Key Stage: KS2 E, H; Age 8+
Author/Editor: Paul Dowswell & Fergus Fleming
Everyone liked Gordon Lonsdale – the handsome Canadian seemed to have friends all over London. In the late 1950s his face was familiar in the capital’s best clubs and restaurants, and his car, an expensive white model imported from America, made a splash in a country still recovering from the hardships of World War Two. He lived in a beautiful apartment block called “The White House”, just by Regent’s Park. Here, he gave extravagant parties and charmed a succession of girlfriends attracted to his dark good looks.
Behind the playboy image, though, Lonsdale was a hard-working businessman. He ran a company which leased jukeboxes, vending machines and car security equipment. His work took him all over the country. But there was yet another side to the playboy businessman – one that would have astonished every single girlfriend, business associate and restaurant owner who thought they knew him well. His real name was Konon Trofimovich Molody and he was a Soviet spy.
Molody had led an extraordinary life. He was born in Russia in 1922, but he had been sent to live with an aunt in California when he was only seven years old. Nine years later, he spoke English like a native. Returning to Russia in 1938, he joined the Communist Youth Movement and fought heroically during World War Two. When the war ended Molody was recruited by the KGB, the Soviet Union’s security service. He had a fanatical faith in his country’s communist ideology and a brilliant flair for languages – two major qualifications that would make him an ideal spy.
By the age of thirty two, he had reached the rank of commander and had been sent on numerous foreign missions. In 1954, with Cold War hostility between the Soviets and Western enemies such as the United States and Britain approaching a peak, he was given his most important mission yet.
A new form of warfare had developed after World War Two – submarines carrying nuclear missiles. Such vessels lurked unseen beneath the seas of the world. Impossible to track and destroy, they were capable of inflicting nuclear destruction on their nation’s enemies. Molody was to be sent undercover to Britain, to discover all he could about the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines, which were among the most advanced in the world. To do this he would have to establish contacts with other Soviet spies, and find members of the British armed services or government who would be prepared to sell him such secret information.
An assignment like this asked a great deal of an agent. Molody was now thirty three. He would have to leave everything he possessed in the Soviet Union behind him, and go to live in a foreign land as a total stranger. He was given a new identity and nationality – that of Gordon Lonsdale. There had been a Canadian named Gordon Lonsdale, but he had disappeared in Finland – possibly murdered – and his doctored passport, and past life history, was now in Molody’s hands. He was sent to Canada in 1954. After a year living his life there as Lonsdale, he arrived in Britain in March 1955. He was to play out his new identity extraordinarily well.
Gordon Lonsdale had two very good friends out in London’s western suburb of Ruislip – Peter and Helen Kroger. A quiet American couple in their 50s, they ran a business dealing in antique books. One time, friends on the street asked them to a dinner party. Helen arrived wearing a long black dress, and their hostess exclaimed: “Why Helen, you look like a Russian spy!” If she hadn’t been laughing so much at her own little joke, she would have seen the Krogers exchange a terrified glance. Helen Kroger was indeed a Russian spy, and so was her husband. Their house at 45 Cranley Drive was a major threat to British security.
Under the kitchen floor was a cavity containing a high-frequency transmitter and a high-speed tape recorder for sending coded messages at more than 240 words a minute. An internal 23m (74ft) antenna stretched into and around the attic. In the sitting room was a radio which could receive signals from anywhere in the world. Beside it stood a typewriter, tape recorder and some headphones. The bathroom could be converted into a photographic darkroom, complete with a gadget for making and reading microdots – a technology which could reduce large photographs to a size smaller than a pinhead.
There were surprises everywhere. A copy of the Bible in the sitting room concealed light-sensitive cellophane for making microdots. In the bedroom was a microscope for studying them. Rolls of microfilm were hidden in a hipflask. In the bathroom, a container of powder unscrewed to reveal a microdot reader rather like a small telescope. A large cigarette lighter on the table concealed a secret compartment full of coded messages.
I rather enjoyed this book. It was full of interesting snippets and stories about famous spies of our time. I found it a very interesting and fun read. I would recommend it to people who like crime and mystery.
Teen Titles - reviewed by high school student Harrison Macleod-Bonnar
Recommended in the list of top ten thrillers to encourage boys to read.
Telegraph Newspaper 23 July 2008