Guy Burgess at the BBC | The early career of the Cambridge spy
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BBC Internal Circulating Memo
Subject: Mr. Guy Burgess
From: C.(P) C. G. Graves [Controller Programmes]
To: C.(A) B. E. Nicolls [Controller Admin]
In a letter which I had from George Trevelyan this morning he writes as follows:
"I believe a young friend of mine, Guy Burgess, late a scholar of Trinity, is
applying for a post in the B.B.C. He was in the running for a Fellowship in
History, but decided (correctly I think) that his bent was for the great world
- politics, journalism, etc. etc. - and not academic. He is a first rate man,
and I advise you if you can to try him. He has passed through the
communist measles that so many of our clever young men go through, and is well
out of it. There is nothing second rate about him and I think he would prove a
great addition to your staff."
[Signed] C. Graves
December 5th, 1935
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Document Type | Internal Memo
05 December 1935
This internal memo from the Controller of Programmes, Cecil Graves, to the Administration Controller quotes from a favourable reference for Burgess by the eminent historian (and Graves' personal friend) Professor George Trevelyan. The academic correctly gauges Burgess' suitability for a journalistic role, but judges that his interest in communism has passed.
The period between 1933 and 1939 saw a great deal of political upheaval, from the Depression to the rise of fascism and the spread of communism. There was growing concern about the possibility of another world war, although fewer than 20 years had passed since the Great War in which over 13 million died. Young people in particular were questioning the existing political order. Interest in Marxism was widespread and, inevitably, academic environments were the places where such debate took place.
The relative merits of three Cambridge graduates are assessed by the university.
A Cambridge don provides a reference for Guy Burgess
An astute assessment of Burgess' strengths and weaknesses by his Cambridge University tutor.
Burgess is pursued for a photograph by an exasperated BBC administrator.
Burgess, as a BBC producer, advises Blunt about speaking on the radio
Burgess recounts his conversation with a mistrustful Churchill.
Burgess fails to clear his desk when he leaves the BBC.
Burgess forgets to sign his BBC staff contract and is unhappy with the salary offered.
The case of the locked door.
A concerned Director of Talks reports on his handling of Burgess and the locked door incident.
Burgess gives his version of events in the case of the locked door.
Burgess insists on travelling first class and claims for visiting the House of Commons.
A revealing insight into Burgess' working day from an exasperated administrator.
Alarm is expressed at Burgess' profligate use of BBC funds for entertaining MPs.
'MPs are expensive to entertain.'
Burgess' case for travelling first class is disputed.
Burgess persists with his claim for first-class travel.
His country needs him: Burgess is required for essential war work.
The head of the Talks Department is reluctant to let Burgess go.
Guy Burgess plans to leave the BBC to join the Foreign Office.
The manner and timing of Burgess' departure from the BBC causes concern.
A summary of Burgess' strengths, weaknesses and suitability for re-employment.
The BBC may have uncovered a clue to Burgess' recent movements.
The BBC and the Foreign Office are called to account for employing Burgess.
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