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Kim Philby

Harold Adrian Russell 'Kim' Philby (1912 - May 11, 1988) was a employee of British intelligence and a Soviet spy.

Member of the spy ring known as the Cambridge Five, along with Donald Maclean[?], Guy Burgess[?], Anthony Blunt[?] and John Cairncross[?]. Philby was nicknamed Kim after a fictional spy.

Born in Ambala[?], India the son of the British diplomat, explorer, author, Arabist and converted Muslim Harry St. John Philby[?], at one time an adviser to King Ibn Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia[?].

After leaving Westminster School in 1928, Philby went on to Trinity College, Cambridge. While a student there Philby was introduced to, and came to admire, the ideals of Communism. He was not exactly 'recruited' as a spy - he volunteered. He asked one of his tutors, Maurice Dobb[?], how he could serve the Communist movement. Dobb passed him on (possibly not knowing what it would lead to) to a Communist front organisation, which passed him on to the Comintern underground in Vienna. He was recruited by the Soviet intelligence service itself (at that time known as the OGPU) on the strength of his work for the Comintern.

After working as a journalist Philby was recruited into the British Secret Intelligence Service (the so-called M.I.6) in 1940, later joining SOE and coming into contact with OSS agents.

After the war Philby went first to Istanbul. He later became first secretary at the British embassy in Washington. He returned to Britain in 1950 and in 1951 managed to tip off Burgess and Maclean to an internal British intelligence probe, this warning allowed them time to escape to the Soviet Union. He was not uncovered until 1963 (with the defection of Anatoli Golytsin[?]) but Philby also escaped to the Soviet Union before any arrest could be made.

He died in 1988 and was given a hero's funeral by the Soviet government.

Tim Powers based the book Declare on his unusual life story, providing a supernatural explanation for his behavior ("Tradecraft meets Lovecraft").

Chronology of Philby's career

  • 1925 Goes to Westminster School
  • 1929 Enters Trinity College, Cambridge, at the of 17 and joins the Cambridge University Socialist Society, later becoming Treasurer.
  • 1930 Guy Burgess[?] arrives at Trinity from Eton.
  • 1931 Defeat of the Labour Government. Philby becomes a more ardent socialist.
  • 1933 Leaves Cambridge a convinced Communist with a Degree in Economics, then goes to Vienna where Chancellor Dr Engelbert Dollfuss is preparing the first 'putsch' in February 1934. Philby becomes a Soviet Agent.
  • 1934 Clash between the Gov't and Socialists in Vienna. On Feb 24 Philby marries Litzi Friedman ; then in May, after the collapse of the Socialist movement in Vienna, he returns with his wife to England. He begins work as a sub-editor of a Liberal monthly review, and joins the Anglo-German Fellowship of which Burgess[?] is also a member - its pro-Hitler magazine, supported by Nazi funds was edited by Philby. To cover up his communist background he also makes repeated visits to berlin for talks with the German propaganda Ministry and with von Ribbentrop's Foreign Office.
  • 1937 In February he arrives in Spain to report the Civil War from Franco's side. In July he becomes correspondent of The Times with Franco's Forces.
  • 1938 Awarded the 'Red Cross of Military Merit' by Franco personally.
  • 1939 In July, leaves Spain and becomes war-correspondent of The Times at the British Headquarters in Arras.
  • 1940 In June, after the evacuation of British Forces from the European Mainland, he returns to Britain. Recruited by the British Secret Service and attached to SIS under Guy Burgess in Section D. Assigned to school for under-cover work, but later transferred to the teaching staff of a new school for general training in techniques of sabotage and subversion at Beaulieu, Hampshire.
  • 1941 Transferred to SIS, Section V(Five). Philby was put in charge of the Iberian sub-section, responsible for British Intelligence in Spain and Portugal.
  • 1942 Marries his second wife Aileen Furse. OSS party under Norman Pearson arrives in London for liaison with British Secret Service. Philby's area of responsibility is extended to include North African and Italian espionage under newly formed counter-intelligence units.
  • 1943 Section V move from St Albans to London, bringing Philby closer to the centers of power.
  • 1944 Appointed head of Section IX, newly created to operate against communism and the Soviet Union.
  • 1945 Philby's position is seriously threatened by a Russian Agent, Konstantin Volkov, who offers to talk.
  • 1946 Takes a field-appointment - officially to be First Secretary with the British embassy in Turkey, actually to be head of the Turkish SIS station.
  • 1949 Becomes SIS representative in Washington, as senior British Secret Service officer working in liaison with the CIA and FBI. He sits in on Special Policy Committee directing the ill-fated Anglo-US attempt to infiltrate anti-communist agents into Albania to topple the Enver Hoxha regime.
  • 1950 Guy Burgess arrive in Washington on assignment as Second Secretary of the British Embassy, and Philby invites him to stay at his house.
  • 1951 Philby is informed of the tightening net of suspicion surrounding Foreign Office diplomat and Soviet agent, Donald Maclean[?], whose British embassy position at the end of the war has placed him on the Combined Policy Committee on Atomic energy as its British joint secretary. Burgess's alcoholism causes him to be removed by Ambassador Franks and he returns to England, then on May 25, Burgess and Maclean disappear from Britain, with help from Philby, having escaped via the Baltic to the Soviet Union. Philby is summoned to London for interrogation and asked to resign from the Foreign Service.
  • 1952 In the summer a secret trial is held where Philby is questioned about his activities.
  • 1955 British Government publishes a 'White Paper[?]' (report) on the Burgess Maclean affair. On October 25, questions are tabled in parliament asking about the 'Third man', Philby. Prime Minster Harold Macmillan, states that there is no evidence of Philby having the betrayed the interests of Britain. Nevertheless he is dismissed from the Foreign Service because of his association with Burgess.
  • 1956 In September he goes to Beirut as correspondent of The Observer and The Economist; most intriguingly he is still employed by SIS. But that year Dick White, who suspects Philby of being a Soviet agent, becomes head of SIS.
  • 1957 Aileen, Philby's second wife, dies.
  • 1958 Marries Eleanor Brewer.
  • 1962 George Blake[?] is caught. Philby is now confirmed as a Soviet agent.
  • 1963 January 23, Philby disapears in Beirut. The Soviet Union announces that Philby has been granted political asylum in Moscow. On March 3, Mrs Philby receives a telegram from Philby postmarked Cairo, Egypt. On June 3 Izvestia[?] reports that Philby is with the Imam of Yemen. On July 1, the British Government admits that Philby is now known to have been a Soviet agent before 1946 and is in fact the 'third man'.
  • 1965 Awarded the Soviet Union's 'Red Banner Order', one of the highest honours of the Soviet Union.


  • My Silent War by Kim Philby, published by Macgibbon & Kee Ltd, London

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