Tales from the Trail - "Secret Agents"

19th July 2016

Enjoy the latest Tale from Trail Reporter Dave Greenwood.

If you had to compile a list of the most trodden parts of the Cleveland Way, one of the most popular stretches would surely be the trail north and south of Hayburn Wyke. On the Yorkshire coast, it lies five miles north of Scarborough. The path here gets a big share of the boot traffic. Day ramblers moving up or down the trail towards Ravenscar or Scarborough, and giddy through walkers almost at the end of their great Cleveland Way journeys.

It is not surprising therefore that there are plenty of encounters on the trail at this point. Brief, transient meetings are common. Opportunities for pleasantries to be exchanged, comments passed and information imparted, and of course there will always be the compulsory weather report. Chatting with complete strangers is a frequent occurrence. There is nothing sinister about it, it happens wherever walkers meet in the landscape.

If you don’t already know Hayburn Wyke, it is a picturesque secluded little cove between Scarborough and Whitby. One of the Cleveland Way’s many hidden gems. A perfect setting for a lunchtime stop, or because there are plenty of opportunities to take a circular path, it’s a great place for a day’s exploration.

The somewhat strange name ‘Hayburn Wyke’ gives a clue to the area’s history. Hayburn is an Anglo Saxon word meaning ‘enclosure by a stream’ and Wyke is the Norse word for ‘sea inlet or creek’ – which combine to describe perfectly the landscape of Hayburn Wyke we know it today.

You wouldn’t expect to be treated with suspicion just for having a good day out in this area. But there was a time when you needed to be a little more wary. Smugglers, sailing ashore with contraband, grog and baccy’ you are probably thinking, but certainly not secret agents, spies or saboteurs.

The following revelations might surprise you, they did me. In September 1971 the cold war between West and East was icy.  England seemed to be awash with soviet agents. MI5 was trying hard to contain the situation. They were planning Operation Foot! I kid you not, a plan which eventually resulted in the mass expulsion of Soviet Intelligence officers suspected as secret agents.

One of their number, Oleg Lyalin, a Soviet intelligence officer working at the KGB London residency under the guise of a member of the Russian Trade Delegation, decided that he would prefer to continue to live in London rather than face expulsion to Moscow. He handed himself in at a local police station offering to defect and reveal all that he knew in exchange for a new life in the west.

During his debriefing he surprisingly revealed that he had spent quite a bit of time on the Cleveland Way trail, around Hayburn Wyke. He was not, as far as I know a particularly keen walker.

Lyalin was the senior representative of  Department V, a section of KGB foreign intelligence specialising in sabotage and covert attacks in periods of crisis or war.

He revealed that it was his task to select and report on sites that could be used for the infiltration by air and sea by Soviet sabotage groups, and to build up locally recruited support organisations.

Astonishingly,  just before his defection he had completed a comprehensive plan for the seaborne landing of sabotage groups at Hayburn Wyke. He was able to back up his plan with a map showing details of how these landings could be achieved. The plan would be executed with the help of locally domiciled agents, who had built up a support network, that included a Moscow trained radio operator.Lyalin revealed that once ashore the primary purpose of these sabotage groups would be to demoralise and terrorise the civilian population by sabotaging the railways for example. Department V believed it could make people too afraid to travel on them, thereby paralysing the economic life of the community.

Anymore details are either locked away in M15 vaults, or that’s all this ever was, just a plan. Nothing seems to be known about the local recruits or what became of the radio operator.

So the next time you are on the trail around Hayburn Wyke, I suggest that it would be worth keeping your eyes open. Should you come across discarded empty vodka bottles, or perhaps see unusual submarine activity in the bay, there may be a new plan afoot!

Looking for a walk at Hayburn Wyke?  Why not try one of our Top Ten Experiences, a short 3 mile walk that you can find at www.top10trails.com  or download the walk map pdf on this page

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