Tim (Ian) Milne, a nephew of the author A. A. Milne, was born in Brentford in 1912. He won a King’s Scholarship to Westminster School where he became friends with Kim Philby. (1) Milne studied Classics at Christ Church College. As a student he was Philby's companion "on his motorcycle trips to meet the European proletariat". (2)
In the summer of 1932, they visited Nazi Germany. “We attended a vast Nazi torchlight rally at which Hitler spoke... What impressed and alarmed us was the totally uncritical attitude of so many ordinary German men and women.” (3) After leaving Oxford University in 1934 he became a copywriter with the advertising agency S. H. Benson.
On the outbreak of the Second World War he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers. In October 1941 recruited into MI6. (4) Milne joined a group of intelligence officers that met at the home of Tomás Harris at 6 Chesterfield Gardens. Other members included Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Victor Rothschild, Guy Liddell, Anthony Blunt, Richard Brooman-White and Peter Wilson. "They were known among themselves simply as the Group, and they met in a magnificent house at 6 Chesterfield Gardens, the home of one Tomás Harris... Tomás had inherited much of his father's artistic talent, as he had inherited the house and his father's fortune." (5)
Milne continued to work in MI6 and after the war he was based in Germany. When Donald Maclean defected in 1951 Kim Philby became the chief suspect as the man who had tipped him off that he was being investigated. The main evidence against him was his friendship with Guy Burgess, who had gone with Maclean to Moscow. Philby was recalled to London. CIA chief, Walter Bedell Smith ordered any officers with knowledge of Philby and Burgess to submit reports on the men. William K. Harvey replied that after studying all the evidence he was convinced that "Philby was a Soviet spy". (6)
On 12th June, 1951, Philby was interviewed by Dick White, the chief of MI5 counter-intelligence. Philby later recalled: "He (White) wanted my help, he said, in clearing up this appalling Burgess-Maclean affair. I gave him a lot of information about Burgess's past and impressions of his personality; taking the line that it was almost inconceivable that anyone like Burgess, who courted the limelight instead of avoiding it, and was generally notorious for indiscretion, could have been a secret agent, let alone a Soviet agent from whom strictest security standards would be required. I did not expect this line to be in any way convincing as to the facts of the case; but I hoped it would give the impression that I was implicitly defending myself against the unspoken charge that I, a trained counter-espionage officer, had been completely fooled by Burgess. Of Maclean, I disclaimed all knowledge.... As I had only met him twice, for about half an hour in all and both times on a conspiratorial basis, since 1937, I felt that I could safely indulge in this slight distortion of the truth." (7)
White told Guy Liddell that he did not find Philby "wholly convincing". Liddell also discussed the matter with Philby and described him in his diary as "extremely worried". Liddell had known Guy Burgess for many years and was shocked by the news he was a Soviet spy. He now considered it possible that Philby was also a spy. "While all the points against him are capable of another explanation their cumulative effect is certainly impressive." Liddell also thought about the possibility that another friend, Anthony Blunt, was part of the network: "I dined with Anthony Blunt. I feel certain that Blunt was never a conscious collaborator with Burgess in any activities that he may have conducted on behalf of the Comintern." (8)
CIA chief, Walter Bedell Smith, had been convinced by the report produced by William K. Harvey and wrote directly to Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6, and made it clear that he considered that Philby was a Soviet spy and would not be permitted to return to Washington and urged the British government to "clean house regardless of whom may be hurt". Burton Hersh, the author of The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA (1992), has claimed that the underlying message was blunt: "Fire Philby or we break off the intelligence relationship." (9) Dick White also wrote to Menzies suggesting that MI6 take action as a matter of urgency.
