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Read the text and answer the questions that follow. The Secret Life of Melita Norwood

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Viewpoints 1 Web Extra – Unit 2, Page 17

Read the text and answer the questions that follow.

The Secret Life of Melita Norwood

Melita Norwood was a sweet-looking great-grandmother who lived in a quiet neighbourhood in south London. She loved gardening, growing apples and making jam. Looking at her, no one would have guessed that she had once been one of the most important Soviet spies of the 20th century. She died peacefully in 2005 at the age of 93, taking many secrets with her.

Norwood’s spying career began in 1937. At the time, she was employed by a scientific association which was working on developing Britain’s nuclear weapons programme. As personal assistant to the director, sensitive documents crossed her desk each day.

For a period of 40 years, until her retirement in 1972, Norwood provided Moscow with some of Britain’s greatest scientific and technological secrets. The most valuable files she gave them, in 1945, contained vital information about the British atomic bomb. This information enabled the Soviet Union to build an exact replica within a year. The grateful KGB awarded her with their highest honour: the Order of the Red Banner.

The only person who knew of her activities was her husband, a maths teacher, who disapproved but did not try to stop her. Even her daughter had no idea of the truth. She never accepted more than small sums of money from the KGB.

So what was her motive? Norwood was an idealistic Communist, she believed in the Soviet Union and felt she was doing the right thing. Did she ever consider that her actions might cause a disastrous nuclear war? Perhaps not.

Amazingly, there were suspicions but no proof of her activities until 1992, when a former KGB officer brought the contents of thousands of secret KGB files to England. These files contained a long list of spies, including Norwood. She was never taken to court. Perhaps the British government felt it would be a wasted effort to prosecute an 80-year-old woman who hadn’t done any spying for 20 years. They were probably right.

1. Write T (true) or F (false) according to paragraph 1. Then write two sentences from the
text that justify your answer.

Melita Norwood looked and acted like someone who had once been a spy. ……

2. Complete the following sentence.

At work, Norwood had access to ………………………………………… about

………………………………………… .

3. Why were the Soviets able to build an atomic bomb?

4. Norwood was a spy because she … .

a. needed to make some extra money.

b. felt her job was not exciting enough.

c. wanted to help the Soviets.

d. wanted to avoid a nuclear war.

5. Complete the following sentence.

Norwood was proved to be a spy when her name


6. List two possible reasons why Norwood was not prosecuted.




Choose one of the following Cold War spies and prepare a report for the class.

The report should include at least three of the following:

1. what years he/she was an active spy

2. how he/she was recruited

3. what information he/she passed on

4. how he/she was caught

These Internet sites are a good place to begin your search:

Spying Who's Who

Spies who betrayed Britain

New Spy Accusations Captivate British Press

Plot Thickens In U.K. Spy Tale

I Regret Nothing, Says Stasi Spy

Idealist who sold out his homeland

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