Military Wiki
Donald Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean
Born (1913-05-25)25 May 1913
Marylebone, London, England, United Kingdom
Died 6 March 1983(1983-03-06) (aged 69)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality British
Alma mater Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Donald Duart Maclean (/məˈkln/; 25 May 1913 Marylebone, London[1] – 6 March 1983 Moscow) was an English diplomat and member of the Cambridge Five who were members of MI5, MI6 or the diplomatic service who acted as spies for the Soviet Union in the Second World War and beyond. He was recruited as a "straight penetration agent" (not a double agent) while an undergraduate at Cambridge by the Soviet intelligence service. As a reward for his espionage activities, Maclean was brevetted as a colonel in the Soviet KGB.

Educated at Gresham's School, Holt, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was the son of the Liberal politician Sir Donald Maclean, who was Leader of the parliamentary opposition for two years immediately following the First World War.

Childhood and school

Born in London, Donald Duart Maclean was the son of Sir Donald Maclean and Gwendolen Margaret Devitt. His father was chosen as chairman of the rump of the 23 independent MPs who backed Herbert Asquith in the Liberal Party in the House of Commons whilst the bulk of the Liberal MPs had followed David Lloyd George into the Coalition Liberal party in the November 1918 election. As the Labour Party had no leader and Sinn Féin did not attend, he became titular Leader of the Opposition. Maclean's parents had houses in London (later in Buckinghamshire) as well as in the Scottish Borders, where his father represented Peebles and Southern Midlothian, but the family lived mostly in and around London. He grew up in a very political household, in which world affairs were constantly discussed. In 1931 his father entered the Coalition Cabinet as President of the Board of Education.

Maclean's education began as a boarder at St Ronan's School, Worthing. At the age of 13, he was sent to Gresham's School in Norfolk,[2] where he remained from 1926 until 1931, when he was 18. At Gresham's, some of his contemporaries were Lord Simon of Glaisdale, James Klugmann (1912–77), Roger Simon (1913–2002), Benjamin Britten (1913–76) and the scientist Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin.

Gresham's was then looked on as both liberal and progressive. It had already produced Tom Wintringham (1898–1949) a Marxist military historian, journalist, and author. James Klugmann and Roger Simon both went with Maclean to Cambridge and joined the Communist Party at around the same time. Klugmann became the official historian of the British Communist Party, while Simon was later a very left-wing Labour peer.

When Maclean was sixteen, his father was elected for the North Cornwall constituency, and he spent some time in Cornwall during school holidays.


From Gresham's, Maclean won a place at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, arriving in 1931 to study modern languages. While there, he joined the Communist Party. In his second year at Cambridge, his father died, and in his last year he was recruited into Soviet intelligence by Anthony Blunt, ultimately becoming one of the Cambridge Five. He graduated with a First in Modern Languages and took the Civil Service exams. At the Final Board, Maclean was asked by one of the Panel interviewing him whether he had favoured communism whilst a university student, ostensibly because the Panel knew of a trip he had taken to Moscow in his second year at Cambridge.

Maclean replied:

"At Cambridge, I was initially favourable to it," he said, "but I am little by little getting disenchanted with it." His apparent sincerity satisfied members of the Panel; Blunt had coached him on how to avoid this and other potentially incriminating traps.


In 1934, Maclean started work at the Foreign Office in London. While there, he was under the operational control of GPU rezident, Anatoli Gorsky. Gorsky, who was appointed in 1939 after the entire London rezidentura was liquidated, used Vladimir Borisovich Barkovsky, a recent graduate of Moscow's Intelligence School as the case officer for Maclean.

The writer Cyril Connolly describes Maclean at this time. He was sandy-haired, tall, with great latent physical strength, but fat and rather flabby. Meeting him, one was conscious of both amiability and weakness. He did not seem a political animal but resembled the clever, helpless youth in an Aldous Huxley novel, an outsize Cherubino intent on amorous experience but too shy and clumsy to succeed. He sought refuge on the more impetuous and emancipated fringes of Bloomsbury and Chelsea.[3]

In 1937, Maclean was put "on ice" by his Russian contact. At meeting after meeting nobody turned up. Then Kitty Harris arrived in place of his usual controller and gave the recognition phrase. "You hadn't expected to see a lady, had you?" she said. "No, but it's a pleasant surprise," he replied. Harris was told he was the most important spy. Cherish him as the apple of your eye, she was told. Maclean would visit Harris' Bayswater flat, after work, with documents to photograph. He would arrive with flowers and chocolates with those papers, and by May 1938 they had a dinner to celebrate their birthdays. Maclean came with a bunch of roses, a bottle of wine and a locket on a thin gold chain. They ate a take-away and listened to Glenn Miller on the radio. That was the first night they made love, and loyal to her mission she reported this to her controller, Grigoriy Grafpen.[4]

