Harold (Kim) Philby, the son of the diplomat, John Philby, was born in Ambala, India, in 1911. He was educated at Westminster School. One of his teachers commented: "I've only happy memories of him. I liked boys who used their wits and didn't shirk the grind of hard work. The regime of (Westminster School) was liberal, and I believe young Philby benefited from that. He probably suffered by missing the guidance of a father whom in some ways he resembled. The boy had no problems of adjustment. I found him intelligent, amusing, charming. He was a rebel at heart, I knew, but he had little of his father's eccentricity."
Philby then went onto Trinity College. Philby later recalled in My Secret War (1968): "It was the Labour disaster of 1931 which first set me seriously to thinking about possible alternatives to the Labour Party. I began to take a more active part in the proceedings of the Cambridge University Socialist Society, and was its Treasurer in 1932/35. This brought me into contact with streams of Left-Wing opinion critical of the Labour Party, notably with the Communists. Extensive reading and growing appreciation of the classics of European Socialism alternated with vigorous and sometimes heated discussions within the Society. It was a slow and brain-racking process; my transition from a Socialist viewpoint to a Communist one took two years. It was not until my last term at Cambridge, in the summer of 1933, that I threw off my last doubts. I left the University with a degree and with the conviction that my life must be devoted to Communism."
While at Cambridge University he met Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt. All of them became secret supporters of the Communist Party. After university Philby went to Vienna where he met Litzi Friedman, a member of the Austrian Communist Party. With the emergence of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, Friedman was in danger of being arrested. Philby married Friedman and was then able to take her to England.
In 1934 Philby was recruited by Theodore Maly to became an agent of the Soviet Union. He was then passed onto Arnold Deutsch who became his controller. Deutsch reported back to his superiors that Philby was an excellent agent. "His father... is an ambitious tyrant and wanted to make a great man out of his son. He repressed all his son's desires. That is why he is a very timid and irresolute person. He has a bit of a stammer and this increases his diffidence... However, he handles our money very carefully. He enjoys great love and respect for his seriousness and honesty. He was ready, without questioning, to do anything for us and has shown all his seriousness and diligence working for us."
Deutsch asked Philby to recommended some of his Cambridge University contemporaries as potential agents. Philby suggested Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. By the end of 1934, with Philby's help, Deutsch had recruited both of them, telling them, like he had with Philby, to distant themselves from communist friends. Philby and Burgess actually joined right-wing political organizations such Anglo-German Fellowship. Deutsch and Maly knew that is was in these organizations where British intelligence recruited agents. This fooled some of his friends. Malcolm Muggeridge commented: "A born adventurer like Kirn, with very little political subtlety and an eye always to the main chance, was almost certainly attracted by this Anglo-German nonsense. It would have been quite in character. He admired Goebbels and once told me he could easily have worked with him. Don't forget at this stage, in 1936, the bandwaggon between London and Berlin hadn't stopped rolling, and Kim would have been quite ready to jump on it for that very reason."
Christopher Andrew has argued in his book, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009): "KGB files credit Deutsch with the recruitment of twenty agents during his time in Britain. The most successful, however, were the Cambridge Five: Philby, Maclean, Burgess, Blunt and Cairncross.... All were committed ideological spies inspired by the myth-image of Stalin's Russia as a worker-peasant state with social justice for all rather than by the reality of a brutal dictatorship with the largest peacetime gulag in European history. Deutsch shared the same visionary faith as his Cambridge recruits in the future of a human race freed from the exploitation and alienation of the capitalist system. His message of liberation had all the greater appeal for the Five because it had a sexual as well as a political dimension. All were rebels against the strict sexual mores as well as the antiquated class system of inter war Britain. Burgess and Blunt were gay and Maclean bisexual at a time when homosexual relations, even between consenting adults, were illegal. Cairncross, like Philby a committed heterosexual, later wrote a history of polygamy."
