#ColdWitch History Lessons Featuring The Witch Who Came In From the Cold

Czechoslovakian espionage in Cold War Australia

Even Australia had a big problem with Cold War spies.

Horace Allan Pile, a humble Australian electronics components salesman, made a surprising number of visits to the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) at Salisbury. Born in Colac, Victoria in 1923, he served as a Royal Australian Air Force radar technician during the Second World War, ultimately rising to the rank of sergeant. Against the backdrop of the Western wartime alliance with the Soviet Union, he also joined the Communist Party in 1943 while training at the Tocumwal Air Force Base in New South Wales. From there, things get a little complicated. His devotion to the cause, described by ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) informants as ”fanatical” and ”intense,” was such that he left his first wife, Kathleen, after she refused to join the party.

From about 1956 Pile began to withdraw from overt party activity. In early 1959 he resigned from the Painters and Dockers and took up employment with an electrical goods company, Gerard and Goodman. Two years later he became the Adelaide sales representative for a major electronic equipment and components supplier, Jacoby Mitchell, a leading supplier of electronic test equipment and instruments to the Weapons Research Establishment. As the firm’s South Australian salesman and technical adviser, Pile began to visit WRE on a regular basis in early 1961…
ASIO had numerous indicators of Soviet intelligence interest in WRE at Salisbury and Woomera Test Range. Australian Naval Intelligence had warned there was ”evidence of a Soviet submarine operating in South Australian waters” at the time of major missile firings at Woomera. There is also now evidence that Soviet bloc intelligence services did indeed obtain British missile secrets from Australia. The Soviet and Czechoslovakian intelligence services worked closely together from the mid-1950s with a particular focus on collecting intelligence on American and British weapons technology. Some years ago the Czech-Australian historian Peter Hubry accessed state security archives in Prague that indicated the Czechoslovakian consulate-general in Sydney reported intelligence on ”the most modern weapons”.
More recently, declassified Czech military archives indicate that Czechoslovakian intelligence obtained secret information from Australia in 1961-62 relating to the Bloodhound missile, an air-to-air missile codenamed Fireflash, and electronic test equipment used by British firms EMI and AVRO, both contractors at WRE. The Australian source is not identified, but the nature of the information is consistent with Horace Allan Pile’s contacts at WRE and the period of his visits.
Was Horace Allan Pile the spy? Regrettably, he never confirmed. However, there is a strong circumstantial case. Pile did have access, technical knowledge and motivation.

So, was he a spy? Read more about this unassuming operative and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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