Donald Duart Maclean

Donald Duart Maclean

Infobox Person
name = Donald Maclean

image_size = 125px
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birth_name = Donald Duart Maclean
birth_date = birth date|1913|05|25
birth_place = Marylebone, London, England
death_date = death date and age|1983|03|06|1913|05|25
death_place = Moscow, Russia
death_cause = Heart attack
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Donald Duart Maclean (IPA2|məˈkleɪn; 25 May, 1913 Marylebone, London [GRO Register of Births:SEP 1913 1a 899 MARYLEBONE - Donald D. Maclean, mmn = Devitt] – 6 March, 1983 Moscow) was a British diplomat, and after having been recruited as a straight penetration agent while still an undergraduate at Cambridge, by the Soviet intelligence service, was one of the Cambridge Five, members of MI5, MI6 or the diplomatic service who acted as spies for the Soviet Union in the Second World War and beyond. His actions are widely thought to have contributed to the 1948 Soviet blockade of Berlin and the onset of the Korean War. As a reward for his espionage activities, Maclean was brevetted a colonel in the Soviet KGB.

Educated at Gresham's School, Holt, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was the son of the Liberal politician Sir Donald Maclean, who was Leader of the parliamentary opposition in the years following the First World War.

Childhood and school

Born in London, Donald Duart Maclean was the son of Sir Donald Maclean and Gwendoline Katherina Leonora Hope, Lady Maclean (a descendant of King Charles II of England). He was the grand-uncle of Rupert Everett. His father was Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons and Leader of the Opposition from 1918 to 1920. Maclean's parents had houses in London (later in Buckinghamshire) as well as in the Scottish Borders, where his father represented a constituency, but the family lived mostly in and around London. Like his father, Maclean was more English than Scottish. He grew up in a very political household, in which world affairs were constantly discussed.

At the age of thirteen, Maclean was sent as a boarder to Gresham's School in Norfolk"I Will Plant Me a Tree: an Illustrated History of Gresham's School" by S.G.G. Benson and Martin Crossley Evans (James & James, London, 2002)] , where he remained from 1926 until 1931, when he was eighteen. At Gresham's, some of his contemporaries were Lord Simon of Glaisdale, James Klugmann (1912-1977), Roger Simon (1913-2002), and the scientist Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin.

Gresham's was then looked on as both liberal and progressive. It had already produced Tom Wintringham (1898-1949) a Marxist military historian, journalist, and author. James Klugmann and Roger Simon both went with Maclean to Cambridge and joined the Communist Party at around the same time. Klugmann became the official historian of the British Communist Party, while Simon was later a very left-wing Labour peer.

When Maclean was sixteen, his father was elected for a constituency in Cornwall, and he spent some time there in school holidays.


From Gresham's, Maclean won a place at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, arriving in 1931 to study modern languages. While there, he joined the Communist Party. In his second year at Cambridge, his father died, and in his last year he was recruited into Soviet intelligence by Anthony Blunt, ultimately becoming one of the Cambridge Five.

At the Civil Service oral examination, Maclean was asked by one of those interviewing him (a conservative but from a lower class status than Maclean), whether he had favoured communism whilst a university student (a then very damaging fact if proven), the latter ostensibly because the Panel knew of a trip he had taken to Moscow on his second year at Cambridge.

Maclean's reply, calculated to lessen the panel's suspicions, as well as his own fear that his guilty conscience would betray him at the interview (become nervous, and what would be worse, show it, as he was already at the service of the Russian Intelligence Service), is a prime lesson on how "wishful thinking", on the part of interviewers, still carries the day, especially in this case as the person being interviewed is from an élite whose leftist leanings are usually considered unthinkable.Fact|date=September 2007

:"At Cambridge, I was initially favourable to it", he said, "but I am little by little getting disenchanted with it".

His apparent sincerity, which in fact appeased the members of the Panel, must have surely pleased Blunt to no end, involved as he was, from the start in coaching Maclean, prior to the examination, on how to avoid this and any other potentially incriminatory traps.

