George Blake (born George Behar, 11 November 1922) is a former British spy known for having been a double agent in the service of the Soviet Union. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 and fled to the USSR. He was not one of the Cambridge spies, although he is often grouped with them.
George Blake was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 1922. Blake was the son of a Dutch mother and a Egyptian/Jewish father who was a naturalised British subject. He was named George after King George V. His father, Albert Behar, fought against the Ottoman Empire in the First World War despite his origins in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and received awards from the French and British for his gallantry. The Behars lived a comfortable existence in Holland until Albert’s death in 1936. The thirteen-year-old George was sent to live with relatives in Egypt, where he continued his education at the English School in Cairo. While in Cairo, he was close to his cousin Henri Curiel, who was later to become a prominent member of the Communist Party of Egypt. In 1991 Blake said that his encounter with Curiel, who was a decade older and already a communist, shaped his views in later life.
As a teenager Blake was a runner for the anti-Nazi Dutch resistance under the nom de guerre of Max de Vries. He was interned but released temporarily because of his youth. He would have been re-interned on his 18th birthday had he not escaped to London, disguised as a monk, in the meantime. In England he changed his name to Blake and worked for the Special Operations Executive. He intended to marry an MI6 secretary, Iris Peake, but her family prevented the marriage because of Blake’s Jewish background and the relationship ended.
Blake said later that he switched sides during the Korean War after being greatly influenced by it. In an interview he was once asked, “Is there one incident that triggered your decision to effectively change sides?”, to which Blake responded, “It was the relentless bombing of small Korean villages by enormous American flying fortresses. Women and children and old people, because the young men were in the army. We might have been victims ourselves. It made me feel ashamed of belonging to these overpowering, technically superior countries fighting against what seemed to me defenceless people. I felt I was on the wrong side … that it would be better for humanity if the Communist system prevailed, that it would put an end to war.”
For the duration of World War II, Blake’s work involved translating German documents captured by British agents, and interrogating Germans captured in France following the D-Day landings. At the end of the war, he was posted to Hamburg and put in charge of the interrogation of German U-boat captains. Following a crash-course in Russian he was recruited by MI6 in 1948 and was posted to the British embassy in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea. Blake had been given the task of trying to establish an agent network in Korea.
Within months of his arrival in Seoul, on 24 June 1950, the city was captured by the advancing North Korean Army and Blake was taken prisoner by the communist forces, while he was serving at the British Legation under Vyvyan Holt. After capture by the North Koreans, and after reading the works of Karl Marx during his three-year detention, he became a Marxist. Following his release in 1953, Blake returned to Britain as a hero. In 1955 he was sent by MI6 to work as a case officer in Berlin, where ironically his task was to recruit Soviet officers as double agents. It was here that he made contact with the KGB and informed them of the details of British and US operations. In the course of nine years he betrayed details of some 400 MI6 agents to the Soviets, destroying most of MI6’s operations in Eastern Europe. Blake later said of this, “I don’t know what I handed over because it was so much”. In 1959, Blake became aware of a Central Intelligence Agency mole inside GRU, and was thus instrumental in exposing P. S. Popov, who was executed in 1960.
In 1961 he was exposed as a Soviet agent by Polish defector Michael Goleniewski. He was arrested when he arrived in London after being summoned from Lebanon, where he was enrolled at the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies (MECAS).
The maximum sentence for any one offence under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 is 14 years, but his activities were divided into five time periods charged as five offences, and in May 1961 after an in camera trial at the Old Bailey he was sentenced to the maximum term of 14 years consecutively on each of three counts of spying for a potential enemy and 14 years concurrently on both the two remaining counts – a total of 42 years imprisonment – by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Parker of Waddington. This sentence was said by newspapers to represent one year for each of the agents killed when he betrayed them, although this claim appears to be an invention. It was the longest sentence (excluding life terms) ever handed down by a British court, until Nezar Hindawi was sentenced to 45 years for the attempted bombing of an El Al jet.
Escape from prison
Five years later, on 22 October 1966, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison with the assistance of three men whom he met in jail: Sean Bourke, and two anti-nuclear campaigners, Michael Randle, and Pat Pottle.