Over the next two years, 45 boxes of documents were photographed and sent to Moscow. "She was a cut-out between Maclean and his KGB controller," said Geoffrey Elliott, who wrote a book about her with Igor Damaskin, a former KGB officer.[5]

Kitty Harris was born to poor Russian emigres in London's East End; she had emigrated to Winnipeg in Canada and then Chicago where she met and married Earl Browder, later leader of the American Communist Party. He took her to Shanghai, where she was recruited by the OGPU as a courier and housekeeper of a safe house when she returned to London after discovering that Browder was already married.


When Maclean was sent to the British embassy in Paris, Kitty Harris followed him. Their affair continued until Maclean's marriage to Melinda Marling. The daughter of a Chicago oil executive, her parents had divorced when she was a teenager, her mother moving to Europe. In October 1929, Melinda and her sisters went to school at Vevey, near Lausanne, where their mother rented a villa, and spent their holidays at Juan-les-Pins in France.[6]

She had enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris to study French literature. She was introduced to Maclean by Mark Culme-Seymour, in the Café Flore on the Left Bank in January 1940. Culme-Seymour later described her as "quite pretty and vivacious, but rather reserved. I thought that she was a bit prim. She was always well-groomed, lipstick bright, hair permed, a double row of pearls around her neck. Her interests seemed limited to family, friends, clothes and Hollywood movies."[7]

In the 1950s, Culme-Seymour tracked down the exiled Macleans in Moscow, and another Melinda emerged. She told him that she knew she would be going to Russia right from the beginning, even before Maclean defected. By this time, he looked terrible and was obviously drinking heavily, but she seemed just fine. And when he said something that implied faint criticism of the Soviet Union, she "jumped down his throat".[7]

Soviet archives confirm this view. As Maclean told Kitty Harris, on the evening he met Melinda, he saw more to her "I was very taken by her views. She's a liberal, she's in favour of the Popular Front and doesn't mind mixing with communists even though her parents are well-off. There was a White Russian girl, one of her friends, who attacked the Soviet Union and Melinda went for her. We found we spoke the same language."

Maclean proposed but Melinda was in an agony of indecision. She liked him too well for an outright refusal, and yet she could not bring herself to accept him. She wanted to return to the United States to think it over. But Maclean argued that she would not get back to Europe until the war was over. Finally she decided that she could not marry him. He would drive her to Bordeaux to find a ship. But events overtook them, with the French collapse. Melinda changed her mind. On 10 June 1940, with gunfire sounding faintly in the distance, they were married at the local Mairie[6]

Maclean came clean about his role as a diplomat, a communist and a spy. It was an outrageous risk, one quite out of character for him at that time, but he reassured Harris that Melinda not only reacted positively, but "actually promised to help me to the extent that she can  – and she is well connected in the American community".[7]

Sam Lesser, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, befriended Maclean in Moscow, where he was correspondent for the KGB-funded British newspaper The Daily Worker. He annoyed the KGB by revealing that Melinda Maclean had always known about her husband's spying activities.[8]

There is no evidence that Melinda worked alongside Maclean, but she did support him in his dangerous double life throughout their marriage. It was never an easy relationship: Maclean drank heavily, they were often on the verge of splitting up. But they stuck together, until she moved in with Philby.

They escaped on a British warship and spent the rest of the war being bombed out of one flat after another in London. For Maclean, who told Melinda's sister Harriet "There's nothing I like so much as the warm welcomes I receive from my dearest friends, when they grant me asylum in their comfortable houses" this was genuine hardship, although his Soviet controllers would not have understood that outlook.[9]

London in World War II

By this time the Russians had become suspicious of some of their British spies. Elena Modrzhinskaya, a Moscow case officer, examined Philby's file and pointed to certain suspicious circumstances. The London Station was warned that he and others of the Cambridge ring might be British plants.[10] In 1939 Walter Krivitsky, (born Samuel Ginsberg in Galicia, now Poland) a GRU officer, who had defected after the murder of Leon Trotsky by Soviet agents in Mexico City was interviewed by Dick White and Guy Liddell of MI5. Krivitsky had been head of the GRU network in Western Europe and gave details of 61 agents working in Britain. He did not know their names but described one as being a journalist who had worked for a British newspaper during the Spanish Civil War. Another was described as "a Scotsman of good family, educated at Eton and Oxford, and an idealist who worked for the Russians without payment." These descriptions fitted Kim Philby and Maclean, apart from their education.[11] However, White and Liddell did not follow this up, which suggests that British Intelligence was either aware of or complacent about their activities at this time when Russia was an ally of Nazi Germany. Walter Krivitsky was found dead in the Bellevue Hotel in Washington, D.C. on 10 February 1941. At first it was suggested that Krivitsky had committed suicide. However, some believed that his hiding place had been discovered and he had been murdered by Soviet agents.[12]

