Moments in Time

50 Years Ago - George Blake Escapes from Wormwood Prison

Fifty years ago, on 22 October 1966, after serving 5 years of a 42-year sentence, George Blake, former MI6 officer and Soviet spy, scaled the wall of Wormwood Scrubs prison on a ladder made from knitting needles.

Blake was helped over the wall by Irishman, Sean Bourke, and his onward journey was organised by two radical anti-nuclear campaigners, Michael Randle and Pat Pottle.

For almost two months, Blake hid in homes of people who agreed to help him. Then in late December 1966, Randle and his family concealed Burke in their car and drove him across the Channel to an East German border checkpoint where he then made his way to Moscow.

Blake's treachery destroyed most of MI6's operations in Europe, including Operation Stopwatch (US, Gold) - the Berlin spy tunnel. He was also instrumental in exposing P S Popov, the first GRU officer to offer his services to the CIA after World War II. Popov was executed in 1960.

His 42-year prison term was said to correspond to one year for each of the agents betrayed by his treachery. Six of them were MI6 agents imprisoned for up to 17 years inside East Germany, serving time in jails notorious for torture and psychological intimidation of inmates. One is now believed to have been taken to Moscow and executed.

Interviewed recently, Randle said, "I have no regrets." Pottle died in 2000. Bourke died in 1982. Blake, 94, lives like a hero with his Russian wife, Ida, in a dacha in a pine forest about 25 miles from Moscow.


Just two hours after meeting his KGB handler and handing over notes on the planned MI6-CIA tunnel in East Berlin, Blake walked to this London residential building and enjoyed supper with his mother. Picture: The Insider's Guide to 500 Spy Sites in London   George Blake lived in a one room apartment in the building at the end of this London street. Picture: The Insider's Guide to 500 Spy Sites in London


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The Assassination of CIA Man Richard Welch
The Yeti Conspiracy and the CIA
Checkpoint Charlie's Bay of Pig's