NOSTALGIA: News reporter confronted head of KGB in Portsmouth pub

Mike Knipe, then 17, attempting to get an interview with Marshall Ivan Serov in the Keppels Head Hotel, on The Hard, Portsea.
Mike Knipe, then 17, attempting to get an interview with Marshall Ivan Serov in the Keppels Head Hotel, on The Hard, Portsea.
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I was recently invited to lunch with some former Portsmouth Evening News reporters who, like so many before and after them, went on to even greater things. 

Mike Knipe began his career with this paper in 1956 at the time of the Suez Crisis.

Garry Edwards, Clair Ash (daughter of James Bayes), Peter Michel, Mike Knipe, Trevor Fishlock, Tim King and Helen Minsey.

Garry Edwards, Clair Ash (daughter of James Bayes), Peter Michel, Mike Knipe, Trevor Fishlock, Tim King and Helen Minsey.

He was the man who heard from a taxi driver that Marshall Ivan Serov, then head of the Russian KGB, was having a meal in the Keppel's Head Hotel on The Hard, Portsea. Until that moment nobody had a clue that Serov was in Britain.

Mike decided he’d better do something and finding the chief photographer they headed for the that pub. Mike walked in and straight into the dining room where he saw a party of men dining.

With the sort of confidence that only a 17-year-old might have, he marched over and asked: ‘May I have a word with Marshal Serov?’ 

Chief Constable West, who was also at the table, quickly replied that it was a private lunch and could not be interrupted and sadly, that was that.

Some of the girls from Club Tiberius and Neros, both owned by Pleasurama. Picture: Mick Cooper

Some of the girls from Club Tiberius and Neros, both owned by Pleasurama. Picture: Mick Cooper

Later on in his career Mike became sports editor at Southern Television. He says: ‘I didn’t know anything about sport. In fact, one time Wolves were playing in Southampton and I got Joy Beverley [one of the Beverley Sisters], Billy Wright’s wife, into the studio to be interviewed.’

Mike later moved to The Times as a foreign correspondent and in the next 38 years he travelled to 85 different countries.

In his time he interviewed presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, John Vorster of South Africa, Michel Aoun of Lebanon and also that country’s prime minister Rafic Hariri. There was also one with Lebanese presidential candidate Danny Chamoun who was assassinated a few months after Mike interviewed him.

He also covered the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Biafra civil war in Nigeria, the African liberation wars in Mozambique and Angola, was expelled from Rhodesia, imprisoned briefly in Mozambique and had his ears blown out covering the civil war in Lebanon. All a long way from Stanhope Road.

Another view of HMS Coronation, the plaster and wood battleship in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, in 1937.

Another view of HMS Coronation, the plaster and wood battleship in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, in 1937.

n Above we see some of the  boys and girls from Southsea casinos, owned by Pleasurama, who were in the 1974 Portsmouth carnival.

On the chariot is manager Dave Butterfield, restaurant manager Bobby Mitchell. Among those standing are Val Clark, Sue Parham and Linda ? If you know the others please let me know.

n  I recently published a photograph of HMS Coronation, the plaster and wood ship built in Guildhall Square in 1937 for  the Coronation Fleet Review. Here is a view of the ship from the east side of the square with sailors lining the guardrails.