Foreign and Commonwealth Office files

In this release

Investigation into the leak of Foreign Office telegrams from the British Embassy, Washington, DC to the Russians, March 1945

Catalogue reference: FCO 158/1–2
Date range: 1 January 1949-31 December 1949
File FCO 158/2 has been digitised

The Foreign Office was also involved in the investigation into the leaks. As many as 6,000 people could have seen the telegrams and it was a priority to narrow the List of names. In November 1949, a memo by Kim Philby, referring to information obtained from Soviet defector Walter Krivitsky, helped put Maclean in frame as major suspect (FO 158/2).

Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess post-disappearance

Washington leakages; General Walter Bedell Smith and Air Marshall William Elliott

Catalogue reference: FCO 158/21
Date range: 1951
This file has been digitised.

As the inquiry into the disappearance of Burgess and Maclean progressed, there was discussion within the Foreign Office as to what information could be shared with the United States. This file reveals difficulties with Hoover over Maclean and leakages in Washington, not helped by Hoover’s refusal to allow the British to tell General Bedell Smith about VENONA and how they knew. The file contains a letter from Sir Percy Sillitoe (Director General of MI5) to Edgar Hoover (Head of the FBI) and admission that Sillitoe ‘lied like a trooper’.

Disappearance of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean

Report of the Committee of Enquiry into security arrangements in the Foreign Office, chaired by Sir Alexander Cadogan

Catalogue reference: FCO 158/24
Date range: 1951
This file has been digitised.

This file contains a summary of the Cadogan Committee recommendations, related enquiry papers and papers that were left behind by Burgess at the FCO that were later forward on by the FCO after his disappearance. Also included in the papers are two-page biographies for Burgess and Maclean and lists of files that were viewed by Maclean. There are also proofs of a paper entitled ‘The Labour Party Foreign Policy between the Two Wars’ by Hector McNeil MP accompanied by a letter which claims that parts that were written by Burgess, including the section on Anglo-Soviet relations.

Letters from members of the public

Catalogue reference: FCO 158/25
Date range: 1951
This file has been digitised.

The file contains some letters from the public including a long one talking about the fact that the British could get help from ‘hundreds of flying saucers that would help you blow your enemies to bits’. There is also an additional offer of help in finding Burgess and Maclean from a clairvoyant and a ‘teleradioaesthetistican’.

Kim Philby (PEACH): file 1

Catalogue reference: FCO 158/27
Date range: 1 January 1951-31 December1952
This file has been digitised.

Folio 10 is an important memo setting out MI5’s case against Philby in Nov 1951. Further material is on what to do next, specifically should Philby be interrogated, the risk of him fleeing and the likelihood of prosecution. The file goes on to reveal the lack of evidence to take any action against Philby (f.30) and other interesting papers on the PEACH investigation.

Kim Philby (PEACH): file 2

Catalogue reference: FCO 158/28
Date range: 1 January 1951-31 December 1952
This file has been digitised.

This file details the case put by the Chief of SIS, Sir John Sinclair,  in 1955 that insufficient evidence exists to implicate Philby as the ‘Third Man’ who tipped off Burgess and Maclean. Sinclair argues that ‘Philby was in fact convicted of nothing by investigation in 1951 and despite four years of subsequent investigation is still convicted of nothing. It is entirely contrary to the English tradition for a man to have to prove his innocence even when the prosecution is in possession of hard facts’. Sir Patrick Dean, Head of JIC, accepted that ‘at the moment we do not know’ but ‘if we are to exonerate Peach [Philby] we all badly need the true answer and we want it very soon.’

Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean: Kim Philby (PEACH)

Catalogue reference: FCO 158/175
Date range: 1955
This file has been digitised.

Deals with the naming of Philby in Parliament, initial threat by Norman Dodds, published article in the New York News and eventual naming by Colonel Lipton. There is a letter from Dodds to Macmillan threatening to name Philby if he did not get satisfactory answers. The file goes on to discuss the possible removal of Philby’s passport and ends with some discussion and excerpts from the media following Philby’s statement to the press.

Investigation into the disappearance of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean

Catalogue reference: FCO 158/177
Date range: 1955
This file has been digitised.

Contains the same report as FCO 158/176 but with minor changes. At the end it has an interesting section on “Homosexuality in the Foreign Service” – this names individuals and gives a good idea of general views at the time.

Tags: espionage, mi5, spies

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