Working for Russians like joining army, said British double agent Kim Philby

Harold Adrian Russell Philby, better known as Kim Philby (1912 - 1988), former First Secretary to the British Embassy in Washington, holds a press conference at his mother's home in Drayton Gardens, London, 8th November 1955. Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Harold Adrian Russell Philby, better known as Kim Philby (1912 - 1988), former First Secretary to the British Embassy in Washington, holds a press conference at his mother's home in Drayton Gardens, London, 8th November 1955. Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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British double agent Kim Philby said that signing up to work for the Russians was probably like joining the army, and did not involve “total acceptance of the party line”, according to newly released official documents.

In 1941 Philby was recruited by MI6, which was unaware that he had been secretly working for the Russians since the 1930s. Philby describes himself as having “submitted willingly to the discipline” of the OGPU, which was an early version of the Soviet Union’s security and political police.

In notes which appear in newly released security service files from the 1960s, Philby says: “None of the OGPU officials with whom I had dealings ever attempted to win my total acceptance of the party line.

“All they required was my rigid adherence to instructions on the technical level.

“In short, I joined the OGPU as one joined the army.

“There must have been British soldiers who obeyed orders at Passchendaele although convinced that they were wrongly conceived.”

The notes appear in official files on Arnold Deutsch, an Austrian who came to Britain in 1934 and took a lead role in recruiting the Cambridge group of Soviet spies.

Philby was among those in whom he had a particular interest.

He later discovered from a photograph in MI5 files that the man he knew as “Otto” was also known as Arnold Deutsch, according to the files.

Philby had regular meetings with “Otto” which always took place on the outskirts of London, usually in the open air. Preparations for these contacts included synchronising watches with a neighbouring clock, both parties arriving at the rendezvous “on the dot” and “taking at least three taxis both to and from the rendezvous to ensure that nobody followed”.

In the notes Philby adds: “One of my earliest tasks was to give him details of all my Communist friends in Cambridge. This I did.”

Philby says he presented a list that included Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess and that Otto brought a senior official to a later meeting. The senior official, who was introduced as Big Bill, went over the list and focused his attention on Maclean and Burgess.

Several meetings were then held “to discuss their potentialities”.