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The Inspiration for James Bond, 007: Ian Fleming’s Commandos

Posted on the 20 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

The inspiration for James Bond, 007: Ian Fleming’s Commandos

Nicholas Rankin's "Ian Fleming's Commandos" is out now. Photo Credit: Travis Coburn,

As Nazi Germany fell in 1945, crack teams of Allied commandos swept the country to find key German intelligence. One of these, the British 30 Assault Unit (30 AU), seized the scientist Dr. Hellmuth Walther and a film detailing Nazi wonder-weapons including jet hydrofoils, radio-controlled bombs and a prototype for a ballistic missile submarine. The commando group was the brain child of Naval Intelligence Commander Ian Fleming, who would go on to pen the James Bond novels after the war. Fleming and his unit’s exploits are documented in a new book Ian Fleming’s Commandos: The story of 30 Assault Unit in WWII by Nicholas Rankin.

The book details Fleming’s desire to create an assault group to rival the German Abwehrkommando, a joint-service group whose task was to pinch enemy equipment and intelligence. Rankin writes about Fleming’s plans for derring-do in North Africa and, famously, one of his ploys to hijack an Enigma machine-bearing torpedo boat in the English channel with disguised commandos. Furthermore, the book relates Fleming’s wartime exploits and experiences to his fictional spy 007’s adventures. So, is Rankin right to link Fleming’s 30 AU experiences to Bond’s? Here’s what the critics have to say:

Not much new is added. James Owen in The Daily Telegraph wrote that former 30 AU commando Jim Glanville and David Nutting’s 1997 history of the unit, Attain By Surprise has said it all before. “Fleming was political rather than macho” in wanting to create and control 30 AU sniped Owen, and Bond was less inspired by Fleming’s wartime experience as “the projection of his creator’s action-man fantasies.”

Well-researched and enlightening. William Boyd in The Guardian insisted that the book revealed a great deal about Fleming and his creation of the Bond books and is very informative besides. “The research is prodigious and lucid”, he proclaimed. “One gains a real sense of how these maverick units functioned, very much akin to the Long Range Desert Group and the fledgling SAS.”

A fitting tribute to our men. “This is a story as riveting as any spy tale Fleming subsequently sent his creation on; the characters the officer worked with and their deeds would pepper or provide the inspiration for Bond stories”, adjudged the Royal Navy’s weekly Newspaper Navy News. “Those stories have rather eclipsed the deeds of the men who served as his inspiration, but be in no doubt of 30 Assault Unit’s importance to history.”

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