Maclean continued to report to Moscow from London and signaled on 16 September 1941 that a uranium bomb might be constructed within two years. This was after Germany had invaded the Soviet Union which was now a British ally. The chemical problems of producing gaseous compounds of uranium and pure uranium metal were studied at the University of Birmingham and Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). Dr Philip Baxter at ICI made the first small batch of gaseous uranium hexafluoride for Professor James Chadwick in 1940. ICI received a formal contract later in 1940 to make 3 kg of this vital material. Some of the secret development work was carried out by ICI at Billingham, Northeast England under a government contract with the code name Tube Alloys. Maclean sent Moscow a sixty-page report with the official minutes of the British Cabinet Committee on the Uranium Bomb Project.[13] As a member of the Foreign Office Maclean would not have had access to such papers, so it looks possible that the British Government was trying to impress and encourage Stalin, who at this time was contemplating flight from Moscow, ahead of the Wehrmacht advance on the city.


Then they moved to Washington, D.C., where Maclean did his most valuable spying work as First Secretary at the British embassy from 1944 to 1948. In the latter period he acted as Secretary of the Combined Policy Committee on Atomic Development.

He was Joseph Stalin's main source of information about communications and policy development between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and then between Churchill or Clement Attlee and Harry S. Truman. Although Maclean did not transmit technical data on the atom bomb, he reported on its development and progress, particularly the amount of plutonium (used in the Fat Man bombs) available to the United States. As the British representative on the American-British-Canadian Council on the sharing of atomic secrets, he was able to provide the Soviet Union with information from Council meetings. This gave Soviet scientists the ability to predict the number of bombs that could be built by the Americans. Coupled with the efforts of Los Alamos-based scientists Alan Nunn May, Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall (who had been identified but was allowed to remain at large), Maclean's reports to his NKVD controller gave the Soviets a basis to estimate their nuclear arsenal's relative strength against that of the United States and Britain.

The author S.J. Hamrick (alias W.T. Tyler a Foreign Service officer) claims that Philby played a crucial role in a 1949–1950 British disinformation campaign to mislead the Soviets about Anglo-American nuclear capacities and willingness to retaliate against a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. While he admits he cannot prove his thesis beyond all doubt—by definition, so ingenious a scheme would never have left a paper trail—his circumstantial evidence taken from a careful reading of the Venona Intercepts explains much in the public domain that is otherwise is a conundrum.[14]

If there were such a campaign, Maclean may have been working with Philby on this scheme and inflating the amounts of plutonium rather than providing accurate figures. Stalin doubted that the United States would start a nuclear war against the Soviet Bloc over minor aggressions like the Berlin Blockade or arming North Korea and North Vietnam. Stalin had blockaded Berlin's land approaches in 1948, a move broken by a massive American and British air-lift. He had decided to arm and train Kim Il Sung's North Korean army for the offensive war. The British Intelligence would have been seeking ways to make him more cautious.


In 1948, he was appointed head of Chancery at the British embassy in Cairo. As soon as he arrived, however, Maclean had problems with his KGB contact, who arranged their meetings in the Arab quarter. Yuri Modin, explains that the tall, blond Briton in immaculate suit and tie felt conspicuous "as a swan among geese." Maclean suggested that, instead of these absurdly dangerous games, Melinda should simply pass the information to the wife of the Soviet resident at the hairdresser. "Melinda was quite prepared to do this," Modin reports.[15]

At this time Britain was the major power in the Middle East with troops in both the Canal Zone and nearby Palestine. So this was an important post, where the Russians were seeking to undermine the Arab Kingdoms, including Egypt, which Britain supported. British policy was one of laissez-faire or non-interference with the corruption surrounding King Farouk. Maclean disagreed strongly and felt that Britain encourage reform which alone, in his opinion, could save the country from communism. "And, except to stress its dangers, that was all I ever heard Donald say about communism." recalls Geoffrey Hoare, the News Chronicle Cairo correspondent.[16]

By now, the double life was telling on Maclean. He began drinking, brawling and talking about his life as a spy. The second incident was far more serious. In March 1950, Melinda organised a trip up the Nile to Helouan in a felucca as a treat for her sister Harriet. A ghaffir or armed night watchman challenged them on arrival with an antiquated rifle. Maclean sprang at him, wrested the rifle away and swung it around his head, threateningly. An embassy colleague who tried to restrain him broke his leg in the tussle. After another drunken brawl which resulted in the wrecking of a female embassy staffer's apartment, Melinda intervened. She told the ambassador that Donald was ill and needed leave to see a London doctor.[17]

London deskbound

Maclean's career did not seem to suffer from his breakdown, though his spirit remained troubled.

