In Brief

James Bond: Did Fleming hide WW2 secrets in his novels?

Author Sinclair McKay claims 007 creator references Bletchley Park codebreaking secrets in his novels

James Bond author Ian Fleming scattered clues about top-secret Second World War codebreaking in his novels, it has been claimed.

Sinclair McKay, who has written several books about Bletchley Park, where codebreakers such as Alan Turing cracked German ciphers, told the Daily Telegraph the spy novels are littered with references to the project.

Fleming worked in the Naval Intelligence Unit during the war and drew on his experiences in the world of international espionage for 007.

Some of the references are innocuous nods to the work of the codebreakers, such as the inclusion of a character called Le Chiffre (The Cipher) in Casino Royale, the first Bond novel.

Other hints are more overt, such as a fictional Japanese coding system described in You Only Live Twice that is "remarkably close to the real life one", said McKay.

Fleming's 1957 novel From Russia with Love depicts an encryption machine called the Lektor that appears to be similar to the Enigma machine. The plot also features a chess match McKay claims is based on a real-life game between Bletchley codebreaker Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander and Soviet grandmaster David Bronstein.

Fleming "got away" with dropping hints about activities not made public until the 1970s because they would sound improbable to the average reader, says McKay.

"It is a double bluff," he told the Telegraph. "We would never look at a James Bond film and say, ‘That must be what's going on.'"

Fleming's risky literary game would have been in "wild contravention" of the Official Secrets Act, McKay said, but hardly a surprising one. "Bletchley was full of ludicrously intelligent people that could afford to have these nudges and winks at each other," said the author.

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