washington from August 1950 
to April 1951, and of course it will be realized that at no time 
before he fled was Burgess under suspicion. 

It is now known that Mr. Philby had Communist associates 
during and after his university days. In view of the circum 
stances he was asked, in July 1951, to resign from the Foreign 

Since that day his case has been the subject of close investi 
gation. No evidence has been found to show that he was re 
sponsible for warning Burgess or Maclean. While in govern 
ment service he carried out his duties ably and conscientiously. 

I have no reason to conclude that Mr. Philby has at any time 
betrayed the interests of this country or to identify him with 
the so-called "third man," if, indeed, there was one. 

On November 10 Mr. Lipton, who after the debate had been 
instructed on the matter at an informal meeting of Q and Ml5 
men, made a personal statement in the House. He said that he 
regarded it as his "duty to withdraw unreservedly the charge" 
implied in his question and during his speech in the debate, and 
express deep regret that he had made this charge. There were 
many who were bewildered by these interchanges. A prominent 
figure at Scotland Yard had informed a journalist in the presence 
of two witnesses that Mr. Philby had indeed informed Burgess of 
the suspicion that lay on Maclean. 

So from mystery to mystery the story went on. It was rumoured 
that the two men were in Prague, in Moscow, in Warsaw, or 
home again in London, in some prison behind the Iron Curtain, 
or dead. Then in February 1956 a celebrated correspondent, Mr. 
Richard Hughes, found himself in Moscow just at the time when 
Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Bulganin were about to start for their 
famous visit to England. They were known to be anxious about 
the impression they would make, and it occurred to the resource 
ful Mr. Hughes that he might cash in on this anxiety by assert 
ing through the proper channels that British public opinion 
would be much more likely to accept them as sincerely trying to 


improve Anglo-Soviet relations if, at last, the Soviet came clean 
about the missing diplomats. So, on February 11, in room 101 of 
Moscow s National Hotel, Burgess and Maclean were exhibited 
to Mr. Hughes and representatives of Reuter s agency, the Tass 
agency, and Pravda. It was not quite the end of the story. There 
was still a little juice to be squeezed out of the lemon, though 
only a very little. 


HOW much harm did Burgess and Maclean do to 
their country? This can never be known. Every secret they 
learned during their official lives was certainly transmitted to the 
Soviet Union. Burgess must have learned much that was useful 
to his masters when he was running about London in the com 
pany of the odd-come-shorts who, like himself, mixed with unsus 
pecting heroes to form the army which was dropped on Europe 
to help the resistance forces. It is painful to think how much 
more he must have learned when he was personal assistant to 
Hector McNeil. The Official Secrets Act must often have been 
fractured by his hand. As for Maclean, he was secretary of the 
Combined Policy Committee on Atomic Development, which 
gave him no scientific information but much knowledge of a 
general kind, particularly relating to security and supply. He is 
said to have had a grave influence on the course followed by the 
Korean War. In October 1950 the American Central Intelligence 
Agency delivered a memorandum to President Truman report 
ing that the Chinese Communists would move in far enough to 
safeguard the Suiho electric plant and other installations along 
the Yalu River which provided them with power, and General 
MacArthur was told not to advance upon them, but to let them 
be, on that frontier. It is said that Maclean was in possession of 
this information and passed it to the Russians, who saw to it that 
the Chinese crossed the Yalu, with the result that the United 
Nations forces were scattered and a short war turned into a long 
one. That such material would ever be passed to the head of the 


American Department has been doubted; but then the head of 
the American Department was in a very favourable position to 
receive information he never should have been given. We will 
never know the truth of this. On the other hand, we may draw 
comfort from the certainty that the bulk of the official papers 
which came into the hands of Burgess and Maclean could have 
been of interest to neither man nor beast. 

But the damage done by these two on the hither side of the 
law has to be considered. Maclean served for some time under 
Lord Inverchapel, the eccentric diplomat whose presence as Brit 
ish ambassador at Moscow, Peking, and Washington made many 
an astonished traveller marvel at the Foreign Office system of 
promotion. His habit of having the bagpipes played by kilted 
pipers round the dining room at the British embassy at Washing 
ton caused many persons to calculate, often with fury, whether 
Stirling lies north of that city, since this Highland rite should 
not be performed in the Lowlands, which begin at Stirling. The 
question has probably never been raised before or since; and this 
was Lord Inverchapel s only respectable distinction. Not least 
among his disadvantages was a steady passion for the Soviet 
Union. This he did not conceal from the Foreign Office, giving a 
pro-Soviet lecture to the experts employed during the war in the 
Far Eastern section which none of them has ever forgotten. 
While it would be most unlikely that Lord Inverchapel ever 
committed an act of treachery, he certainly extended the hand of 
friendship to all who shared his passion, which sometimes caused 
him to commit official acts not treacherous but inconvenient. A 
German who had formed part of the extensive Soviet spy ring in 
the Pacific area, and who had no connection whatsoever with 
Great Britain, was not so many years ago expelled from France 
and made his way to England, To the surprise of the immigra 
tion authorities he produced a British passport, which he had 
been given by Lord Inverchapel when he was in China; and in 
Great Britain, a country towards which he had always professed 
the greatest hostility, this unattractive rascal lived until his 
death. There is no limit to what Maclean must have been able to 
do with such a chief. 

Burgess must have had many achievements to his credit on the 
hither side of the law. He had two permanent lines of activity: 
he had close relations, before, during and after the war, with 


various French Communists who had infiltrated their own civil 
service and the Paris radio; and relations at least as close with 
certain Communist Germans of good family who were working 
in concert with the Left and a certain peer and peeress friendly 
to the Nazis. There was also much finding of jobs for the right 
boys; before the war the head of a provincial university made 
some broadcasts at the BBC and there was introduced to charm 
ing young Mr. Burgess, who made what seemed to the visitor a 
most intelligent suggestion about the advisability of having a 
course of lectures on certain phases of international affairs at his 
university. Mr. Burgess went on to recommend a writer named 
XY as the ideal lecturer on this subject, and presently he pro 
duced other friends, also charming, who were also enthusiastic 
about XY, who therefore was engaged to give the lectures. XY 
was indeed a man of some ability, but he was also a hireling who 
had just seen that the war was inevitable and had broken off a 
long flirtation with the Nazis to become a fellow traveller. Every 
body who came within earshot of Burgess at that time was ad 
dressed on the subject of XY s virtues, in which he cannot have 

But perhaps the worst offence of the two men was the spread 
ing and degrading cloud of doubt their flight engendered. Bur 
gess and Maclean were employed together with a number of 
other men; they were acquainted with many through their clubs 
and through their ordinary social ties. Let us suppose that the 
ordinary Londoner was acquainted with three of their associates, 
AB, CD, and EF. He knew that AB was a homosexual, that CD 
joined the Communist Party at Cambridge but left it long ago, 
and that EF was a decent soul who knew Maclean and Burgess 
because he was at the same school or for some other neutral 
reason. Inevitably this scandal darkened and fused the Lon 
doner s knowledge of these three men. Inevitably he suspected 
all these three men of communism, of which none was guilty, 
and of homosexuality, of which only one was guilty. Inevitably 
he smeared the organization to which Burgess and Maclean be 
longed, the society which they frequented, with a bigger and 
blacker smear than they deserved. This is a natural consequence 
of Communist activity. Once a secret society establishes itself 
within an open society, there is no end to the hideous mistrust it 
must cause. But there was not the slightest hope that this situa- 


tion had not been made even uglier than it was bound to be. 
Burgess and Maclean would be under an obligation to lay a trail 
of bogus evidence behind them which would divert suspicion 
from the Communists who had really been their aides; and these 
Communists, and all others of their faith, had had to join in the 
game of misleading the authorities. It followed that suspicion 
often fell on people who were innocent. 

There was a sowing of mistrust everywhere which could not be 
dispelled by complete candour on the part of the authorities. 
It must be noted that neither the Labour nor the Tory gov 
ernment, when either had to bear the responsibility for cop 
ing with this situation, found it possible to go ahead and blow 
the gaff. This did not proceed from a cowardly desire to white* 
wash their own parties, though they would not have been human 
had not this desire been in then: minds. It proceeded from the 
fact that reticence was legally obligatory. It is unlikely that they 
had evidence in black and white that any colleague of Burgess 
and Maclean was on a level with them as a traitor. But there 
must have been mountains of evidence that a number of their 
colleagues had engaged hi behaviour certainly indiscreet, possi 
bly worse and sometimes possibly better, and never of a sort 
which provides subject matter for indictments under British law. 
What was done was all that could be done: the offending persons 
were slowly dribbled into positions where they could enjoy only 
the minimal opportunities of doing harm and acquiring dan 
gerous knowledge, while deprived of the right to complain of 
termination of their employment. To give an example: in the 
housecleaning which followed the disappearance of the two dip 
lomats, it was discovered that one of their associates had for 
thirty years been a fanatical Communist and had induced a 
certain celebrated British soldier of foreign origin to join the 
Communist Party not long before his death. This act was not an 
offence against the law; neither is it an offence to be a Commu 
nist. The authorities eased the suspected person out of the civil 
service into an academic post, where he taught and still teaches 
the young a subject on which he is an acknowledged authority; 
and it is unlikely he instructs them in anything else, for the head 
of the institution is a shrewd person of known loyalty, who was 
once in MI6 and is aware of all the implications of the arrange 


It cannot be hoped that our government could do better than 
that, and yet how bad it is. An open society has been unable to 
defend itself against a secret society which has formed in its 
midst. That, when it happens to the cells of our body, is called a 
case of cancer, and the results were cancerous in their corrupting 
painfulness. The United States had reason to think ill of its ally, 
Great Britain, and, what was even worse, Great Britain had 
reason to think ill of itself. The West was tarnished in its own 
eyes. If one asks how Burgess and Maclean could bear to contrive 
such a disaster, there are several answers. There was the simple 
answer that to some people it is fun to deceive, and Burgess and 
Maclean and their associates had had endless opportunities to 
enjoy that particular sort of amusement. The statement which 
Maclean and Burgess made on February 11, 1956, when they 
were produced to satisfy the demands of Mr. Richard Hughes of 
the Sunday Times had made it plain that Mrs. Maclean had 
been prevented from accompanying her husband on his flight 
not by lack of knowledge of his plans or disapproval of them, 
but solely by the impending birth of her child. Month after 
month she had posed as a bewildered and heartbroken wife, 
taking advantage of such generous and trusting souls as Lady 
Violet Bonham-Carter, who attacked the press on her behalf. A 
deeper cause is the fear, recorded by Karl Marx, felt by the 
children of privileged parents lest the social changes happening 
so rapidly in our age should deprive them of enjoying such 
privileges in their time; hence, as Marx foresaw, they may cast 
their lot with the Communist Party in case that is the winning 
side. But there is a cause which lies deeper still. 

It can be divined if one turns an eye on the Korean War, 
which was raging at this time. This had its interest for those who 
study treachery. Hostilities began in 1950, and, when they were 
over, twenty-three American prisoners of war refused repatria 
tion because they had gone over to the enemy in camp. A num 
ber of American writers set themselves the task of finding out 
what manner of beings these were who had failed the Stars and 
Stripes. And what were they? Why, they were a transatlantic 
version of the poor old British Free Corps. Here were all the 
odd-come-shorts bobbing up again, poor little Herbert George, 
anxious to shine in the local Fascist Party, or, if the meeting fell 
on a more convenient day, the local Communist Party, Denis 


John, the baker s son with the undesirable friends, the Byronic 
Alfred Vivian, the eccentric Mr. Putney; and in control of them 
were the white-collar men of the Concordia Bureau. But these 
were just the conspicuous failures. There was worse beneath the 
surface, in both American and British forces. In 1955 the Minis 
try of Defence published a pamphlet on Treatment of British 
Prisoners of War in Korea, which gave a hateful picture. The 
Nazis had tampered with British prisoners of war in an amateur 
ish way, trying to subvert them but observing a certain restraint, 
a certain regard for their rights as human beings. The Commu 
nist Chinese and North Koreans had played the same game with 
no holds barred. The captured men had been faced with an 
alternative: either they submitted to an ingenious pedagogic 
treatment, called by some "brainwashing/* which turned them 
into Communist believers and propagandists in the interests of 
the Soviet Union and Communist China and against the inter 
ests of their own country and the United Nations; or not only 
would they be deprived of the decent treatment recognized as 
their right by custom and the Geneva Convention; they would 
also be starved, shut up in filthy and insanitary quarters, refused 
medical treatment, and constantly exposed to physical maltreat 
ment, as well as to the risk of solitary confinement and capital 
punishment for trifling offences. They were visited by some Brit 
ons: Mr. Allan Winnington and Mr. Shapiro, of the London 
Daily Worker, Mrs. Monica Felton, the daughter of a High Wy- 
combe Nonconformist minister, a civil servant who in 1949 had 
been appointed by Mr. Silkin as the Chairman of the Develop 
ment Committee of the new satellite town of Stevenage; a London 
solicitor named Mr. Jack Gaster; and an Australian journalist 
named Mr. Wilfred Burchett, now resident in Moscow. These vis 
itations did not seem to cheer up the prisoners to any marked 

The captured officers and senior NCOs were virtually 
unaffected by their treatment; but of the junior NCOs and other 
ranks, one-third were found on their release to have "absorbed 
sufficient indoctrination to be classed as Communist sym 
pathizers." Only one elected to remain with his captors. But 
this fact is not as reassuring as might appear. The junior NCOs 
and other ranks numbered less than seven hundred men, and it 
is quite true the community is not likely to be endangered by 


something like two hundred and twenty victims of indoctrina 
tion, though the damage done to them as human beings may be 
tragically intense. But it must be realized that, in the event of a 
peripheral war on a larger scale, or the simultaneous conduct of 
several peripheral wars, it would be deplorable if Great Britain 
were flooded on the cessation of hostilities by men who, speaking 
with apparent authority, would allege that their country s ene 
mies had been in the right. It should be noted that this assault on 
the public confidence would be the more to be feared had the 
war been waged, not as the result of the country s unfettered 
action, but by the decision of the United Nations. 

It does not seem that the Army authorities had taken the same 
precautions to arrange for adequate leadership of the prisoners 
of war within their camps by pre-elected and pretrained men of 
quality, as they did before the Second World War. But there 
were some men who took upon themselves the duties of doing 
what had to be done and without rehearsal played the hero s 
part. Amongst them was a young man named Terence Edward 
Waters, who is worth while considering because of his relation to 
his time. He was a lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment, 
not long commissioned from Sandhurst. He was badly wounded 
in the Battle of the Imjin River, in April 1951, just about the 
time that, on the other side of the world, Burgess and Maclean 
were thinking of their move. Terence Waters was captured and 
sent with a detachment of wounded other ranks, whom he cared 
for with great devotion, on a journey of great hardship, ending 
in a camp known as "The Caves." This was a tunnel driven 
through a hill, and it had the peculiarity that a stream ran 
through it, flooding most of the floor. It was overcrowded with 
South Korean and European prisoners of war, ragged, filthy, and 
lousy, who were dying daily from wounds and sickness and under 
feeding. There was no doctor, there were no drugs. When a 
North Korean political officer came to the cave and attempted to 
persuade the men to join a prisoner-of-war group known as 
"Peace Fighters" and do Communist propaganda of a treasona 
ble nature in return for better food and medical treatment and 
dry quarters, the other ranks refused. But Lieutenant Waters saw 
that most of them would soon die if they stayed in this pest-hole, 
so he ordered them to join the Peace Fighters, and told them to 
march out. Because they were other ranks and he was an officer, 


he could take the guilt of treason off them by this order. But 
because he was an officer nobody could take guilt from him, so 
he stayed behind in the infected place and presently died of his 
wounds. It had been his opinion that it might serve his country 
if the Chinese and his men saw that he was not afraid to die. 

For the comprehension of our age and the part treason has 
played in it, it is necessary to realize that there are many English 
people who would have felt acutely embarrassed if they had had 
to read aloud the story of this young man s death, or to listen to 
it, or comment on it in public. They would have admitted that 
he had shown an extreme capacity for courage and self-sacrifice, 
and that these are admirable qualities, likely to help humanity 
in the struggle for survival; but at the same time he would not 
please them. They would have felt more at ease with many of 
the traitors in this book. They would have conceded that on 
general principles it is better not to lie, not to cheat, not to 
betray; but they also feel that Waters heroism has something 
dowdy about it, while treason has a certain style, a sort of ele 
gance, or, as the vulgar would say, "sophistication." William 
Joyce would not have fallen within the scope of their preference, 
but the cause for that would be unconnected with his defence of 
the Nazi cause. The people who harbour such emotions find no 
difficulty in accepting French writers who collaborated with the 
Germans during the war. It would be Joyce s readiness to seal 
his faith with his life which they would have found crude and 
unappetizing. But Alan Nunn May and Fuchs, Burgess and Mac 
lean would seem in better taste. And concerning taste there is 
indeed no argument. Those who cultivate this preference would 
not have been prepared to defend these men s actions if they 
were set down in black and white. They would have admitted 
that it is not right for a man to accept employment from the 
state on certain conditions and break that undertaking, when he 
could easily have obtained alternative employment in which he 
did not have to give any such undertaking; and that it is even 
worse for an alien to induce a country to accept him as a citizen 
when he is homeless, and then conspire against its safety by 
handing over the most lethal secret it possesses to a potential 
enemy of aggressive character. But, all the same, they would have 
felt that subtlety was on the side of the traitors, and even moral 
ity. They are of the same opinion as Monsieur Andr Gide, who 


wrote: "To me the worst instinct has always seemed sincere." 
To them the classic hero, like poor young Terence Waters, was 
hamming it. People who practise the virtues are judged as if they 
had struck the sort of false attitude which betrays an incapacity 
for art, while the people who practise the vices are judged as if 
they had shown the subtle lightness of gesture which is the sign 
of the born artist. Burgess and Maclean were of the opinion, as 
they worked out their long stint of treason, that they were prov 
ing themselves much better adapted to their time than any saint 
or hero could have been. 

1 1 

Decline and Fall of Treason 

IN THE SUMMER of 1952 there was a spy trial 
which stands with the flight of Burgess and Maclean, because it 
too was not what it seemed. William Marshall, twenty-four years 
of age, radio telegraphist in the service of the Foreign Office, had 
committed breaches of the Official Secrets Act by handing over 
information to a Soviet diplomat, and no doubt these would 
have been detected by our security organizations in their own 
good time. But it looked as if the Soviet Union had settled the 
time and the place of the detection without the slightest regard 
for poor Mr. Marshall. For that reason he deserved a little more 
sympathy than anyone else ever charged with this kind of offence 
in Great Britain, and indeed he got much more; but that was for 
another and quite unsound reason. 

This sympathy sprang from Mr. Marshall s social circumstances 
and a time-lag in public opinion. His home was in a street of 
little brick houses down in Wandsworth, the kind of street from 
which ability keeps pushing up, and occasionally misses its way, 
if it reads the wrong books and misunderstands what it reads. 
Round the corner from Marshall s home there lived a leader of 
the British Fascist Party as it reconstituted itself after the war, a 
man of great and wasted potentialities, coughing out Mosleyism 
through a haze of tuberculosis. Marshall s parents were people 
with strong and interesting personalities. His father had been a 
bus-driver until a V-i wrecked him and his bus, and since then 
had drawn a disability pension for a painful back injury and had 
done odd jobs, being uncommonly gifted as a handyman; his 
mother, who was distinguished in appearance and manner, 
worked part-time for a news-agent. Their son had left school at 
sixteen to go to a nautical college and had there been trained as 
a radio telegraphist; but before he had succeeded in getting a 
ship he was called up to do his military service, which he did in 
the Royal Signals, first in Palestine and then in Egypt. He was 


then taken into the Diplomatic Wireless Service and as its em 
ployee was sent back to Egypt. There some of his Army compan 
ions detected signs of communism; and it seems probable that 
from boyhood he was a convinced and exalted Communist. Nev 
ertheless, in 1950 he was given a post at the British Embassy in 

He stayed there a year, coming back, in December 1951, to 
work at Hanslope Park, the out-of-town establishment main 
tained by the Foreign Office fifty miles north of London. From 
January 1952 until June of that year he had meetings with a 
second secretary of the Soviet Embassy in London named Pavel 
Kuznetsov. On June 13 members of the Special Branch sur 
rounded them as they were making their way out of King 
George s Park in Wandsworth and took them to the local police 
station. There they searched both men, and on Marshall they 
found a copy of a confidential document which he had been 
given for the purpose of his work. He was charged under the 
Official Secrets Act with having communicated to Mr. Kuznetsov 
information useful to an enemy, and with obtaining secret in 
formation, and twenty-five days later he appeared at the Old 
Bailey, with British public opinion feeling for him like a 

This was because of a passage in his statement which read: 

On December 31 I flew to Moscow. I was a misfit at the 
Embassy from the start. The people were not in my class and I 
led a solitary life. I kept to myself and spoke to as few people as 
possible. I did my work as well as I could and just waited for 
the time to go home. I was disgusted with the life at the Em 
bassy and began to take an interest in the Russian way of life. I 
was impressed by the efforts of the Russian people and their 
ideals. They seemed to be building a society which gave the 
biggest scope to human endeavour. But they have a long way 
to go. When I came back from Moscow in December 1951 I 
was as friendless 35 when I arrived there. 

It immediately became plain that if there was anything that 
die British public did not like it was the British diplomat. It 
thought as one man that Marshall s position, cooped up for a 
year with ambassadors and counsellors and attaches and the like, 
must have been quite horrible. This was not, as would have been 
the case had the public been as much influenced by the latest 


news as is often assumed, because overreading about Burgess and 
Maclean made them imagine Marshall as having been perpet 
ually in danger of having a leg broken or his bathroom smashed 
up by intoxicated colleagues. It was because the diplomat seems 
to the man in the street the very essence of what used to be 
called a toff; and the toff was seen as a rude person, relentless 
in his insistence that his social inferiors were totally his inferiors. 
It is unprofitable to discuss how far this was a true picture. Regret 
tably enough, while everybody knows that Englishmen are sent to 
public schools because that is the only place where they can learn 
good manners, the manners they learn there are recognized as good 
only by people who have been to the same sort of school, and 
often appear very bad indeed to everybody else. This disharmony 
has had many results, and among them is to be counted the 
picture which Marshall s statement immediately conjured up in 
millions of British minds: of a huge room lit by chandeliers, 
where at a table surrounded by lackeys an insolence of diplomats 
(if that be the right noun of assembly) sits in a frozen silence, 
broken only by the snorts of the tiaraed females by their sides, 
because poor young Mr. Marshall has used the wrong fork. 

In fact, nothing like that happened. At that time the commu 
nity within the British embassy in Moscow numbered about a 
hundred, and of these only a small number were diplomats. The 
rest were clerical and technical employees, stenographers, cipher 
clerks, radio operators, pilots, and the like; one or two of the 
diplomats might have been scholarship boys from the sort of 
school that Marshall had been at, and certainly most of the 
clerical and technical employees would have been to that same 
sort of school. Marshall was thus one of quite a large group with 
which he could feel on equal terms; and it is to be noted that 
the standard of manners in his home was very high indeed, and 
that he should have been under no handicap at all in dealing 
with any of the staff. 

These people were under an exceptional strain. The inmates of 
the British embassy at Moscow are apt to feel that they are in a 
mousetrap. The summer is short, the climate harsh, there are no 
playgrounds in the forest or on the mountains; there is a hostile 
society looking in through the embassy windows and seeming not 
to like what it sees, and a formidable language barrier to in 
crease the tension. Commander Anthony Courtney, MP, an 


experienced security officer, who has been detained and ques 
tioned by security bodies behind the Iron Curtain, has spoken of 
this atmosphere very seriously in the House. In Moscow, he said, 
"We have an atmosphere which is very difficult to convey to 
Hon. Members, an atmosphere of overwhelming suspicion, a 
claustrophobic feeling of being inside a compound, or a ghetto 
as we sometimes call it in some Iron Curtain countries." Be 
cause this atmosphere is so strong, special means are taken to 
counter it. There is an abundance o social activities and efforts 
to make the lonely feel they have companions. The ambassador 
at that time was Sir David Kelly, an expansive Irishman with a 
gay, intelligent Belgian wife who could take anything that came 
her way. She had remarked that Marshall looked pale and over-, 
serious and had seen to it that efforts were made to provide him* 
with possibilities of friendship. She is a resourceful woman and 
had she learned that the young man was suffering from an un- 
gratifiable desire for a cannibal diet, she would have found some 
means of distracting him. 

But that passage in Mr. Marshall s statement was a master 
stroke. It brought him sympathy which was undeserved; but his 
trial very soon showed that he deserved a great deal on other 
scores. He had not, in his dealings with Mr. Kuznetsov, had the 
slightest chance of getting away with them. Every security rule 
which the Soviet diplomat should have applied he had broken, 
one by one, although there was a special reason why he should 
have observed them. Marshall was very tall and thin and narrow- 
chested, and he was pale, with a chalky pallor intensified by the 
blackness of his hair. It was a very unusual and quite pleasant 
pallor, not due to ill health, for he shared it with his mother and 
his brother. His shoulders sloped as steeply as if he were a Gains 
borough beauty, and his neck was long. He had furthermore a 
distinctive feature which did not amount to a deformity but 
which was instantly noticeable. There is an area beside the ear, 
below the cheekbone and above the jaw, which in thin people is 
flat or concave. In him it bulged in a slight protuberance, faintly 
pitted in the centre. He was the last person who could success 
fully engage in espionage, since he could not have been more 
identifiable, more memorable, less able to melt into a crowd. If 
he were to be handled at all by a Soviet apparatus, it would 
surely be with the last refinements of caution. 


There was, however, a wild disregard of precaution from the 
start. Spies usually choose as meeting places the haunts of the 
obscure, where it is taken for granted that nobody present is 
likely to get into the newspaper headlines and there is little in- 
quisitiveness. Suburban parks and public houses are specially 
favoured. The fashionable restaurants, with their clients from all 
sorts of worlds, and their waiters with their own word-of-mouth 
"Who s Who," far meatier than the orthodox version, are the last 
places where one could expect to find an agent and his contact. 
From the time of Marshall s return from Moscow, however, Mr. 
Kuznetsov took him on a round of expense-account meals at 
restaurants varying in atmosphere but all presenting one com 
mon feature. The Berkeley, the Pigalle, the Criterion, Chez Au- 
guste, the Royal Court Hotel at all of these it was possible that 
someone might look up and say, "I wonder who that young man 
is who is lunching with the second secretary of the Soviet em 
bassy," or "There s our young Marshall, I didn t know he was 
back from Moscow, I wonder who he s with." 

These entertainments took them along to the end of April; 
and then they had a meeting unique in the history of espionage 
in its bid for the attention of any hostile security officer. It took 
place at the Normandie Restaurant in Kingston-on-Thames, a 
detached portion of a large department store, Bentall s, which 
though it is located in the suburbs has a metropolitan air 
and reputation. There are always crowds looking in at its 
windows, where a watcher could stand unobserved while he cov 
ered the single entrance to the Normandie Restaurant, which 
was then isolated between the entrance and the exit of a car 
park. At one o clock on Friday, April 25, Marshall and Mr. 
Kuznetsov arrived at this naked and unsheltered spot and went 
upstairs to the restaurant, where their party proceeded, though 
Marshall did not know it, to occupy one-seventh of the available 
accommodation. For there were twenty-one tables, and he and 
Kuznetsov had one table facing the door, visible from every part 
of the room, while officers from the Special Branch had another, 
and a third was taken by a party of police from the Soviet 
embassy who, though Marshall was not aware of it, were always 
in the offing at these meetings. This is a comic situation in itself, 
and there was another amusing overture. A member of the Ben- 
tail s staff had to go over to the restaurant while the party was 


there, looked at the men whom we now know to have been 
Russian police, and said: "Oh, there are the Russians who were 
walking round the store yesterday." According to her, these men 
had made a slow tour of Bentall s the previous afternoon, speak 
ing their native language to each other and asking the staff 
questions in not very good English. She thought she knew they 
were Russians because they had been asked what they were and 
had said so, but it might have been that a customer had 
identified the language they were speaking. 

This seems almost too good to be true. But it was no more 
improbable than what happened when the two men left the 
restaurant. They went down a narrow street called Water Lane, 
in which the most incompetent sleuth could not have lost his 
quarry, to a little public park called Canbury Gardens, a strip of 
greenery which runs along the river for less than a quarter of a 
mile, never more than a hundred and fifty yards in depth and 
sometimes as little as fifty. There is a line of plane trees on the 
garden side of the towpath, with benches between them. Mr. 
Marshall and Mr. Kuznetsov sat down on one of these benches, 
clearly silhouetted against the waters of the Thames, and, as the 
bank faces westward, against the afternoon light. When Marshall 
took papers out of his pockets and showed them to his compan 
ion, and when he drew maps for him, not a shade of his ges 
tures could have been missed. The lot of a security officer who 
spies on spies is often uncomfortable, but here the suspects could 
be watched either from deck chairs on the lawn behind them, or 
from the windows of a teahouse. 

On May 19 Mr. Kuznetsov and Marshall met in Wimbledon, 
following, according to the watchers, a curious conspiratorial 
ritual, meeting and passing without a sign of recognition, then 
turning back and going together into a doorway. All this was the 
more remarkable behaviour because it was in a heavy rainstorm. 
Ragov, the organizer of the Canadian spy ring, made a note on a 
contact s report of a meeting with the scientist Durnford-Smith, 
"Was a torrential downpour; but he nevertheless came. Give 
instructions not to come in the future in such weather, it is not 
natural." On June 14 the pair met again, for the last time, in 
King George s Park, Wandsworth. This is an open space beside 
the river Wandle, which up till the end of the war was one 
continuous stretch of grassland intersected by two roads and 


some asphalted footpaths. After the war a colony of prefabri 
cated houses was planted in the middle, so that there are now 
two separate King George s Parks. One gives a lot of cover, for it 
contains a children s playground, a swimming pool, a restaurant, 
several entrances, and a number of benches. But Marshall and 
Kuznetsov chose to go to the southern park, which is a playing 
field and nothing else: a rectangle of flat ground about eight 
acres in extent, all grass, save for a cinder track, with ten trees 
planted along this track, and three benches. On the last of these 
Marshall sat himself down with his Soviet friend, while the 
detectives settled on the bench which was farthest away. After 
ten minutes they decided they would like to be nearer and 
moved to the middle one. When the men rose to go the detec 
tives closed in on them. At the police station Kuznetsov took 
the oddest line. He complained that he had been arrested while 
he was walking in a park, which, he rightly said, is not an 
offence against the law. Then he amplified the complaint; he 
had been arrested while he was walking hi a park with a man 
whom he did not know. He insisted that they had been strangers 
until that day. But when his statement was read back to him he 
withdrew the amplification. He could hardly have assisted more 
ably at cooking poor Marshall s goose. 

This was indeed cooked, but not so brown as it might have 
been. He got five years at the Old Bailey, which meant, though 
he earned his remission, that he had no life between the ages of 
twenty-five and twenty-eight: a great, great loss, but not a severe 
penalty considering the practical value of the information he 
had given and his nagging determination to commit this breach 
of trust. The jury had added a rider to their verdict, insisting on 
it against the displeasure of the judge, who, like many before 
him, disliked riders, feeling them to be encroachments on the 
constitutional powers of the judge to pass sentence according to 
his own unfettered discretion. <f We ask," the foreman said, 
"that the prisoner be shown the utmost mercy. . . . We feel that 
he has been led astray." And so, poor boy, he had. He had the 
nonsense, so to speak, strong on his breath. Asked what he and 
Mr. Kuznetsov had been talking about on the bench beside the 
river, he replied that they had "exchanged cultural information 
about Moscow." And how easy it must have been to get him to 
take the dose. He knew so little. Asked if he had anything to say 


before sentence was passed on him, he replied, that "the learned 
jury in their wisdom have found me guilty of the offence with 
which I am charged, but I still say I am innocent." He did not 
even know that the whole point of a jury is that it is not learned 
as learned counsel are, or as learned judges, but chunks of laity, 
brought in for the special purpose of being unlearned. The poor 
boy, however, was resolutely thinking of things about which 
nothing can be usefully thought until one has grasped just such 

It may be guessed that the judge needed no persuasion to give 
Marshall so much less than the maximum sentence of fourteen 
years which hung over him. He expressed his own certainty that 
Marshall had not committed treachery for the sake of gain, and 
this was true as it has not been true of any other of these offenders. 
All the rest accepted payment in some form of advantage. Nearly 
all of them took money, most of them on the curious plea that it 
was a token of their loyalty to the Communist cause, though 
they spent it as if it had been an ordinary bribe, which of course 
it was; others were guaranteed advancement in their professions 
or security in them when they might have been turned adrift. All 
were gratified by a promise of power they could not otherwise 
have attained, and this promise was sometimes fulfilled. But 
Marshall got nothing and would have refused anything he was 
offered. He said in evidence that when he and Kuznetsov had 
meals together Kuznetsov paid for the meal and he paid for the 
drinks, and if, as he said, they drank wine, this may have been 
the heavy end of the load. All the people who had known him 
spoke of a pleasant attitude to money. He was well paid; the 
special salary and allowance paid to Moscow employees had 
brought him a thousand pounds free of income tax in twelve 
months, and he had only fifteen pounds left in his savings-bank 
account when he was arrested. He had not flung it about, nor 
gone priggishly short on his record-buying or his other innocent 
pleasures, but he had been generous here and there, and espe 
cially generous in forcing it on his parents, who had characteristi 
cally not wished to accept it. His fellow employees at Moscow 
spoke of scrupulousness about the return of favours: if he ran 
out of cigarettes and had to borrow some, he replaced them at 
the first possible moment and with interest. 

