Ian Fleming was born with the proverbial silver spoon in 1908, to a wealthy and politically influential family. His father fought and died in the First World War. Winston Churchill wrote his obituary in The Times. Fleming was raised with three brothers, one older than he, and a half-sister born out of one of his mother’s affairs. While at Eton Fleming established his life-long pattern with women, one which would later be endowed upon his character, James Bond. He left Eton to attend the military school at Sandhurst, which he also left early, having contracted a sexually transmitted disease. The disease indicated conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.
He initially worked as a journalist, a position gained through the influence of his mother, and later moved into banking in 1933, a profession which he found insufferable. He consoled himself with several affairs, usually with the wives of other men. In 1939 he entered into government service as the personal aide to Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence gaining a code name (17F) and a commission in the Royal Navy Reserve as a Lieutenant. His role included acting as liaison with the intelligence services and the Prime Minister’s office. He was serving in that capacity when Hitler invaded Poland, Great Britain declared war, and World War II engulfed Europe. Here is the story of the extraordinary life which unfolded from there.
1. Fleming wrote plans during the war which read like his later novels
When World War II began, Fleming, newly promoted to the rank of Lt. Commander, produced a document for his boss which was entitled the Trout Memo. “The Trout Fisher casts patiently all day. He frequently changes his venue and his lures. If he has frightened a fish he may ‘give the water a rest for half-an-hour’…” The memo was a list of ways and means of luring the enemy into actions detrimental to him, and beneficial to the British. Though the memo was circulated – including to Churchill, then serving as First Lord of the Admiralty – as being from Admiral Godfrey, there was little doubt that it had been authored by Fleming.
The memo included the suggestion, “not a very nice one”, of using a corpse, equipped with a false identity and papers to mislead the Germans, being dropped to appear as if its parachute had failed to open. “I understand there is no difficulty in obtaining corpses at the Naval Hospital, but, of course, it would have to be a fresh one”, read the memo. A similar idea was later used in Operation Mincemeat, and its relationship to the Trout Memo was evident in the message of the success of that ruse, which was sent to Winston Churchill; “Mincemeat swallowed rod, line, and sinker”. Fleming began to work closely with British Intelligence, as well as American counterparts.