Working for Russians like joining army, said double agent Philby, files show

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.

Kim Philby
MI6 was unaware that Philby had been secretly working for the Russians since the 1930s (PA)

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”, according to the files.

On the recruitment of Maclean, Philby’s note says: “(I am not quite sure whether this was just before or just after his entry into the Foreign Office). I gave him instructions how to keep a rendezvous with Big Bill, and from that  moment, except for one occasion … he passed out of my life.”

It adds: “Although the OGPU officers constantly asked me to keep an eye open for potential recruits, Guy and Donald were the only two whom I actually recruited.

“I think that this was deliberate policy on their part, as they did not want to  put too many eggs into my basket.

“In any case, my instructions were to have no contact with Communists, so that my access to likely material was strictly limited, in fact, virtually non-existent.”

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