The Anthony Courtney affair….
The Cold War produced many casualties and I am particularly fascinated by the stories which show how the ‘games’ our intelligence services played affected so many. In an environment where the truth became so twisted those implicated in blackmail such as Commander Anthony Courtney (1908-1988) must have felt they were given a life sentence. In Courtney’s case he was finished before he truly started.
Anthony Courtney, a retired Royal Navy Commander was the Conservative MP for Harrow East. As a boy he had become immersed in Russian culture through his father who had considerable business dealings with the country during and after World War One. During his early naval career he had been given leave to spend nine months studying Russian in Romania before being assigned to Naval Intelligence and their Russian section. Following a successful naval career he resurrected his father’s business ties in Russia and other Eastern Bloc countries.
In 1957 his wife died of a heart attack, they had been married for twenty three years. Two years later he met a female member of the Intourist staff at the hotel he was staying in. The affair, which had been initiated by her was pleasant and lasted until 1961 when it came to an amicable end. Courtney married Lady Elizabeth Trefgarne a year later and became an MP who was outspoken against the Soviet Union and critical of British Intelligence and their handling of the spies Blake and Vassall in particular.
Four years after his affair with ‘Zina’ (Zinaida Grigoryevna Volkova) the KGB produced a leaflet containing photographs of him having sex with the unidentified Zina. This leaflet, designed to imply the affair was adulturous was sent to his wife, his stepson, MP’s, newspaper editors and the Conservative leader Alec Douglas-Home. The KGB urged him to quit but he did nothing save going to see Roger Hollis of MI5 who considered the photographs to be fake. The satirical magazine Private Eye ran the story despite knowing he was a widower at the time of the affair, it was bad news for Courtney, despite surviving a vote to deselect him he lost his parliamentary seat in 1965, his marriage broke up two years later and his business interests collapsed.
It is remarkable how effective the so-called ‘honey-traps’ were and how gullible men who should have known better were, but the fact that this stuck on Courtney despite evidence to the contrary shows why the KGB and East Germans in particular used the method as often as they did.
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