Chapter 3 – Bond, James Bond
Ian Fleming spent little time filling in the background of James Bond’s life. Bond is essentially a man of action, a blunt instrument in the hands of M and Her Majesty’s Government. However, in You Only Live Twice, when Bond goes missing, M writes his obituary for The Times.
According to M, James Bond’s father was Andrew Bond, a Scot from Glencoe. Bond himself volunteers this in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when talking to the Griffon Or Pursuivant at the College of Arms. Griffon insists on looking up the ancestry of Bond’s “fine old English surname” which goes back as least to Norman le Bond in 1180. There are ten families in Burke’s General Armory, but no Scottish branch. That does not mean there wasn’t one. It is just that the Scots kept incomplete records – “more useful with the sword than the pen,” Griffon opines. However, he does think that he can establish collateral lineage back to Sir Thomas Bond, baronet of Peckham. Bond insists he has no connection with Peckham. Undaunted, Griffon continues that Sir Thomas was the comptroller of the household of the Queen Mother, Henrietta Maria, and lent his name to London’s Bond Street in 1686. Bond dismisses this, though he does concede, perhaps ironically, that he would adopt Thomas Bond’s family motto: “The world is not enough.”
Bond also tells Griffon that his mother was Swiss. M says her name was Monique Delacroix and that she was from the Canton de Vaud. John Pearson, author of James Bond: The Authorised Biography as well as The Life of Ian Fleming, says that James Bond was born in Wattenscheid near Essen in the Ruhr, where his father, an engineer with Metro-Vickers, was attached to the Allied Military Government dismantling Krupp’s armament factories. His mother had intended to go back to England to give birth, but had been held up by a rail strike. However, Charlie Higson in Danger Society: The Young Bond Dossier says Bond was born in Zürich. This exotic background makes him a quintessential Englishman.
Curiously John Pearson, who was Fleming’s assistant at the Sunday Times and fact-checked The Spy Who Loved Me, was commissioned to write James Bond: The Authorised Biography by Glidrose Productions, the company Fleming bought in 1952 to handle rights in Casino Royale and subsequent Bond novels. The company later changed its name to Ian Fleming Publications, which authorized the Higson “Young Bond” series.
According to Pearson, Bond remained fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage and talked nostalgically about the family’s stone house in the Highlands.
“I don’t feel too comfortable in England,” he says, though this does not come across in Fleming’s books. Indeed, Bond not only feels comfortable in England, he feels comfortable in America, the Caribbean, Turkey, Japan, and anywhere he goes.
Pearson fleshes out the Bond family. Followers of the MacDonalds, three Bond brothers were killed in the massacre in Glencoe in 1692. In the eighteenth century, the surviving family prospered, producing doctors, a lawyer and a missionary. They remained tough and wild, refusing to be softened up like Lowlanders. Bond’s great-grandfather – another James Bond – won a VC with the Highland Infantry at the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War. And in 1973, when The Authorised Biography was first published, the head of the family was Bond’s uncle Gregor Bond, a dour drunk of eighty-two.
M says that Bond’s father was a foreign representative of the Vickers armaments company – a company that Fleming knew well from the Metro-Vickers trial – and that James’ early education took place abroad. From his father he inherited a command of German and French, both languages Fleming mastered. His parents were killed in a climbing accident in the Aiguilles Rouges above Chamonix in France, an area Fleming often visited, when Bond was just eleven. Fleming’s father had died when Ian was young and he may have wished his overbearing mother dead too.
Bond went to live with his aunt, Miss Charmian Bond, near the Duck Inn in the village of Pett Bottom, near Canterbury, where Fleming had a weekend home. When he was twelve, he was sent to Eton – his father had put him down at birth. But after a term there was “some alleged trouble with one of the boys’ maids” and he was sent to Fettes College in Edinburgh, his father’s old school. Like Fleming, Bond was a loner and athletic. He represented the school twice boxing as a lightweight and founded the first serious judo class in a British public school.
