Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ian Fleming and the Murder of Sir Harry Oakes

As has been recounted here before - the mystery of the murder of Sir Harry Oakes on the night of July 7th 1943 is one of the most celebrated unsolved murders of all time. A new suspect has now emerged onto the scene - none other than James Bond Creator and Second World War Naval Intelligence Officer Ian Lancaster Fleming.
We now have evidence that Fleming was in the Bahamas Region at the time of the Oakes Murder and that he may well along with his OSS/SOE Colleague Ivar Bryce have had good motive to take action against Oakes. Fleming arrived in New York from Bermuda with his new Director of Naval Intelligence Edmund Rushbrooke on the 19th  May 1943 on board Pan Am clipper 18611, he then in July 1943 attended an Anglo-American Naval Conference at the Mrytle Bank Hotel in Kingston Jamaica.

It would have been perfectly possible for Fleming and Bryce to meet in secret with Harry Oakes either prior or after the conference or to command a team of operatives to carry out a murder.The motive for such action would have been the purpose of the conference, namely to counter Axis U-Boat activity in the Caribbean, which both the US and British Governments suspected was being aided by Swedish Pro-Nazi Axel Wenner Gren, business associate and personal friend of Oakes, and the Duke of Windsor - a known pro-Nazi who was also a close personal friend of Oakes. Both Bryce and Fleming had the background and credentials for such a visit. Whatever happened at the meeting, the feisty Oakes brought a revolver and was accidentially killed. The resulting cover-up first involved coercing his business partner Harold Christie to take Oakes body along with some muscle to the Westborne residence and place Oakes back in his bed and set it on fire. Perhaps it was hoped that the fire would make it look like an accident and disguise signs of violent death. A fan put out the flames and Christie "finding" the body in the morning ran the police. The Duke of Windsor to avert suspicion from his unsavoury connections with Oakes, enlisted the Miami Police to frame Oakes erstwhile son in Law Maringy.
Why has it taken so long for Fleming to emerge as a suspect? - Until the publication this year of Matthew Parkers' book Goldeneye- where Bond was born, biographers have wrongly placed the year of Fleming's first visit to Jamaica to the autumn of 1944 . How very convenient.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Disappearance of Victor Grayson - Socialist MP

Victor Grayson was perhaps Britain's most radical and rabble rousing MP. Elected Britain's first and perhaps only Socialist MP in 1907 at an age of 25 he stormed through the Yorkshire Hills around Huddersfield and took his fight to Westminster. He was thrown out of the House of Commons calling the MP's murderers for not debating hunger in the ranks of Britain's starving unemployed and their children. In today's Britain with it's doubling Child poverty and burgeoning food banks it strikes a note. Grayson was a thorn in the side of the Labour Party and lacking the backing of officials lost his seat in 1910. His speeches are still today both prophetic and inspiring.  Grayson set up a rival political party to Labour - the British Socialist Party in 1911, and became a free wheel on the radical left, even backing British involvement in World War 1. He enlisted and was injured on the Western Front and looked set for a come back to parliament after 1918. The sudden death of his wife and baby in February 1918 was followed by a series of strange events in 1920, including an attack on him in a London Street, and his eventual disappearance escorted to oblivion in the company of two men who had collected him to leave his lodgings to embark on a long trip. He was never to return.
What happened to him? - Some reports link him to Ireland and a clandestine visit to Dublin. Others suggest that he left Britain to die in Australia or New Zealand. He was subject to a series of supposed sightings in Kent or on a London Street in the next 20 years. Some of his friends claimed he was living secretly in London and living a quiet life working at a London furnishing shop.

More sinister suggestions have been made - that he was murdered at the hands of notorious honours trafficker and political fixer Maundy Gregory. 

Intelligence writer Donald McCormick (Aka Richard Deacon) was in 1970 the first researcher to link the two men, a fact substantiated by Lord Clark of Windermere in interviews with Grayson's Hotel Manageress Hilda Porter in 1985. McCormick claimed to have had possession of letters from Artist George Flemwell who sighted Grayson disappearing into Gregory's Island Bungalow on September 28th 1920 , but this is strongly challenged as a fabrication and McCormick claimed to have sold the letters in 1974.
Grayson's family became alarmed at his disappearance. His daughter last saw him in 1919 and was told he had left on a long trip to write a book. His sister who travelled down to London from Liverpool in 1920 to nurse his injuries found he had left the Georgian House in Bury Street, London and could not find him. In 1927 his brother returned from the merchant navy tried to find him, and his mother appealed to Scotland Yard and the National Newspapers. No luck, despite a deathbed plea to see him before she died, she passed away in 1929 still separated from her missing son. In 1942, his sister who had emigrated to Toronto Canada, urged Scotland Yard to launch a man-hunt for the missing MP. They discovered that Grayson had been attacked but could find no body or trace of a living man matching his description. In 1952, prompted by an anonymous letter Grayson's sister used her life savings to travel to London to seek help from Scotland Yard and the National Newspapers to no avail. Donald Trelford reported that Grayson's file in Scotland Yard's Missing Persons Department was the size of 2 London Telephone Books. That file which existed in 1942, 1948 & 1955 , along with Special Branch, MI5 and other files have long since been lost or destroyed. Attempts by researchers, MPs, Cabinet Minister and authors to see them from the 1960's onwards have met with no success. Because of Grayson's love of drink, and alleged womanising - many have been too quick to discount his possible murder, yet the combination of an attack on his person and his removal from his Mayfair lodgings by 2 unknown men suggest foul play. Certainly something happened to him which prevented his return to see his 6 year old daughter, his mother and sister after 1920, and if alive after 1927 he would have found word to reach out to his family.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Ian Fleming, Mein Kampf and his 1938 Appeasement Letter to the London Times

One thing you might miss in a biography of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming is his interesting letter to the London Times on September 28th 1938, during the Munich Crisis with Nazi Germany. In the Long letter, Fleming reveals he owns a copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and has obtained a rare Nazi document dated 1920 which predates Mein Kampf. His house in London 22b Ebury Street, bought from British Fascist Oswald Mosley contained a collection of rare manuscripts, including Mein Kampf and the Nazi document, which Fleming claimed showed Hitler was in earnest.Also in display was Mussolini's 1919 Passport he has acquired in 1937 from honours trafficker Maundy Gregory's collection.
To quote Fleming " It would therefore seem that there will be no peace, no return of prosperity, and no happiness in europe until England and France agree to the fulfillment of Herr Hitler's stated programme in exchange for a binding disarmament pact and the guarantee of the traditional protective alliances of the signatory powers."
Fleming argues to keep morality out of the issue, and if a settlement with Hitler could not be made then it would be" time to turn a reluctant ear either to the dangerous counsels of the slaughterhouse brigade (could he mean Winston Churchill?) or the bemused vapourings of those who long for the day that england is another Holland and out of the fight forever (Isolationists?)"

Fleming was not as a true blue Churchillian as he is portrayed and his many fascist (such as Bobby Canning) and Chamberlainite friends (Sir Joseph Ball) put him centrally in the pro-appeasement camp at the time of Munich, fuelled by frequent trips to Germany and Austria during the period.

Fleming's letter can be found in full in the Times Digital Archive: