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Ian Fleming and SOE's Operation POSTMASTER (Paperback)

The Untold Top Secret Story

Military WWII > Espionage & the SOE

By Brian Lett
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526760685
Published: 6th December 2019
Last Released: 4th July 2024


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This is a true story of a force of ”licensed to kill" secret agents, commanded by a real war time secret service chief code names M, with whom Ian Fleming worked, and upon whom his James Bond stories were based.

Brigadier Colin Gubbins was M, the Special Operations Executive was his Secret Service, Professor Dudley Newitt was Q and Captain Gus March-Phillips commanded ”Maid of Honor Force", the team of ”James Bonds" who, in a daring operation, sailed a Q ship to West Africa and stole three enemy ships from a neutral Spanish port on the volcanic island of Fernando Po. Ian Fleming worked closely with M to oil the wheels that made the operation possible, and prepared the cover story, in which the British Government lied in order to conceal British responsibility for the raid. M's agents prepared the ground on Fernando Po, even enmeshing the Governor in a honey trap. March-Phillips and his team carried out the raid successfully in January 1942, despite much opposition from the local regular Army and Navy commanders, and in the face of overwhelming odds. Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told Fleming's lies on the international stage, denying any British complicity in the operation. As a result, a secrecy embargo enveloped Operation POSTMASTER until recently.

The author, an experienced criminal QC, proves beyond doubt that this thrilling operation, and the men who carried it out, were the inspiration for Fleming's James Bond.

"...a good sea story, an interesting footnote to history."

International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, December 2021

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International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence

This book deals with an Operation that was truly carried out without errors, but which repeatedly risked being canceled, suspended or failed. In the post-war,SOE, despite its successes, was dismantled and never was an official history written of such a deadly and efficient secret service. Ian Fleming tried to do it, but he was prevented and he poured into Bond's adventures many of the characters and situations known in the war years. There is still a lot to write about those operations, but Lett takes us to one of the most brilliant covert actions of the Second World War.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

I’d been looking forward to reading this book as I have been reading up a lot on operations during WW2. This book retells the story of Operation Postmaster in trying to get to or attack a number of enemy ships in a remote West African port on the island of Fernando Po. Of course what makes this operation more notable in the heavy influence and presence of Ian Fleming who would go on to write the James Bond books. What I always find amazing about these operations is the amount of planning that goes into them and the ingenuity of an elite band of men. The fact that there were such few leaks of information or anyone being double crossed really does show the great work and ethic of the men in the departments.

I had a thought whilst reading this that some might buy the book thinking they were going to get lots of James Bond. This is not a James Bond book in the slightest, you could see how it might have the origins of a James Bond Book about it, but don’t buy it for that. What you get is a very clever and smart book about an incredible operation very few knew about at the time. This book is a fantastic tale and it had me hooked from start to finish, a book I will definitely will be promoting and recommending a lot. A very good 4.5 stars indeed.

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UK Historian

An extraordinary account of a force of licensed-to-kill secret agents, commanded by a war-time secret service chief code name ‘M’, with whom Ian Fleming worked, and upon whom his James Bond stories were based. Operation POSTMASTER was a daring operation played out at the height of the Second World War. A Q ship sailed to West Africa and successfully cut out three enemy ships from a neutral Spanish port on the volcanic island of Fernando Po. Ian Fleming was deeply involved in this operation, and went on to prepare the cover story, in which the British Government lied in order to conceal responsibility for the raid.

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Julian Stockwin

More the 75 yrs on and WWII records are still being declassified. The background to Ian Fleming and James Bond has always been a mystery but Op Postmaster provides fresh insights into this covert operation and into the inspiration for James Bond. – Very Highly Recommended.

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Brian Lett´s book is an inspiring and exciting book that should please not just SOE and Fleming/Bond buffs.

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Lars Gyllenhall, Blogger

A page turning story which illustrates the attitude and often lack of co-operation by senior military staff.

Richard Gough, Military Author and Historian

Ian Fleming and SOE’s Operation Postmaster: The Top Secret Story Behind 007 by Brian Lett goes into the planning, execution, and the personalities which made this operation a success and paved the road for the SOE’s continued existence.

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Man of la Book

An extraordinary account of a 1942 Second World War SOE operation masterminde by the real-life "M" and "!Q" who later figured so prominently in Ian Fleming's James Bond spy fiction adventures.

Books Monthly

Ian Fleming, who later went on to write the James Bond series of novels, was serving in British Naval Intelligence at the time of this operation. This book ties Fleming to the SOE operation and speculates on how the heroes of that action contributed to the character of James Bond.

I enjoyed the 10 hours I spent reading this 240-page history. I found this book interesting just on the SOE operation, but the additional connection to the future James Bond was also enjoyable. I read all of Flemings novels when I was a teenager. I like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

NetGalley, John Purvis

This is a well-researched adventure story. Operation Postmaster was a highly controversial, extremely dangerous secret operation in West Africa during World War II. The Official Secrets Act kept the story out of the public eye long after the end of the war, and it was an enterprising modern author, Brian Lett, who researched and told the tale long after it happened.

NetGalley, Melissa McDaniel

Brian Lett's book is a well-written and exciting page-turner about a daring coastal operation that succeeded against the odds. The story of the brave and resourceful individuals who took part in it deserves to be told. Fleming had his own small role in that operation, and the book is a must-read for Fleming aficionados for that reason.

James Bond Memes: James Bond's SOE origins

Absorbing ... cracks along at a fair old rate and there is a lot of interesting detail.

War History Online

This real life ripping yarn about an officially-sanctioned act of wartime piracy involving an unconventional Norfolk hero who was destined to become a pillar of the county establishment surpasses the most hyperbole-laden Hollywood thriller. Making full use of offical papers long embargoed and personal files only recently made available for public scrutiny, Lett has written the most compelling and comprehensive account yet of the daring mission to Fernando Po whilwe also arguing that Postmaster and its leaders served as inspiration for the greateast fictional spy hero of all – James Bond.

Eastern Daily Press

The full story of the events leading up to, during and after SOE's Operation Postmaster are revealed by Brian Lett in his latest book. In this detailed account of the mission, the author also presents evidence that many of the personalities involved in the venture were the inspiration for Ian Fleming's classic James Bond series.

Britain at War

Exactly who inspired James Bond has long benn discussed by historians and biographers alike, but now a detailed and fascinating new book - Ian Fleming and SOEs Operation Postmaster – attempts to join the dots between a daring raid by a Special Operations Executive (SOE) team and the creation of the world's most famous secret agent.

Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post

About Brian Lett

Brian Lett is an author of World War Two history, who has seven books currently in print. He has lectured extensively upon irregular warfare in World War II, including to the British Army. He is a recently retired Queen's Counsel who practised at the Bar of England and Wales for forty-seven years.

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