Sunday, May 7, 2017


Each  of these  innocuous  looking   booklets  for the  Courtauld  Institute Galleries , London , found in  a  tantalising  box of  assorted books in North Queensland  ,  contain  an   introduction  by   the  self  confessed   British  Soviet  spy ,  Sir  Anthony  Blunt , Surveyor  of   the   Queen's  Pictures .

In   what  could  be  considered an  appropriately   coloured  red   covered   general catalogue , he  is  Sir  Anthony Blunt ;  in  the  other , plain  Anthony  Blunt ,  who ,  after  he was  offered  immunity from prosecution , confessed  to having been a  Soviet spy   while  working for   MI5 ,   kept secret  for   15 years    before   confirmed   by    PM  Margaret Thatcher ,  stripped of  his  knighthood . 
 One of  the so  called  Cambridge  Spy Ring , which  included  Guy  Burgess,  master  spy  Kim  Philby  and Donald  Maclean , who defected to Russia  ,  Blunt was  a   leading  British  art  historian   from 1956-1979, associated  with  the  Courtauld   Institute of  Art  for  27  years . 
A former assistant  director  of  MI5, Peter Wright , a  resident of  Tasmania ,  represented in court  by   Malcolm Turnbull-now the   Australian Prime Minister - challenged  the   British  government  and  won  the  right  to  publish  his  sensational  book  Spy Catcher . The Candid Autobiography of  a  Senior  Intelligence  Officer .
In  that  superb  volume , written  with  Paul  Greengrass ,  published by William Heinemann Australia ,  it  contained  extraordinary  details  of   meetings  Wright  had   with  Blunt  in  his  ornate  studio  in  the  Courtauld   Institute  over  SIX  YEARS.   During  these  monthly  sessions  ,  Blunt   was  extensively  questioned , notes  taken ,  recordings  made .  
During   the  last days of   WWll,  Blunt , a  major ,   was reportedly   sent on a  secret mission  to  Germany to  retrieve sensitive letters  between  the   Duke of  Windsor  and   Adolf   Hitler and other Nazis . Blunt   was  also said to  have been  requested  by  George V  to  retrieve  letters  from  Empress Victoria , a daughter of  Queen Victoria ,  mother of  Kaiser Wilhelm , which  were  deposited  in  the  Royal  Archives.   
Wright  wrote  that  before he  began the extensive   questioning of  Blunt ,  the  Queen's private secretary, Michael Adeane ,   called   him  in   for a   chat , and    told the Queen   had been  fully  informed about Sir Anthony and was   content for  him to  be dealt  with  in  any  way   to  get  to  the  truth .
There  was  , however, one  caveat . To  quote the  book :

"From time to time ," said Adeanne," you may find Blunt referring to an assignment  he undertook  on  behalf  of  the  Palace  - a  visit to Germany  at the end of  the war. Please do not pursue this matter .  Strictly speaking , it is not relevant  to considerations  of  national security."

Adeane  carefully  ushered me to the door. I could not help reflecting on the difference  between his  delicate touch  and  the  hysterical  way  MI5  had handled Blunt , terrified  that he might defect , or that somehow the scandal might leak . Although I spent hundreds of hours with Blunt , I  never   did  learn  the secret   of  his mission   to Germany . But then , the Palace  had had several centuries   to learn  the difficult art  of scandal  burying , MI5 have only  been in the   business  since  1909!  (Ends)

The   book's  dustjacket  blurb  stated  that  the author shared  his conviction that  the Fifth Man ( Soviet spy ) was  Sir Roger Hollis , long the head of   MI5 , the man responsible for   setting up  the Australian  Security  and Intelligence Organisation  (ASIO) .  
Reviews   included one  from  Malcolm Turnbull , the day the ban on the book was  lifted  : "The  publication of  Spy  Catcher  confirms  that Australian democracy is  founded  on  sceptical  good  sense . "