Thursday, 24 November 2016

Ian Fleming Patterned James Bond After World War II Agent

"Yeo-Thomas used a range of techniques to escape or evade his enemies, including jumping from a train, strangling a guard, wearing disguises and riding in a hearse.  These methods echo tactics later used by Bond.  And like Bond, Yeo-Thomas always carried a weapon.  In Paris, he once shot an enemy agent and threw him into a river." (

Memo: James Bond author Ian Fleming, who also worked in intelligence during the war, informed colleagues of Yeo-Thomas's escape from the Gestapo in this 1945 document

James Bond author Ian Fleming worked in intelligence during the Second World War.  In the closing days of the conflict, he sent a memo to his colleagues about the escape of Forest Yeo-Thomas, a special agent who had been parachuted into occupied France three times during the war.  Yeo-Thomas, who seemingly had nine lives, would serve as the inspiration for 007.

Forest Yeo-Thomas, born in London, England, moved to Dieppe, France at an early age, where he became fluent in French.  Forest Yeo-Thomas, nicknamed Tommy, served as a wing commander in the Polish Soviet war of 1919-1920, where he earned the Cross of Merit.  

After the Evacuation at Dunkirk early in the Second World War, Yeo-Thomas escaped back to England.  He was hired as an interpreter for DeGualle's Free French Forces.  However, the British Special Operations Executive soon lured him away to work in intelligence.  Yeo-Thomas became a liaison officer with the Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action.  

Yeo-Thomas parachuted into occupied France for the first time in February of 1943, armed with the assignment to obstruct the German occupation.  Donning a disguise, he dined with Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, aboard a train.  

Yeo-Thomas returned to England where he begged five minutes with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  Granted an audience, the special agent begged for more resources for the French Resistance.  

The fearless liaison officer parachuted again into occupied France in February of 1944 where he was captured at a Paris Metro station.  Recognized as "The White Rabbit", as the Gestapo nicknamed him, he was tortured with physical beatings, electric shock and submersion in ice-cold water for four days.  The latter caused him to pass out and be resuscitated by the guards.

The Gestapo sent Yeo-Thomas to Buchenwald Concentration Camp.  But they couldn't keep a good man down.  He escaped, was recaptured, posed as a French National and was sent to Stalag XX-B.  It was there that Yeo-Thomas donned a disguise, shot an enemy agent, escaped and reached Allied lines in April of 1945.  Commander Ian Fleming, also in British intelligence, learned about the escape and sent out a memo informing his colleagues of Yeo-Thomas' safe return.

Inspired by the daring exploits of the Special Agent, Fleming penned his first James Bond story Casino Royale in 1952.  "Yeo-Thomas used a range of tactics to escape or evade his enemies, including jumping from a train, strangling a guard, wearing disguises and riding in a hearse.  These methods echo tactics later used by Bond."

Yeo-Thomas' exploits did not go unrecognized.  He was honoured with about a dozen awards including:  the George Cross, Legion of Honour and Croix de Guerre.  However, his dangerous career did take its toll:  Yeo-Thomas suffered from recurring nightmares and illness.  He passed away in 1962, three years before Churchill, the leader who led his country through the infamous conflict.

Hero: Wing Commander Forest 'Tommy' Yeo-Thomas, has been identified as the inspiration behind Ian Fleming's character James Bond

For more information about Forest Yeo-Thomas:

1.  Watch Carve Her Name with Pride (movie starring Michael Caine).
2.  Watch The White Rabbit (BBC television mini-series).
3.  Read Churchill's White Rabbit:  The True Story of a Real Life James Bond (Sophie Jackson).

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