Son James, daughter-in-law Lien, and granddaughters Alexis, Ashley and Alyssa (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, April 2024)
Alyssa, Ashley & Alexis

Son James and Family, Maui, April 2023



“Ha! Again: /Said he young Harry Percy’s spur was cold?/ Of Hotspur, Coldspur? that rebellion/Had met ill luck?” (King Henry The Fourth, Part 2)

 “The shadow of Percy Hotspur still hovers over the town – the Politics of the Duke are the Politics of the Town – Transport House is a rash dream, the Daily Herald a red rag! and Communism a nasty nightmare.” (Durham miner, Methodist preacher and writer Sid Chaplin, about Alnwick, the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland, in 1945)

“On Poppy Day/our schools bought red paper flowers. They were for Flanders./I saw Hotspur cursing the smoke through which a popinjay/minced from the battle. Those raging commanders from Thersites to Percy, their rant is our model./I pinned the poppy to my blazer. It bled like a vowel.” (from LII in Midsummer, by Derek Walcott)

COLDSPUR is the personal website of Tony Percy. I was born in the UK, and moved to the USA in 1980. I retired in 2000, and moved from Connecticut to Southport, North Carolina a year later. COLDSPUR is the phlegmatic alter ego of HOTSPUR, my pseudonym as a Listener Crossword Puzzle setter (see www.listenercrossword.com ). (Hotspur.com was already taken, and I was too stingy to buy the owner out.) If you want to learn more about one important aspect of my life, try the following link: An American Odyssey. Other autobiographical posts can be seen at Emily Davison’s Wig, at September Spooks, at Some Reflections on the North Downs, at My Experience with Opioids, at Doctor in the House, at Taking the Cake, at Polar Bear Has Landed, at A Rootless Cosmopolitan, and at A-Rovin’ with Greensleeves.

This website has been created  to publicize various reports and articles that I have written, as well as alert others to my interests.  On the final day of each month I post a report, normally on intelligence matters, and publish ‘Special Bulletins’ when something noteworthy crops up outside the regular cycle. To contact me on any matters arising from content on this site, please email me at antonypercy@aol.com.

On October 26, 2017, the University of Buckingham Press published my book ‘Misdefending the Realm’.  For further information, see MisdefendingtheRealm. The book was published in the USA in early May, 2018.

I have decided to list here all the monthly blog entries that I have written since I moved to the new platform, so that readers may have a quick way of finding any piece they are interested in.

April 30, 2024: ‘A Topographical Guide to coldspur’

(I present a long-promised guide to my research on coldspur, organized by twenty themes, with a narrative for each showing where ideas and analysis appeared.)

April 15, 2024: ‘Special Bulletin: ‘The Airmen Who Died Twice – Part 4’

(I present the final segment of my story describing the fatal crash of an RAF Lancaster, offering the bold but confident hypothesis that Stalin’s objective was to assassinate a renegade Communist. I call upon the Ministry of Defence to offer an apology to the relatives of the officers cruelly sacrificed in this venture.)

March 31, 2024: ‘Dick White’s Tangled Web’

(I take a fresh look at Dick White’s bizarre behaviour in the summer of 1951, when he pretended to be unaware that Kim Philby had been identified as the journalist in Spain at whose existence Krivitsky had hinted, and he compiled a dossier to be passed to the FBI/CIA that incriminated Burgess, Maclean and Philby before the first two had even absconded.)

March 15, 2024: ‘Special Bulletin: ‘The Airmen Who Died Twice – Part 3’

(Having established that two Soviet agents impersonating RAF officers were on board the plane that crashed in Norway in September 1944, I provide the political/intelligence background from both the British and the Russian sides. The denouement of the story will appear on April 15.)

February 29, 2024: ‘At Last the 1948 Show’: Smolka and the Third Man

(In the concluding chapter of my two-part segment on Peter Smolka, I analyze his alleged recruitment to the NKVD by Kim Philby, his rapid wartime rise in the Ministry of Information, his important meeting with Graham Greene in Vienna in 1948, and the discovery in 1951 that he had passed on confidential material to Guy Burgess. After that, his case petered out in farce.)

February 14, 2024: ‘Special Bulletin: ‘The Airmen Who Died Twice – Part 2’

(In the third and fourth chapters of this story, I explain how the launching of the attack on the Tirpitz was moved to Northern Russia, and that, for the return flights, a re-allocation of crews occurred. This resulted in an alarming discovery when one of the planes was re-routed over Norway, and crashed.)

January 30, 2024: Peter Smolka: Background to 1934

(In the first of a two-part series, I introduce my analysis of the archival and other material on the notorious NKVD spy Peter Smolka, and describe his activities from 1930 until the end of 1934, when he revealed his association with Kim Philby.)

January 15, 2024: ‘Special Bulletin: The Airmen Who Died Twice – Part 1’

(I present the first two chapters of a four-part series that provides an explanation for the crash of an RAF Lancaster bomber in September 1944 in southern Norway – an event that the British authorities have declined to investigate.)

December 31, 2023: A Wintry Miscellany

(While I commemorate the centenary of a brutal act by Lenin’s Cheka, the main story in this rather dour assembly of commentary, book reviews, and personal observations is an analysis of Kim Philby’s ‘divorce’ from Litzy, and whether his marriage to Aileen Furse was in fact bigamous.)

