The name’s Bond…… Boyo Bond
Special report by Ron Cant (music optional while reading)
SPY fiction’s most compelling hero James Bond, created by writer Ian Fleming, adopted his name from a Pontypridd-born spy who in retirement was a Swansea school lollipop man.
Could it really be true that the most charismatic and capable superspy ever conceived had Welsh roots? Could it be that one of the most famous of film characters brought to the big screen by the legendary Albert R Broccoli (no pun intended) still has ancestry in Llanelli Market? His grandson, Llanelli businessman and farmer Stephen Perry Phillips thinks so. He has embarked on a remarkable mission to honour and respect the memory of his late grandfather.
Mr Phillips has discovered that while two years older than Fleming, his grandfather crossed paths with the man who was to become one of the world’s most celebrated spy fiction writers when they were both attached to the secret services in WW2.
Soldier James Charles Bond, who grew up in Swansea, was a sheet metal worker. At the outbreak of war he had joined the army. At the age of 36 in 1944 he was a highly commended trained Special Operations Executive (SOE) with specialist expertise in demolition and weapons. It was at this time he met Fleming.
It is significant that Fleming always cast Bond timelessly in his mid-thirties – old enough to be a seasoned professional, yet young enough to be in top physical condition.
“Boyo” Bond travelled all over the world on special missions including training others in demolition and weapons training.
Actor David Jason researched the role of SOE’s and in a recent TV programme indicated that Ian Fleming put an elite team of SOE’s together for a mission. A photograph revealed on the programme showed that James “Boyo” Bond was one of that top spy team.
Meanwhile as Fleming’s Diplomatic Service career waned he went to Austria and studied under former spy Ernan Forbes Dennis. He joined Reuters learning to write fast and accurately and covered the notorious spy trial involving Metro Vickers.
He became foreign manager of the Sunday Times creating a news service called “Mercury” that employed intelligence personnel who provided information from world-wide.
Fleming’s career is well documented as is all the information the man with the golden typewriter garnered creating 14 best-selling Bond books. Yet Wales’s James ‘Boyo’ Bonds military exploits are still protected by the necessary fog of the Official Secret Acts 1911 and 1920.
Stephen often spent his summer holidays as a boy with his grandparents never learning anything of his grandfather’s wartime experiences because it was a taboo, unspoken subject at home.
He recalls: “Granddad was a caring and unassuming man who loved his garden. He used to like playing bingo. As a child I remember if he had a win we would have £1 each, so we always looked forward to the wins at bingo!
He explained: “There has always been a nagging curiosity within me and other members of my family about his name and possible links with spying and Ian Fleming. It is only since the relaxing of Official Secrets Acts information in 2014 that granddad’s secret past has been probed.”
Stephen said he has been on an incredible journey for most of this year visiting the research centre at Kew to gather available and date released official secrets. He has been astonished, with the help of friends and family, what has been uncovered and has started to unravel and piece together the mysteries of his grandfather’s glorious past.
Stephen admitted: “It has been an extraordinary experience that has been so rewarding as different elements have surfaced. It makes my chest pump with pride.
“As grandchildren we were always told never to ask about the army and what granddad did in the war or where he served? We never really knew why or had an understanding of why it should and had to have been a best kept secret.
“But as the years have passed I have managed to retrieve files from archives in relation to my grandfather who served the whole duration of World War 2, and for six years thereafter.
“My brother, Paul, tried to dig into grandfather’s past soon after he died in 1995 and could not get anywhere. On April 8, 2014, limited information Official Secret files were released. I managed to get information circa 1944 and nothing more.
“One of the files I discovered was the Official Secrets Acts signed by my grandfather James Bond on June 3, 1944, three days before the D Day landings.
“I can only assume that he was behind enemy lines during that time.
“I have a Llanelli solicitor friend and customer who I am sure will not mind my disclosing his fanaticism for anything locally involving World War 2 and World War 1.
“He did a little research and determined that my grandad was an SOE Special Operations Executive subject’s intelligence which he was very excited about and suggested I should try and find out more.
“Learning my grandfather was a spy and his name was James Bond, it did not take much of a nudge to get me motivated.
“Granddad was a spy working behind enemy lines. Another with an interest in World War 2 history, actor, David Jason, discovered that in 1942 that Ian Fleming had put an elite team of SOEs together for a mission details of which have not been disclosed. But his photographic evidence shows granddad was one of that team of six.
