George Blake was a British agent during World War II, translating captured German documents and helping to interrogate German prisoners. Prior to having this position he was a runner for the Dutch Anti-Nazi resistance movement. Having been captured and held temporarily by the Nazis, he escaped to Britain, disguised as a monk.
After the war, he was sent to Seoul, South Korea, where he was encouraged to create a Korean spy network. On June 24, 1950 Blake was captured by the North Koreans. He was held for three years by the North Koreans during which time he was introduced to the teachings of Karl Marx and became a communist. When he was released in 1953, he returned to Britain as a hero, and retruned to British service in MI6. He was sent to Berlin, Germany to work as a case officer. It was hoped that he could recruit Soviet officers to work as double-agents. Instead, he contacted the KGB and informed them of British and American plans. During the next nine years he betrayed more than 400 MI6 agents to the Soviets and crippled most of MI6 operations in Eastern Europe.
When asked why he chose to betray his country he recalled that “it was the relentless bombing of small Korean villages by enormous American flying fortresses. Women and children and old people, because the young men were in the army. We might have been victims ourselves. It made me feel ashamed of belonging to these overpowering, technically superior countries fighting against what seemed to me defenceless people. I felt I was on the wrong side … that it would be better for humanity if the Communist system prevailed, that it would put an end to war.”
Blake was exposed as a Soviet agent by Polish defector Michael Goleniewski. He was arrested when he returned to London after being summoned from Lebanon. He was sentenced in May 1961to a total of 42 years of imprisonment, at the time, the longest sentence ever handed down by a British court.
Blake was serving his time in Wormwood Scrubs prison in inner west London, England when was pulled into an escape plan. The plan was masterminded by Sean Bourke, a petty criminal from Limerick, Ireland. They were joined in the plan by Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, both anti-nuclear campaigners. They plan was financed by British film director Tony Richardson. Randle, Pottle and Bourke were released from prison but were still determined to help Blake escape, believing his 42 year sentence was inhuman.
Somehow Bourke was able to give Blake a walkie-talkie so as to communicate within the prison. The plan was for Blake to break out through a window in the corridor near his cell while most of the prisoners and guards were watching a movie. Blake squeezed out of a 12 by 18 inch hole he created in the window and climbed down a porch to the ground where he met Bourke near a perimeter wall. Bourke had created a ladder made with knitting needles and he used it to climb the wall and escape to freedom. Although Blake fractured his wrist while jumping down from the 20 foot wall, he was able to make it to a car Bourke had running outside of the prison and they were able to escape to a safe house Bourke had arranged. Blake eventually went to live with Pottle until he was ready for his next move.
Originally, they planned to help him escape to Eastern Europe by having him disguised as an Arab. Pottle and Randle acquired a large quantity of meladinin, a medication prescribed to to treat vitiligo, a disease which causes white spots to appear on the skin (the disease Michael Jackson suffered from). Blake refused to take the drug, worried that it might cause damage to his liver because of the larger than normal amount required.
Randle and Pottle later arranged for a van to take them to East Berlin. They has a secret compartment built out of wood fitted into the van in which Blake hid for 24 hours. Randle then drove his family (with Blake hidden beneath them) to East Germany for vacation. The plan worked perfectly as the customs agents and police had no suspicions of the wholesome family.
In December 1966, Blake arrived in East Berlin and approached an East German guard and requested to speak to a Soviet officer. He identified himself and asked the officer to contact Moscow to inform them that he had arrived. The next day, he was met by a member of the Soviet intelligence service who personally knew him. He was quickly dispatched to Moscow where he was given a hero’s greeting. He was given a large farmhouse and after divorcing his wife, he married a Russian woman and worked as a translator for the next 30 years.
George Blake escape was one of the most embarrassing black eyes that Britain ever suffered.