Saturday, January 06, 2007

Toronto Inspired Fleming's Casino Royale



Ask anybody who the new James Bond is and they'll likely be able to answer, they'll probably even add an opinion as to whether actor Daniel Craig will fill the famous Bond shoes, but ask anyone who Frank Pickersgill is and you'll likely draw a blank stare. Pickersgill, however, is not very different than Bond, except that he was a real spy, and a hero, a Torontonian and didn't sport the same kind of Bond bling. Frank fought for our country, during World War II, as part of a unique group called the SOE - Special Operations Executive - initiated by Winston Churchill.

To train this elite force Camp X was created, close to the shores of Whitby, Ontario. It was at this spy school, the largest in North America, that Canadian, American and English men and women were taught how to transmit messages secretly, kill silently, and how to handle interrogation if captured.

Ian Fleming was part of the spy school at Camp X, but space was limited so he was living on Avenue Road in Toronto and travelling to the school when necessary. It was while while living here in Toronto that the author penned his first book Casino Royale and named the character James Bond from a nearby church.

Fleming went onto great fame and success but not all of his comrades at Camp X were so lucky. Pickersgill was captured, and interrogated, on a couple different occasions. The first time he broke out by sawing out his cell window, using a blade baked into a loaf of bread. Years later, the Canadian spy parachuted into enemy-occupied France. Fellow SOE members drove into the Loire Valley to find him but all were intercepted and Pickersgill was taken back to prison. This time his escape through a second floor window didn't end successfully. He was recaptured and later executed. A garden is dedicated in his honour on UofT's campus.

It's not the ending fellow Camp X alum Ian Fleming, creator of agent 007, would have written but it's a story that deserves to be told out of respect to those who helped gain our freedom.

If Fleming were aiming for authenticity it may've been with a Canadian accent that we would hear the famous spy's introduction: "Bond, James Bond" and Canadians would realize that their biggest heroes are not Hollywood-born.

4 Comments:

Anonymous David S. said...

Interesting! Thanks for the summary; I grew up not far from the church, and remember many spirited floor hockey games in the basement there. You can see a picture of the church mid-demolition, here: http://wholemap.com/map/index.php?pin=RADIO-184 (along with the Wikipedia link, and a link back to this posting). You can also see the location and more information about Camp-X at http://wholemap.com/map/index.php?pin=CAMPX-1

Speaking of Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bond suggests 007 comes from '1107' Avenue Road (just north of the Church, apparently where he was staying) - "double one 'oh seven".

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