He was, surely, the best of all the offenders of his class, an 


upright young man who simply suffered from an inability to see 
through the Daily Worker as some other people suffer from 
colour-blindness. It is congruous with life as we know it that he 
was worse treated by his employers than any other of his kind. 
Amery was roughly dealt with: the way the Germans zestfully 
turned over to the British authorities all the information that 
had piled up against the poor wretch while he was serving them 
is in itself a masterpiece of treachery. But poor selfless William 
Marshall was put on a salver and served up to the Special 
Branch, with love from the Soviet Intelligence Service, and it was 
like robbing a child of its pennies on the way to the sweetshop. 
It simply cannot be believed that a Soviet diplomat could, at 
meetings with an agent supervised by his own embassy s police, 
break rule after rule of security practice without wishing that 
this agent should be detected and wishing it because his supe 
riors wished it; and while other people might have suspected 
that such viperine entanglements can exist Guy Burgess would 
have grasped the idea at once it would never cross Marshall s 
candid mind. He would not have believed that he might be a 
sacrifice offered up in order that attention should be diverted 
from another and more valuable agent, possibly not British at 
all, who was working on so nearly the same field as Marshall that 
the British and American Intelligence authorities would think, 
having arrested Marshall, that they had stopped the leak which 
had been troubling them and could relax their vigilance. Capital 
ist countries might do such things, but not the New Jerusalem. 

It is to be hoped that poor young Marshall made something of 
his life after he left prison. He must have found England and 
America almost insultingly indifferent, for by that time they had 
almost forgotten that there were spies. But in June 1957 a quiet 
and shabby man in his middle fifties was arrested in a small 
hotel on 28th Street, New York City, which knew him as Martin 
Collins. Elsewhere in the city a group of not immensely success 
ful painters, also quiet and unspectacular and middle-aged, knew 
him as a fellow painter and a cosy companion, under the name 
of Emil Goldfus. Nine years before he had entered the United 
States from Canada under the name of Andrew Cayotis. After 
the war he had appeared under that name in a displaced-persons 
camp, posing as a Canadian who desired to be repatriated. To 
his employers, who were the KGB (the Soviet Commissariat of 


State Security), he was Colonel Abel. The colonelcy was real, 
but the name was a John Doe of the Russian spy system and has 
been used in the past by more than one of their agents. His real 
name is not yet known. 

In his room was more evidence of espionage than one would 
have expected an experienced spy to leave lying about: a cipher 
pad, a coded message, a transmitting radio, a hollow pencil con 
taining a time schedule for his broadcasts to Moscow, a bank 
book and a safe-deposit box key, which were to reveal an accu 
mulation of dollars surprising for such a dim figure, and two 
birth certificates. One was made out for Emil Robert Goldfus, 
born in New York in 1902, and was a sample of a favourite 
Russian technique; for the real Emil Robert Goldfus had died 
when he was one year and two months old. The other birth cer 
tificate was made out for Martin Collins and was a forgery. 

This man was one of the most important spies ever captured: 
he was what is known as the resident Soviet agent for New York, 
and it is suspected that he was more than that, that he was, so to 
speak, the secret-service ambassador in charge of North and Cen 
tral America. Whatever his position, he had earned it by real 
merit. He was remarkably talented. He could pass as a painter 
because he could, in fact, paint. It does not seem likely that Sir 
Kenneth Clark would have become besotted with his work, but 
he had a professional command of technique. He was a fine 
linguist, and indeed that had once been his profession. As a 
young man in his native Russia he had been a teacher of lan 
guages in a secondary school. He was a skilled photographer, and 
he could do running repairs to any ordinary type of electrical 
equipment, even to elevators; and he was proficient both in 
carpentry and in the jeweller s craft to a degree which impressed 
those who did such work for a living. His musical knowledge was 
sufficient to get him on terms with the art of guitar-playing in 
middle life, to the extent of playing Bach and Villa-Lobos; and 
he was well enough acquainted with the sciences to regard books 
on mathematics and physics as light reading not very advanced 
books, but not very easy ones either. The proof of his profes 
sionalism as a spy was the use he made of these skills. He kept 
them going so that nobody suspected he could be doing anything 
else. He never would have been detected had not KGB in an 


aberrant moment sent him an aide named Hayhanen, who was 
a psychopath and alcoholic, who ultimately turned him in. 

Nobody can estimate how much information Abel collected. 
We can be sure that almost all of it would be useless details, and 
we can be as sure that a fraction would be very useful indeed to 
the Russians as enemies of the West. An immense amount was 
coming in. His aide ran round New York collecting microfilms 
from caches such as a hidey-hole under a loose brick in a bridge 
spanning a bridle path near the Reservoir in Central Park, and a 
magnetic container nestling under a metal mailbox at a street cor 
ner; it all added up to something which earned Abel at his trial 
thirty years in jail and a fine of $3000. He was convicted on the 
evidence of Hayhanen and a fellow alcoholic, an American 
sergeant who had been washed into espionage on a flood of 
vodka when serving at the American embassy in Moscow; and 
the feeling in the courtroom was very strongly sympathetic with 
the accused man. He bore his ordeal with unresentful dig 
nity and good sense. There had been difficulty about his legal 
representative, for the lawyer who usually handles such cases had 
pleaded previous commitments, and Abel had shrewdly used a 
provision of American law, for which there is no British equiv 
alent, to get a lawyer of known talent and high reputation. He 
applied to the Brooklyn Bar Association to appoint a three-mem 
ber panel to choose him counsel; and they gave him Mr. James 
Britt Donovan, a Harvard Law graduate, forty-one years old, 
just old enough to have been the last secretary to the great Mr. 
Justice Holmes, and brilliant enough to have stood out as a 
personality at the Nuremberg Trials, where he assisted the Amer 
ican prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. He was 
the last person to be suspected of communism, if only because he 
was a practising Roman Catholic. Abel s relations with Mr. 
Donovan were polite, balanced, and never showed any of the 
strain that might be expected from a man in peril of death. He 
was the perfect client, biddable and self-controlled. It was his 
lawyer s policy that he should plead not guilty but should not 
give evidence, and he sat quietly in court, quietly accepting 
sentence, thanked Mr. Donovan with quiet cordiality, and went 
quietly off to prison to qualify quietly as a model prisoner, 

In fact, Abel was a professional spy, just as other people are 


professional singers or professional footballers, and being tried 
for his life was one of the risks of his profession which he had 
foreseen and was prepared to face, as professional singers are 
prepared to nurse troublesome larynxes and professional football 
ers to watch strained muscles. That was all there was to him and 
to his situation. He was not a member of the Communist Party 
in the Soviet Union, and from first to last no flicker of interest in 
Marxism, or indeed in any political issue at all, showed in his 
choice of reading matter in jail or in conversation. His only 
literary work was a pamphlet on the irrelevance of politics to 
art, which need not be taken as cover, for he was apparently 
really emotionally involved in a crusade against abstract art, 
which he appears to have envisaged as a rationalist but regressive 
interference with the instinctive pictorial processes. It is to be 
noted that he was not a traitor but a spy for his own country, a 
civil servant, part of the Establishment, and he had there 
fore never had to engage in the political arguments with himself 
which are a part of treachery. When we regard his encapsulated 
professionalism and hark back through the years to William 
Joyce, and hear again that impassioned twanging voice, vibrating 
in sympathy with what he believed to be the cosmic pulse, we 
realize that what we witnessed at the Old Bailey was the death 
agony of the amateur in a specialized age. 

There, it seemed, we were going to leave Colonel Abel in 
1957, as the triumphant specialist who had been brought low 
because of the human element, the human element which 
reaches out for a bottle of Bourbon whisky and throws knives at 
its wife at just the wrong moment. It was a pity that, instead of 
Mr. Hayhanen, Abel could not have had a robot courier; he 
would have known how to use him. But Abel had to be noted 
even then as a focus where many lines met. For example, he had 
known the unusually attractive Mr. and Mrs. Cohen who had 
been associated with the Rosenbergs. There was also a point of 
interest in certain microfilmed letters found inside his hollow 
pencil along with his broadcasting schedule. These purported to 
be from his wife and daughter, Helen and Lydia (Evelyn). In 
stilted terms they expressed great affection for him and regret at 
his continued absence, urging that he should terminate his em 
ployment and giving simple, heartrending details of their life in 
Russia. There is no doubt that they understood he was on espion- 


age service. It is all very soap-opera; but there is some cultured 
cerebration at work. There are letters from his grown-up daughter, 
who turns out to be one of Freud s little girls and rather less self- 
conscious about it than one would have thought possible in this 
age, even in the Soviet Union. Her announcement of her engage 
ment and her description of her marriage is a good clear posed 
photograph of a father fixation. 

Daddy dear, I am missing you so much. You just cannot 
imagine how much I need you. It is about four months now 
since I have married and to me it seems like an eternity, so dull 
it sometimes is. In general, he is a good chap, but he isn t you. 
I have got a job. My boss is a bit like you though not so broad- 
minded and not a very great erudite. Though very clever. . . . 

You say you want more particulars of my husband. I shall 
try to give you a better picture of him. He is short, green-eyed, 
rather handsome. He is rather gay and talkative when the con 
versation considers cars or football. He works as an engineer 
he is capable though rather lazy. You ask me whether I am 
happy with him. As one of our greatest poets once said, there is 
no happiness in life but there is peace and free will. The only 
thing that worries me is that I find him boring sometimes. Now 
about my in-laws. They are awful. I do wish you were with us. 
Everything would be much easier for us then. I am missing you 
very much. I thought at first my husband could substitute you 
in some respects, but I now see that I am mistaken. Now about 
my work. I like it fine. I have a splendid boss. He is a very inter 
esting man, clever, talented, tolerant, handsome. We like each 
other and spend much time talking about various things. He is 
forty-four, single and rather unhappy. I wish you could see him 
and talk to him. 

The jury is said to have been much affected by this correspond 
ence when it was read aloud, a process much facilitated because 
the daughter had, oddly enough, written to her father in 
English. But persons studying it at leisure may find themselves 
not so much moved as inquisitive. There is, for example, a dog 
who in late June 1956 is said by Mrs. Abel to be suffering from 
rupture of emotional ties with its master which must have been 
formed between July and November 1955. This report of canine 
fidelity may only be a piece of playfulness on the part of Abel s 
wife, but obstinately that dog looks like a stage-property dog; 
and about this picture of the spy s loving family, grieving while 


he bravely serves his country in a strange land, there is a haunt 
ing sense of unreality which was not dispelled, and was indeed to 
become more palpable, in the years to come. 

Before Abel got settled in jail, in February 1958 there was a 
return of the amateur to the scene. Two Oxford undergraduates, 
one of Corpus Chris ti College, and the other of Lincoln College, 
both reading history, one twenty-three and the other twenty-four, 
contributed to the university magazine, Isis, an article based on 
their experience of National Service in the Royal Navy. It was a 
clear violation of the Official Secrets Act, it was committed from 
the highest motives, and it was quite frightening in its childish 
ness. It related to the circumstances which arise out of the disad 
vantageous position in which the West finds itself as regards its 
opportunities for finding out for defence purposes what the mili 
tary resources of the Soviet Union may be. The West cannot 
send spies into the Soviet Union, while the Soviet Union, and no 
blame to it, habitually sends spies into the West. A large part of 
the Soviet Union has, from time to time, been totally barred 
against the Western visitor, and in such parts as are open his 
freedom of movement is subjected to rigorous restrictions. In the 
very first years of the Soviet Union a certain number of Russian- 
speaking Englishmen penetrated its territory, and of these some, 
though not all, came back. But for the last thirty-five years no 
Western Colonel Abel has had a chance to snuggle in a Moscow 
apartment, or anywhere else where Russian is spoken, and the 
contacts with factory hands and research workers and civil 
servants which are so indispensable to his kind are impossible to 
achieve. For look-see spying the West has to rely on tourists and 
persons with some legitimate reason, probably commercial, for 
visiting the Soviet Union, and they can bring back very little. 
Hence the main source of the West s information about the 
resources of the Soviet Union is the defector, who is a Russian 
traitor. This is only sometimes satisfactory. The defector may be 
very useful indeed should he have left his country because he 
holds the idea of loyalty which is expressed in the English law of 
treason, and should he believe that if a state does not give protec 
tion to its citizens they do not owe it allegiance, and be of the 
opinion that the Soviet Union does not protect its citizens. Then 
he is a balanced person who knows what he is doing and has 
probably full command over useful information. But he may have 


left the Soviet Union because he was neurotic, drunken, In debt, a 
homosexual, or just a generally recognized and resented nuisance. 
He may, in any case, become any o these things after he has 
defected. As our material suggests, the traitor is not a happy 

The Western skies are open to flight, and to aerial reconnais 
sance, which is about as harmless a form of spying as exists. It is 
indeed a prophylactic against war. For it enables the powers to 
learn exactly where bombing would hurt their neighbours most; 
and if all powers alike possessed in full measure this in 
formation, and knew it, no power would be very anxious to 
break the peace. But the Soviet Union has always kept its skies 
to itself, wishing to build up to the furthest possible limit its 
superior stockpile of information. Its legal position here is dubi 
ous. International law has not yet provided an aerial equivalent 
for the three-miles coastal limit at sea. The United States has had 
its own method of dealing with this prohibition. It sent the high 
flying jet glider, the U-s, over Russian territory, without asking 
permission of the Soviet Union, just as the Soviet Union had not 
asked its permission to send Colonel Abel to New York. But the 
British dealt with the situation by means which involved no such 
appeal to the principle of tit for tat. They ran a line of listening 
stations down the eastern frontier of the Soviet Union from north 
ern Europe to the Middle East, working in conjunction with an 
investigating fleet of planes, which record radio transmissions 
within the Soviet Union and thus acquire information about the 
character and disposition of all sorts of military installations and 
movements on the farther side of the fence. 

This is perhaps the most innocuous form of spying im 
aginable. It involves no contacts between nationals of different 
states and no trespassing on territory. It is no more unfair than 
looking at the tanks in the Red Square when TV shows the May 
Day celebrations. If the British did not do it, then there might 
be a real danger of war, because the Russians would think they 
were daft and a fit prey for the sane and sensible. But to the two 
Oxford undergraduates it seemed utterly shocking. They must 
have known that the Soviet Union had happily accepted all the 
information it could get about Western military resources from 
Hiss, the Rosenbergs, Greenglass, Colonel Abel, Nunn May, 
Fuchs, Burgess, Maclean, and Harry Gold, but they thought it 


was morally wrong for a British soldier to monitor a radio 
transmission from a Soviet Union Army plane. 

They had also an innocent idea that these purely mechanical 
proceedings were dangerously provocative. It sometimes hap 
pened that the British forces wished to gain more information 
about a Soviet plane than was coming over the air, and to 
pepper it into good revealing chatter they would send a plane to 
hug or even cross the frontier, sometimes so boldly that the 
Soviet planes forced it down. The undergraduates were of the 
opinion that some day some such incident might provoke the 
Russians to a sudden warlike act, and the Third World War 
would be upon us. This fear could have grounds only if the 
Russians did not understand why the British were acting as they 
were. But as the monitoring system had been in force for ten 
years the Russians perfectly understood both the system in gen 
eral and the occasional forays in particular, and while their 
action was firm (which was right and proper), their verbal pro 
tests were purely conventional. No serious incident had occurred 
up to the time the young men wrote their article, nor has one 
wrecked our peace since then. They were sentenced to three 
months* imprisonment under the Official Secrets Act but served 
only four weeks. 

Two other minor spies were in trouble about this time. The 
first was a sad man called Brian Frederick, an electronics engi 
neer who was brought up for trial under the Official Secrets Act 
in June 1958, and who in 1955 was working at a Buckingham 
shire aircraft factory on government work. At a party he met by 
sheer chance, he thought and probably still thinks the Czech 
military attach^, Colonel Pribyl. He invited him to go to a 
concert with him, and afterwards he and his wife became close 
friends of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick. For two years the colonel held 
his peace and never asked him about his work. This is Freder 
ick s story, and it is confirmed by the MI5 men who, from the very 
first, were eavesdropping on the friendship. 

In January 1957 Frederick moved to another aircraft firm at 
Shoreham and was accompanied by Ml5 men, who warned the 
management that it might be all right, it might not. At any rate 
Frederick s work was compartmentalized; he saw thenceforward 
the part and not the whole. The Mis men had perhaps noticed 
that things were going ill with Frederick s marriage. In April his 


wife left him, and then there was money trouble. He had to 
make an allowance to his wife just when he was trying to pay off 
debts on a new house. It was then that Colonel Piibyl offered to 
buy classified drawings and papers from him, and Frederick 
agreed. He went on giving Pribyl what he wanted for a year, 
except that it was not what he wanted. The documents were all 
faked by Frederick s superiors in order to mislead the Soviet 
Union s Intelligence men. For this the poor wretch got 500 from 
the Czechs and fourteen years from the judge at the Old Bailey. 

It is not tolerable that human beings should do such things to 
each other. But the story of Mr. Anthony Maynard is more 
cheerful. It is indeed one of the few comic stories in the annals 
of espionage. He was a flying officer in training, who in January 
1956, at twenty-two, went to the headquarters of the Society for 
Cultural Relations with the USSR and said that he wished to 
make inquiries about the art of photography as practised in the 
Soviet Union. Someone at the office suggested he should write to 
Mr. Soloviev at the Soviet embassy. He accepted this advice and 
went to see Mr. Soloviev, who was an active Intelligence officer 
and was just waiting for Mr. Maynard to come along. The 
young man confided that he was a serving officer in the RAF who 
wished to study at the State Institute of Photography in Moscow 
and would make arrangements to leave the RAF if this could be 
arranged. Mr. Soloviev was sympathetic and met him for a sec 
ond time at the Odeon Cinema. After this meeting his command 
ing officer asked him to sign an order forbidding contact between 
RAF officers and members of the Soviet embassy, and ordered 
officers who had made such contacts to report them. He signed, 
but reported nothing. 

In April the two met at the Odeon Cinema, at the National 
Film Theatre, at the Soviet Circus, and at the Soviet Film Festi 
val at the Royal Festival Hall, and ended up with a visit to the 
Everyman Cinema in Hampstead in August, 

In October, Maynard was interviewed by security officers and 
he explained that he wished to study photography in Moscow 
because he feared that he had no future in the RAF, as his 
eyesight was failing. This was a singular reason for wishing to 
become a photographer. He said he remembered signing no or 
der which had any reference to contacts between RAF officers 
and Soviet embassy officials. There was a further interview, and 


general trouble, the painfulness of which may be judged from a 
letter he left behind and from other statements he made later. 
He was, he said, finding home life increasingly frustrating and 
his relations with his parents were "rapidly deteriorating." As 
for his oath of allegiance, he explained that that no longer 
bound him, as he had been a Christian when he took it but had 
since lost his faith, and were he asked to take it again would 
refuse, as he had ceased to believe that the Queen was of na 
tional or international importance. He explained also that he 
dreaded to be like his brother, who, it appeared, had no ambi 

No defector ever found it easier to fly the coop. Maynard 
went from his flying school to London Airport and took a 
plane to Berlin on December 3. One could take a large bet 
that as the plane rose into the sky it was watched by a group 
of RAF personnel, all sighing deeply and then going off to have 
a drink. In Berlin he took the underground railway from the 
Western Sector to the East and was in no time broadcasting from 
East Germany. He told the population that his decision to defect 
had been formulated over a long period when he was becoming 
increasingly opposed to the colonial and foreign policy of Her 
Majesty s Government. He informed them that he had wished to 
work for the cinema but there was no opportunity to do that in 
Great Britain. (Had, perhaps, a studio proved unsympathetic, 
like the flying schools?) He also said that he had been forbidden 
to associate with Soviet officials, and "such interference in my 
personal affairs is intolerable to me." 

In Moscow he trod on their faces. He lived a most enviable 
life. He got 1000 a year, free lodging, and much sightseeing, was 
instructed in Russian and constructive engineering, and given 
pleasant holidays, and he was allowed to telephone his family and 
receive letters. They tried to take his passport away, but he 
would have none of that. It is true that he drew maps of RAF 
installations for them and told them what he knew about 
Hawker Hunters, but it is clear that it was by sheer character he 
got them down. A letter survives in which he icily rebuked them 
about his terms of employment. "Indeed, regarding the financial 
assistance I am receiving by way of the Red Cross, I don t think 
it s unreasonable considering the small amount involved, and to 


bear in mind, as concerning information, what information I do 

Though, according to his account, he gave as little informa 
tion as possible, much of the information he gave must have 
been faked for planting on the Russians by his superiors, or they 
would hardly have let him leave England. But the Russians con 
tinued to treat him well. He was allowed to go to Poland, a great 
privilege, and decided, though he had been entered in the School 
of Engineering Construction in Moscow, that it was in Poland he 
wanted to live. The Soviet Union could not take it any more. 
Nyet, it said, and it cannot possibly be blamed for saying it that 
time. Young Anthony was allowed to leave the Soviet Union with 
out the slightest difficulty. As his Londonwards plane rose into the 
sky, surely it was watched by a group of Russian Security and Air 
Force personnel, all sighing deeply and then going off for a 
drink. Once back in England, he returned to his home at East 
bourne, to the parents with whom his relations had deteriorated, 
to the brother who had no ambition. No doubt they were glad to 
see him. At the Old Bailey he was sentenced to three years 
imprisonment. One can be certain that he got the full remission 
and was seen off to liberty by a group of prison officials, all sigh 
ing deeply and then going off for a drink. 

I N 1959 there was a striking demonstration that pro 
fessionalism does not change its character in the sphere of espion 
age. The professional always wants the world to think well of his 
profession, and he does not abandon the attempt even though it 
might seem that the world had made up its mind against him. 
After Fuchs was convicted in 1950 he became aware that he 
would be deprived of his British citizenship, and he made a great 
fuss about it. At a sitting of the Deprivation of Citizenship 
Committee at the Law Courts on December 20, 1950, he sub 
mitted a very urgent petition that his certificate of naturaliza 
tion should not be revoked. In a letter transmitted by Lord 
Shawcross, who was then Attorney-General, he pointed out that 


if deprival of citizenship was intended as punishment of his 
actions, there was little he could say except that he had already 
received the maximum sentence permissible by the law, and that 
the provisions of the British Nationality Act of 1948 excluded 
punishment as reason for revoking a certificate of naturalization. 
He assumed therefore that the question under consideration was 
his present and future loyalty, and though he modestly owned 
that he could not expect the Home Secretary to accept his own 
assurance of loyalty, he suggested that he should obtain the 
opinion of Ml5 and the Director of Public Prosecutions. He had 
in fact convinced several security officers, one an American, that 
he was by this time heart and soul with the West. 

Fuchs s statement went on to point out that his disloyal ac 
tions ceased early in 1949, before any suspicion had been voiced 
against him; that he had made a full statement and it was on 
this he was prosecuted; and that he had loyally cooperated with 
Ml5 and the FBI, although no threat or promise had been made 
to him at any time before or after trial, and he submitted that in 
making his confession and in his subsequent actions he was 
guided by his convictions and his sentiments, and that that 
showed clearly enough where his loyalties now lay. Nevertheless 
the committee advised the Home Secretary to revoke Fuchs s 
certificate of naturalization under the Act of 1948 on the ground 
that "it was not conducive to the public good" that he should 
remain a citizen of the United Kingdom. Fuchs let it be under 
stood that he was wounded to the heart. 

When he was released from prison he could have remained in 
England, for he was now a stateless person and could not have 
been deported; and he could certainly have found work in some 
laboratory, for many of his scientific friends were loyal to him. 
Instead he followed a course of action entirely natural, and only 
discreditable by reason of his protestations of passion for the 
Western way of life. On June 24, 1959, he boarded a Polish 
plane and flew to East Germany, where he joined his father in 
the town of Schonefeld. He gave a press conference at which he 
announced that he was still a Marxist and intended to become 
an East German citizen and work for the new society. Shortly 
afterwards he became deputy director of the East German Cen 
tral Institute for Nuclear Physics. It was the end of a polished 
performance; and if some credulous people had been deceived 


for some time into thinking him what he was not, it added 
nothing to the real injury he had done them. 

But there was just over the hill a multiple exhibit o profes 
sional espionage which was more depressing. In March 1961 the 
trial of the Portland spy ring brought five people into the dock 
at the Old Bailey on charges, not of violating the Official Secrets 
Act, but of something more serious: of conspiring "together and 
with other persons unknown for purposes prejudicial to the 
safety or interest of the state to communicate to other persons 
information which might be directly or indirectly useful to an 
enemy." No person convicted under the Official Secrets Act can 
receive more than fourteen years 5 imprisonment. It is to be 
noted that persons who commit treacherous acts have not been 
charged under the treason laws since the wartime cases were 
finished with, because for treason there is no punishment but 
death. The Homicide Law has abolished capital punishment for 
most categories of murder, but treason it did not touch. 

All of the five accused persons were professional spies, and the 
only two Britons among them represented the lowest grades of 
the profession. Harry Houghton was perhaps the most unattrac 
tive of all the betrayers of English trust, and Winifred Gee was 
hardly more winning, though both of them had the virtue of 
courage. Her bearing in court coerced a certain amount of re 
spect, and in the Royal Navy Houghton had risen to the rank of 
master of arms by reason of creditable behaviour on the Malta 
and Russian convoys. They were in the dock together because 
they were fellow clerks in Portland Dock Yard, which was a 
sufficiently mysterious happening. In 1945 Houghton retired 
from the Royal Navy and became a civil servant, clerking in a 
minor naval establishment for six years, and then being posted 
to Warsaw on the staff of the British naval attach^. This appoint 
ment was very odd indeed, for he was already a noisy and con 
spicuous drunk. In Poland drinks were cheap, and he became 
very drunk indeed. He beat up his wife, formed friendships with 
some sinister English-speaking Poles, made a lot of money on the 
black market, and was finally encountered by his chief conspic 
uously drunk on a Warsaw street in broad daylight He had been 
posted to Warsaw for three years, but after fifteen months he was 
sent home in disgrace. 

The consequences were as odd as the appointment had been. 


On arrival In England he was upgraded and made a permanent 
civil servant and posted to the Underwater Weapons Estab 
lishment at Portland. Even if it be admitted that the taxpayers 
duty is to maintain drunks who beat their wives and are scan 
dalously drunk on foreign streets, this was not the place to put 
an alcoholic extrovert. NATO had handed over to the British 
Navy the task of developing its underwater defence programme, 
and Portland was to be the centre of counter-submarine research. 
It was the nursery of numerous supersubtle devices, such as the 
sniffer apparatus (a device to detect submarines by tracing their 
Diesel fumes), which were an integral part of the West s ar 
moury, and not then shared by the Soviet Union. Fortunately 
not all this work had been concentrated in Portland during the 
five years Houghton was employed in the Underwater Weapons 
Establishment, but much of it had. It is feared by some authori 
ties that one of the most important among these devices, a 
method enabling low-flying helicopters to track submarines, was 
transfitted to Soviet agents during this period, though there is no 
evidence that Houghton was the transmitter. 

Two years before Houghton left the Underwater Weapons 
Establishment, a clerk working in the same department, named 
Miss Gee, was moved from stores to the drawing-office records sec 
tion, and they formed a close association. Miss Gee was in her 
early forties, short and plain, but not negligible as a personality. 
She lived with her aged mother and uncle and aunt, and the press 
and the lawyers regarded her as a starved spinster, drawn into 
the conspiracy only because Houghton gave her the love she had 
always lacked. It is true that Houghton s wife formed the dark 
est suspicions of their relations, that about that time she di 
vorced him, and that afterwards Houghton and Miss Gee became 
engaged, and it is probable that when they went on pub crawls, a 
pastime to which they were addicted, the evening often termi 
nated in embraces. But when Miss Gee met Houghton she was 
engaged to a carpenter in a fair way of business, a much more 
attractive man than Houghton, who was baldish and pallid. It is 
probable that what really drew Houghton and Miss Gee together 
was a shared enthusiasm for spying as a profession. In Houghton 
this was the simple product of greed for money and enjoyment 
of roguery. In Miss Gee it was perhaps a little more complicated. 
She loved money too, but she had her resentments. At the trial 


in the Old Bailey, after sentence had been passed, she wanted to 
attract the attention of her counsel, and she rapped her pencil on 
the ledge of the dock. The gesture was full of fierce, unexpended 
power, of the rage felt by people who think that society has given 
them no opportunities to use their ability or be honoured for it. 

There was a great deal of money lying about to satisfy their 
greed. Houghton drew in pay about 750 a year and Miss Gee 
about 600. Houghton brought back 4000 from his fifteen- 
month stint in the British embassy in Warsaw, which he said was 
the product of black-market deals (including traffic in penicillin) 
and currency fiddling. Then he had a long run at Portland. In 
1957 he was removed from the Underwater Weapons Estab 
lishment for incompetence; but as he had been made a perma 
nent civil servant another job was found for him, this time in 
the Port Auxiliary Repair Unit. This gave him access to a good 
deal of all-round information, particularly after March 1960, 
when he was the only clerical officer in the department; and 
meanwhile Miss Gee was still at her useful post in charge of 
documents at the Underwater Weapons Establishment. It was 
Houghton s case that he did not begin to spy until 1957, when 
he was constrained to do so by threats of violence from Polish 
thugs. These thugs certainly existed; one was identified as second 
secretary of the Polish embassy in London. (In a moment of 
madness he gave his correct address to Houghton, who after his 
arrest handed it over to the police; it is not only the West that 
has its failures.) But we are under no obligation to take this 
story as pedantically accurate. Mr. Houghton was able to spend 
his salary on his drink bills, run a Renault Dauphine, buy a 
cottage for some thousands of pounds and furnish it well, with 
650 of banknotes in a tin in the garden shed and 500 in a tin 
box under the stairs as fancy touches, and fit himself out with 
expensive clothes. Poor Miss Gee did not do so well: but she had 
over 300 in her home and 1300 of recently acquired securities. 
The couple were doing well for what they were, and they were 
lowly compared with the man who was alleged to act as their con 
tact from the summer of 1960. 

This was Gordon Arnold Lonsdale, or, to be exact, that was 
who it was not In August 1924 a child had been born in Cobalt, 
Ontario, to a half-breed father and a Finnish immigrant, and 
given that name. Mr. and Mrs. Lonsdale separated, and the 


mother took her son back to Finland, and there he died, some 
time after he attained the age of sixteen, perhaps in the Finno- 
Russian war; but some documentary proof of his identity as a 
Canadian citizen survived and fell into the hands of the 
Russians. This may have been a joint passport covering his 
mother and himself. Meanwhile the son of a Soviet scientist 
named Molody, born in 1922, was having a curious upbringing. 
His story is one of a number which suggests that clever children 
are dedicated by their parents to service in the Soviet Intelli 
gence long before they can make such a decision for themselves, 
as we used to send our sons into the Navy, but at a still earlier 
age. Young Molody was sent by his mother at the age of eleven 
to live with her sister in California, who thereafter pretended he 
was her son. He stayed there for five years, attending a private 
school at Berkeley, and then was returned to the Soviet Union, 
where he was given a commission in the Red Navy and trained 
in espionage techniques. The Russians have always had a special 
interest in naval Intelligence since the days of Peter the Great, 
and the tradition was scarcely interrupted by the Revolution. 

