Taunton-born Cold War spy Angus Southwood dies aged 92

A TAUNTON-born Cold War spy who blocked the recovery of a Soviet warplane that crashed into a lake in the British sector of Berlin has died.

Major – later Lieutenant Colonel – Angus Southwood, operations officer for Briximis, the British Commanders-in-Chief’s mission to Soviet forces in Germany after the war, rushed to Lake Havel, where the plane went down in April 1966.

Upon arrival, Major Southwood, who is fluent in Russian, discovered 40 Russian soldiers at the scene, along with firefighters, military police and British soldiers.

He delivered and translated a letter from his boss telling the head of the Soviet mission to leave.

Major Southwood told the Russians they could maintain a small observation team, but the British would recover the aircraft and the bodies of the crew.

This gave the British time to examine the aircraft’s engines, radar and avionics, which were secretly transported to Farnborough and only returned once the wreckage was handed over piece by piece.

The head of the Soviet mission remained on site during the recovery, watched throughout by Major Southwood.

The information from the examination of radar equipment was among the “best technical intelligence stunts” of the Cold War.

For his part in the incident, Angus Southwood was awarded the MBE in 1968.

He was born in Taunton, the eldest of two brothers to Howard, an estate agent and twice mayor of Taunton, and Frida.

Angus was educated at Wellington School and later entered Sandhurst.

He was commissioned into the Royal Tank Regiment and joined 5RTR in Germany, traveling to Korea in 1953 to monitor the armistice.

Back in England, he studied Russian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

He was transferred to the Intelligence Corps and joined the 1st Special Wireless Regiment at Birgelen on the German-Dutch border, where he listened to Soviet military radio traffic.

He then held several intelligence positions, including in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion, and in the technical intelligence arm of the Ministry of Defence, before his assignment to Brixmis.

He held various senior intelligence staff positions at BAOR and MoD before leaving the military to lead anti-interrogation courses for pilots, special forces and military attachés.

In 1957 he married Maureen Ford, whom he had met in Taunton. She died in 1994 and they are survived by their four children, Maxine, Russell, Clive and Anne.

Angus Southwood died on June 27 at the age of 92.

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