Roger Hollis

Roger Hollis

Roger Hollis, the third of the four sons of the Revd George Arthur Hollis, the Bishop of Taunton, was born on 2nd December, 1905. Roger's brother, Christopher Hollis, later wrote: "I grew up not merely as a clergyman's son, but in a cleric-inhabited society." (1)

Hollis was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Clifton College before arriving at Worcester College. According to Chapman Pincher Hollis made several left-wing friends while at Oxford University. This included Claud Cockburn, Tom Driberg and Maurice Richardson. (2)

Hollis underachieved at university. His biographer has pointed out: "At school he was a promising scholar who went to Oxford with a classical exhibition. But at Oxford he read English and in the view of his contemporaries seemed to prefer a happy social life to an academic one. In the memoirs of Evelyn Waugh he appears as ‘a good bottle man’ and in Sir Harold Acton's as an agreeable friend. Because of this easy-going approach, and for no more dramatic reason, he went down four terms before he was due to take his finals." (3)

After leaving university he worked at Barclays Bank, before becoming a journalist on a Hong Kong newspaper, the Shanghai Post. In April 1928 he transferred to the British American Tobacco Company (BAT), in whose service he remained for the following eight years of his residence in China. Hollis became friends with Agnes Smedley, an American left-wing journalist who it is claimed was a Comintern agent promoting world revolution. It is believed that Smedley introduced Hollis to her boyfriend, Richard Sorge, a Soviet agent. (4)

An attack of tuberculosis which led to his being invalided out of BAT. Hollis visited Switzerland and the Soviet Union before returning to England in 1936. For a while he worked at the Ardath Tobacco Company. On 10th July, 1937, Roger Hollis married Evelyn Swayne, daughter of George Champeny Swayne, a solicitor in Glastonbury in Wells Cathedral. The couple had one child, Adrian Swayne Hollis (1940-2013). (5) His friend from university, Roger Fulford, tried to get him a job on The Times but his application was rejected. (6)

Roger Hollis - MI5

In 1936 Hollis approached a friend in the British Army with intelligence connections and asked for help in joining MI5. On the major's recommendation, Hollis was interviewed by an MI5 board, which rejected him but suggested that, with his foreign experience, he should try the Secret Service. He took their advice but once again he was rejected. Soon afterwards he met MI5 officer Jane Sissmore at a tennis party. Sissmore was MI5's first woman officer and since 1929 she had been responsible for overseeing Soviet and Communist operations in the United Kingdom (F Division). This included watching political groups such as the Communist Party. The two became close friends and she managed to persuade MI5 to employ Hollis as her assistant. (7)

Jane Sissmore married Wing Commander John Archer on 2nd September, 1939. Walter Krivitsky, a former NKVD agent, escaped to the United States. In January 1940 he was brought to London and interviewed by Jane Archer. Krivitsky told her that the idea was "to grow up agents from the inside". Krivitsky added: "This method had a great disadvantage in that results might not be obtained for a number of years, but it was regularly used by Soviet Intelligence Services abroad. Krivitsky mentioned that the Fourth Department was prepared in some instances to wait for ten or fifteen years for results and in some cases paid the expenses of a university education for promising young men in the hope that they might eventually obtain diplomatic posts or other key positions in the service of the country of which they were nationals."

Krivitsky told Archer about the Soviet spy who was a "a Scotsman of good family, educated at Eton and Oxford, and an idealist who worked for the Russians without payment" from a "very good family". He added that he believed Theodore Maly and Arnold Deutsch ran the source. However, both men had returned to the Soviet Union. Krivitsky claimed that the agent who worked in the Foreign Office was "ideological".

Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) has argued that Jane Archer was an outstanding MI5 officer. "Her interrogation of the Russian defector Walter Krivitsky, early in 1940, was a model of its kind the first really professional debriefing of a Soviet intelligence officer on either side of the Atlantic. In November 1940, however, she was sacked after denouncing the incompetence of Kell's successor as director, Jasper Harker." (8) Hollis automatically replaced Archer as head of F Division.