Maclean went to his local pub in Kent, with Jay Sheers, his brother-in-law. He railed bitterly at his life and his job; he mocked at himself as a sheep among hordes of other sheep, going off to London every day with his black hat and neat black suit and little black briefcase; and he said that he was sick of it all and longed desperately to "cut adrift" [18] The journalist Cyril Connolly described him vividly as he struck him in London in 1951. "He had lost his serenity, his hands would tremble, his face was usually a livid yellow ... he was miserable and in a very bad way. In conversation, a kind of shutter would fall as if he had returned to some basic and incommunicable anxiety."[3]

Kitty Harris returns

Kitty Harris spent the rest of the war in Mexico; in 1946 she returned to Russia, which she found fell far short of her dreams. "The only thing I know is that I am terribly lonely," she wrote in her diary during her last years. "My life is in pieces." She died in Gorky—a provincial city— in 1966.[4] Maclean defected to Moscow in 1951 but there is no record of their meeting. But around her neck when she died was the locket, engraved "K from D 24.05.37".

Maclean's information

It has been reported that Maclean suggested to Moscow that the goal of the Marshall Plan was to ensure American economic domination in Europe.[19] Secretary of State George Marshall addressed the graduating class of Harvard University on 5 June 1947. Standing on the steps of Memorial Church in Harvard Yard, he offered American aid to promote European recovery and reconstruction.[20][21] Russia was an intended recipient as were the countries under Russian occupation. Although initially the US had planned to extract war reparations under the Morgenthau Plan, this had been abandoned. and the US simply took over patents and intellectual property worth perhaps $10 billion at today's prices. The Marshall Plan was rejected by Stalin and his collaborators steadily imposed Communist-party rule throughout Eastern Europe, whilst stripping East Germany bare of plant and machinery and scientists. Before the war, Stalin had arrested Western technical experts as spies and Maclean seems to have fed this paranoia over US aid.

Maclean is also reported to have commented on the World Bank created at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 and the International Monetary Fund, a related institution. John Maynard Keynes a British economist and Harry Dexter White had devised the plans and rules for these. They were in effect an Anglo-American creation.[22] Both are based in Washington, D.C., the World Bank is run by an American, and the IMF by a European. Maclean reportedly suggested to the KGB that they would be under the control of American financial capital.[19] Whilst arguably true, since the bank's initial capital of $7.67 billion was mostly from the US, this was neither secret nor helpful.[23] Now that the Venona transcripts have been published, it is clear that Maclean's 12 cables did not mention such information. In fact, neither he nor his Soviet controller provided any commentary. So this report may have been disinformation from British Intelligence to protect Philby, who was still operational.

The Venona decrypts identified Harry Dexter White as a Soviet agent denoted at various times under the code names "Lawyer",[24] "Richard",[25] and "Jurist".[26] Two years after his death, in a memorandum dated 15 October 1950, White was positively identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), through evidence gathered by the Venona project, as a Soviet source, code named "Jurist".[27] Years later, the Justice Department publicly disclosed the existence of the Venona project which deciphered Soviet cable traffic naming White as "Jurist", a Soviet intelligence source. White was the key American architect of the World Bank and IMF.

The State Department in Washington admitted after his disappearance that Maclean had been a member of the committee that exchanged information between the partners in the development of the atomic bomb. He added that information about fissionable materials, production processes, weapons technology, and the development of stockpiles of fissionable materials and weapons had ceased in 1946. Maclean had information of Canadian, United States, and British atomic patents for peacetime uses, and amounts of uranium available to the three countries at that time. Some of the information available to him in 1947 and 1948 (when he was Secretary of the Combined Policy Committee concerned with atomic energy policy) was classified and would have been useful at that time to the Soviet atomic energy department and strategic planners. But changes in the rate and scale of the United States program in the intervening years would have made the information obsolete by 1951.[28]

The author "S. J. Hamrick" (alias of W. T. Tyler, a Foreign Service officer) claims that Maclean was deliberately exaggerating the size of the stockpile.[14]


Maclean had little access to messages between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, which usually bypassed both the State Department and the Foreign Office. Only one such message was discovered in Venona, which was a summary of Churchill's views on Eastern Europe to be put to Roosevelt by the British ambassador, Lord Halifax. Stalin always gave the impression of being already aware of information given to him by the Prime Minister and President at the 1943 Tehran Conference, the Yalta Conference in early 1945, and the mid-1945 Potsdam Conference. He showed no surprise when told that America would drop a bomb of enormous power on Japan, because he had been aware of the work of the Manhattan project for several years at that point, thanks to the work of atomic espionage agents.[29]

