DAVID Floyd was a respected national newspaper correspondent whose work covering Communist affairs attracted little note, even in his hometown.

Now, more than two decades after his death, he is one of Swindon’s most infamous sons, having been named as a spy in newly-released Foreign Office documents.

The railwayman’s son, who went to Commonweal School, was believed to have passed secrets to the Soviet Union while working in Moscow as a low-ranking official at the end of the Second World War.

The fluent Russian speaker, who died in 1997 aged 83, admitted betraying British interests while working as a translator at the UK military mission and embassy in the city, the files show.

Far from being hung out to dry, however, the affair was hushed up by British officials and he went on to become Communist affairs correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

Floyd took the matter to his grave, and it has only come to light after The Sunday Times gained access to formerly top secret Foreign Office documents released after Freedom of Information Act requests.

The saga has implications for Cold War history but begins closer to home.

Born in Swindon in 1914, Floyd went to school in the town before winning a place at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Taking over as secretary of the university’s Communist Party branch, he made no secret of his far-left leanings at a time when Europe had been ravaged by fascism and an economic slump.

One lasting expression of his militancy came in 1933 at a cinema in Swindon where the agitator and two comrades had gone to watch a documentary film called Our Fighting Navy.

During scenes of the Royal Navy in a mock battle, they rose to their feet and shouted “Take it off! “We won’t fight for King and country!”

The trio were arrested and sentenced to a month in prison, albeit being released after two days.

Yet despite his background the Commonweal old boy took up the post in Moscow just over a decade after the anti-war protest.

The Foreign Office, realising he had not been through background checks, only investigated his dealings with the Soviets after he took up another role in Belgrade, resulting in his confession as recorded in the files.

Floyd denied having carried out similar breaches of national security in later, more senior posts, first in Prague and then in Belgrade.

Foreign Office memos show that far from prosecuting Floyd for treason, the affair was hushed up, possibly because Britain did not want to jeopardise its relationship with the US with another high-profile spy scandal. His confession in July 1951 was only a few weeks after Cambridge spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean had fled to Moscow, leading to huge public embarrassment for the government.

Floyd was left free to pursue a career at the Daily Telegraph, where he was regarded as a seasoned Kremlinologist and was known to younger colleagues as ‘Pink’ Floyd on account of his specialism in Communism.

Phil Wood, pictured above, Head of School - Management and Professional Studies, at Buckinghamshire New University, said: “Floyd, despite or perhaps because of his humble beginnings as the Swindon-born son of a railway worker, became one of a significant number of Oxbridge students who turned to Communist ideology.

“Against the background of the rise of fascism in Europe, he developed extreme left-wing beliefs and became a leading figure in Oxford University's Communist Party branch.

“However, despite this and other clear indicators of his ideological leanings, he managed to avoid becoming as high profile as other, better known 'Cambridge spies', and it seems that his career as a low-level member of British Embassy staff in Moscow, with access to a great deal of information, was allowed to continue relatively unhindered.

“There is much debate as to whether this oversight was deliberate or the result of a series of omissions or errors. Also the actual value of any of the information that he may have passed to the Russians is unclear. However, there can be no doubt that he was allowed some freedom to operate and that could not have been good practice in the high-stakes context of the Cold War.”

While Floyd’s confession during a business visit to London is recorded in the redacted files, the exact quality of information he handed over remains unclear.

The legal opinion that justified the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision that there was “clearly insufficient” evidence to support criminal charges remains secret.

After the affair was uncovered, a Foreign Office memo read: “He is already in touch with MI5, who want to find him a job.”

Floyd’s son by his second wife Hajka, Sir Christopher Floyd, said “it is very shocking for me to hear this” when approached about the revelations and would not comment further.

The murky story has been pieced together around 300 pages of formerly classified documents, but further releases are needed to fill in the blanks.

A path leading from Swindon to Moscow looks likely to become one of the most curious footnotes in Cold War history.