According to a fellow officer, Dick White: "By qualities of mind and character he was in several ways well adapted to it. He was a hard and conscientious worker, level-headed, fair-minded, and always calm. He began as a student of international communism, a field in which he became an acknowledged authority in the service. During the war - when the bulk of the service's talents and resources were committed to German, Italian, and Japanese counter-intelligence - he managed with small resources to ensure that the dangers of Russian directed communism were not neglected. Consequently, when the war was over and the Security Service turned to face the problems of the cold war, he had already become one of its key figures." (9)

Peter Wright, also worked with Roger Hollis: "Roger Hollis was never a popular figure in the office. He was a dour, uninspiring man with an off-putting authoritarian manner. I must confess I never liked him.... Hollis believed that MI5 should remain a small security support organization, collecting files, maintaining efficient vetting and protective security, without straying too far into areas like counter-espionage, where active measures needed to be taken to get results, and where choices had to be confronted and mistakes could be made." (10)

Igor Gouzenko

On 5th September 1945, Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in the Russian Legation in Ottawa, Canada, went to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and claimed he had evidence of Soviet spies working in the West. The next morning Norman Robertson, Undersecretary of State for External Affairs, had a meeting with Prime Minister Mackenzie King. He explained that Gouzenko had claimed that he had documents showing that the Soviets had spies in Canada and the United States and that "some of these men were around" Edward Stettinius, the U.S. Secretary of State. King wrote in his diary that "Robertson seemed to feel that the information might be so important both to the States... and to Britain that it would be in their interests to seize it no matter how it was obtained." King was worried that taking these documents might cause political problems in the future. "I said to Robinson... that I thought we should be extremely careful in becoming a party to any course of action which would link the government of Canada up with this matter in a manner which might cause Russia to feel that we had performed an unfriendly act. That to seek to gather information in any underhand way would make clear that we did not trust the Embassy... My own feeling is that the individual has incurred the displeasure of the Embassy and is really seeking to shield himself." (11)

Amy W. Knight, the author of How the Cold War Began (2005), has pointed out: "King would later be criticized for not immediately grasping the importance of what the defector had to offer and for his naivety in trusting the Soviets. But his reaction was understandable. Apart from wishing to avoid a diplomatic debacle, King also questioned the motives of the potential defector. The man was quite possibly lying to save his own skin, or because he wanted to live in Canada and needed a means to gain asylum. Whatever the case, King was not about to allow a Soviet code clerk to disrupt the cordial diplomacy that had characterized Ottawa's relations with Moscow." (12)

It was later pointed out that William Stephenson, the head of British Security Coordination, was involved in Gouzenko's defection. He "argued strongly against King's view that Gouzenko should be ignored. The Russian, he said, would certainly have information valuable not merely to Canada but also to Britain, the United States, and other Allies. Furthermore, Gouzenko's life was almost certainly in danger. They should act, and do so immediately, by taking Gouzenko in." (13)

Stephenson arranged for Gouzenko to be taken into protective custody. He was then transferred to Camp X, where he and his wife lived in guarded seclusion. Later two former BSC agents interviewed him. He claiming he had evidence of an Soviet spy ring in Canada. Gouzenko provided evidence that led to the arrest of 22 local agents and 15 Soviet spies in Canada. This included Agatha Chapman, Fred Rose, Sam Carr, Raymond Boyer, Edward Mazerall, Gordon Lunan, and Kathleen Willsher. Information from Gouzenko also resulted in the arrest and conviction of Klaus Fuchs and Allan Nunn May.

The case was passed on to Kim Philby, head of Section IX (Soviet Affairs) of MI6. Philby later recalled: "The first information about Gouzenko and Elli came from Stephenson. "C" (Stewart Menzies) called me in and asked me my opinion about it. I said Gouzenko's defection was obviously very important and we treated it as such. But it was a disaster for the KGB and there was no way I could help. The Mounties had Gouzenko so well protected that it was impossible for the Russians to do anything about him, bump him off or anything like that. So he was able to give away a big Canadian network, and the telegrams he brought with him when he defected would have been of great help to Western decrypters." (14)

By 17th September Philby was reporting what Gouzenko was telling BSC. "Stanley (Philby) reports that he managed to learn details of the information turned over to Canada by the traitor Gouzenko... As a result of these affairs the British intelligence and counter-intelligence organs are undoubtedly going to take effective measures soon against illegal activity by fraternal and Soviet intelligence." (15)

Philby was expected to go to Canada but instead he sent Roger Hollis. It has been argued by Ben Macintyre, the author of A Spy Among Friends (2014), the reason for this was that he feared Gouzenko was about to expose him as a Soviet spy. "He (Philby) waited anxiously for the results of Gouzenko's debriefing. Philby may have contemplated defection to the Soviet Union. The defector exposed a major spy network in Canada, and revealed that the Soviets had obtained information about the atomic bomb project from a spy working at the Anglo-Canadian nuclear research laboratory in Montreal. But Gouzenko worked for the GRU, Soviet military intelligence, not the NKVD; he knew little about Soviet espionage in Britain." (16)

