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Guy Burgess: A voice from history

Only known recording of the voice of Guy Burgess, one of the Cambridge Spies, discovered by City University London researchers.
by Ben

nullThe only known recording of the voice of Cambridge Spy Guy Burgess has been recovered from FBI files by City University London researchers Professor Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert.

Visit the Burgess tape microsite.

The Burgess tape

Guy Burgess was a Foreign Office diplomat in the United States in 1951 when he was recalled to London in disgrace after a series of disciplinary issues.

On his last night before returning to London, Burgess was persuaded to record the story of his 1938 meeting with Winston Churchill, then a Conservative backbencher. Burgess even recreates Churchill's side of the story with a number of amusing impressions.

Less than a month after the recording was made Guy Burgess, by this time under suspicion from British intelligence services, fled to Russia where he remained until his death in 1963.

Jeff Hulbert said: "Until today Burgess has been the silent member of the Cambridge spies. Film and sound recordings of the other members of the Cambridge ring: Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross exist so we can get a sense of them as individuals. But in spite of Burgess having worked for the BBC there appeared to be no recordings of his voice."

Stewart Purvis said: "Last year Jeff Hulbert made an FOI request on our behalf to both the British and American authorities. The British came back saying they didn't know where any such tape was but nine months after our request the FBI said they had put something in the transatlantic mail to us. It came in the Christmas post and on our first day back after the holiday break we found an FBI envelope sitting in my post box at City University London."

Extracts from the tape were broadcast for the first time on Channel 4 News on Friday 17th January 2014 in a special report by Michael Crick.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.