In '51, PM wondered about poor character of Burgess, Maclean





Labour’s first postwar Prime Minister demanded that Whitehall should explain why the Soviet spies Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess remained as British diplomats despite Foreign Office knowledge of their poor characters.

An exasperated Clement Attlee sought the details on the two men as their disappearance was about to be made public in 1951. With typical understatement, Attlee told his Foreign Secretary: “There is likely to be a lot of public criticism.”

The Prime Minister demanded action as Herbert Morrison, the Foreign Secretary, prepared to make a statement to MPs on the disappearance of Burgess and Maclean, according to secret files released today at the National Archive in Kew, southwest London.

The two Foreign Office diplomats had been recalled to London from the British Embassy in Washington after confidential documents went missing. Tipped off by Kim Philby that the net was closing in on them, the two men took a ferry to St Malo, disappeared and later surfaced in Moscow.


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