John Alexander Symonds
“I'd say: ‘join the KGB and see the world’ - first class. I went to all over the world on these jobs and I had a marvellous time. I stayed in the best hotels, I visited all the best beaches, I've had access to beautiful women, unlimited food, champagne, caviar whatever you like and I had a wonderful time. That was my KGB experience. I don't regret a minute of it ...”
KGB Romeo Spy Part 9 - Beginner's Luck
This is the story of John Alexander Symonds life. The draft book was circulated to about 200 publishing houses and several showed an interest in offering it to the public.
Unfortunately the D-Notice Committee made objections to some of the contents on the grounds of National Security and so the book was never published.
The book is now published in its entirety on this website for the first time.
INDEX to my Biography
Slunchen Bryag, on the Black Sea, Bulgaria 1973
Even before lunch Nina and I were losing our inhibitions, pretending to rip each other’s clothes off, but after all the brandy and champagne we were both champing for whatever action might happen later in the day. We already knew what that would be, but a rite of seduction still had to be performed, to elevate our encounter above animal lust to the heights of romantic passion.
So I offered to take her for an afternoon drive to the monastery ten miles outside town along the coast. A monastery? What kind of turn-on could that be, you may ask, but this was a monastery with a difference and, to reach it, I had been given a luxurious ‘company car’ and a chauffeur (both hired by me, she assumed). Soon we were whisking past rickety old Lada taxis up the mountain road until we were soaring high above the smooth waters of the Black Sea, towards the vineyards which were the monastery’s main attraction at a time when Bulgaria was ruled by a godless Communist regime. On most days any ordinary visitor may sample its vintages but when we arrived almost the entire community turned out to greet us like VIPs. It was apparent that the brothers had been tipped off that we were coming and instructed to make a big fuss. They plied us with so many glasses filled with red wines of every hue, from pale amber to rich ruby red, that by the time we set off back to town we were feeling very merry. On the way down, in the vast space of a back seat fit for the state president, I had an idea to try my luck. I reached out and we touched hands. Then she placed her hand on my knee, assertively, and kept it there.
Back at the hotel our chauffeur decanted us and without a word, Nina came with me to my room. When I opened it I had a most pleasant surprise. No longer merely a hotel room - even a five star one - it had been transformed into a palace of seduction.
There were flowers all over. There were chocolates. There were plate-fulls of the local fluffy delicacy, known as Nun’s Bosoms, and consisting of a light sponge with a cherry on top. And of course there was even more drink, gallons of it. More champagne, more brandy - a Moldavian brand cheekily named Napoleon - and the best wines from Hungary.
Then on came the music. Until this point the speakers in my room had pumped out nothing but state radio broadcasts of galumphing folk dance orchestras and military bands, interspersed with news of booming production figures from the federation of socialist tractor co-operatives. But now they were playing that French ditty, “Je T’Aime, Moi Non Plus”, which I had never heard before because, when I was last in England, it had been banned for its explicit lyrics. They were entirely appropriate for this occasion, I admit, but even I was shocked by the orgasmic grunts and sharp intakes of breath from Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. Of course, the record did the trick. Suddenly Nina came on to me. I could see she was ready: glistening eyes, wide dilating pupils, and such shallow gasps. She was up for it, desperate for it, as we both approached the climax of a two day courtship. She was ripe, I was ready, as now we really dig drag off each other’s clothes, fall into each other’s arms and make love.
It had all happened as if we were starring in a steaming hot movie. And maybe we were starring in a movie. After all, if my KGB handler had gone to the trouble of laying on the flowers, booze and Nun’s Bosoms, they might have installed hidden cameras as well. If so, then anyone watching this encounter may have concluded that I was sex-starved. My first burst of love-making was a torrent of ejaculation which must have both astonished Nina and disappointed her. But any voyeurs may also have rated me virile, for I came back half a dozen times.
