by Gary MacDonald – Special to the Sylvan Lake News
Everyone knows James Bond, the British spy hero of books and movies.
Bond has a Canadian connection.
It is only slight exaggeration to say James Bond learned his spy skills at Camp X, just east of Toronto. And slightly more so to say Bond was with the mostly-Canadian forces that raided Dieppe on August 19, 1942.
Bond, of course, is the product of the imagination of Ian Fleming. Fleming, the British naval commander, WAS trained at Camp X and WAS at Dieppe.
Camp X was established on December 6, 1941, by British Security Co-ordination (BSC) and Canada on the north shore of Lake Ontario, near Whitby. Its 52 courses introduced some 500 Canadians, Americans, eastern Europeans and South Americans to spy skills they could use — often behind enemy lines.
Too few Canadians, though, know about this major contribution to the Allied effort in World War II.
Everyone in Camp X swore an oath of secrecy. That secrecy has eroded over the decades.
Several pages of details about Camp X are in “A Man Called Intrepid”, a biography of Canadian William Stephenson, who was head of BSC in New York. It was published in 1976. Another Stephenson biography, “The Quiet Canadian”, published in 1962, describes the spy training site without naming it.
The best account, though, is in Lynn-Philip Hodgson’s book, “Inside Camp X”, first published in 1999. Hodgson describes a 20-year study of documents, some of them newly declassified, and interviews with trainees.
“The significance of Camp X, in terms of the war effort, makes this site one of the most important secret military installations of the Second World War,” says Hodgson. “It is my fervent hope that this book and others like it will help keep the flame of remembrance alive forever.”
On August 19, a 70th anniversary Dieppe documentary on History Channel showed that Ian Fleming had led a British commando unit whose goal was to steal secret codes from German headquarters there. He had waited on HMS Fernie just outside the harbour, but returned to England empty-handed.
“Dieppe Uncovered” announced that this “pinch” was the major purpose for the raid.
“There was a reason behind it,” a Dieppe veteran said of the new information about the purpose.
“My comrades did not die for nothing.”
Lest We Forget.
Gary MacDonald is a former owner and publisher of the Sylvan Lake News. A link to the History Channel documentary is on the Sylvan Lake News Facebook page.