What links Bond author Ian Fleming, a Norwegian spy on 'a night out in town' and a smuggled Christmas tree? (brought into the country we're told 'at some discomfort')
The story unravels in a document from our Caird Library and Archive written by Sir Norman Egbert Denning. He had set up the Operational Intelligence Centre in 1936 which formed part of the Naval Intelligence Division in World War II. During the war Fleming worked in Naval Intelligence, invited to join in 1939 with no prior experience but the right mix of charm, connections and a talent for administration. Fleming was soon promoted to commander and was given access to the most secret of intelligence and had contacts with other secret services on behalf of his Director, Admiral J. H. Godfrey. In 1941 he even joined Admiral Godfrey on a trip to America to help write a blueprint for the Office of Co-Ordinator of Information which later formed the basis of the CIA.
Our tale took place during the war close to Christmas when a Norwegian agent had recently arrived in London after 'an adventurous journey'. Due to the dangers he'd faced Fleming decided to treat him to a night on the town, including a luxurious meal in the Savoy - 'a dinner rarely come by in wartime London'. It was only after this meal that the group piled into jeeps to notice two Christmas trees among the agent's gear. The trees had been procured from King Haakon's Summer Palace in Oslo and brought all the way to London where the agent intended to present one to his exiled king.
On Fleming's suggestion they decided to put one up in Trafalgar Square with aircraft flares replacing fairy lights. Under the glow of their tree the group shared a bottle of Norwegian Aquavit and toasted to the liberation of Norway. Another document in our Denning collection gives some insight into the creation of James Bond. Fleming used his experiences in naval intelligence as a basis for the books but added the 'in the field' action which he had craved but never seen.
It was at a dinner attended by Denning where we're told Fleming complained of the lack of glamour within the intelligence service. He then went on to recount adventures he would have had during the war if there'd been unlimited freedom, funds and bravery. Similar to the later adventures of James Bond, Fleming concluded 'Alas! I'm not a brave enough man'. Denning admits there was no way of knowing if Bond was already formed in Fleming's mind at the time but it is clear how his experiences led him to create the world's most famous spy.
These are just some of the fascinating materials that can be found within our archive