Most of Maclean's cables published by the US Government in 1999 deal with routine messages between Lord Halifax, British ambassador in Washington and the Foreign Office in London or copies of reports from the British ambassador in Moscow Sir Archibald Clark-Kerr to London. Often they seem to have been drafted by the Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden on behalf of Winston Churchill and voiced concern about Soviet political maneuvers in Poland and Romania. Churchill was trying to coordinate an Allied response to Stalin's imposition of rigid Soviet control. But Roosevelt showed no interest in blocking Stalin's moves in liberated Eastern Europe.

Maclean's role was discovered when the code name GOMER (Russian for HOMER) was discovered in the VENONA decryption carried out at Arlington Hall, Virginia and Eastcote in London between 1945 and 1951. These related to coded messages between New York, Washington and Moscow for which Soviet code clerks had re-used one-time pads. The full Venona transcripts were published in 1996 and show a resume of one cable from Churchill related by Maclean, during 1944 and 1945. In 1949, Robert Lamphere, FBI agent in charge of Russian espionage, along with cryptanalysts working as part of the Venona project, discovered that twelve coded cables had been sent, six from New York from June to September 1944 and six from Washington in April 1945, by an agent named Gomer, The first cable sent but not the first to be deciphered described a meeting with Sergei on 25 June and Gommer's (sic) forthcoming trip to Tyre (New York) where his wife was living with her mother awaiting the birth of a child. This was decoded in April 1951. A short list of nine men was identified as possible Homers, one of whom was Maclean.[30]

The second cable on 2–3 August 1944 was a description, but not a transcript, of a message from Churchill (Boar) to Roosevelt (Captain), which Homer claimed to have decrypted. It suggested that Churchill was trying to persuade Roosevelt to abandon plans for operation Anvil, the invasion of Provence, in favour of an attack through Venice and Trieste into Austria. This was typical of Churchill's strategic thinking since he was always looking for a flanking move. But it was rejected outright by both American and British generals.[31]

Shortly after Lamphere's investigation began, Kim Philby, another member of the Cambridge Five, was assigned to Washington, serving as Britain's CIA-FBI-NSA liaison. He saw the Venona material, and recognized that Maclean was Homer, which was confirmed by his KGB control. He knew that some of the encoded messages KGB had been sent from New York, which Maclean had often visited to see his family, who stayed there with Melinda's mother.[19]

The pressure on Philby now began to grow. If Maclean admitted sending messages, others of the Cambridge Five would be implicated. Philby had known Maclean at Cambridge and traveled to Moscow with him before the war for a holiday. Believing that Maclean would confess to MI5, Philby and Guy Burgess decided that Burgess would travel on the Queen Mary to London, where Maclean was head of the Foreign Office's American desk, to warn him. Burgess received three speeding tickets in a single day and assaulted a traffic cop in Virginia. The Governor complained to the British Ambassador and Burgess went back to London, in disgrace.

Philby passed this information to the Soviets, and they were desperate for Maclean to get out, fearful that, in his current state, he would crack immediately under interrogation. Maclean shilly shallied, afraid of staying, afraid of going, until he sounded out Melinda about the defection. According to Modin, she responded: "They're quite right  – go as soon as you can, don't waste a single moment."[15]

In common with many others, Cyril Connolly was reluctant to accept that Burgess and Maclean had spied for the Soviet Union: "they are members of the governing class, of the high bureaucracy, the “they” who rule the “we”…. If traitors they be, then they are traitors to themselves." he wrote later.[3]


The plan was for Burgess to give Maclean a note in the Foreign Office identifying a meeting place. Maclean, now under suspicion and denied sensitive documents, was likely to be bugged at home and in the office. They met at the Reform Club to discuss Maclean's imminent exposure and the need to flee to Russia.

MI5 insisted that Maclean be questioned. He would be confronted with the FBI and MI5 evidence on Monday, 28 May 1951. But there was a major difficulty regarding prosecution since Venona could not be revealed.[32]

The day eventually earmarked for Maclean to make his escape happened to be his thirty-eighth birthday: 25 May 1951. He came home by train from the Foreign Office to their house in Kent as usual that evening, and soon after Guy Burgess, who had just been persuaded to get out, too, turned up. After eating the birthday supper that Melinda had prepared, Maclean said goodbye to his wife and children, got into Burgess's car and left. They drove to Southampton, took a ferry to France, then disappeared from view, sparking a media and intelligence furore. It was all of five years before Krushchev finally admitted that they were in the Soviet Union.

