The real-life James Bond’s life has a Lakes District chapter

Was possibly from Clemretta, B.C.

“Bond. James Bond.”

Spoken for the first time in the 1962 film Dr. No, this line has become one of the most iconic in Hollywood history. Over the years, at least seven actors have delivered it, and more than half the world’s population has seen the 25 movies based on England’s best-known fictional spy.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard of James Bond. What is less commonly known, though, is that the Bond story has a Lakes District chapter.

Bond was the creation of Ian Fleming, an English journalist and author who worked for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division during the Second World War. Between 1939 and 1945, Fleming played a key role in the establishment of two specialized intelligence corps, the 30 Assault Unit (initially known as the Special Intelligence Unit or 30 Commando) and Task-Force (T-Force). He also helped plan a number of top secret operations against Axis targets.

During the war, Fleming frequently told friends that he hoped to one day write a spy novel. In 1952, he realized his dream with the publication of Casino Royale. It was a huge success, and spawned another 11 books and two short-story collections featuring Agent 007.

As the popularity of the series grew, Fleming was often asked to name the individual who inspired his famous spy. Like a good intelligence officer, he took the secret to his grave, saying only that Bond “was a compound based on all the secret agents and commando types” he met during the war.

Fifty-four years after Fleming’s death, writers and Bond enthusiasts are still asking the question: Who was the real James Bond? While several candidates have emerged over the years, the most likely is Patrick Dalzel-Job.

Dalzel-Job’s life reads like a Bond novel. Born June 1, 1913 in London, he was the only son of Capt. Ernest Dalzel-Job, a British soldier killed at the Battle of the Somme. After his father’s death, Patrick and his mother lived in various locations, including Switzerland. He learned to ski and sail at a young age, and upon his return to the United Kingdom in 1931, built his own schooner, the Mary Fortune.

In 1937, Patrick and his mother sailed the Mary Fortune to Norway, where they spent two years exploring the coast with the help of a young Norwegian girl named Bjorg Bangsund – all the while supplying British Naval Intelligence with reports on the country and its coastline. When war broke out in Europe, he left his schooner in Norway and rushed home to join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

It didn’t take Patrick long to distinguish himself. In April 1940, he used his knowledge of the Norwegian coast to help plan the Allied Northwest Expeditionary Force’s landings in that country, work that earned him praise from naval task force commander William “Ginger” Boyle.

A little more than month later, Patrick disobeyed a direct order and organized the civilian evacuation of Narvik, an act that saved the lives of 4,500 people. King Haakon VII’s decision to award him Norway’s highest medal for chivalry, the Knight’s Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf (First Class), negated any plans for a court marshal.

In the years following the Narvik rescue, Patrick was selected for increasingly difficult missions. In 1942 he was chosen to plan and conduct motor torpedo boat raids in Norway; the following year, he served with the 12 (Special Force) Submarine Flotilla, and received training in the operation of midget submarines. In October 1943, he landed alone on a Nazi-held island in Norway and spied on German convoy movements.

When liberating Norway became a lower priority for the Allies, Patrick took parachute training and transferred to Fleming’s 30 Assault Unit. Promoted to lieutenant commander, he and two Royal Marine commandos landed on Utah Beach after D-Day with orders to gather documents, intelligence, and items of interest in Nazi-held territory. He subsequently captured an entire flotilla of high-speed submarines, accepted the German surrender of Bremen, and took control of a Kriegsmarine destroyer in Bremerhaven.

After VE-Day, Patrick – still employed by the British Admiralty – returned to Norway, found and married Bjorg, and took her home to the UK. For a time the couple lived in Scotland, and it was there that their only son, Iain, was born.

And this is where the Dalzel-Job story takes a strange twist. According to Wikipedia, the family later moved to Canada, where they lived in a “remote cabin in Northern British Columbia” while Patrick served in the Royal Canadian Navy.

Information about the family’s life in this country is not readily available. For years, though, it has been rumoured that they lived for a time in the Lakes District.

The suggestion that a famous British special agent would make his home here sounds like an urban legend. It could be dismissed as such, too, if not for one undeniable fact.

Patrick wrote a book about it.

The Settlers, written in 1957 under the pseudonym ‘Peter Dalzel,’ tells the story of Patrick’s Canadian adventure. In 1946, he moved his Norwegian wife and their infant son Iain to Newfoundland in hope of building a boat to replace the one lost to the Nazis in Norway. When that didn’t pan out, he bundled his family into a car and drove across Canada in search of adventure, eventually ending their journey in BC’s Central Interior.

The book’s author doesn’t specifically name the area in which the family chose to settle, but the people and places he describes are clearly local.

He writes of traveling west from Prince George to the “Babine forest” and a “village” whose downtown core was dominated by “an ugly, square concrete block… housing a hotel and beer parlour.” From there, they headed south, driving for perhaps an hour on a road that “turned along the shore of an extensive, winding lake, some fifty or more miles in length” before setting off “for the Tweedsmuir Park.”

The ‘Dalzels’ initially hoped to settle near the “beautifully named, and beautifully situated, scattered community of Wistaria,” but after learning that Ootsa Lake would be flooded, moved into a rented cabin on the north shore of Francois Lake. They later bought an abandoned homestead near “Trout Creek,” and in the years that followed, became close friends with several of their neighbours. They were particularly fond of an elderly bachelor and Boer War veteran named “Old Tom” who died suddenly one July, and a family Patrick called “the Ramsays” who ran a post office named after “two deceased calves.” (The former could only be Tom Allin of Colleymount, whose death was reported in the July 6, 1953 edition of the Burns Lake Review, while the latter is undeniably the Cowans of Clemretta.)

According to Iain, now 72, the family left Francois Lake in 1956. They returned to England, eventually settling down in Scotland. Iain went on to become a major with the Scots Guards, and fought in the Falkland Islands war.

Patrick Dalzel-Job died October 14, 2003 at age 90.

Was this quiet, private man the ‘real’ James Bond?

For much of his life, Patrick denied the connection. Iain says his father told him, and many others who asked, that he wasn’t Fleming’s famous secret agent. “I couldn’t have been James Bond,” the elder Dalzel-Job said emphatically to his son, “because I only ever loved one woman and I didn’t drink much.”

Iain feels that Fleming’s response to the Bond question is probably the most realistic. He does agree, though, that his father had a remarkable military career.

Patrick published his memoirs, entitled From Arctic Snow to Dust of Normandy: The Extraordinary Wartime Exploits of a Naval Special Agent, in 1991. The book, combined with posthumous release of his war records (kept sealed under the Official Secrets Act for more than 50 years), did little to dispel the notion that he was Bond – and in fact suggested that he shared many characteristics with Fleming’s fictional spy.

“An unusual officer who possesses no fear of danger, he (Patrick) keeps himself in an exceptionally high state of physical fitness, (and) he can withstand an unusual amount of hardship and exposure,” wrote one of his superiors in a confidential report on 30AU. “(He) excels at field work, where individual effort, bravery, and self-reliance are required. An intensely individual officer whose temperament makes him appear erratic in behaviour when he is expected to work with others.”

“Toleration is not his strong point,” added Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, whose pennant flew over the fabled aircraft carrier Ark Royal during the Second World War, “but he is very loyal and hardworking.”

What do you think, Moneypenny? Could ‘M,’ Fleming’s fictional head of MI6, have used these words to describe Agent 007?

The world may never know the real story behind James Bond, but the larger-than-life adventures of Patrick Dalzel-Job – formerly of Clemretta, BC – are an entertaining substitute.

© 2018 Michael Riis-Christianson and the Lakes District Museum Society

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