Ogden Dennis

Dennis Ogden 


Dennis Ogden worked in the Soviet Union from 1955 as a translator for the Moscow based Foreign Languages Publishing House.  From 1959 to the end of 1962 he was Moscow correspondent for the Daily Worker.


His main claim to retrospective notoriety arises from an unlucky guess he made about the Soviet manned space flight programme. Two days before the actual and successful first ever manned landing from space by Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961, Dennis Ogden wrote in the Daily Worker that a failed flight had resulted in injury. He named, as cosmonaut, Major General Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin, a noted test pilot, and the son of famous engineer for whom a well-known aircraft was once named.


It seems that Ilyushin had been involved in a serious car crash the year before and had spent a long time in China and then resurfaced just as the real flight was about to take place. Somehow, Ogden had put two and two together – rumours about Ilyushin, his own observations, and the like – and made a stab at predicting an almost truth. Yet it wasn’t an orbital spaceflight gone wrong that he sensed but the real thing!


Ogden was guilty only perhaps of being too close to the ground. Later conspiracy theorists made much of his odd prediction but it has been easily disproved in recent times. Ogden’s next piece in the Daily Worker (see below) announcing Gagarin’s success went down much better!


Nonetheless, his claim that a failed space flight had taken place and had been hidden had been deeply embarrassing to the Soviet, especially as the story began to grow until some believed it intently. Little wonder that Ogden was recalled to London, where he became editor of a new weekly Communist journal, mainly aimed internally, called “Comment” from January 1963.


Ogden became editor of the Spark, a bi-weekly publication in Accra, Ghana, before returning to Britain to work for the Morning Star from 1966 when a CIA-inspired military coup deposed Nkrumah, the left-wing president in Ghana.


On the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, he wrote a pamphlet for the Communist Party entitled “Revolution 1917-1967: Soviet power, a changing world, the effect on Britain”.


He later became a lecturer on Soviet history and trade relations and was a head of the Russian Department in the Faculty of Modern Languages at the University of Westminster for a time.


He has since passed away, sometime during the mid-Noughties and left much of his Soviet-related archives to the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies.


Daily Worker 13 April 1961: ‘A communist in space’

From Dennis Ogden, Moscow

There’s a hero’s welcome to end all hero’s welcomes waiting for 27-year-old pilot-astronaut Major Yuri Gagarin when he gets to Moscow on Friday morning.

News of the “Chelovek v kosmos” – “The man in space” – flashed around the city at cosmic speed this morning. Crowds gathered at loudspeakers in squares and streets to hear the reports on his 108-minute flight in the 4.5-ton space ship called “Vostok” (“East”).

Motorists in Gorky Street pulled in to the pavement and turned on their radios to let the people hear the latest news.

A buzz of excitement and murmurs of “molodets” – “good fellow” – greeted the words that the flight was proceeding normally and that Major Gagarin felt fine.

“Good luck to you and may you come back safely,” murmured a silver-haired old lady standing by my shoulder.

Students of Moscow University interrupted their lectures and headed to Red Square, already thronged with people. They carried hurriedly written posters saying: “Glory to the Soviet spaceman.”

When news winged through the city that the portrait of the first spaceman would be shown on television, people in the street knocked at the homes of strangers, eager to see the face of the hero.

Then as the final triumphant news of Yuri Gagarin’s safe landing without even a bruise came through, the crowds gathered in Mayakovsky Square, broke into cheers and applause, the almost unbearable tension broken at last.

As the whole Soviet Union went wild with joy, Moscow Radio dubbed Major Gagarin “the Columbus of inter-planetary space.”

One woman said over and over again: “I am so glad.”

The official Tass announcement ended a period of uncertainty arising from the clear indications that such a major space flight was imminent.

“The landing went off normally; I feel fine and have no injuries or bruises,” was the message Major Gagarin, on his return from space, asked should be sent to Mr Kruschov.

“Your flight turns a new page in the history of mankind’s conquest of space and fills the hearts of Soviet people with great joy and pride for their Socialist homeland,” the Soviet Prime Minister replied by telegram.

“With all my heart I congratulate you on your happy return to earth after your journey in space. I embrace you. Till we meet soon in Moscow-N Kruschov,” the message ends.

Soviet Air Force colleagues are hoping to provide a fighter escort for Major Gagarin when he arrives in Vnukovo airport. There are proposals for a giant celebration in Red Square later on Friday.

A special edition of Pravda, normally a morning paper, was on the street today.

News of today’s triumph over the forces of nature came in a series of Tass statements, the first broadcast at 10.20 a.m., Moscow time.

“On April 12, 1961, the world’s first sputnik spaceship the Vostok, with a man on board, was placed in orbit in the Soviet Union,” proclaimed the ringing tones of Moscow radio’s chief announcer Yuri Levitan.

“The pilot of the sputnik spaceship Vostok is a citizen of the Soviet Union, Air Force Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin.”

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