Can you spot 007’s real-life characters in this extract from Bond in Bucks ….
Wearing his spymaster overcoat as personal assistant to Admiral John Godfrey, Director of NID and the subsequent model for ‘M’ in his Bond books, Fleming used to travel down from Whitehall every fortnight in World War Two to check out Bletchley Park’s super-human efforts to crack the German codes.
The recent exhibition From Bletchley With Love told how Fleming would visit Frank Birch and his team of German Naval signal specialists in Hut 4, beginning the reporting chain back up to Churchill and the Allied High Command.
He made regular visits too, to stately Woburn Abbey where a covert operation was being run from a studio in the stables by Sefton Delmer, ex Daily Express and BBC broadcaster, who boomed out “black propaganda” bulletins of hoax information and morale-sapping messages to the Germans, often scripted by Fleming himself.
At Newport Pagnell, scene of that earlier training with Colonel Trevor, there was also Salmons, the car body-building business then busily engaged in various activities for the war effort and destined to become Aston Martin’s historic home.
And then there was his pride and joy – the 30 Assault Unit, an eclectic bunch of tough marine commandos and men with “unorthodox” skills like safe-breaking, forgery and explosives who were dispatched on secret missions, usually in advance of the main military, to capture enemy codebooks and equipment and other assignments.
These men, commanded by Fleming and knick-named his “Red Indians”, requisitioned a farm in Buckinghamshire as their practice ground – another little-known fact which, like the full story of Bletchley Park, has only come out in recent years after the ending of restrictions under the Official Secrets Act.
With Fleming known to have based many of his locations, plots and characters on real-life places and people, it is certainly possible that local characters and places can be found, disguised among his Bond books somewhere.
On the other hand, for those who know Newport Pagnell well, it might take a good deal of imagination to visualise the British Legion Club as a glittering Casino Royale, the infamous Dr No in residence at the Health Centre, or Octopussy swimming in the Rivel Ousel. Surely too, the local traffic warden bears only a passing resemblance to Rosa Klebb?
Still, local Bond book and film buffs buffs might conceivably take a little closer look in future to see if there’s anything they recognise………