There then comes a little confusion about Bond’s career. In From Russia With Love, the SMERSH file on Bond says that he has worked for the Secret Service since 1938. But Pearson’s Authorised Biography gives his date of birth as “Armistice Day, 11 November 1920”, so he would have to have joined the SIS at the age of seventeen or eighteen. According to M’s obituary, in 1941, at the age of nineteen, with the help of one of his father’s colleagues from Vickers, Bond joined a branch of what subsequently became the Ministry of Defence. This would have meant he was born in 1921 or 1922. His duties were “confidential” and, like Fleming, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve – but in Bond’s case the “Special Branch of the RNVR” – as a lieutenant. M says that it is a measure of the satisfaction his services gave to his superiors that he ended the war with the rank of Commander. Fleming is giving himself a pat on the back there.
In the obituary, M says that he only “became associated with certain aspects of the Ministry’s work … about this time”. And it was M who accepted Bond’s post-war application to continue working for the Ministry of Defence, presumably before the SIS was returned to the Foreign Office. At the time of his disappearance, Bond had risen to the rank of Principal Officer in the Civil Service. The SMERSH file implies that he got his double-O licence by December 1950. There were thought to be only two other spies in the SIS with the double-O licence to kill on active service. M notes that Bond was awarded a CMG – Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George – in 1954. SMERSH have it down as 1953. In The Man With The Golden Gun, Bond is offered a KCMG – a knighthood in the same order. He declines it on the grounds that he does not want to pay more in hotels and restaurants. Bond likes being plain James Bond, no middle name, no hyphen and no title. He cherishes his privacy and does not want to become a public person in the snobbish world of England.
The obituary mentions that he was briefly married in 1962 to Teresa, the only daughter of Marc-Ange Draco of Marseilles. Bond’s wife Tracy was killed by Blofeld shortly after their wedding. M says that this was reported in the press at the time. What Bond got up to professionally was, of course, secret, but M praises his bravery and his ability to escape more or less unscathed from his adventures, though there was “an impetuous strain in his nature … that brought him in conflict with higher authority”. This foolhardy streak amounted to what M called “the Nelson touch”.
M also remarks that Bond’s last mission was of supreme importance to the state. But in the book, Bond had been sent to Tokyo to ingratiate himself with the Japanese Secret Service, then involved himself in a personal vendetta against Blofeld. According to M, Bond left no living relative.
At the end of the obituary, Bond’s secretary Mary Goodnight adds a few simple words that the junior staff in the department felt summed up his philosophy as an epitaph: “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” This was also Fleming’s motto.
Like Fleming, Bond was a man who like to swim, play golf and gamble. To keep in shape, Bond did twenty slow press-ups, followed by straight leg-lifts until his stomach muscles screamed. Then he touched his toes twenty times and did arm and chest exercises combined with deep breathing until he was dizzy. Afterwards he would have one of his frequent hot showers, followed by a cold one. This was at a time when few people in Britain had a shower; most preferred a bath. While in training in Dr No, Bond gets up at seven, swims a quarter of a mile, takes breakfast, does an hour’s sunbathing, runs a mile, swims again, eats lunch, sleeps, sunbathes, swims a mile, has a hot bath and massage, eats dinner and is asleep by nine, exhausted no doubt.
According to SMERSH his height was 183 centimetres – six foot – and he weighed 76 kilos – 168 pounds or twelve stone. He had a slim build, though Pearson says the men in his family were “big-boned”. The SMERSH file said his eyes were blue, though elsewhere they are grey-blue. His eyes were wide and level under straight, rather long, black brows. His hair was black, parted to the left with an unruly black comma that fell down over the right eyebrow. His noise was longish and straight, his upper lip short, his mouth wide and finely drawn but cruel. This cruel mouth is referred to several times throughout the books. The line of his jaw was straight and firm. The skin of his face was dark, usually suntanned, clean-shaven, showing off a white three-inch scar down the right cheek. There was another scar on his left shoulder and his right hand showed signs of plastic surgery.
This description of Bond recalls Fleming himself, though Fleming said that Bond was considerably more handsome. In Casino Royale, the heroine Vesper Lynd compares him to American songwriter, singer and actor Hoagy Carmichael. The comparison is made again in Moonraker.
Bond, SMERSH noted, was an all-round athlete, expert shot with a pistol, a boxer and a knife-thrower, and spoke French and German. He did not use disguises and was thought not to take bribes.
