Melita Norwood was a British civil servant and KGB intelligence source who, for a period of almost 40 years, supplied the Soviet Union with state secrets from her job at the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association. She is considered the most important British female spy of the Cold War.
Born in 1912, Norwood was a vocal communist from her youth, motivated by an idealistic belief in the potential for a socialist society. She began her spying career in the late 1930s, just before the beginning of World War II. Throughout her career, she handed over valuable information regarding the UK’s research into nuclear weapons, especially those details pertaining to the development of the atomic bomb.
One notable example of her activities is the data she provided to the Soviets about the Tube Alloys project – the codename for Britain’s nuclear weapons development program – which significantly accelerated the Soviet atomic bomb project.
The consequences of Norwood’s spying were significant. Her intelligence contributions potentially helped to alter the balance of power during the Cold War, advancing Soviet nuclear capabilities and, by extension, escalating nuclear tensions between the East and West.
Even after her retirement, Norwood continued to act as a KGB contact until she was finally exposed by defector Vasili Mitrokhin in the late 1990s. Despite this, she was never prosecuted due to her advanced age and the lack of contemporary evidence.
- Melita Norwood was a British civil servant who spied for the Soviet Union for nearly 40 years.
- She supplied the Soviets with information from her job at the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association.
- Norwood’s intelligence notably advanced Soviet nuclear capabilities during the Cold War.
- She was finally exposed by defector Vasili Mitrokhin in the late 1990s.
- Despite her actions, Norwood was never prosecuted due to her age and the lack of evidence.
1. What was Melita Norwood’s motivation for spying?
Melita Norwood was driven by a firm belief in communism, which started developing from her youth and stayed consistent throughout her life.
2. Are there any famous operations that Melita Norwood was involved in?
One significant operation involved the Tube Alloys project, which was Britain’s nuclear weapons development program. Norwood provided the Soviets with valuable intelligence about this project.
3. How did Melita Norwood’s actions impact the Cold War?
Her actions notably helped advance Soviet nuclear capabilities during the Cold War, potentially altering the power balance between the East and West.
4. Why wasn’t Melita Norwood prosecuted for her actions?
Norwood was never prosecuted due to her advanced age and the lack of contemporary evidence when her actions had come to light.
5. How long did Melita Norwood spy for the KGB?
Melita Norwood spied for the KGB for almost 40 years until her retirement but continued to act as a contact even after her retirement.