All of the Cambridge Five came from privileged backgrounds, and two of the others, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, were known to be homosexuals. It is sometimes stated that Maclean was, too, and Guy Burgess claimed to have seduced him, but it seems more likely that he was bisexual.Fact|date=August 2007

London and Paris

In 1934, after passing the Civil Service examination, Maclean started work at the Foreign Office in London. While there, he was under the operational control of GPU "rezident", Anatoli Gorsky. Gorsky used Vladimir Borisovich Barkovsky as the case officer for Maclean, himself an engineer capable of dealing with technical details.

Maclean was later posted to the British Embassy in Paris, where he was when the Second World War broke out. In 1940 he married the American-born Melinda Marling in Paris shortly before the Germans captured the city. They escaped to the coast and got back to England on board a Royal Navy warship.

Maclean continued to report to Moscow from London and signaled on 16 September 1941 that a uranium bomb might be constructed within two years through the efforts of Imperial Chemical Industries with the support of the British government. The project to build a uranium bomb was code-named Tube Alloys, sometimes shortened to Tube. Maclean sent Moscow a sixty-page report with the official minutes of the British Cabinet Committee on the Uranium Bomb Project. KGB Archives File number 13676, vol. 1.]


Maclean was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he served from 1944 to 1948, as Secretary at the British Embassy and, later, Secretary of the Combined Policy Committee on Atomic Development. For the Soviets, this was his most fruitful period, and he was Stalin's main source of information about communications and policy development between Churchill and Roosevelt, and then between Churchill or Clement Attlee and Harry S. Truman.

Although Maclean did not transmit technical data on the atom bomb, he reported on its development and progress, particularly the amount of uranium available to the United States. As the British representative on the American-British-Canadian council on the sharing of atomic secrets, he was able to provide the Soviet Union with minutes of Cabinet meetings. This knowledge alone gave the Soviet scientists the ability to predict the number of bombs that could be built by the Americans. Coupled with the efforts of Los Alamos-based scientists Alan Nunn May, Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall (who had been identified but was allowed to remain at large), Maclean's reports to his KGB controller helped the Soviets not only to build their own atomic bomb, but also to estimate their nuclear arsenal's relative strength against that of the United States.

Armed with this information, Stalin was able to conclude that the United States did not possess a sufficiently large stock of atomic weapons or bomb production capacity to attack the Soviet Union or its allies in either Europe or the Pacific in the near future. This knowledge played a central role in Stalin's decision to institute a blockade of Berlin in 1948, as well as his decision to extensively arm and train Kim Il Sung's North Korean army for an offensive war.


In 1941 Maclean was tentatively identified by Walter Krivitsky, a Soviet defector, who is rumored to have been assassinated by Soviet agents in the Bellevue Hotel in Washington, D.C., although the FBI states that "no information was ever uncovered to prove his death was anything other than suicide". [ [ FBI Krivitsky file] ] It was said that Krivitsky had claimed there was a mole in British intelligence who was "a Scotsman of good family, educated at Eton and Oxford [sic] , and an idealist who worked for the Russians without payment" Fact|date=August 2007.

Maclean's continual monitoring of secret messages between Truman and Churchill, and then between Truman and new British Prime Minister Clement Atlee, following the end of the war, allowed Stalin to know how the Americans and the British proposed to occupy Germany and carve up the borders of Eastern European countries. Stalin was forearmed with this information not only at the Yalta Conference in early 1945, but at the mid-1945 Potsdam and 1943 Tehran Conferences as well.

Maclean reported to Moscow that the goal of the Marshall Plan was to ensure American economic domination in Europe. The new international economic organization to restore European productivity would be under the control of American financial capital. The message revealed the Marshall Plan was intended to be a substitute for the payment of war reparations by Germany. At that time the Soviet Union had no export earnings, and war reparations were the sole source of foreign capital to rebuild the war torn Soviet economy. Yalta and Potsdam agreements allowed German reparations in the form of equipment, manufacturing machinery, cars, trucks, and building supplies to be sent to Russia for five years. The flow of goods was unregulated by international control, and could be used for whatever purposes the Soviets chose. Six months after the Marshall Plan was rejected by the Soviet Union, multiparty rule in Eastern Europe ended.