November 30, 2023: The Tales of Honigmann

(I present some extracts from the memoir of Barbara Honigmann – the daughter of Litzy, Philby’s first wife – about her father, Georg, with translations and annotations. While they present a few useful new facts, what Ms. Honigmann was told was frequently misleading and deceptive. The exact relationship between Georg and the NKVD remains a mystery.)

October 30, 2023: Four Spy-Books

(Reviews of four books on espionage, three of which were published this year, headed by the important but rather shrill ‘The Eagle in the Mirror, by Jesse Fink, about the MI6 officer Charles ‘Dick’ Ellis. I was not very impressed with the other three.)

September 30, 2023: Life with the Honigmanns

(I try to explain the origin of ‘Litzi Feabre’, the bizarre alias attached to Kim Philby’s wife during the war, and seek to understand why the authorities would wish to retain until 2060 a Home Office file on her lover at the time (and future husband), the German-born Communist Georg Honigmann.)

September 21, 2023: Mini-Bulletin: a new Web Hoster

(I announce that I have migrated coldspur to a new platform.)

August 31, 2023: Summer 2023 Round-Up

(An overview of recent reading, including reviews of biographies of Hoover, Orwell and Berlin, a summary of outstanding Kim Philby questions, as well as some reflections on what makes good intelligence officers.)

July 31, 2023: The Folly of Solomon

(Flora Solomon’s disclosure to Lord Rothschild that Kim Philby was a Communist and had tried to recruit her has been cited as the major reason that Philby decided to defect. The truth is very different. MI5 exploited a psychiatrist who revealed to them statements made in confidence by Aileen Philby herself, as well as a famous writer.)

June 30, 2023: Kim Philby’s German Moonshine

(Philby’s visits to continental Europe in 1945 are shrouded in confusion. Apart from some dubious shenanigans in Paris, he may have been a victim of a poisoning attempt in Berlin, while unexplained time in North-Rhine Westphalia may point to a meeting set up to determine how to exploit anti-Communist factions supplied by the Nazis.)

May 31, 2023: Kim Philby in 1951: Alarms and Diversions

(Setting up Philby as the ‘Third Man’ after the flight of Burgess and Maclean was a charade by the officers of MI5 and MI6 and the Foreign Office mandarins. They needed a scapegoat, Philby was in their sights, and he had been responsible for leaking to the KGB the VENONA exercise that unveiled Maclean. I explain the real story.)

April 30, 2023: Kim Philby: ‘Always Working for SIS?’

(During his career, Kim Philby left behind a trail of clues to his role as a Soviet agent, yet MI5 and MI6 displayed a surprising lack of interest. I present a theory as to why, one that involves the supposed exploitation of his first wife, Litzi.)

March 31, 2023: Litzi Philby Under (the) Cover(s)

(My investigation into the career of Kim Philby’s first wife, Litzi, leads me to conclude that the NKVD considered that, until her departure for East Berlin in 1946, she was the star, while Kim was a minor player, and mostly a failure.)

February 27, 2023: Enigma Variations: Denniston’s Reward

(My inquiry into why Alastair Dennison, GC&CS chief, did not receive a knighthood was resolved in a rather a mundane fashion. But the project to unravel why the service did not respond to early intelligence about the Enigma machine revealed  a very muddled and evasive story.)

February 17, 2023: Special Bulletin: PROSPER & the Letter to JINS

(The Journal of Intelligence and National Security declined to publish the letter sent by Patrick Marnham and me expressing our dismay at its decision to publish Francis Suttill’s article on the demise of the PROSPER circuit. I therefore present it here, as well as the email exchange that followed.)

January 30, 2023: Prosper’s Flit

( A detailed explanation of my hypothesis that Major Suttill (PROSPER) made two visits to the UK in the summer of 1943. This theory dispenses with both the erratic authorized history published by M. R. D. Foot as well as the flawed analysis by Major Suttill’s son, while accommodating the evidence supplied by the archives and by independent authors.)

December 31, 2022: 2022: Year-End Round-Up

(An update on some of the major research activities of the year, some incidental observations, and a look forward to 2023.)

December 31, 2022: SIGNAL: ‘Sonya’s Wireless’

(A PDF import of Brian Austin’s article on ‘Sonya’s Wireless’ , published last July in SIGNAL magazine. Please read posting above for further details.)

November 30, 2022: An Armful of History Books

(I review five recent books – and one important one from 2004 – mostly on the history of the Soviet Union. I include a study of a notorious family who was taken in by Stalin, as well as an impressive account of the Katyn Forest massacre. I round the sestet out with a critique of a comprehensive new history of WWII Resistance against Hitler.)

October 31, 2022: Gibby’s Spy

(When Chapman Pincher was fed a false story by a contact in MI6, it was picked up by Peter Wright, the author of ‘Spycatcher’, and later irresponsibly echoed by John Costello and Nigel West. This is the story of a spy who never existed – except in the mind of Joseph Stalin. The ‘legendary’ MI6 officer Harold Gibson was sadly misused.)

