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Revealed - Ian Fleming`s secret plan to end World War II

05-Oct-2008 • Literary

It sounds like an action-packed plot straight out of a James Bond movie ...enough to give even the world's most fearless spy sleepless nights, reports the Daily Record.

But Operation Ruthless was 007 creator Ian Fleming's top secret real life battle plan to win the Second World War. It aimed to snatch enemy code books from under the Germans' noses.

Today, the dusty file, stamped with 007 to indicate the tightest security restrictions, still contains Fleming's meticulously drawn up but wildly imaginative instructions for that terrifying mission.

It starts on a dark night in 1940 with five Royal Navy officers, who include at least one word-perfect German speaker.

Disguised in Luftwaffe uniforms, complete with blood and bandages to add authentic city, they fly out in a German bomber over the Channel.

The pilot, Fleming noted, already displaying a writer's talent, should be a "tough bachelor, able to swim".

With nerves of steel, he ditches the plane in the sea and lures a German U-boat to rescue them.

Once they are aboard the Nazi sub, the five shoot the German crew, dump the bodies overboard and sail back to England with the vessel's Enigma code books.

They would provide the key to beating the Nazis. Codebreakers had realised they could not decipher messages sent by the German navy without them. Military top brass described Fleming's plan as a "very ingenious plot". And it gave away nothing if it failed.

Bond creator Fleming was so convinced Operation Ruthless would work, he even volunteered to take part. But that hope was dashed immediately by his bosses, who decided he knew far too much about British intelligence to ever risk being caught and tortured by the Nazis.

Atrocious weather that autumn meant all plans were cancelled at the last minute. But more than a decade before he created James Bond, Fleming's job as a naval intelligence officer definitely helped win the war.

Today, ahead of Bond mania which will sweep the country when the latest 007 movie, Quantum of Solace, hits our screens on October 31, Fleming's secret wartime work provides a fascinating insight into his inspiration for the Bond adventures.

Fleming had a proud Scottish heritage. His grandfather, Robert, was born and bred in Dundee, before moving to London to create the merchant bank, Robert Fleming and Co.

And James Bond, the fictitious secret agent who was to make Fleming millions, was a true Scot, attending the posh Fettes school in Edinburgh after he was expelled from Eton for an affair with a maid.

And the most famous Bond actor, Sean Connery, used to deliver milk to Fettes before he found fame on stage and screen.

Fleming, who smoked 60 cigarettes a day, was just 56 when he died from a heart attack. He would have been 100 this year.

To mark the centenary, a new book, From Bletchley With Love, reveals for the first time details of Fleming's war, working alongside the best brains in Britain to crack the secrets of the Enigma code.

The Official Secrets Act stopped Fleming from talking or writing about his time at Bletchley Park, a Victorian mansion in Buckinghamshire, which became Britain's centre for wartime code-breaking.

Until the ban was lifted in 1974, the 9000 people who had worked there could be jailed for even admitting the existence of Bletchley Park, or Station X as it was also known.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the Bletchley Park veterans the "geese that laid the golden eggs, but never cackled".

Fleming wrote: "True secret service history is very fantastic. It's certainly no more or less fantastic than what happens in James Bond's adventures. Everything that I write has a precedent in truth."

In fact, the Bond books are peppered with hints about Fleming's real-life adventures, according to 87-year-old Mavis Batey, the author of From Bletchley With Love.

She was only 19 when she started as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park and her experiences made her a perfect choice to advise actress Kate Winslet for her role in the 2001 Hollywood blockbuster, Enigma. "The very existence of Bletchley Park was a closely guarded secret when the Bond novels were written," said Mavis. "But knowing the enemy's secrets and keeping your own was a real war winner.

"Like the rest of us, Ian Fleming had to keep everything secret for 30 years.

"Some of us are lucky enough to still be alive today to tell those tales. But Fleming died in 1964, a decade before the first release of documents from the public record office.

