Konon Molody, better known by his Anglicized name, Gordon Lonsdale, was a famous Soviet intelligence operative in the United Kingdom during the height of the Cold War. Born in Moscow in 1922, Molody eventually made his way to Canada, and from there to England, under the alias of a deceased Canadian, Gordon Arnold Lonsdale.
Molody attended the University of London, where he set the stage for his spying career. During his time in England, he was an active member of the Portland Spy Ring, a Soviet espionage ring operable from the late 1950s until 1961 under the direction of the KGB. This notorious spy ring infiltrated the British government and gathered detailed information on Britain’s Royal Navy submarines and their missile systems.
One of the most famous operations Lonsdale was involved in was the theft of the technical details of the UK’s first nuclear submarine, the Dreadnought. He obtained this top-secret information through Harry Houghton, a low-level clerk with a habit of big spending. Houghton worked in the Underwater Weapons Establishment in Portland, where he had access to these classified documents.
Unfortunately, one of the significant consequences of his spy activity was his arrest in 1961. The operation was eventually uncovered, leading to the arrest of several key members of the spy ring, including Lonsdale. The trial that followed was widely publicized, culminating in a 25-year sentence for Lonsdale.
- Konon Molody was a Soviet spy who operated under the alias Gordon Lonsdale in England during the Cold War.
- He was part of the infamous Portland Spy Ring charged with infiltrating the British government.
- His operation successfully stole information about the UK’s first nuclear submarine, the Dreadnought.
- Lonsdale’s espionage activities eventually led to his arrest and a 25-year sentence in 1961.
1. What was the Portland Spy Ring?
The Portland Spy Ring was a Soviet espionage operation active in the United Kingdom during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The spies were charged with gathering information about the British Royal Navy and its nuclear submarine developments.
2. How was Lonsdale caught?
His capture came about when British Security Services noted the extravagant lifestyle of Harry Houghton, a low-level clerk. They started surveillance, and this led them to Lonsdale.
3. What happened to Lonsdale after his arrest?
Lonsdale served a few years of his sentence in England before being exchanged in a spy swap for Greville Wynne, a British spy caught in Russia, in 1964.
4. What did he do after being exchanged?
After his return to the Soviet Union, he was awarded the Order of Lenin and worked as a consultant to the KGB and later as a lecturer in foreign affairs.
5. Any significant contribution to espionage methods and techniques by Lonsdale?
Lonsdale significantly advanced the methodology of illegal clandestine communications. He was a pioneer in using microdots and invisible ink for secret communications, which later became standard practice in espionage.