LEMON Tree Passage Library gets many quality donations of books to augment their extensive range, but without doubt, the most interesting came from Tanilba resident, Peace Clayton, around 30 years ago.
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Her husband Walter (Wally) Clayton had died some time before at their Salt Ash property and after taking up residence in Lloyd George Grove, the frail elderly lady was moving to a care facility.
A library volunteer collected the unwanted books and amongst them was a copy of ‘Australian Spies and Their Secrets.’ The book was signed by Wally.
This in itself is unremarkable apart from the fact that the thin, quiet, elderly Michael Drive resident happened to be none other than Australia’s master spy for the Russians.
Walter was a key organiser of the Communist Party of Australia in the 1930s and 1940s and suspected of being the Australian-based Soviet spymaster code-named ‘KLOD’.
Both Peace and Wally were committed Communists and it was only after the partial decryption of the Russian secret code that a ring of spies in the UK, America and Australia was exposed.
Project ‘Venona’ was run by the American Secret Service and its operation continued for some 40 years.
By wading through the mountains of coded messages collected throughout the war years, the dedicated team of codebreakers exposed the ‘Cambridge Five’ headed up by master spy Kim Philby.
It also showed that secrets were coming from Australia.
This prompted the Australian Federal Government to form ASIO.
Walter (Wally) Clayton was identified as the one who gathered information from other spies and passed it onto the Russians.
Despite enormous pressure put on Wally, he failed to crack and retreated to Port Stephens where he became a successful professional fisherman.
A secretly recorded death bed confession, thought to be lost, proved once and for all Wally’s role in espionage.
As for Peace, she passed on and, never wavering in her convictions, left her entire estate to the much depleted Australian Communist Party.
And the book?
It was thought to be stolen or lost during the recent upgrade of the library.
Fortunately, it has resurfaced and takes pride of place on the shelves and despite its great value it is still available for the general public to borrow.
By Geoff WALKER