Born: 28 May 1908
Died: 12 August 1964
Intelligence involvement: British Naval Intelligence. Possible work for MI5.
Culture involvement: Author of world famous James Bond spy novels. Naval Intelligence exploits fictionalised in 2011 film Age of Heroes.
Bio: Ian Lancaster Fleming was born to a wealthy family. His father was a Minister in the British Parliament and Fleming was educated at the elite, private Eton school before a stint at the Sandhurst military academy. He studied at the universities of Munich and Geneva. During World War 2 he was a commander in British Naval Intelligence, an officer in the legendary 30 Assault Unit. They worked behind enemy lines to obtain enemy documents and other intelligence. His brother, Peter Fleming, worked for the Special Operations Executive (the covert operations arm of MI6) helping to run stay-behind secret armies.
After the war, Fleming began living in Jamaica and in the early 1950s began writing the James Bond novels. Fleming to some extent made Bond in his own image, a heavy drinker and sexual libertine, his creation even had the same rank of navy commander. As Fleming described, the character of Bond was a ‘blunt instrument wielded by a government department’, and though the specific department is never named it is clear that is is MI6. Fleming wrote these books at a time when MI6’s existence was not officially admitted.
Fleming lived in Jamaica for many years in a holiday home that he built and named ‘Goldeneye’ after a WW2 intelligence operation. Around this time, several other major intelligence figures – William Wiseman, William Stephenson, Lord Beaverbrook and even Noel Coward – all bought houses in the same region of the island. Fleming drank and smoked and wrote and died of heart disease in 1964 aged only 56. He only lived long enough to see two of his books – Dr No and From Russia With Love, turned into films. His creation has since inspired the world’s longest-running film franchise, and one of its most commercially successful.
While he was never the subject of an investigation, Fleming does have an FBI file which you can read more about here. He also appears in CIA files due to his friendship with Allen Dulles, which you can read about here.
As part of his intelligence work in World War Two, Ian Fleming devised Operation Ruthless, a false flag deception operation designed to help Britain obtain copies of German navy code documents. Fleming’s idea called for using a captured German plane, filling it with British commandos dressed as Germans and then sending it up into a group of German aircraft returning to base after a bombing raid. The plane would then be crashed it in the sea after sending out a distress signal. When the German rescue ship arrived, the commandos would get aboard, kill the crew and sail the ship back to Britain along with the German naval codebooks.
The idea was never carried out due to a lack of target vessels but you can read a planning document for Operation Ruthless that refers to Fleming here (PDF, 1.82MB).