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Russian Spies in Cold War Lincolnshire

Russian Spies and Saboteurs in Lincolnshire
Don’t panic folks, well not just yet anyway, we’re winding back the historical clock of Lincolnshire but not as far as normal.
I’m aiming for an investigation here so all aboard for the Cold War . . .

It’s a fact that part of the nuclear stand-off between Russia and the West involved the establishment of Communist sleeper units here in the UK which were intended to act as saboteurs in the event of a nuclear conflict or as a prelude to a nuclear strike by Russia - Red Fifth Columnists if you will.
Groups of British Communists ‘agents’, including member of the British Communist Party, Labour Party Members and Union Officials, were organized, trained and given appointed targets by Russian Agents.
These included military and air bases but also communications centres and anything logistically connected to the defence of the country in the event of attack.

Lincolnshire has long been at the heart of the Defence of the Realm for many a year and two World Wars.
Russian spy secret service MI6 MI5This naturally extended to the Cold War and the Nuclear Age.
There were extensive nuclear facilities of all kinds here in Lincolnshire so it seems an inescapable conclusion that given the two facts mentioned above almost surely merged - that is to say . . .

There must surely have been Communist Sleeper Groups here in Lincolnshire, organized and trained by the KGB and the GRU - the Russian Secret Service

MI5 have found buried transmitters near nuclear sites and uncovered agents, moles and activists who’ve confessed to being part of such cells.
Many had plans that involved meeting members of the Russian Navy who would supply explosive devices at secluded shore meetings.
It is also known that Russian Spies organized arms caches for these groups to access as and when instructed to.

I’ve tried to capture the spirit of things above, with enough known fact to give a proper overview but hopefully not droned on overly.

The interesting thing I’d like to get to the bottom of is . . .

What do know of anything directly connected to Lincolnshire.
Are there any references out there anywhere which connect Cold War Russian espionage and spies and places in Lincolnshire.
Does anybody have any anecdotal information or theories connected to this.
I know there are people who regularly visit the site who have served at Nuclear Air Bases during this period, I wonder what they may know or have been warned of.

I find this part of history truly fascinating, I hope some of you share it also, if not perhaps you’ll give it a chance or indulge me

Related: When I Lived as a Cold War Spy!


  1. minnie said,

    December 15, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    well I know there was a lot of interest in RAF Binbrook when it was active, and I had this from more than one source. I was told that some ’sensitive’ information was recovered from a vehicle with foreign occupants following a RTA in that area and I think that must have been late 70’s early 80’s.
    In the early 80’s I used to go up there quite a bit plane spotting, there used to be quite a few people around the crash gates especially in the summer. I think it would have been either summer 82 or 83 I was up at the Swinhope end and there was a young ?Belgian/ German chap up there with a tent. Maybe somebody else will remember him? He said he was visiting the country and hoped to be there a whole week. Seemed very friendly and extremely chatty, asked a lot of questions. Was a bit odd in that he didnt seem to have a vehicle anywhere or a pushbike but he did appear to have a lot of ‘luggage’ besides his tent, much more than you could carry in a rucksack. A few of us commented on that. Quite a few people had radios up there and used to ‘wig in’ on the air traffic chatter but his radio was a lot better than anybody elses. He had lots of photographic equipment and a seemingly endless supply of film. He shot so many pictures of a couple of lightnings chasing off a vulcan - I heard somebody say to him to ’steady up mate you will bust your camera’. He wasnt only interested in the flying aircraft tho, he was also taking photos of the decoys near the bomb dump (or maybe he wasnt?). I mentioned it to my dad when I got home and that I had promised to go up there again the next day and show him some of my ‘plane stuff’ as he seemed so keen, and was told by my dad not to bother. When I got back up there the next day he had gone - somebody said he had been moved on but I didnt find out anything else.

  2. Rod said,

    December 15, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

    wow !!!
    The chap in the tent may well have been East German :shock:
    This is already better than anything I’d hoped to hear Minnie, I know we shouldn’t jump to conclusions but given what you say . . .
    In appreciation,

  3. minnie said,

    December 15, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

    Well he spoke to plenty of people up there - very friendly, chatty fella. Somebody else must remember him even tho he was only there a day or two at most? I think he was called Christian or something like that. Seemed innocent enough, maybe just a bit odd but I know my dad wasnt too happy when I told him (he was ex RAF and had a few friends at Binbrook). Hadnt seen too many tents up there before I must admit (unless there was a show on and people were trying to dodge the rain!). Used to be crowd of regulars up there in the good weather it was very popular the swinhope end.

