Audio Recording Released of Burgess Describing His 1938 Meeting With the Future Prime Minister Following Munich Agreement
The FBI has released an audio recording featuring the voice of Guy Burgess, one of the infamous “Cambridge spies”, describing a day in 1938 when he travelled to Chartwell to meet with Winson Churchill upon announcement of the Munich Agreement. The recording was made in New York just before Burgess defected to Russia in 1951. Professors Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert of City University London secured release of the tape from the US government. Prof. Purvis provided context for the recording when it was given over to Britain’s Channel 4 News. This is believed to be the first time that the voice of Burgess has been broadcast in Britain. To listen to the recording, please CLICK HERE.
Burgess was a BBC producer in 1938 who had been trying to persuade Churchill to give a half-hour talk about the Mediterranean. As a result of the Czech crisis, however, Churchill cancelled the talk but invited Burgess to Chartwell to speak with him. Burgess arrived around 11 AM on October 1, 1938. He and Churchill spent several hours together, and Churchill presented his guest with an inscribed copy of the latest volume of his speeches Arms and the Covenant. Soon after Burgess joined the British Secret Service and, in 1943, the Foreign Office.
After working in the British Embassy in Washington in 1950, Burgess escaped to Moscow along with Donald Maclean. Ultimately it emerged that the two were part of a quintet of Russian spies, along with Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross, who had been recruited to betray their country while students at Cambridge University. In 1956 Burgess was visited by Tom Driberg (later Baron Bradwell) who took down a verbatim note of Burgess’s recollections. These were published in a biography written by Driberg later that year. The section describing the visit with Churchill was re-published in 1977 by Martin Gilbert in the fifth volume of the Official Churchill Biography. This extract repeats most of what Burgess said in the audio recording made in 1951.
In the recording Burgess can be heard imitating Churchill’s voice as Churchill shows him a letter he has received from “Herr Beans”. This was Churchill’s way of referring to the President of Czechoslovakia, Eduard Benes (pronounced “Buh-nesh”). After he returned home Burgess wrote Churchill, “You alone have the force & the authority to galvanise the potential allies into action.”