The SMERSH file contained a number of photographs. They invariably showed Bond in a dark suit. Generally he favoured a dark blue serge, tropical worsted or alpaca, depending on the climate. Usually these would be accompanied by a heavy white silk shirt and a thin black knitted silk tie and black moccasin shoes. In informal situations, Bond wore dark blue trousers, a short-sleeved Sea Island cotton shirt in white or dark blue, and black casual shoes or sandals. On the golf course he occasionally wore a black windcheater. For the really casual look, in Dr No he fits himself out with cheap black canvas jeans, a dark blue shirt and rope-soled shoes – even leather sandals and shorts. He wears nylon underwear and, in bed, long silk pyjama coats in place of two-piece pyjamas, though he usually sleeps naked.
He sometimes carries an attaché case provided by Q. Otherwise Bond had few accessories. They were unostentatious, but expensive, and included a Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet which, he notes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, could double as a knuckleduster; a gunmetal cigarette case and a black oxidized Ronson lighter, like one that Fleming himself owned.
SMERSH also noted that Bond smokes heavily; he admits to sixty a day according to Bond’s medical report at the beginning of Thunderball. Like Fleming, he favoured custom-made Morland cigarettes with three gold bands, containing Balkan tobacco with a higher nicotine content than cheaper brands. However, when he ran out of Morlands abroad he smoked Chesterfields in the US and Royal Blend in the Caribbean. In Goldfinger he even accepts a Parliament offered by Junius Du Pont. Bond’s second choice was Players, Domino’s brand in Thunderball – she spins a romantic story around the sailor’s picture on the packet when she and Bond first meet. This must have had an effect on him because in the next novel, The Spy Who Loved Me, he is smoking Senior Service.
He drank, SMERSH said, but not to excess. Some may disagree. A medical report in Thunderball says: “When not engaged upon strenuous duty, the officer’s average daily consumption of alcohol is in the region of half a bottle of spirits of between sixty and seventy proof.”
However, in the books we do see him on strenuous duty, especially when it comes to drinking. In The Man with the Golden Gun, he drinks a pink gin, insisting on Beefeater’s gin which is between 80 and 94 proof, depending where it is made. In his famous dry Martini, Bond has Gordon’s gin, which is currently 37.5 per cent by volume or 65 degrees proof in the UK, or 75 proof in the US. However, the original recipe was given in Casino Royale, published in 1953 when it was much stronger, closer to 90 proof. It does not say which vodka is used – and Bond drinks a lot of vodka, often neat. Again, in Casino Royale he recommends a vodka made of grain rather then potatoes – Stolichnaya perhaps, which is between 80 and 100 proof. The final ingredient, Kina Lillet, is a fortified wine. The cocktail was known as the Vesper. Bond said he named it for Vesper Lynd, the heroine of the book. In fact, Fleming and his friend Ivar Bryce invented the cocktail and called it Vesper in honour of an old colonel they knew who called drinks served at six in the evening “Vespers”. The heroine of Casino Royale was called Vesper after the cocktail, not the other way around.
The recipe called for three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka and half a measure of Kina Lillet, now known as Lillet Blanc. That’s well over the recommended daily intake of alcohol right there. Bond drinks other cocktails, including Americanos, Negronis, straight vodka Martinis and Felix Leiter’s medium-dry Martinis, using Martini Rossi and over-proof American gin. Thunderball begins with Bond nursing two double bourbons in the lounge of Miami Airport; he then orders another double, deciding to get drunk that night as he does so. Bond also downs whisky, brandy, raki, ouzo and schnapps, all well over 70 proof. And he drinks copious amounts of champagne and other wines, plus beer – Miller High Life in the US; Red Stripe in Jamaica. Today we would say he had a drink problem. Even the medical officer in Thunderball thinks so. Bond’s tongue, he notes, is furred. His blood pressure is a little raised at 160/90 and the liver is not palpable. However, “when pressed, the officer admits to frequent occipital headaches and there is spasm in the trapezius muscles and so-called ‘fibrositis’ nodules can be felt”. He recommends that Bond spend two or three weeks on a more “abstemious regime”. Then in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Secret Service chemists spot an excess of uric acid in the ink he used for a secret message, noting: “This is often due to a super-abundance of alcohol in the blood-stream.” On the other hand, Pearson records that Bond’s great-uncle Huw drank himself to death in his mid-thirties, a fate Bond escaped. The Authorised Biography purports to have been written when Bond was still alive at fifty-two.