“To put this in perspective, there were 100-million soldiers from 30 countries involved in World War 2 and only 13,000 SOE’s. Only one SOE was called James Bond. They all did an incredible job serving this country otherwise we would not be where we are today.
“While I am keen to learn more of what my grandfather did or was involved in I am also conscious that the Official Secrets Act was signed for the necessary purpose of national security, protection of his family and the need for buttoned lips when he left the army.”
Stephen said this was probably why the James Bond connection had never been made before. “Granddad was protected by Ian Fleming himself, I believe,” he said.
And Fleming used smoke and mirrors to shield his Welsh confidant from suspicion and detection.
In the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond is confronted with a history of the Bond family of Bond Street fame, but disclaims any relationship. He does however claim the family crest’s motto – “The world is not enough” – to be his family motto.
Additionally, when Fleming was contacted by American Mrs James Bond of Philadelphia threatening to sue for the unauthorised use of her husband’s James Bond’s name, Fleming replied by letter in June 1961 saying: “I was determined that my secret agent should be as anonymous a personality as possible, even if his name should be the very reverse of ‘Peregrine Curruthers’ whom one meets in this type of fiction.”
Fleming suggested in the letter at the time of Bond’s creation he was in Jamaica … “At the time one of my bibles was and still is, ‘Birds of the West Indies by James Bond, and it struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet masculine, was just what I needed…” Fleming’s double bluff had thereby probably perpetuated his smoke and mirrors protectionism of the name’s origin.
Notwithstanding these trip wires James Bond’s proud grandson Mr Phillips has been able to tip-toe through the minefield of limited access information. There is still a lock-down on certain elements of his grandfather’s exploits under the Acts.
“Under the Official Secrets Acts granddad signed he was sworn to: ‘not divulge any information gained by me as a result of my employment either in the press or in book form.’
“Because of the limited information that has been released to me it is clear that some details of my granddad’s past are still covered by the Acts and will remain buried.
“But there is an intriguing twist. Grandfather took my cousin Jenny when she was a teenager by the hand one day saying: ’Believe me when I tell you, I am the real James Bond.’ Nothing more was said and no questions were asked.”
The army influence was probably encouraged in “Boyo” Bond by his own father and Stephen’s great grandfather whose name was James William Bond. He served in World War 1. He was awarded the DCM MM for an act of bravery.
The London Gazette, March 28, 1918, records James William Bond, of Pontardulais, when in the 6th Battalion; Welsh Regiment, received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in charge of the brigade ammunition and water dump for four days in the open and under almost incessant shell fire. Though a portion of the stores was destroyed he nevertheless met all heavy demands on the dump and carried out the receipt and issue of stores methodically.”
Stephen said his grandfather was in the army for about 11 years. When he left the army he lived in Penllergaer. His family home had been St Paul’s Terrace. Garden Village, near Gorseinon. He spent the last of his days in Heol Ffynon, Loughor.
James Bond the ex-spy finished his working career in a Gorseinon steelworks where his career had started and in retirement he took a part-time job as a schools crossing patrol officer at Brynllwchwr Primary School in Loughor.
Stephen said: “It astonishes me now that hundreds of children in the Welsh village of Loughor chatted and passed by my grandfather to and from school without ever knowing he was very likely the real James Bond of the wonderful spy films they have probably all enjoyed since.”
Stephen said he hoped to start a landslide of information and recognition of what his grandfather did in World War 2, and to know a little more of the lovely, modest, secretive man he lovingly remembers.
“I accept it is a long shot but it is why I want to put my story out there. It would be great to learn where my grandfather was and who he met in the secret services.
“If there is anybody out there who is my age and whose grandfather might have served with my grandfather I would love to hear from them.
“In my searches I have found a picture of granddad in a suit. He really looked like he could have played James Bond. The photograph taken in 1937 is of a strong, swarthy, handsome guy who I am so proud to say was my grandfather. He could have played Bond, yes, but didn’t have to. He was Bond.”
There have been six James Bonds in the catalogue of films. Timothy Dalton in “The Living Daylights, 1987, came from Colwyn Bay. The closest and most tenuous South Wales connection so far has been the late great and first actor to adopt the mantle, Roger Moore, who partnered for many years Llanelli diva, Dorothy Squires. Little did he realise when visiting the town the original and real James Bond lived just down the road.
All photos: ©Ron Cant
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