Three days before his interrogation, Maclean fled. Yuri Modin, the controller at the time, had made arrangements for Maclean's arrival in Moscow and presumably given him a false passport. Maclean was extremely nervous and reluctant to leave alone. Modin was willing to travel with him, but KGB Central demanded that Burgess escort Maclean across the Iron Curtain. Maclean and Burgess left his home in Kent by car, abandoning it at Southampton where they took the St Malo ferry and then trains to Paris and on to Moscow. This was very awkward for Philby who would now be implicated as the Third Man.

The following Monday, Melinda Maclean telephoned the Foreign Office to ask coolly if her husband was around. Her pose of total ignorance convinced them; MI5 put off interviewing her for nearly a week, and the Maclean house was never searched. No doubt their readiness to see her merely as the ignorant wife was enhanced by the fact that she was heavily pregnant at the time  – three weeks after Donald left, she gave birth to a daughter, their third child. Francis Marling, Melinda's father, flew from New York to help. Friends in the State Department, gave him Foreign Office contacts who proved unhelpful. He returned to New York with a low opinion of Foreign Office officials. He felt then, as others felt later, that no serious effort was being made.[33] The author Miranda Carter, in her award-winning 2001 biography of Blunt, Anthony Blunt: His Lives, has a different version of the escape. She suggests that Burgess visited Blunt first, and that Blunt designed the escape plan for Maclean and Burgess. This is referenced to Modin's account and also confirmed in the 1999 book The Mitrokhin Archive. It is possible that Burgess and Maclean had selected Friday to flee whatever the situation. Both Modin and Philby assumed that Burgess would deliver Maclean to a handler, and that he would return. But the Russians insisted that Burgess accompany Maclean the entire way, realising that he was a serious security risk to them. Author Miranda Carter writes that the KGB had no intention of letting Burgess remain behind or return to London, as he was likely to crack under interrogation. Blunt himself in his public confession on BBC television denied this and claimed that Philby had warned Maclean. He also said that his Russian controller had ordered him, too, to join the pair in their flight to Moscow but that he had refused.[34]

As he left, Maclean tore a postcard in half, giving Melinda half, and telling her only to trust someone who could produce the other. A year later, Yuri Modin overtook Melinda's Rover returning from the school run. "She burst out of the car like a deer breaking cover, yelling abuse at us for our bad driving." When Modin had recovered, he drew the half postcard from his pocket. Melinda immediately fell silent, reached across for her bag in the car, and produced the other half.[15]


Maclean, unlike Burgess, assimilated into the Soviet Union and became a respected citizen, learning Russian and serving as a specialist on the economic policy of the West and British foreign affairs. After a brief period of teaching English in Kuybyshev (now Samara) at a Russian provincial school, Maclean joined the staff of "International Affairs" in early 1956 as a specialist on British home and foreign policy and relations between the Soviet Union and NATO. He shared a small room with his new Soviet colleagues on the second floor of the journal's Gorokhovsky Pereulok premises.[35] He also worked for the Soviet Foreign Ministry and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. Maclean was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and the Order of Combat. His Soviet name was Mark Petrovich.

Melinda Maclean and their children joined him in Moscow, more than a year later. Before slipping away from her mother's home in Geneva, she spent hours at a salon having her hair and nails done. The next morning she returned from shopping to tell her mother that she had bumped into an old friend who had invited her to spend the weekend with the children at his villa in Territet, a village close to Montreux. After lunch, at which she seemed preoccupied, she left in her mother's Chevrolet wearing a blue Schiaparelli coat over black skirt and white blouse. They continued by train from Lausanne oddly dressed.[36]

An American colonel on the Arlberg Express remembered the two fair-haired little boys in grey flannel suits who told him they went to school in Geneva, the large suitcase and the two raffia carry-alls from Majorca and Melinda wearing a cheap boy's watch. They left the train before the Austrian border on the morning of Saturday, 12 September and after a quick breakfast were driven off in an American car by a man with an Austrian accent.[37] Melinda was aware of her risks as a collaborator to her husband. Two months earlier, the Rosenbergs had sat in the electric chair for spying. But Melinda usually concealed her thoughts behind an expressionless look. "I will not admit that my husband, the father of my children, is a traitor to his country", she would say in outraged tones.[4]

While living in Moscow, Maclean spoke up for Soviet dissidents, and gave money to the families of some of those imprisoned. Eleanor Philby provided a rare glimpse of the Macleans' life. Melinda hadn't accepted Soviet penury: she and her children cut incongruously elegant figures in Moscow, dressed from parcels sent by her family. When the Philbys and Macleans sat in their Moscow apartments getting drunk on Georgian champagne, Melinda and Donald would talk wistfully "of the good times they would have in Italy and Paris 'when the revolution comes'. Eleanor found this fantasy unnerving."[36] Perhaps the Macleans knew that the apartments were bugged.