Bond’s other vice, SMERSH notes, is women. However, in The James Bond Dossier, the author Kingsley Amis points out that Bond beds almost exactly one girl per excursion abroad, an average he exceeds just once, by one.
“This is surely not at all in advance of what any reasonably personable, reasonably well-off bachelor would reckon to acquire on a foreign holiday or a trip for his firm,” Amis wrote in 1965. Today, it would hardly be thought promiscuous. However, in Casino Royale, Bond reflects: “Women are for recreation. On the job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.” These are the words of a confirmed womanizer.
The SMERSH file says Bond “is invariably armed with a .25 Beretta automatic carried in a holster under his left arm”. Fleming himself had been issued with a .25 ACP Beretta during World War II and assumed it was the standard-issue secret agent’s weapon. However, in the next book, Dr No, the Beretta is replaced by a Walther PPK. Bond is careful with his gun, shooting only when he has to, outside the practice range. However, his great-uncle Ian was sent down from university for shooting up his law books one night with a .45 revolver.
The SMERSH file also says that he had been known to carry a knife strapped to his left forearm, had used steel-capped shoes, which are in evidence in Live and Let Die, and knew the basic holds of judo. Also he fought with tenacity and had a high tolerance to pain. Pearson concurs, saying that there is a lot of granite in Bond. He has “the family determination and toughness mixed with a solid dose of Calvinism”. This Calvinism certainly does not show through in his attitude to the pleasures of the flesh – eating, drinking and sex. Nevertheless, Pearson says: “The Bonds, as true Scotsmen, believed in guilt, great care with money and the need for every man to prove himself.” Bond certainly shows no guilt when it comes to seducing women, though he often expresses a desire to settle down and have kids. Though he does not like killing, he knows how to do it and forget about it. Only at the beginning of Goldfinger, where Bond reflects on the murder of a Mexican bandit, does he feel regret, which he calls a “death-watch beetle in the soul”. When he gambles, he appears positively reckless when it comes to money. On the other hand, it is the department’s money – or the CIA’s – he is playing with, not his own. Besides, he always wins. However, there can be little doubt that Bond feels the need to prove himself, over and over again.
Pearson puts the Bond family down as melancholics. Bond certainly is. It suits his lone-wolf lifestyle.
Just as Fleming looked up to his lost father, so did Bond. At Fettes, Andrew Bond had been a prize-winning scholar and captain of games. He was in his early twenties when World War I broke out and he joined the Royal Engineers. Curiously, Pearson has him surviving the Somme, then losing an arm – and gaining a DSO and a lifelong admiration of the Turks – at Gallipoli. However, the First Battle of the Somme occurred after the end of the Dardanelles Campaign.
One would have thought the loss of an arm would have quelled his passion for mountain climbing. Nevertheless, Andrew Bond was mountaineering in Switzerland in late 1918 when he spotted through a telescope Monique Delacroix, his future wife, at the tail end of a team of climbers halfway up the Aiguilles Rouge above Geneva. These are another Aiguilles Rouge – “Red Peaks” – not the ones above Chamonix where they died. She was nineteen and engaged to a fifty-seven-year-old banker. Fleming’s Swiss former fiancée was called Monique, also from Vaud, and his mother’s middle name was Ste-Croix.
The Delacroixs were not impressed with Monique’s one-armed suitor, so the couple eloped. Monique was then disowned by her family. She quickly gave birth to Henry, James’s elder brother. But there was tension in the marriage. When Andrew was offered his old job back at Metro-Vickers in Birmingham, Monique protested. So, instead, he joined the Allied High Command in Germany, where James was born soon after.
The Bonds lived like royalty in the Weimar Republic. They had a big house in Wattenscheid with servants, nannies, dogs and horses. Summer holidays were spent travelling down the Rhine or on the Baltic coast. Christmas and Hogmanay were spent in Glencoe where the young James was terrified of his grandfather Archie Bond and his broad Scots accent. Also on hand were the drink-addled Uncle Gregor, wealthy but miserly Ian and Aunt Charmian who had been married just three weeks when her husband was killed at the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, leaving her a widow in Kent.