September 30, 2022: The Quiet Don

(After a brief recognition of the life of the great Orwell scholar, Peter Davison, who died this August, I pay a personal tribute to Ronald Hingley, ‘The Quiet Don’, who taught me Russian at Oxford, and was a notable historian, linguist, translator – especially of Chekhov – and  a famous thorn in the side of the Kremlin, but whose achievements have been overlooked in the public arena.)

August 31, 2022: The Demise of PROSPER

(The denouement of the story of the betrayal of Francis Suttill and his PROSPER network, caused by SOE’s spineless behaviour when caught between the wiles of the TWIST Committee and the demands of the Chiefs of Staff for deception operations, in the shape of the absurd COCKADE plan.)

July 31, 2022: Summer 2022 Round-Up

(An update on recent research activities, including a sad twist in the Sonia story, a meeting with Anatole Shmelev, commentary on Operations PARAVANE and COCKADE, and reviews of several books on intelligence matters.)

June 30, 2022: Gubbins’ Turn

(After studying two memoirs of officers who worked for Colin Gubbins, the officer who led the Special Operations Executive for most of WWII, and three very unsatisfactory biographies of him, I conclude that it is time for a re-assessment of his contribution to the unit’s exploits.)

June 3, 2022: Special Bulletin: The Airmen Who Died Twice

(An appeal for information on behalf of a special project undertaken by Nigel Austin and me. The mystery of the Lancaster aircrash in Nesbyen, Norway, has lasted for almost eighty years. We are ready to explain what happened.)

May 30, 2022: Peter Wright’s Agents & Double Agents

( I dissect the story of Konstantin Volkov’s attempted defection in 1945, and how, after he provided a broad hint about Kim Philby’s role as a Soviet agent, he was then betrayed by him, exfiltrated to Moscow, tortured and executed. Shamelessly, Peter Wright then tried to twist Volkov’s words into an accusation against Roger Hollis.)

April 30, 2022: Feints and Deception: Two More Months in 1943

(For seventy years, conflicting accounts of the summer 1943 movements of the SOE officer Francis Suttill have floated around in histories and biographies. I present a startling new theory that accommodates them all, and explains the confusion. I also describe the conceptual muddles of the Chiefs of Staff at this time.)

March 31, 2022: ‘Bridgehead Revisited’: Three Months in 1943

(In the first three months of 1943, the Chiefs of Staff mulled over plans for re-entering the Continent, and the deception required to conceal such operations. At the same time, a mission managed by the secret TWIST committee was starting to cause havoc in North-Western France.)

February 28, 2022: All Quiet on the Second Front?

(I continue my investigation into the PROSPER disaster of 1943 by inspecting the actions of the London Controlling Section, the W Board, the XX Committee and the Chiefs of Staff in the last few months of 1942)

January 31, 2022: The Strange Life of George Graham

(After some topical commentary on last month’s post, I uncover my research into Serge Leontiev, aka George Graham, who was so inauspiciously selected as George Hill’s cipher clerk in Moscow, and suffered the consequences.)

December 31, 2021: 2021: Year-end Roundup

(I look forward to the research programme for 2022, and provide an update on some important and not so important features of my activities in 2021.)

November 29, 2021: Déricourt’s Double Act

(Henri Déricourt has been described as a ‘double agent’ by multiple historians, although it is not clear whether he was ‘doubling’ on behalf of the Germans, or for SOE – or even for SIS (MI6). I attempt to disperse the fog about his role, and inspect the archival material to shed more light on his recruitment.)

October 31, 2021: The ‘Prosper’ Disaster

(An exploration of the background to the extraordinary face-off on the betrayal of the French SOE circuit between the establishment and the investigative historians, among which latter group coldspur considers himself a member.)

September 30, 2021: A-Rovin’ with Greensleeves

(I celebrate Sylvia’s and my forty-fifth wedding anniversary with some rambling reminiscences.)

August 31, 2021: Four Books on MI5

(I review three books concerning MI5 and a fourth outlier from a former head of GCHQ.)

August 16, 2021: Special Bulletin: Let’s TWIST Again

(Patrick Marnham’s description of the role of the wartime TWIST committee, notably overlooked by all the authorised historians, prompted me to delve deeper. I use the opportunity to publish what has been for me a fascinating email exchange with the author of All the King’s Men, Robert Marshall.)

July 31, 2021: What Gouzenko Said About ELLI

(I compile a detailed dossier on the various statements that Gouzenko made – or was claimed to make – about ELLI over the years, primarily in order to try to establish why he started denying his revelations about a British spy in Moscow.)

June 30, 2021: Claude Dansey’s Mischief

(Reading a new book on SOE and the betrayal of a French resistance network prompts me to contact the author, and exchange information and opinions on the dubious wartime activities of MI6’s Claude Dansey.)

May 31, 2021: Who Framed Roger Hollis?

(I investigate some of the mythology behind Roger Hollis’s encounter(s) with Igor Gouzenko, and shed fresh light on some extraordinary goings-on with security, MI5 and SOE in war-time Britain.)

April 30, 2021: On Radio-Active Decay

(A panoramic view of Sonia’s role as a courier leads me to conclude that she greatly exaggerated her activities as a wireless operator – a fable that has been reinforced by many who have written about her.)

