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Grace
Hagerty Employee

Uncovering Canada's forgotten WWII spy school

For generations, many of us have dreamed about having a licence to kill and the skill set to back it up. Before this description conjured MI6 agent 007 in the popular imagination, real-life agents learned the art and science of espionage during WWII at a top-secret spy school fifty kilometres east of Toronto.

 

Dubbed "Camp X" by locals, the paramilitary facility quickly became a hub for Allied communications and spy training in every field from assassination to intelligence. While serving in the British Naval Intelligence Division, Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond's character, visited Camp X on multiple occasions. Though Fleming's time in Canada certainly inspired elements of his series of British spy novels, the now-forgotten story of Camp X goes far deeper than movie trivia.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/the-elsinore-files/uncovering-canadas-forgotten-wwii-spy-schoo...

11 REPLIES 11
Flashman
Instructor

This is much more than an "opinion" piece; it's a glorious historical read.  Nice work weaving an Aston-Martin into a much larger, more important story.  Sometimes it's good to gently remind our American neighbours they didn't win the war all by themselves.  The Bond films are mostly dreck, but you describe the real thing.  Speaking personally, it's reasonant for me, since I lived near Eglinton/Avenue Road for several years and passed that church many times.  Although it's no longer a church.  I must congratulate Hagerty for elevating its journalism beyond mere auto fetishism.

brianmakse
Pit Crew

Glad you enjoyed, Flash. There is so much more to tell about this story, but I thought this was a great way to bring attention to this little known part of our history.
Wingnut
New Driver

Thanks Brian Makse. I really liked this one !...I have a story for you..... Mr. Hodgson, (the Camp X Guy) said I should submit it to EYE SPY....(It's in their issue Number 126)
VolvoSleeper
Pit Crew

Love the St JameS Bond connection.  Fleming likely thought the ornithologist connection was more highbrow as compared to a rural Canadian Church

brianmakse
Pit Crew

We can only speculate as to Fleming's thinking. However, there's another Bond connection related to Camp X. While stationed there, he frequented the Genosha Hotel with the other staff and the back entrance was on Bond Street. The St. James-Bond church would have been nearly rural back then, now it's a densely populated part of Toronto.
MeJ
Detailer

As a Canadian I found that a very fascinating story.

My only issue was | had a hard time concentrating on the story because that beautiful Aston Martin's pictures kept distracting me! My god, what a profile!

win59
Detailer

Great story Brian! And the Aston Martin adds a nice note!

And Thank You Hagerty as well.
in_garage
Pit Crew

Yes, a nice weaving of an automobile and books that made the brand famous with a real live historical story. The following is not about cars or Canadians but hopefully interesting to those cooped up at home and interested in Ian Fleming.

The Special Operations Executive was created in response to Churchill's directive to "Set Europe Ablaze" after the British and French armies suffered greatly when the Germans pushed through France. In 1940 Britain was being pummeled by air in preparation for an invasion. The advent of radar and codebreaking by a unit of SOE at Bletchley Park enabled the Royal Air Force to know where the German bombers were heading, and they defeated the Luftwaffe.

But SOE agents were more involved with attack and sabotage than espionage, so they were at odds with the parallel organization Secret Intelligence Service (which became MI6) whose agents wanted to be low profile as they spied. For over 40 years most people knew nothing about these and other secret WW2 British organizations because members and contractors who supported them signed an Official Secrets Act contract saying they wouldn't divulge what they did for 40 years. This applied to the Inter-Services Research Bureau, the code name for SOE; Political Warfare Executive; SIS; even the Special Air Service Brigade which was a behind-the-lines uniformed, airborne raiding and sabotage unit. This is why books about these organizations mostly started appearing in the late 1980s. Unfortunately the secrets of many participants went with them to their graves.

Fleming was in Naval Intelligence and met a lot of interesting agents and others during his exploits, and is said to have based James Bond on elements of himself and several others. If it hadn't been for the secrecy concerns he probably would have written more non-fiction than fiction, possibly set during WW2. Commander Bond versus the Nazis?

Wingnut
New Driver

See EYE SPY Magazine #126 for a never before revealed story that links some true events of WWII and the early Cold War, that inspired Fleming's "Thunderball" (combat Divers and Lost Nuclear Weapons)
Hymie60
Intermediate Driver

Great story. Very interesting
VolvoSleeper
Pit Crew

This is fascinating information that has caused me to think of my personal life. Starting in 1941, before I was born, my father, Frank William Allen who was an FBI agent who moved to Buffalo NY. I don’t have much personal knowledge because while I was born in 1942 my only information about that time was from my mother who died in 2015. My father had died many years earlier. My mom had always said dad was assigned to Buffalo to lead the security team at Niagara Falls. This was because of the huge electrical production that was viewed as a possible target during the war.
Until reading this article that was what I always accepted as the truth. Another piece of information from my mother was that dad was absent a lot because he was spending long days in Toronto! Then when dad retired and worked for the War Assets administration and I was 8-10, we made several trips across the Peace Bridge to go out to dinner in Toronto to places where my father was greeted warmly. I may be off on a tangent without a paddle, but it sure makes me wonder!


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