Declassified Files: “My Grandfather did not have to play James Bond, he was James Bond”

In 2014, the relaxation of the British Official Secrets Act allowed a family that had always been curious about their grandfather’s wartime service to find out that he was a real-life spy — quite an intriguing profession for a man called  “James Bond.”

Stephen Phillips, the grandson of James Charles Bond, was granted access to previously classified documents in which he found, to his amazement, that his grandfather was an intelligence officer and a member of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during WWII.

From a young age, Phillips said that he remembers the entire family being warned not to question his grandfather about the war. But it had never occurred to Phillips that his grandfather had served in such an elite group.

SOE, Audience in demolition class, Milton Hall, circa 1944
SOE, Audience in demolition class, Milton Hall, circa 1944

J.C. Bond, from Swansea in South Wales, was a metal worker before the war. During the war and for six years afterward, he worked in the SOE.

Phillips found in the documents a copy an acknowledgment of the Official Secrets Act signed by his grandfather on June 3, 1944, a mere three days before the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy. Phillips assumes that his grandfather was working behind enemy lines at the time of the big push into Normandy.

Even more surprising was that J.C. Bond worked under the guidance of Ian Fleming, long before Fleming became an author.

Hoagy Carmichael, whose looks Fleming described for Bond.
Hoagy Carmichael, whose looks Fleming described for Bond.

Ian Fleming was the head of British Naval Intelligence during the war and was privy to all of the secrets held by the British military establishment.

He had been trained as an SOE operative and would have undertaken missions similar to those carried out by J.C. Bond.

Another of the declassified documents shows that, in 1942, Ian Fleming put together a team of operatives from the SOE and that J.C. Bond was one of this elite team of six. Unfortunately, the details of this operation are still classified.

Maquisards (Resistance fighters) in the Haute-Savoie département in August 1944. Third and fourth from the left are two SOE officers
Maquisards (Resistance fighters) in the Haute-Savoie département in August 1944. Third and fourth from the left are two SOE officers

Ian Fleming always claimed that his character, James Bond, was named after an American ornithologist and that he had chosen the name as it was plain and simple.

But Phillips is rightly intrigued by the associations between his grandfather and Ian Fleming, the work they undertook during the war, and the life of the super-spy in the books.

He believes that the story about the ornithologist is a diversionary tactic employed by Fleming to protect the real James Bond and to adhere to the strictures of the Official Secrets Act.

SOE officers in southern France. IWM CC BY-SA 4.0
SOE officers in southern France. IWM CC BY-SA 4.0

There is a family legend that J.C. Bond once told his granddaughter, Jenny, that he was the real James Bond. Nothing more was ever said about it, and no-one questioned this.

After serving his country for 11 years, J.C. Bond left the army and worked as a steelworker. After retiring from this industry, he helped out as a lollipop man at Loughor, a town near Swansea.

James Bond (January 4, 1900 – February 14, 1989) was an American ornithologist and expert on the birds of the Caribbean. His name was appropriated by writer Ian Fleming for his fictional British spy of the same name.Photo: Jerry Freilich CC BY-SA 3.0
James Bond (January 4, 1900 – February 14, 1989) was an American ornithologist and expert on the birds of the Caribbean. His name was appropriated by writer Ian Fleming for his fictional British spy of the same name.Photo: Jerry Freilich CC BY-SA 3.0

Phillips is asking anyone who served with his grandfather to get in touch with him. He would love to find out more of what his grandfather did during the war.

All that he has are the declassified documents and a photograph taken in 1937 of a very handsome, dark-haired man wearing a suit. This photograph is of his grandfather, but it could be a publicity photograph of the next James Bond.

Read another story from us: 8 Men Who Led Britain’s Crazy & Amazing Covert Operations of WW2

James Charles Bond died in 1995 at age 89, without ever revealing his fascinating past to the members of his family. This gentleman took his oath on the Official Secrets Act seriously and never divulged what missions he had undertaken either during or after the war.