George Blake bigraphy, stories - Spies

George Blake : biography

11 November 1922 -

George Blake, born George Behar (born 11 November 1922), is a former British spy known for having been a double agent in the service of the Soviet Union. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 and fled to the USSR. He was not one of the Cambridge spies, although he is often grouped with them.

Popular culture references

  • "Escape in Time" (1967), was an episode of The Avengers, in which a signboard said, "Where is Blake?" The episode itself featured super criminals following an "escape route" where they disappear to get away with their ill-gotten gains.
  • The 1973 film The Mackintosh Man features a character named Slade, who is based on Blake and who makes a similar escape from prison.
  • Blake appears as a character in the 1990 novel by Ian McEwan, The Innocent.
  • The play Cell Mates (1995) by Simon Gray is about Blake and Sean Bourke. The original production starred Stephen Fry as Blake and Rik Mayall as Bourke. The production was thrown into turmoil when Fry walked out following a bad review.
  • After the Break (2002), a radio play by Ian Curteis, centred on the uncomfortable relationship between Blake and Bourke after they had both fled to Moscow.
  • Blake's story appears in the 1982 novel Shadow of Shadows by Ted Allbeury.


Early life

Blake was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1922, the son of a Dutch mother from a Protestant background, and an Egyptian Jewish father who was a naturalised British subject. He was named George after King George V.See H Montgomery Hyde George Blake Superspy 1987 His father, Albert Behar, fought against the Ottoman Empire in the First World War despite his origins in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and received awards from the French and British for his gallantry. The Behars lived a comfortable existence in Holland until Albert's death in 1936. The thirteen-year-old George was sent to live with relatives in Egypt, where he continued his education at the English School in Cairo. While in Cairo, he was close to his cousin Henri Curiel, who was later to become a prominent member of the Communist Party of Egypt. In 1991 Blake said that his encounter with Curiel, who was a decade older and already a communist, shaped his views in later life.

As a teenager Blake was a runner for the anti-Nazi Dutch resistance under the nom de guerre of Max de Vries. He was interned but released temporarily because of his youth. He would have been re-interned on his 18th birthday had he not escaped to London, disguised as a monk, in the meantime. In England he changed his name to Blake and worked for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). He intended to marry an MI6 secretary, Iris Peake, but her family prevented the marriage because of Blake's Jewish background and the relationship ended.

Blake said later that he switched sides during the Korean War after being greatly influenced by it. In an interview he was once asked, "Is there one incident that triggered your decision to effectively change sides?", to which Blake responded, "It was the relentless bombing of small Korean villages by enormous American flying fortresses. Women and children and old people, because the young men were in the army. We might have been victims ourselves. It made me feel ashamed of belonging to these overpowering, technically superior countries fighting against what seemed to me defenceless people. I felt I was on the wrong side ... that it would be better for humanity if the Communist system prevailed, that it would put an end to war."

Espionage activities

For the duration of World War II, Blake's work involved translating German documents captured by British agents, and interrogating Germans captured in France following the D-Day landings. At the end of the war, he was posted to Hamburg and put in charge of the interrogation of German U-boat captains. Following a crash-course in Russian at Cambridge University in 1948 he was posted to the British embassy in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea. Blake had been given the task of trying to establish an agent network in Korea.

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