What young Molody was doing up till the age of thirty-two is 
not known; but he then assumed Lonsdale s identity. The per 
sons responsible were not to know that among the few facts 
about young Lonsdale preserved in Canadian archives was a doc 
tor s record of his circumcision, so the assumption was not as 
complete as, in a London prison years later, Molody must have 
wished. He made an illegal entry into Vancouver from a Soviet 
grain-freighter and spent three months converting himself into a 
Canadian with a present and a past. He brought plenty of 
money with him and was able to take his time, taking out first a 
driving license, then collecting such convincing documents as a 
membership card for the Young Men s Christian Association. 
Then, in January 1955, he acquired a Canadian passport, which 
was carelessly granted. The supporting affidavit was forged, and 
verification would have proved it. Once he had created his 
new identity, he took a bus to Niagara Falls and crossed the 
American border, obviously to contact one of the Soviet net 
works; and he was in London by March. 

Again he had plenty of money, and he set about to build up at 
leisure the personality of a Canadian businessman with affairs 
which involved frequent travel. He enrolled himself as a student 


of Chinese at the London University School of Oriental and 
African Studies, and did pursue this study for two sessions, end 
ing in 1957. He explained to the business friends he was cultivat 
ing that he hoped for a position with a large engineering firm 
trading with Communist China, which was to employ him on 
the sales staff. When he was asked what commission he was to be 
paid, he gave it as one-half per cent. This surprised his friends, 
for apparently the more probable figure would have been five to 
ten per cent, and hastily he explained that the orders would be 
so enormous that they would be most remunerative. As he would 
have had to sell a million pounds worth of machinery to make 
five thousand pounds, his friends still expressed surprise that he 
should put himself to the trouble of learning Chinese with no 
better prospect in view; Lonsdale was not unperceptive. He pres 
ently told them the plan had fallen through. 

This shows that even a Soviet agent is not always up to concert 
pitch, and indeed Molody s impersonation of Lonsdale was far 
from perfect. He looked obstinately like a Russian, like the dark, 
thick-trunked, strong Russians Londoners can see any day walking 
down Kensington Palace Gardens or up in Highgate. Many people 
who encountered him remarked on this; and when he made 
his statement from the dock in the Old Bailey it became clear 
that he could not have been taken for a Canadian of Slav 
descent, because he had nothing like a Canadian accent. He did 
not even speak with the accent he might have been expected to 
have acquired in California when he was a child. He spoke a 
kind of English many of us have heard from refugees, the Eng 
lish of those who have learned our tongue in their own countries 
from American teachers. When he met Canadians, he put up a 
story that he had spent many years as a lumberjack, which would 
enable them to account for anything odd they might note in 
him, anything outside their own code, as due to a class 
difference. But his main cover was an active interest in the less 
stately kind of business enterprise and the kind of companions 
which it brought him. He rented out juke-boxes, financed the 
exploitation of a car security lock, and in 1956 bought a control 
ling interest hi a firm which, God forgive it, made bubble-gum 
machines. He travelled abroad for the purpose, his unfortunate 
co-directors believed, of soliciting orders. They were surprised 
that he brought back so few. 


Actually, the company, which had been prosperous until Lons- 
dale joined it, fell on evil days and was wound up in March 
1960. Frequently before this and afterwards he gave signs that he 
was in financial difficulties. In 1958 he asked an acquaintance in 
the timber trade to lend him 400 so that he could pay off some 
hire-purchase debts. Another time he arranged for an overdraft 
at a branch of the Midland Bank. In August 1960 he bought a 
Studebaker from a garage in the Harrow Road, traded in a 
Standard for an allowance of 270, pled inability to pay the cash 
difference, and handed over instead a suite of furniture. Actually 
his regular allowance, which amounted to several thousand 
pounds a year, was still coming regularly from Canada. But he 
seemed to be wholly absorbed in starting up mediocre business 
deals, womanizing, and engaging in the minor social festivities, 
for which he had a great gift. He would have been the life and 
soul of a gala night at any Thames Valley hotel. His enjoyment 
of wine, women, and song seems to have been genuine enough, but 
his poverty was assumed. When his flat in the White House, 
Albany Street, was searched, large sums of money were found. He 
and the two other members of the espionage firm who had been 
planted in London by the Soviet Union had at their disposal 
vast resources. 

These two others were the attractive Mr. and Mrs. Cohen, 
whom the FBI knew as associates of the Rosenbergs and Colonel 
Abel, but they were no longer Morris and Lona Cohen. They 
had become Peter John and Helen Joyce Kroger, and they lived 
in a comfortable bungalow with a neat garden in the suburb of 
Ruislip, which is ten or twelve miles from the centre of London, 
not far from the Third United States Air Force Headquarters. 
Morris Cohen was one of those American-born children of Rus 
sian immigrants, like Harry Gold, who turned against the coun 
try which had treated them and their parents not unhandsomely, 
and very readily served the Communist Party in its most subver 
sive aspect. He had had a comfortable enough youth. His father 
kept a thriving vegetable store in the Bronx; he became a foot 
ball star on the outstanding team of the James Monroe High 
School, got a football scholarship to the University of Mis 
sissippi, became a student trainer to the team when he in 
jured his leg and could no longer be a player, graduated in 
science, and then went to take another degree, this time in social 


studies, at the University of Illinois. But in 1937 he enlisted in 
the Communist-dominated Abraham Lincoln Brigade which 
went out to fight in the Spanish Civil War, and thereafter com 
munism was his faith, his bread-and-butter, his way of life. 

On the victory of Franco he returned to America, worked as a 
security guard in the Soviet exhibition at the 1940 New York 
World s Fair, married Lona, the Communist daughter of Polish 
immigrants, and took a post in the New York office of Amtorg, 
the Soviet trading corporation. When America came into the war 
he went into the Army and cooked for the forces in Alaska, 
Canada, and England. He came back in 1945, and he and his 
wife were recruited into the Rosenberg spy ring, while he took 
advantage of the veterans 5 educational grant scheme to take a 
teacher s diploma while teaching in a New York Board of Educa 
tion school. In 1950, after Harry Gold had been arrested and had 
led the FBI to Greenglass, the Rosenbergs gave the Cohens the 
signal to leave. They closed their bank accounts, cashed their 
saving bonds, and fled their apartment in such haste that Lena 
Cohen went off without her jewellery and cosmetics and with 
very few of her clothes. The FBI searched for the Cohens then, 
and again seven years later, when they found their photographs 
and dossiers in Abel s files, but in vain. 

It is thought that they went to Australia and to New Zealand. 
At any rate they reappeared in 1954 in Austria, under the name 
of Kroger. They wrote to the New Zealand embassy in Paris and 
asked for passports, giving forged birth certificates and a mar 
riage license in the name of New Zealand citizens who had died 
some time before. They then travelled to Hong Kong and Ja 
pan, returned to Paris, and then entered England to settle down 
in temporary quarters and look for a permanent home. A year 
later Kroger began to make appearances in the book auction 
rooms and to establish himself as an antiquarian bookseller. He 
must have spent the intervening year in acquiring the technique 
of the trade, for this was not a revival of any interest he had 
shown in earlier days. He set himself up in an office in the 
Strand, having meanwhile bought the Ruislip bungalow, which 
had been built by a retired official of the Indian police with 
more regard for comfort and solidity than most of its kind. 
Though there was to be ample evidence that they were not short 
of means, they did not buy the bungalow outright. It cost some- 


thing under 5000 and 4000 of this was on mortgage, of which 
they had paid off 1000 five years later. There had to be no sign 
of easy funds. 

In 1958 Peter Kroger had a small but healthy business with a 
stock worth several thousand pounds, but he gave up his office 
and used his home as headquarters. It may well have been that 
he and his wife wanted to keep a close watch on the bungalow, 
which was so stuffed with the tools of espionage that it was one 
of the most interestingly congested buildings in all history since 
the Ark. The place was protected like a prison with burglar- 
proof bolted locking devices which could, of course, be explained 
by the necessity of satisfying the insurance companies with whom 
Kroger had taken out policies for his books. Within there were 
many documents, some in cipher, some clear, some microfilms, 
and a microscope for reading microfilms, and inside a Bible a 
piece of do-it-yourself microfilm, made of cellophane coated with 
a chemical used in photography and easily obtainable. In a 
bedroom there was a flex fifty feet long with plug and bulb. 
There was a hip-flask with a concealed compartment containing 
iron oxide, which is used for sprinkling on magnetic tape to 
show up Morse code messages. There were flashlights which 
turned out to be hiding places for film. There was a Ronson 
lighter which contained two film negatives which were schedules 
for broadcasts to Moscow, with call-signs based on the names of 
Russian towns and rivers, as well as six rolls of the sort of cipher 
pad which had been found in Colonel Abel s room in the Hotel 
Latham in New York, these coated with a chemical which ignites 
at low temperature. There was a short-wave radio with peculiar 
arrangements for listening through headphones on high-fre 
quency bands. In the bathroom there was another microdot 
reader, hidden in a box of face powder. In the attic there were 
apples and a seventy-five-foot-long aerial; there was a 200 cam 
era. Dotted about the house were 200 in 5 notes, $2563 in cash, 
and another 120 in mixed traveller s checks. 

In the kitchen floor, hidden by a refrigerator, was a trapdoor. 
It led down to what had been the last owner s unfinished effort 
to make himself a wine-cellar. Under a heap of rubble was a 
concrete slab four inches thick, and under that a board, and 
under that a hole with five bags in it. One contained a wireless 
transmitter, of no commercial brand, powerful enough to broad- 


cast direct to Moscow. It had an automatic playing device which 
made possible high-speed transmission, and thus had the effect of 
baffling any detector beam. There were also a number of film 
rolls, a camera, chemicals, and $6000 in $20 bills. Later another 
$4000 were to turn up. In all there was about "7000 in the house. 

The house also contained seven passports: one was British, 
dated 1951, bearing a serial number never issued; the two pass 
ports fraudulently obtained from the New Zealand embassy in 
Paris in 1954; two American passports; and two Canadian pass 
ports, issued in June and September 1956, to Thomas James 
Wilson, storekeeper, and Mary Jane Smith, secretary. Some of 
these were exquisitely forged. Attached to them were notes on 
the conveniently slovenly attitude of the British and the Cana 
dians towards Canadian passport-holders. 

In Lonsdale s flat in the White House there was the type 
writer which had typed some of the documents in the Krogers* 
house, and there was another microdot reader in a powder box, 
and another dummy flashlight that held signal plans. He had, of 
course, a banking account, but in a secret pocket in a belt there 
were fifteen $20 bills and in the roller of a Chinese scroll hung 
above his bed there was $1800: in all, over 700. He had another 
215 and $300 on him when he was arrested. It was put forward 
as an explanation of these last sums that he was about to use 
them as part payment for two tons of Spearmint chewing gum, 
but many of us, should we wish to acquire two tons of Spearmint 
chewing gum, would have a difficulty in finding that much 

The cost of espionage is a vast tax laid upon the peoples of the 
world; and in this case more has to be allowed for than the cost 
of this equipment and the total amount of the cash. The Kro- 
gers may have made a fair profit out of their bookselling 
business, but their English friends and acquaintances, belonging 
to the same world and knowing how the ledgers run, assumed 
from the scale of their expenditure that they must have private 
means. There were at any rate five years between their flight 
from New York and their arrival in England when, wandering 
over the face of the earth, they cannot have followed any gainful 
employment. Lonsdale s picayune and ailing enterprises cannot 
at any time have covered a fraction of his outgoings. All these 
people had enormous travelling expenses. Money was being 


poured out like water and ran away like water poured on sand. 
For it was spent to steal defensive secrets with such cunning that 
the robbed felt more and more need for defence, and more and 
more need to be secretive, and the robbers felt more and more 
need to steal. But, as the Old Bailey showed, it was not money 
alone that was being wasted. 

What brought the five spies into the dock is not known with 
any certainty, except that it was not the work of MLj. A story is 
told that it was the accidental result of a police inquiry of quite 
a different nature. It is said that a photographer at the Under 
water Weapons Establishment reported to the local Admiralty 
police that he had received a scurrilous anonymous letter on 
dockyard notepaper and suggested that it might be from Hough- 
ton, who had sometimes seemed to bear him a grudge; and that 
the Admiralty constable in charge of the investigation found 
that Houghton had nothing to do with the letter but was struck 
by the rate at which he was spending money. But this is proba 
bly a legend, put into currency to hide the fact that the clue came 
from a defecting Soviet naval officer whose identity was then still 
being kept a secret. Whatever the mechanism may have been, the 
Special Branch, headed by Superintendent George Smith, 
watched Houghton and Miss Gee each time they came up to 
London to meet Lonsdale, with a shopping bag which was full of 
documents when they arrived and full of purchases when they 
left. On January 7 it showed its hand and arrested the three of 
them, and on the same day took Mr. and Mrs. Kroger from the 
house in Cranley Drive, which had been under surveillance for 
some time. 

The five accused persons took the course, unusual in cases of 
such a nature in the English court, of pleading not guilty, 
and Houghton and Miss Gee chose to give evidence on their 
own behalf. It was evident that nothing would have stopped 
them. They may have stampeded the others into their pleas 
of not guilty, for they were very obstinate. Houghton obviously 
thought he was clever enough to get out of the charges and 
planned to use his evidence as proof of how willing he had 
been to assist the authorities. Miss Gee insisted on going into 
the witness box out of sheer combativeness; and indeed her 
testimony was oddly winning. This is how she described her 
arrest outside Waterloo: 


We were absolutely swooped on. At that time, I could not 
imagine what it was. I thought they were Teddy boys. Mr. Smith 
stood out. I could not imagine how one gentleman came to 
be mixed up with a lot of Teddy boys. There was so much noise 
I could not hear a word. I did not know who they were. 

This is how Dickens might have made a genteel spinster 
react to a brush with the constabulary; and there is grace in the 
invitation she extends to Superintendent Smith to share the 
shelter of her umbrella of gentility. 

But Lonsdale and the Krogers elected not to give evidence; 
and they would have been better advised if they had not exer 
cised the right of accused persons to make statements from the 
dock which are not under oath and cannot be cross-examined. 
Londsdale s statement was disillusioning. He had great physical 
distinction in his way, a bodily self-respect which survived 
difficult circumstances. After weeks in prison he looked as if he 
could have walked out of the Old Bailey to the nearest tennis 
court and played a good hard game. But he dropped much of his 
distinction as soon as he began his statement. His way of speak 
ing was commonplace, even a little vulgar, and he was making 
too obvious a bid for the jury s sympathy. It was his claim that 
the Krogers had never understood the nature of the espionage 
equipment in their house and that he had asked them to keep it 
for him, because his service flat at the White House was entered by 
the domestic staff. As for the hole under the kitchen floor, he 
had made it himself, while the Krogers were away, and had put 
the radio transmitter there. Then it had occurred to him that 
the use he was making of the Krogers* house might get them 
into trouble, so he provided the false passports for them and hid 
them in the house. This preposterous story could have been told 
only in the hope that the jury was one of those assemblies of 
idiots which, in stern fulfilment of the law of probabilities, some 
times fills the jury box, or in the other hope that the judge and 
jury might think: what a nice, gallant man, of course he is not 
telling the truth, but he is trying to take on himself the blame of 
his comrades. 

This, however, was simply professionalism. He had to give his 
side the opportunity of taking these two chances: of a jury who 
was imbecile, of a judge and jury who were susceptible. What the 
Krogers did was more wounding. They were an impressive cou- 


pie, engaged in some ferocious struggle with reality, from which 
they were trying to extort an admission that it was at some point 
quite different from what was generally supposed. The man, 
with his white hair winding round his head like a gleaming 
bandage, was like a figure in one of Stanley Spencer s apocalyp 
tic paintings; and his wife, a handsome, Rubensish woman, had 
the busy air developed by pious wives who have to cope with the 
problems arising out of their husbands even greater piety. They 
might have belonged to the more puritanic type of nudist, who 
hold it positively wrong to wear clothes, or they might have 
believed the earth was flat, or they might have spoken with the 
dead at stances. Though by the luck of the draw communism 
was their chosen form of dissent, they held this secular faith so 
strongly that it gave them distinction of a religious sort. 

When Mr. Kroger addressed the court he spoke like the 
dignified fanatic that he was. He claimed that he had been 
absorbed in his business to the exclusion of everything else, and 
indeed he talked about it at such length, in such detail, with 
such pride, that he sounded like a man obsessed. Such a man 
might well overlook anything that his young friend Lonsdale 
was doing about the house, for he was concentrating on his books 
all day, even late into the evenings. He added little touches to 
his story which lent conviction to the picture of a life voluntarily 
confined within certain limits and not less contented for that. 
When he said that his wife s hobby was photography he men 
tioned that she took pictures of the booksellers cricket team, 
which was indeed a great interest of his. He ended his statement 
by saying: 

We answered the police as truthfully and straightforwardly 
as humanly possible. 

He had said earlier: 

Neither my wife or I engaged in spying or any activities 
which may be considered or regarded as irregular. 

Then Mrs. Kroger, in a clear and beautiful voice, made a 
statement less convincing because it was feminine to a degree 
attained more easily by women s magazines than by women. She 
stuck to the cozily concrete. She described Lonsdale as winning 
her friendship by carrying in the coals and helping her with the 


washing-up; she spoke of throwing on an apron and preparing a 
late lunch for her husband. She explained that she used the 
seventy-five-foot flex in the attic when she was lagging the roof 
and checking the apples she stored up there. As for the hole in 
the kitchen floor, she had only seen it once, when the plumber 
explored it. She ended up with the words: 

I took care of my home, helped my husband in business. I 
know nothing of spying and never had anything to do with 
such things. 

These two people made their statements in the full knowledge 
that if the jury was unconvinced and found them guilty, their 
records would be read by a police officer before the judge passed 
sentence, and they would be proved liars. That is exactly what 
happened. The next day the court was told that they were the 
Cohens and had been Soviet agents for the best part of twenty 
years. This was quite horrible, for these people were committed 
to principle, and wished to be so. If they had to be defeated they 
should have borne themselves like classical martyrs, not with lies, 
and unavailing ones at that, on their lips. But it was impossible 
to feel indignant with the Krogers, because one cannot feel harsh 
emotions toward people who have been sentenced to what might 
be imprisonment for life, and because they were not free agents. 

Had they wanted to stop being Soviet spies, they could hardly 
have done so. Had they wanted to walk out of that Ruislip 
bungalow, they would have had no place to go except a police 
station, which by this time in their careers might have been 
unwilling to receive them simply as defectors. They had to stay 
still and take their punishment, and they could not take it in the 
way that would have come natural to them, because they were 
not only fanatics but professional spies, like Lonsdale; and, like 
him, they had for professional reasons to act on the assumption 
that the jury might be imbecile and believe a lying story of their 
innocence. It would have protected the interests of their client, 
the Soviet Union, had they been acquitted and gone out of court 
with their records undisclosed. For that reason they had to be 
tray then: own worth and dignity. 

The jury was not imbecile. All five prisoners were found guilty 
of the conspiracy charges, and Lonsdale was sentenced to twenty- 
five years of imprisonment; the Krogers got twenty years; Hough- 


ton and Miss Gee got fifteen years. Between them they had to 
contribute 4000 towards the court costs. The fraudulent pleas 
had been of no avail, and perhaps some other spuriousness had 
been wasted too. When Mrs. Kroger was arrested at her bunga 
low, she asked Superintendent Smith if she might stoke the 
boiler before she left, a simple-minded request for an expe 
rienced agent. Naturally it led to an immediate search of her 
handbag and the finding of several microfilms of letters to Lons- 
dale from his wife, and an ordinary longhand letter from him to 
her, which presumably Mrs. Kroger had been about to reduce to 
microdots. They were among some not very important code 

His wife, Galyusha, was full of complaints. She longed for her 
husband to return to her, telling him how his little boy, Trofim, 
said to her, "When is Daddy coming home? And why has he 
gone away? And what a stupid job Daddy has got." He also has 
a little girl of twelve, Liza, who is feeling his absence. 

For the first time in six years at school Liza brought home a 
school report with four "threes" for geometry, algebra, English, 
and party training, the rest are fours. You cannot imagine how 
this upset me, considering that the high school is not far in the 
offing. . . . Liza has got completely out of hand. Yesterday I 
was called to the school. She failed to attend the last two les 
sons, and was roaming about somewhere during these hours. 

One has an uneasy feeling that one has read something very 
like this before, and so one has. This is a case history of a child 
becoming delinquent for want of her father s presence, as stark as 
the case history of a daughter with a father fixation in the letters 
from Colonel Abel s family found (also with some not very impor 
tant code documents) in his hollow pencil. There is a curious 
resemblance in style throughout the letters; and there is one 
feature common to both which is surprising. It is true that the 
wives of Abel and Lonsdale must have lived in aching apprehen 
sion of the calamity which arose out of their employment and 
which eventually befell them. But would they constantly write to 
their husbands and candidly express their desire that they should 
leave the KGB, when all their letters were bound to be read by 
several other employees of the KGB? Supposing that the wife of 
a member of MI6 who was on a secret mission were sending him 


letters which she knew had to be opened and microfilmed by 
other MI6 agents, would she be likely to fill those letters with 
complaints of her loneliness and the inability of the family to 
get on without their father? Would he, answering, complain (as 
Lonsdale did in the letters found in Mrs. Kroger s handbag) of 
his loneliness? 

It may seem far-fetched to suggest that both sets of letters were 
prepared in advance, to be discovered if and when the agent and 
his arsenal were discovered, to have just the effect that the Abel 
family letters had on the jury that was trying him: to make them 
regard the spy as a good patriot and a man like themselves, who 
is making the same sacrifices for his country as the soldier on a 
jungle post or the Navy man on an Arctic station, and should 
enjoy a like respect. Only at one point does it seem likely that the 
Lonsdale letters are what they seem; his letter to his wife 
makes an allusion to his mother s having sent him "to the 
nether regions" in 1932, which can be presumed to refer to her 
curious act of sending him to California as her sister s son. But 
on the other hand, in 1962, when President Kennedy exchanged 
Abel for Powers, the U-2 pilot who had been captured when he 
crashed on Soviet territory, Mrs. Abel took an important part in 
the preliminary negotiations, and the letters she then wrote 
seemed, as Mr. Donovan reveals in his illuminating book, Stran 
gers on a Bridge, curiously unlike the letters she was writ 
ing to her husband in jail. Mr. Donovan s bewilderment in 
creased when he went to East Berlin to negotiate the exchange 
and was introduced to Mrs. Helen Abel and her daughter Lydia 
(Evelyn) and a male cousin. The women s conversation baffled 
him, and the male cousin was under the impression that the 
wife s name was Lydia, the daughter s name was Helen, and that 
the daughter had never married. 

There was to appear yet another parallel between the cases of 
Abel and Lonsdale. On February 10, 1962, Abel was exchanged 
for Powers, an exchange which, according to many Americans, 
was quite unfair and amounted to robbery. For the United States 
was giving back to the Soviet Union a brilliantly intelligent and 
highly trained agent whose mind must have been packed with 
knowledge of American conditions, and was receiving a man who 
could not be described in ahaiogous terms. But obviously the 


United States government regarded it as of paramount impor 
tance to know what had happened to the U-2 plane which had 
crashed near the industrial centre Sverdlovsk in May 1960, and 
had to swallow the Soviet Union s betrayal of its conviction that 
it would be well worth its while to recover Abel. 

On April 22, 1964, Lonsdale was exchanged for Greville 
Wynne, an English businessman who in May 1963 had been 
sentenced by a Moscow court to eight years imprisonment for 
espionage. He was alleged to have acted as a courier for Oleg 
Penkovsky, a Soviet scientist who had been charged with acting 
as a British agent and was found guilty and is said to have been 
shot. As the facts of this case are not known, it is impossible to 
describe it or discuss it. But it may be mentioned that a govern 
ment often cannot, for security reasons, explain why it wishes to 
recover an agent. The Soviet people would not expect to be told, 
but a Western people would demand an explanation, and public 
confidence would be shaken if it were not forthcoming. For that 
reason it might be laid down that the exchange of persons con 
victed of espionage is undesirable in principle. But it would be 
hard to adhere to that principle. 

AFTER the Portland spy trial a storm of indigna 
tion broke in Parliament and the press. The day after the trial 
the Daily Mail printed these words on the front page, pointing 
out the gravity of its revelations regarding Admiralty security, 
and its consequences: 

[It] is regarded as the worst penetration of our security 
system since Klaus Fuchs gave the atom-bomb secrets to Rus 
sia. . . . There will undoubtedly be serious repercussions on 
Anglo-American relations. It is only recently that the Ameri 
cans have got over their mistrust of British security caused by 
the Fuchs case, the Pontecorvo case, and Burgess and Maclean. 

The faults were blatant. Neither Houghton nor Miss Gee had 
been screened by security when they went to work at the Under- 


water Weapons Establishment. Not that that mattered in the case 
of Miss Gee. It is a proof of the limited value of all security pre 
cautions, which have to deal with human nature at its most mys 
terious, that she would have passed any such test like a bird. But 
Houghton would not, for he had been sent back from Warsaw 
because the naval attach^ considered his Falstaffian habits made 
him a security risk. It emerged that when the Underwater 
Weapons Establishment, after five years, revolted against the 
continued presence of Houghton, it had taken them six months to 
get the Civil Service Commissioners to shift him. Meanwhile, his 
wife had over a long period remarked the number of confidential 
documents her husband was bringing home and had begged him 
not to do it. As a service wife she knew that she herself might have 
been implicated, had he been discovered, and indeed she might 
have found herself in the same position as Mrs. Kroger. She dis 
closed her anxiety to more than one official, and a security officer 
afterwards said that yes, he had disregarded certain rumours of 
Houghton s suspicious behaviour. But he added: 

These rumours came from his wife, who said Houghton was 
spying, and was reading Naval documents of a confidential 
nature at his home. But I did not pay too much attention to 
these rumours. They were based on allegations by Mrs. 
Houghton, who had no cause to love her husband. 

In the course of this post-mortem a security officer made the 
astonishing remark that he had heard these rumours but had not 
passed them on to the Director of Naval Intelligence in London, 
because "it all sounded like a novel and I was afraid that the 
laws of slander would be invoked if I recommended an investiga 
tion into his activities." The speaker was a man with a long and 
distinguished record, and what he said meant that he had been 
made a security officer in the last years of his service and had not 
been properly trained. He was the only security officer at the 
base, and had appealed for assistants to the Admiralty, but his 
requests had been disregarded. 

The Labour Opposition made much of this lamentable situa 
tion and demanded the resignation of the First Lord of the 
Admiralty, Lord Canington, as required by the doctrine of 
ministerial responsibility. This doctrine is an interesting exam 
ple of the self-creating power of the British Constitution. It 


means, according to the persons who invoke it in the Houses of 
Parliament and parts of the press, that the minister in charge of 
any department must take on himself the blame for any blunder 
committed by his subordinates, even if he had no part in making 
it and had known nothing about it. Strictly speaking, no such 
doctrine exists. The great Professor Dicey says that there is in 
deed a doctrine of ministerial responsibility, but quite a different 
one: it simply holds that every minister is legally responsible for 
every act of the Crown in which he takes part. But Members of 
Parliament and political journalists keep on using the term in 
the incorrect sense, and as this gives us a handy instrument for 
getting rid of an incompetent minister, it remains with us, like 
the stray cat who proves a good mouser and acquires hearthrug 
rights. Such are the benefits of an unwritten constitution. It adds 
to the graciousness of the persons who confer on us this particu 
lar benefit that most of them are quite unconscious of the good 
they are doing. 

The attacks on Lord Carrington were very properly disre 
garded, for his record was immaculate. He had taken office in 
October 1959, and the security forces had started watching the 
Portland spy ring in February 1960, and nothing could be done 
to alter the security arrangements until the arrest of the spies. A 
committee of three was appointed to investigate the case, consist 
ing of Sir Charles Romer, former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir 
Harold Emmerson, a former permanent secretary to the Ministry 
of Labour, the recently retired Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Thistle- 
ton Smith. These gave birth in due time to the Romer Report, a 
document of great importance, since it was the first official admis 
sion that history had taken a sudden turn, and instead of walk 
ing along the safe road which we had thought was the only road, 
we were crossing a rope bridge over an abyss, without having 
acquired the relevant technique. 

The report pulled some of its punches. It seemed to take it for 
granted that Houghton should have been cherished in the bosom 
of our state; that the lion and the unicorn should have had to 
take responsibility for him in Warsaw. But it noted with ap 
propriate severity that nobody had ever told the Portland author 
ities why Houghton had been thrown out of Poland; that when, 
four years later, an allegation was made to Houghton s immedi 
ate superior that Houghton was taking home secret papers, this 


officer told nobody but suggested that his Informant should go to 
the security officer or to the police; that in 1956 Houghton had 
been twice reported to the authorities as a security risk, but the 
matter was blinked at rather than investigated, and an incom 
plete and misleading report was sent to the Admiralty, which 
should have detected at sight that someone was being silly and 
insisted on the matter being effectively pursued. True, it gave 
high praise to Ml5 and the Special Branch for their slow and 
sure engorgement of the spy ring. But that was all it could say 
on the credit side. After all, it was admitted that neither the 
Special Branch nor MI5 had actually discovered the existence of 
that spy ring. For that we have to thank either the Dorset constab 
ulary, for so productively pausing when in search of a poison pen, 
or a Soviet defector, according to which story one believes. 

The fact is we were stumped by a new situation. Now the 
insignificant human being and the unimpressive material object 
could inflict crucial danger on Britain. Of course the bomb- 
throwing Fenians and Anarchists of the nineteenth century were 
dangerous; but they were aliens. The only way that Houghton, 
a homekeeping native mediocrity, could have been a menace in 
the past would have been for him to pretend to be someone else 
of greater importance, like Perkin Warbeck. He could not con 
ceivably have been a peril to the English defences against the 
Armada, nor to Nelson s fleet. Nor could the bungalow in Cranley 
Drive have threatened an Armageddon. At most, a private conflict 
might have confided to the attic or the hole in the kitchen floor 
two or three corpses. But today there are millions of people as 
commonplace as Houghton who, by their employment in certain 
factories or offices, have access to documents which can deliver us 
over to death, with help provided from an arsenal concealed 
behind the most innocent piece of half-timbering in suburbia. It 
is not, of course, that only the small fry like Houghton can 
betray their people; Burgess and Maclean and their friends 
proved that. But what is new is that the small fry also have the 
power of betrayal, having now access to secrets which can be 
betrayed and are worth betraying. Science, adding to our ar 
moury, continually demands more mechanics and more clerks, 
and with every demand makes the problem of security more 
difficult to solve. 

It may be described as difficult, but need not be described as 


insoluble. The Portland spy ring could never have formed if 
certain simple rules had been observed. Houghton and Miss Gee 
would have had nothing to give Lonsdale if the "snap-check" 
system had been regularly carried out and the workers in the 
Underwater Weapons Establishment and the Repair Unit had 
been stopped at irregular intervals and been obliged to show 
what they had on them; and if there had been any check on the 
files during week-ends. Lonsdale would have been harder to frus 
trate, but there were two points at which he might have taken a 
fall. His application for a Canadian passport was not properly 
scrutinized, for it bore a forged name for reference. The existing 
Canadian law should have trapped him then, and there should 
be a law in Great Britain to have trapped him later, when a com 
pany of which he was a director went bankrupt. 

In the spring of 1961 the quickening march past of spies must 
have caused in the British government some such emotions as the 
Eastern European states felt in the early Middle Ages when 
they found themselves helpless before Asiatic hordes making 
a new use of mounted men not as individuals but as cavalry. 
Espionage of this modern sort, the use of scientific method by 
the powers to steal each other s secrets, with each theft impairs 
the robbed state s defences as thoroughly as if it had fought and 
been defeated. It might be thought that such defeats make an 
agreeable substitute for the older type, since they are bloodless; 
but a succession of such bloodless defeats might lead to the total 
defencelessness of a state and a final eclipse in slaughter and 
enslavement. But this is not the only danger. The counterespio 
nage in any state with secrets worth stealing is likely to be effec 
tive to a certain degree, but here, as in many other fields, attack 
is much easier than defence. This means that there is a theft here 
and a theft there, and then detection and a pause, during which 
the robbed state tries to recover lost ground by tightening up 
security measures and by readjustments and frenzied stepping up 
of the arms programme, while there is an unprofitable embitter- 
ment of feeling against the robber state, inimical to the estab 
lishment of world political peace, which is the only cure for this 

Here it must be remembered that it is folly to feel any censo- 
riousness against the Soviet Union for its espionage record. Like 


Great Britain, like the United States, like all modern states, the 
Soviet Union has had this form of spying forced on it by history. 
On the other hand, after the discovery of a bad case of espionage 
a section of the public may doak its defeatist attitude by the 
pretence that all these spies are really nice people, idealists serv 
ing a brave new state, which has its little difficulties, and what 
they are doing is a peccadillo, like stealing flowers from a park to 
give to the patients in a hospital. This is not a state of mind that 
promotes the public good. It would have gone ill with us had 
this view been strongly held in the days of Nazi Germany, which 
also impressed many as doing its best for its people. 

