The Real 007
‘The real 007’, the wonderfully named Conrad Fulke Thomond O’Brien-ffrench, was a dashing and courageous spy who, for a dangerous few [weeks/months] was friendly with Bond creator, Ian Fleming.
Giving Daniel Craig (starring in the 24th Bond movie, Spectre, from next month) a run for his money, O’Brien-ffrench, was the quintessential secret agent. Classy, well-connected, intelligent, adventurous and athletic (he led a climbing party to safety in the Himalayas in 1921), he moved in only the best circles. The fluent Russian speaking, expert skier later inherited the title Marquis de Castelthomond.
Tim Hayhoe, managing director of Forces War Records – and the man behind the project, explains: “Although wounded and captured during World War 1, he nevertheless managed to send letters in invisible ink to Cathleen Mann, the ‘Moneypenny’ to Major Stewart Menzies of British Counterintelligence. They contained details of troop movements and of a prototype heavy bomber, among other vital facts.”
After the war MI6 recruited him to gather information on the Russian Red Army. Then, as World War Two loomed, he was assigned ‘agent Z3’ and based in Kitzbühel, Austria, he posed as a businessman, but secretly established a spy network that stretched deep into Germany. It was there that O’Brien-ffrench met and impressed Fleming with his style, magnetism and derring-do. The dashing socialite was the first person to hear that German troops were moving towards the Austrian border in 1938, and immediately reported the news to London, necessarily blowing his cover by using an open line to prevent delay. He also managed to warn many local residents who were in especial danger, giving them time to escape. It is lucky that O’Brien-ffrench too managed to leave the country, as the fact that his name appears in the ‘Black Book’ proves the Nazis wanted revenge.
The entire digital Black Book can be seen and searched for free on: http://fwr.to/x8QDb.