March 31, 2021: On Philby, Gouzenko and ELLI

(Having made contact with Alexander Vassiliev, the scribe of the eponymous Notebooks, I launch an investigation into the claims made by the Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko about a spy named ELLI in British intelligence, and analyze how this revelation was processed by MI5 and MI6.)

February 28, 2021: The Hoax of the Blunt Confession (Part 2)

(I conclude my investigation of the disinformation surrounding Anthony Blunt’s confession to Arthur Martin of MI5, and outline what a more probable sequence of events was.)

January 31, 2021: The Hoax of the Blunt Confession (Part 1)

(In the first of a two-part series, I analyse in detail the highly problematic accounts of the ‘confessions’ of Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross in the first half of 1964.)

January 7, 2021: Special Bulletin: Denis Lenihan – In Memoriam

(I record a tribute to coldspur supporter and contributor Denis Lenihan, who recently succumbed to Covid-19. The piece was updated on January 20.)

December 31, 2020: Year-End Wrap-up – 2020

(At the end of a dreadful year, I offer a status report on the main projects that have consumed me lately, and an indicator of research to come.)

December 8, 2020: Special Bulletin: Review of ‘Agent Sonya’

(My review of Ben Macintyre’s biography of the Soviet agent known as SONYA (or SONIA) was published in the Journal of Intelligence and National Security, and the text is available here.)

November 30, 2020: Camp 020R at Huntercombe

(The discovery of some impressive photographs of ‘Tin-Eye’ Stephens, and of one of the guards at the dual internment camps at Ham and Huntercombe, encouraged me to learn more about Camp 020R, and its overlooked history.)

October 31, 2020: Five Books on Espionage & Intelligence

(I review four recent books. Denis Lenihan makes another guest appearance to review a fifth.)

September 30, 2020: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 8)

(I conclude my study of the campaign to intercept and locate illicit wireless transmissions from the UK by describing the activities that took place in the months before the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944.)

August 31, 2020: Liverpool University – Home for Distressed Spies?

(After the war, MI5 and the Ministry of Supply conceived a shoddy plan to remove spies and communists from AERE Harwell to Liverpool University. It predictably failed, but remained largely buried for seventy years.)

July 31, 2020: Sonia & MI6’s Hidden Hand

(A detailed account of MI6’s attempt to manipulate Sonia, including its enabling of her passage to the UK in early 1941. It all rebounded disastrously on MI6  – and MI5 – when Sonia acted as a courier for the atom-spy Klaus Fuchs.)

June 30, 2020: HASP: Spycatcher’s Last Gasp

(In his best-selling memoir Spycatcher, Peter Wright cited a mysterious set of wireless messages in an attempt to seal his case against Sir Roger Hollis. It is time to re-inspect Wright’s claims for the so-called ‘HASP’ traffic.)

June 28, 2020: Sonia and the Mail on Sunday

(The Mail on Sunday publishes a feature on Sonia, and her recruitment by MI6, undertaken by Professor Glees and me after my recent postings on The Letter from Geneva, and my enduring saga of Sonia’s Radio .)

May 31, 2020: Late Spring Round-Up

(I provide an update on the various research projects that have occupied my time this year.)

April 30, 2020: On ‘Wilmington’s Lie’

(Reading a book on the local city’s murderous coup of over a hundred years ago leads me to explore the undercurrents that still endure.)

April 23, 2020: Special Bulletin: The Letter From Geneva

(A close examination of an overlooked letter in the Kuczynski archive at Kew provokes some fresh searching questions about the relationship between Sonia, and her husband Len Beurton, and SIS and MI5.)

March 31, 2020: The Mysterious Affair at Peierls (Part 2)

(I conclude my investigation into Rudolf Peierls by exploring the network of physicists that allowed Fuchs to thrive, and analysing Peierls’s accounts of his dealings with the spy.)

March 19, 2020: Special Bulletin: A Response to Denis Lenihan

(Because of its length, and some new material, I have separated my response from Denis’s second contribution.)

March 7, 2020: Special Bulletin: Denis Lenihan, with More on Sonia

February 29, 2020: War In 1944: Howard’s Folly

(A paragraph in Professor Sir Michael Howard’s autobiography startled me so much that I investigated the facts behind the almost concurrent Warsaw Uprising and the Monte Sole Massacre.)

February 6, 2020: Special Bulletin: Denis Lenihan on Sonia/Quebec

(A coldspur correspondent has submitted a fascinating commentary on my piece Sonia and the Quebec Agreement. Readers are encouraged to contribute to the debate.)

January 31, 2020: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios – Part 7

(I amplify my conclusions about the history of RSS up to the end of 1943 by analysing some fresh research, and attempt to enliven the proceedings by introducing it with an imagined important conversation between Menzies and Gambier-Parry in early 1941.)

December 15, 2019: Border Crossings: Coldspur & Stalin

(The controversy over illegal immigration prompts me to recall my own experiences, while a reading of new correspondence between Stalin and Churchill reminds me of the Soviet dictator’s disastrous inattention to border issues.)

November 30, 2019: A Thanksgiving Round-Up

(I provide a summary of the status of my research projects, highlighting my frustrations with Christopher Andrew and the BBC.)