In 1948, Maclean was transferred to the British Embassy in Cairo. Undoubtedly, Maclean's information was very significant in assisting Stalin in his strategy for the Cold War.

Detection and defection

In 1949, Robert Lamphere, FBI agent in charge of Russian espionage, along with cryptanalysts working as part of the Venona project, discovered that between 1944 and 1946 a member of the British Embassy was sending messages to the KGB. The code name of this official was "Homer." By a process of elimination, a short list of three or four men was identified as possible Homers. One was Maclean.Shortly after Lamphere's investigation began, Kim Philby was assigned to Washington, serving as Britain's CIA-FBI-NSA liaison. As such, he was privy to the decoding of the Russian material, and recognized that Maclean was very probably Homer. He confirmed this through his British KGB control. He was also aware that Lamphere and his colleagues had found that the encoded messages to the KGB had been sent from New York. Maclean had visited New York on a regular basis, ostensibly to visit his wife and children, who were living there with his in-laws.

The pressure on Philby now began to grow. If Maclean was unmasked as a Soviet agent, then, were he to confess, the trail might lead to the other Cambridge spies. Philby, now in a very important position in his ability to provide information to the Soviets, might be implicated, if for no other reason than his association with Maclean at Cambridge. Concerned that Maclean would be positively identified, interrogated, and confess to MI5, Philby and Burgess concocted a scheme in which Guy Burgess would return to London (where Maclean was now the Foreign Service officer in charge of American affairs). Burgess would then warn Maclean of the impending unmasking. Burgess managed to receive three speeding citations in a single day.

Before Burgess left, Philby was explicit in his instructions to Burgess, in that he was not to defect with Maclean.

The Philby-Burgess plan was for Burgess to visit Maclean in his Foreign Office quarters, give him a note identifying a place where the two could meet - it was assumed that Maclean, now under suspicion and denied sensitive documents, had a bugged office - and Burgess would explain the situation. They met clandestinely to discuss Maclean's imminent exposure and necessary defection to Russia. Yuri Modin, the controller at the time, made arrangements for Maclean's defection. Maclean was in an extremely nervous state, and reluctant to leave alone. Modin was willing to serve as his guide, but KGB Central demanded that Burgess escort Maclean behind the Iron Curtain.

In the meantime, MI5 had insisted that Maclean be questioned. They had decided that he would be confronted with the FBI and MI5 evidence on Monday, 28 May, 1951.

On Maclean's 38th birthday, the Friday before the Monday when he was to be interrogated, Burgess and Maclean fled to the coast, boarded a ship to France, and disappeared. It is unknown whether Blunt learned of the impending questioning of Maclean, and warned Burgess; author Miranda Carter, in her award-winning 2001 biography of Blunt, "Anthony Blunt: His Lives", states that Burgess visited Blunt first, and that Blunt designed the escape plan for Maclean and Burgess; this is referenced to Modin's account and also confirmed in the 1999 book "The Mitrokhin Archive". It is possible that Burgess and Maclean had selected Friday to flee whatever the current circumstances. Both Modin and Philby assumed that Burgess would deliver Maclean to a handler, and that he would return. For some reason, the Russians insisted that Burgess accompany Maclean the entire way. Presumably Burgess was no longer useful to the KGB as a spy, but too valuable to fall into the hands of MI5. Author Miranda Carter writes that the Soviets had no intention of letting Burgess remain behind or return to England, as he was under enormous stress, and might have cracked under interrogation.

Life in the Soviet Union

Maclean, unlike the self-indulgent Burgess, assimilated into the Soviet Union and became a respected citizen, learning Russian and serving as a specialist on the economic policy of the West and British foreign affairs. He worked for the Soviet Foreign Ministry and the Institute of World Economics and International Relations.Maclean was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and the Order of Combat.