The escape was masterminded by Bourke, who originally approached Michael Randle only for financial help with the escape. Randle, however, became more involved and suggested they bring Pottle in on the plan as well, as he had suggested springing Blake to Randle in 1962 when they were both still in prison.
Their motives for helping Blake to escape were their belief that the 42-year sentence was “inhuman” and because of a personal liking of Blake.
Bourke had smuggled a walkie-talkie to Blake to communicate with him whilst in jail. It was decided that Blake would break a window at the end of the corridor where his cell was located. Then between 6 and 7 pm, whilst most of the other inmates and guards were at the weekly film showing, Blake could climb through the window, slide down a porch and get to the perimeter wall, where Bourke would throw a rope ladder made of knitting needles over the wall so that Blake could climb over and they would then drive off to the safe house.
During the escape, Blake fractured his wrist jumping from the perimeter wall, but apart from that it all went according to plan. This incident is mentioned in the book Life by Keith Richards.
After the escape, it became apparent that the safe house Bourke had organised was not suitable as it was a bedsit that was cleaned by the landlady once a week, so Blake then spent several days moving between Randle and Pottle’s friends’ houses before Blake and Bourke moved in with Pottle until they were ready to get through customs and escape to the Soviet Union.
Blake fled to the USSR. He divorced his wife, with whom he had three children, and started a new life. In 1990 he published his autobiography No Other Choice (ISBN 0-671-74155-1). The book’s British publisher had paid him about £60,000 before the government intervened to stop him profiting from sales. He later filed a complaint charging the British government with human rights violation for taking nine years to decide on his case and was awarded £5,000 in compensation by the European Court of Human Rights.
In an interview with NBC News in 1991, Blake said he regretted the deaths of the agents he had betrayed.
Blake has written a new book, Transparent Walls, the daily Vzglyad (“The View”) reported. Sergey Lebedev, the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) of the Russian Federation, writes in the book’s foreword that despite the book being devoted to the past, it is about the present as well. He also wrote that Blake, the 85-year-old Colonel of Foreign Intelligence, “still takes an active role in the affairs of the secret service.”
As of 2012, he is still living in Moscow, Russia on a KGB pension. He remains a committed Marxist-Leninist. Blake denied being a traitor, insisting that he had never felt British: “To betray, you first have to belong. I never belonged.”
C/O WIKI 2012
N.B NEWS REPORTS… INTERESTING TO NOTE HOW VARIOUS NEWS SOURCES PRESENT THE WORLD AS DOCUMENTED/INTERPRETED…
George Blake, one of Britain’s most notorious spies, celebrates his 90th birthday today – but the traitor won’t be alone.
He will be toasted by one of his sons, the Rev Patrick Butler, a popular curate from an Anglican church in Surrey.
The curate has joined his father’s Russian family and some of his nine grandchildren at a dacha outside Moscow 46 years after he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs
Blake’s first wife Gillian was in the process of divorcing him when he fled and later learned he had taken a second wife in Moscow. She remarried and her children took their stepfather’s name.
It was only when Mr Butler and his two older brothers were teenagers they learned of their real father’s past.
But they never forgot him and have now be in touch for 25 years, according to the Sunday Telegraph. They met for the first time in the 1980s.
Mr Butler, the curate at Emmanuel Church, Guildford, told the paper: ‘We have a very good relationship with him. He adores his grandchildren. But out of respect to our mother we have all agreed not to talk about him.’
Traitor: George Blake remarried in Russia
Blake had served five years of a 42-year sentence when he fled over the prison wall using a ladder made of knitting needles and rope.
He was smuggled to the East German border by two anti-nuclear campaigners hidden in a secret compartment built into a camper van.
Today’s party will be paid out of his KGB pension, according to the Telegraph. His lives in a spacious dacha in woods and apart from failing eyesight appears largely in good health.
He is accused of sending Western agents to their deaths by betraying them to his Soviet paymasters.
Blake’s British family will be joined at the dacha, in a pine forest 25 miles from Moscow, by the spy’s Russian wife, Ida, 77, whom he married in 1969, their son, Misha, and his two children.
The paper tracked him to his country villa, but Blake, wearing a black beret and a shabby coat, said he was unable to give an interview.
