- Birth Place
- Date of Birth
- Date of Death
Burgess was the son of a naval officer. He was educated at Eton College and then went on to Trinity College, Cambridge.
While at Cambridge he met a number of fellow students who would also turn traitor. He was actually recruited by Soviet intelligence in December 1934. Although he made many contacts and friends at Cambridge his behaviour was outrageous. He projected himself as a disheveled, seductive and drunken homosexual with particularly bad manners but a brilliant intellect. He hardly seemed the type the Soviets would recruit as a secret agent.
In 1935 after leaving Cambridge Burgess failed to follow his father into the Royal Navy but instead took up a post as a private secretary. In 1936 he briefly moved to The Times, but in October of that year joined the BBC.
In 1944, after a number of years at the BBC, he moved to the News Department of the British Foreign Office. He soon took on the position of secretary to the British Deputy Foreign Minister, Hector McNeil. This job gave him access to hundreds of top secret Foreign Office documents which he photographed for the KGB on a regular basis.
In 1947 he went to Washington DC as Second Secretary. Burgess remained a heavy unpredictable drinker and an indiscreet homosexual. The FBI described him as "a louche, foul-mouthed gay with a penchant for seducing hitchhikers." While in Washington he lived with Kim Philby in Philby's home on Nebraska Avenue.
Throughout his period in Washington he continued to spy for the Soviets. In 1951 Philby was tipped off that Donald MacLean was under suspicion, and that Burgess might be next.
Burgess arranged to be sent back to the United Kingdom due to indiscrete actions. As soon as he arrived he and Maclean fled - first to France and later to Moscow.
He found adapting to life in the Soviet capital impossible and soon became even more dependent on drink. He latter years were spent as an alcoholic. In fact, he seems to have almost literally drunk himself to death.
« back to all biographies