  4. Rod said,

    December 16, 2012 @ 7:51 am

    I’m not surprised your father was suspicious, that said I’m reading a lot of Cold War history at the moment and it could make you suspect your own mother, the things they did and the things that happened . . .

  5. Richard Oliver said,

    December 18, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

    I seem to recall that around 1975-80 someone stationed at RAF Digby was successfully prosecuted as a spy. Perhaps that will jog someone else’s better memory?! Since 1955 Digby has been a radio station rather than an ‘airfield’.

  6. Rod said,

    December 18, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

    now that is a lead - crikey!
    We’ve got to dig something up on this, thank you very much indeed

  7. minnie said,

    December 19, 2012 @ 9:34 am

    Yes I found that one when I was looking for details on the Binbrook RTA
    Chief Technician Douglas Britten 399 Signals unit RAF Digby sentenced in 1968 for passing information to the KGB

  8. Rod said,

    December 19, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    this is wonderful, not the traitor Britten of course, but the fact that we’ve now proved that the KGB had a presence in Lincolnshire, many thanks to Richard and Minnie

  9. Richard Oliver said,

    December 19, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    Interesting - in 1968 I was still very much at school, and I thought the prosecution was quite a time after I left - unless there was another!

    [This is probably one of those comments that can be discreetly deleted after a while to reduce site load!]

  10. Mike said,

    August 25, 2013 @ 7:36 am

    I was in the RAF at the time of the Britten case. Ch/Tech Douglas Britten was also a licennsed radio ham with the callsign G3KFL. He was approached on a visit to the Science Museum in London by a man purporting to be a fellow radio ham, and was asked if he could obtain a copy of the manual for the T1154/R1155 transmitter/receiver ( then obsolete in the RAF but was used in the Lancaster bomber in WW2, also in ground stations and air sea rescue boats)

    The manual was designated as AP2548A and was available to purchase from the Air Ministry by the general public. nevertheless, it was still marked ” Restricted” and it was an offence for RAF personnel to hand over a resrticted manual. Britten was secretly photographed handing over the manual and receiving £10 for it.

    Later he was again approached and shown the photographs, and “asked ” to co-operate, having been made aware of the offence he had committed. That is how Britten was recruted by the the GRU ( Soviet Military Intel!
    ligence )
    At that time, RAF Digby transmitted sensitive information with the use of codes requiring a code key ( secret numbers ).

    Britten was in a position to know thw the keys for for the codes in advance ( changed every so often ). He was passing those keys to the Russians, who were able to read our codes as a result.

    Once each month, a car bearing diplomatic plates left the Russian Embassy in London and headed North up the A1, police were informed but ordered not to interfere but to note the car’s passing. The car would would stop at a layby on the A15 near Lincoln where the occupants would alight and while one wandered into a nearby wood, the other would put the remains of their lunch into a litter bin.

    ( In fact, they were “servicing a ” Dead Letter Box ” …which turned out to be in the cleft of a tree in the woods, ( Britten would have left the information in there, the Russians picked it up and left a sum of money )
    Sometimes the Russians booked into the Grand Hotel in in Lincoln ( Now demolished ) unless a Russian ship happened to be in the docks at Grimsby, when they would go to a hotel there..

    Do not ask how I know all this…I will not tell you……….lets just say that I enjoyed my work for my country.

  11. Mike said,

    August 25, 2013 @ 7:37 am

    Further info regarding Douglas Britten………he was caught because of his greed, we wondered how he afforded his house,with no mortgage, and how he managed to send his children to a private boarding school on a Chief Techs pay. ( Ch/Tech is equal a Flight Sergeant )

    It was found that large sums had been payed into his bank account at regular intervals.
    He was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

  12. Rod said,

    August 25, 2013 @ 7:40 am

    stunning, absolutely stunning. I cannot thank you enough for this and welcome to the site.
    I’ve read it twice now, fantastic!
    In appreciation,

  13. Amiguru said,

    November 25, 2013 @ 9:04 pm


    The Russians weren’t always cold - ever heard of the

    Grimsby Turkish and Russian Baths Company Limited‘? :roll:

    Here’s a clue - Lower Burgess Street in Edwardian times…


  14. Rod said,

    November 26, 2013 @ 8:00 am

    I like the look of that, many thanks

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