George Blake, an important agent in MIS, was tried at the 
Old Bailey on May 3, 1961, and found guilty of such serious 
offences against the Official Secrets Act that he was sentenced to 
forty-two years of imprisonment (fourteen years on each of three 
counts), which is the longest term of imprisonment imposed in a 
British court for a hundred and fifty years. At first it looked as if 
the moral of this case was that we could trust nobody. For 
George Blake was an attractive man. An eminent lawyer present 
at the trial (which was held in camera) said sadly: "He looked 
the kind of man I would have been glad to have in my house." 
Blake had a story to account for his treachery which aroused 
some sympathy. It was told at length by his wife, the daughter of 
a retired Army officer, whom he had married in 1954, when she 
had been employed at the Foreign Office. After his conviction 
she sold an account of her married life to the Sunday Telegraph, 
and it began with a disarming passage: 

I had no idea my husband was acting as an agent for the 
Russians. But when they told me that he had betrayed the 
secrets of my country it never crossed my mind that they had 
made a mistake. I didn t say, "You must have got hold of the 
wrong man, it can t be true/ As I thought back to George s 
background and to the 6i/ years of our very happy life, it all 
fitted in somehow. 

Nobody can doubt that Mrs. Blake believed the story she told, 
least of all her touching and proud account of how her husband 
had been converted to communism when he was a prisoner in 
the hands of the Chinese Communists. In 1948, as an established 
member of the Foreign Office, he had been given his first appoint- 


ment as vice-consul at Seoul, South Korea, which was a cover for 
his real duties as MI6 representative. In 1950 he was arrested 
together with his chief, Sir Vivian Holt, and a mixed bag includ 
ing among others the French minister and his staff, many ec 
clesiastics and missionaries, monks and nuns, a well-known jour 
nalist, Mr. Philip Deane of The Observer, a famous Jewish sur 
geon from Vienna, and a hotel manager. They spent the next 
three years mixed with Korean prisoners in a prison compound 
near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, getting the rough 
est of treatment, housed in hovels, underfed, beaten, exposed to 
the heat in summer and the chill of winter in a country of 
climatic extremes, alive with vermin and untended in sickness. 
The prisoners were also exposed to some brainwashing, which 
oddly enough was administered by an official who afterwards 
defected to the United States, and they were given as their only 
reading matter magazines celebrating the fame and glory of the 
Red Dean of Canterbury and Mrs. Monica Felton, and the works 
of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin. 

It was Blake s story that this instruction, and the study of 
these books, converted him to communism, for the reason (he 
told his wife) that his heart had always been wrung by the 
sorrows of the poor, and the sight of Asiatic poverty had been an 
agonizing revelation to him. He then came to the conclusion 
that communism promised to improve the lot of the masses and 
decided therefore that he would become a Communist. After 
about eighteen months he went to his captors and told them so 
and dedicated himself to the cause. But, according to him, he 
made three conditions: that he should receive no privileges as a 
prisoner, that he should receive no payment for the information 
he provided, and that he should be asked to give no report on 
his fellow prisoners. From that time onwards he was a Soviet 

This story was in outline given great publicity and the most 
impressive sanction, even before his wife s articles were published. 
At his trial the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Parker, said: 

To quote his own words, he resolved to join the Communist 
side in establishing what he believed on balance a more just 
society. What he did was to approach the Russians and volun 
teer to work for them. 


When his appeal was heard, Mr. Justice Hilbery said: 

When he was a prisoner in Communist hands in Korea, the 
only works for him and his fellow-prisoners to read were those 
of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, so poisoning to him that 
he decided to remain in the pay and service of this country, 
and by every means in his power to betray it and by that 
method to help the cause he had secretly espoused. 

In Parliament Mr. Harold Macmillan (who has rarely been 
properly briefed when he has addressed the House on matters con 
cerning espionage) told Members of Parliament: 

Blake received no money for his services. He was never at 
any time a member of the Communist Party, or any of its affili 
ated organizations. What he did was done as the result of a 
conversion to a genuine belief in the Communist system. In 
these circumstances, suspicion would not easily be aroused in 
relation to a man who had served his country well for some 
eight years, who gave every appearance of leading a normal 
and respectable life, but who had decided to betray his country 
for ideological reasons. Indeed, having agreed to work for the 
Russians, he was careful not to arouse suspicion and to conceal 
his conversion to communism. 

But there is no reason to believe George Blake s story of his 
conversion to communism in the Korean prison camp, and 
strong reason to disbelieve it 

It was extremely unlikely that an intelligent man would re 
gard communism as likely to save the masses, when he daily saw 
how the Chinese Communists were treating such of the masses as 
were unlucky enough to find themselves in this prison camp. It 
was no rose garden. A large number of prisoners, including some 
elderly nuns, priests, and harmless peasants, some of them 
mothers with young babies, were subjected to prolonged hard 
ship varied by physical ill treatment amounting often to torture, 
and there were not a few murders. It would be hard to take all 
this as a wholesome prescription for the sorrows of the poor. As 
for the enlightening works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, 
this was not the first time that Blake had been exposed to them. 
He had been prepared for service in Soviet and satellite coun 
tries by a proper Foreign Office course, which included studies in 


the sacred books of communism planned by that brilliant expos 
itor the late Mr. Thomas Carew-Hunt. But even if he had been 
a humanitarian broken down by malnutrition and exhaustion to 
the point of accepting all the Communist claims he had learned 
to reject, his humanitarianism would hardly have consented to 
cany out the work which his Soviet employers then ordered him 
to do. For, after he was released from prison and returned to 
Europe, he was sent by MI6 to Berlin and there, for the benefit 
of the Soviet Union, he committed many acts which are alleged to 
have led to the imprisonment and in some cases to the death of 
German nationals who had trusted him and Great Britain. He is 
alleged to have given the Soviet Union the names of Germans 
working as agents for the West in East Germany, and he is alleged 
to have had a hand in the kidnapping of various prominent East 
German defectors who had sought refuge in the Western sector of 
Berlin. Such activities are an incredible result of such a high- 
minded conversion as his wife describes. 

A quite different interpretation of Blake s treachery is sug 
gested by his life story. He was the son of Albert Behar, who 
claimed to be a British subject. This man in 1922 married a 
Dutch lady called Catherine Beijderwellen, daughter of a good 
solid family, set up house with her in Holland, fathered George 
and two daughters, was always busy with some commercial ven 
ture which never went quite right, and died in 1936, leaving his 
family in straitened circumstances. Then Mrs. Behar, who had 
little knowledge of her husband s family, received a letter from a 
sister of his, the wife of a banker in Cairo, offering to take 
George into her home and give him a good education. The boy, 
who was just thirteen, was sent off to Egypt and once he got 
there sent home astounding news. His father had not been 
English; he was one of the fourteen children of a wealthy mer 
chant who was one of the Sephardi, that is a descendant of the 
Jews who were driven out of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella, 
and his family had been settled in Egypt for many generations. 
For some strange reason Albert Behar had left the parental roof 
and business to join the French Foreign Legion; later he joined 
the British Army during the First World War, and served as a 
French interpreter to the Royal Army Service Corps, being twice 
wounded and badly gassed. He certainly had a British passport, 
but this was either because of his war sendee or because his family 


had rendered services to the administration while Egypt was a 
British protectorate. All this was apparently as much news to the 
widowed Mrs. Behar as it was to the boy. 

According to George, his new-found relatives treated him well, 
though he may have resented the discovery that they had severed 
all connection with his father because he had married a Chris 
tian. At the beginning of 1939 he returned from Egypt to finish 
his education at Rotterdam, where he lived with his grand 
mother. His mother and sisters went on living at the home they 
had occupied when the father was still alive, a villa near The 
Hague. Thus it happened that, when the Germans invaded the 
Low Countries during the spring of 1940, he immediately lost 
touch with them. Mrs. Behar and her daughters were told by a 
friend, Commander D. W. Child, who was an Intelligence officer 
at the British embassy at The Hague, to go to the Hook of 
Holland, and there they were put on one of the three British 
destroyers which went to fetch the Dutch royal family and gov 
ernment and British residents in Holland and take them to 
England. George was almost at once arrested and put in a civil 
ian internment camp at Alkmuar, but after six months escaped, 
hid in his uncle s house for a short time, and then settled down 
on a farm where he could work with a resistance group. He took 
the name of Pieter de Vries. Presently he found that there was in 
the neighbouring town of Limburg a unit of what was known as 
the Orde Dienst, which was to become practically a secret militia, 
and he joined it. 

Thus he became involved in a curious enterprise called "Op 
eration North Pole," which was carried out by cooperation 
between the Dutch resistance groups, a secret-service section es 
tablished in London by the Dutch government-in-exile, called 
"Military Preparation for the Return," and the British secret 
services, in particular an organization formed by Churchill "to 
set Europe ablaze," called the Special Operations Executive. SOE 
had some successes and some lamentable failures; and of these 
last, Operation North Pole was the most lamentable. 

The cooperating bodies planned to send Dutch agents from 
London in planes by night, equipping each with his own radio 
transmitter, and drop them by parachute at prearranged spots, 
where they were to be met by members of the resistance groups 
and led to places of safety where they could radio back reports of 


German movements to England. Should they be captured by the 
Germans and made to radio back false messages to England, they 
were to obey, but they were to make certain mistakes according 
to a code (for example, make an error of substituting one vowel 
for another in the second sentence from the beginning of the 
message and two in the next-but-one sentence). Thus London 
would know that the message was being sent under compulsion 
and would revise its plans for dropping the agents. There was no 
mistake about this arrangement. Every agent received instruction 
in these terms. But very soon after Operation North Pole began, 
some of the parachutists were captured by the Germans and 
made to send false messages to London. They made the agreed 
signals. But London disregarded them. 

It kept on dispatching Dutch agents, who kept on being cap 
tured as soon as they were dropped. Out of fifty-four agents, 
brave and patriotic Dutchmen, fifty fell into German hands. One 
of them was George Louis Jambroes, a leader of the resistance, 
adored by his countrymen. They fell into the hands of unusually 
merciful German Army Intelligence officers who treated them 
quite well; but, as the end approached, the SS hustled them out 
of the Army jails, and forty-seven were put to death in the 
extermination camp at Mauthausen. This grim tragedy caused 
great feeling among the Dutch. After the war it was the subject 
of a Parliamentary inquiry in Holland which lasted for several 
years. Its investigation could hardly hope to recover the clear-cut 
truth about the proceedings of several organizations, all unre 
corded for bad and for good reasons, particularly when of the 
fifty men who could have thrown light on what really happened 
only three survived. But the report ascribes much blame, very 
nearly all the blame, to the gross blunders of the SOE, caused, it 
alleges, "by lack of experience, utter inefficiency, and the disre 
gard of elementary security rules." 

At first sight the most likely explanation of this hideous misad 
venture seems to be German infiltration of one of the cooperat 
ing bodies in London. But the German Army Intelligence organ 
izations knew nothing of any such success on their part. They 
were amazed at the phenomenon which was dropping these men 
into their laps. They had no contacts in London who could have 
been responsible for the failure to pick up the warning signals. 
German Intelligence officers gave evidence on this point with 


great candour, showing a professional desire to get at the bottom 
of the mystery and a professional sympathy for the men who 
were taken from their regulated professional care and butchered 
by those barbarian amateurs, the SS. We are left to consider the 
possibility that this was one of the cases where members of the 
resistance groups wished their movement to be wholly Commu 
nist, in order that it might become a revolutionary force at the 
end of the war and take over the government of all countries, as 
the partisans took over Yugoslavia. Such plotting for the future 
led on occasion in France to the murder of right-wing French 
parachutists who were sent over by the Free French in London. 
It was widespread enough to lead to the quasi-civil war following 
the liberation of France, which accounted for deaths estimated at 
anything between thirty thousand and one hundred thousand. 
There was also at that time an ugly situation in the Low Coun 
tries which the Allied commanders had to meet by the forcible 
disarming of the resistance groups. 

The situation must be contemplated with full regard for its 
complexity. Some men in Holland and in England would have 
wished the collaboration between Holland and the West to be 
broken, and all Dutch anti-Nazi passion to be diverted to the 
support of the Soviet Union. They would therefore wish to 
frustrate the Dutchmen who had gone to England to work with 
the Allies, and they could hardly have had a more convenient way 
of doing it than by interfering with Operation North Pole. It must 
be understood that not all Communists would be parry to this 
action. Many, it may be said most, would be horrified by it; some 
always, some only after the breach of the Stalin-Hitler pact by 
the invasion of Russia. It is certain that many officials of all and 
any Communist parties would never even hear of it. Some people 
who were strongly anti-Communist and pro-Nazi may have taken 
part in executing the plot The fact is that it was executed, and 
that George Blake, as an adolescent, was in touch with the men 
who were capable of executing it. He may not have understood 
what was happening. It is improbable that at his age he would 
have been told the truth. We can never know. What we do know is 
that these were the people and the forces which had the power 
to make use of him during that period. 

In 1942 Jambroes was dropped in Holland and immediately 
clapped into prison by the Germans, who then became alarmed 


lest the resistance movement should report back to London that 
it had not been able to establish contact with him. They there 
fore sent radio messages to London in Jambroes name, alleging 
that he was dissatisfied with the Dutch resistance leaders and 
would not meet them. London ordered him to return, which 
raised an embarrassing situation for the Germans. The false 
Jambroes sent London a refusal, and an SOE officer named Dess- 
ing, working in Holland, was told to contact him and send him 
back by France, Spain, and Gibraltar. Among those whom Dess- 
ing asked to find Jambroes was George Behar, who had on occa 
sion taken part in the arrangements for receiving the parachut 
ists. Almost at once he was ordered by another SOE officer to go 
to England, and in July 1942 he set out on the established route, 
going by Brussels to Paris, where he hid for a month in a Domin 
ican monastery, going out to collect false papers, then travelling 
south through unoccupied France for some months. Then he 
crossed the Pyrenees and reached the famous Miranda del Ebro 
camp where the escapees were interned. According to the usual 
drill, he wrote to the British embassy in Madrid; an official 
fetched him and sent him down to Gibraltar, where a British 
Intelligence officer scrutinized his credentials and put him 
aboard ship for England. He arrived in February 1943. He was 
twenty years old and this was the first time he had ever set foot 
on English soil. He was apparently a British subject, but not 
with finality. He was Dutch-born and under Dutch law could 
choose at twenty-one between British and Dutch nationality. 

Like all such arrivals, he was sent to the Royal Patriotic 
School at Wandsworth, the clearing-station where fugitives from 
Nazi-occupied countries were screened lest they were spies sent 
over by the Germans. He passed with flying colours and joined 
up with his mother at Northwood near London, where she was 
earning her living as companion to an old lady while her 
daughters went to school. It is after this that George Behar s 
story becomes so very strange. He insisted that he and the whole 
family should change their name to Blake, for some reason hard 
to fathom. A number of people called Behar are soundly British 
subjects, like their ancestors before them, and the late Mr. Behar 
had been a quite respectable person. It would have seemed inev 
itable that Blake should have then gone to work for the Dutch 
government-in-exile. But he was allowed to enlist in the Royal 


Navy, although his mother was an alien and he had been born 
and lived all his life in her native country and his father was not 
a British subject by birth. He was given a temporary commission 
in the RNVR and then put on parachute and submarine courses, 
but was physically unfit for either and ended up as an inter 
preter. Then he was abstracted by the SOE to work in their 
Dutch section. What work did he do? He handled Dutch agents 
who were to be dropped over Holland by parachute, briefing 
them and taking them down to the airfield from which their 
planes were dispatched. He had been in at the beginning of 
Operation North Pole, and he may have been in for the tail end. 
It must be realized that he may have known nothing of the 
exercise s consequences, and the man with whom he was in 
immediate contact may have been as ignorant. But he was mov 
ing in the magnetic field of the persons responsible. 

In 1944 he was moved to SHAEF as an interpreter, then to 
ANCXF, the headquarters of the Allied Naval Expeditionary 
Force, with some stints at Norfolk House, the headquarters of 
the Allied invasion chiefs. He translated captured German docu 
ments and interrogated German prisoners, and did it well. Some 
weeks after D-day he went over to the Continent and was about 
during the struggle, long and difficult beyond expectation, for 
the liberation of the Low Countries. He was then, at the age of 
twenty-three, sent to Hamburg and put in charge of his own 
Naval Intelligence unit, with instructions to investigate all Ger 
man naval matters, but especially those relating to submarine 
warfare. This meant that he personally interviewed the great 
aces of the German submarines and inquired into such technical 
matters as the Schnorkel system of submarine ventilation and the 
various new types of mine with which they had surprised us in 
the war. 

It would have been surprising if this very young man, with 
almost no technological training and experience in only a lim 
ited area of Intelligence work, had discharged these duties suc 
cessfully, and he did not His German was perfect, and in that 
Alsatia of dishonesty which occupied Germany became, he re 
mained an honest and unfiddling man. But he was rude, fussy, 
vain, and voluble, and he often struck his colleagues as a little 
mad. He was taken off his naval job and made a counterespio 
nage officer against Soviet agents, but became more of a nuisance 


than ever, cloak-and-daggering the part to an embarrassing de 
gree, and writing interminable reports on the slenderest 
material. Finally he demanded to be sent home to learn the 
Russian language, and one of his superiors gratefully took note 
of this desire and handed him on to the Intelligence Department 
of the War Office, then directed by Sir Gerald Templer. That 
department cannily fielded Blake to the Foreign Office, which 
accepted the strange gift with acclamation. 

It had no right to do this. Blake did not satisfy the regulation 
that officials must be persons born in the United Kingdom or 
Northern Ireland or the Commonwealth, of parents similarly 
born. It was also unheard of that a candidate should be accepted 
with as low educational qualifications. Blake had left school at 
seventeen, without being able to take his last examinations. He 
had also become, since the end of the war, a case for severe 
screening. The Dutch government was now saying what it felt 
about Operation North Pole. He also had a record of unsuccess 
ful performance in the British Zone of Germany. But he was 
accepted and was sent to Downing College, Cambridge, for a 
year s instruction in the language and literature and history of 
Russia and the theory of communism. He was then attached to 
the Far Eastern Division, shortly afterwards being appointed 
vice-consul at Seoul in South Korea, as representative of MI6. 
This was a responsible position, for it was already anticipated at 
the Foreign Office that South Korea would be the victim of 
Communist attack. 

In 1950 these fears were realized, and George Blake went into 
prison camp; and it may be that the experience he was to endure 
there during the next three years included his conversion to 
communism. On the other hand, it looks uncommonly as if up to 
that date some force had been looking after him as a mother 
looks after her own, and, all things considered, it seems likely 
that this was the Communist Party. If it be objected that that 
could not be so, or the party would have seen that he did not 
endure the rigours of a Korean prison, further reflection will 
suggest that that was exactly what it had to do if he was to 
continue undetected as a Soviet agent working in the British 
Foreign Office. As it was, a curious piece of good luck befell him. 
He and a number of people all above suspicion, his chief, another 
legation official, an Anglican bishop, a Catholic priest, a Salvation 


Army commissioner and Mr. Philip Deane were released from 
prison and sent back to England in April 1953, though it was 
two months before the Korean War came to an end, and many 
prisoners were not repatriated until months after that. 

Back in London, Blake was given sick leave which he badly 
needed, then worked in Whitehall for a time, got married in 
October 1954, and a short time after that was posted to the MI6 
headquarters in West Berlin. There the Blakes were given a top- 
floor flat at Charlottenburg in an apartment house reserved for 
British officers and officials, and they settled down there to live a 
life remarkable for its reserve. They did not make friends with 
their neighbours or accept the invitations which naturally came 
their way. No significance can be attached to this. It is possible, 
indeed probable, that Blake was, to the knowledge of his supe 
riors, acting as a double agent. This is not, as might be supposed, 
a spy working for two powers, like a charwoman who obliges one 
householder in the morning and another in the afternoon. It is 
a spy who is working for his own country but pretends to go 
over to the side of the enemy by offering their secret service 
information which is either false and deliberately misleading or 
true but unimportant, in order to find out how the enemy system 
works, what information it is looking for, and what informa 
tion leaves it indifferent. This is a dangerous game. The dyer s 
hand, as Shakespeare remarks, is subdued to what it works in. 
To pretend to be a traitor while practising an extreme from of 
loyalty is psychologically contortionist s work, and most people 
could no more do it than they can twist their legs round their 

To make life simpler, many double agents have in the end 
stopped pretending that they are traitors and become traitors in 
truth, and have found not much difficulty in doing so, since they 
have practised the technique till it has become second nature to 
them. Double agency has also a flaw that it enables a suspected 
traitor of this sort to put up defences hard to counter. Tes, I 
told my Soviet contact that. Yes, I know we did not agree to it 
You remember that we agreed that I should tell my contact this 
and that and that, and I did, but he was disappointed and 
suspicious, I had to think of something else. So I told him this 
other thing. At the time it seemed to be fairly unimportant, and 
I had to act then and there." Or: "I swear I did not give my 


Soviet contact his information. We never mentioned the subject. 
Yes, I realize that I saw him that Wednesday and that by the end 
of the week the Soviet embassy knew all about it. But it was not 
I who was the leak." Some very nasty people have said that and 
kept themselves out of the dock, if not in the service. Neverthe 
less, we have in double agency one of the most rewarding profes 
sional tricks of espionage. A double agent can learn not only 
what the enemy is thinking, but how he thinks, and therefore 
can know what his thoughts are going to be tomorrow and the day 
after that. 

George Blake, who had lived in the world of the professional 
spy all his life, would probably have felt some shame if he had 
had to admit that this or any other professional trick was not in 
his repertoire. What he gave the Soviet Union in the course of 
this trickery is not known. It may be guessed that it was very 
much more than the planted lie or the unimportant truth which 
is the stock-in-trade of the authentic double agent. At this time 
someone betrayed to the Russians the million-dollar tunnel which 
the Americans built to tap the telephone lines of the Soviet ad 
ministrative offices and the East German and Polish communica 
tions. Blake had at least been nearer than one cares to think to 
the kidnapping of the defector Bialek, the former Inspector-Gen 
eral of the People s Police in East Germany. This unhappy man 
lived in great secrecy in the same block of flats as Blake, protected 
by steel shutters and a siren alarm, and never went out without a 
bodyguard, until the night when he ventured to take his dog out 
for a bedtime walk and was thrown into a car and driven to a 
Soviet prison, where he died. At this time there happened a 
grave tragedy, the arrest of four men belonging to an anti-Com 
munist Russian group, the National Alliance of Solidarists, NTS, 
which has worked with the West for many years. Yakita and 
Novikov and Chlemnitsky and Kuravtsev had all been into Rus 
sia before, on several occasions, and had come back without 
trouble, but during Blake s stay in Berlin they went and, though 
the same precautions had been preserved, did not come back. 
These offences cannot be linked up with Blake, since his trial 
was held in camera and nothing specific was said about his of 
fences save that the Lord Chief Justice mentioned that in Blake s 
confession he had admitted to having passed to his Soviet contact 
every important official document which had ever come into his 


hands. It is possible, to judge from a German spy trial held in 
1960, that these included most of the defence and security plans of 
West Germany. 

It is not necessary to look far to discover what George Blake 
and his Soviet contacts handed over to the British, for the look 
of the thing. There was a steady flow into the courts of oafs and 
drabs, weak brothers and weak sisters, who were trying to find 
their feet on the slippery surface of postwar Germany and had 
been spying for the Soviets, who had turned a cold eye on them 
and judged them expendable. What was happening to George 
Blake meanwhile seems horrible enough. He was directed by his 
British superiors to contact a German named Horst Eitner, who 
was working for them himself and handling a team of agents for 
them; but he was warned not to let Eitner know his real name 
and position. To establish a new identity for this purpose, he 
took a room round the corner from his own flat and called 
himself by the name he had used twenty years before when he 
was working in the Dutch resistance. He changed the Christian 
name, he was Max now and had been Pieter then, but he was 
again de Vries. Blake was a restrained man who lived for his wife 
and baby and his work, and Eitner was a jolly, vulgar little 
extrovert given to wenching and drinking, but the two men got 
on very well, and Blake visited the Eitners* apartment as a 
friend as well as a business partner. They appear to have had 
their disagreements, chiefly over the agents employed by Eitner, 
whom Blake criticized and tried to dismiss, with no success, for 
on this point Eitner developed an unexpected strength of charac 

It is said that Blake suddenly discovered that Eitner too was 
an agent for both British and Soviet Intelligence, and this was 
indeed the case. It is also said that from then on Blake felt his 
position in Berlin to be untenable, and asked his British supe 
riors to move him elsewhere, on the plea that his Soviet contacts 
had begun to see through him. This is unlikely. Nobody ever 
detected the light of candour on Eitner s brow, and, Berlin 
being full of double agents, the experienced Blake must surely 
have known from the first that here was one of them. If he was 
slow in realizing it, the discovery need not have alarmed him; so 
far as the British were concerned he had a perfectly good excuse 
for knowing Eitner, for his superiors had directed him to make 


the contact; and his experience would have prevented him from 
wondering why the Soviet Union had not informed him that 
Eitner also was one of theirs, for he would have known that he 
himself would not have been disclosed as a Soviet spy to a col 
league in like circumstances. The real question that he ought to 
have asked himself, that we must ask ourselves again and again 
when contemplating the facts of espionage, is whether it is tolera 
ble that a human being with only a few decades to live should 
spend them in playing this dirty form of cat s cradle. 

Early in 1959 Blake, who had been informed by the Foreign 
Office that he was to be transferred to the Middle Eastern Divi 
sion, left Berlin for London to get a preliminary grounding in 
Whitehall before he was sent to the Foreign Office Middle East 
ern College for Arabic Studies at Beirut in Lebanon. He took a 
little house at Bickley, in South London, close to Chislehurst, 
and there his wife gave birth to her second son. It is said that 
when coming home by train from Victoria in the evening he 
used to meet his Soviet contact and hand him whatever he had 
found that seemed useful. In September 1960 he and his family 
settled down at Shemlan, the charming village twenty miles from 
Beirut where the Middle Eastern College for Arabic Studies is 
situated. Lebanon is almost as full of spies as Berlin, and much 
curiosity is shown in the doings at MECAS, which is attended by 
about fifty students, who include Foreign Office staff and trainees 
sent by commercial and industrial firms and the great oil compa 
nies, from all nations this side of the Iron Curtain. Among the 
interesting residents of Beirut was Mr. Harold Philby, whom the 
government had cleared of being "the third man" in the Bur 
gess and Maclean case, now a correspondent representing The 
Economist and The Observer. George Blake seemed to take no 
notice of these complications of Lebanese life, enjoyed his 
linguistic studies, and manifested content in his family life and 
his pleasant new home. 

But in the same month Eitner was arrested in Berlin by the 
German Federal secret service and charged with being a double 
agent working for the Russians. The German authorities had 
full knowledge that he had tape-recorded conversations he had 
had with British secret agents in his flat in Berlin, and had 
photographed them with a Minicamera, and handed over record 
ings and photographs to Soviet agents. Eitner was left in prison 


without trial for thirteen months, which stimulates reflections on 
the reality of progress. Under Hitler he would have heen be 
headed, but he would not have been held in custody so long 
without trial under the Weimar Republic or even under the last 
Kaisers. Eitner claimed to have acted for the Soviets under 
duress, and from his cell he wrote to Blake in London, appealing 
to him to help. He had always served him well, surely Blake 
would give testimony for him now, to say he had been an honest 
servant of the British. He was playing a professional trick, aris 
ing out of the professional trick of double agency. Blake did not 
answer, according to the well-known tradition that a professional 
spy, once discovered, is abandoned without pity by his em 
ployers: another professional trick arising out of the profes 
sional trick of double agency. In March 1961 Eitner asked to be 
brought before the judge who was preparing his case and then 
delivered a tirade, claiming that though he had spied for the 
Soviets it was only because he had become a double agent at the 
instigation of a British official who was a double agent himself, 
acting not for the British but for the Russians. He may or may 
not have known Blake s identity, but he certainly knew that he 
was a Dutchman who had had some connection with the Royal 
Navy. The deposition was sent to MI5 in Berlin, then to Lon 
don. But it need not have been of great moment to Blake, for his 
colleagues would recognize that Eitner was resorting to a pro 
fessional trick, had it not been that just at that time a Polish 
professional suddenly became an amateur. 

An ancient force which had a title to this man s obedience 
called to this Pole and bade him cast away a disguise he had 
been wearing all his life. Colonel Alster, the Deputy Minister of 
the Interior in the Polish government, and head of the Polish 
Secret Police, was a Jew, and it came to his ears that the Soviet 
Union intended to promote various covertly anti-Semitic meas 
ures. He defected to the West and told all he knew of the spies 
who were working for the Soviet Union in Berlin; and one of 
them was Blake. The Foreign Office sent a telegram requesting 
Blake s return to London in as nonchalant terms as it could 
contrive, telling him that he could postpone the journey till 
after Easter if he cared. On Easter Monday, April 3, 1961, he 
went back to London, and almost as soon as he arrived the 
interrogations began. He answered hour after hour with such 


sldll and charm that the interrogators wondered if there had not 
been some mistake. Then suddenly he confessed, and he was 
charged at Bow Street ten days after his arrival. On May 3 he 
was at the Old Bailey and received this prodigious sentence of 
forty-two years, which amounts to a life sentence, as he was by 
then thirty-eight years old. 

There was a parallel between him and William Joyce. Neither 
was English. Each had been drawn out of his native country and 
into a perilous internationalism and treachery against the Eng 
lish people by a dead father s passion for England. Otherwise 
they represented the antitheses of each other. William Joyce was 
the personification of the amateur, inspired by a desire for self- 
expression but with no technical tricks to help him express what 
ever that self might be. He was treason at its most naive. He 
crossed the North Sea and stood up at a microphone and bawled 
his faith at us, take it or leave it. The world was the stage where 
there was being performed a drama concerned with the transfer 
of power. He had his Perkin Warbeck ambitions, but in fact the 
only part he could play in such a drama was the noble whom we 
have often seen in Shakespearean plays, who in long speeches 
backs either the crowned king or the usurper on religious and 
legalistic grounds, with certain allusions to troops. These peers 
were of such use to the crowned kings and usurpers that they 
were rewarded with good broad acres, useful alliances, and offices 
at court, or the promises of these. But that was a long time ago. 

George Blake was the personification of the professional. He 
must have been inspired by a desire for self-expression when, as a 
boy of seventeen, he joined the Dutch resistance movement, 
being also involved in another drama concerning a transfer of 
power. But in the drama now holding the stage the crowned 
king and usurpers have not the same need for advocates to cele 
brate their religious and legalistic advantages. Long ago they 
polished off that side of the conflict. The pro-Western and the 
pro-Soviet propaganda machines are so well established by this 
time that they run by inertia. The typical middle-class father of 
a family today was in his twenties after the Eirst World War; 
and he considered the issue between the West and the new 
Bolshevik Revolution as most human beings consider political 
issues, with an eye apiece on ethical and material aspects. In 
some cases, if he was an intellectual, his judgment may have 


been influenced by strokes of what kindly myopia might see as 
good luck: jobs rather better than might have been expected, 
rather hard to explain by market conditions, or enthusiastic 
press notices coming out of the blue. But after the Second World 
War the pattern started to harden, and now the conflicting 
powers need take only a little trouble to maintain it. The log 
rolling of Communist writers, actors, and painters is now largely 
automatic. Occasionally the help from the Soviet Union steps up 
the process and as a brilliant personality comes along is ready with 
the bribe, but the small fry can now be trusted to do the work for 
nothing. Today a young man or woman forming definite left-wing 
political convictions at Oxford or Cambridge but of no very great 
distinction is not nearly so likely to step into a lifelong comfort 
able job, as he or she would have forty years ago. All that such a 
person gets now is the chance to sit down in the streets in a Tra 
falgar Square demonstration. Propaganda is still a career, but not 
the glittering career it was. 

