- Birth Place
- Ambala, India
- Date of Birth
- 1 January 1912
- Date of Death
- 11 May 1988
Harold Philby was born into the family of a British Indian Civil Service employee sometimes referred to as an eccentric. It has been suggested that it was while in India that he gained the nickname “Kim”. He returned to England in 1919 and attended Aldo Preparatory School in Eastbourne before going onto Westminster School. In 1928 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge; it was while a student that he first became aware of, and then came to admire, communism.
He became an associate of a group of people who would later spy for the Soviet Union, known as the Cambridge Five. This group included Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt amongst others. It would not be correct to say the Soviet Union recruited him as a spy - it appears he offered his services in furthering the cause of communism.
In 1933 he left Cambridge a convinced Communist with an economics degree and went to Vienna. It was almost certainly there in February 1934 that the Soviet intelligence service recruited him as a Soviet agent. In 1934 he returned to England and he began work as a journalist. In 1940 Philby, like other members of the Cambridge Five, joined the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). He rose through the ranks becoming a respected member of the intelligence community. In 1944 he was appointed head of Section IX, newly created to operate against communism and the Soviet Union.
His spying activities first came under threat in 1945, when a defecting Soviet agent Konstantin Volkov was in a position to implicate him. He survived and in 1949 became the senior SIS representative in Washington, working with the CIA. He betrayed the Anglo-American attempts to infiltrate anti-communists into Albania.
On 25 May 1951 two of his friends and acquaintances, Burgess and Maclean, disappeared and later turned up in Moscow having defected. Philby was questioned at the time; he was accused of being the one who had tipped off the other two but, although he was suspected, he was never charged. In 1955 he was dismissed from the Foreign Office as he had clearly come under suspicion.
Philby went to Beirut In September 1956 as a correspondent for The Observer and The Economist.
In 1962 George Blake was unmasked and Philby was confirmed as a Soviet agent. This was confirmed with the defection of Anatoliy Golitsyn. On 23 January 1963, with the net closing on him, Philby disappeared in Beirut. He was later granted political asylum in the Soviet Union. On 1 July 1963 the British Government admitted he had been a long term Soviet agent and was named as the ‘third man’.
He lived the rest of his life in Russia. In recognition of his services for Soviet espionage he was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner and was named an official Soviet hero. When he died in 1988 the Soviet government gave him a hero’s funeral.
To betray, you must first belong.
Because of the nature of my activities, I had to organize all sorts of operations against the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries and then torpedo them myself. I always found support in thinking about the solidarity, the reliability of the rear ...I was also very much helped in my work by the fact that, even in Western countries, I continually came across sincere friends of the Soviet people, people whose entire hearts were devoted to Socialism...among the members of Western countries' intelligence services I know more than a few people like myself…
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