Book Review: Ian Fleming and SOE’s Operation POSTMASTER: the Top Secret Story behind 007 by Brian Lett (four stars)
Rather than going through the lengthy and tiresome process of obtaining permission to requisition such a craft, March-Phillipps simply went out and bought one a few days before Christmas of 1940. (Bond would no doubt have done exactly the same.)
Excellent history of a daring and successful British special operation in western Africa. Two problems: it was an unnecessary and potentially ruinous mission, and for the purposes of titling this history Ian Fleming had little to do with the conception or execution of Postmaster. Fleming’s place in the title and text is presumably a marketing ploy.
Perhaps it would not be out of place to observe that one of the chief reasons for the creation of SOE was the desirability of an organization whose actions could be disowned by His Majesty’s Government.
A sad consequence of Special Operations Executive’s flagrant disregard for international norms and neutrality were the cavalier and even more destruction actions of America’s Central Intelligence Agency, itself something of a SOE spinoff, in the decades after World War Two.
Many commandos were trained to kill in ‘Bond’ fashion, but very few indeed had the ability so expertly to deceive.
Despite constant references to Fleming and his later literary creations, he was more observer than actor. Apparently, Fleming recognized the literary potential of this type of mission, which remained classified until after his death. Lett has it backward. Bond wasn’t the inspiration of Postmaster as he knows better but implies; Postmaster inspired Fleming to create Bond, but that is typical for the convoluted logic.
One of March-Phillipps’ pencilled standing orders to his crew reads: ‘Avoid a fight if humanly possible, but resist capture to the last.’