Extramarital affairs

Philby had had an affair with the wife of his friend Sam Brewer, The New York Times correspondent in Beirut. Now he showed the same lack of loyalty to Maclean. Philby and Melinda Maclean became lovers during a ski trip in 1964, while Eleanor Philby, Kim's wife, was on an extended visit to the U.S. Maclean found out and broke with Philby. Eleanor Philby discovered on her return and left Moscow, for good. Melinda moved in with Philby in 1966, but within two years tired of him and left. She returned to her husband, and remained with him until she left Moscow for good in 1979.[15]


Melinda returned to the West, in 1979 to be with her mother and sisters; her children soon followed her. She died in New York in 2010 without saying a single word to the media.[38] The three Maclean children all married Russians, but left Moscow to live in London and the U.S, as they still had the right to British or American passports. Fergus the eldest son enrolled at University College London in 1974, prompting a question in Parliament.[39]

In May 1970 Hodder & Stoughton published Maclean's book British Foreign Policy since Suez which he wrote for a British readership. Maclean told journalists that he set out to analyse the subject rather than to attack it, but criticised British diplomatic support for the United States in the Vietnam War. He stated that he would donate the English royalties to the British Committee for Medical Aid to Vietnam.[40] He foresaw a strengthening of British influence in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of economic recovery. Interviewed live by a BBC Radio reporter who detected a nostalgia for Britain in the book, Maclean refused to be drawn on whether he would like to return to London, for further research for his next book. Maclean was reported seriously ill with pneumonia in December 1982,[41] and was housebound after his recovery.[42] He died of a heart attack in 1983, at the age of sixty-nine. He was cremated and some of his ashes were scattered on his parents' grave in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Penn, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom.


  • 1913 Born on 25 May in London
  • 1926 to 1931 Attended Gresham's School in Norfolk[2]
  • 1931 to 1934 Read Modern Languages at Trinity Hall, Cambridge
  • 1934 Recruited by the Soviet Intelligence Service
  • 1934 Started work at the Foreign Office
  • 1940 Married Melinda Marling while working at the British Embassy in Paris shortly before evacuation.
  • Relocated to Washington as Secretary in the British Embassy. It was here that he had access to details of the atomic bomb program, eventually becoming the Secretary for the Combined Policy Committee on Atomic Development.
  • As the pressure of his double life began to mount, he started to drink heavily and became an alcoholic
  • 1941 Identified by Walter Krivitsky, a Soviet defector
  • 1944 son Fergus born
  • 1946 son Donald born
  • 1948 Relocated to Cairo and promoted to Head of Chancery in the British Embassy
  • After a drunken episode he was sent home to London to "recover" from his "nervous breakdown"
  • 1950 Promoted to head the American Department in the Foreign Office. Here he had access to top secret information on the atomic development program
  • 1951 daughter Melinda born
  • 1951 Warned by Philby that he is under suspicion and will most likely be unmasked. Maclean and Burgess both defect to the Soviet Union
  • Live in Kuybyshev[43]
  • 1956 They appear in Moscow, he is made a colonel of the KGB with a Moscow apartment and a dacha outside the city.
  • 1963 Kim Philby defects to Soviet Union.
  • 1970 Published British Foreign Policy Since Suez, 1956–1968 (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1970)
  • 1983 Died of a heart attack in Moscow on 6 March.
  • Cremated; his ashes were later returned to the United Kingdom.



Maclean was married to the American-born Melinda Marling in 1940. They had three children, Fergus, born in 1944, Donald, in 1946 and Melinda, in 1951.[44] In 1965, Maclean's wife began an affair with Kim Philby and went to live with him in 1966. Donald's son, Donald, married Lucy Hanna. They had a son. Donald Duart Maclean's only grandson, who resides in the UK.

Melinda Maclean lived out her years in New York.[45] She died in February 2010.