"I was on the inside of the job so I picked out the Fleming bits that really belonged to Bletchley."

Forget 007, Fleming's personal number was a decidedly less sexy 17F when he was first appointed as a liaison officer between Bletchley Park and the Director of Naval Intelligence.

Known as Lieutenant Commander Fleming, his ideas already displayed that famous imaginative flair, including everything from forging reichsmarks to disrupt the German economy, to sinking a lump of concrete with men inside it off Dieppe to spy on coastal defences.

There was even an elaborate plan to give the French navy the Isle of Wight until the end of the war. Mavis reveals in her book who Bond's no-nonsense boss M was modelled on. It was Admiral John Godfrey, the British Naval Intelligence chief, whose righthand man was Fleming himself.

Fleming's work with Admiral Godfrey even inspired the first Bond book, Casino Royale, in 1953. After the war, when Fleming settled in Jamaica and wrote the first Bond adventure in two months, his mind automatically returned to those uncertain days in 1941.

The unforgettable gambling scenes in the movie were sparked by a stop-off in Lisbon, Portugal, on the way to America that year.

Mavis said: "Fleming wrote so easily. When they went to Washington during the war, Fleming wrote Admiral Godfrey's ideas down in a way that would appeal to the Americans.

"That was Fleming's gift and great contribution. He was a born writer."

But without a martini, shaken not stirred, by his side, like the dashing Bond, he was clearly not a born gambler.

In fact, playing chemin de fer, a version of black jack, proved disastrous.

Mavis explains: "Fleming dropped in on the famous casino at Estoril which was frequented by German spies.

"His intention was to make one of them lose so much money at chemin de fer that it would make a hole in the German's funds. But Fleming only had £50 expenses money to play with, all of which he lost and considerably more.

"Godfrey had to bail him out. Fleming gets his own back in Casino Royale when Bond bankrupts Le Chiffre at chemin de fer."

Fleming retreated to his hideaway in Jamaica to write all 14 of the Bond books in the Fifties and Sixties and escape the drab British wintesr.

He called his house Goldeneye, a cover name for an operation he worked on in 1941 to keep in contact with British-owned Gibraltar as well as defend the colony if Spain was invaded by the Nazis.

But Operation Ruthless, perhaps Fleming's most ambitious plan, was brought to life in From Russia With Love in 1957.

The Soviet encoding machine Lektor, which Bond is ordered to capture, bears a striking resemblance to the real-life German machine which produced the Enigma code.

In the secret service world, the truth frequently appeared stranger than fiction.

British destroyer HMS Bulldog captured a complete Enigma machine on May 9, 1941, from German submarine U110. It may have been a breakthrough but was only the start of their problems. The Enigma machines produced 150 million million million possible combinations for each cipher character.

And it was no daring dawn raid orchestrated by Fleming which eventually cracked the Enigma code but a two-metre-high black box which in 1944 dramatically reduced the time it to took to decrypt a whole message.

The Turing Bombe machine, developed by Bletchley's mathematical geniuses Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, successfully decoded Enigma messages.

Military experts believe the ability to crack these codes shortened the war by two years, and may even have been the critical factor deciding its outcome.

In the tense days leading up to D-Day, German messages decoded at Bletchley gave the Allies the locations of most of the German troops on the French coast.

They also confirmed the Allied campaign of misinformation and double agents had worked, leading the Germans to mistake the Normandy landings for a decoy attack. They waited for a main attack on the Pas de Calais, but it never came.

And retracing Fleming's steps has led Mavis to make an amazing admission.

"I'd never read a Bond novel in my life until I wrote this book on Fleming," she said.

"I'd always thought they were Boys' Own stuff, but actually it's been fascinating to come to them so late in life."

From Bletchley With Love, by Mavis Batey, costs £4.50 and is available at Bletchley Park Museum to accompany a new exhibition on Fleming's wartime connections with the decoding centre. For more details or to arrange a visit, log on to www.bletchleypark.org.uk or 01908 640404.

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