Guy Liddell, CB, CBE, MC

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Guy Maynard Liddell

Birthdate: (66)
Death: December 3, 1958 (66)
Immediate Family:

Son of Augustus Frederick Liddell and Emily Shinner
Brother of Cecil Frederick Joseph Liddell and David Edward Liddell

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About Guy Liddell, CB, CBE, MC

Guy Maynard Liddell, CB, CBE, MC (8 November 1892 - 3 December 1958) was a British intelligence officer during World War II.

Early life & career

Liddell was a distant relation of Alice Pleasance Liddell, the child friend of Lewis Carroll and the basis for the books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.

Liddell was a talented cellist in his youth and was studying in Germany for a career as a professional musician when World War I began. During the conflict, he served with the Royal Field Artillery and was awarded the Military Cross.


After the war, Liddell joined Scotland Yard where, in liaison with Special Branch and the Foreign Office, he was involved in breaking a spy ring based around the All Russian Cooperative Society in London.

Liddell joined MI5 in 1927, where he became an expert on Soviet subversive activities within the UK and recruited agents, including his private secretary Dick Wright, and future head of B5(b) Maxwell Knight, in preparation for possible war with Germany.

World War II

Following the outbreak of World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill sacked Director-General of MI5 Vernon Kell and Liddell was promoted to Director of B Division in charge of counter-espionage.

Shortly after the new appointment, he was informed by Knight of a suspected German spy ring based around the Right Club of Archibald Ramsay and involving American cipher clerk Tyler Kent.

Liddell met with U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who agreed to waive Kent’s diplomatic immunity and he was successfully prosecuted, along with his handler, Anna Wolkoff.

Liddell’s agent, Duško Popov, provided an Abwehr questionnaire about Pearl Harbor. Popov was sent to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who refused to take him seriously. Liddell was later criticised for not informing the Office of Naval Intelligence.

Later career

Liddell was expected to succeed Director General of MI5, David Petrie, but was passed over when Home Secretary Herbert Morrison was informed by Ellen Wilkinson of rumours that he might be a double agent.

These rumours were exacerbated when his close friend Guy Burgess defected. Liddell was also a known associate of other members of the Cambridge Five spy ring, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt.

Liddell died of heart failure in 1958 and was buried at Putney Vale Cemetery. In 1979, Goronwy Rees confessed to having been a Soviet spy, and named Liddell as the Fifth Man.

Papers released since have all but completely cleared Liddell of the charge, with the general academic consensus being that he was naïve in his friendships with some of his work colleagues.

Wartime diaries

Military historian Rupert Allason, writing under the nom de plume of Nigel West, has edited Liddell’s wartime diaries for publication in two volumes.

West, Nigel (2005-02-04). The Guy Liddell Diaries: 1939-1942 v. 1. Frank Cass Publishers (hardcover). ISBN 978-0415352130.

West, Nigel (2005-06-09). The Guy Liddell Diaries: 1942-1945 v. 2. Routledge (hardcover). ISBN 978-0415352154.

In popular culture

Liddell was portrayed by Angus Wright in the 2003 BBC Television drama Cambridge Spies.

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Guy Liddell, CB, CBE, MC's Timeline

November 8, 1892
December 3, 1958
Age 66