But there are Shakespearean characters which the conflicting 
powers of our age urgently require: the First, Second, and Third 
Murderers. They need traitors and spies to steal the political and 
scientific and technological secrets which their enemies mean to 
use against them in warfare. If it be objected that one or other of 
the great powers means to use these secrets only for the purpose 
of defence and not for aggression, and that it is unfair to call 
these traitors and spies murderers, let us concede the point. 
There are wars and preventive wars, and, no doubt, had Shake 
speare had a good working crystal ball, he might have written of 
First, Second, and Third Preventive Murderers. Leaving aside 
their ultimate moral status, these Tudor catalysts, like their con 
temporary descendants, must have studied a great many technical 
tricks unknown to the orating noble, who had need only to 
cultivate his mind at leisure and keep his ears open to what was 
said in Westminster Hall. The Murderers must have known all 
about ambushes and dagger-play, listening for whispers round 
the castle kitchens and stables and shaking information out of 
ostlers at wayside inns, the quick getaway and the hiding place, 
the flight out of Britain. Their descendants shed less blood, not 
that this has been a bloodless battle. Krivitsky, the high official 
of the Russian secret service who defected in the late thirties, 
gave the authorities much information about his agents, includ- 


ing a description of Donald Maclean lacking only his name; he 
was assassinated in a Washington hotel in 1941. There are many 
such among the dead. But for the main part the quarry is not 
human life but information, often in the form of documents 
kept under lock and key in forbidden territory. The technique 
has therefore advanced as much since Tudor days as the tech 
nique of burglary; and the practitioner of value to the contend 
ing forces is the professional such as George Blake. 

There was therefore little relevance to the situation in Mr. 
Macmillan s statement in the House of Commons that Blake was 
"never at any time a member of the Communist Party or any of 
its affiliated organizations." To begin with, this is not a state 
ment which can be made about anybody with any definite 
significance. The Communist Party has long refused to grant 
applications for membership to people who can work for them 
better if they are clear of any such formalized adherence. Nor, if 
precise information be acquired, is it of any value. For it is 
not formal membership or conviction which makes the spy and 
the traitor. William Joyce was moved by a desire to change the 
social system, and was tied to an organization, and so were Alan 
Nunn May and Fuchs. But Harry Gold had only the vaguest 
sympathy with communism and an active dislike for such mem 
bers of the Communist Party as he knew, with only one excep 
tion. The Rosenbergs were convinced Communists. Greenglass 
was too simple a soul for the issue to have much meaning for 
him. Burgess and Maclean were convinced Communists. It can 
not be doubted that Marshall admired the Soviet Union. Hough- 
ton was apolitical; it is comic to think of him as believing it sweet 
and decorous to die for either communism or capitalism. Miss Gee 
may have felt some social discontent, but it would be hazy. The 
Krogers were convinced Communists, but Abel seems to have 
been indifferent, and it would be a fair bet that to Lonsdale the 
political system under which he had grown up was something he 
took for granted as much as the hearty friends to whom he sold 
bubble-gum machines took capitalism for granted. Pontecorvo 
(though he should not properly be included in this inquiry, for he 
was convicted of no illegal act) probably fell into the same cate 
gory, considering the members of his family who had found a 
niche in the Italian Communist Party, As for George Blake, given 
the peculiar cops-and-robbers world he had lived in in his adoles- 


cence, and the peculiar events which had followed, it is to be won 
dered i the battle between the West and the Soviet Union would 
have any more meaning to him than, say, the battle between 
Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola would mean to an energetic salesman 
belonging to one firm or another. 

Mr. Macmillan s other statement, that Blake "received no 
money for his services," is as little worth making. This again is 
something which nobody can know, and which would be of little 
significance if it were known. The acceptance of pay is not incon 
sistent with sincerity in this field. To begin with, the labourer is 
worthy of his hire; the most self-sacrificing medical missionaries 
in tropical plague-spots are usually paid by the missionary soci 
eties, and nobody would cast this up against them. We cannot tell 
the missionary from the mercenary; they are both found in the 
infected ranks. William Joyce gained little advantage from being a 
Fascist traitor; he could have satisfied all his wants by continuing 
as an university coach. It can never be known whether Nunn May 
or Fuchs obtained any professional advantage by their Communist 
activities, but their scientific rating would have guaranteed them 
a pleasant and comfortable livelihood. Pontecorvo certainly was 
admitted, when he went to Paris, to a laboratory where few but 
Communists were welcomed, but he could have found a niche any 
where. Harry Gold received great advantages from his service to 
the Soviet Union, if only in the way of education. The Rosenbergs 
at one time made much more money through their service to the 
Soviet than they would otherwise have earned, but they were later 
abandoned by the party, and remained loyal to it. It would be 
absurd to think that the prospect of reward played a decisive 
part in determining the allegiance of these people who so gladly 
offered themselves up as martyrs to their faith. But Greenglass 
would certainly never have handled anything like the sum of 
money he got as a Communist spy for any other reason. Burgess 
and Maclean would certainly have been dismissed from the Civil 
Service if they had not enjoyed special protection; they would 
have been unlikely to find other employers who would have 
tolerated their misbehaviour. But that special protection was a 
compound of the different sorts of tenderness felt for them by 
their Soviet employers, fellow homosexuals, and friends who felt 
genuine affection for them. Marshall, on the contrary, had not a 
drop of mercenary blood in him. Houghton was purely mercenary 


and Miss Gee to a lesser degree. The Krogers could have earned 
good livings in any circumstances and probably had plenty o the 
true believers blood in them, but the fact remains that spying was 
their profession and it gave them a very enjoyable living indeed, 
with thousands of pounds coming their way annually over many 
years. This too is true of Lonsdale. We cannot speak with cer 
tainty of George Blake. But some influence had been caring for 
him over a long period, and it may well be that he had commu 
nism to thank for a comfortable home and a good income. 

A traitor may or may not be a Communist; he may or may not 
be working for gain, and there is a third uncertainty. He may or 
may not be able to bring his treachery to an end. William Joyce 
could not have refused to go on playing the role for which he 
had cast himself, once he had made his broadcasts aimed at 
destroying British morale. Both Nunn May and Fuchs could quite 
well have stopped their dissimulation at any time, for they were 
surrounded by very silly and richly sentimental colleagues, who 
would (as indeed they did in the case of Fuchs) have heard out 
their confessions and burst into tears and begged the Special 
Branch to remember that more true joy shall be in Heaven over 
one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine just persons 
which need no repentance. Harry Gold, the Rosenbergs, and 
Greenglass could not have got away, had they stopped spying 
and confessed. Even if the authorities had forgiven them, they 
would have been the victims of ferocious assaults on their hon 
esty made by crypto-Communists who would have professed not 
to believe them. Their lives would not have been worth living. 
Burgess and Maclean would never have had much reason 
for fear if they had stopped spying, but they were so tem 
peramentally suited to the niche in which the Soviet Union 
secret service had placed them that they would never have 
wished to step out of it until the last possible moment. We may 
doubt if Houghton ever wanted innocence as much as he wanted 
money; and he could not have got himself clear by going to the 
police as an informer unless he had acted very soon after he 
began his crimes at Portland, and he would certainly have hesi 
tated to stop these crimes without going to the police, for fear of 
his Soviet employers. Miss Gee probably saw the situation 
through his eyes. The Krogers and Lonsdale were committed to 


going on doing what they did as long as possible. The Soviet 
Union had spent so much time and money on all three of them 
that it would not have taken their voluntary retirement kindly, 
and they had done much that the British and American authori 
ties would have been unlikely to overlook on any terms. It is 
strange that the Krogers and Lonsdale should have been in the 
same position as regards defection, considering the differences in 
their moral and intellectual fibre; and strange that Blake also 
should be locked inside espionage, being quite different from the 
other three, so much less coarse than Lonsdale, so much less 
individual than the Krogers. 

No court and neither House of Parliament should ever bother 
to inquire whether a traitor or spy be moved by ideological 
considerations, or is instigated by a desire for gain, or has been 
obstinate in his ill-doing. One might as well ask whether a law 
yer took up his profession out of a passion for justice or on the 
rumour of QC s fees, and, should his clients be disreputable, if 
he could manage to get a more respectable practice: or whether a 
doctor took up medicine out of a desire to heal or for the oppor 
tunities for a steady income given by the National Health Serv 
ice, and, should he send the death rate up rather than down, 
why he does not retire. The professions exist because men want 
to do certain things for motives which are mixed (like all mo 
tives), and they cannot abandon their professional lives easily 
because the training is too long and expensive, and the longer 
they refrain from cutting their losses the more difficult does it 
become to pass over into another occupation. It is exactly the 
same with opera-singing, tennis-playing, political life, show-jump 
ing, and treason, which, however, is different from these, since, 
like burglary, embezzlement, forgery, and all the other crimes 
which are the result of the premeditated use of technique, it is 
illegal in all its manifestations. Once a traitor comes before a 
court or under the notice of Parliament, all that should interest 
the lawyers or the ministers concerned is whether he has been 
exercising his profession or not, and who has been helping him. 
If inquiry is made into his politics and his morality much will be 
said, probably untrue, which will divert the attention of the 
community from the real threat offered by the new traitor. This 
is the threat inherent in the professional type itself, if that be 


not restrained by some body like the Law Society, the Bar Coun 
cil, or the British Medical Association. Professionalism is not 
necessarily a vice, but, as we will see demonstrated more and 
more clearly, it gives opportunity for the vicious. 

GEORGE BLAKE was convicted in the summer of 
1961. In the autumn of 1962 another professional spy passed 
from Bow Street to the Old Bailey, different in kind but equal in 
magnitude. Though William John Christopher Vassall, Admi 
ralty clerk, aged thirty-eight, was doe-eyed, soft-voiced, hesitant, 
and ephebic, he had the historic quality of Lonsdale, Fuchs, and 
Blake. He had been as little suspected as these men and he had 
no early training in street-fighting with the Nazis or in Russian 
naval warfare or in the Dutch resistance movement to teach him 
toughness and secrecy. He belonged to a well-bred and well-edu 
cated family, which had produced some good schoolmasters and 
athletes and, in the person of his father, an admirable clergyman. 
But no branch of the stock had made much money, and his 
father had suffered a misfortune which affected Vassall himself 
disadvantageous^. The Reverent William Vassall had married a 
gay and charming and temperamental hospital nurse who, when 
her husband had been vicar for fifteen years of Christ Church, 
Hendon, suddenly became a fervent and proselytizing Roman 
Catholic. The parish took it ill. It was 1940, and doubtless it was 
exasperating in the middle of the Battle of Britain to be pressed 
by the vicar s wife to go over to Rome. The unlucky Mr. Vassall 
resigned his living and was found a chaplaincy in the RAF, 
which meant that his income declined and he was obliged to 
withdraw his son from Monmouth Grammar School, though he 
was only sixteen. After a brief period at a bank young Vassall 
went to the Admiralty as a temporary Grade II clerk and then 
did four years in the RAF as a photographer. By then, though he 
probably did not know it, he had laid the foundation of his life 
as a spy. He was an expert photographer. He had also got his 
foot in the door of one of the defence ministries. In 1946, when 


he was demobbed, the Admiralty accepted him for establishment 
as a clerical officer. 

Thus he was employed in the lowest of the three main divi 
sions in the civil service, the other two rising steps being the 
executive and the administrative. He first worked in the Air 
Equipment Department and was moved to Naval Law and then 
to War Registry, the Admiralty s chief communication centre. 
By this time he was twenty-eight, with a deprecating manner and 
a tendency to nervous dandyism; but he had made a world for 
himself, or even several worlds. He was a devoted son. He en 
joyed social life and was welcome in several quite different mi 
lieus. He had a genuine liking for the society of old ladies, and as 
some of them were rich he was suspected by the malicious of 
legacy-hunting, but in fact he was as attentive to old ladies who 
were very poor indeed. (There is no question but that he liked to 
do kindnesses; it was one of his dominant traits.) He was an excel 
lent bridge-player and was often asked out for that reason. He 
was religious, and oddly enough went into the Catholic Church 
but never told his parents, not even his Catholic mother; and he 
spent much time with many Catholic friends who thought him 
genuinely interested in liturgical matters. He was drawn into 
another circle by his passion for model railways, and to yet 
another by his intelligent interest in music. But, most important 
of all, he was a homosexual, and not just that. He was no tor 
tured bearer of a cross, flinching under philistine scorn. He was 
a much-sought-after "queen," playful and girlish, who loved 
being courted and appreciated. The homosexual section of so 
ciety has itself many subsections, and he was unknown to many 
of its more conspicuous groups; but the circle to which he be 
longed included some rich, important, and intelligent men. They 
made his life amusing in London, and when he went abroad, 
even so far as Egypt and Mexico, he was passed from host to 
host. He was very successful in this sphere, which meant that he 
was not merely playful and girlish, but could hold his own in an 
outlaw world where tact, toughness, and vigilance had to be 
constantly on the draw. 

When Vassall was working in War Registry, he saw an Admi 
ralty circular inviting applications for the post of clerk to the 
naval attach^ in Moscow. It is impossible to say why he was 
moved to apply. The report on his misdoings issued by a tribu- 


nal which sat tinder the chairmanship of Lord Radcliffe alleges 
that "at no time" did he show any interest in alien ideologies, 
but this is something which cannot be said of any living creature 
who can read or talk. Understanding of communism was not 
beyond a man as well versed in religious controversy as Vassall 
showed himself often enough, even in the company of priests 
and churchmen. But it is true that the motive impelling Vassall 
to leave London at the height of his attractiveness must have 
been strong, and it is not easy to imagine his becoming quite 
such an ardent Communist. It is, however, very easy to imagine 
him feeling mild enthusiasm for communism combined with an 
ardent passion for a Communist. There is no evidence of this, 
but it could have happened. Other winds to fill out his sail on 
the voyage towards Muscovy would have been his love of travel, 
the pleasure he would have felt at being any kind of a diplomat 
en poste, and his delight in any new thing. Anyway he got his 
wish and was sent off to Moscow in March 1954. 

Whatever motives drew Vassall to the British embassy at Mos 
cow, the motives of at least one of its inmates who welcomed him 
were sinister. Only three years had passed since William Mar 
shall had left it, and it was still a compound in the jungle: a 
prison where people served out their terms with a hostile 
climate, an alien culture, and an incomprehensible language as 
their jailers. The junior members of the staff sought distraction 
with something rather discreditably like hysteria, and for that 
reason they regarded with grateful affection one Sigmund Mi- 
khailsky, a junior interpreter and administrative officer of the 
embassy, who got them theatre and travel tickets, bought spe 
cially good food for them in the markets, and was an amusing 
guest at parties. He said he was a Pole and did not like Russians, 
and, having thus economically engaged the trust of these simple- 
minded souls, he went on to facilitate the conduct of black-mar 
ket operations for such of the staff as wished to turn a dishonest 
penny, and to offer heterosexual and homosexual attentions to 
those who seemed likely to respond. It is obvious that the British 
embassy in Moscow has always to recruit part of its domestic and 
administrative staff locally, for it would be impossible to find 
English volunteers for such service, and even if that could be 
done it would be very expensive and a quite inefficient way of 
keeping house, in view of the language difficulty. But this neces- 


sarily means that the British embassy is full of spies and inform 
ers, since all this local staff can be engaged only through a 
bureau which is a branch of the Soviet Union s Foreign Office. 

This risk is fully realized by the British authorities, and good 
sense should make the situation just tolerable. It could not, 
however, have made the continued employment of Mr. Mikhail- 
sky anything but deplorable. He was not only a Soviet agent, but 
a Soviet agent actually engaged in the corruption of the staff. 
This is not hindsight. One of the staff, never named, repeatedly 
urged the head of Chancery to warn the junior staff against the 
serpent in their midst. Meanwhile Vassall was settling down 
cosily in the embassy. His chief, Captain Bennett, at first disliked 
him, writing in a report to London of "his handicap of an 
irritating, effeminate personality," but Vassall worked hard on 
him, and finally Captain Bennett and his wife became his 
friends. He was asked to many parties and enjoyed them all, and 
he established himself as a personality by his talent as an 
amateur actor. In the meantime he had had an affair with the 
versatile Mikhailsky, and possibly another with a diplomat at 
another embassy in Moscow. By the autumn he was regularly 
abstracting documents from the naval attache s office in the 
embassy, taking them off the premises and giving them to Rus 
sian agents who photographed them, and then returning them to 
the files. 

This little citadel of happiness he had constructed for himself 
in the midst of officialdom did not go unassailed. The anony 
mous member of the staff who thought Mr. Mikhailsky no better 
than he should have been plugged away at the head of Chancery 
until, in 1955, that gentleman reluctantly took the step not of 
dismissing Mikhailsky, but of issuing two circulars addressed to 
all members of the staff, warning them to report all Russian 
contacts and making a special reference to Mr. Mikhailsky. 
There was some talk among the senior members of the staff 
whether this was sufficiently drastic action, but it was decided, 
with the approval of the Ambassador, Sir William Hayter, to 
retain him, on the ground that if they got rid of him he would 
only be followed by someone who would be as bad or worse. The 
Radcliffe Report describes them in an oddly humourless passage 
as considering that they would be unlikely to get another man 
"as useful and obliging as he had been in serving the needs of 


the staff," and it adds that "this was a matter of some importance 
having the desirability of making local conditions as pleasant as 

The warning circular produced results. A typist in the office of 
the military attache named Miss Wynne, who appears to have 
been unique in her common sense, reported to her chief that Mr. 
Mikhailsky was making great efforts to make local conditions as 
pleasant as possible so far as she was concerned, and had indi 
cated to her that he was under Russian control. He had, further 
more, mentioned as special "targets" on whom he was concen 
trating Vassall and three other officials. The military attach^ 
wrote a minute on these remarkable confidences, ending with the 
remark, "I have no evidence, however, that the friendly ap 
proaches have been other than innocent," and sent it to a Mr. 
O Regan, who was acting as head of Chancery while his chief 
was on leave. On this minute Mr. O Regan wrote, "HMM has 
informed HE." That meant that Mr. Parrott, the Minister, had 
informed the Ambassador, Sir William Hayter. 

But that was untrue. Sir William Hayter told the tribunal that 
he thought he must have seen the minute; but this seems un 
likely, for Mr. Parrott is certain that he never saw the minute 
and never spoke to the ambassador about it. Mr. O Regan is 
now dead. The air attach^ and his assistants never heard of the 
minute, nor the naval attach^ or either of his two assistants. The 
military attache seems to be the only person in authority who 
heard of this minute, and this nobody had been able to prevent, 
as he himself had written it; hence he warned one of the three 
targets, who was working in his office. No steps were taken to 
warn the other two targets, who had gone home, or to raise the 
matter with Vassall. It is true that the naval attach^ ordered his 
staff to avoid all contact with Mikhailsky after office hours, but 
that was on his own initiative and not because he had ever heard 
of the minute. Mr. Mikhailsky remained at the embassy for 
another nine months, until he was reported by a clerk whom he 
started to blackmail after he had persuaded him to engage in 
black-market operations. 

In July 1956 Vassall returned to London by an extremely 
circuitous route, visiting Sweden, Norway, the United States, and 
Canada, and then returning to London by way of Stockholm. He 
told nobody in the Admiralty of this, and nobody in the Admi- 


ralty found it out. Before he left Moscow he had been posted to 
the Naval Intelligence Division, and there he worked for nearly 
a year. It is essentially a repository of secret matter. Then he went 
for two and a half years to the private office of the Civil Lord of 
the Admiralty, Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith, MP for the Billhead Divi 
sion of Glasgow. There he had little access to material which 
could have interested the Soviet Union, for his chief duties were 
collecting newspaper cuttings, making travel arrangements, meet 
ing distinguished guests at the airport, and bringing in the tea. 
But in October 1959 he was posted to the fleet section of Mili 
tary Branch 11, the secretariat serving the naval staff, and there 
he stayed till he was arrested in September 1962, up to his elbows 
in material such as his Soviet employers loved to have. He dealt 
with documents concerning radar, communications, torpedo and 
submarine, gunnery trials, Allied tactical publications, Allied 
exercise publications, fleet operational and tactical instructions, 
and general matters concerning naval liaison with Common 
wealth countries. In Moscow he had taken the documents to the 
Russians for them to photograph, but now the Russians had 
given him his own camera, and he was photographing the docu 
ments he borrowed, using the professional competence he had 
acquired in the RAF. That he was an industrious and accom 
plished spy is proven, for the Soviet Union gave him a great deal 
of money, and the British judge who tried him sentenced him to 
eighteen years imprisonment. 

The trial was exasperating. Once again the prosecution be 
lieved the statement made by the person accused of treachery, 
disregarding the reasons a traitor would have to put up a smoke 
screen to conceal what he had been doing, and disregarding too 
the probability that a person who had chosen to be a traitor 
might have a talent for lying and certainly had a need to lie. 
Vassall told the authorities after his arrest that, when he was in 
Moscow, Mikhailsky had invited him to a dinner party, made 
him drunk, and photographed him while he was engaged in 
homosexual gambols, and that some time afterwards officials 
belonging to the Soviet secret service summoned him to a meet 
ing and told him that if he did not spy for them they would 
show the photographs to senior members of the British embassy 
staff and would "make an international incident of the matter/* 
bringing down on him the rigours of Soviet Union law. 


The drunken party may have taken place. But it was probably 
engineered so that Vassall might refer to it, should his treachery 
ever be discovered. It is unlikely that this sort of blackmail can 
still be practised with any ease on embassy staff in Moscow, for 
they meet it with open eyes. They are supposed to be warned 
against it before they leave England, and once they set foot in 
the embassy they will hear their colleagues constantly gossiping 
of this local dragon. Constantly were employees reporting such 
attempts on their integrity, constantly were they being sent 
home. Only a very stupid and helpless man or woman would 
have succumbed, and Vassall was not stupid, was extremely re 
sourceful and, as an additional defence, accustomed for years to 
the idea of blackmail. His friends had a special liability to be 
blackmailed, as skiers have a special liability to break their legs. 
There was no need to teach them, of all people, anything about 
the wisdom of going to the police. If Vassall really had been 
blackmailed by Mikhailsky and he had really wished to free 
himself and put Mikhailsky out of business, he would have 
known the drilL He would have gone to the right member of the 
embassy to make his report, and made it in terms likely to bleach 
the embarrassment out of the blushing occasion; he would have 
made the journey home with just the right, slightly "camping" 
humour; he would have dined out on the story at home, telling 
it in two different ways to please the two different sorts of 
people; and if he had found the atmosphere chilly in Whitehall 
he would have found some shelter in an art gallery or interior 
decorator s shop where the air was balmier. He was dexterous in 
many fields, and in this field his dexterity would have risen to a 
challenge and given a dazzling demonstration. 

But at Vassall s trial the prosecution repeated this story of 
the drunken party, and so did the judge; and as he pleaded 
guilty no evidence was given at his trial. So the House of Parlia 
ment imprinted it more deeply on the public mind when it 
debated the case, and the press accepted it, and it got a fresh 
lease of life at the tribunal which Parliament appointed to inves 
tigate the wilder implications of the case. The effect of this 
legend was to beget another: that Vassall was a weak and silly 
little man, poor in intellect and indecisive in character. This was 
unlikely to be the correct view of a man who for seven years had 


carried on an occupation demanding unremitting industry in a 
skilled craft in clandestine conditions, an endless capacity for 
dissimulation, and sustained contempt for personal danger. The 
error was regrettable. There was need for society to contemplate 
the drama in which Vassall had played a part, and its members 
could get no clear idea of its theme if they had a wrong concep 
tion of the principal actor. 

It was indeed disturbing that we should be unable to keep our 
national secrets to ourselves. There are those who feel that can 
dour is all and that the international situation would be ideal if 
only we invited the neighbours to come in and look in our 
cupboards, but they should reflect that had we been as steadily 
robbed by Hitler s spies we could not have won the Second 
World War and those of our fellow citizens who are Jewish 
would not be with us today. If any generation should be cautious 
about staking our lives on human innocence, it is ours. It was 
therefore natural enough that there should be a public outcry at 
the procession of spies which had been brought through our 
courts and which had not come to an end, although the govern 
ment had set up some quite imposing machinery. The Romer 
Report had soundly smacked the Admiralty security organi 
zation, and it would have seemed inevitable that there must 
have been an improvement in that quarter. After the Blake 
case the government had set up a committee to report on Secu 
rity Procedures in the Public Service, with Lord Radcliffe as its 
chairman; Sir Gerald Templer, Director of Military Intelligence 
at the War Office before he became famous in Malaya; Sir David 
Milne, an eminent Scottish civil servant; and the Right Honoura 
ble Mr. Kenneth Younger, formerly of the House of Commons 
and now of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. It had 
issued a workmanlike report, making unexciting but practical 
suggestions, such as, for example, urging the intensive applica 
tion of what is known as "the need to know" principle, under 
which information classified as secret is disseminated only in the 
area required for the efficient discharge of the business in hand, 
by subjecting personnel within this area to formal indoctrination 
relating to security; in other words, if only Smith and Jones have 
to know about the new G-pipe gotcher, never let Brown and 
Robinson come near it, and let Smith and Jones know that their 


whole future careers depend on the premise that no whisper of 
what they are doing reaches Brown, Robinson, or anyone else in 
the world. 

This was obviously sensible talk, of an unexciting nature 
which aroused confidence. All the same, here was Vassall, who 
had gone on year after year neatly weaving his way every evening 
down Whitehall to his flat in Dolphin Square, with an envelope 
in his overcoat full of secret documents, spending fussy and 
capable evenings photographing them nicely for the Soviet gov 
ernment, and every morning neatly weaving his way up White 
hall to the Admiralty again, to spend five minutes fussily and 
capably replacing the documents in the files. This was more than 
flesh and blood could bear, particularly as Vassall had been 
represented as a perfect idiot who should have been detected in 
five minutes by any security officer worth his salt. Contempt for 
the security organizations flared up, followed by resentment 
against the government, which was half an Opposition manoeuvre 
and half sincere disgust at what looked like administrative incom 
petence. Out of this grew suspicion not so much political as 
moral. It was felt that if this worthless little homosexual had 
been earning his living in Whitehall it must be because he was 
protected by some person or persons of power who were them 
selves homosexual. 

The criticism of the security organizations was only partly 
justified. The Vassall case was not nearly as black a mark against 
them as the Blake case. At no time should Blake ever have been 
in the employment of the British government. But there was no 
reason why Vassall should not have become an Admiralty em 
ployee in the first place, and the degree of culpability afterwards 
shown by the security organizations in their dealings with him 
varies from black to nearly white. In the British embassy at 
Moscow security had obviously gone down the drain. The set-up 
would have been difficult in any case, with Soviet spies coming 
and going because they alone could fetch the groceries and get 
tickets for the ballet, but there was evidently an element within 
the embassy which was determined that this difficulty should 
become an impossibility. That Miss Wynne s report concerning 
the sinister intention of Mr. Mikhailsky regarding his various 
"targets" should be ignored might have been due to extreme 
negligence, but the statement inscribed on the military attaches 


minute, alleging that the Minister had told the Ambassador of 
Miss Wynne s report, speaks of something worse. Whoever had 
informed Mr. O Regan of this had lied. There must have been 
someone in the embassy who was extremely anxious that the 
activities of Mr. Mikhailsky and Vassall should continue un 

This is a shocking state of affairs; and it is shocking too that 
when Vassall left Moscow he should have gone on a trip to 
Scandinavia, the United States, Mexico, and back to London via 
Stockholm, without the Admiralty s learning about this. He got 
handsome extra pay and allowances over his normal salary of 
700 a year for Moscow service, but this extensive tour would 
have gone far to wiping them out; and the authorities considered 
Moscow service as a strain on the toughest character. To deplore 
this lack of vigilance by officers of the state is not to range 
oneself on the side of the man-hunting bloodhound, for the 
immediate victim of VassalFs treachery was Vassall himself. We 
may all be blown to bits in a future war because he betrayed our 
defensive secrets, but this is a hypothetical danger. Vassall, how 
ever, is actually in prison, and will be there for many years. As 
for his return to Whitehall, far too little was done to save him 
then. Since he was posted to Naval Intelligence, he should have 
undergone the intensive form of security screening known as 
"positive vetting/ but there was what the Radcliffe Report de 
scribed as a "heavy backlog" in this clearance department, and 
he went through to work in Naval Intelligence without being 
vetted until he had been there for nearly a year. 

After that he was given clearance, and this was not as much to 
the discredit of those who cleared him as might appear. He 
looked mild as milk; he lived with his father (who was by now 
curate at a famous West End Church, his wife having become 
less zealous) in the family home in St. John s Wood and ap 
peared to fill every moment of his spare time with the practice of 
such hobbies as listening to classical music, playing bridge, and 
going to the theatre. Only two things strike one as faulty about 
the positive vetting. One was that the examiner never made 
inquiries of Captain Bennett, who had been Vassall s chief in 
Moscow, because he was informed that he had left the embassy 
and was now on his way to the Far East. This was an error, as 
Captain Bennett was stationed at Portsmouth. It can have been 


no more than an error, for Vassall would have been sure of 
getting a good report from Captain Bennett. What was disturb 
ing was the implication that the Admiralty knew no way by 
which communication could be established between a civil serv 
ant in Whitehall and a naval officer travelling in the Far East. 
As disturbing was the disregard of an obvious hint given by 
one of the references Vassall gave his examiner. Like many 
homosexuals, he liked elderly ladies, and when asked to name 
responsible persons who could vouch for his character he gave 
Dr. Agnes Francklyn, an old family friend, and Miss Elizabeth 
Roberts, a retired civil servant who was his neighbour. Miss 
Roberts gave him a good character but was careful to point out 
that he took little interest in the opposite sex. The Royal Navy 
was, however, too innocent to take the old lady s point. 

This was, however, not unnatural. Unconsciously a security 
officer might take the point and decide to disregard it. There is 
great good sense in the rule which excludes homosexual civil 
servants from employment in departments considered sensitive 
from a security point of view. It is possible that a civil servant 
might be blackmailed by persons wishing him to engage in es 
pionage, which was what Vassall was afterwards to say had hap 
pened to him. But the official would know that few people are 
traitors, whether they be heterosexual or homosexual, and he 
would know too that most people of either sort in this age would 
resist blackmail, and that the rule was far out on the side of 
cautiousness. It is possible that the very natural disinclination to 
obey an injunction when one has the knowledge that almost 
never is it worth obeying, accounted for the failure of the secu 
rity organization to note Vassall s homosexuality as the years 
went by, and act on it. But it is of course the duty of a security 
officer to disregard the laws of probability and arm us against the 
one-in-a-million chance, but that is a hard thing to remember. 

However, once Vassall got into the Admiralty, means could 
have been taken to circumvent him, though again not so simply 
as might be supposed. Espionage is, like almost all our contem 
porary troubles, an aspect of the population problem. Our fruit- 
fulness is the real foe of security. The more people there are, and 
the higher their standard of living, the more civil servants there 
have to be and the more cluttered the world they live in, for 
many persons engage in scientific and technological research, and 


many more engage in development of the researchers discoveries 
and thus cause material objects to increase and multiply even 
faster than the human beings around them, and that without the 
checks of birth control and infant mortality. The process is 
visible on our roads. They are choked with motor-cars; for we 
cannot stop a single motor-car coming into the world, since it is 
essential that the people who make them remain employed, and 
few motor-cars suffer serious accidents on their way from the 
factory. Documents, though their prolific habit is not so overt, 
are almost as incontinent. Scientific and technological researches 
produce millions of papers which have to be read, copied, dis 
cussed (on paper chiefly), and filed. Thus it happens that nine 
thousand people go in and out of the Admiralty every morning 
and evening and burrow in large accumulations of papers. Many 
of them looked not unlike Vassall, just as many people at Port 
land Naval Base looked like Hough ton, and as these people 
who looked like them were loyal and innocent, the presump 
tion was that Vassall and Houghton were too; and it is stag 
gering to think how many security officers would be needed 
to check on these nine thousand people, if we really started to 
turn them inside out. It would be an appalling addition to the 
burden of taxation, and one hard to make the taxpayer accept, 
for it would appear not to be justified by results. We would be 
paying highly trained men to spend their lives on the unproduc 
tive work of looking for a needle in a huge haystack, and unpro 
ductive it would seem, since for years together it would be proved 
that there was no needle in that haystack, until, after all those 
years, another needle turned up. 

It is true that not so much was being done as could be done 
without making such heavy weather of it. The Radcliffe Re 
port s account of Military Branch, where Vassall was working 
like a happy little beaver for three years before his arrest, is 

. . . The security arrangements in Military Branch were 
such that if he had been a more adventurous spy, he could 
readily have gained access to a great deal of secret material. 
Many, if not the majority of the security cupboards in the 
Branch were suite cupboards, operated by common keys; and as 
the user of one of these cupboards Vassall had his own suite key. 
It was not the practice to segregate the more highly classified 


documents and store these in the more secure cupboards fitted 
with detector or combination locks, and to use the less secure 
suite cupboards to house only the less sensitive material. Staff 
used whichever cupboards were available to them in their rooms 
for storing all their material, regardless of its classification, and 
regardless of the type of cupboard. Key control was also less 
than adequate. 

