George Blake

George Blake

George Blake worked as a Soviet agent during the 1950s and early 1960s. He was discovered as a spy in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison. However, five years into his sentence, he escaped and fled to the USSR.

George Blake was born on 11 November 1922 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. His Egyptian father, Albert, was a naturalised British subject. His mother was Dutch.

Albert Blake had won medals for bravery  for his service against the Ottoman Empire in World War One. Albert died in 1936, and George was sent to Egypt to live with relatives. He became well acquainted with his cousin Henri Curiel, a Marxist who would later became an important member of the Communist Party of Egypt.

By the time of World War Two, Blake had returned to the Netherlands, which was occupied by the Nazis in 1940. Blake fought with the resistance movement as a courier. In 1942 he fled the Netherlands and travelled to London, where his mother and sisters had already escaped. In England the Behar family changed its name to Blake.

Blake joined the navy. In 1944 he joined MI6. Blake could speak several European languages. He acted as a guide for agents in the Netherlands. In 1946 he was sent to Hamburg to interrogate German Submarine Captains.

Between 1947 and 1948 Blake was quickly taught Russian at the University of Cambridge. In November 1948 he was stationed as vice-Consul in Seoul, where he was tasked with gathering information on the Communists.

The Korean War erupted during his stay in Seoul. The city was captured by the North Koreans. Blake was captured and spent three years in North Korean captivity. During this time he was exposed to Communism and read the writings of Karl Marx. He  converted to communism and was recruited as a double agent by the KGB. In a later interview, Blake also claimed that the ‘relentless bombing’ of defenceless Korean citizens by ‘enormous American flying fortresses’ convinced him to switch sides.

Blake was released in 1953 and journeyed back to the UK. He continued his work for MI6, working in Y Section. In 1955 was sent to Berlin to recruit Soviet officers. This placement gave Blake the perfect cover to work for the KGB.

Blake handed over important document to the KGB. He is thought to have betrayed around 40 British agents (he himself claimed to have betrayed around 600). He exposed Pyotr Semyonovich Popov, a CIA double agent working in the GRU, who was executed by the USSR in 1960.

In 1961, the Polish spy Michael Goleniewski defected to the  United States. He named Blake, who was arrested and questioned. Blake confessed during an MI6 interrogation.

Blake was tried in camera at the Old Bailey in May 1961. He was sentenced to 42 years in prison. However, after five years in prison, in October 1966 Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs Prison, London. He fled to the USSR where he worked for the Institute of World, Economic and International Affairs.

His autobiography, No Other Choice, was published in 1990. In 1991, Blake admitted that he felt regret over the deaths of the agents he had exposed to the USSR.

Blake was decorated with the Order of Friendship by President Putin in 2007. He continues to live in Russia and is 92 years old.

MLA Citation/Reference

"George Blake". 2023. Web.

Key facts

Name: George Blake
Birth Date: George Behar 11 November 1922 (age 92), Rotterdam, Netherlands
Education: English School in Cairo Middle East College for Arabic Studies, Lebanon
Reign: 3 July 1035 - 9 September 1087
Key facts:
  • Fled the Netherlands at the start of World War Two.
  • Served in the Royal Navy until 1948.
  • Served as vice-consul in Seoul. During the Korean War Seoul was captured by the North Koreans.
  • After leaving Korea, worked as MI6 case officer in Berlin.
  • During this time worked as a Soviet double agent.
  • Imprisoned in 1961, but escaped to the USSR.
  • Has remained in Russia ever since.