London is an espionage lover’s dream city and a mysterious Mr X runs Intelligence Trail, the most comprehensive guided walk in London on real life intelligence and the spies who inhabited that shadowy world.
“From the early 1900s through the Second World War, the Cold War, and the Middle East to the present day, the tour provides real insight into the conducting of, and use of, intelligence throughout the modern world’s turbulent times,” he said confidentially, or was that confidently?
The Intelligence Trail is only suitable for those aged 18 and over, because stories of extreme violence, sexed-up dossiers and sexed-up spies are part of the package. The tour will appeal to anyone – students, spy thriller fans, and tourists alike. It’s the perfect opportunity to find out what really happens away from the fictional worlds of George Smiley, James Bond, Harry Palmer – and more recently – Harry Pearce of the hit TV series Spooks.
Mr X says he is armed with a BA (Hons) in International Relations, specialising in security affairs, as well as politics/economics lecturing experience. I asked him for more juicy details on what the spies got up to.
“First of all we start with a certain Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator. After he married Ann Rothermere, he was reported to have said: ‘In the old days, I demanded or perhaps pleaded for three things in a wife. She should have enough money to buy her own clothes, she should be able to make incomparable Béarnaise sauce, and she should be double-jointed. In the end, I got none of these things.’
“His Caribbean home where he typed the Bond novels was called Goldeneye (sound familiar?!). His friend, the actor and playwright – and former wartime spook himself -Noel Coward, remarked that the home wasn’t so much Goldeneye, but Golden Eye Ear Nose and Throat, for fear of injury whenever he set foot inside. Fleming was instrumental in the setting up of 30 Assault Unit, a bunch of battle hardened commando types – the sort that weren’t to be crossed with. General Patton called them a bunch of Limey pirates! But they did have some notable successes during their time. 30 AU’s exploits are captured on the silver screen in the forthcoming movie Age of Heroes, which co-incidentally stars Sean Bean in the leading role.
“Bean of course played Bond’s former colleague then arch-rival in Goldeneye. Then there’s some stories attached to the infamous Cambridge Spy Ring. John Cairncross – the so called ‘fifth man’ – wrote a book on polygamy in 1974! He included a quote from George Bernard Shaw stating that women would prefer 10 per cent ownership of a first-rate man, rather than sole ownership of a mediocre one.
“Foreign Office official Donald Maclean was the first man in the ring to be identified, and he fled to France on his 38th birthday in May 1951 before eventually surfacing in Russia. In the late 1930’s when Maclean and his courier – an attractive female called Kitty Harris – met to photograph the documents he had smuggled out of the office, his sexual appetite was voracious. Harris apparently reported back to her Russian bosses that he wanted sex before, after, and even during(!) their photographic sessions! You may be interested in knowing what rather unique ingredient was used in invisible ink in the early years of MI6 – Give up? OK, brace yourself – SEMEN !”
Tours start at the Royal Marines Memorial on the North side of The Mall – close to Admiralty Arch. The nearest London Underground station is Charing Cross. The tour finishes at the recently-refurbished St Ermin’s Hotel, (pictured left) where 1950s British spy and double agent Guy Burgess used one of Whitehall’s network of tunnels to smuggle important documents from the Foreign Office to the hotel. Mr X says the hotel was tops for espionage.
Bookings can be made by emailing email@example.com or call +44 (0)1753 290 007.
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Fabulous illustration of bustling London by Miguel Campos: www.facebook.com/logan.woolf