Director General of MI5

In 1953 Hollis was appointed Deputy Director-General and three years later, he replaced Sir Dick White as Director General of MI5. This was a difficult time for the service. 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. (17)

An old friend, Flora Solomon, was also feeling hostile to Philby. She disapproved of what she considered were Philby's pro-Arab articles in The Observer. It has been argued that "her love for Israel proved greater than her old socialist loyalties." (18) In August 1962, during a reception at the Weizmann Institute, she told Victor Rothschild, who had worked with MI6 during the Second World War and enjoyed close connections with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service: "How is it that The Observer uses a man like Kim? Don't the know he's a Communist?" She then went on to tell Rothschild that she suspected that Philby and his friend, Tomas Harris, had been Soviet agents since the 1930s. "Those two were so close as to give me an intuitive feeling that Harris was more than a friend."

Roger Hollis
Roger Hollis

Victor Rothschild arranged for Solomon to be interviewed by Arthur Martin. Another MI5 agent, Peter Wright, was also involved and later wrote about it in his book, Spycatcher (1987): "I monitored the interview back at Leconfield House on the seventh floor. Flora Solomon was a strange, rather untrustworthy woman, who never told the truth about her relations with people like Philby in the 1930s, although she clearly had a grudge against him. With much persuasion, she told Arthur a version of the truth. She said she had known Philby very well before the war. She had been fond of him, and when he was working in Spain as a journalist with The Times he had taken her,out for lunch on one of his trips back to London. During the meal he told her he was doing a very dangerous job for peace - he wanted help. Would she help him in the task? He was working for the Comintern and the Russians. It would be a great thing if she would join the cause. She refused to join the cause, but told him that he could always come to her if he was desperate. Arthur held back from quizzing her. This was her story, and it mattered little to us whether she had, in reality, as we suspected, taken more than the passive role she described during the 1930s." (19)

Armed with Solomon's information, Philby's friend and former SIS colleague Nicholas Elliott flew out from London at the beginning of 1963 to confront him in Beirut, where he was working as a journalist. 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." (20)

Roger Hollis wrote to J. Edgar Hoover on 18th January 1963, about Elliott's discussions with Kim Philby: "In our judgment Philby's statement of the association with the RIS is substantially true. It accords with all the available evidence in our possession and we have no evidence pointing to a continuation of his activities on behalf of the RIS after 1946, save in the isolated instance of Maclean. If this is so, it follows that damage to United States interests will have been confined to the period of the Second World War." (21) This statement was undermined by the decision of Philby to flee to the Soviet Union a week later.

MI5 now re interviewedFlora Solomon. She pointed out that she told Victor Rothschild about Tomás Harris about her suspicions that Philby's friend, was a Soviet spy. He had recently died in a mysterious car accident in Spain. "I will never give public evidence. There is too much risk. You see what has happened to Tomás since I spoke to Victor... It will leak, I know it will leak, and then what will my family do?" Although Solomon never provided any hard evidence against Harris, who was also a close friend of Guy Burgess, he had already been under suspicion that he was a Soviet spy. "Solomon could not have known it was Harris who had been instrumental in rescuing Philby from operational oblivion in SOE... Just how Harris himself managed to jump to MI5 has never been accounted for. Burgess, who was responsible for obtaining Harris's semi-official MI6 status, had no direct office contact with Liddell." (22)

Andrew Lownie is one of those who believes Harris might have been murdered: "One afternoon driving along a familiar stretch of road in Majorca, where he lived, Harris' new Citroen inexplicably veered off the road. He had not been drinking or speeding and the suspicion has always been that someone had tampered with the car." (23) Chapman Pincher, the author of Their Trade is Treachery (1981), agrees that it is possible that Harris had been eliminated by the KGB: "The police could find nothing wrong with the car, which hit a tree, but Harris's wife, who survived the crash, could not explain why the vehicle had gone into a sudden slide. It is considered possible, albeit remotely, that the KGB might have wanted to silence Harris before he could talk to the British security authorities, as he was an expansive personality, when in the mood, and was outside British jurisdiction. The information, about which MI5 wanted to question him and would be approaching him in Majorca, could have leaked to the KGB from its source inside MI5." (24)

Soviet Spy in MI5

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." (25)

Plans for Philby's interrogation were known to five members of the Service, of whom only Hollis and Graham Mitchell had long enough service and good enough access to classified information to fit the profile of a long-term penetration agent. Martin, according to Christopher Andrew, was the "Service's leading conspiracy theorist at the time of Philby's defection, believed Mitchell was the chief suspect. Martin claimed that Mitchell "had the reputation of being a Marxist during the war". An "assertion, which, he later acknowledged, rested only on (inaccurate) hearsay evidence." (26)

