Melita Stedman Norwood, née Sirnis (1912-2005) was born in Pokesdown in Dorset but her family moved first to West End outside Southampton, and then, in 1925, to Upper Deacon Road in Southampton. She became School Captain of Itchen Coeducational Secondary School in 1928 and studied at Southampton University for a year. She moved to Heidelberg in 1931 and then, a year later, to London, where she worked as a clerk for the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association.
She became a Russian spy and passed considerable details to the Russians about the British Atomic Weapons Research project; this is believed to have contributed greatly to the Russian development of the atom bomb. She was awarded the order of the Red Banner by the KGB, and, in 1960, offered a pension by the KGB, but declined.
It is thought that the British authorities did not know of her actions until 1992. Details were published in the Times in 1999. Norwood was not prosecuted and said that she acted out of idealism.
Newspaper clippings (available from the Local Studies Library):
"The spy in our midst" - (The Daily Echo, 16/09/1999). Detailed article about Norwood, including a photograph from West End School showing her as a child. Includes comments from local historian Pauline Berry.
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