In the period (1967-73), when I was the Young Conservative National Organising Secretary, I had numerous contacts with officials from the Soviet Embassy in London. Given my position I was often asked to meet journalists and others seeking briefing on the Young Conservatives.
My first Russian contact was with a man called Osipenko representing the TASS News Agency. He came to my office for an interview on 5th February 1969.
Three weeks later I met Osipenko for a second time. I happened to be at a reception at the East German Embassy, Osipenko was there, and he introduced me to a Second Secretary at the Soviet Embassy called Gamov - I don’t remember his first name.
I met with Gamov on various occasions after that - for example we met for lunch at a restaurant called La Dolce Notta restaurant in Jermyn Street, on 14th April and 29th May 1969. On each occasion we talked about things in Britain in general, and he sought my views of the political scene. He was a charming host, and clearly liked to chat.
A little time after I got to know Gamov well, I was made aware that Soviet Embassy officials were turning up everywhere at regional YC conferences. I began monitoring all the press/diplomatic observer passes which were being issued by Central Office to East European officials. I found there were two Soviets in particular, and with the backing of my boss went to conferences determined to find out why they were appearing, and what it was they were doing.
The two were ill-matched - the older man was what I would describe as an archetypical Soviet Russian - short, stocky build with short-cropped hair - the other a tall fair haired attractive young man who was clearly older than he appeared. I found this younger one at a party in a hotel bedroom late one night armed with several bottles of vodka, which he was liberally pouring for the party goers.
I persuaded him to join me in drinking toasts, but he claimed he didn’t like vodka, and opted for gin, which I happened to have taken with me. After several drinks, I persuaded him to take another from me, but this time I handed him a glass which was four fifths gin and only a small amount of tonic - I fooled him into thinking it was mainly tonic, and invited him to knock it back, whilst I consumed only tonic.
He did drink it quickly, and soon afterwards he collapsed.
I knew where his colleague was staying, and I telephoned him, and asked him to collect his seemingly unconscious comrade. He was not at all happy when he arrived!
Shortly after this incident I discussed what had happened with a journalist friend, Paddy Travers of The Telegraph. Paddy and I had been liaising and exchanging notes about Russian activities for some time, and so he was fascinated by what I had witnessed.
Two days later Paddy called to tell me he had seen the same young Russian being marched forcibly up the walkway onto a Russian freighter at Tilbury Docks. It was confirmed for me a few days after that.
I had arranged to meet the young Russian for lunch. He didn’t turn up, so I telephoned the Embassy. The response was very short ‘No, we have no one of that name’.
Shortly afterwards I had my last meeting with Gamov. My first wife used to work for an architect and a surveyor, and they had secured a contract to re-furbish some apartments in Holland Park. When completed, my then wife and I were invited to a launch party for these apartments. It was only when I arrived I was made aware these had been converted as homes for Soviet Embassy staff.
Gamov was there, and he took me to one side for a chat. He was particularly friendly that night and he had clearly had a lot to drink, judging by his manner. He told me quite a lot about himself. For example, although he had a Communist Party membership card, he had never been a Communist. Joining the Party was simply a way to get a good job.
I told him I had been informed by a contact in the press he was a KGB Officer. He admitted to me he was, and said he still had his KGB dagger, as is seen alongside, but told me I had nothing to fear. His role was merely one of collecting information, not of spying to capture State secrets.
He went on to tell me, ‘I do have colleagues, who are the real KGB spies, and an important part of their job is to recruit disaffected Britons to become moles for the Soviet Union. They spend all of their time cultivating anyone they think might help them. I hate that part of the work, but I expect sooner or later I will be sent back simply because I am technically a KGB officer.’
The most significant part of what he had to say was that his colleagues had recruited ‘hundreds’ of sympathisers who were already dedicated to Marxism!
Gamov reminded me of the principles of Communism. He talked to me of the writings of Frederick Engels in 1847.
He recited for me part of Karl Marx’s Manifesto of 1848 - Phase 1: A revolution must take place in order to overthrow the existing government. Marx had emphasised the need for total destruction of the existing system in order to move on to Phase 2 - A dictator or elite leader (or leaders) must gain absolute control over the proletariat. During this phase, the new government exerts absolute control over the common citizen's personal choices - including his or her education, religion, employment and even marriage. He reminded me how Lenin had followed those objectives.
Those revelations, which was in fact a lesson about Communism, really made me realise the wider world had more, much more to it, than I had hitherto appreciated. I’ve never forgotten what Gamov told me that night!
(Footnote: On 24 September 1971 the British Government expelled 105 Soviet diplomats and trade
delegation officials resident in the UK. In 1971, ministers told Prime Minister Edward Heath there
were at least 120 Soviet intelligence officers operating in Britain. They warned that this aggressive
espionage was doing considerable damage to British interests. The resultant probe, "Operation FOOT",
came to a head on 24 September 1971 when the government ordered 90 Soviet officials to leave the UK.
It also revoked the visas of a further 15 officials who were abroad at the time.)
Was I being accused of being connected with Spies? click here