See also


  1. GRO Register of Births:SEP 1913 1a 899 MARYLEBONE – Donald D. Maclean, mmn = Devitt
  2. 2.0 2.1 I Will Plant Me a Tree: an Illustrated History of Gresham's School by S.G.G. Benson and Martin Crossley Evans (James & James, London, 2002)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Cyril Connolly: The Missing Diplomats: London: The Queen Anne Press, 1952
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Guardian newspaper, Manchester and London, 10 May 2003
  5. Kitty Harris: The Spy with seventeen names by Geoffrey Elliott and Igor Damaskin (St Ermin's Press London, 2001)
  6. 6.0 6.1 GEOFFREY HOARE The Missing Macleans, NEW YORK THE VIKING PRESS 1955
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 The Guardian newspaper, Manchester and London 10 May 2003
  8. Morning Star newspaper: London: 4 October 2010
  10. ,Genrikh Borovik, ed. Philip Knightley The Philby Files, 1944, London: Little, Brown.
  11. Large, David Clay, Between Two Fires: Europe's Path In The 1930s, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. (1991), ISBN 0-393-30757-3, ISBN 978-0-393-30757-3, p. 308
  12. FBI Krivitsky file
  13. KGB Archives File number 13676, vol. 1.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Hamrick, S.J. Deceiving the Deceivers: Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess: Yale University Press, 2004, pages 320
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Modin, Yuri Ivanovitch, My Five Cambridge Friends, Headline Book Publishing, London, 1994. ISBN 0-374-21698-3
  16. Geoffrey Hoare: The Missing Macleans, New York The Viking Press 1955
  17. Geoffrey Hoare: The Missing Macleans, New York The Viking Press 1955
  18. Geoffrey Hoare The Missing Macleans, New York The Viking Press 1955
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Moynihan, Daniel Patrick (1998). Secrecy : The American Experience. Yale University Press. pp. 54. ISBN 0-300-08079-4.  "In these coded messages the spies' identities were concealed beneath aliases, but by comparing the known movements of the agents with the corresponding activities described in the intercepts, the FBI and the code-breakers were able to match the aliases with the actual spies."
  20. Charles L. Mee, (1984). The Marshall Plan. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 99. ISBN 0-671-42149-2. 
  21. "BBC Correspondent Leonard Miall and the Marshall Plan Speech: An Interview". The Marshall Foundation. 19 September 1977. Retrieved 15 August 2007. 
  22. Goldman, Michael. Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization. New York: Yale University Press, 2005 pp. 52–54
  23. "".,,contentMDK:20035657~menuPK:56307~pagePK:36726~piPK:36092~theSitePK:29506,00.html. 
  24. 1251 KGB New York to Moscow, 2 September 1944, p. 2
  25. 83 KGB New York to Moscow, 18 January 1945, p.1
  26. Robert J. Hanyok, "Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939–1945" (Washington, DC: Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency, 2005, 2nd Ed.), p. 119 (PDF page 124)
  27. "FBI Memorandum identifying Harry Dexter White as agent Jurist". 16 October 1950. Retrieved 3 October 2006. 
  28. Geoffrey Hoare The Missing Macleans, New York The Viking Press 1955
  29. Deceiving the Deceivers" Author(s) S. J.Hamrick Publisher Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1999
  30. "The FBI-KGB war" Author(s) Robert Lamphere and Tom Shactman Publisher Random House, New York 1986 p 232–237
  31. Author(s) S.J.Hamrick Publisher Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1999 p 233
  32. Daily Telegraph newspaper, London; 29 January 2007
  33. Groffrey Hoare: The Missing Macleans: New York: The Viking Press. 1955
  34. BBC Television broadcast 20 November 1979
  35. "Secret Agent Donald Maclean at "International Affairs" Author(s): Tatyana IEVLEVA; Source International Affairs, No. 1, Vol.41, 1995, page(s): 97–98
  36. 36.0 36.1 The Guardian newspaper, Manchester and London, 10 May 2003
  37. Geoffrey Hoare: The Missing Macleans: New York: The Viking Press: 1955
  38. Ivanova, Rufina et al., The Private Life of Kim Philby: The Moscow Years (2000)
  39. Hansard 25 January 1974 vol 867 c377W
  40. "Maclean: European manqué" (The Times Diary), The Times, 30 April 1970, p.10.
  41. Lucy Hodges, "Maclean may have pneumonia", The Times, 6 December 1982, p. 1.
  42. "Death of Maclean rumoured", The Times, 11 March 1983, p. 1.
  43. [1][dead link]
  44. Little Lost Lambs (accessed 12 August 2007)
  45. Melindia Maclean died in February 2010. Kim Philby Was Here by Ambassador Richard Carlson and Buckley Carlson in Foundation for Defense of Democracies (accessed 12 August 2007)

Additional reading

  • The Missing Diplomats, by Cyril Connolly. This contemporary account was published by Ian Fleming's Queen Anne Press in 1952.
  • Anthony Blunt: His Lives, by Miranda Carter, 2001.
  • The Mitrokhin Archive, by Christopher Andrew and Vasily Mitrokhin, volume 1, 1999.
  • Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations, by Richard C.S. Trahair and Robert Miller, 2009, Enigma Books. ISBN 978-1-929631-75-9.

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).