Short read: On the Spy Trail
Long read: “Espionage was the hot end of the cold war…” Spies’ London is Ian Fleming’s James Bond and John Le Carre’s George Smiley. But it’s also the London of the genuine article, where for over 40 years Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Blunt and the mysterious fifth man infiltrated the British and American security services and spied for the Soviet Union. This walk takes us into that hole and corner, cloak and dagger London – into the secret places of that murky nether-world. Here we venture into the covert London of MI5, MI6, and the American O.S.S., the progenitor of the CIA. Here we close in on the American Soviet agent who finally confessed and unveiled the “Cambridge Ring”. Here we pinpoint the “dead letter box” and unmask the fifth man. Here, in Spies’ London, fact really is stranger than fiction. Guided by Richard IV or Sue or Richard Walker.
SPIES & SPYCATCHERS’ LONDON – THE PRACTICALS
Meet guides Richard IV or Richard Walker or Sue just outside Piccadilly Circus Tube, Exit 4 (between the world-famous Eros statue and the Criterion Restaurant canopy). The walk ends in Curzon Street, very near Green ParkTube Stop.
LONDON WALKS REVIEWS
“There are 20 of us listening, rapt, as we stand outside The Economist building in London’s West End, one of the stops on London Walks’ Spies & Spycatchers tour – a great way to see some of the real locations from Britain’s cloak-and-dagger past. We’d already heard from our guide how to evade surveillance when eating at a restaurant, seen where Ian Fleming was arrested on suspicion of being a German spy during the Second World War; and learnt, outside Eisenhower’s wartime headquarters, about the founding of the US secret intelligence service, the OSS. In leafy squares and quiet mews, we’d been regaled with the near-fictional but real-life adventures of one of history’s master-spies, Sidney Reilly, and had heard about the early days of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, headed by Sir Mansfield Cumming: “eccentric even by Royal Navy standards”. The two-hour walk, which leaves from Piccadilly tube station at 2.30pm prompt every Saturday afternoon, incorporates an entertaining blend of espionage fact and fiction. Bond, of course, is firmly in the latter category.” On the Spy Trail by David Hughes, The Telegraph
“The original and best – there are several companies offering walking tours of London but London Walks (London’s oldest) is easily the pick of the bunch” London, Cadogan Guide
LONDON WALKS PRIVATE WALKS
If you can’t make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, public Spies’ & Spycatchers’ London walk do think about booking one as a private tour. If you go private you can have the Spies’ & Spycatchers’ London walk – or any other London Walk – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We’ll tailor it to your requirements. And – always with private London Walks and tours – we go to great lengths to make sure the guide-walker(s) “fit” is well-nigh perfect. Ring Fiona or Noel or Mary on 020 7624 3978 or email us at [email protected] and we’ll set it up and make it happen for you. A private London Walk – they’re good value for an individual or couple and sensational value for a group – makes an ideal group or educational or birthday party or office (team-building) or club outing. Or indeed a fab present – be it a birthday or anniversary or get-to-know-your-new neighbourhood gift or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that’s special. Memories make us rich.
LONDON WALKS SOUPÇON
“Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming, who founded what became MI6 in 1909 and ran it until his death in 1923, was the stuff of which fictional spymasters are made. He carried a swordstick, wore a gold-rimmed monocle and possessed a “chin like the cut-water of a battleship”. He had an “eye for the ladies” and took children for rides in his personal tank. He enjoyed gadgets, codes, practical jokes and tall tales. Cumming was so pleased to discover that semen made a good invisible ink that his agents adopted the motto: ‘Every man his own style.’ When his Rolls-Royce crashed in France in 1914 and his leg was nearly severed, he allegedly completed the amputation with a pocket-knife so that he could crawl over to aid his dying son. Afterwards, Cumming propelled himself round Whitehall on a child’s scooter. And he tested potential recruits by stabbing his wooden leg through his trousers with a paper- knife. If the applicant winced, C said: ‘I’m afraid you won’t do.’ Cumming attracted myths as a statue attracts bird-droppings (another useful source of invisible ink).” Piers Brendon