Such enthusiasm on my part was entirely down to Nina, though I’m far from sure I satisfied her. If I had performed more skilfully the first time, I might have given her more pleasure than I did by repeatedly returning to the scene of the crime thereafter. But if we really were being observed, and my repeated revivals were winning me ever higher marks from my KGB umpires, it was all down to Nina. She made me look good. She was such an accomplished lover, she would have made anyone look good. If I now appeared to be Romeo, or even a Super Romeo, it was she who had been the leader, the initiator of every action. For me this was an exceptional experience, this was the Fuck of the Century. Yes, it was thoroughly normal straight healthy sex with a normal straight healthy woman, but nothing I did later throughout my Romeo career ever quite matched that first time.
Sure, in the service of the Kremlin, I would later enjoy far more extraordinary sex with even more beautiful women, I would have scores of bizarre encounters in the weirdest places with girls who could have graced the catwalks of Milan and the covers of magazines, but at that point in my life Nina took the biscuit - or rather the Nun’s Bosoms - for novelty, initiation and enthusiasm.
And so that first night, whether the cameras were turning or not, we rested every so often and then made love again. We behaved quite straight. After all, we were just getting to know each other. Stuffing each other not just with each other but with all those chocolates, that champagne and that wine the Hungarians call Bull’s Blood. I had never tasted it before and I told Nina I greatly enjoyed it. How apt, she murmured, patting me on the head and calling me ‘El Toro’, perhaps by way of commenting on the way I had performed, not on this occasion in a china shop but in her fine porcelain body.
So, after that delirious bucolic trip to the country, we had broken down the barriers, and established a strong sexual relationship. And over the next few days we spent our daylight hours walking on the beach and in the woods, hand in hand, arms around each other, like young lovers. She cast aside her earlier inhibitions about expressing affection in public and repeatedly wrapped herself around me without caring who might see us. And during the nights we were into more sex, rapidly progressing to activities which were a novelty to me but which I hugely enjoyed. For instance, after coming three times I may not have been standing to attention - forgive my soldier’s way of expressing myself - so she took such expert oral care of me that my erection rapidly revived. Neither my wife nor any of my previous girlfriends had gone in for that stuff. I’m not saying Nina was the first to suck it - I had a nurse who had done nothing else - but this was my first truly uninhibited sexual experience.
I’m sure it was my performance with Nina which got me hired as a Romeo Spy, a job I kept up for the next seven years. Yes, I had won the part through Nina, although my audition notes would have read: virile but inept.
It was a dream début but I’m under no illusions that the entire show had been controlled. First we had been despatched to get drunk with those monks, next the bedroom had been transformed into a Venetian whorehouse, then Je T’Aime incited us to unrelenting lust. And all the while through the window, we could see the beach and the Black Sea immediately below our balustrade, as if with just one bait on a rod, we could catch our dinner.
In truth, we were the dinner. Each of us was bait for the other, and we both ended up in the cooking pot. Not that Nina knew this, either then or ever - unless she reads this. Even I had only the slightest inkling of what it was all about and I had no idea of what it would become but the sex was only the start of it. What really mattered was what we did in between the gourmet meals, the champagne, the sun, the beach, the walks, and throughout those hours while we waited for the desire to come again. And that was... talk. She told me all about her life, her childhood, her marriage, her husband, her children. She kept on telling me she was very, very happy. And so, naturally, I had to ask her, why was she on holiday alone?
That’s when Nina told me all about her husband’s total preoccupation with something at work. It must have been something pretty important, otherwise why hadn’t he come with her to Bulgaria when the offer of a seaside holiday with her tourist courier girlfriend had come up. No chance of him getting away, but he had said he was all in favour of her getting a break.
Nina then went on to tell me that he worked for a secret organization, which was involved in keeping observation on the entire staff of Willy Brandt, then Federal Chancellor of West Germany. She said they had discovered there was a spy in Brandt’s office who was leaking state secrets that ended up in Moscow, but they did not know which person was that spy. She also told me that the spy’s existence had been confirmed through information fed back from Moscow by a spy working for British intelligence. Nina said her husband was really grateful to Britain. And here was I fucking his wife.
