British double agent George Blake in 2001 in Moscow.
British double agent George Blake in 2001 in Moscow.

The British double agent, George Blake, who was spying for the KGB, died today, Saturday, in Moscow, at the age of 99.

Sergey Ivanov, a spokesman for the Russian foreign intelligence services, according to the Russian “TASS” news agency, said, “Today, the legendary intelligence officer George Blake has passed away. He sincerely loved our country and admired what our people achieved during World War II.”

In 1961, George Blake was discovered to be working for the Soviet Union, and he was sentenced to 42 years in prison after confessing to spying for Moscow, but this brilliant intelligence officer managed to escape from his prison in the British capital London in 1966 to seek refuge in the Soviet Union via East Germany.

Who is George Blake

George Blake
George Blake

George Blake (born under the name George Behar on November 11, 1922) is a British double-duty spy for the Soviet Union. He became a communist and decided to work for the KGB while imprisoned during the Korean War. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, escaped from prison in 1966 and fled to the Soviet Union. He was not one of the Five Cambridge Spies, although he was linked to Donald McLean and Kim Philby after reaching the Soviet Union. Educated at Downing College, Cambridge.

Blake was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 1922, the son of a Protestant Dutch mother, and a Sephardic Jewish father who was naturalized British. George is named after King George V of the United Kingdom. His father, Albert Behar, served in the British Army in World War I. While his father was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, he told stories of his heroic war service and told them to his wife and children, and he concealed his Jewish background until his death. Blake and his family lived a comfortable life in the Netherlands until the death of his father in 1936. The thirteen-year-old was sent to live with a wealthy aunt in Egypt, where he continued his education at the English School in Cairo. He studied at Downing College at Cambridge University to read Russian.

George Blake released from North Korea in 1953
George Blake released from North Korea in 1953

When World War II broke out, Blake returned to the Netherlands. In 1940, Germany invaded and soon defeated the Dutch army. Blake was arrested but released because he was only seventeen years old. He joined the Dutch resistance as a postman. In 1942, he fled the Netherlands and traveled to Britain via Belgium, France, Spain, and Gibraltar, arriving in London in January 1943.

There, he was reunited with his mother and sisters who had fled at the beginning of the war. In 1943, his mother decided to change the family name from Bihar to Blake.

In 1961, Blake fell under suspicion after his truth was revealed by Polish dissident Michael Goleniewski and others. He was arrested when he arrived in London after being summoned from Lebanon, where he had joined the Middle East Center for Arab Studies.

Three days after his interrogation, Blake denied having been tortured or extorted by the North Koreans. Without thinking about what he was saying, he said he voluntarily joined the Soviets. Then the MI6 investigators gave a full confession.

The maximum penalty for any espionage crime under the first clause of the British Official Secrets Act of 1911 is 14 years, but his activities were divided into five periods of time and he was charged with five crimes, and in May 1961 after a secret trial, he was sentenced to a maximum of 14 consecutive years in each of three counts of espionage for a potential enemy and simultaneously 14 years on the remaining two counts – a total of 42 years in prison – by Chief Justice Lord Parker.

Newspapers reported that this sentence represented one year for each agent killed when he betrayed him, although this is doubtful. It was the longest sentence (excluding life periods) ever issued by a British court until Nizar Hindawi was sentenced to 45 years in prison for attempting to blow up an El Al Airlines plane.

Five years into his incarceration, Blake escapes with the help of three men he met in prison: Sean Burke and two anti-nuclear opponents, Michael Randall and Pat Bootle. Burke was the mastermind of the operation, who first approached Randall only to obtain financial assistance in the escape. Randall became more involved and they suggested bringing Bootle into the plan as well, as he suggested to Randall that Blake be annexed in 1962

when they were both in prison. Their motivation to help Blake escape was their belief that the 42-year sentence was “inhuman” and out of Blake’s personal admiration.

Burke smuggled a walkie-talkie to Blake to communicate with him while in prison. On October 22, 1966, Blake smashed a window at the end of the hallway where his cell was located. Then between 6 and 7 p.m., while most of the other prisoners and guards were on the weekly screening of movies,

Blake climbed out the window, slid onto the balcony, and made his way to the surrounding wall. There, Burke, who had been released from prison earlier, threw a ladder tied into a rope over the wall. Then Blake used it to climb over the wall and set off for a safe house. During the escape, Blake broke his wrist while jumping off the surrounding wall, but aside from this, everything went according to plan.

After the escape, it became apparent that the safe house was no longer safe, as it was cleaned by the owner once a week. After that, Blake spent several days moving between the homes of friends Randall and Bottle. Then, Blake and Burke moved in with Bootle, and they stayed with him as they prepared to bypass customs.

They smuggled Blake across the English Channel in a van, then traveled across northern Europe and across West Germany to the Helmstedt-Marienborn border crossing. After crossing the border safely without being detected, he met the people assigned to his transport in East Germany and continued his escape to the Soviet Union.

 

Source: French Radio “RFI” / French “Le Point” magazine / French “Le Monde” newspaper

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