There is really no excuse for this sluttishness, except that here 
too there is a problem of numbers. Even the supervisors are so 
numerous that it would take a huge and expensive increase in 
security officers to keep them in order. It is said that the situa 
tion is worse in the Admiralty than in other defence ministries, 
because of a peculiarity in its organization. "Methods and Rou 
tine" is in the same hands as its security organizations, though 
these are separate elsewhere, and this leads to psychological 
conflict. In the Foreign Office, or the Air Ministry, or the War 
Office, one set of people says, "It will be convenient if Brown, 
Jones, and Robinson work in the three separate rooms at the end 
of the corridor so that the Under-Secretary can have them along 
in a second or two if he wants them," and another set says, "No, 
for the sake of security they must all work in the same room, 
with the clerks of all three coming in and out, and all six being 
under each other s eyes throughout the working day." But in 
the Admiralty the same set of people has to put these two contra 
dictory views to itself, and it can be believed that the security 
considerations too often go to the wall. We all of us tend to 
believe that life is more like the novels of Angela Thirkell than 
like the novels of Eric Ambler, even when we ourselves are living 
out an Eric Ambler plot. 

It might be hard to alter this questionable arrangement, for it 
is never convenient to knock about the structure of defence 
institutions, which cannot shut up shop for a day. But it should 
not be impossible to introduce the technique which was men 
tioned at the time of the Portland spy-ring trial. This is the 
snap-check, the stopping and search of so many employees, cho 
sen at random at irregular intervals, as they make their way out 
of their offices. This would have stopped Houghton, and it 
would have stopped Vassal!. The trouble is that there is a resis 
tance to this technique which is based on class feeling. It might 
be thought that nobody would object to a routine instituted for 


the purpose of lessening our common risk of being blown up, 
but such snap-checks are imposed in certain industries and for 
that reason are resented by some white-collar workers. 

But the public did not want to be bothered with such con 
siderations, which was natural enough; who wants to realize that 
any inconvenience he is suffering is due to that quite irrepressible 
phenomenon the birth rate, acting in conjunction with human 
intelligence, which we cannot afford to repress? It would be 
much more agreeable to throw the blame on some human being 
in a position of power, who could be removed from that 
position; and that would satisfy a desire felt constantly by per 
sons temporarily out of power or not likely ever to be in power, 
which is to humiliate the powerful. There was therefore a fierce 
campaign waged against Lord Carrington, the First Lord of the 
Admiralty. The Labour Party in Parliament and certain sections 
of the press (Tory as well as Labour) called for the resignation 
of Lord Carrington, on the ground that Vacssall s case was the 
second serious breach of security while he had been at the Admir 
alty. In point of fact, Lord Carrington s record regarding secu 
rity was impeccable. He had goe t^uJ^AdTn iral ty in October 
1959; the security forces had started looking for Lonsdale- and 
Hough ton and Winifred Gee in February 1960 and had found 
them at the beginning of the next year, after which there could 
be no more spy-catching, because the Soviet Union told all its 
spies in Britain to lie low for a time. Vassall had only started 
work again in the spring of 1962, and by August he was walking 
into a trap. Nowhere in the world are modern spies caught 
quickly and easily, and Lord Carrington s time-table was to his 

But there was the other popular campaign, which was even 
more fervenftly conducted: to track down the powerful homosex 
ual who had enabled this wretched little pansy-boy to get into 
the Admiralty and had protected him-, and promoted him when 
he was there. The objects of this campaign were unfortunate, for 
Vassall couldi apt fairty be desdibecHn such terms; He was, so far 
as birjjh, appearance, manners, and education are concerned, 
much like many other people in the civil service. There was no 
reason at all why he should not have been accepted by the 
Ajffiniralty when he presented himself with quite usual qual- 
Mfecations for a derk, at the age of seventeen; aad4t was per- 


fectly obvious that nobody had been nursing his career, for it 
had not been nursed. He had never succeeded in getting promo 
tion, and he was once put in a department (Naval Intelligence) 
which he actively disliked. As for the influences being Commu 
nist and not homosexual, he was put for two years into the office 
of the Civil Lord, where he could get no documents for his 
Soviet employers. It is just possible that he chose not to be 
promoted, for the reason that in the lower echelon he had a freer 
range among documents than would have been his had he been 
given superior and therefore more specialist duties; but there 
was no need for a patron to secure this result. To dodge promo 
tion he simply had to go on playing the dumb gazelle. 

But the public was determined that they had Vassall on their 
backs^vad, looking round, they found a candidate who had every 
qualificatioiv^xcept probability. Vassall, as we know, had served 
for two years SET the office of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, 
who was then the Honourable Mr. Thomas Galbraith, the eldest 
of the seven children of^e first Baron Strathclyde, and since 
1948, when he was thirty-one, ^P for the Billhead Division of 
Glasgow. It is as well to state at^mce that Mr. Galbraith s 
with Vassall was entirely blameless, and that his 

only fault had been to treat his clerk with a, certain unworldly 
Jdndness. This is proved beyond doubt by Mr. 6 al^raith s good- 
nattired and trivial letters to Vassall, which were obviously writ 
ten out ot^Conscientiousness rather than with zest, and by a 
poignant incident which occurred in the spring of 1962. In late 
1960 or early 1961 Vassall had been told by his Soviet contacts to 
stop spying because Lonsdale and his associates h^d been de 
tected, and a year later he was told to start agaisk There was no 
doubt that he felt a strong affection for Mr. Galbraith, and, 
though he realized that this was not returned, he still felt sure that 
Mr. Galbraith would do his best for him. He evidently did not 
want tcTSSrt spying again, as who would, in view of the long 
sentences given the Portland spy ring^and he wote to Mr. 
Galbraith (who by this time ~wa$"lJn<ler-Secret2r*y ^_f State for 
Scotland), asking him tojp him as he wished for his advice, and 
in return got an ittf^iTon to lunch at Mr. Galbraith s homise in 
Westminster. A^ear before Vassall had come to him as c^lerk, 
Mr. Galbraith haSf married a young and beautiful Belgian 


and in the six years since then she had had two children and was 
then about to have a third. 

When Vassall arrived at the house in Westminster, Mr. Gal- 
braith had not come home yet, and Mrs. Galbraith gave him 
sherry and talked of this and that. She happened to mention the 
Portland spy ring, and her remarks had a curious effect on Vas 
sall. He stopped talking, and when Mr. Galbraith arrived he 
found his guest in a disturbed and almost incoherent state "in 
a maze," was his expression. He could not explain what his 
trouble was, and shortly afterwards wrote to Mr. Galbraith to say 
that he was resigned to staying at the Admiralty. It is likely that 
Vassall had wanted to consult Mr. Galbraith about his career, 
and had possibly the idea of asking if Mr. Galbraith could get 
him transferred to some other branch of the civil service uncon 
nected with defence, which would have meant his escape from 
the espionage net. Or he may have wondered if he might not 
throw himself on the mercy of a man who was sympathetic and 
friendly, and make a full confession. All that we know is that he 
was in such a state of apprehension that Mrs. Galbraith s expres 
sions of disgust regarding the Portland spy ring were enough to 
make him, for the one and only time on record, lose his self- 
possession. "He was never ruffled," Captain Bennett said of him 
at Moscow, at a time when, whether he was blackmailed or not, 
he was making his first steps as a traitor. But now he was. It is 
significant that, though he was so greatly distressed by his in 
volvement, he was not able to insist on seeing Mr. Galbraith 
alone. Had there been any substance in the charges against the 
two men, Vassall could surely have demanded to see him without 
his wife, and Mr. Galbraith would hardly have dared to refuse. 
The link between them must have been innocent. 

But the public would not have it so, and curiously enough 
they got what they wanted not from the popular press, as might 
have been imagined, but from the House of Commons. Here and 
there the press gave some help, but the real crusaders were at 
Westminster. In the debate on the Queen s address in November, 
Mr. George Brown uttered these extraordinary words: 

We cannot leave the Vassall case where it is. There are other 
letters in existence, copies of which I and, no doubt, others 
have seen, the originals of which are in the hands of what are 


called the "authorities" which indicate a degree of Ministerial 
responsibility, which goes far beyond the ordinary business of 
a Minister in charge, being responsible for everything which 
goes on in his Department. The Lynsky Tribunal was set up to 
deal with a junior Minister for far less than is involved in this. 

The Lynsky Tribunal, of which no sensible Labour politician 
would wish to remind the country, since the persons involved 
were Labour members of the Labour government of 1945-1950, 
dealt with charges of "receiving payments or rewards in return 
for the granting of licenses and permission and the withdrawal 
of any prosecutions." The matters involved, in fact, were bri 
bery and corruption. But the letters Mr. Brown had seen con 
sisted of this sort of thing: 

My dear Vassall, 

Goodness knows what you will think of me for having taken 
so long to write. We were both delighted to receive your 
charming card of congratulation and I would have thanked you 
ages ago except for the fact that the Scottish Office, when Parlia 
ment is sitting, keeps me more busy than the Admiralty. . . . 

We will never know what Mr. Brown meant, except perhaps 
in the hereafter, and unfortunately this wild statement was not 
isolated, which makes the debates on this subject painful 
reading. The pages of Hansard often record speeches so feeble 
that they would not be delivered or listened to in public were it 
not for the charity inherent in the conception of democratic 
government; but there is a marked difference between the charity 
offered at a hospital and the promiscuous hospitality of a disor 
derly house which alone would have welcomed this debate. The 
Labour Party behaved far below its real intellectual and moral 
level, and it angrily attacked the committee of three appointed 
by Mr. Macmillan, which consisted of Sir Charles Cunningham, 
the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Home Office; Sir Harold 
Kent, Procurator-General and Treasury solicitor; and Sir Burke 
Trend, Second Secretary at the Treasury, and it demanded that a 
tribunal be set up under the Tribunal of Inquiries Act, a much 
more expensive and complicated form of court, requiring skilled 
legal handling. 

It showed some sense in calling for such a tribunal, but only 
because it was an inquiry with special powers of investigation, 
which might be able to find out why the Labour members them- 


selves were talking such nonsense. The Prime Minister took 
advantage of the opportunity they had given him by publishing 
Mr. Galbraith s letters in all their blamelessness and setting up 
the tribunal they had been so eagerly demanding. The Labour 
Party then lost its sense of humour. It happened that Mr. Gal- 
braith, who must have thought that the world was going mad, 
resigned his office in a letter which showed a real desire to crawl 
away and lick his wounds, and that Mr. Macmillan very properly 
accepted it. The Opposition immediately set up a cry that Mr. 
Macmillan was being very unkind to Mr. Galbraith, for whom 
they were showing a tender concern which was surprising, and 
they attacked the tribunal as a very cruel form of inquiry. It 
seemed that people s names were mentioned at tribunals, reputa 
tions were shattered, people were smeared. Of this, it now 
seemed, they could not bear to think. Mr. Michael Foot re 

The Prime Minister, with matchless insolence, talked of 
McCarthy, but he is the man who is asking the House to in 
stitute the McCarthy procedure. He is the most brazen 
McCarthy of the lot. The Prime Minister s capacity for hypoc 
risy staggers even me. 

The candour of this last sentence is magnificent. 

Never in Victorian days was a Parliamentary debate so redo 
lent of humbug, so cruelly irresponsible, so silly. But the public 
showed no repugnance whatsoever. On the contrary, they fol 
lowed its example, and, even after the Galbraith letters had been 
published, the lying gossip spread. The press joined in fitfully, 
having been in some quarters misled by an informant posing as 
having inside information, who has never been named, and who 
was lucky in the credulity with which his story was received. But 
it was the amateurs, the man and woman in the street, who 
really kept the hysteria going at its height. 

In 1962 a charge was brought under the Official Secrets Act 
which was far less sinister, and lamentable in the old decorous 
way to which we had formerly been accustomed. This concerned 
Barbara Fell, a woman of fifty-four, member of a family distin 
guished for its services to the state, herself a civil servant of grati 
fying eminence, a senior official at the Central Office of Informa 
tion, drawing a salary of nearly 4000 a year. She was a reserved 


character, something of an enigma to other eminent women civil 
servants, but she had her own friends, and these included people 
regarded with respect and affection in the world of letters. She 
was charged with having shown papers she had taken from her 
office to Mr. Peciak, press counsellor of the Yugoslav embassy, 
between May 1959 and October 1961. These papers were ad 
mitted by the prosecution to be in no way related to national 
defence, but it was maintained that they were classified as 
confidential, and as they included memoranda sent home by the 
British ambassador at Belgrade on such subjects as "The effect of 
Yugoslav foreign policy on a policy of the United Kingdom/ 
confidential they certainly should have remained. The repre 
sentatives of all nations think of the representatives of other 
nations as lesser breeds without the law. It is an occupational 
disease, and these documents were probably symptomatic. 

It was admitted that Miss Fell had been the mistress of Mr. 
Peciak, and this was not at all difficult to credit, for she was an 
attractive woman, looking far younger than her years, and quite 
as attractive as Mr. Peciak. Nevertheless the story surprised. Miss 
Fell s claim was that she found Mr. Peciak to be anti-Russian 
and to some extent anti-German, and, as she put it, "eventually I 
began to select certain papers for him which I thought would 
influence him in a pro-Western direction." This could easily be 
translated into amorous tones. In emollient circumstances, an 
infatuated voice might murmur, "But you re wrong, darling, Sir 
Oliver adores all your people, I ll bring his last memo for you 
on Wednesday and you ll see for yourself." But it was Miss 
Fell s habit not merely to show Mr. Peciak the documents, but 
to let him take them away with him in the evening and return 
them to her in the morning by dropping them into her letter 
box. This procedure was an odd manifestation of Venus toute 
entiere a sa proie attachde and it worked out as the systematic pro 
vision of light night work for the Yugoslav embassy photographer 
in his darkroom. Miss Fell was sentenced to two years imprison 
ment on December 7, 1962, after a brief trial which was painful 
without being interesting. This was treachery below the historic 
plane, the purloining of mediocre documents which has gone on 
ever since there were embassies, and it was tragic that it had 
meant ruin for a human being considered far from mediocre by 
her friends. 


WE are guilty of such hysteria as visited England 
during the Vassall case only when the emotions we normally 
repress burst their barriers and we try to force them back into 
captivity. We all fear death, and the agitation against atomic 
weapons has obsessed us with fear of death at the hands of the 
Soviet Union, and for that reason a detected Soviet spy makes us 
expect that we will die as a result of his theft. Most of us repress 
such homosexuality as we have, and when Vassall avowed that he 
was homosexual, that repressed part of us envied his audacious 
choice of gratification. When he avowed that he was a spy, and 
that he had been forced into espionage because he had been 
blackmailed as a homosexual, then our sense of guilt was 
aroused. The thing was lethal after all. 

Vassall had a peculiar power to raise such disturbance, because 
he evoked the image of homosexuality as it appears to all inter 
ested inhabitants of a great city, fascinating and repellent. It can 
be taken that Vassall was never mercenary, that he could have 
claimed that he was petted rather than paid, and that his al 
liances were in fact always conducted with a certain fastidious 
ness and were justified by affection. But in the public imagination 
he was the slender figure in sweater and tight jeans who lurks in 
the shadow by the wall, just outside the circle of the lamplight, 
whisks down the steps of the tube-station lavatory and, with 
backward glances under the long lashes, offers pleasure and dan 

There is a charm inherent in the idea of prostitution which is 
more complex and in one sense less sordid than is commonly 
admitted today. It is not a question of simply going off with a 
tart for mechanical sexual reasons. Its innocent part is the dream 
of love not as a slow-growing plant, requiring attention lest it 
perish, but as a shooting star, which, so much more miraculously, 
flashes out of the night where an instant before there was noth 
ing. This coexists with a thriftier fantasy: of a shooting star 


flashing back into the night without presenting much of a bill. 
The mean man likes to think of supreme sexual pleasure (as it 
might be, now and then, since the young and the beautiful are 
sometimes tempted into prostitution) which can be paid for in 
cash and calls for no settlement in the way of gratitude or the 
sharing of responsibility. Moreover, the transaction offers a dou 
ble moral triumph. The prostitute s client can at the moment of 
union feel that he is a splendid rebel defying religious and social 
prohibitions, but later he can get back on the safe side, and that 
through two sorts of pleasure, the masochistic pleasure of repent 
ance and the sadistic pleasure of hating the prostitute. 

The prostitutes* technique of self-adornment also offers the 
ego two sorts of refreshment. The client s common sense knows 
that such enhancements of the human aspect are bought over the 
counter, but why do the buyers make their purchases? In the 
hope of attracting me, the client smugly thinks. How potent the 
prostitute must judge me. If common sense intervenes with the 
reminder that the prostitute must eat, the ego goes off on a new 
tack. How rich the prostitute must judge me, how recognizably a 
man of substance I must be. There, of course, he is quite right. 
But even so, he gets some value for his money, perhaps in 
laughter. Without doubt Pan and the satyrette and Venus in her 
more popular manifestations pulled off more good things in 
conversation than were ever ascribed to Juno. But, on the other 
side, prostitution is the irrigating system by which the venereal 
diseases are spread through society. True, antibiotics have done 
much to control them, but they have not exterminated them, 
and in the mind of man the dread is hardly diminished at all. 
But against this is the seduction of the secret society, the locked 
door, the drawn curtain, behind which is plenty, the free flow 
of sex, the amassing of fortunes. Many persons starved of sex 
and money feel for this reason a wolfish jealousy of the pros 

Therefore forces normally held in comfortable suspension 
within our society, sensuality, sadism, panic fear, and a jealousy 
surpassing any class jealousy, were precipitated by the legend of 
Vassall. But the power of that legend affected only the overt and 
latent homosexuals in our society. These may fairly be judged to 
be still in a minority. (Otherwise, unless the birth rate were 
higher than it is, the population would go down instead of up.) 


In the early part of 1963 a girl named Christine Keeler appeared 
in the news as certainly involved in prostitution and possibly in 
espionage. She was at once desired and hated more than her 

It was not unreasonable that she should have excited desire, 
for she was beautiful in a nostalgically unfashionable style. She 
was not at all unlike the Virgin Mary in Dante Gabriel Ros- 
setti s "Annunciation." She had a remote distinction of bearing 
and manner unexpected in one who had been brought up on a 
riverbank near the Slough desert (a district comparable in charm 
to the New Jersey flats) in a converted railway carriage. As for 
hatred, she might have been spared the full blast of what she got, 
for she had hardly had the benefit of the protection we profess to 
give the young. Admittedly by the time she got into the news, at 
the age of twenty, it would have been difficult to protect her save 
by some such drastic technique as bricking her up in a wall, 
according to the practice which the cruder kind of Protestant 
used to believe prevalent in convents. But earlier she had had 
bad luck. She had been seduced by an American sergeant at a 
tender age and went off to earn a living in London in her 
middle teens. Eventually she found herself in the cabaret show of 
a famous London night-club, and there she might have found a 
way out of the dust, for this club looks after its girls well and a 
fair number make good marriages or break into the entertain 
ment world. But she was committed to a less fortunate destiny 
when she met a man thirty years older than herself, named 
Stephen Ward, and went to live with him. They apparently 
remained throughout their association on brother-and-sister 
terms, but she joined the long line of girls who had lived under 
his control during the years since the end of the war, most of 
whom he handed over to various rich men of his acquaintance, 
most commonly as mistresses though sometimes as wives. 

Attempts have been made to represent Stephen Ward as a 
glamorous rebel and sexual deviate. But to the experienced eye 
he was a not unfamiliar type of daffy. He struck some people as 
mildly insane, and indeed he had the shining eyes and effusive 
ness of a manic-depressive on the upswing, and something of the 
single-minded mindlessness which Harpo Marx used to affect. 
Other people who met him at the houses of his wealthy patrons 
regarded him as a quite gifted court jester, with a flow of amus- 


ing gossip. Other people again regarded him as brilliant, but it 
must be admitted that they were themselves not so much bril 
liant as loyal and affectionate. They were apparently much im 
pressed by a kind of diluted Nietzscheanism which had filtered 
into his brains through smoky night sessions with his more liter 
ate (but still not very literate) friends. As a witness at his own 
trial and as an interviewee on television he seemed ingenious 
rather than intelligent, and curiously blind to the effect he was 
creating on his audience. His memoirs were poorly written and 

But he was a man of many and marked gifts. He was a born 
professional: he was capable of acquiring all the skills necessary 
to the successful pursuit of an exacting occupation, and using 
them continuously at a high level. It was not for him to claim 
much originality or individuality; he joined the ranks of those 
who find it enjoyable and profitable to march along the paths 
traced out by original individuals of the past. His first profession 
was osteopathy. It is not clear how he came to adopt it. His 
father, a clergyman, a handsome man, only slightly handicapped 
by a malformation of the spine which just stopped short of 
making him a hunchback, was a noted preacher and ended his 
days as a Canon of Rochester Cathedral. The Wards were cer 
tainly prosperous and by all accounts were a united and affection 
ate family, and one would have expected all the sons to have an 
orthodox education. But after a number of experiments (which 
included a term or two at the Sorbonne) Ward went to America 
at the age of twenty-two and took a degree at a well-known osteo- 
pathic college in Missouri. It is beyond question that he became 
a master of his craft. Other osteopaths, even those who thought 
him mad and bad, admired him for both his manipulative 
powers and his acuteness in diagnosis. 

But he also played bridge like a professional and could hardly 
have encumbered his time more heavily with fixtures had he 
been a bridge-player by profession; and there was nothing ama 
teurish about the portrait drawings he was ceaselessly producing. 
They were of limited artistic value. Some of the faithful (whose 
devotion recalls the spaniel) compared them to the work of 
Michelangelo, but a juster comparison would have referred to 
Miss Olive Snell and Miss Molly Bishop, the charming and indus 
trious chroniclers of English society beauties in this and the last 


generation. Stephen Ward was less gifted than either of these 
ladies and not nearly so well schooled, but he possessed some- 
tiling of their expertise, the power to pick out the sweeter aspects 
of an image and put them down on the right part of the paper 
with just the right weight of line to make looking at the thing as 
easy as swallowing cream. As time went on he marketed to advan 
tage the products of his emollient art, and when his career came 
to an end he was drawing 1500 a year from a contract with an 
illustrated weekly. 

His three professions worked in well together. If a prominent 
man came to him in his capacity as an osteopath, he would offer 
to draw him or her and would then ask for introductions to 
other prominent people in the same field, on the plea that he 
wished to draw them too. He would then, if the signs were 
favourable, invite them to his bridge parties or to his country 
cottage, and familiarity would be established. This process some 
times developed so far as to land the prominent person in the 
field of Ward s fourth profession, which was pimping. 

The general public hesitated to believe that Ward was a pimp. 
He was tried and found guilty of living on the immoral earnings 
of Christine Keeler and another and still younger girl, Mandy 
Rice-Davies, but the average man was inclined to think him the 
victim of a technicality, for the reason that there was little evi 
dence of money having passed from them to him. He could 
hardly have been convicted had it not been that a man who is 
habitually in the company of prostitutes is presumed by the law 
to be living on their earnings, though it accepts a disproof. But 
his innocence cannot be established by criticism of that presump 
tion, which is in fact a realistic recognition of the shyness of 
pimps to confide their financial affairs to paper. The situation is 
discussed in a curious passage in Lord Denning s report on 
Ward s affairs and their consequences. "In money matters," 
Lord Denning oddly states, "he was improvident." He goes on 
to explain: 

He did not keep a banking account. He got a firm of solici 
tors to keep a sort of banking account for him, paying in 
cheques occasionally to them and getting them to pay his rent. 
More often he cashed his incoming cheques through other 
people; or paid his bills with the incoming cheques. He had 
many cash transactions which left no trace. 


But these practices do not indicate improvidence. On the con 
trary, as the Inland Revenue would testify, they are devices 
practised by persons so excessively provident that they grudge 
wasting money on the payment of income tax. Here in England 
the improvident have no aversion from banking accounts, which 
they open optimistically and which offer them their own pecul 
iar food in the English conception of the overdraft. Neither is 
there any special feature attractive to improvidence in the act of 
paying in cheques to a firm of solicitors rather than to a bank 
manager; the excessively provident might find the solicitors pref 
erable, particularly if they did not tell them absolutely every 
thing. Moreover, we must dismiss any picture of Stephen Ward 
running across the road to ask his greengrocer to cash a patient s 
cheque for five guineas. An organization which was sued for libel 
by Stephen Ward made its own inquiries and discovered that he 
was in the habit of cashing cheques for both small and large 
amounts at gambling-houses which performed this service for their 
clients and charged quite a heavy commission. 

There is much evidence that Stephen Ward was capable of 
great generosity. True, he was close-fisted with his girls. When 
they lived under his roof the housekeeping was frugal, and they 
had to pay their share of the overheads. But he gave free treat 
ment to many needy patients and on some hard cases he be 
stowed not only his skill and his time but considerable sums of 
money. Yet there is much evidence that he loved money and that 
he pimped for gain. There was really, from his point of view, no 
reason why he should not be a procurer. He liked, as some 
people like teaching and others like nursing, to bring together 
two human beings in order that they might have sexual relations 
on a mercenary basis. This conception existed in his mind in a 
strange, diagrammatic isolation. The public in its daydreams saw 
him as surrounded by beautiful girls, and so he often was, but 
some of his chosen companions were ill-favoured in face and in 
figure, and were repellent or pitiful in personality. It was as if he 
wished his women to incarnate the idea of prostitution in its 
impure purity, without making allusion to the agreeable in any 
form. Pimping was thus to him a mission, and many missionaries 
accept payment for their labours. It would take unusual credu 
lity to hold, on the evidence given at the trial, that Ward did not 


do that very thing. The only thing it did not show was where the 
money went. 

The pattern had been glaring enough before the trial. In the 
late fifties the wife of an MP called on Ward to arrange for 
osteopathic treatment and never went back to have it. She saw 
enough to make her certain that some sort of call-girl racket was 
being conducted from his house. Again, he treated as friends and 
colleagues various well-known vice-racketeers, including the two 
most celebrated disseminators of pornography in our day, and an 
internationally known organizer of flagellationist orgies. Again, 
Ward was careful to profess great hatred for Peter Rachman, the 
slum-landlord and club-owner, but two of his girls, one of them 
being Mandy Rice-Davies, became Rachman s mistresses, and he 
himself was Rachman s tenant. Again, it was his habit to give 
frequent bridge parties, and some of these were that and nothing 
more; but others ended in the sudden incursion of a troupe of 
young women, lightly clad and brandishing whips, who per 
formed a bizarre cabaret turn. Our story has now strayed so far 
from normal territory that the pattern may be so surprising as to 
be vitually unacceptable. It appears to be true, but could never 
be credible, that many of these young women were quite respect 
able, and amongst themselves alluded to the elderly gentlemen 
who formed the larger part of the audience in derisive and even 
hostile terms. Nevertheless, even if allowance is made for these 
singular facts, it appears unlikely that such a party should be 
given, not now and again, but again and again, by a man far 
from lavish in his expenditure, from motives of hospitable al 

Ward s four professions worked together to give him yet a 
fifth, which is hard to define. He was not a traitor and not a spy. 
Let us say he mucked about with security in the shadow of the 
Soviet Union. This, like his pimping, would not strike him as 
morally wrong. A highly intelligent woman, who was his patient 
and was also involved with him through her husband s associa 
tion with one of his close friends, asserts that he had been a 
convinced Communist for about seven years, from about 1955 or 
1956. This was not at all rare in his social ambiance. On the 
more slippery slopes of the entertainment world, where it shelves 
abruptly to the vice racket and the unorthodox financial com- 


plexity, there is a great deal of revolutionary enthusiasm. Some 
of this wells up from deep sources. A man who wants to destroy 
sexual taboos or to maJce money in socially forbidden ways may 
be moved to take these particular actions by a general desire to 
overturn all existing institutions. But the motive may be more 
naive and less ferocious; there may be a belief that under com 
munism everything is divided up and everybody is equal, so 
social prohibitions will be less stringent; and if one got on the 
right side of the machine, one might have the benefit of all this 
new simplicity while fiddling a bit on the side for oneself in the 
good old way. Among Stephen Ward s friends were several men 
and women who had made large sums out of various bizarre 
enterprises and were closely connected with Communist under 
ground activities. 

Round about the end of 1960 Ward told a patient of his, the 
editor of a newspaper, that he wished to go to Moscow and draw 
various people there, including Khrushchev, and would like to 
get in touch with some Soviet officials in London who could help 
him to realize this ambition. The editor knew an assistant naval 
attachd at the Soviet embassy, called Captain Eugene Ivanov, 
and introduced the two men at a large luncheon-party he was 
giving at a London club on January 20, 1961. At this early stage 
the story is already odd. Ward had for a long time known a 
number of people, some highly respectable and some not so 
greatly that, who could have helped him to contact the Soviet 

The two men immediately struck up a warm friendship. Iva 
nov was a Soviet Intelligence officer, and he was very much the 
same sort of operator as Gordon Lonsdale. He was superficially 
expansive, vulgar, jolly, sociable, a cheerful womanizer, and 
good-natured. He spoke English fluently and was allowed by his 
embassy to go here, there, and everywhere, wherever he was 
invited, which is not the case with Soviet diplomats as a general 
rule. He ingratiated himself with his hosts by playing a good 
game of bridge, eating and drinking with naive enjoyment, 
telling funny stories, and chattering and laughing in the charac 
ter of a simple child of nature. He shared with Lonsdale a 
curious readiness to be photographed when engaged in amorous 
horseplay. It was as if both men were looking for certificates of 


Meanwhile Ward was acting as if he meant to be to Ivanov 
what Houghton was to Lonsdale. How completely he had moved 
into the classic role of the agent is shown by an unpleasing 
episode concerning Madame Furtseva, the Soviet Minister of 
Culture, who paid a visit to London in 1961. He asked if he 
might draw her and through Ivanov this was arranged. The 
sitting took place in a drawing-room at the chief Soviet embassy 
building in Kensington Palace Gardens and lasted for an hour. 
Madame Furtseva sat on the sofa under the huge picture of a 
Soviet peasant woman and in excellent English chatted away on 
such subjects as Pasternak, the Hungarian rising, the hopes and 
fears of her country, and the problem of the Russian immigrant 
groups. She talked with unusual candour, and Ward thought the 
conversation so interesting that when he went home he wrote 
down what he could remember of it. Then it struck him, he said, 
that the editor who had introduced him to Ivanov might like to 
publish it. He realized that he could not publish the notes with 
out permission, so he sent them, not to Madame Furtseva, but to 
the Soviet embassy officials. 

They were, he reported afterwards, horrified. Madame Furt 
seva had spoken so very openly. They refused him permission to 
publish the notes, and he thought this a great pity. That is his 
account of it. But it can hardly be doubted that he was perform 
ing with professional skill a well-known technique of a profes 
sion he had only just adopted. It could be objected that Madame 
Furtseva may have left London by the time his notes were 
finished and that he could not send them to her to be passed, so 
he had sent them to the Soviet embassy officials as the next best 
thing. But he could, on learning of her departure, have decided 
to drop the whole idea of publication, lest he should find himself 
informing on her to her own security system. 

The most conspicuous service Ward rendered to Ivanov, how 
ever, was of a far less chaste nature, and it was also complex. It 
showed Ward performing another professional trick, indeed two 
of them. His association with Ivanov did not go unremarked. On 
June 8, 1961, a representative of security met Stephen Ward at a 
restaurant in Marylebone in order to question him about this 
involvement, and was taken by him to his mews flat, where he 
met a girl who was living there, possibly Christine Keeler. At the 
end of the interview Ward asked the security officer whether it 


was all right for him to continue his friendship with Ivanov, was 
told that it was, said that he was very ready to help in any way 
he could, and was instructed to get in touch with security should 
Ivanov make any propositions to him. To his superiors the secu 
rity officer reported that he thought Ward s political ideas were 
probably exploitable by the Russians, but that he himself was 
not a "security risk/ and that the appearance of the young 
woman in the mews could be considered "corroborative evidence 
that he had been involved in the call-girl racket." He also 
added that "he is obviously not a person we can use." 

