Philby’s son, widow, speak on 50th anniversary of his defection

Philby interview c.1967 By IAN ALLEN | |
For most of us, January 23, 2013, was a day like any other. But for intelligence history aficionados it marked the 50th anniversary of the escape to Moscow of notorious double spy Harold Adrian Russell Philby. Known as ‘Kim’ to his friends, Philby secretly defected to the USSR from his home in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1963. He is widely considered history’s most successful double spy. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, he spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and KGB from the early 1930s until his defection. In 1965, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. When he died, in 1988, he was buried with honors by the Soviet authorities. Philby’s defection sent ripples of shock across Western intelligence and is often described as one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War. On the 50th anniversary of Philby’s defection to Moscow, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph carried an article with excerpts of interviews with one of Philby’s sons, Dudley Thomas Philby, and his Russian widow, Rufina Pukhova Philby. Born in 1946, Dudley ‘Tommy’ Philby is the third of Kim’s five children with his second of four wives, Aileen Furse Philby. Aileen died in 1957, when Tommy was just 11 years old; his contact with his father was cut off as soon as the double spy defected to the USSR in January 1963. But it was resumed a few months later, when he received a letter from his father in Moscow. Eventually, Tommy visited Kim five times in Moscow in the 1970s. Speaking on the anniversary of his late father’s defection, he described him as “a very kind man” and “a very good father”, who “had his belief [in] communism [and] carried it out”. He told The Telegraph that he personally did not agree with his father’s political views, but added: “he was what he was, what could I do?”. He told the paper that Kim eventually came to think that “it was all wrong”, implying that Philby grew disillusioned with the Soviet system. The double spy’s fourth wife and widow, Rufina Philby, told the paper that her British husband, whom she married in 1971, eight years after his defection, was “disappointed about some of what he saw” in the USSR. It is also true, she said, that he tried to kill himself at one point. However, she denies that Philby ever regretted defecting to the Soviet Union, adding that “he never talked of going home” to Britain. Most intelligence historians believe that Philby was almost single-handedly responsible for the deaths of dozens —even hundreds— of Western intelligence officers and agents who perished during the Cold War while on missions in the USSR and Eastern Europe. However, his son told The Telegraph that his father’s contribution to the physical demise of Western intelligence operatives is overstated: “there is no information that anyone died” as a result of Kim Philby’s treachery, he said.

4 Responses to Philby’s son, widow, speak on 50th anniversary of his defection

  1. Ben de Jong Amsterdam says:

    Philby was of course not a double spy or a double agent. He was an agent-in-place or a penetration agent or a mole if you wish of the KGB/NKVD. Garbo/Pujol of WW II fame was a double agent, i.e. he was an agent of two services, namely MI5 and the Abwehr. Philby was only an agent of one service, the KGB. The difference between the two concepts is important, as the information position of the two categories is rather different.

  2. Kidd says:

    there is a new book on the shelves, a fictional account of philby and his recruitment when he went to vienna austria, then returning to Britain to carry out his duties. the title escapes me at the moment

  3. Pete says:


    If one accepts Philby’s propaganda one can repeat Philby’s non-double agent claim. Philby or his Russian bosses dreamed up this claim so he would not be seen as a traitor to democratic Britain.

    I don’t accept Philby’s excuses. He was a sad traitor.

    Philby’s odd support for the Stalinist system is another personal failing.

  4. AlbertE. says:

    Colonel Redl from the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to WW1 probably was a more devastating spy. And Larry Wu Tai Chin almost singlehandedly prolonged the duration of the Korean War by two years.

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