It was almost two o’ clock in the morning when civil servant Harry Houghton said he turned his Renault Dauphine into Blandford’s Ham car park. In the car’s back seats were two Soviet intelligence agents. They had been put ashore just before midnight from a submarine or trawler at Church Ope Cove on Portland. Also known as Smugglers Cove, it had been chosen because of its seclusion and was out of the sight of coastguards. Harry had in the early hours parked in Blandford at some distance from the only other parked car. This was driven by a Soviet agent, known just as John. He had met John previously in a lay by between Puddletown and Blandford. The second parked car had a square of white paper in its window, a sign that Harry had been told to look out for. It could have been a spy movie scene set in Blandford Forum but Harry Houghton was no James Bond. He was a middle aged, heavy drinking clerical officer in Portland Naval Base having previously been a Royal Navy Senior NCO. However Harry Houghton had expensive lifestyle tastes which he financed by first spying for the Polish Security Services and then the Soviets.
Standing at the cliff top, Harry had guided the two spies ashore with two red lights. To identify himself with the agents, he had been told to ask: ‘Did you get any fish?’ to which they replied ’not at all.’ Harry had to respond, ‘what a pity!’ At the top of the cliff steps the two spies changed from wellingtons into the shoes they had carried around their necks and the Wellingtons were put into the boot of the Renault Dauphine. Harry had been instructed by the Russians not to ask his two car passengers any questions. If he had been questioned about the landings by the authorities, he had been told to say that he was just out for a walk.
In the pre-mobile phone age, Harry had been told to go to the Elm Tree Inn in Langton Herring to await an incoming telephone call confirming that the landing would go ahead. The receipt of certain advertising material through the post was a sign that he needed to go to the public house at a quarter to nine in the evening to await contact. The coded telephone message, ‘Be at Dorchester Station at …..’ would give him the precise time to switch on the two red landing lights. On the first night no one arrived and it was the second night that the two came ashore. When the Renault was leaving Portland with the two agents they were stopped on the causeway by a Police road block. To the occupants’ relief they were soon waived on their way. The Police were looking for a youth who had escaped from Portland Borstal. The men in uniform would never have believed that two of the three occupants were Russian spies who had just been landed from a submarine or trawler.
When the occupants were satisfied they were not being observed in the Blandford car park, the two spies were transferred to the second car. As he was about to drive away, Harry realised that he still had two pairs of wellingtons in his boot. So he took them out and gave them to his former passengers before he returned to Portland.
Harry Houghton says he later took part in a second landing of two more intelligence agents. However, this was at Lulworth and not Portland with the handover taking place at Ringwood rather than at Blandford. Later, he found out why nobody came ashore on the planned first night at Church Ope Cove. This was not only to test out the system but also to check out Harry’s reliability.
In January 1961 soon after the Lulworth landings Harry Houghton, together with his girlfriend ‘Bunty’ Gee, were arrested in London near Waterloo Station. At the Old Bailey they were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for spying.
(Source: Operation Portland by Harry Houghton.)