Kim Philby was very impressed with Arnold Deutsch and later recalled: "He (Deutsch) was a marvellous man. Simply marvellous. I felt that immediately. And the feeling never left me... The first thing you noticed about him were his eyes. He looked at you as if nothing more important in life than you and talking to you existed at that moment... And he had a marvellous sense of humour."
Philby got himself appointed as a reporter with The Times and on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War he was sent to Spain. Over the next couple of years he provided articles that were very sympathetic to General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist Army. Franco was grateful for the support Philby gave to the Nationalists and on 2nd March, 1938, awarded him the Red Cross of Military Merit.
These reports convinced those on the right-wing of British politics that Philby had abandoned his former political views. In 1939 Guy Burgess suggested to Marjorie Maxse, chief organization officer of the Conservative Party, and chief of staff of MI6 Section D's training school for propaganda, that she should recruit Philby. Maxse agreed and he was given security clearance by Guy Liddell of MI5.
Philby worked under Hugh Trevor-Roper: "I admit that Philby's appointment astonished me at the time, for my old Oxford friend had told me, years before, that his travelling companion was a Communist. By now, of course, I assumed that he was an ex-Communist, but even so I was surprised, for no one was more fanatically anti-Communist, at that time, than the regular members of the two security services, MI6 and MI5. And of all the anti-Communists, none seemed more resolute than the ex-Indian policemen, like Colonel Vivian and Major Cowgill, whose earlier years had been spent in waging war on 'subversion' in the irritant climate of the Far East. That these men should have suspended their deepest convictions in favour of the ex-Communist, Philby, was indeed remarkable. Since it never occurred to me that they could be ignorant of the facts (which were widely known), I assumed that Philby had particular virtues which made him, in their eyes, indispensable. I hasten to add that, although I myself knew of Philby's Communist past, it would never have occurred to me, at that time, to hold it against him. My own view, like that of most of my contemporaries, was that our superiors were lunatic in their anti-Communism. We were therefore pleased that at least one ex-Communist should have broken through the net and that the social prejudices of our superiors had, on this one occasion, triumphed over their political prejudices."
Later that year Walter Krivitsky, a senior Soviet intelligence officers, who had defected to the West, was brought to London to be interviewed by Dick White and Guy Liddell of MI5. Krivitsky gave details of 61 agents working in Britain. He did not know the names of these agents but described one as being a journalist who had worked for a British newspaper during the Spanish Civil War. Another was described as "a Scotsman of good family, educated at Eton and Oxford, and an idealist who worked for the Russians without payment." These descriptions fitted Philby and Donald Maclean. However, White and Liddle were not convinced by Krivitsky's testimony and his leads were not followed up.
Walter Krivitsky was found dead in the Bellevue Hotel in Washington on 10th February, 1941. At first it was claimed that Krivitsky had committed suicide. However, others claimed his hiding place had been disclosed by a Soviet mole working for MI5 and had been murdered by Soviet agents.
During the Second World War Philby was placed in charge of the propaganda training programme for the Special Operations Executive. By 1943 Philby had responsibility for Spanish, Italian, French and African affairs. He came to the attention of Major General Stewart Menzies, Director-General of MI6. Menzies was impressed with Philby and in October 1944 he was placed in charge of Section IX (Soviet Affairs).
After the war Philby was responsible for monitoring Soviet espionage. In this role he was able to protect other Soviet agents such as Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt. In September 1945, a Russian diplomat, Constantin Volkhov, approached the British vice-consul in Istanbul with information about three Soviet agents working in the Foreign Office and the counter-espionage service in London. Philby was able to tell the KGB who quickly arrested Volkhov and took him back to the Soviet Union.
On 5th September 1945, Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in the Russian Legation, defected to the West claiming he had evidence of an Soviet spy ring based in Britain. The case was passed on to Philby. He suggested that Gouzenko should be interviewed by Roger Hollis.