October 31, 2019: The Mysterious Affair at Peierls (Part 1)

(My investigation into the suspected spy Rudolf Peierls begins with an analysis of his pre-war visits to the Soviet Union, many details of which he tried to conceal from the public.)

September 30, 2019: On Appeasement

(A letter sent to the New York Times about Tim Bouverie’s book prompted me to investigate the appeasement of Hitler, and compare it with that of Stalin.)

September 4, 2019: Special Bulletin – A Letter to Frank Close

(The publication of Professor Close’s biography of Klaus Fuchs prompts me to pick up a dialogue I had with the Oxford scientist in 2017-2018.)

August 31, 2019: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios – Part 6

(I bring the story up to the end of 1943, with plans for invading Europe advancing. A pattern of self-deception affects both German and British intelligence organisations, especially those responsible for illicit wireless interception.)

July 31, 2019: A Rootless Cosmopolitan

(A light-hearted and partly autobiographical analysis of how cultural habits are – or are not – passed on from generation to generation.)

June 30, 2019: Dick White’s Devilish Plot

(A detailed study of Kew archives and various memoirs, and especially what the sometime chief of MI5 and SIS told his biographer, shows that Dick White engaged in some deceitful work to protect himself during the messy business of unveiling the Cambridge Five.)

May 30, 2019: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios – Part 5

(In this chapter, I contrast the direction-finding strategies of Great Britain and Germany, and bring the story up to the autumn of 1942)

April 29, 2019: The Importance of Chronology (with special reference to Liddell and Philby)

(I explain one of the tools of my methodology, a detailed Chronology, and illustrate its use by analysing a controversial episode in MI5’s 1951 investigation of Kim Philby’s possible treachery)

March 31, 2019: Guy Liddell – A Re-Assessment

(A new book on Liddell, wartime head of MI5’s B Division, prompts me to examine why two conflicting views of Liddell’s worth as a counter-intelligence officer have never been addressed, let alone resolved.)

March 22, 2019: In Search of Henry Hardy

(A Special Bulletin to record an email discussion I had with Henry Hardy, after reading his book ‘In Search of Isaiah Berlin’, about his attempts to clarify some aspects of Berlin’s thoughts.)

February 28, 2019: Two Cambridge Spies: Dutch Connections (1) & (2)

(Two entries, one updating my researches on the ‘hunt’ for the Imperial Council spy, Donald Maclean, and the other on the mysteries surrounding the ‘suicide’ and mission of the Abwehr spy, Willem ter Braak)

January 31, 2019: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 4)

(I compare the wireless-related espionage and counter-espionage strategies of the Abwehr, MI5, SOE and the NKVD up to Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.)

December 31, 2018: Donald Maclean’s Handiwork

(The surfacing of a newspaper article from 1980 provokes an analysis of whether the British authorities learned more about the spy Donald Maclean than they admitted when Walter Krivitsky came over for interrogations in 1940.)

November 30, 2018: Four More Books on Espionage

(A review of four recent books – two novels, two non-fiction)

November 5, 2018: Special Bulletin: B2B or not B2B?

(I take apart the confusing nomenclature concerning MI5’s wartime counterespionage units, a topic not addressed by the authorised history.)

October 31, 2018: Confessions of a Conspiracy Theorist

(Here I explain why I believe the role of a curious historian is to develop theories that may describe conspiracies, and describe my efforts to gain greater attention to some of the remaining conundrums of twentieth-century intelligence, 26 of which I identify.)

September 2018: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 3)

(I pick up the story of undetected wireless activity by focussing on the bizarre story of the German spy ter Braak, and suggest that the evidence points to an extrajudicial murder arranged by MI5.)

September 17, 2018: Special Bulletin: Hurricane Florence

(An interruption to the normal schedule to report on the effect of the hurricane on SE North Carolina.)

August 2018: Four Books on Espionage

(Reviews of four books on espionage, three very recent.)

July 2018: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 2)

(I carry on my analysis of the puzzling goings-on in MI5 as the Security Service wondered what to do with the Radio Security Service, and describe the puzzling conclusion that Walter Gill came to concerning Abwehr signals.)

June 2018: Homo Sovieticus 

(Musings prompted by a letter written fifty years ago, lamenting the fact that the lessons of Communism risk being forgotten.)

May 2018: The Mystery of the Undetected Radios (Part 1)

(I introduce my research on the interception of illegal wireless signals in WWII, explaining some of the organisational challenges that Britain faced.)

April 2018: Double-Crossing the Soviets? 

(I explore the dubious claims that Britain used its experience in double-crossing the Abwehr to apply similar techniques against the Soviets, something even Moscow believed was happening for a while.)

March 2018: Struggles at the Desktop

(Experiences in dealing with various PC support networks lead me to a diatribe against several technology companies, who clearly do not know how to deliver good software.)

February 2018: Sonia and the Quebec Agreement

(I analyze the highly dubious claim that agent SONIA was actually in the right place at the right time to betray the agreements made in Quebec to her masters in Moscow.)

January 2018: Soviet Espionage: Transatlantic Connections

(I explore some of the lesser-known connections between Soviet espionage in the UK, Canada and the United States.)

