Cambridge spy ring member’s memoir reveals motives behind actions

Anthony Blunt

Anthony Blunt

The British Library kept its promise and released yesterday the closely guarded, incomplete autobiographical manuscript of Anthony Blunt, fourth member of the Cambridge spy ring. The group of British spies, which worked secretly for the Soviet Union from the 1930s until the 1960s, included Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, all of whom eventually defected to the Soviet Union. In his 30,000-word memoir, Blunt, an art history professor who in 1945 became Surveyor of the King’s Pictures and was knighted in 1954, describes his recruitment to spy for the Soviets as “the most important decision of my life”. He also relays his eventual disillusionment with the USSR after World War II and, eventually, Marxism. But he stops short of repenting for his covert actions, essentially referring his critics to earlier statements that loyalty to his fellow communist spies was for him more important than loyalty to his country. In 1965, following Burgess, Maclean and Philby’s defection to Moscow, British counterintelligence agents identified Blunt as “the fourth man” in the Cambridge spy ring. But they offered him immunity and sheltered him from public exposure in order to safeguard the reputation of Britain’s intelligence services and to secure his cooperation. In 1979, Blunt withdrew from public life after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher publicly revealed his covert identity. Upon his death, in 1984, his unfinished memoir was given to the British Library by the executor of his will, under the stipulation that it be kept sealed for 25 years. Incidentally, Thursday’s uncovering of Blunt’s memoir prompted Andrew Pierce to recall his interviews with another recently unmasked Soviet spy in Britain, Melita Norwood, who was also offered immunity by the British authorities.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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