The result of such a visit would be, in most cases, the visited 
person s instant resolve to break off the association which had 
been the subject of inquiry. It was not so with Ward. Exactly a 
month later, in the evening of Saturday, July 8, Ward was bath 
ing with some of his girls at the swimming pool at Lord Astor s 
house, Cliveden. Lord Astor had been a patient of Ward s for 
thirteen years and was on familiar terms with him, often treating 
his needier friends to courses of Ward s osteopathic ministra 
tions; and Ward s country cottage was on the Cliveden estate. 
One of the girls was Christine Keeler, who had been separated 
from her bathing dress and was swimming naked when Lord 
Astor came down with his guests from a dinner party. They 
included Mr. Profumo, the Minister of War. For Ward there can 
have been no element of surprise in the situation. He knew very 
well at what time Lord Astor was accustomed to bring down his 
guests to the swimming pool, and he knew what guests were 
staying at the house. He also knew Mr. Profumo. Miss Keeler 
dressed herself, Ward and his girls spent some time with the 
Astor party round the pool, and they went up to the house for a 
short time. The next day, Sunday, July 9, the Ward party joined 
the Astor party down at the pool again, and this time Ward 
brought with him Ivanov, who thus made the acquaintance of Mr. 
Profumo. Ivanov took Christine Keeler back with him to Ward s 
house in the early evening, where they were reported to have 
drunk a great deal of whisky and to have had sexual relations. 
Whether these relations actually occurred we can never know for 
certain, and it is an aspect of truth we can well suffer to elude us. 

On the day after that, Monday, July 10, Ward telephoned to 
the security officer who had visited him and asked if he might see 
him; and when the security officer arrived two days later, he told 


him that he had summoned him in obedience to the instructions 
he had been given to report any propositions Ivanov might make 
to him. Ivanov had, he said, asked him to find out why the 
Americans were going to arm Western Germany with atomic 
weapons. He also made a peculiar communication regarding 
Christine. It is obvious that during the week-end she was making 
a play for Mr. Profumo, and by the time Ward saw the security 
officer there had probably been a telephone call from Mr. Pro 
fumo which showed that the play had succeeded. Ward, however, 
told the security officer that Ivanov "was undoubtedly attracted 
by Christine." It is very doubtful if he ever was. Lord Denning 
thinks he was not. All that is certain is that for a time Christine 
seems to have felt it obligatory to say that he was, and presum 
ably she was coached to say this by Ward. 

The security officer reported the matter to his superiors in 
terms which inspired them to follow two lines. First, they asked 
the Special Branch to make inquiries about Ward s character, 
which they thought might be not all it should be, and to identify 
Miss Keeler. It must make us all blush to learn that the Special 
Branch could not trace Christine Keeler, who could have been 
found by some simple inquiries at certain photographers , coffee 
bars, and shops in the Marylebone district; and we must blush 
again to hear that the Special Branch was of the opinion that 
nothing was known to Ward s discredit. His address, it claimed, 
"was in a respectable neighbourhood where any openly unseemly 
conduct would come to police notice/ The security organiza 
tions second line was to explore the possibilities of getting at 
Ivanov, possibly through Mr. Profumo, and persuading him to 
be a defector. These deliberations were simplified by the failure 
of any of them to notice that Mr. Profumo was spending hours 
alone with Miss Keeler in Ward s flat and other places and 
driving her round London. 

The head of the security service then suggested to Sir Norman 
Brook (now Lord Normanbrook), the Secretary of the Cabinet, 
that he should speak to Mr. Profumo on the subject, which he 
did on August 9. Sir Norman then put it to him that he should 
be careful in his dealings with Ward, since any information he 
might drop would be passed on to Ivanov by this master of 
indiscretion, and asked him if he thought that Ivanov could be 
persuaded to defect. Mr. Profumo said he felt no enthusiasm for 


the project and went away, sweating at every pore. As Lord 
Denning was afterwards to learn, he thought that the security 
service had discovered his relations with Miss Keeler and that Sir 
Norman s conversation was a tactful way of warning him. He 
had an assignation with Miss Keeler the very next night, but 
wrote a letter to her calling it off. Lord Denning cautiously says, 
"I am satisfied that the letter, if not the end, was the beginning 
of the end of the association between Mr. Profumo and Christine 
Keeler." In March 1963, Mr. Profumo told the House of Com 
mons that he had gone on seeing her till December. But he 
afterwards explained that this was only because Sir Norman had 
said, "I thought I should see you before we go away for the 
recess/ and when he recollected this he thought it was the 
December recess, but realized later it was the August recess. In 
other words, he could not, in March 1963, remember whether an 
affair he had had in 1961 with an exceptionally beautiful girl 
had lasted one month or six. This fact should be put before all 
young girls over the age of twelve as an important part of their 

The longer the affair lasted, the better for Stephen Ward in 
his capacity of Soviet dogsbody. It was not that there was much 
hope, or any at all, of Christine Keeler s getting from Mr. Pro 
fumo the date of the American delivery of atom bombs to West 
Germany, and imparting it to Ivanov. Not only would Mr. Pro 
fumo never have told her; she would never have asked him. The 
girl had a vigorous if sombre and joyless intelligence. But there 
was another purpose served by her relationship with the Min 
ister of War. Lord Denning states: 

It has been suggested to me that Ivanov filled a new role in 
Russian technique. It was to divide the United Kingdom from 
the United States by these devious means. If Ministers or 
prominent people can be placed in compromising situations, or 
made the subject of damaging rumour, or the Security Service 
can be made to appear incompetent, it may weaken the con 
fidence of the United States in our integrity and reliability. So 
a man like Captain Ivanov may take every opportunity of 
getting to know Ministers or prominent people not so much 
to obtain information from them (though this would be a 
useful by-product) but so as to work towards destroying con 
fidence. If this were the object of Captain Ivanov, with Stephen 
Ward as his tool he succeeded only too well. 


Unfortunately, Lord Denning is wrong in thinking the tech 
nique new. It has been in use for many years and practice has 
brought it to the pitch of perfection. It is to be noted that 
during the next two years the story was plugged throughout 
London that Christine Keeler was having an affair with both Mr. 
Profumo and Ivanov. In late July 1962 a glossy magazine pub 
lished an allusion to it. Yet by that time Mr. Profumo had not 
seen Miss Keeler for at least six months, and Lord Denning is of 
the opinion that she had never had a love affair with Ivanov at 
all. The story must have been circulated by Ward. People might 
have remembered seeing Mr. Profumo with Miss Keeler in com 
promising circumstances, but they could not have had a glimpse 
of an affair with Ivanov which had never happened. 

Ward would naturally have liked to satisfy his Soviet masters; 
but perhaps he felt this a special urgency just then, for it looks 
as if he was attempting to perform an operation only possible to 
agents who are valued employees. Throughout 1961 and 1962 he 
advertised himself more and more blatantly as a Communist 
sympathizer, particularly to his patients. A number of reports 
were made to the security services, and again the same officer was 
sent to interview him and made a mildly unfavourable report. 
He described Ward as "basically a quite decent fellow/ whose 
only fault was that he "accepted as true much of the propaganda 
Ivanov has pumped into him." Again he did not think him a 
security risk. Significantly he wrote: "More than once Ward 
assured me that if Ivanov ever attempted to make use of him for 
any illegal purpose, or if he showed any inclination to defect 
he would get in touch with me immediately." 

Meanwhile Ward and Ivanov carried on a campaign of ingra- 
tiation with the official world of London. As soon as Mr. Pro 
fumo had begun his process of disengagement from Miss Keeler, 
Ward, as if trying a new tack, offered his services to the Foreign 
Office as an intermediary with the Soviet embassy through Iva 
nov and got a chilly dismissal. He got a credulous MP to involve 
the Foreign Office in some twitterings about the Berlin problem 
and the Oder-Neisse line, and he succeeded in introducing Iva 
nov to Sir Harold Caccia, permanent Under-Secretary of State at 
the Foreign Office, who recoiled vigorously. When the Cuban 
crisis blew up in October 1962, the activities of the pair became 
frenetic On October 24 Ward telephoned to the Foreign Office 


and alleged that Lord Astor had recommended him to contact 
Sir Harold Caccia, as Ivanov wished to tell him that the Soviet 
government was looking to the United Kingdom as the only 
hope of mediation in this crisis, and that the United Kingdom 
should call a summit conference immediately. The Foreign Office 
remained impassive, and the next day Ward got the credulous 
MP to meet Ivanov and go to the Foreign Office with this pro 
posal, about which Ward telephoned to it himself later. On the 
same day he got Lord Astor to speak to Lord Arran, a newspaper 
director, and tell him, as Lord Denning puts it, that there was a 
Russian official who was trying to pass information of an urgent 
nature to the British government. Two days later, on October 
27, 1962, Ward took Ivanov to Lord Arran s house, where he 
repeated the suggestion of the summit conference, adding that 
Khrushchev would accept the invitation with alacrity. Lord Arran 
suspected that this was an attempt to drive a wedge between the 
United Kingdom and the Americans and reported it in an unfa 
vourable light to the Foreign Office and the Admiralty. Lord 
Arran has a notorious sense of humour, and these proceedings 
must be thought of as punctuated by his robust laughter. 

The next day, Sunday, October 28, Ward and Ivanov went up 
to Cliveden, where there was the usual week-end party, and 
while they were there it was announced on the radio that the 
Russian ships had turned back from Cuba. Ivanov gave way to 
his surprise and rage, and all the guests noticed it. But three 
days later they were at it again. Ward accidentally picked up an 
MP in a restaurant and took him back to his house, where they 
found Ivanov and Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. 
This peculiar assemblage discussed the Cuban crisis with passion, 
the two young ladies occasionally breaking in with support of 
Ivanov. This must have been an entrancing spectacle. In appear 
ance they were like the strange women against whom King Solo 
mon warned us, but the voices were those of good readers of the 
left-wing weeklies. When the Tory MP got up to go Ward said, 
referring to Ivanov and himself, "that they too must go, for they 
had to dine with Mr. Iain Macleod." This statement froze the 
blood of the Tory MP, Mr. Macleod being then Minister for 
Commonwealth Affairs, and in view of the company present this 
can well be understood. In fact they did not know Mr. Macleod. 
Ward had persuaded a young man to ask Mrs. Macleod if he 


might bring him and Ivanov to a party the Macleods were giving 
for their young son and daughter and their friends. On finding 
that Mr. Macleod was not there, the pair stayed only a few min 
utes and left. 

The MP who had been inveigled into this astonishing visit 
compared notes with Mr. Macleod, who reported the matter to 
the Foreign Office, with the result that on November 2 that body 
entered into further exasperated correspondence with the secu 
rity service about Ward. It is to be noted that by now the secu 
rity service had very strong suspicions indeed that Ward was 
(the security officer put it in a letter to the Foreign Office) 
"providing some of his influential friends with highly satisfac 
tory mistresses/ or (as he put it more tersely in his report to his 
own department) was "a provider of popsies for rich people." 
This knowledge undoubtedly lowered the temperature in which 
Ivanov and Ward were working. 

But they were indefatigable. On November 7 Ward wrote to 
Mr. Harold Wilson about his activities, telling him that the 
Russians had made an offer to the Foreign Office for a summit 
conference. "I can vouch for the authenticity of this," he de 
clared, "since I was the intermediary." But Mr. Wilson was 
unimpressed. A veil then drops but is lifted for a moment on 
Boxing Night to show us a dinner party given by a peer and his 
wife, who had been a close friend of Ward before her marriage, 
to which Ward and Ivanov had been invited to meet a highly 
placed Foreign Office official and his wife. It seems that they 
brought up in conversation the Nassau Conference and the Amer 
ican delivery of nuclear weapons to the Germans, but the For 
eign Office official preserved silence. It is to be doubted, however, 
that Ward and Ivanov hoped to extract any information. It is 
much more likely that they came to give rather than to receive. 
That had certainly been the role Ward had been trying to play 
for the previous eighteen months. If we trace the story from the 
beginning, we find something which looks very like the attempt 
of an agent, who was perhaps not quite an agent, to become a 
double agent. Ward showed himself very obliging to the British 
security service. A security officer had only to tell him that his 
friendship with Ivanov had been remarked upon, and instruct 
him to report any propositions made to him by Ivanov, for him 
to come back within a month with the story that Ivanov had 


indeed made him a proposition, and the further (and false) 
story that Ivanov had taken a mistress who was under his own 
control. From then on, in the communications of the security 
service, there are references to the possibility of Ivanov s defect 
ing: a possibility which must have been conjured up by Ward. 
During the Cuban crisis Ivanov was presented to Lord Arran 
as "a Russian official seeking to pass information of an urgent 
nature to the British government" behind the back of his ambas 
sador: that is, as next door to a defector. 

In fact, Ward was trying to insinuate himself into the British 
security service with the high prestige of a double agent who 
brings to his second employer a valuable agent recruited from 
the security service which was his first employer. He may have 
been inspired by genuine patriotism of a cracked sort; he may 
have been, knowingly or unknowingly, acting at the instigation 
of the Soviet authorities who wanted to plant Ivanov on the 
British in order to supply them with misleading information; or 
he may simply have been gratifying an unassuageable appetite 
for complications. Which motive impelled him we shall never 
now learn, but we do know that Ivanov Jaad no intention of 
becoming a defector, straight or crooked. Some time late in Janu 
ary, Ward had to tell Ivanov that their joint effort had been 
wrecked by a disregarded human element, and the whole story of 
their connection might be published at any moment. Then was 
the moment when, had Ivanov desired to forsake his own people, 
and had his proceedings not been known and approved by his 
own superiors throughout, he would have applied to the British 
for political asylum. Instead, he returned to his country on Janu 
ary 29. 

It was Christine Keeler who, for reasons partly to her credit 
and partly to her discredit, had wrecked Ward s venture into the 
field of security. She and Mandy Rice-Davies were growing resent 
ful of the control Ward exercised on their lives. Both had had 
some taste of luxury, but not much. Though Peter Rachman was 
still living with Mandy at the time of his death in 1962, he had 
made no provision for her in his will. There was no ill feeling. 
He merely suffered from the same testamentary difficulties which 
must have vexed King Solomon if he had a grateful disposition. 
After that, times had gone badly with them. Neither of them was 
framed for success in the terms Ward could provide it. 


The courtesan who satisfies the rich and great must have a 
woman s body and a yes-man s soul; and Christine had an un 
easy, donnish intelligence, while Mandy s wit and humour were 
untamed and formidable. Under Ward s direction they were 
frittering away their lives on prostitution only occasionally miti 
gated by affection and friendship, and they were most meagrely 
rewarded in money or comfort. They wanted to get away from 
him, and it was a sign of character that they did. 

But Christine had gone downhill rapidly in the last few 
months. About the time of her parting from Mr. Profumo, Ward 
had introduced her to the use of marijuana cigarettes, which he 
smoked himself. This had involved her with two West Indians, 
Lucky Gordon and John Edgecombe, both convicted criminals. 
She lived with both of them in turn and left them, and they 
engaged in a barbaric fight for possession of her. When she 
sought refuge with Ward, Lucky Gordon perpetually raised riot 
round the house, banging on the door and shouting, at all hours 
of the day and night; Edgecombe was even more to be feared. 
On October 27, 1962, he inflicted serious wounds on Lucky 
Gordon in a brawl over Christine, but he eluded arrest. Discon 
tented with Ward s regime as she was, she was forced by this sort 
of mishap to take refuge with him, but he received her with 
some acrimony. He could not approve of one of his girls aban 
doning her appointed duties and going off on her own; and it is 
possible that his conscience told him he had led her too far away 
from the normal. It must be admitted also that, at a time when 
he was trying to impose himself on the Foreign Office and the 
security service as a discreet and responsible person, it was awk 
ward to have his home besieged by West Indians whose conduct 
might well attract the attention of the police and who, if ques 
tioned, would declare themselves in search of a young prostitute, 
under his roof for reasons hard for him to explain. 

On December 14, 1962, the crisis broke. Edgecombe came to 
Ward s house when Christine was paying a visit to Mandy, and 
on being refused admission shot the place up, whereupon he was 
arrested. Christine was badly shaken. She had had reason to fear 
for her life. At all times she suffered from a neurotic garrulity, 
but now she became a cascade of reminiscence. She talked to 
everybody she met, about everything which had ever happened 
to her, whether it concerned Edgecombe or not. Nine days later 


she happened to meet a former Labour Member of Parliament, a 
technologist and inventor of some note in his younger days and 
more recently a financier. He encouraged Christine to talk, and 
soon he heard the whole story of Mr. Profumo and Ivanov and 
the request for information about the American delivery of nu 
clear weapons to Germany. He did in fact give the distraught 
waif some good advice, telling her that to protect her own inter 
ests in these matters she must go to a solicitor. But he also passed 
on the Profumo story to the Labour Party security expert, Mr. 
George Wigg, a soldier who had risen from ranker to colonel. He 
was appalled by it. The campaign Mr. Wigg then started was to 
his party s advantage, but he is a man of integrity, and it is fair 
to say that in all his reactions he was moved by honest disgust at 
the twilit world which the story revealed. He has that peculiarly 
intense primness which is found in that rare breed, a prim sol 

But Christine s loquacity had found another outlet. She was 
in a deplorable state. Edgecombe s shooting affray had led to a 
bitter quarrel between her and Ward, and she could no longer 
find a room in his house. She had no money. At a time when 
prostitutes are prosperous as never before, she had no banking 
account; a curious fact. It was not surprising that Ward had 
none; but the same considerations did not apply to her. She was 
unlikely to earn more money at the moment, for she was ill and 
overwrought and cannot have been any real recreation for the 
warrior. Some friends suggested that she should sell her story to 
the press, and she immediately started hawking it round Fleet 
Street, presently concluding an arrangement with a newspaper, 
the first of a series, which, among other benefits, set her up in a 
comfortable apartment of her own. It is hard to see any other way 
by which this poor little waif could have got a home at that 
moment. What is strange, in a girl who appeared to her friends 
as scatterbrained and inconsiderate but not ill-natured, is the 
ruthlessness with which she pursued a course certain to bring 
ruin on Mr. Profumo. But it is the case against prostitution that 
it puts people in the power of others who have no affection for 
them, and Mr. Profumo had taken the risk with his eyes open. 

But Christine continued to talk, involving him in another 
sphere. On January 26 a police sergeant called on her to serve 
her notice to attend the trial of John Edgecombe, and she gave 


him a reward which must have been far beyond his expectations 
with a statement in which she told once again the whole Pro- 
fumo-Ivanov-nuclear-arms story. Meanwhile there were repercus 
sions from her disclosures in Fleet Street. They had come to 
Stephen Ward s ears, and on January 28 his counsel brought her 
proposal to publish memoirs involving Mr. Profumo to the atten 
tion of the law officers of the Crown. They had already heard the 
rumours, possibly much earlier. They sent for Mr. Profumo and 
questioned him on the matter, and he denied having committed 
any sexual impropriety with Christine. On February i, a senior 
executive of a newspaper telephoned Admiralty House and, as 
the Prime Minister was abroad, was given an appointment with 
a secretary, to whom he reported the sale of Christine Keeler s 
memoirs to a certain newspaper (which in the event never pub 
lished them) and indicated the extent to which they compro 
mised the Minister of War. Therefore the security services were 
immediately alerted, though not, it proved, to any very good 

On February 4, Ward tried one last professional trick. He 
reported to Marylebone police court that two photographs had 
been stolen from him. They were taken at the Cliveden swim 
ming pool and one showed Ward and three of his girls and bore 
a quite innocuous inscription by Mr. Profumo on the back, and 
the other showed Mr. Profumo with two girls, one of whom was 
Christine. Later Ward made a statement alleging that the photo 
graphs had been stolen by a friend of Christine s who meant to 
sell them. Then, to quote the police officer s note as given by 
Lord Denning: 

Dr. Ward said that if this matter, including the association 
between Mr. Profumo and Miss Keeler, became public, it 
might very well "bring down" the Government. He also added 
that he had no personal liking for this Government but would 
not like to see it go out of office in this way. 

He then indicated quite clearly that Miss Keeler s memoirs 
would mention many well-known names, and that he himself 
had connections with MI5 and was involved with a Soviet diplo 
mat. This was blackmail, quite unpunishable as such, since it 
was made in the course of a complaint about a theft made to the 
police, but also quite certain to reach its mark. This should be 


remembered when attempts are made to present Ward as an 
artless and sincere deviate. 

It would be pleasant to report that this nefarious effort was 
unsuccessful, but in point of fact it attained its ends, though 
indirectly, through a grotesque official decision. The security 
service, and also the Special Branch, and the Criminal Investiga 
tion Department alike came to the conclusion that Ward and 
Christine Keeler were low persons and they wanted to have 
nothing to do with them. This fastidiousness, which seems pecul 
iarly misplaced in the police, was not the result of political 
pressure. On the contrary, the government was clamouring for all 
possible assistance in getting at the truth. The action of these 
organizations was entirely spontaneous, and it was responsible 
for all the subsequent scandal which makes 1963 a black date in 
Parliamentary history. If Christine Keeler had been questioned 
by the police then, she could have furnished many proofs (as she 
did some weeks later) that her story of an affair with Mr. Pro- 
fumo was true. He would thus have had no temptation to deny 
his relationship with her. 

Ward had only six months to live, and he spent them trying to 
repeat this success. He was inspired by an intense anxiety regard 
ing his association with Ivanov. He explained his own innocence 
of espionage on television; and after Mr. Wigg had appeared on 
"Panorama" and spoken of Ivanov as a slick and competent 
Intelligence officer, Ward called on Mr. Wigg at the House of 
Commons in a dithering condition and for three hours protested 
that he and Ivanov had been just friends, that Ivanov had nothing 
to do with Intelligence, and that there had been nothing what 
soever between Miss Keeler and Mr. Profumo which Ivanov 
could have exploited. He seems to have spent much of the 
twenty-four hours in making such confidences to anyone who 
would listen to him. When Mr. Profumo had untruthfully de 
nied his guilt to the House of Commons and an uneasy hush had 
fallen, Ward seemed to be relieved and to grow more confident. 

But almost at once there were threats of another sort of trou 
ble. The CID received a number of communications alleging 
that Ward was living on the immoral earnings of his girls, and 
that he was being protected from prosecution by his influential 
friends, and in April it started taking statements from a number 
of persons connected with him, including some of his patients. 


When this reached his ears in May, he tried to defend himself 
again by blackmail. For this purpose he had deliberately to 
assume again the contacts he had taken such pains to abandon: 
he had to become again a security risk. Making use of Mr. 
Profumo quite as ruthlessly as Christine, he sent a letter confess 
ing the truth of the Profumo-Ivanov-nu clear-arms story to the 
Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, his Member of Parliament, 
the national newspapers (which did not publish it), and the 
Home Secretary. There could be no mistaking the purport of 
this last letter: unless the police stopped their inquiries, the 
truth about Mr. Profumo would be published. He took the 
opportunity to involve his friend and patient Lord Astor, who 
had lent him 500 three months before and had consented to 
guarantee his overdraft up to 1500 a few days before. "It was by 
accident/ Ward wrote of Christine, "that she met Mr. Profumo 
and through Lord Astor that she met him again. I intend to take 
the blame no longer." 

The blackmail failed. The government made up its mind to 
set up an inquiry, and when Mr. Profumo realized this he con 
fessed the truth. Ward found himself adrift in a world which 
had become much more dangerous for him in the last few weeks. 
Christine Keeler had suffered a complete collapse. On the tide of 
her own hysteria she had been swept up and down Fleet Street, 
out to Spain and back again, in and out of solicitors offices, on a 
continual merry-go-round swinging between Marylebone police 
court and the Old Bailey, in and out of the witness box, in and 
out of expensive flats rented by eccentrics with no visible means 
of support, into motor crashes, back and forth through booing, 
jeering, leering crowds. She was a pitiful sight. She remained 
beautiful, but her beauty was now a thin veil worn by a sick and 
grubby child. Her one salient characteristic was the desire for 
respect; she would have enjoyed being the head of a women s 
college. But external circumstances and her own will, which 
seemed as indifferent to her well-being as if it too were external 
to her, conspired without end to annul any possibility that she 
should be respected. The same enmity between the will and the 
self was visible in Ward. Considered as a sexual being, he was 
the incarnation of a chemist s window in the Charing Cross 
Road. Not merely did he offend the god of love; he insulted 
Silenus. The bare catalogue of his efforts to degrade sensuality 


below the level of charm would have been enough to alienate 
the court. Yet though he bore himself as if he were born on the 
side of authority, unalterably among those who passed judg 
ment rather than among the judged, the unfortunate man kept 
on strengthening the case for his exclusion from honour. He 
actually handed himself over to his prosecutors. Yes, he had had 
relations with one of the prostitutes who had given evidence, a 
poor puny little waif who looked like a photograph of an In 
dian famine-relief poster. But that was natural, indeed it was 
inevitable. He had gone out late at night to buy cigarettes, and 
there, beside a cigarette machine, this waif had been standing. 
Well, that was enough, wasn t it? The two machines had been 
standing side by side, waiting for custom; of course he had taken 
the mobile one home. Of course he had, he insisted, though the 
judge, as a flash of gold had reminded us from time to time, was 
one of the few Englishmen who wear a wedding ring. It was no 
use for Ward to try to disguise what he was. The poor demented 
man, in spite of all his kindness, all his gifts, had committed him 
self to be a pimp. In him disloyalty }iad gone on the streets. 

A little less than a quarter of a century had passed since Joyce 
had sat where Ward was sitting in the Old Bailey dock. The only 
similar quality in the men was their willingness to deal too 
obediently with another country, to their country s danger; 
otherwise the differences were extreme. Joyce was the apotheosis 
of the amateur, who was sustained only by his ideals and unsup 
ported by any technique. He had broken out of England and fled 
to Germany as artlessly as a boy breaking out of an approved 
school; he had forced himself on the insufficiently organized 
propaganda system in Berlin as he might have joined the gipsies; 
when the end came he had to go out alone to flee the armies. 
Ward was the apotheosis of the professional: since there was a 
technique for helping foreign powers, he had acquired it, and 
when there had been a technical hitch he had met the technique 
of the police with the technique of legality. Joyce would never 
have been a pimp, nor would most of the traitors of World War 
II who had followed him into the dock; the nineteenth-century 
political dissenter practised innocence as a defence from con 
formist criticism. Ward was so much of a pimp that the charges 
which got him into the dock related to pimping, and when he 
died by his own hand after the sixth day of his trial, his death 


shocked into protest everyone who in his heart of hearts would 
have liked to be a pander. 

Supposing, a surprisingly large number of people asked, that 
Ward had been procuring young women for rich men, was there 
anything so shocking about that? Surely it was archaic to regard 
with disfavour any action which promoted sexual intercourse? 
That was loudly asked, but in the overtones of the inquiry could 
be heard a rider: "particularly if there is money in it." 
Through the memory of those who had attended the Joyce trials 
there range the voice of the Scotsman who had raised a disturb 
ance in the lobby of the House of Lords when the last appeal 
was lost, urging that when Joyce had left England to broadcast 
for the Nazis he had simply gone abroad to better himself, and 
there could be nothing wrong about that. "He had a fine posi 
tion waiting for him, and he just took it." In 1945 this had 
been the cry of a lone eccentric. In 1963 he could have spoken for 
a considerable and not undistinguished part of England. 

The Ward case had many ugly consequences. The crowds 
round the courts were uncommonly nasty. The witnesses had to 
walk through a vast leer, a huge concupiscent exposure of cheap 
dentures. The children were grown up who had been brought by 
their mothers to wait outside Wandsworth Jail while Joyce was 
being hanged; they were now bringing their own children to see 
these poor sluts on their way to humiliation. The show was 
perhaps at its grimmest in the Dickensian streets round the Mar- 
ylebone police court. Christine Keeler was every afternoon led 
out by the police and put in her car, which was covered by a tent 
of photographers, who climbed on the footboards, the bonnet, 
and the roof. Then they fell away and their place was taken by a 
mob of women, mostly old or middle-aged, without exception ill- 
favoured and unkempt, and shabby elderly men. Inside the car 
Christine Keeler sat in terrified dignity, her face covered with 
the pancake make-up which levels the natural toning of the skin, 
and her determination not to show her fear ironing out her 
features to the flatness of a mask. The cries and boos of the 
crowd expressed the purest envy. It was disagreeable to see a 
number of women candidly confessing that at the end of their 
days they bitterly resented not having enjoyed the happiness of 
being prostitutes, and a number of men in the same situation 
wishing they had been able to afford the company of prostitutes. 


The passion o the mob was rushing in to fill a vacuum. It is 
natural for a community to think and feel and express itself 
when anything threatens its accustomed habit, so that it can 
explain the significance of the threat and take appropriate 
action. But the community did not know what to think or feel 
about the Ward-Profumo affair; it could not understand its 
significance and it most certainly could not promise itself that it 
could guard against the recurrence of just such a scandal. Ob 
viously the ordinary penal mechanism did not work in this case. 
Mr. Profumo had had an affair with a young woman deeply 
involved in the disreputable; he had thus involved himself in the 
sphere of security; he had lied to the House of Commons, which 
is indeed a comprehensive insult to the English present and the 
English past. But none of these are punishable offences. The 
public would probably have felt better if the Foreign Office had 
been able to ask for the withdrawal of Ivanov from the Soviet 
embassy as a persona non grata. But, alerted by Ward, he had 
already gone back to Russia. Ward himself had been pursued by 
the law, but not for the offences which the community was so 
bitterly resenting, which led to the suspicion (fanned by the 
special character of the law under which he was charged) that he 
was being prosecuted out of revenge by an Establishment jealous 
of its own. Even Peter Rachman, the slum-landlord and club- 
owner who had kept Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, 
could not be prosecuted, for the good reason that he was dead. 

The fear caused by recognition that the law was not able to 
prevent or punish such gross misbehaviour was transmuted, for 
the sake of the community s self-respect, into a fear that the law 
was doing too much. Miss Keeler had had a series of long legal 
involvements with the West Indians, John Edgecombe and 
Lucky Gordon, who had both been sent to prison. Lucky Gordon 
appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed his convic 
tion in nine minutes. But it did not disclose the evidence which 
led it to this decision. There were three reasons which made this 
reticence inevitable. The Court of Appeal had received the evi 
dence in a form difficult to discuss within its own limitations, 
which are crippling. The evidence must have referred to matters 
alluded to at the trial of Ward, which was still progressing. And 
as the Director of Public Prosecutions was not resisting the ap 
peal, there was no case to be disproved by the judgment. But the 


public, by now thoroughly confused, misinterpreted the action of 
the court as an attempt to cover the derelictions of other 
branches of the law. The men in high places who had assumed 
the burden of responsibility became suspect, and so did their 
brothers whose irresponsibility had caused this crisis. It was felt 
that Ward s rich patrons had shown shocking disloyalty by not 
giving evidence at his trial. This was unjust; the defence would 
have called these men, and they could not have resisted the sum 
mons, if their evidence would have disproved the charges against 
Ward instead of confirming it. These public attitudes were absurd, 
yet they were founded on a vigilance of which England had need. 
Scepticism was necessary. The administration of the law had 
grown slipshod; there were to be several police scandals to prove 
it. It was true too that if Ward had gone too far out of the course 
prescribed by society, he had been paid to run the extra distance, 
and his wealthy paymasters were worse than he was, not being as 
daft as he was and capable enough to exercise considerable respon 
sibility in other fields. But all the same, circumstances had intensi 
fied the natural reactions of the public to a paranoiac extreme. 

The public s state of mind in England in 1963 was itself a 
historic event; and there was a resemblance to other historic 
events not too cheering. As Ward gave evidence, he summoned 
up from the past a shadow who has been no more than that for 
nearly fifty years: Prince Andronnikov. He was called as a wit 
ness before the tribunal convened by Kerensky in 1917 to inquire 
into the conduct of the war by the imperial government, and 
his evidence sticks in the mind because of its comic disrep- 
utability and a certain moral pretentiousness which Ward re 
called. The tribunal could not find out what he really did and 
got a little peevish. 

PRESIDENT: Let me put to you a straightforward question, 
what do you do? Who are you? 

