On Tuesday 6 February, we were given an excellent and enthusiastic talk by Simon Kinder, deputy head at Gresham’s School, and a history teacher for 14 years. The advertised title had been “Four Closet Communists”, though the talk mentioned others also who eventually became spies; many of these had been educated locally.
Throughout the ages the north of Norfolk has been vulnerable to attack, from Elizabethan plans to build a fort to protect against the Spanish Armada to ‘on the ground’ spying activity for the Germans in WWII. In the lead up to WWII a Dutch-owned property company built, for supposedly Dutch settlers (actually working for the Third Reich), red-roofed barns, which subsequently turned out to be embryonic airfield buildings!
Amongst many other interesting details, Simon mentioned that since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the USSR had become a “bogeyman” for some western countries. In the 1930s, rather than embarking on routine spying activity the Russians targeted the young, idealistic young men at major British universities. Many recruited at Cambridge and Oxford had been educated at Gresham’s School in Holt — these included Burgess, McLean, Philby, Blunt & Cairncross, collectively known in the USSR as the “Magnificent 5”.
The talk was very well received and the audience’s questions were excellently fielded by Simon Kinder, who was thanked by the Chairman.