The Invisible Man


At the outbreak of the Second World War, Victor Rothschild had control over key British government agencies, bodies and institutions. His relationship with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was so intimate that all food consumed by him was first screened by Victor.288 In 1939, Rothschild became known to the War Office when he sent Churchill a paper on the German banking system. Drawing on his bank connections in Germany and Austria he obtained espionage data on Nazi transactions which he used to reveal equipment purchases and predict future acquisitions. He also identified German businesses operating in the UK and recommended that major German suppliers to industry should be dumped in favour of American companies.289 Rothschild was a key asset of MI5 and a regular visitor to British Intelligence offices. He lunched and dined constantly with its directors at his favourite pub, Pratt's and White's. He had been on intimate terms with deputy director of MI5, Guy Liddell and other intelligence officers at MI5, Roger Hollis, Dick White, and Maurice Oldfield. Victor had also met regularly with the members of the 'Cambridge spy ring'. In the 1940-ties, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, who were both homosexual, were living in Rothschild's leased three-storey maisonette at 5 Bentinck Street, just off Oxford Street, London W1, as was Rothshild's assistant at MI5, Tess Mayor (codename “Rosa”), whom he later married. All of them managed successfully to penetrate British administration. Guy Burgess, after quitting his job at BBC in 1938, accepted a new job at SIS (later MI6), being assigned to Section D, department dedicated to sabotage and subversion created “to provide lines of communication for covert anti-Nazi propaganda in neutral countries and to direct and harness the efforts of the various anti-Nazi organisations then working in Europe.” When the war erupted in Europe in September 1939, the Nazi-Soviet pact made some of the Cambridge spies disillusioned for a moment with the Soviet politics. However, Burgess “produced half-a-dozen justifications for [the Russo-German pact]” of which the principal argument was that “it was only a tactical manoeuvre to allow the Russians time to rearm, before the eventual and inevitable German attack.”290 As the British Intelligence Services (SIS later known as MI6) were in immediate need of staff, Burgess recommended his friend Kim Philby. Philby had a meeting with Marjorie Maxse, chief of staff of Section D, who agreed to recruit him. After section D was absorbed by the new Special Operations Executive (SOE) in July 1940, Philby was appointed as an instructor in the art of clandestine propaganda at the SOE's training establishment in Beaulieu, Hampshire. Thanks to Kim Philby, the Soviet intelligence knew the details of almost all MI6 spies operating in Europe. By September 1941, Philby managed to get himself employed at Section V of MI5, responsible for

offensive counter-intelligence. On the strength of his knowledge and experience of Franco's Spain, Philby was soon put in charge of the subsection which dealt with Spain and Portugal. This entailed responsibility for a network of undercover operatives in Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Tangier. Meanwhile, his fellow Soviet spy, Donald Maclean worked for the British Foreign Office having access to all secret political plans and treatment of émigreé governments, which he passed to his Soviet handlers. Anthony Blunt, at the suggestion of Victor Rothschild, was successfully taken on by MI5, working under Guy Liddell. Blunt in turn suggested to Liddell to employ Burgess, who was dismissed from MI6 for “irreverence” and returned to work for BBC.291 Whilst working for MI5, Burgess establish a wide range of useful contacts among foreign embassies passing all information to his Soviet handlers. During 1941 London was NKVD's most productive legal residency and, accordingly to Moscow Centre's records, during this period Moscow received 7,867 classified political and diplomatic documents, 715 on military matters, 127 on economic affairs and 51 on British intelligence.292 At the same time, John Cairncross who had expertise in mathematics and good command of German worked at Bletchley Park, a home to a top secret division of MI6, who continued the work started by the Poles of breaking the German ENIGMA code. The decrypted German communication, codenamed ULTRA, were the most closely guarded secrets of the war. Victor Rothschild and the Cambridge ring had full protection from Kim Philby, who in 1944 would be appointed by the Director-General of MI6, Stewart Menzies, in charge of Section 9, new division in MI6 responsible for counter-espionage. Being in charge of Britain's anti-Soviet intelligence operations, Philby was in a position to inform Moscow not only of what Britain was doing to counter Soviet espionage, but also of Britain's own espionage efforts against the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Section 9 would give Philby an opportunity to get closer to its American counterpart – the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of CIA and its most important anti-Soviet operative James Jesus Angleton. Juri Modin, the controller for the Cambridge spies, confirmed that Victor Rothschild was the key element of the spying ring: “He had contacts. He was able to introduce Burgess, Blunt and others to important figures in Intelligence such as Stewart Menzies, Dick White and Robert Vansittart, the Permanent Under-secretary of State in the Foreign Office, who controlled MI6.”293 294

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288 Perry, The Fifth Man,.pp. 105-106 »

289 Ibid., p. 90-91 »

290 Blunt, ADD, Ms 88902/1, pp..37-40 quoted in Lownie, Stalin's Englishman, p.101 »

291 Jeffrey T. Richelson, A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 135 »

292 Madchen's report to Moscow Centre, 16 February 1937, quoted John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of KGB in America (Yale, 2009), p. 246 quoted in Lownie, Stalin's Englishman, p. 130 »

293 Perry, The Fifth Man, p. 89 »

294 See also Yuri Modin, My Five Cambridge Friends (Headline Book Publishing, 1994) »