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In November 1960, Wynne was recruited by MI6 and asked to make a sales trip to Moscow, where he made contact with Oleg Penkovsky, a high-ranking GRU officer. This was done in response to Penkovsky’s earlier offers to spy for the West.
Wynne later became an intermediary and courier for Penkovsky, smuggling top-secret Soviet intelligence back to London during his frequent trips to the USSR.
Wynne and Penkovsky’s espionage activities were eventually discovered by the KGB. Both men were arrested in late 1962, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Penkovsky was sentenced to death.
Wynne was convicted of spying on 11 May 1963 and sentenced to eight years in prison. He was held in harsh conditions, and in April 1964, amid concerns for his deteriorating health, Wynne was released in exchange for the Soviet spy Konon Molody.
Following his release, Wynne returned to his business career but struggled with alcoholism and depression. Wynne died of throat cancer at Cromwell Hospital in London on 28 February 1990, aged 70.
Questions over prior work
Later in life, Wynne wrote two books about his work for British intelligence: The Man From Moscow (1967) and The Man From Odessa (1981). In these books, Wynne claimed to have been recruited by MI5 as early as World War II, long before his work with Penkovsky.
However, historians question this account. The authors of The Spy Who Saved the World wrote, “He [Wynne] had no previous intelligence experience or training.” Others have made similar assessments, stating that Wynne was a civilian at the time of his recruitment by MI6 in 1960.
Portrayal in popular culture
Wynne was portrayed by David Calder in the 1985 BBC television serial Wynne and Penkovsky, and by Peter Lindford in the 2007 BBC Television docudrama Nuclear Secrets. He is portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film Ironbark, now in production.
- New General Catalog of Old Books and Authors
- Schecter, Jerrold (1992). The Spy Who Saved the World. MacMillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-684-19068-0.
- Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1989). The Storm Birds. Grove Press. ISBN 1-555-84122-8.
- West, Nigel (1991). Seven Spies Who Changed the World. Martin Secker & Warburg Limited. ISBN 0-436-56603-6.
- "Greville Wynne, Spy for Britain In the Soviet Bloc, Is Dead at 71", The New York Times, 1990-03-02, retrieved 2010-01-31
- William Durie, "The British Garrison Berlin 1945-1994" 2012
- Greville Wynne, The Man From Moscow. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1967 (hard cover). London: Arrow, 1968 (paperback).