Blake who has the rank of Lt Col in the former KGB, remains a Russian hero and to mark his 85th birthday in 2007 was awarded the Order of Friendship medal by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
Over the years he has also received the orders of Lenin, the Red Banner, the Patriotic War 1st Class, and the Order for Personal Courage.
In an interview last week to mark his birthday, he told Rossikaya Gazeta: ;These are the happiest years of my life, and the most peaceful. When I worked in the West, I always had the risk of exposure hanging over me … here I feel free.’
Blake has never displayed any remorse for betraying his country. But unlike some of his fellow spies, who never really settled in the Soviet Union, he adapted easily to life behind the Iron Curtain, according to writers Robert Mendick and Tom Parfitt.
Blake was a member of the Dutch resistance during the Second World War and eventually fled the Nazis, arriving in London in 1943. Soon he was working for MI6.
While posted to the British embassy in Seoul in 1950 he was captured by the North Korean forces, who ‘turned’ him before he was released three years later.
He was later posted to Berlin at the height of the Cold War, where he began to spy for the Soviet Union, betraying agents until his capture.
George Blake was a spy for the Soviet Union during the 1950’s. Blake was caught when a Polish spy who had defected to the West blew his cover to the CIA. There was great anger over what Blake had done and he received a prison sentence of 42 years, the longest ever handed out at the time except for a prisoner actually sentenced to a full life term.
Blake was born in Rotterdam on November 11th 1922. He had a Dutch mother and a Turkish father and was born George Behar. His father, Albert, was a naturalised British subject and proud of it. He had fought against the Ottoman Empire in World War One and had been awarded medals for his gallantry. In 1936, Albert died and George was sent to Egypt to stay with relatives. While in Egypt he continued with his English way of life by attending the English School in Cairo. He became close to his Uncle Henri who was to become a leading member of the Communist Party of Egypt.
During World War Two, Blake returned to the Netherlands where he joined the resistance movement working as a runner. He was interned but released because he was not yet eighteen. Blake was certain that he would have been interned again once he reached his eighteenth birthday. He therefore escaped to the UK. When in England he changed his surname to Blake and joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Blake spoke several European languages with a degree of fluency. He acted as a guide for agents who worked in the Netherlands. Blake also translated documents brought back to the UK by agents who had worked undercover in Occupied Europe. At the end of World War Two, Blake was sent to Hamburg to interrogate German U-boat captains. A talented linguist, Blake caught the eye of MI6. He was taught Russian and recruited by MI6 in 1948. His first posting was to Seoul where he was tasked with creating a network of agents who were loyal to the West and who also had a hatred of communism.
However, the sudden invasion of South Korea by North Korea in 1950 led to the fall of Seoul. Blake was captured by the North Koreans and spent three years in detention. It was during this time in detention that Blake converted to communism. He claimed that the writings of Karl Marx left a deep impact on him. In an interview many years after the Korean War, Blake also stated that it was the knowledge that defenceless Korean citizens were being bombed by the US that also convinced him that the communist system had to be better.
In 1953, Blake was released and returned to the UK. He continued his work for MI6 working in Y Section and in 1955 was sent to Berlin to recruit Soviet officers who were to work as double agents. However, his placement by MI6 gave Blake the perfect cover to contact the KGB. Blake gave the KGB the names of about 400 agents who were working for MI6 and effectively sealed their fate
In 1959 Blake returned to the UK and worked in a unit called DP4. This unit recruited British businessmen who travelled to the USSR and also Russian diplomats based in the UK.
In 1961, the Polish spy Michael Goleniewski defected to the West. He named Blake to the authorities and he was arrested. Blake was tried in camera at the Old Bailey. Such was the extent of his betrayal that he was given a term of 42 years in prison. At the time the media reported that this term represented the number of MI6 agents arrested by the KGB after Blake had betrayed them. Had he served all of it, Blake would have been about 80 years of age when he was released.
In October 1966 Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs Prison in London.
He fled to the Soviet Union where he worked for the Institute of World, Economic and International Affairs.
In 1990 he wrote his autobiography ‘No Other Choice’. In 1991, Blake apologised for the deaths he caused by betraying agents to the KGB. He continues to live on a KGB pension in Moscow.