Martin took his conspiracy theories to Dick White, the Chief of the SIS. White refused to believe Hollis was a Soviet spy but agreed to contact him about his suspicions concerning Mitchell. On 7th March 1963, Martin attended a meeting with Hollis. Martin later recalled that while explaining his theory that Mitchell was a Soviet agent, Hollis reacted in a strange way: "He (Hollis) sat hunched up at his desk, his face drained of colour and with a strange half-smile playing on his lips. I had framed my explanation so that it led to the conclusion that Graham Mitchell was in my mind, the most likely suspect... I had expected that my theory would at least be challenged but it received no comment other than I had been right to voice it and he would think it over." (27)

On 13th March 1963 Arthur Martin was told that he could make "discreet enquiries" into Mitchell's background, which he was to report to Martin Furnival Jones. As Chapman Pincher pointed out: "It had been decided, in order to dispose of the case against Mitchell one way or the other and as quickly as possible, he should be given the full technical treatment. A mirror in his office was removed and made see-through by resilvering so that a television camera could be hidden behind it, the object being to allow the investigators to see if Mitchell was in the habit of copying secret documents." (28)

Peter Wright was one of those involved in the surveillance operation. "I treated his ink blotter with secret-writing material, and every night it was developed, so that we could check on everything he wrote. But there was nothing beyond the papers he worked on normally... I asked him (Hollis) for his consent to pick the locks of two of the drawers which were locked. He agreed and I brought the lockpicking tools the next day, and we inspected the insides of the two drawers. They were both empty, but one caught my attention. In the dust were four small marks, as if an object had been very recently dragged out of the drawer." This made Wright suspicious of Hollis: "Only Hollis and I knew I was going to open the drawer and something has definitely been moved... Why not Mitchell? Because he didn't know. Only Hollis knew." (29)

However, Martin began to suspect that Graham Mitchell had been told he was under investigation. "He wandered about in parks, repeatedly turning around as though to check that he was not being followed. In the street, he would peer into shop windows, looking for the reflections of passers-by. He also wore tinted spectacles, which might enable him, from the reflections, to see anyone who might be on his trail. The 'candid camera' in his office revealed that whenever he was alone, his face looked tortured as though he were in deep despair." (30)

The investigation was unable to find any conclusive evidence that Mitchell was a Soviet spy. Hollis wanted to keep the investigation secret. However, Dick White, the head of the SIS, pointed out that this would break the Anglo-American agreement on security. White told the prime minister, Harold Macmillan, and he was forced to tell President John F. Kennedy. Hollis was sent to Washington to have a meeting with J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI and John McCone and James Jesus Angleton, of the FBI. Hollis told them that "I have come to tell you that I have reason to suspect that one of my most senior officers, Graham Mitchell, has been a long-term agent of the Soviet Union." (31)

Mitchell's biographer argues that after the investigation Graham Mitchell was a broken man: "The evidence accumulated against Mitchell was all very circumstantial, and centred on the poor performance of MI5's counter-espionage branch during the 1950s. During this period MI5 experienced a number of set-backs, failed to attract a single Soviet defector, and only caught one spy on its own initiative. "During the last five months of his career Mitchell was the subject of a highly secret and inconclusive ‘molehunt’ which was eventually terminated." (32) As a result of the investigation, Mitchell decided to retire early from MI5.

Anthony Blunt

In June 1963 Michael Straight was offered the post of the chairmanship of the Advisory Council on the Arts by President John F. Kennedy. Aware that he would be vetted - and his background investigated - he approached Arthur Schlesinger, one of Kennedy's advisers, and told him that Anthony Blunt had recruited him as a spy while an undergraduate at Trinity College. Schlesinger suggested that he told his story to the FBI. He spent the next couple of days being interviewed by William Sullivan. (33)

Straight's information was passed on to MI5 and Arthur Martin, the intelligence agency's principal molehunter, went to America to interview him. Michael Straight confirmed the story, and agreed to testify in a British court if necessary. Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) has argued that Straight's information was "the decisive breakthrough in MI5's investigation of Anthony Blunt". (34)

