SOE's Mastermind - James Bond's M

Ian Fleming’s James Bond is now a global phenomenom. Bond’s boss in the Fleming books was known by the code name M, a senior military figure who ran “the British Secret Service”. In Fleming’s books, M was, of course, a man. In my researches for “Ian Fleming and SOE’s Operation Postmaster”, I discovered, as that book tells, that there really had been a secret service chief in World War Two who used the code name M. He was Major General Sir Colin Gubbins, who ran the secret service known as the Special Operations Executive [SOE]. Ian Fleming knew Gubbins, and worked with him for a while. As it happens, my mother and father also knew Gubbins, and I myself met him a number of times when I was a youngster. I decided that my next book would be a biography of Sir Colin.

Sir Colin Gubbins was a remarkable man, who escaped from Germany at the beginning of World War One; fought on the Western Front throughout that war as a gunner; served in Archangel, Northern Russian in the war against the Bolsheviks in 1919; served for three years in Ireland during the worst of the troubles and the beginning of the civil war there; served for eight years in India during the Ghandi unrest, fought in Poland and Norway in the early years of World War Two, ran the British Resistance organisation known as the Auxiliary Units in 1940 preparatory to an expected German invasion, and then became the Head of Operations and Training for SOE, and eventually its overall boss. As M he was responsible for a number of vitally important secret operations.

Writing his biography proved to be the most substantial historical task that I have yet undertaken, but his story is a most fascinating one. I am particularly grateful to his grandson, Michael Gubbins, who has given me extensive help, and who has allowed me access to many fascinating private letters and papers.

“SOE’s Mastermind – an authorised biography of Major General Sir Colin Gubbins” will be published in May 2016 by Pen and Sword.

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