Kim Philby was forced to resign but later he returned to work for MI6. In the early 1960s evidence emerged from Anatoli Golitsin and Flora Solomon, that he was a Soviet spy. Both Dick White for MI6 and Roger Hollis of MI5 agreed that Philby should be interrogated again. Initially they selected Arthur Martin for the task. As Peter Wright has pointed out: "He (Arthur Martin) had pursued the Philby case from its beginning in 1951, and knew more about it than anyone." However, at the last moment they changed their mind. Elliott was in London as he had just been appointed as the MI6 director for Africa. It was decided to send Elliott instead. "Elliott was now convinced of Philby's guilt, and it was felt he could better play on Philby's sense of decency. The few of us inside MI5 privy to this decision were appalled... We in MI5 had never doubted Philby's guilt from the beginning, and now at last we had the evidence we needed to corner him. Philby's friends in MI6, Elliott chief among them, had continually protested his innocence. Now, when the proof was inescapable, they wanted to keep it in-house. The choice of Elliott rankled strongly as well. He was the son of the former headmaster of Eton and had a languid upper-class manner." (10)
Nicholas Elliott flew out from London at the beginning of 1963 to confront Philby in Beirut. According to Philby's later version of events given to the KGB after he escaped to Moscow, Elliott told him: "You stopped working for them (the Russians) in 1949, I'm absolutely certain of that... I can understand people who worked for the Soviet Union, say before or during the war. But by 1949 a man of your intellect and your spirit had to see that all the rumours about Stalin's monstrous behaviour were not rumours, they were the truth... You decided to break with the USSR... Therefore I can give you my word and that of Dick White that you will get full immunity, you will be pardoned, but only if you tell it yourself. We need your collaboration, your help." (11)
Arthur Martin, head of the Soviet counter-espionage section, and Peter Wright spent a great deal listening to the confession that Kim Philby had made to Nicholas Elliott. Wright later argued: "There was no doubt in anyone's mind, listening to the tape, that Philby arrived at the safe house well prepared for Elliott's confrontation. Elliott told him there was new evidence, that he was now convinced of his guilt, and Philby, who had denied everything time and again for a decade, swiftly admitted spying since 1934. He never once asked what the new evidence was." Both men came to the conclusion that Philby had not asked about the new evidence as he had already been told about it. This convinced them that the "Russians still had access to a source inside British Intelligence who was monitoring the progress of the Philby case. Only a handful of officers had such access, chief among them being Hollis and Mitchell." (12)
Elliott told Philby: "I can give you my word, and that of Dick White, that you will get full immunity; you will be pardoned, but only if you tell it yourself. We need your collaboration, your help." Philby still refused to confess. Elliott then threatened him with having his passport taken away and his residence permit revoked. He would not be able to to open a bank account. He would be prevented from working as a journalist. "If you cooperate, we will give you immunity from prosecution. Nothing will be published." Philby was given 24 hours to make a decision. (13)
According to Philby's later version of events given to the KGB after he escaped to Moscow, Elliott told him: "You stopped working for them (the Russians) in 1949, I'm absolutely certain of that... I can understand people who worked for the Soviet Union, say before or during the war. But by 1949 a man of your intellect and your spirit had to see that all the rumours about Stalin's monstrous behaviour were not rumours, they were the truth... You decided to break with the USSR... Therefore I can give you my word and that of Dick White that you will get full immunity, you will be pardoned, but only if you tell it yourself. We need your collaboration, your help." (14)
Kim Philby did provide a two-page summary of his spying activities but it included several inaccuracies. He claimed he had been recruited by his first wife, Litzi Friedmann, in 1934. He then recruited Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. Philby lied when he said he had "seen the error of his ways" and stopped spying for the Soviet Union in 1945. He admitted that he had tipped off Maclean in 1951 as "an act of loyalty to a friend" and not as one active spy protecting another. Philby gave a list of the codenames of his early Soviet handlers but made no reference to those he worked with after the war. (15)
Elliott told him that this was not enough: "Our promise of immunity and pardon depends wholly on whether you give us all the information that you have. First of all we need information on people who worked with Moscow. By the way we know them." (16) Elliott was lying about this but of course Philby did not know how much information MI6 had about his activities. For example, he did not know if another member of the network had confessed. Peter Wright, who later listened to the tapes, commented that "by the end, they sounded like two rather tipsy radio announcers, their warm, classical public school accents discussing the greatest treachery of the twentieth century." (17)
The following day Elliott had another meeting with Philby. Elliott gave him a list of around twelve names who MI6 suspected of being spies. This included Tim Milne, Anthony Blunt, Tomás Harris, John Cairncross and Guy Liddell. Philby later told Phillip Knightley that there were several names on the list "which alarmed me". (18) However, he only named one person, Milne, as a spy. In fact, he was the only name on the list who was completely innocent.
Milne left the MI6 in 1968 and after his retirement in 1978 he attempted to publish his memoirs. In the book he explains how Philby's colleagues went "to extraordinary lengths to block an MI5 investigation into the man who was eventually exposed as the key member of the Cambridge spy ring." (19) However, the government blocked the publication of the book.
Tim Milne died in 2010. His family, published his memoirs, Kim Philby: The Unknown Story of the KGB's Master Spy, in 2014.