Peter Wright, who took part in the meetings about Anthony Blunt case, argues in his book, Spycatcher (1987) that Roger Hollis decided to give Blunt immunity from prosecution because of his hostility towards the Labour Party and the damage it would do to the Conservative Party: "Hollis and many of his senior staff were acutely aware of the damage any public revelation of Blunt's activities might do themselves, to MI5, and to the incumbent Conservative Government. Harold Macmillan had finally resigned after a succession of security scandals, culminating in the Profumo affair. Hollis made little secret of his hostility to the Labour Party, then riding high in public opinion, and realized only too well that a scandal on the scale that would be provoked by Blunt's prosecution would surely bring the tottering Government down." (35)

Anthony Blunt was interviewed by Arthur Martin at the Courtauld Institute on 23rd April 1964. Martin later wrote that when he mentioned Straight's name he "noticed that by this time Blunt's right cheek was twitching a good deal". Martin offered Blunt "an absolute assurance that no action would be taken against him if he now told the truth". Martin recalled: "He went out of the room, got himself a drink, came back and stood at the tall window looking out on Portman Square. I gave him several minutes of silence and then appealed to him to get it off his chest. He came back to his chair and confessed." (36) He admitted being a Soviet agent and named twelve other associates as spies including Michael Straight, John Cairncross, Leo Long and Peter Ashby. (37)

Arthur Martin was disappointed when it was discovered that Roger Hollis and the British government had decided not to put Anthony Blunt on trial. Martin once again began to argue that there was still a Soviet spy working at the centre of MI5 and that pressure should be put on Blunt to make a full confession. Hollis thought Martin's suggestion was highly damaging to the organization and ordered Martin to be suspended from duty for a fortnight. Martin offered to carry on with the questioning of Blunt from his home, but Hollis forbade it. As a result, Blunt was left alone for two weeks, and nobody knows what he did... Soon afterward, Hollis picked another quarrel with Martin, and though he was very senior, summarily sacked him. Martin believes that Hollis sacked him because he feared him, but his action did Hollis little good, whatever his motive." (38)

Dick White, the head of MI6, agreed with Martin that suspicions remained about the loyalty of Hollis and Mitchell. In November, 1964, White recruited him and immediately nominated Martin as his representative on the Fluency Committee, that was investigating the possibility of Soviet spies in British intelligence. The committee initially examined some 270 claims of Soviet penetration, which were later whittled down to twenty. It was claimed that these cases supported the claims made by Konstantin Volkov and Igor Gouzenko that there was a high-level agent in MI5. (39)

Roger Hollis - Soviet Spy

Roger Hollis retired as Director-General of MI5 in 1965 and was replaced by Martin Furnival Jones. Hollis's friend, Dick White, admitted that he had been in control for "nine turbulent years". It was a period when several high profile cases embarrassed MI5: Throughout that time the cold war was at its height, and was especially manifest in the field of Soviet espionage. Spy case followed spy case at the Old Bailey... Parallel with these events new sources of information became available to the Security Service from defectors arriving in the West from Russia and other communist countries. These depicted the KGB in vast and threatening terms, but were difficult to assess and only rarely provided sure and certain guidance. In the light of these events and circumstances the governments of the day felt the need to allay public and parliamentary concern over national security standards, and during his nine-year tenure of office as director-general Hollis had to face on behalf of his service three major official inquiries which he and the service survived with considerable credit." (40)

Sir Roger Hollis died on 26th October 1973. Peter Wright went to see the investigative reporter, Chapman Pincher and told him of his fears that Hollis was a Soviet spy. In 1981 Pincher published his best-selling book, Their Trade is Treachery. Pincher argued: "The serious problems in MI5, which are not explicable unless there was a spy at high level there, did not disappear after Blunt and Philby left. They did appear to cease when Hollis retired.... I am not impressed by the final decision of Lord Trend virtually to exonerate Hollis or by the government's decision to accept the verdict as final. The evidence that there was a high-level mole in MI5 not only during the war but up to the middle 1960s seems more compelling to me the more that I study it. Trend's decision that the evidence did not incriminate Hollis does not dispose of it." (41)

In his retirement Peter Wright wrote an account of his work at MI5. Despite attempts by Margaret Thatcher and her government to suppress the publication and distribution of the book, Spycatcher, was published in 1987. In the book Wright claimed that Hollis was a Soviet agent. Not everyone was convinced. John Costello pointed out that Wright's "book made him an international sensation and a millionaire, but he did not prove Hollis guilty or shed any more light on the identity of the supermole in MI5." (42)

Nigel West was more convinced by the arguments put forward by Pincher and Wright. In his book, Molehunt (1987), which summarizes the investigations and draws heavily on informed security-service sources, West concludes that "enquiries found overwhelming evidence to show that the original suspicions were amply justified." He points out that "sixteen out of twenty-one molehunters, each an experienced counterintelligence expert were convinced." On the basis of his sources, West concludes that either Roger Hollis or Graham Mitchell - or possibly both - was the traitor. (43)

