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William John Christopher Vassall (1924-1996), Soviet spy

Sitter in 1 portrait
Vassall was an RAF photographer during the Second World War, who in 1946, worked as a clerk in the Admiralty. In 1954 he was appointed assistant to the British naval attaché in Moscow, where he was blackmailed by the KGB for his homosexuality. On return to London in 1956 he was assigned to the Admiralty's Naval Intelligence Division. He provided the Soviets with thousands of classified documents. Promoted in 1959, he conveyed Admiralty secrets concerning radar, torpedoes, and anti-submarine devices. The defection of Golitsin in 1961 gave the CIA information about Soviet agents in the West. In 1962 he was arrested and confessed. In October 1962 he was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment and released in 1972.

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6552

William John Christopher Vassall

by Cecil Beaton
oil on canvas, 1966
On display in Room 32 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 6552

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