Ian Flemming and his Jamaica

Matthew Parker: „Goldeneye - Ian Fleming and Jamaika. Where James Bond was born“

Septime, 504 pages, 26,- Euro

The book begins with a bang , or let´s call it a drumbeat:

  • July 1943,  a high-level Anglo-America naval conference in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • German U-boats are causing havoc in the Caribbean, sinking vital shipping. Assistant of the Director of Naval Intelligence Ian Fleming is sent to the island to help deal with the pressing problem.
  • There are wild rumours that Axel Wenner-Gren, the millionaire Swede supposedly linked to Hermann Göring,  has built a secret submarine base on Hog Island, his private paradise Isle near Nassau.

Matthew Parker joins in where Ian Fleming - as he explained in an interview in 1963 - had the best time of his life: as the Personal Assistant of Admiral John Godfrey, the Director of the "British Naval Intelligence". According to Matthew Parker, Fleming visited Jamaica for the first time in 1943, to attend an Anglo-American conference in Kingston. Other sources mention the years 1941, 1942 and even 1944. During his stay Fleming lives at the house of an old school friend who also works for a secret service.

Keywords such as U-Boat (not Submarine) are used and names appear such as Wenner-Gren, or places are mentioned such as Hog Island. One can just skip over it, or do some investigations to learn what was really going on in the Atlantic and the Caribbean from 1941 onwards. It was the beginning of the German "Operation Paukenschlag" (Operation Drumbeat), with the intention to cut England off from vital supplies. Every submarine had an Enigma on board, the Swede Wenner-Gren was said to have been the richest man in the world at the time and his island Hog Island is now called Paradise Island (as Matthew Parker casually implied). For all of this, one will find a link to Ian Fleming, thanks to Wikipedia.

Ian Fleming (born 1908) spent his teenage years in London, a stone's throw away from Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. His father was a close friend of Winston Churchill. As is customary in these circles, the children of the rich were brought up in boarding schools like Eton. However, Fleming had to change schools several times due to numerous affairs. But that gave him the opportunity to get to know other countries and other languages, including German.

Fleming's biography has been perfectly investigated by Matthew Parker, so that one begins to understand how Fleming came about to write such novels without giving away what he really did in WWII. There was definitely a reason for that.

Fleming spent at least the first two months of each year in Jamaica from 1947 onwards. After the war he worked for the Sunday Times in London and could afford to go on vacation to Jamaica every year living in his house (called "Goldeneye") to recover from the devastated and smog-infested London City. All 12 of Bond's novels were written there, and the first cine film with Sean Connery was shot in Jamaica in 1962 too, just in the year where the Cold War escalated by the Cuban Missile Crises and Jamaica became independent.

At some point it becomes clear why Fleming does not mention the Enigma or his relationship with Bletchley Park by a single word. These issues were taboo until the 1970s. During the Second World War, Bletchley Park was an intelligence center for British secret services to decrypt German radio traffic. The fact that the Enigma was deciphered there was still a state secret long after the war.

Summarizing all information, one can draw a continuous time line starting from Winston Churchill, the submarine war and the Enigma, finishing with James Bond and Bob Marley, but with Ian Fleming and Jamaica in the middle.
As the Financial Times once wrote: "Without Jamaica, it is safe to say, there would have been no Agent 007"

Dietmar Krehl