ANDRONNIKOV: I can only answer that I m a man, a citizen, and 

I hope to be of some use in the world. 
PRESIDENT: That is too abstract an answer. Speaking in 
concrete terms, who are you? What is your busi 

ANDRONNIKOV: I find that question quite hard to answer. I ve 
often asked myself the same thing, and I ve said, 
"Well, thank God, I m a human being who is 


interested in society as a whole, takes everything 
seriously, and wants to help, so far as he can/ 

Like Ward, he never seemed to have any money. But he was 
quite an active person, a man o good family, who had been in 
his youth one of the Corps des Pages at the Tsar s court and 
then became a well-known homosexual and pimp, finding ac 
quiescent adolescents for his rich friends, and also acted as a paid 
contact man for a financial group controlling certain Russian 
transport and electricity corporations, largely owned by German 
stockholders. He not only pushed their claims with ministers and 
civil servants, he was able to establish a direct line with the 
court, where he established friendly relations with the personal 
secretary of the Tsar and the lady-in-waiting Anna Vyrouba, the 
hysterical simpleton who lived in Rasputin s pocket. He not 
only used these connections to safeguard the interest of German 
investors in his companies, but worked for German war aims 
with sufficient diligence to be described as a traitor, though it 
was probably more just to put it lower and say that, like Ward, 
he mucked about in the field of security. It is of relevance to 
Stephen Ward s case that the Kerensky government, though it 
had access to the tsarist archives and examined a number of 
hostile witnesses, could not discover exactly what he had been 
doing or how he had been paid. Later the bolsheviks resolved its 
uncertainties by shooting him. This is not one of the saddest 
episodes in history. But unfortunately they shot a large number 
of other people too. 

If one wants to look further back for an analogy, there is the 
Affair of the Diamond Necklace, where an alliance between the 
criminal de la Mottes and a deluded cardinal, who was also a 
great aristocrat, led to unfounded suspicions of Marie Antoinette 
and inflamed an existing distrust of all existing social institu 
tions. Nearer our own time, the Weimar Republic weltered in a 
succession of small scandals which made the German people feel 
that they were not being told what was going on and that the 
government was unable to punish the guilty and protect the 
innocent citizens from their depredations. That is apparently 
what a modern community cannot bear to feel, and it is to be 
remembered that such dynamic feelings can be engendered by 
such apparently powerless persons as the de la Mottes, Andronni- 
kov, and Stephen Ward. 


JL H E R E is a case for the traitor. He is a sport from 
a necessary type. The relationship between a man and his father 
land is always disturbed if either man or fatherland be highly 
developed. A man s demands for liberty must at some point 
challenge the limitations the state imposes on the individual for 
the sake of the masses; and if he is to carry on the national 
tradition he must wrestle with those who, claiming to be tradi 
tionalists, desire to crystallize it at the point reached by the 
previous generation. It is our duty to readjust constantly the 
balance between public and private liberties. Men must be capa 
ble of imagining and executing and insisting on social change, if 
they are to reform or even maintain civilization, and capable too 
of furnishing the rebellion which is sometimes necessary if so 
ciety is not to perish of immobility. Therefore all men should 
have a drop of treason in their veins, if the nations are not to go 
soft like so many sleepy pears. 

But, all the same, there is a case against the traitor. The law 
states it with simple logic: if a state gives a citizen protection it 
has a claim to his allegiance, and if he gives it his allegiance it is 
bound to give him protection. But there are now other reasons 
for regarding treachery with disfavour, which grow stronger 
every year. 

We are not yet within sight of disarmament. Our total popula 
tion increases, and with it our population of scientists and in 
dustrialists, who continue to present the state with more and 
more intricate and terrible weapons, each arousing the curiosity 
of our neighbours. This curiosity can be satisfied partially by 
such devices as the monitoring which gives confirmation of the 
discharge of nuclear weapons on alien territories, and these are. 
fair enough uses of scientific technique. But the other forms of 
espionage, such as are grouped under the title of "cloak and 
dagger," are becoming more and more objectionable. 



The stories told in these pages have behind them a second 
story of huge unproductive expenditure, of lifelong labours 
which do not add one single grain to the world s resources. 
Lonsdale and the Krogers, Abel and Hayhanen, the grimy small 
fry which circulated round George Blake, these were maintained 
by the honest people who teach, doctor the sick, till the soil, work 
in factories, and are scholars and poets and scientists. Only one- 
eighth of an iceberg, they say, appears above the water; the 
proportion of detected espionage to the whole rs probably con 
siderably less, Facing the spies are the security officers, probably 
as numerous, unproductively engaged in catching the unproduc 
tive. The size ot the bill is the more lamentable when it is 
considered that when a spy expensively succeeds in stealing a 
secret document and security officers expensively succeed in catch 
ing him, the document is probably obsolete by the time he has 
served half his term in prison; and that probably both spy and 
security officers are sufficiently gifted to have been capable of 
much sound productive work. 

In this situation, as Vassall showed us, we are threatened by 
collaboration between the primary form of overpopulation and 
its secondary form: the excessive production of objects by an 
excessive number of people. The vast population excretes a num 
ber of documents so vast that a vast number of people have to be 
employed to work on them, so vast that it becomes impossible to 
buy their honesty by high wages and impossible to employ 
enough security officers to see that they keep their filing cup 
boards locked and take nothing secret home. The existence of a 
huge accumulation of unguarded secret documents extends the 
same invitation to thievery as the huge number of automobiles 
which have to be left in the street because their owners cannot 
buy garage-space. Treachery and allied misdemeanours thus cease 
to have the connection with idealism of which they could boast 
when the Fascists and the first Communist offenders stood in the 
dock against the Official Secrets Act. That idealism was never not 
disputable. But such men were all certainly interested in ideas, 
and that is to be interested in ideals at one remove. The kind of 
offences for which they were sentenced are, however, now com 
mitted by people who have no ideological interests at all but 
who have rejected all moral taboos and will pursue any prohib- 


ited activity, provided it brings them sufficient reward in money, 
power, or security. 

This alters the whole character of the security field, partly 
because these purloiners of secrets have now to satisfy technical 
demands which make it possible to class the traitors of the past 
as amateurs and traitors of the present as professionals. Andron- 
nikov could play his part by chattering to ministers and Raspu 
tin, and Joyce could utter generalizations over the radio, but 
Vassall had to practise the advanced technique of photography 
as he learned it in the RAF. But there is a difference which goes 
deeper than that. When the spy becomes a man who has made a 
sweeping rejection of taboos and pursues other prohibited activi 
ties as well as espionage, his detection opens the door to a gen 
eral suspicion of society. He will of necessity have found the 
paymasters for his illegal activities among the wealthy, and some 
of them are likely to be identified with one or other of our social 
institutions. It will also be difficult for the public not to believe 
that he was aided in his attack on national safety by the influence 
of these powerful persons for whose unsanctioned tastes he had 
catered. It can never be easy to prove or disprove these suspicions, 
for the reason that when such connivance exists it functions in 
secrecy, and that very often no such connivance exists, and it is 
still impossible to prove a negative. The public therefore suffers 
a sense of impotence, and in despair engages in the devaluation of 
values at a moment peculiarly unfavourable to the creation of new 
ones. The march towards civilization is interrupted, and on that 
journey, though we have eternity before us, we are always short 
of time. 

At least we have large and able security organizations to pro 
tect us from our spies; and it is impossible not to applaud the 
courageous, shrewd, and patient men who work to preserve our 
national safety. Yet they too are a source of danger to the state 
The essential conditions of their being work out badly for them 
selves and everybody else. They can find the infmitesimally small 
proportion of the population which takes to spying only by 
subjecting large numbers of persons to restrictions on their free 
dom against which it is a good citizen s duty to protest, unless he 
is told the reason for them; and such explanation is often inadvis 
able from a security point of view. The officers are obliged to 


work in the strictest secrecy, and this is unhealthy. No organiza 
tion working under cover can remain fully efficient, least of all 
one which is perpetually in danger of infiltration by the forces 
which it is fighting. Yet it is necessary for the security organiza 
tions to work behind a veil, so necessary that the habit of secrecy 
has to be cultivated until it becomes a monomania. The Den 
ning Report tells us that the head of the Special Branch decided 
not to interview Christine Keeler, for fear she might inform the 
press that she had been interviewed by the Special Branch. This 
was a calamity, for the whole Profumo scandal would have been 
short-circuited by what she had to say; and it is impossible to 
imagine that that highly desirable state of affairs would have been 
discounted by any disadvantage arising out of the fact that the 
public knew the interview had taken place. 

This is but one example of the conflict between the secrecy 
practised by the security organizations and the public good. A 
more striking example, indeed, happened later in the summer of 
1963. In March 1963, Harold Philby, who had been named "the 
third man" in the Burgess and Maclean case, disappeared from 
Lebonon, where he had been representing The Observer and 
The Economist, and in July it was known that he had gone 
behind the Iron Curtain. There was perhaps no immediate poli 
tical implication in his flight at all. He was a close friend of Guy 
Burgess, who had fallen ill with a mortal sickness, and was to die 
later in the year. Mr. Heath, Lord Privy Seal, was obliged to ad 
mit to the House of Commons that at the time of the disappear 
ance of Burgess and Maclean it had become known that Mr. 
Philby had had Communistic associations and that he had been 
asked to resign from the Foreign Service in July 1951, which he 
did; but that now, twelve years later, he had admitted that he had 
worked for the Soviet authorities before 1946 and that he had in 
fact warned Maclean through Burgess that the security services 
were about to take action against him. Again it must be noted 
that this is an incomprehensible statement. It does not explain 
why a Soviet agent in England, certainly in touch with local 
agents, could be warned that he was being watched by English 
security agents only by another Soviet agent in America who sent 
a third all the way to England to tell him sa Soviet intelligence 
has better communications than that. This cannot be the story. 

But let that rest. Mr. Philby was now officially recognized as 


part of a Soviet apparatus, which had long been known to many 
persons on both sides of the Atlantic This exasperated Mr. 
Marcus Lip ton, the MP for Brixton, who in the year 1955 had 
said the very same things about Mr. Philby that Mr. Heath was 
now saying, had received no end of a dressing-down from govern 
ment spokesmen, and had made a very handsome apology to Mr. 
Philby. It shows the moral degradation of the Soviet agent s life 
that Mr. Philby could accept that apology. This revelation of 
Mr. Lipton s wrong exasperated the public, and their rage 
mounted when the editors of The Observer and The Economist 
disclosed that they had employed Mr. Philby as their correspond 
ent at the direct suggestion of an official of the Foreign Office. It 
was then stated, and generally believed, that even in the Middle 
East Mr. Philby had continued to have connections with British 
Intelligence. This was not a helpful contribution to our national 
well-being in the summer of 1963. 

The government would have been well advised to specify the 
reasons which had made the security organizations so long nour 
ish this viper in their bosoms, and to announce the resignation 
of some of the bosoms. But this was not done, and the Philby 
affair is an unhealed sore in the public mind. Doubtless there 
were sound reasons for this failure to solve the mystery, but all 
the same the sore did not heal. If we try to solve the mystery by 
speculation, we are forced to recall that persons who work in a 
self-contained unit are apt to develop theories which develop 
none the better for never being subjected to open discussion. 
The security organizations have shown a disposition to believe 
that by skilful manipulation they can persuade Communists that 
communism is not incompatible with patriotism, and they will 
be drawing the Soviet Union and the West closer together if they 
act as British agents. This is a preposterous theory. A Commu 
nist might collaborate with an England which had gone Fascist, 
because Fascists and Communists share the doctrine of totalitari 
anism, and what Stalin and Hitler once did, men could do again. 
But a Communist could not collaborate with a democratic Eng 
land because he is in love with its opposite. Failure to recognize 
this truth led the security organizations to load themselves up 
with some terrible material in the Second World War; and it is 
possible that for the same reason they acquired Mr. Philby. If 
they had to air their theories they would have been laughed out 


o this one; but obviously security organizations can air neither 
their theories not their practice. 

This situation is not static. It will develop, and a melodra 
matic pessimism might envisage its development as hideous. The 
world might be dotted with huge weapon-making installations 
and huge bureaucratic office buildings in which all the workers 
would be degraded by inhibiting controls, and distracted by 
suspicion of their fellows, owing to the operations of espionage 
coldly organized by professional criminals. These would be 
found in mass, with their talents highly trained, and their 
powers of expenditure a menace to society, since such espionage 
would go on the budgets of foreign powers who could pay them 
highly because they would buy secrets as a cheaper alternative to 
researches and experimental constructions on the monstrous scale 
necessitated by modern scientific discovery. In such a vicious 
world a government could not form a respectable image of itself 
or its functions. It would toil on, perhaps sustained only by 
memories of our age (which might look quite agreeable, seen 
from the angle of such a future), nervously cultivating distrust 
ful and joyless alliances, and giving up any hope of not being a 
police state. The security organizations would be no help. They 
would have to operate in more stringent secrecy than ever. They 
would be therefore even more subject to infiltration, which 
would reinforce the endemic distrust and might even lead to 
conquest by alien powers. If they resisted that temptation, they 
might form peculiar and too simple political theories which 
would lead them to perpetrate those nasty events known as "pal 
ace revolutions" or exercise a tyranny by threatening such upris 
ings, in the tiresome manner of the Praetorian Guard. 

This will not happen. Though men draw many straight lines, 
they are not, except in fantasy, prolonged into infinity. Here and 
there our kind has gone on doing what it ought not to do till it 
nearly died of it, but there would not be so many of us alive 
today if our forefathers had not obeyed a deep-seated instinct to 
stop before it was too late. But we may go a very long way to 
that nightmare future if we do not regard espionage with a 
realistic eye. If nuclear weapons were used they would inflict the 
most hideous damage on the human kind; such as would survive 
might find survival not worth while. But nuclear weapons have 
not been used since the error born of ignorance which was com- 


mitted in Japan eighteen years ago, and it is to be doubted 
whether they will ever be used again. But in modern espionage 
there is being used, day in and day out, a weapon which inflicts 
on society considerable spiritual and material devastation. Let 
anyone who does not consider the life of George Blake as horri 
ble consider the poor rats who, fawning, brought him titbits of 
lethal gossip out of the maimed city of Berlin. It makes civiliza 
tion impossible if the government has to suspect the governed of 
participation in such squalor and tease them with constricting 
routines, which the governed cannot accept with a sense of neces 
sity because they know that the government is itself involved in 
that squalor. The expenditure of wealth on munitions has many 
times been denounced; but it is not less disgusting to pour it out 
on the promotion of theft and deceit. 

There is no immediate remedy. The unilateral abandonment 
of espionage is the only real remedy, and this is as unpractical as 
unilateral disarmament; and obviously multilateral disarmament 
must precede the multilateral abandonment of espionage. Nev 
ertheless there are some holes which can be stopped up. The 
cutting down of our embassies behind the Iron Curtain to a 
skeleton staff is obviously advisable; and in the opinion of ex 
perts such as Commander Anthony Courtney, MP, it is feasible. 
If it is not, the modern development of communication is a 
mockery. There is also the proposal, espoused by the Tory gov 
ernment and apparently favoured by the Labour Party, to set up 
a standing commission on security. This would have a judicial 
chairman and be composed of retired civil servants and officers of 
the armed services experienced in security matters, and the 
Prime Minister would decide when it was to be brought into use, 
having consulted the leader of the Opposition. If ever the 
commission found it desirable to have powers to compel evi 
dence, then it would be converted into a tribunal of inquiry 
under the 1921 act; and again before this could be done there 
would have to be consultation between the Prime Minister and 
the leader of the Opposition, though the Labour Party seems 
more likely to have recourse to the appointment of select commit 
tees of the House on such occasions. 

The intention behind the creation of this new body is to lift 
security matters out of party politics, and this is indeed nec 
essary. Security is literally concerned with security: with safety: 


with the survival of this country and, indeed, this globe. It is 
disgusting that at least a third of any Parliamentary debate on 
security consists of partisan jabber. The commission would also 
for the first time give security a voice of its own. The public 
knows nothing of treachery and espionage except what it hears 
from the lips of ministers in the Houses of Parliament, or from 
counsel and judges at the trials of persons charged with offences 
against the Treason or Official Secrets Acts, or from the press. Of 
these three sources the last has been much the most reliable. The 
press is often vulgar, because, like all commercial enterprises, it 
tends to adapt itself to the tastes of its customers, and large 
numbers of these demand vulgarity. But, vulgar or not, it has 
brought striking ability and courage to this particular duty of 
telling the public what is happening to national security in our 
times. The work done on the Burgess and Maclean case by the 
Daily Express, for example, informed the community of a series 
of gross administrative blunders indicative of a degree of eccen 
tricity in the standards of permanent officials which required cor 
rection. But the press works under severe handicaps. One of these 
may be its own sensationalism; but that there are others, and 
those not to its discredit, will be realized if it be considered just 
how a conscientious editor could have discharged his duty of 
telling his readers the truth about Mr. Harold Philby. It is to be 
hoped that the standing commission would prevent such unfortu 
nate happenings. 

But once security is given a public voice, that is to say a public 
identity, it is certain to become the object of a Communist 
assault such as has not been previously experienced in Great 
Britain. If the United States had been the venue of the achieve 
ments of Fuchs, Nunn May, the Portland spy ring, Vassall, or 
Blake, or Barbara Fell, their innocence would have been main 
tained day in day out from the moment of their arrest till long 
after their trial, and attacks would have been made on all per 
sons concerned with their trials. The probity of the prosecuting 
counsel, magistrates, and judges alike would be attacked, and 
every witness giving evidence against them would be denounced 
as a Titus Oates. Hence a large number of Americans form the 
opinion that there is no such thing as a Communist spy and 
never has been, and against this another large section of the 
population reacts by coming to believe that everybody is a Com- 


munist spy and always will be. An American who considers an 
espionage case with the same balance and detachment that he 
would bring to a case of robbery with violence or grave larceny 
has to exercise unusual independence of judgment. In Great 
Britain the public is protected from a like situation because of 
our laws, which prevent comment on cases sub judice and pro 
tect the bench from criticism. But it can hardly be doubted that, 
if British security were given a public personality in the standing 
committee, this would become a target for dishonest attack in 
the Communist interests. This will face the public with a new 

Treachery is a problem we will have to live with for a long 
time, and the nearest we can come to a solution is to recognize 
the problem for what it is. The man tempted to become a traitor 
will be helped if public opinion keeps it clear before him that 
treachery is a sordid and undignified form of crime. It is not 
necessary to hate him. Few of us spend much time hating bur 
glars, but the community has established that burglary is not in 
its opinion an honourable or humanitarian profession, and this 
ill repute, coupled with our penal laws, constitutes a useful 
deterrent. Even so we should abandon all sentimentality in our 
views of the traitor, and recognize him as a thief and a liar. He 
may be other things; a criminal is very rarely simply a criminal. 
But to a marked degree the traitor is also a thief and a liar. 

But beyond that we must be quick to detect and frustrate the 
effect of treachery. The traitor can change the community into a 
desert haunted by fear, and it is our business to realize what 
force is at work and change it back again. Loyalty has always had 
its undramatic but effective answer to treason, insisting on its 
preference for truth instead of deceit, and good faith instead of 
bad. But on occasion the answer has to be framed more cleverly 
than at other times, and ours is a period when it becomes no 
answer at all, but a pact with treachery, if it be not dictated by 
caution and fastidiousness. We must keep our clear sight; we must 
not, for example, blind ourselves to the knowledge that the 
Rosenbergs faced death with magnificent courage. We must reject 
evil and dispel suspicion without falling into the error of con 
fusing unpopular forms of virtue with evil. We must remember 
that quite noble attempts to defeat evil may, in sufficiently per 
verse circumstances, be mistaken for evil; and unfounded suspi- 


cions may be engendered. Since the traitor s offence is that he 
conspires against the liberty of his fellow countrymen to choose 
their way of life, we ally ourselves with him if we try to circum 
vent him by imposing restrictions on the liberty of the individual 
which interfere with the legitimate business of his soul. It is true 
that such issues do not often arise. The story told in these pages 
shows that we would have been spared a great deal of trouble if 
we had simply kept our cupboards locked and had removed from 
our public service officials who were habitually blind drunk. But 
if we do not keep before us the necessity for uniting care for se 
curity with determination to preserve our liberties, we may lose 
our cause because we have fought too hard. Our task is equivalent 
to walking on a tightrope over an abyss, but the continued sur 
vival of our species through the ages shows that, if we human 
beings have a talent, it is for tightrope-walking. 


Abel, Helen, 266, 267, 289 

Abel, Colonel Rudolf (Martin Collins, 
Emil Robert Goldfus, Andrew 
Cayotis), 263-69, 280-82, 288-90, 

Abel, Lydia (Evelyn), 266, 267, 289 

Alverstone, Lord, 16 

Alster, Colonel, 309 

Amery, John, 91-96, 108, 125-35, * 6 3 

Andronnikov, Prince, 359, 363 

Arnold, Matthew, 143 

Arran, Lord, 348, 350 

Astor, Lord, 344, 348, 355 

Attlee, Clement, 199, 213 

Barde, Jeannine, 108, 132 
Beaverbrook, Lord, 229 
Behar, George, see Blake, George 
Bennett, Captain G. M., 319, 325-556, 


Bentley, Elizabeth, 183 
Beveridge, Lord, 147 
Black, Leonard, 75-79, 90, 107 
Blaikie, Derek, 224 
Blake, George, 295-313* 3* 6 3 6 * 3 6 7 


Bonham-Carter, Lady Violet, 248 
Bothamley, Margaret Frances, 75, 80, 


Bottomley, Horatio, 40-41 
Boyer, Dr. Raymond, 164 
Branson, Sir George, 52-53 
Brooke, Gertrude Emily, see Joyce, 

Mrs. Michael 
Brown, George A., 331-32 
Budd, Bentinck, 50 
Bulganin, N. A., 243 
Burchett, Wilfred, 249 
Burgess, Guy, 63, 214-52, 255, 257, 

263, 269, 290, 293, 308, 312-14, 364, 



Caccia, Sir Harold, 347-48 

Carew-Hunt, Thomas, 298 

Carr, Sam, 213 

Carrington, Lord, 291-92, 329 

Casement, Sir Roger, 6 

Chiang Kai-shek, 226 

Cockcroft, Sir John, 153 

Cohen, Lona (Helen Joyce Kroger), 

204, 266, 280-88, 291, 312-15, 362 
Cohen, Morris (Peter John Kroger), 

204, 266, 280-88, 312-15, 362 
Coke, Lord, 13 

Cooper, Thomas Haller, 101-104, X 3* 
Correns, Karl Erich, 159 
Courtney, Anthony, 257-58, 367 
Cunningham, Sir Charles, 332 

Darwin, Charles, 159 
Dean, Gordon, 212 
Deane, Philip, 296, 305 
Demosthenes, 40 
Denning, Lord, 339, 346 
De Vries, Hugo, 159 
Dicey, Albert Venn, 292 
Dickens, Charles, 126 
Donovan, James Britt, 265 
Dreyfus, Alfred, 195 
Dunbar, Mrs. (Donald Maclean s 
mother-in-law), 229, 230, 231, 232 

Eden, Sir Anthony, 234, 238, 239, 243 
Edgecombe, John, 351-52, 358 
Edward, Kenneth, 96, 130-36 
Edward III, 7 
Eitner, Horst, 307-309 
Emmerson, Sir Harold, 292 
Evatt, Dr. Herbert Vere, 233 

Fell, Barbara, 333-34, 368 
Felton, Monica, 249 



Foot, Michael, 333 

Foster, Sir John, 125 

Franco, Francisco, 128, 228, 281 

Franks, Lord, 227 

Frederick, Brian, 270-71 

Fuchs, Dr. Emil (father of Klaus), 

175-82, 274 
Fuchs, Dr. Klaus Emil, 174-205, 207, 

210, 212, 251, 269, 273-74, 290, 312- 

314, 316, 368 
Furtseva, Yekaterina A., 343 

Galbraith, Thomas G. D., 321, 330-33 

Gaster, Jack, 249 

Gee, Winifred, 275-77, 284, 288, 290- 

291, 294, 312-14, 329 
George, Herbert, 97, 104, 109, 135, 


Gide, Andre", 222, 226, 252 
Goddard, Lord, 189, 190 
Goebbels, Joseph Paul, 75, 85, 90 
Gold, Harry, 190, 197-202, 204-205, 

269, 280, 281, 312-14 
Gordon, John, 137-39 
Gordon, Lucky, 35 1 , 358 
Goring, Hermann, 24 
Gouzenko, Igor, 162-65, 203, 207, 212 
Greenglass, Bernard, 203 
Greenglass, David, 198, 201-205, 269, 

281, 312-14 

Greenglass, Ruth, 202-205 
Groves, General Leslie, 192 

Haldane, Mrs. Charlotte, 178 
Hale, Sir Matthew, 13 
Hastings, Sir Patrick, 51, 53 
Hayhanen, 265, 266, 362 
Hayter, Sir William, 319-20 
Heath, Edward R. G., 364 
Hilbery, Sir Malcolm, 297 
Hindenburg, General Paul von, 176 
Hiss, Alger, 183, 205 
Hitler, Adolf, 14, 20, 24, 48, 52, 60- 

61, 64, 65, 68, 71, 89, 92, 142, 158, 

162, 164, 179, 365 
Holt, Sir Vivian, 296 
Houghton, Harry, 275-77, 284, 290- 

294, 312-14, 327, 328, 329, 343 
Hughes, Richard, 243, 248 
Humphreys, Sir Travers, 125-27, 129 
Hyde, Douglas, 154, 178 

Inverchapel, Lord, 227, 245 
Ivanov, Captain Eugene, 342-50, 352, 
354, 358 

Jambroes, George Louis, 300-302 

James, Henry, 144 

John, Denis, 99-100, 104, 248-49 

Joliot-Curie, Frederic, 206 

Jowitt, Lord, 22, 24, 27, 30, 32-33 

Joyce, Michael (William s father), 8- 
12, 17-19, 27, 43, 50, 58, 81-82, 114, 

Joyce, Mrs. Michael (Queenie, Wil 
liam s mother), 8-11, 19-20, 58, 8 

Joyce, Quentin, 6, 11-12, 19-20, 23, 25, 

273-37>5 11 4 
Joyce, William, 3-122, 125, 128, 140- 

142, 152, 154, 157, 194, 199, 251, 3*3- 

3i4> 35 6 -57> 3^3 
Joyce, Mrs. William (first wife), 46, 

Joyce, Mrs. William (second wife), 35, 
58, 60, 65-71, 81, 110-11, 117-18 

Kahle, Hans, 178, 200 

Keeler, Christine, 336-37, 339, 344-58, 


Kelly, Sir David, 258 
Kennedy, John F., 289 
Kent, Sir Harold, 332 
Kerensky, Aleksandr Feodorovich, 

Kettering, C. F., 171 
Keynes, Lord, 164 
Khrushchev, Nikita, 243 
Kilmuir, Lord, 241 
Kipling, Rudyard, 62, 130, 136 
Knops, Sir Wilfred, 7 
Krivitsky, Walter G., 311-12 
Kroger, Helen Joyce, see Cohen, Lona 
Kroger, Peter John, see Cohen, Mor 
Kuznetsov, Pavel, 256, 258-62 

Lazarus, Jack, 25 

Lickerish, Captain, 110-11 

Lipton, Marcus, 242, 243, 365 

Lonsdale, Galyusha, 288 

Lonsdale, Gordon Arnold (Molody), 

277-80, 283, 284-90, 294, 312, 314-15, 

316, 329, 342-43> 362 
Lord Haw-Haw, see Joyce, William 



MacArthur, General Douglas, 244 
Maclean, Donald, $14-52, 255, 257, 

269, 290, 293, 308, 312-14, 364, 368 
Maclean, Mrs. Donald, 215, 216, 220, 

221, 229-32, 248 
Maclean, Sir Donald (Donald s 

father), 235 
Maclean, Lady (Donald s mother), 

220, 235 

Macleod, Tain, 348-49 
Macmillan, Haiold, 234, 238, 239, 242, 

MacNab, Angus, 6, 23, 34, 65-68, 70, 

Marshall, William, 255-63, 312-13, 


Makins, Sir Roger, 242 
Mao Tse-Tung, 226 
Marx, Karl, 235, 248 
May, Dr, Alan Nunn, 140-41, 152-65, 

174, 183, 190, 195, 197, 203, 205, 206, 

207, 212, 237, 251, 269, 312-14, 368 
Maynard, Anthony, 271-73 
McLardy, Francis, 98 
McNeil, Hector, 226, 234, 244 
Mendel, Gregor Jonann, 159 
Mikhailsky, Sigmund, 318-22, 324-25 
Miller (student), 215, 216, 217 
Milne, Sir David, 323 
Molody, see Lonsdale, Gordon Arnold 
Morrison, Herbert, 217, 242 
Mosley, Sir Oswald, 6, 11, 14, 24, 47- 

Mussolini, Benito, 44, 47, 48, 51, 52, 

60, 96, 142 

Noel-Baker, Philip J., 226 
Normanbrook, Lord, 345 
Notman, Captain, 134-37 

Papen, Franz von, 176 

Parker, Lord, 296 

Peciak, 334 

Peierls, Rudolf, 178, 179, 193 

Penkovsky, Oleg, 290 

Per6n, Juan, 159 

Perry, Lieutenant, 110-11 

Petrov, Mrs. Eudocia, 233, 237 

Petrov, Vladimir, 233, 237 

Philby, Harold, 214, 228, 242-43, 308, 

364-65, 368 
Pontecorvo, Bruno, 205-214, 218, 220, 


Pontecorvo, Gilberto, 207 
Porter, Lord, 39 
Powers, Francis Gary, 289 
Pribyl, Colonel, 270-71 
Profumo, John, 344-47* 35 ^ 
Putney, Walter, 85-89, 249 

Rachman, Peter, 341, 350, 358 
Radcliffe, Lord, 318 
Reading, Lord, 242 
Reginald, Eric, 99-100, 104 
Rice-Davies, Mandy, 339, 341, 

Romer, Sir Charles, 292 

Rose (stoker), 136-39 

Rosenberg, Ethel, 198, 202-205, 266, 

269, 280, 281, 312-14 
Rosenberg, Julius, 198, 202-205, 266, 

269, 280, 281, 312-14 
Russell, Bertrand, 143 

Sandys, Duncan, 210 

Sereni, Emilio, 207, 208 

Shakespeare, William, 130, 305 

Shapiro, 249 

Shaw, Bernard, 146-47, 149-50 

Shawcross, Sir Hartley, 6, 129, 157, 


Slack, Alfred Dean, 201 
Slade, Gerald, 28-29, 30, 125-27, 129- 


Smith, Sir Geoffrey Thistleton, 292 
Solon, Larry, 219, 220 
Soloviev, Mr., 271 
Stalin, Joseph, 158, 162, 164, 365 

Tabet, Duccio, 207 
Tabet, Giuliana, 207 
Templer, Sir Gerald, 304 
Tolstoi, Leo, 126 
Trend, Sir Burke, 332 
Truman, Harry S,, 213, 244 
Tschermak von Seysenegg, Erich, 159 
Tucker, Sir James, 17, 19, 39 

Vassall, William John Christopher, 

316-32, 335,362-63,368 
Veal, Norman, 155, 166 


Wallace, Alfred Russel, 159 Wigg, George, 352, 354 

Ward, Mrs. Humphrey, 150 Willsher, Kathleen Mary, 164 

Ward, Stephen, 337-60 Wilson, Sir Arnold, 62 

Waters, Terence Edward, 250-52 Wilson, Harold, 349 

Webb, Beatrice, 145-50 Winnington, Allan, 249 

Webb, Sidney, 145-50 Wynne, Greville, 290 
Wells, H. G., 146-47, 150 
White, Margaret Cairns, see Joyce, 

Mrs. William (second wife) Zabotin, Colonel, 154-55, 157 

(Continued from front flap) 
prisoner in the Korean War, gave up 
his life so that the men under him 
would not be guilty of treason, she 
fiercely attacks the British mentality 
for its preference for the sophistication 
and style of the Burgess-Maclean genre 
of treason over the heroism of the 
young lieutenant, which it found em 
barrassing. To understand this, Dame 
Rebecca believes, is to comprehend 
our age and the part treason has played 
in it. 

The third and concluding section of 
the book deals with the professional 
spies of the late 1950s and 1960s. She 
discusses Colonel Abel, the Portland 
Spy Ring, and others, as examples of 
modern treason, venal in its motiva 
tion, professional in its execution. 
The New Meaning of Treason ends 
with her own mordant views of the 
Stephen Ward-Profumo-Christine 
Keeler case, the whole scandalous epi 
sode of 1963 which rocked the British 

Dame Rebecca West has taken a new 
look at the changing phenomenon of 
treason in our time and has drawn 
stimulating and often provocative con 

A Book-of-the-Month Club Selection 

Dame Rebecca West, 

whom Time has called indisputably 
the world s No. 1 woman writer/ is 
the author of several novels, including 
The Thinking Reed and The Foun 
tain Overflows; of the monumental 
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon; and of 
other works of political and social 
comment, such as A Train of Powder. 


I J nhh\ho\ f)f The 1 iking Ptatnhlc I 
<>lir> Madison A\t-., New Yolk, N.Y. 

1 02 060