Spies in the 1930s were constantly drunk and more like Johnny English than James Bond

1930s spies more like Johnny English than James Bond
Johnny English (Picture: Flickr)

‘A dry Martini, lemon peel, shaken not stirred,’ the secret agent ordered.

‘Sir, with the greatest respect, this will be your ninth drink and you’re struggling to stay upright,’ a barman replied.

‘I’m a spy for MI5 and the Soviets – I can handle it,’ the mole slurred, too drunk to realise he had blown his cover.

This may sound more Johnny English than James Bond – but if newly released files are to be believed, the British spies of yesteryear left a lot to be desired.

Two men hired to feed information to the KGB while MI5 agents in the 1930s were ‘constantly under the influence of alcohol’ and risked exposing their double identities, Soviet intelligence says.

A file in the Mitrokhin Archive says of Guy Burgess, one hapless mole: ‘Once on his way out of a pub, he managed to drop one of the files he had taken from the Foreign Office on the pavement.’

The sloshed secret agents were part of the Cambridge Five spy ring, which was crucial in helping Soviets access British intelligence during World War II.

Another mole fond of a tipple, Donald Duart Maclean, was described in a note as a man who – worryingly for a spy – was ‘not very good at keeping secrets’.

It was believed he told his brother and a lover about his work as a Soviet agent while he was worse for wear.

The files were collected by Maj Vasili Mitrokhin, who smuggled information out of the Soviet Union before he defected here in 1992. It lists the names of 200 Britons who spied for the state.

From today, the Soviet intelligence he acquired becomes available to visitors in Cambridge’s Churchill Archive Centre. His 19 boxes of files reveal how one double agent, Kim Philby, was the head of the Secret Intelligence Service’s anti-Soviet division during the leaks – which left him plotting against the group he was also spying for.

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Source: metro.co.uk

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