She had told me the bare bones of the story even before we did any fucking, but once we had become lovers she confided specific details. She explained that her husband was not a security or intelligence officer himself. Instead he was in the bureaucracy of Willy Brandt’s political party, the Social Democrats (SPD). He was also working for something called the East-West Reunification Committee, which had outraged Moscow. The Russians had said that the mere existence of any organization dedicated to re-unifying East and West Germany was contrary to the Potsdam Agreement, which had cast the frontiers of central Europe in bronze after World War Two.
This rigidity had obliged the East-West Reunification Committee to go underground but it had vast amounts of money, including plenty to pay West Germany’s security services to conduct a vast investigation into every one of the hundreds of people working within the Chancellery, just to find this spy. Nina told me that these millions of marks could only be handed to the secret service on his signature. By the time she had come to Bulgaria for this break, the suspects had been narrowed down to just two: a middle-aged female secretary close to Brandt, and a male secretary who was even closer to the Chancellor and whom Nina described as a thorough workaholic. Spies or not, both these people must have been vetted several times to be allowed to reach and remain in positions of such sensitivity.
Of course to Nina I was just a holiday romance so I could not display too great an interest in her tale, even though its implications for the KGB were immense. She was spilling out all this priceless intelligence not in a formal interrogation but in idle post-coital - or pre-coital - chat. Even so, after our second night together, I did get her to reveal that her husband had mentioned the name of the male suspect but at the time she was distracted by serving dinner or doing the dishes and could not remember it. She did recall that it was a strange name, not of German origin. Later, all of a sudden, it came back to her. Guillaume. Gunther Guillaume.
Day by day, I had been reporting what Nina was saying back to my KGB handler, Nick. At first he pretended to be scarcely interested, then he encouraged me to find out more, and when I told him these last highly specific details, he suddenly announced that he was going to Moscow. When I next saw him, a week later, he confirmed what I already suspected. Through seducing Nina I had gathered ‘intelligence’ of such significance that it had set the KGB in turmoil. I had given its boss, Yuri Andropov, Russia’s future president, advance warning that one of international Communism’s best placed agents was about to be uncovered but it was still not too late to get him out of West Germany and bring him ‘home’.
As it turned out, Gunther Guillaume was left in place and was eventually captured, in a scandal which would bring down Chancellor Brandt himself. This was neither Moscow’s fault nor mine. Indeed, later when I went to Moscow, Andropov thanked me in person for my efforts and accorded me one of the KGB’s highest honours. I had become one of Russia’s most valuable roving assets.
Meantime on Nina’s last full day in the resort we made love a few more times. By now she had become even more daring, demanding to make love in the pine forest, which we did. By this time we were ‘in love’. Both of us. And we promised to keep in touch, to write to each other, and so she gave me her full name and her home address, in Bonn. She said she was very glad to have met me but stressed that she still loved her husband. There was no question of her abandoning her marriage, although another holiday romance with me would be fine. We both agreed that on no account was I to barge in on her marriage.
On her last morning I took her down to the coach and kissed her goodbye. Even before the coach had disappeared, I was aching for her. Did I feel remorse for betraying her pillow talk? Not really. I compartmentalised my feelings. There was a box marked ‘love’, or ‘lust’ perhaps, and a box marked ‘survival’, alongside another marked ‘revenge’. But I did wonder, while we made love time and again, how had I come to this. What extraordinary circumstances had brought me, in a little over twelve months, from being a staunchly patriotic London policeman to becoming an agent of the Soviet Union? How had I, a former British army officer, from a family that had served the Empire for over a century in far-flung outposts often at great danger, sunk to shagging another man’s wife for Mother Russia?
That I had shagged to such great effect was Beginner’s Luck. How I would maintain my usefulness to Moscow for another seven years owed more to stamina, dedication and imagination than just happening to hit it off with a vulnerable German tourist. When someone told Gary Player he was a lucky golfer, Player replied, “Yes, I am lucky, but the funny thing is, the more I practise, the luckier I get”.
Working for Russia I would have a lot of practice, and a lot of luck. That’s what made me the most successful Romeo Spy in the history of the KGB.
The real James Bond was an Englishman. The trouble was, he was working for the other side.
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