While living in Moscow, he spoke up for Soviet dissidents, and gave money to the families of some of those imprisoned. His American-born wife, Melinda, joined him in Russia with their children, but they separated and she moved in with Kim Philby in 1966. However, Philby was still married to his third wife, Eleanor, although separated from her, and the affair did not last. [ Philby, Harold Adrian Russell [Kim] (1912–1988), spy] by Nigel Clive in Dictionary of National Biography online (accessed 11 November 2007)] After it broke down, Melinda Maclean and the children returned to the United States.Ivanova, Rufina et al., "The Private Life of Kim Philby: The Moscow Years" (2000)]

Maclean died of a heart attack in 1983, at the age of sixty-nine. He was cremated and some of his ashes were scattered on his parents' grave in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Penn, Buckinghamshire, England.


* 1913 Born on May 25 in London
* 1926 to 1931 Attended Gresham's School in Norfolk
* 1931 to 1934 Read Modern Languages at Trinity Hall, Cambridge
* 1934 Recruited by the Soviet Intelligence Service
* 1934 Started work at the Foreign Office
* 1940 Married Melinda Marling while working at the British Embassy in Paris shortly before evacuation.
* Relocated to Washington as Secretary in the British Embassy. It was here that he had access to details of the atomic bomb program, eventually becoming the Secretary for the Combined Policy Committee on Atomic Development.
* As the pressure of his double life began to mount, he started to drink heavily and became an alcoholic
* 1941 Identified by Walter Krivitsky, a Soviet defector
* 1944 son Fergus born
* 1946 son Donald born
* 1948 Relocated to Cairo and promoted to Head of Chancery in the British Embassy
* After a drunken episode he was sent home to London to "recover" from his "nervous breakdown"
* 1950 Promoted to head the American Department in the Foreign Office. Here he had access to top secret information on the atomic development program
* 1951 daughter Melinda born
* 1951 Warned by Philby that he is under suspicion and will most likely be unmasked. Maclean and Burgess both defect to the Soviet Union
* Live in Kuybyshev [ [] Dead link|date=September 2008]
* 1956 They appear in Moscow, he is made a colonel of the KGB with a Moscow apartment and a dacha outside the city.
* 1963 Kim Philby defects to Soviet Union.
* 1970 Published "British Foreign Policy Since Suez, 1956-1968" (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1970)
* 1983 Died of a heart attack in Moscow on 6 March.
* Cremated; his ashes were later returned to England.
* 1983 The grandson of Donald MacLean marries the great-grand-niece of Guy Burgess in Dayton, Ohio (USA).
* 1985 His ashes were taken to Dayton, Ohio by his son, Ronald, where Ronald's family now lives.
* 2004 The great grandson and great great grand nephew Alexander Matthew Renick MacLean III becomes a joint military Intel Officer for the United States Army.Fact|date=August 2007


* Order of the Red Banner of Labour


Maclean was married to the American-born Melinda Marling in 1940. They had three children, Fergus, born in 1944, Donald, in 1946 and Melinda, in 1951. [ [,9171,818890-1,00.html Little Lost Lambs] (accessed 12 August 2007)] In 1965, Maclean's wife began an affair with Kim Philby and went to live with him in 1966. However, he later left her for a Russian woman, Rufina Ivanova, and Melinda returned to the US with her children.

Melinda Maclean is still alive and living in New York. [ [ "Kim Philby Was Here"] by Ambassador Richard Carlson and Buckley Carlson in "Foundation for Defense of Democracies" (accessed 12 August 2007)]

ee also

*Cambridge Five
*Kim Philby (1912–1988)
*Guy Burgess (1911–1963)
*Anthony Blunt (1907–1983)
*James Klugmann (1912–1977)
*John Cairncross (1913–1995)


Additional reading

* "Anthony Blunt: His Lives", by Miranda Carter, 2001.
* "The Mitrokhin Archive", by Christopher Andrew and Vasily Mitrokhin, volume 1, 1999.

External links

* [ Donald Maclean (BBC)]

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