Gouzenko provided evidence that led to the arrest of 22 local agents and 15 Soviet spies in Canada. Information from Gouzenko also resulted in the arrest and conviction of Klaus Fuchs and Allan Nunn May. Gouzenko also claimed that there was a Soviet agent inside MI5. However, he was later to argue that Hollis showed little interest in this evidence. "The mistake in my opinion in dealing with this matter was that the task of finding the agent was given to MI5 itself. The results even beforehand could be expected to be nil."
In 1949 Philby became the MI6 liaison officer in Washington. In this post he was able to discover that SIS planned to overthrow Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator of Albania. Philby was able to communicate this information to the Soviet Union and the Albanians involved in the conspiracy were arrested and executed.
In 1950 Stewart Menzies and John Sinclair discussed the possibility of Philby becoming the next Director General of the MI6. Dick White was asked to produce a report on Philby. He asked Arthur Martin and Jane Archer to carry out an investigation into his past. They became concerned about how quickly he changed from a communist sympathizer to a supporter of pro-fascist organizations. They also discovered that the description of the mole provided by Walter Krivitsky and Igor Gouzenko was close to that of Philby's time in Spain as a journalist. It was now decided that Philby could in fact be a double-agent.
When Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean defected in 1951 Philby became the chief suspect as the man who had tipped them off that they were being investigated. Under pressure from Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison, Stewart Menzies agreed that Philby should be interrogated by MI6. However, they cleared him of being part of a spy ring. However, the CIA insisted that he should be recalled to London. In September 1951 Philby officially resigned from MI6 but continued to work for the organization on a part-time basis. He was also paid £4,000 to compensate him for losing his job.
On 23rd October, 1955, the newspaper, New York Sunday News, reported that Philby was a Soviet spy. Two days later Marcus Lipton asked Anthony Eden in the House of Commons: "Has the prime minister made up his mind to cover up at all costs the dubious third-man activities of Mr. Harold Philby". Eden refused to reply but, Harold Macmillan, the foreign secretary, issued a statement a couple of days later: "While in government service he (Philby) carried out his duties ably and conscientiously, and I have no reason to conclude that Mr Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country, or to identify him with the so-called 'Third Man', if indeed there was one."
Philby now called a press conference where he denied he was a spy. He added that "I have never been a communist and the last time I spoke to a communist knowing he was one, was in 1934". Philby accused Lipton of lying and challenged him to repeat his claims outside the protection of the House of Commons. Lipton was forced to issue a statement where he withdrew his comments about Philby. Philby now moved to the Middle East where he worked as a foreign correspondent for The Observer and the The Economist. He also continued to work as a part-time agent of MI6.
In December 1961, Anatoli Golitsin, a KGB agent, working in Finland, defected to the CIA. He was immediately flown to the United States and lodged in a safe house called Ashford Farm near Washington. Interviewed by James Angleton Golitsin supplied information about a large number of Soviet agents working in the West. Arthur Martin, head of MI5's D1 Section, went to to interview Golitsin in America. Golitsin provided evidence that suggested that Kim Philby had been a member of a Ring of Five agents based in Britain. The same spy ring that had included Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean.
It was now decided to send the MI5 agent, Nicholas Elliott to interview Philby in Beirut. Elliott got the impression that he had been tipped off to expect a visit from MI5. This encouraged rumours that a Soviet mole still held a senior position in the security services. Philby admitted that he had been a member of the Cambridge Spy Ring. However, except for Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, he refused to name other members of the group.
Philby was now aware that he was in danger of being arrested and therefore on 23rd January, 1963, Philby fled to the Soviet Union. In his book, My Secret War (1968), Philby admitted that he had been a Soviet spy for over thirty years. Philby's wife, Rufina, later recalled: "Kim... was tortured by his life of deceit. He would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, tormented by a recurring nightmare in which he imagined himself being caught red-handed. Kim did not get a kick out of the danger and risk. Far from it. It was against his nature. To the end of his days he openly talked about how the hardest and most painful thing for him had been the fact that he had lied to his friends. Until the very end it is what tortured him most."
Kim Philby lived in the Soviet Union until his death in 1988.