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Konon Molody Konon Molody

22 April

On April 22, 1964, Soviet spy Konon Molody, aka Gordon Lonsdale, was exchanged for British spy Greville Wynne, captured by the Soviet Union.

Molody arrived in London in March 1955. His mission, as instructed by the Soviet Committee of State Security, was to gather information on British and American air force bases, as well as to obtain data regarding the latest developments in atomic engines on British submarines, and creations of biological weapons. He disguised himself as a Canadian businessman under the name of Gordon Lonsdale.

Lonsdale quickly naturalized, and within a couple of years had a successful business trading vending machines and producing car alarms. His bank account was growing on a daily basis, and he soon became a millionaire. An electronic lock invented in one of Lonsdale’s enterprises in 1960 on an exhibition in Brussels was awarded a gold medal. Not long before his arrest, Queen Elizabeth II granted Lonsdale the title of 'Sir' for “successes in business development for the good of the United Kingdom”.

In London, the Soviet agent lived a very social life style. He was known in the best clubs of the city, he traveled the country supposedly for business, and made much-needed connections. He became friends with Peter Kroger, who was an American spy for the Soviet Union, as well as Harry Houghton, a clerk at a secret British naval base. Houghton had access to secret documents, and in the course of two years, he sold them to Lonsdale. These documents subsequently saved the USSR several billion dollars on the development of weapon systems.

Lonsdale was arrested on the January 7, 1961 along with some of his associates. Western intelligence services did not know completely who he was, until the exchange. Konon refused to reveal his true identity.

Molody described his trial in his book called Spy: Memoirs of Gordon Lonsdale - “…then in accordance with the English legal procedures, Detective Superintendent George Gordon Smith had the next statement: ‘We could not determine his real identity. But in my opinion he’s Russian…a Soviet spy…’ I was the first to be sentenced by the judge Lord Parker, who stated that ‘It is evident that you, Lonsdale, are a spy. This is a dangerous profession, and you have to be ready for serious consequences if detected. You are sentenced to prison for 25 years!’”

The legal process was covered by more than 200 journalists. Accompanying the front headline of the English 'Daily Sketch' was a photograph of Lonsdale sitting on a bench in Hyde Park. Underneath the photograph in large bold letters was written “Who is this man?”

In the meantime, the USSR had captured and sentenced a British spy, Greville Wynne, as the contact for Oleg Penkovsky, the Soviet intelligence officer who was engaged in selling arms and weapons secrets to British intelligence. An exchange plan was negotiated, and the two spies were swapped at an air force base in West Berlin. 

Gordon Lonsdale was portrayed by William Sylvester in the movie Ring of Spies (1964) directed by Robert Tronson, also starring Bernard Lee. Another spy film by Savva Kulish based on Lonsdale’s story was Dead Season (1968).

Konon Molody died of a heart attack on September 9, 1970 at the age of 48. He was buried in the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow.