The Birth of the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Franchise

The British desire for an Enigma machine led to several plans to acquire one. Bundesarchiv

2. Stealing the Enigma was a priority for British Intelligence and Fleming

In early 1940, Fleming conceived of a plan to steal a German Enigma machine, which he described in another memo to Admiral Godfrey. Fleming’s plan called for a volunteer crew of fluent German speakers “crashing” a German bomber into the British Channel. The crew, after being rescued by a German E-boat, was to be trained to overpower their rescuers and bring the E-boat (or U-Boat, if such was the rescuing vessel) back to Britain, with its Enigma machine intact. Fleming described the plan in detail to the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, including Alan Turing, who strongly supported its execution.

Churchill liked the idea as well, unsurprisingly, since he was always eager to endorse similar adventurous undertakings. But the idea was never seriously considered for execution. The RAF and the Admiralty objected because there was no way of ensuring the rescue would be undertaken by an E-boat, U-boat, or any other vessel equipped with an Enigma machine. There was no way of ensuring the crew would be rescued at all. Fleming argued the German speaking crew could radio their superiors that they were in trouble prior to ditching the airplane, but that produced identification problems. The plan was quietly dropped.