Did the fifth man hand the A-bomb secret to Russia?
In his autobiography, published last year, two years after his death, Cairncross admitted spying for the Russians but said he had only helped them in their fight against Hitler.
But KGB files, made available to Rupert Allason, the former Tory MP who is also known as the author Nigel West, demolished his claims. They show that he handed over British atomic secrets, betrayed the identities of British agents, and was well paid by the Russians for his spying.
The files contain a memorandum by Pavel Fitin, the KGB's head of intelligence, on Enormoz, the Soviet programme for obtaining Allied atomic secrets.
"The first material on Enormoz was received at the end of 1941 from John Cairncross," it notes. "This material contained valuable and highly secret documentation, both on the essence of the Enormoz problem and on the measures taken by the British government to organise and develop the work on atomic energy.
"This material formed the point of departure for building the basis of, and organising the work on, the problem of atomic energy in our country."
The revelation yesterday prompted Teddy Taylor, Tory MP, to table a parliamentary question for Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, asking for the "full facts". He said: "This is an issue of the utmost urgency and it raises the most alarming suspicions about what went on in our intelligence services at this critical period in our history."
Allason has co-authored his book, The Crown Jewels, with Oleg Tsarev, a former KGB officer who works as a consultant to the KGB's successor, the SVR. "I have had to rely on him for the Russian documents," Allason said yesterday.
But, he added, there was no secret Russian agenda. "They are proving that they're a democracy - that they've got declassification, and they are more open than we are."
Other historians were more sceptical. Donald Cameron Watt, an emeritus professor of international history at the London School of Economics, said: "This is an indication, not so much of what happened, as what the KGB wants us to believe happened."
Cairncross was born in 1913 near Glasgow; his father was an ironmonger. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met Anthony Blunt, another member of the Cambridge ring.
The files show that Blunt introduced him to fellow Moscow sympathiser Guy Burgess, who made an assessment of the young Scot for the KGB. Cairncross was later recruited by Andre Deutsch, or Otto, the KGB officer running the Cambridge ring.
Cairncross, or agent "Liszt", supplied his most valuable information when he was secretary to Lord Hankey, minister without portfolio in the Churchill government, who had special responsibility for the intelligence services and for atomic research.
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
Justin Bieber posts Instagram photo of Orlando Bloom crying after Ibiza fight 'over Miranda Kerr'
Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
- < Previous
- Next >
£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...