December 2017: Isaiah in Love 

(An elegiac essay about Isaiah Berlin’s romantic fortunes, and how they overlapped with some interesting characters involved in atomic secrets in WWII.)

November 2017: Krivitsky, Churchill and the Cold War

(What if? I pick up the promotional campaign for Misdefending the Realm to explore alternative history. Could parts of the Cold War have been diverted if MI5 had acted on Krivitsky’s advice?)

October 2017: Misdefending the Realm

(My book is launched.)

September 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Envoi

(A summarisation of the SONIA story, with my reflections on its further implications.)

August 2017: Sonia’s Radio -Part IX

(Here I describe the background of MI5’s surveillance of Communist activity, with special attention to its tracking of the movements of SONIA and Len Beurton. The chapter includes a comprehensive analysis of the history of wireless techniques in intelligence. I offer my conclusions about the truth of the SONIA affair.)

July 2017: Web Woes

(Some dire experiences, mainly with my bank, which showed a bureaucratic ineptitude that was beyond belief.)

June 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Part VIII

(This chapter inspects the highly provocative story of SONIA’s acquisition of a British passport, her moving to the UK and getting installed in Oxfordshire, and her illicit use of a wireless transmitter.)

May 2017: Officially Unreliable

(A critique of ‘authorised’ histories, and those who agree to write them.)

April 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Part VII

(In this chapter, I analyse the backgrounds and possible motivations of the contributors to the ‘revisionist’ theory of Ultra dissemination, namely that it was fed to Soviet intelligence in Switzerland by SIS – probably via Alexander Foote. All these claims were then magisterially denied by the official historian.)

March 2017: POLARBEAR Has Landed

(An account of my visit to the UK to accept my doctoral degree.)

February 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Part VI

(In this chapter, I examine the career of Alexander Foote in detail, and introduce some evidence that he was indeed employed by SIS.)

January 2017: Sonia’s Radio – Part V

(In this chapter, I start to analyze a further contentious observation by the official historian of British Intelligence in WWII, namely the claim that the British authorities had no involvement in exploiting the Soviet spy-ring in Switzerland to pass disguised ULTRA traffic to Stalin’s government.)

December 2016: Taking the Cake

November 2016: Sonia’s Radio – Part IV

(This chapter steps back to investigate a puzzling story about decryption of Soviet radio transmissions – the claim that Churchill put a stop to such activities immediately Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.)

October 2016: Economists’ Follies

September 2016: Sonia’s Radio – Part III

(This chapter describes how MI5 responded to the threat of illicit radio transmissions to Germany and the Soviet Union, and how the RSS was absorbed into SIS (MI6) in 1941. It also brings readers up-to-date on the movements of Klaus Fuchs, Alexander Foote, and SONIA herself.)

August 2016: Doctor in the House

July 2016: My Experience with Opioids

June 2016: Sonia’s Radio – Part II

(I explain how the Radio Security Service, the body chartered with detecting illicit wireless transmissions, evolved, and describe the circumstances in which SONIA orchestrated her return to the UK as a spy.)

May 2016: Revisiting Smiley & Co.

April 2016: Sonia’s Radio – Part I

(I introduce SONIA, and outline the puzzling manner in which her wireless transmitter was apparently ignored by British Intelligence in World War II.)

March 2016: Hey Big Spender!

February 2016: On Privacy and Publicity

January 2016: The Myth of Buying Market Share

December 2015: Refugees and Liberators

November 2015: The Congenial Richard Dawkins

October 2015: Mann Overboard!

September 2015: Some Diplomatic Incidents

August 2015: The Undercover Egghead

July 2015: Magna Carta and Pluralism

June 2015: Surveying Lake Tahoe

May 2015: Remembering Mr. Popper

April 2015: Richie Benaud – My Part in His Success

March 2015: Isaiah Berlin – Too Hot to Handle?

February 2015: ‘All The News That’s Not Fit to Archive’

January 2015: Turing and Cripps

December 2014: Cleeseana

November 2014: Hugh Walpole

29 Responses to About

  1. Hi Tony

    I like your new website. Much, much more user friendly than the old one. Are you doing it yourself or do you have a paid geek?

    As ever


    • coldspur

      I worked with a template, and had some training. For a while, I found it all a bit strange (unlearning), but then things suddenly clicked.

  2. Awesome blog, going to bookmark it!

  3. Thomas Rees

    Dear Coldspur,

    I’ve discovered your piece Two Cambridge Spies in which you refer to my father, Goronwy Rees, as an inveterate liar. Could you please give me any evidence at all for this accusation. Alternatively, print an apology.

    • coldspur

      Dear Thomas,

      Thank you for your post. I think you should read everything I have written about your father, including ‘Donald Maclean’s Handiwork’, and my book, ‘Misdefending the Realm’. I have to add that a few other historians have warned me about your father’s reliability as a witness, Michael Holzman’s public note to me a couple of months ago (see ‘DMH’ above, where he implied I was being too trusting of what your father wrote) being an example.
      Sadly, mendacity was a trait in many prominent figures in this business. Isaiah Berlin regularly lied (as even Henry Hardy agrees). Gladwyn Jebb lied. Dick White convinced Percy Sillitoe to lie to Attlee over the Fuchs business. Etc. etc. Your father happened to go on record more than most.

