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The Enigma Spy

By John Cairncross

The Cambridge Five – the most infamous spy ring in British history. Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean were the four. But who was the fifth man?

John Cairncross, born 1913 in Scotland, was the brilliant scholarship boy who made it to Cambridge University. It was here that he met Blunt and was introduced into Communist circles.

He worked right at the heart of the British Establishment – and was thus the perfect target for the KGB. During the war he was among the elite group recruited to Bletchley Park, the ultra-secret British code breaking unit, where he had access to the communications of the German military. In 1944, he joined M16.

John Cairncross was under suspicion for a large part of his life but was never directly accused by the British state of spying. In this riveting memoir, first published in 1997, he tells his story.

He was trapped by Cambridge contemporary James Kluggman into helping the KGB – but he was determined to pass to the Russians only such information as he judged vital to help them defeat the Nazis. At Bletchley, he found a way to hand intelligence to his KGB handler, which enabled the Russians to defeat Hitler at the battle of Kursk.

John Cairncross expresses no liking for the Cambridge spies, who all belonged to a social class above his own. Nonetheless he is commonly assumed to be the fifth man of their ring. Readers can judge for themselves. What is in no doubt is the brilliance of his mind.

Enigma Spy is a fascinating, firsthand account of double dealing and espionage during the Second World War. This 2021 edition includes a foreword from Cairncross’ widow Gayle Cairncross Gow, who helped him to write and edit this memoir.

Praise for The Enigma Spy:
John’s memoirs document the prolonged and tortuous self-examination which led him in 1943, while at Bletchley Park, to pass to the Russians crucial information derived from Enigma decrypts about the strength and location of the Luftwaffe. These enabled the Red Army to win the battle of Kursk, which proved a turning point in the war’ – Gayle Cairncross Gow – The Guardian

‘Fascinating and enjoyable. A must-read for spy story lovers’ – Goodreads

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