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Michael Thwaites

Australian poet and intelligence agent

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Michael Thwaites was born in Brisbane and educated at Geelong Grammar School and Melbourne University, where he graduated in Arts. ln 1937 he was Rhodes Scholar for Victoria. While at Oxford he won the Newdigate Prize for poetry with ‘Milton Blind’, and later the King’s Medal for poetry. When war broke out he joined the R.N.V.R. and out of his war-time experiences arose his best-known poem, ‘The Jervis Bay’. After the war he took a B. Litt. at Oxford, and then returned to Melbourne, where he lectured for three years at Melbourne University.

He served 21 years (1950–71) with the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and was instrumental in supervising the defection (1954) of Soviet spies Vladimir and Yevdokiya Petrov. During the 18-month period that Thwaites lived with the couple in a safe house, he served as a ghostwriter for their book The Empire of Fear (1956). He recounted his own version of the experience in Truth Will Out: ASIO and the Petrovs (1980). He penned several other important works, including the epic war poems The Prophetic Hour (1940) and The Jervis Bay (1942), the memoir Atlantic Odyssey (1999), and Unfinished Journey (2004), a volume of poems written between 1932 and 2004. Thwaites was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2002.

John Farquharson’s obituary at the ‘Obituaries Australia’ site notes: ‘His Christian faith, strengthened and deepened through his lifelong involvement with Moral Re-Armament, also infused much of his verse...’

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See also: The Michael and Honor Thwaites Heritage Association (MAHTHA)

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