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The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of…

The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake

by Roger Hermiston

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Pretty good book. Unlike most American spies who were bought, Blake fit the pattern of his fellow British spies in being a Soviet supporter. It's hard to say if he really loved communism or if he just enjoyed stabbing his country in the back. I got the impression he really only cared about himself. ( )
  ikeman100 | May 11, 2017 |
This is a riveting biography of George Blake, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) officer who spied for the Soviet Union for several years in the 1950s, was discovered, tried and sentenced to the unprecedentedly long prison term of 42 years, sprung from Wormwood Scrubs five years later, and assisted to flee via East Germany to the Soviet Union, where he still lives today at the age of 92. His has been a fascinating life from its earliest days: the son of a British Jewish father and a Dutch mother, he was born and brought up in the Netherlands and never saw himself as British anyway. He helped the Dutch resistance under the Nazis, displaying a necessary predilection for subterfuge. He joined MI6 in the late 1940s and while working in South Korea was taken prisoner by the North Koreans during the war on the peninsula, when Kim Il Sung's forces at the height of their success swept south and captured the South Korean capital. During that time he offered his services to the Soviets, having become genuinely convinced that communism, for all its faults in practice, offered in principle a better and more just future for humankind. He was always clear that he spied on this basis and never for personal gain, so can be said to be, at one level, a man of principle, despite the damage that his actions caused for Western security and the probable (though not entirely proven) deaths of British agents. It was this feature, plus the length of his sentence, compared to the comparatively more lenient treatment of the Cambridge Five and the atomic spy Klaus Fuchs, that prompted sympathy from him on the inside and efforts by the peace campaigners Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, and petty criminal Sean Bourke, to spring him from prison and assist in his fleeing to the Soviet Union. Randle and Pottle were eventually tried for the springing much later in 1991, but acquitted by the jury. Blake settled into Soviet life better than Philby or Burgess (Maclean also settled in well) and married a Russian lady and had a son. As recently as 2007 he was awarded an Order of Friendship medal by Putin (an award that has also been bestowed on Prince Michael of Kent and Rowan Williams, among others). A fascinating story of the long, colourful and controversial life. ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Jan 15, 2015 |
A good solid account of George Blake the MI6 agents who, in the course of nine years betrayed details of some 40 MI6 agents to the Soviets, destroying most of MI6's operations in Eastern Europe.

I'd read Sean Bourke's book [b:The Springing of George Blake|3478179|The Springing of George Blake|Sean Bourke|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-6121bf4c1f669098041843ec9650ca19.png|4443339] quite a few years back and have been fascinated by this case. Particularly how the small group of non-soviet sympathisers helped to organise his escape from Wormwood Scrubs prison and subsequent journey to East Germany.

The book covers in detail his early life, capture in the Korean war and particularly the solidifying of his political views as a result his experiences.

Worthy of anyone who has an interest in the Cold War.

Anyone know of anything similar on the Portland Spy Ring? That story is definitely worth a book.

( )
1 vote mancmilhist | Aug 28, 2014 |
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On 3 May 1961, after a trial conducted largely in secret, a man named George Blake was sentenced to an unprecedented forty-two years in jail. At the time few details of his crimes were made known. By his own confession he was a Soviet spy and rumours later circulated that his actions had endangered British agents, but the reasons for such a severe punishment were never revealed. To the public, Blake was simply the greatest traitor of the Cold War. Yet, as Roger Hermiston reveals in this thrilling new biography, his story touches not only the depths of treachery, but also the heights of heroism. In WWII the teenage Blake performed sterling deeds for the Dutch resistance, before making a dramatic bid for freedom across Nazi-occupied Europe. Later recruited by British Intelligence, he quickly earned an exemplary reputation and was entrusted with building up the Service's networks behind the Iron Curtain. And, following a posting to Seoul, he also suffered for his adopted country, when captured by North Korean soldiers at the height of their brutal war with the South. By the time of his release in 1953, Blake was a hero, one of the Service's brightest and best officers. But unbeknownst to SIS they were harbouring a mole. Week after week, year after year, Blake was assiduously gathering all the important documents he could lay his hands on and passing them to the KGB. Drawing on hitherto unpublished records from his trial, new revelations about his dramatic jailbreak from Wormwood Scrubs, and original interviews with former spies, friends and the man himself, The Greatest Traitor sheds new light on this most complex of characters and presents a fascinating shadow history of the Cold War.… (more)

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