Book review: The Forgotten Spy

HISTORY is littered with stories of famous spies — from Mata Hari to Philby, Maclean, Burgess and Blunt. 

Nick Barratt

Blink Publishing, €28.50

But few people have heard of the treachery practised by Englishman Ernest Holloway Oldham.

Before the Cambridge Five, as they were known (if you include Cairncross), rocked the British establishment, a deception just as damaging had come to light.

In the 1930s Oldham was the first of Stalin’s British moles, selling secrets to the Russians to feed a lavish lifestyle and a disastrous drinking habit.

The temerity of Oldham’s actions and the abject incompetence of the Foreign Office and the security services is laid bare here.

Genealogist Nick Barratt has made his name unearthing the family trees of numerous people, but for him, telling the tale of Oldham’s treachery was a very personal project.

His painstaking research has resulted in a fascinating read as he tells the story of his great uncle.

Barratt has spared none of the details, regardless of how painful they may be.


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