City Magazine 2014
  1. Dispatches
  2. Discoveries
  3. Community
  4. Features
  1. A voice from the past
City Magazine 2014

A voice from the past

Guy Burgess Tapes

Guy BurgessThe story of the 'Cambridge Spies' epitomised the distrust and fear of the early Cold War. Four men, educated at the University of Cambridge during the tumultuous inter-war period, became informants to the KGB in the belief that only the Soviet Union could defeat fascism. During and after the war, the men climbed career ladders in the Foreign Office, MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), while continuing to report to Moscow. In 1951, the two men in the Foreign Office, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, disappeared, only to resurface in Moscow five years later.

It was only with the end of the Cold War that historians could begin to piece together the full story of the Cambridge Spies, though their endeavours were frequently hampered by classified files and incomplete archives. In January 2014, City academics Professor Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert, both of the Department of Journalism, uncovered a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that adds depth and life to the fascinating tale.

In researching their new book, When Reporters Cross the Line, Purvis and Hulbert secured the release of an 11 minute audio recording from FBI files. Recorded in 1951 in New York, just three weeks before his defection to Russia, Guy Burgess talks of visiting Chartwell to meet Winston Churchill and mimics Churchill's characteristic speech. The only known recording of Burgess's voice, which captures his humour and betrays no hint of the drama of his defection that was to follow, drew the attention of media outlets including the BBC, Sky News, The Conversation and Channel 4.

Listen to the Guy Burgess recording