Primary Sources

(1) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987)

Roger Hollis was never a popular figure in the office. He was a dour, uninspiring man with an off-putting authoritarian manner. I must confess I never liked him. But even those who were well disposed doubted his suitability for the top job. Hollis, like Cumming, had forged a close friendship with Dick White in the prewar days. For all his brilliance, Dick always had a tendency to surround himself with less able men. I often felt it was latent insecurity, perhaps wanting the contrast to throw his talents into sharper relief. But while Hollis was brighter by a good margin than Cumming, particularly in the bureaucratic arts, I doubt whether even Dick saw him as a man of vision and intellect.

Hollis believed that M15 should remain a small security support organization, collecting files, maintaining efficient vetting and protective security, without straying too far into areas like counterespionage, where active measures needed to be taken to get results, and where choices had to be confronted and mistakes could be made. I never heard Hollis express views on the broad policies he wanted MI5 to pursue, or ever consider adapting MI5 to meet the increasing tempo of the intelligence war. He was not a man to think in that kind of way. He had just one simple aim, which he doggedly pursued throughout his career. He wanted to ingratiate the Service, and himself, with Whitehall. And that meant ensuring there were no mistakes, even at the cost of having no successes.

(2) Joan Miller, One Girl's War (1970)

It infuriated M (Maxwell Knight) when his assessments of a situation were dismissed as unimportant by people who ought to have known better. One of his papers, for example, entitled 'The Comintern is not Dead', predicted with great accuracy the developments in Russia's policy with regard to Britain after the war, as well as underscoring the harmful character of her current subversionary activities. Roger Hollis, to whom the paper was first submitted, sent it back with the comment that it was over-theoretical. It-then went to Guy Liddell and various other Soviet-experts, all of whom expressed the opinion that M was allowing his personal distaste for Communism to swamp his judgement. M, undaunted, got the paper off to Desmond Morton, Churchill's private secretary, who was also a personal friend of his, with the plea that it should be passed on to the Prime Minister.

(3) George A. Carver, Atlantic Online (September 1988)

If there actually was such a fifth man, the pool of serious candidates, with the requisite access and seniority, is very small. Indeed, it probably consists of no more than three people.

One is Guy Liddell, who was the deputy director general of MI5 from 1947 until he retired, in 1952. He, Burgess, and Blunt were friends, and Liddell was very much a part of the hothouse wartime circle revolving around Victor Rothschild's 5 Bentinck Street flat, in which Burgess and Blunt both lived. During the war Liddell ran MI5's counterespionage division, where Anthony Blunt was his personal assistant. Philby had a high regard for Liddell, whom he described in My Silent War - with Empsonian ambiguity - as "an ideal senior officer for a young man to learn from." In 1944 Liddell assisted Philby in the successful bureaucratic knifing of Philby's then superior, Felix Cowgill, so that Philby could become the head of SIS's expanding counterintelligence effort (which Philby terms his "Fulfillment"). Liddell, however, was greatly admired, professionally and personally, and has many staunch defenders. These include Sir Dick White, Philby's nemesis in both MI5 and MI6, both of which White headed, and Peter Wright (of Spycatcher fame), one of the most avid of all mole-hunters.

The two others are Graham Mitchell and Sir Roger Hollis. In 1951 Mitchell was in charge of counterespionage; he became deputy director general of MI5 (under Hollis) in 1956 and retired in 1963. He drafted the patently mendacious, demonstrably erroneous 1955 white paper on the Burgess-Maclean defection. On the strength of that document the Foreign Secretary, Harold Macmillan, gave Philby what the latter would call the happiest day of his life by publicly affirming Philby's innocence in the House of Commons - declaring, in a statement that Mitchell helped draft, that Philby was not the third man ("if indeed, there was one"). Hollis became deputy in 1953 and moved up in 1956 to be director general until his retirement, in 1965. Mitchell and Hollis were the subject of a series of investigations during the 1960s. Both were eventually declared innocent of any wrongdoing.

(4) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981)

Early in 1980 the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was warned about a hushed-up security scandal affecting MI5 which was infinitely more explosive than the exposure of the Russian spy, Anthony Blunt. The Home Secretary, William Whitelaw, and the Attorney-General, Sir Michael Havers, were also told that in 1974 Lord Trend, formerly Sir Burke Trend and Secretary of the Cabinet for a decade, was secretly called from retirement to conduct an unprecedented inquiry. He was asked to give an independent judgment on the appalling probability that Sir Roger Hollis, a long-serving Director General of MIS, had been a Russian spy for almost thirty years.