  4. PeteB

    Good morning .. After having found your blog on a Google sweep for an image of Robert Hembly-Scales and reading a few posts I realised I might have something of interest with regard to Hembly-Scales’ first foray into Australian affairs.
    The matter involves his apparent involvement in Australia’s ‘most profound mystery’ .. the Tamam Shud case where an unidentified man was found dead on Somerton Beach in Adelaide 1948.

  5. coldspur

    Fascinating, Peter! I shall bring this item to the attention of my Commissioner for Australian and New Zealand Affairs, Denis Lenihan (who introduced me to the Molonglo River Mystery). Please do send me more information.

  6. Your Antipodean Commissioner is mildly indignant, having drawn the Tamam Shud case to your attention in February this year.

  7. peteb

    Good morning Commissioner, I didn’t expect this matter to be elevated so handsomely.
    Simply put … a colleague of mine has been to see Paul Lawson in Adelaide and during his visits he asked Lawson what it was was he didn’t want to tell Stuart Littlemore on that ABC interview some years ago.
    I’m hoping you are familiar with the interview, Commissioner, and I’ll wait for your response before letting the cat out of the bag. It will change your understanding of the case completely, as it has mine. My credentials are a website dedicated to the Somerton Man Case and a book (fiction) that sold underwhelmingly, not to mention a ten year itch to find something new about the case.
    For instance. The next time someone tells you the man seen by Strapps in the evening was the same man as seen by Lyons in the morning you, can tell them they’re wrong.
    For this you will have to re-read Strapp’s deposition and make a note of his description of the trousers the man was wearing, then check that info against the trousers the body was found in.

  8. Good morning to you PeteB – or afternoon, depending on your time zone.
    My slender involvement with this case began earlier this year when a correspondent with an interest in the Somerton man case, having seen my pieces on the KGB in Australia on the website academia.edu, got in touch about the Lapstone Conference. Later I undertook some research for him at the Archives at Kew to see if the MI5 files from that time had anything more than the Hembly-Scales report e.g.apparatchiks who later went missing. They didn’t.
    So Paul Lawson, Lyons, Strapp and the trousers mean nothing to me I’m afraid. But if the cat you have in your bag has any security aspect, I would be keen to hear about it – as would our host, Tony Percy, I’m sure.

  9. peteb

    Denis ..
    An unidentified man was found dead on a Glenelg beach in December 1948. He had a small slip of paper tucked into his fob pocket that had been torn from a copy of the Rubaiyat. The book itself was handed in to the police six months later, according to the police, by a Glenelg chemist who found it in his car close to where the body was found.
    I dispute this finding.
    I believe the MI5 was on top of the murder investigation early, and was able to deflect its intended connection to Hembly-Scales. A connection that would have severely forestalled his work in clearing out Russian agents from the Australian security organisation and installing ASIO in its place.

  10. Denis … apologies for the two-in-a-row but I suspect one way to raise the interest hairs on the back of your neck is to put forward something feasible.
    An unidentified dead man. A slip of paper torn from a Rubaiyat hidden in his fob pocket. The Rubaiyat containing an unfathomable code and one phone number.

    The Rubaiyat was found inside a car parked near Chemist Freeman’s pharmacy in Glenelg. But it wasn’t Freeman’s car it was found in. It was Dr Lica Delprat’s. She was thought to be filling a surgery order, her business relationship with Freeman going back many years.

    Dr Delprat didn’t tell the police what she had found because after examining it she spoke to her nephew, knowing he had a wide experience in matters of a mysterious nature. She told him what she had found and where the car had been parked. She described the book with its hole in the back page and phone number written in pencil on the back cover.

    Then Hembly-Scales heard the news that an unidentified body had been found not far from Freeman’s Pharmacy.

    But it all appeared of no consequence.

    On April 19th 1949, Hembly-Scales heard that the missing piece of paper had been found in the clothing worn on the body.

    The hair on the back of his neck lifted and a cold air passed into his room through the closed window.

    His Canberra office immediately liaised and took governance of the case.

    Hembly-Scales traced the phone number to a woman who was once employed by the Australian security services as a low-level go-between in servicing a communist operative with useless naval shipping information.

    He was convinced the book wasn’t lodged in his aunt’s car randomly and whoever did it expected the news to break quickly, as it did with the finding of the piece of paper. For that reason he kept the Rubaiyat, because it would have been the end of him if he had not.

    Interviews with both the woman and her covert contact were completed. Combined legends created for both.

    May passed, June. July: the inquest adjourned.

    Then, on the 23rd of July 1949 an anonymous man delivered the Rubaiyat to the South Australian Police and no untoward complications of a security nature have been encountered from that day to this.

    The body has still to be identified.

    The South Australian Government will not release any DNA results.

    The case remains open but inactive.