British spy bosses repeatedly tried to protect Soviet double agent Kim Philby because they believed he "couldn't possibly be a traitor", according to a new book which was banned by MI6.
Tim Milne, an MI6 spy who was Philby's oldest friend, has revealed the extraordinary lengths to which intelligence officials went in order to protect the notorious figure.
Philby came under suspicion when two other members of the Cambridge spy ring fled to Moscow - but despite a 12-year investigation, he was never brought to justice and was eventually allowed to defect to the USSR himself.
MI6 chiefs refused to believe that he could be guilty because of his apparently distinguished service and Establishment background, and shielded him from an MI5 probe....
Milne reveals in his book that Elliott - who believed Philby when he said he had stopped spying for the KGB 16 years earlier - made several blunders in the questioning which allowed the double agent to walk free yet again.
Elliott's recording of the interrogation was inaudible because of the noise of traffic outside, and he allowed Philby not to sign a statement in which he admitted his guilt, instead saying he would return for another meeting later.
Before that meeting took place, Philby vanished in January 1963 and settled in Moscow, where he lived for 25 years before his death.
MI6 officials continued to insist that he had given them valuable information about other agents, according to Milne, even telling Harold Macmillan that he had helped detect Soviet spies in Britain.
The security services tried to block the appearance of Milne's book, but after he died in 2010 his family continued the fight against censorship, and this week it will be published by Biteback Publishing.
A book by Kim Philby's closest friend inside MI6, once banned by intelligence chiefs but due to be published this week, explains one of the most enduring mysteries surrounding the notorious Soviet spy – how, despite growing evidence of his treachery, he was regarded as an innocent and loyal colleague.
Tim Milne, a former MI6 officer – and nephew of the author of the Winnie the Pooh books – describes in Kim Philby: The Unknown Story of the KGB's Master Spy how for 12 years his colleagues went to extraordinary lengths to block an MI5 investigation into the man who was eventually exposed as the key member of the Cambridge spy ring.
When Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, two other members of the Cambridge spy ring, fled to Moscow, MI5's suspicion that Philby was the "third man" who tipped them off forced him to resign, but even after this Philby continued to be robustly defended by MI6 officers.
"Even then the general (MI6) office belief was that he'd had to go simply to preserve good relations with the Americans," Milne writes. He adds: "There very few people in the service who had inspired so much trust and respect as Kim, and so much affection among those who had worked closely with him."
Philby's charm fooled those at the very top of MI6, Milne shows. Sir Stewart Menzies, the wartime head of MI6, believed Philby was a patriotic intelligence officer and victim of an MI5 witch hunt. Philby "couldn't possibly be a traitor", Menzies privately told Sir Dick White, the head of MI5.
When MI6 chiefs were finally forced to succumb to mounting evidence that Philby had indeed spied for the Moscow, to avoid embarrassment and political scandal – and, not least, American fury – Philby was offered immunity from prosecution and publicity in return for a confession.
But MI6 blocked a plan to send a tough MI5 interrogator, Arthur Martin, to question Philby in Beirut – where MI6 had helped to secure him the post of correspondent for the Observer newspaper – and instead sent one of Philby's former MI6 colleagues, Nicholas Elliott.
Elliott believed Philby's untruthful claim that he gave up spying for the Soviet Union as early as 1946. Elliott allowed Philby to write his own two-page "confession" but failed even to ensure that Philby signed it, according to documents recently released at the National Archives and reproduced in Milne's book. Though the interview was recorded, Elliott left the window open and the noise of traffic outside drowned out much of what was said.
Such was Elliott's trust in Philby that he sought his advice about other members of the Cambridge spy ring, including Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross, who had come under suspicion because of their friendship with Burgess but were protected by Philby before being exposed years later.
Elliott urged Philby to return to Britain. Though Elliott may have appeared sympathetic, Philby clearly believed MI5 would eventually confront him with hard evidence. He jumped aboard a Russian ship in Beirut in January 1963.
Yet MI6 still clung to the view that somehow Philby, despite his treachery, was someone who could be trusted, Milne says. In a briefing for the prime minister, Harold Macmillan, included in Milne's book, MI6 officers insisted that Philby had been helpful and cleared up suspicions about a number of Soviet spies.
Tim Milne was Philby’s closest associate in the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. A fellow pupil at Westminster, he was recruited into the secret world during the Second World War on the recommendation of his friend. In retirement, he wrote a memoir of his friendship with Philby, which was promptly banned from publication by MI6. Now, four years after Milne’s death at the age of 97, his story can be told.
