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Mark Simmons
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Two Naval Officers, Ian Fleming and Alan Hillgarth, were the architects of Operation Golden Eye, a little-known sabotage and disruption plan that would have been activated if Germany had invaded Spain or Spain had become an Axis ally during the Second World War. Although this was far from certain at the time, neither of these things was to happen, and the book explains why. Golden Eye was never activated; it was eventually put on standby in 1943, when it became clear that there was now less chance either happening. That is why the Operation has remained until now relatively unknown.

The book has a wider scope than just Operation Golden Eye. It examines the various Allied operations and schemes aimed at keeping Spain and Portugal out of the Second World War. They included the extensive and successful bribery of senior Spanish and Portuguese figures. Related separate operations included the SIS and SOE operations in Portugal, the vital Wolfram Wars and Operation Tracer, which was intended to leave a six-man listening and observation post buried deep inside the Rock in the event of Gibraltar being overrun.

This fascinating book will appeal to aficionados of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. It provides answers to some of the questions that readers ask themselves, such as: Did Fleming ever really work as a secret agent? Yes; but only for a brief period, on Operation Golden Eye. Have James Bond's exploits any factual origin? Yes, up to a point; some examples are given. Why did Fleming call his house and estate in Jamaica “Goldeneye”? He named them after the Operation, which gave him the material for the James Bond novels, which largely paid for it. Did Bond's boss, “M”, have an original? He had several, some of whom we meet in the course of this book. One was Admiral John H Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence, whose Assistant Fleming was; less well known is Alan Hillgarth, the novelist and Naval Attache at Madrid, with whom Fleming worked closely on Golden Eye. Fleming's experiences in Spain and Portugal provided him with enough adventures, and an array of colourful and villainous characters, including Kim Philby and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, to create James Bond's exploits after the War.

There are a very few irritating errors, of which I shall flag up a few examples, since vigilant ARRSE-ers will spot them anyway. Firstly, the spelling errors: The great estuary in south-west France is the Gironde; not “Girande”. Reinhard Heydrich (page 47) was a protege of Admiral Canaris; not a “prodigy”. Secondly, the factual errors: King Charles V of Spain (page 26) did not expel the Jesuits from Latin America; that task fell to Charles III. To date there has been no King Charles V. A good copy-editor could have spotted these errors and have weeded them out.

Nevertheless I enjoyed this book, starting with the cover design: a strikingly atmospheric black-and-white photo, probably a montage, showing a World War II bomber and crew silhouetted against lights with the Rock of Gibraltar, strangely lit, rising in the background.

The author, Mark Simmons, served in the Royal Marines in the 1970s, has published ten books and many articles. He drew on Foreign Office, SOE, CIA and OKW files when writing this book.

4/5 mushroom-heads

Metellus Cimber II

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metellus cimber II
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