(5) Phillip Knightley, Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988)

Throughout the Sunday Times investigation in 1967 into the life and times of Kim Philby we were picking up tantalizing references to a Soviet defector at the end of the war who brought the first substantial clue to Philby's treachery and whose reception in the West left a permanent mark against Philby's name. Some former SIS or MI5 officer would drop into the conversation a remark like: "Of course, it was that defector in 1945 who put us on to Kim. After that you only had to look at the files to see it all." But when pressed for further details he would invariably clam up: "Better leave it at that, old boy. Don't want to get into trouble with the OSA (Official Secrets Act).

At first we thought these officers were referring to the defection in September 1945 of Igor Gouzenko, a twenty-five-year-old cypher clerk who had been based at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa from 1943 to 1945. Gouzenko sought asylum from the Canadian authorities who, unused to this sort of thing, considered handing him back to the Russians to avoid a diplomatic incident. It was only the intervention of Sir William Stephenson, a Canadian, head of British Security Coordination in New York during the war, who persuaded the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to hide Gouzenko at a wartime special training school on the north shore of Lake Ontario, that saved him from being seized by his embassy colleagues.

Gouzenko was questioned, at first by RCMP officers, later by an SIS officer, Peter Dwyer, and then by Sir Roger Hollis, then head of MIS's section dealing with political parties in general and the British Communist Party in particular. I Gouzenko's value was that he had brought with him clues to the identity of Russian spies working in the West. Some of these clues he had obtained during his Ottawa posting, the others, he said, while doing routine duty in Moscow.

From Gouzenko's clues, the Canadian au4horities amassed evidence which led to the arrest and conviction in 1946 of Dr Alan Nunn May, the British scientist who had worked at Chalk River, Ontario, on the Allied atomic bomb project during the war, and who had passed information about his work to the Russians. In fact, Gouzenko brought so much material that the Canadian government set up a Royal Commission on espionage, and eventually eighteen people were prosecuted, nine of whom were convicted. One of these was Kathleen Willsher, who worked in the British High Commission's registry. She was arrested on 15 February 1946, pleaded guilty to passing secrets to the Russians and, since they were minor secrets, given only three years' imprisonment.

The clues that led to Willsher included Gouzenko's information that she worked in "administration" and that her code name was 'Elli'. But Gouzenko later claimed that he knew of yet another spy for the Russians who was also called 'Elli'. Unlike Wilsher, this second 'Elli' was of great importance. He said that he had learnt of the second 'Elli' when he was doing night duty in 1942 in the main military intelligence cypher room in Moscow. A colleague called Liubimov had passed him a telegram from this Soviet intelligence source in Britain. Pressed by his interrogators, Gouzenko offered a number of clues to the second 'Elli's' identity: he was a man, despite the female code name; he was in British counter-intelligence; he was so important he could be contacted only through messages left at prearranged hiding places; and, finally, he had 'something Russian in his background'. (This could mean, explained Gouzenko, no more than that he had visited the Soviet Union, had a wife with a Russian relative, or had a job to do with Russia.) Gouzenko said that Liubimov had told him that the second 'Elli's' information was so good. that when his telegrams came in, there was always a, woman present in the cypher room to read the decrypts and, if necessary, take them straight to Stalin.

If Gouzenko were to be believed, this meant that Moscow had a spy in Britain at the heart of Western intelligence (the CIA was not formed until 1,947), and a hunt began to identify- this second 'Elli'. The trouble was that Gouzenko kept changing his story. The exact place where 'Elli' worked was obviously very important. At first Gouzenko said that 'Elli' worked in 'five of MI', which could have been either MI5, or Section Five of MI6 (the other name for SIS) - Philby's section:. Later he was confident that 'Elli' worked in MI5, but then became less certain and accepted the possibility that he worked in counter-intelligence in SIS.

There were other, independent clues to Elli's identity. In 1944-5 the FBI had recorded radio messages sent from the Soviet consulate in New York. After the war its code-breakers started work to try to read these messages and in 1948 they began to get results. One message - to the Soviet embassy in London - advised that Gouzenko had . defected and asked that 'Stanley' be warned of this fact 'as soon as he returns to London'. MI5 interpreted this as meaning that a highly placed Russian intelligence officer was in danger of being exposed by Gouzenko and that he could not be warned at that moment because he was abroad and out of contact. But was 'Stanley' also 'Elli'; or were there two Russian agents in British intelligence; and if there were, why had the Russians wanted to warn only one, Stanley?