Kim Philby: The Unknown Story of the KGB’s Master Spy is an often-intimate portrait of the Third Man, candid in its assessments. Written without rancour – despite Philby’s attempt to blacken Milne’s name during interrogation – it charts the 37 years from first meeting at Westminster in 1925 to Philby’s escape from Lebanon to Russia.
The book has been updated with extracts from freshly released official files showing how Philby continued to deceive even after confessing his treachery. From 1951, when the defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean led to Philby’s enforced resignation from the service he was one day expected to lead, until 1963, when he climbed aboard a Soviet freighter in Beirut, the former golden boy of MI6 was protected by his former employers, seemingly in denial about the titanic scale of his deceit....
Philby’s next appointment, just before the war’s end, was a spectacular success for the KGB: director of the anti-Soviet section. Head of station in Turkey followed and then Washington, where Philby was in charge of liaison between MI6 and the CIA, another crown jewel of a post. His appointment as ''C’’, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, beckoned. But then it fell apart. US code-breakers had found proof that Maclean, a diplomat, was working for the Russians. Philby sent Guy Burgess, his friend and fellow KGB agent, to warn Maclean. Maclean and Burgess fled to Moscow in May 1951 and Philby found himself the centre of suspicion, the so-called Third Man. Recalled to London, he was subjected to hostile interrogation.
“Kim was in a state almost of shock,” says Milne. “The brilliant career, the high hopes had vanished and he was now an outcast.” MI6 was in shock. Sir Stewart Menzies, chief of the service, had no choice but to ask Philby to resign. “Many people in SIS who, like myself knew very little of the case against Kim, clung to the belief that he was innocent of any serious offence,” Milne recalls.
“The general office belief was that he’d had to go simply to preserve good relations with the Americans. There were very few people in the service who had inspired so much trust and respect as Kim. It seemed impossible that he had done anything worse than act a little unwisely.”
Philby, says Milne, was distressed at having to face interrogation by counterparts in MI5, like Dick White, with whom he had worked.
“It may seem strange that the attitude of SIS and MI5 friends should have mattered so much to him, but I am sure that one part of Kim was fully and genuinely involved in his SIS life,” reflects Milne.
Over the next decade, MI6 continued to argue that there was no evidence against Philby, persuading White, when he became head of MI5 in 1953, to drop the investigation. When in 1955 Harold Macmillan, then foreign secretary, cleared Philby in Parliament, MI6 sent him back into the field, operating in the Middle East as an agent under journalistic cover. “Before long it appeared that the atmosphere had changed,” Milne writes. “Kim was no longer considered a total outcast. I received an elated postcard from him.”
Then, in late 1962, Flora Solomon, a long-time friend of Philby, tipped off MI5 that he had tried to recruit her to the communist cause in 1937. Dick White, now head of MI6, decided to offer Philby immunity in return for the truth. Nicholas Elliott, one of Philby’s supporters in MI6 and a former head of station in Lebanon, went to Beirut to interview him. Elliot botched the interview, allowing Philby to write his own confession and failing to get him to sign it. Elliott believed Philby when he claimed that he had only been a spy up until 1946, which is when arguably his most productive period for the Russians began. The MI6 officer even sought Philby’s advice on seven suspected cases of Soviet penetration. Philby mentioned Milne.
“Kim apparently said that he had mentioned me (among others) to the Russians as someone they might find it worth approaching,” recalls Milne. “However, he went on to say that they had turned the idea down. I was horrified. I think my immediate reaction was to say something like, 'How dare he?’”
(1) The Daily Telegraph (28th February, 2014)
(2) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 531
(3) The Daily Telegraph (28th February, 2014)
(4) Patrick Seale & Maureen McConville, Philby: The Long Road to Moscow (1973) page 211
(5) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 249
(6) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 156
(7) Kim Philby, My Secret War (1968) page 182
(8) Guy Liddell, diary (TNA KV 4/473)
(9) Burton Hersh, The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA (1992) page 321
(10) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 170
(11) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of the Master Spy - KGB Archives Revealed (1995) pages 344-345
(12) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 170
(13) Tom Bower, The Perfect English Spy (1995) pages 297-298
(14) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of the Master Spy - KGB Archives Revealed (1995) pages 344-345
(15) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 255
(16) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of the Master Spy - KGB Archives Revealed (1995) page 345
(17) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 194
(18) Phillip Knightley, Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988) page 215
(19) Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian (24th February, 2014)