The young James idolized his mother, but she despaired of him. Pearson says that still, at the age of fifty-two, Bond kept a miniature of her beside him. However, he does not seem to have taken it with him on assignment. Nor do we see his Scottish housekeeper May dusting it in his Chelsea flat.
Alienated from his parents, James also fought with his older brother and soon found he could beat him in a stand-up fight. He also found consolation in food and grew fat. Even though he slimmed down in adolescence, he continued to relish eating.
The Bond family moved on to Egypt, where his father worked on the Aswan dam. Meanwhile, his mother took lovers. James would give the slip to his French governess and run with a street gang in Cairo; his dark skin helped him fit in. He became its leader, naturally. One day, he saw the Rolls-Royce belonging to an Armenian contractor who had visited the house pull up outside a hotel. His mother got out. She refused to acknowledge the street urchin who called out to her. Next day, when he asked her about it, she denied being at the hotel, insisting that she had been at home the whole time. It was, Bond said, his first insight into the female heart.
The family moved on to France. James’s father was promoted. Money came easily and went even more easily. Servants too would come and go; as would his mother’s lovers. James learnt to enjoy French food and he fell in love for the first time, with twelve-year-old daughter of the local butcher. But she was interested in an older boy who had a bike.
Pearson sends Andrew Bond off to work for Metro-Vickers in Russia. The family travelled in a first-class sleeper on the Moscow Express from Paris. Though James was only ten, this was the start of his lifelong love of caviar. He also formed an enduring image of the Soviet Union as a land of shortage and secret policemen, starving peasants and cowed citizens. This was reinforced when six of his father’s work colleagues were arrested and put on trial for sabotage. So, as a child, James had experience of a Stalinist purge first hand. But amid the fear, James was left with one clear memory – of a limousine pulling up at the company compound in Perlovska. Out of it stepped a dapper young Englishman in a checked suit, unconcerned to the point of ennui. It was the Reuters correspondent sent from London to cover the trial. His name was Ian Fleming.
Thanks to Andrew Bond's efforts with officialdom, all but two of the engineers were acquitted. The Metro-Vickers mission was withdrawn and the family headed for England. They settled in an ugly Victorian house overlooking Wimbledon Common. Young James was not used to hearing English spoken. He and his mother usually spoke French. He felt more like an outsider than ever. Sent to King’s College School across the Common, James became withdrawn while his older brother Henry flourished – like Ian and Peter, perhaps.
In July 1932, their mother had a nervous breakdown and tried to stab the family’s devoted Russian maid. Monique was sent to a sanatorium in Sunningdale. She rallied. The doctors advised a change of scenery, so Andrew decided to let bygones be bygones and reunite Monique with her parents. While they headed off to Switzerland, the boys were sent to Glencoe for the summer. Three weeks later, Aunt Charmian arrived bringing bad news. Their parents had been killed in a climbing accident. Henry wept, but James surprised everyone with his self-control. He said that, when his father saw them off at King’s Cross, he knew they would never see him again – his father’s parting words were: “Look after yourself, laddie. If you don’t, there’s no one else that will.”
Later Bond managed to piece together what happened to his parents. It seems Monique’s father blamed Andrew for his daughter’s breakdown. During a row, Monique fled the house. Andrew followed her as far as Chamonix, where she had abandoned the car. With no climbing equipment, she set off up the Aiguilles Rouges in a pink dress. Andrew caught up with her on a narrow ledge at dusk. People in the valley saw the two of them edging towards each other. Suddenly, they plunged to their death. Bond believed that she could not face either leaving him or returning to him. They were buried in the village cemetery below the mountain.
The boys went to live with Aunt Charmian at Pett Bottom. The following year, James joined his brother Henry at Eton. Pearson relates how the moody and self-contained Bond found himself in the shadow of his brother. A friend at school named “Burglar” Brinton took him to stay with his father in Paris. There Bond began playing bridge and canasta for money. It was Brinton’s father who introduced him to Morland Specials. He also lent them a car – a large Hispano Suiza – to take them to Monte Carlo. The chauffeur was supposed to drive, but the two boys took turns, introducing Bond to the thrill of driving a powerful car across the continent. Brinton’s father also introduced the boys to the casino at Monte Carlo, where Bond won 500 francs at roulette.