Over the years the possibilities were whittled down. When Maclean's defection in 1951 exposed him as a long-serving Soviet agent, it was realized that he could not be either 'Elli' or 'Stanley' - he was in Washington at the relevant time and in regular contact with his Soviet control. It could not have been Burgess because he was in London. It might just have been Blunt, who was abroad - at the relevant time. The file has never been closed and today, in the late 1980s, there are two schools of thought in Western intelligence.

The first, led by Peter Wright, the former M15 officer in exile in Australia, holds that 'Elli' was the late Sir Roger Hollis, director general of M15 from 1956 to 1965, and that Hollis was a Soviet penetration agent of status equal to, if not higher than, Philby. Although an investigation by a joint SIS-MI5 committee could not find any conclusive, evidence against Hollis and although a former secretary of the Cabinet, Lord Trend, reviewed this investigation and could find no substance in the allegations, this school defiantly sticks to its belief.

The second school, which includes at least three former heads of the services, rules out Hollis as 'Elli' and believes that 'Stanley' was almost certainly Philby, and that Philby could well have been 'Elli' too. He was abroad at the relevant time, on a mission in Istanbul (of which more later); he worked in 'five of MI', and he was certainly an important Soviet penetration agent. True, he did not have 'something Russian in his background' but Gouzenko was very vague about what this meant. Gouzenko in his old age (he died in 1982) said that he felt that Roger Hollis was 'Elli'; but in one of his last interviews before his death he said it was possible that Charles Ellis, an Australian-born SIS officer who had a Russian wife, was 'Elli'.

In the hope that Philby could end all this speculation and clear Hollis's name, it was one of the first subjects I raised with him in our conversations in Moscow. I began with a broad question: 'Can you cast any light on the Hollis affair?' Philby replied: 'I honestly cannot. Such a matter is not within my area of knowledge over here. All I can say is that I knew him, not well, but I did know him. And any idea that he was a Soviet penetration agent seems to me to be unlikely. I thought he was an upright if slightly stodgy Englishman.'

I believed Philby's reply for the simple reason that it would have been in the interests of the KGB to have encouraged the idea that Hollis was indeed a Soviet agent so as to create suspicion and uncertainty in the British services, to demean them in the eyes of the British public, to sow dissension between the British and American services, and to inflate the reputation of the Russians as brilliant spymasters. On the other hand, for Philby to have hinted to me that Hollis was a Soviet agent would automatically have been suspicious, so perhaps this was the only reply he could have made. Even if true, his answer did not take us much further, so I pressed him by saying: `You must know something about Gouzenko and the Elli business.'

Philby replied: 'Certainly. The first information about Gouzenko and Elli came from Stephenson. "C" called me in and asked me my opinion about it. I said Gouzenko's defection was obviously very important and we treated it as such. But it was a disaster for the KGB and there was no way I could help. The Mounties had Gouzenko so well protected that it was impossible for the Russians to do anything about him, bump him off or anything like that. So he was able to give away a big Canadian network, and the telegrams he brought with him when he defected would have been of great help to Western decrypters.'


(1) Christopher Hollis, The Seven Ages (1974) page 4

(2) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) page 47

(3) Dick White, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(4) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) page 48

(5) Dick White, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(6) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 316

(7) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) page 52

(8) Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 220

(9) Dick White, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(10) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 172-173

(11) Mackenzie King, diary entry (6th September, 1945)

(12) Amy W. Knight, How the Cold War Began (2005) pages 37

(13) David Stafford, Camp X (1986) page 258

(14) Phillip Knightley, Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988) page 133

(15) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of a Master Spy (1994) page 239

(16) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) pages 94-95

(17) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 170

(18) Flora Solomon, Baku to Baker Street (1984) page 226

(19) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 172-173

(20) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of the Master Spy - KGB Archives Revealed (1995) pages 344-345

(21) Roger Hollis, letter to J. Edgar Hoover (18th January 1963)

(22) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 388

(23) Andrew Lownie, The Spectator (5th November, 1988)

(24) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) pages 169-170

(25) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 170

(26) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) pages 502-505

(27) Security Services Archives

(28) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) page 28

(29) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 200-201

(30) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) page 28

(31) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) page 32

(32) Nigel West, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(33) Roland Perry, Last of the Cold War Spies (2005) page 291

(34) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 436

(35) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) page 214

(36) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 437

(37) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 590-594

(38) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) page 34

(39) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 598

(40) Dick White, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(41) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) pages 290

(42) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 599

(43) Nigel West, Molehunt (1987) pages 177-183