Postcards containing Cold War spy messages unearthed

Postcards thought to contain coded messages sent from a Cold War spy to a MI5 boss have come to light.

Published: 7:00AM BST 24 Jul 2009

The messages are covered in cryptic text based around a series of chess games and were posted in 1950 to Graham Mitchell, the then deputy director general of MI5.

They were sent from what is thought to be an undercover agent in Frankfurt.

The German city was a hub of espionage activity at the time as it was well positioned for spying on both the East and West.

Experts believe the short memos could be code sent between spies during the Cold War.

But they are not sure which side the men may have been spying for as Mitchell was suspected of being a secret Soviet agent at the time.

Following a series of operation failures he was put under investigation along with the director general Roger Hollis.

He was even suspected as being in cahoots with the notorious Cambridge Five and was named by the Spycatcher author Peter White as a spy.

No evidence was found against them but Mitchell took early retirement in 1963 as a result of the investigation.

The postcards were found by a member of Mitchell’s household staff who kept them for more than 50 years.

They are now expected to fetch £1,000 when they are sold at auction on Monday.

The postcards were delivered to Mitchell’s address in Chobham, Surrey, were all sent from a Dr Edmund Adam in Frankfurt.

They are written on typewriters and dated throughout 1950.

Each of the messages revolves around chess, with a discussion of various moves and games written out in the text.

They each contain a series of numbers recognisable as chess moves, used by correspondents to play games at a distance.

One postcard, dated June 16, 1950 said: “Without against Dr Balogh I always have now hard fights in my games.

“Against Collins I have been fallen into a variation of the Nimzowich-defence who surely should be lost!

“I shall try to find a new idea for defending. But only a little hope. But all my games go forward in a quick way.

“Have I sent to you any games from me? And what happened in your games?

“9. ..5435 10. 1432 12.-16./6. 16./6. = od”

Gordon Thomas, author and expert on the history of MI5 and MI6, said chess moves were a common way of communicating during the Cold War.

He said: “Mitchell was head of counter-espionage at MI5 and would have been responsible for recruiting double agents with the aim of getting them into the KGB networks

“Frankfurt was a hub of activity for secret intelligence at that time, and was well and truly stocked by the agents of both East and West.

“This method of exchanging messages by postcards was well-known and very common.

“The Russians in particular favoured using chess as a method of communicating. It was a great national pastime and information would often be disguised as chess moves.

“There’s even a section about it in the KGB handbook.

“For example, one move could ascertain what was happening and another could give instructions.

“Agents would be trained to understand chess moves and Mitchell was quite a good chess player.

Here is the full article.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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