    • Will

      I can provide an update on what is called, variously, the “Somerton Man” Mystery / Tamam Shud case, etc.
      Through DNA taken from the man’s remains, he was conclusively identified as Charles Webb. See:
      Although his name is now known, what he was doing in South Australia at the time of his death and the cause of his death is still unknown.
      It appears from the records so far released that he was neither engaged in espionage nor a dancer. And he was not a foreigner (as some of his clothes seemed to suggest).
      Webb’s body was discovered 1 December 1948. Australia’s Security Service, The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, ASIO, was founded on 16 March, 1949. Although it took over functions and records of various other organisations, all of whom were considered inept and ineffective, ASIO’s predecessors do not appear to have been engaged in any capers in Adelaide at the time. Webb could have been involved with another, foreign service, but there is no evidence of that, just speculation and conjecture.
      What is also intriguing is that his family did not report him missing and despite extensive publicity given to the case at the time, including publishing photographs of his corpse in major daily newspapers around the country, no one recognised him.

  11. My son has found your blog with its mentions of D F Springhall. My mother told me when I was in my 40s that DFS was my biological father. “He was a communist and he died in Moscow, that’s all I know of him”, she told me. I joined the excellent Marx Memorial Library to investigate. Years later, in Beijing, quite by chance I found that DFS was buried in the heros’ burial ground there. I intended to write a monograph on him, but found a good one on Wikipedia. After a long fruitless search for other DFS offspring we have at last found one, ironically, in Cambridge where DFS was so successful in recruiting Philby et al. One day soon I’ll write more on my blog. Thank you!

    • Sarah (Cambridge)

      Dear Stephen,
      By pure accident I have just seen your post.
      Your son contacted me recently which was an unexpected surprise, we have exchanged emails.
      Please contact him for my contact details.
      Best wishes.

  12. coldspur

    Good to hear from you, Stephen! Perhaps you should be the person to write the biog of DFS. Have you inspected the Kew archive?
    I am sceptical of the claim that he recruited Philby and co. at Cambridge, however,although I have read about it somewhere. What are your sources for this?
    Best wishes, Tony.

  13. Eugene

    Hello there Tony,
    Congratulations on a great site .. much of interest to me .. in particular your article on Camp 020R Huntercombe Nuffield.
    You list names of some of those interned at 020R and it was good to see a few names I recognised from my explorations.
    However, the most infamous name of them all is missing!!
    Namely RUDOLF HESS who was supposedly a resident, here are two sources which state this (many merely repeat the first statement verbatim):
    ‘Camp 020R was mainly used for long term detention, but Rudolf Hess was said to be held there briefly on his way south after he parachuted into Scotland in 1941.’
    ‘One night a car pulled in at the barrier and my father, as was procedure, shone his torch into the back of the car. An officer in the car shouted “put out the bloody light”. My father was looking into the face of Hess. Not sure at which camp (020 or 020R) this occurred.’
    All best,

    • coldspur

      Thanks for your kind words, Eugene.
      In ‘The London Cage’, Helen Fry writes that Hess was taken to the Tower of London, and then to Mytchett Place, near Aldershot.

    • Eugene might well benefit from signing onto this facebook group about Hess. They are doing some sterling work trying to put the whole story together. I think they have a new book out fairly soon on the topic. One day the final definitive word on Hess will appear. This may not be it but might be close to being it. https://www.facebook.com/hesstreachery

  14. Archie Mehitabel

    Just a tip-off. The Czech Refugee Trust Fund was set up with £1M (1939 pounds!) to aid Czech refugees. It was rapidly infiltrated and taken over by communists, who not only expedited the move to the UK of communists above others, but denounced others (from Social Democrats to Catholics) as German agents. KV 2/2714 and /2715 (currently free to download) show how Roger Hollis led an MI5 push to have the communists removed from office and access to the money and (more or less) neutralised the threat in this area. There are 15 files on the Fund but the first two tell this story – you can follow up with the stories of affected individuals as well if you are interested, but in the contact of your research into MI5 and Soviet agents, it is interesting to see a very different MI5 reaction.

  15. coldspur

    Thanks for the tip, Archie. I have just downloaded KV 2/2714 through 2723.

  16. Mike Moynihan

    Just caught up with your sterling efforts.
    Someone gave me MacIntyre on Sonya.
    With regard Quebec, she did he says give birth to Peter 3 weeks early. She was still cycling around. She was out buying groceries when she went into labour. It would have been entirely in keeping with her personality if she had gone off to her informant and subsequently transmitted the information, if that’s what she did.

  17. Stephen Dorril

    Dorril with a single ‘l’ for accuracy.



  18. coldspur

    Thank you, Stephen. My apologies. Corrections made.


  19. Norm Kreig

    Do you have any thoughts on Richard Helms and his years as a journalist in Europe which coincided with Philby’s?

  20. Michael

    I just started doing family history research and found out that my grand mums brother spent 5 years as a prisoner at Camp 020-R. I like learn more about his failed mission.

  21. Paul Vaughan

    It’s a long shot but does anybody have any information on Humphrey Richard Slater, and his time in Spain in the 1950s and what happened to him in 1957/58. All his compatriots are well documented but Hugh just vanished never to be seen again

  22. coldspur

    It’s an intriguing question, Paul. I have for along time intended to investigate Slater, and I am always suspicious of early and unexplained deaths of ex-communists, or those whom the KGB deemed to have betrayed them, especially when they occur by lonely heart attacks in hotels . . . Might Slater have been a victim?
    He does have an entry on Geni, maintained by one Donald Robinson. You might want to contact him.


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