Guy Liddell

Guy Liddell

Guy Maynard Liddell (1892-11-08-1958-12-01) was a British intelligence officer during World War II.


Early life & career

Liddell was a talented cellist in his youth and was studying in Germany for a career as a professional musician when World War I began. During the conflict he served with the Royal Field Artillery and was awarded the Military Cross.

After the war Liddell joined Scotland Yard where, in liaison with Special Branch and the Foreign Office, he was involved in breaking a spy ring based around the All Russian Cooperative Society in London.

Liddell joined MI5 in 1927 where he became an expert on Soviet subversive activities within the UK and recruited agents including his private secretary Dick Wright and future head of B5(b) Maxwell Knight in preparation for the inevitable war with Germany.

World War II

Following the outbreak of World War II the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sacked Director-General of MI5 Vernon Kell and Liddell was promoted to Director of B Division in charge of counter-espionage.

Shortly after the new appointment he was informed by Knight of a suspected German spy ring based around the Right Club of Archibald Ramsay and involving American cipher clerk Tyler Kent.

Liddell met with U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. who agreed to waive Kent’s diplomatic immunity and he was successfully prosecuted along with his handler Anna Wolkoff.

Liddell’s agent Duško Popov informed him of a Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor. Popov was sent to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who dismissed the claims and Liddell was later criticised for not informing the Office of Naval Intelligence.

Later career

Liddell was expected to succeed Director general of MI5 David Petrie but he was passed over when Home Secretary Herbert Morrison was informed by Ellen Wilkinson of rumours that he was a double-agent.

These rumours were exacerbated when his close friend Guy Burgess defected and he was also a known associate of other Cambridge Five spy ring members Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt.

Liddell died of heart failure in 1958 and was buried at Putney Vale Cemetery. In 1979 Goronwy Rees confessed to having been a Soviet spy and named him as the Fifth Man.

Wartime diaries

Military historian Rupert Allason writing under the penname of Nigel West has edited Liddell’s wartime diaries for publication in two volumes.

  • West, Nigel The Guy Liddell Diaries: 1939-1942 v. 1. Frank Cass Publishers (hardcover). ISBN 978-0415352130.
  • West, Nigel The Guy Liddell Diaries: 1942-1945 v. 2. Routledge (hardcover). ISBN 978-0415352154.

In popular culture

Liddell was portrayed by Angus Wright in the 2003 BBC Television drama Cambridge Spies.

External links

Biography at Spartacus Educational

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