10 Things You May Not Know About James Bond's Employers

james bond

With the filming of the latest Bond movie beginning today, we’ve decided to uncover a few facts about the British Secret Service which may surprise you.

Created by Ian Fleming in 1952, Bond has been helping out MI6 (one branch of British intelligence) for almost 60 years now, but the agency itself has a rather lesser known history.

Understandably, the organisation gives little away about itself, unwilling to say even how many people work for it. However, last year it did allow a book to be published detailing its early history from 1909 to 1949.

Some very interesting nuggets emerged.

1909 witnessed the birth of MI5 and MI6

Five years before the first world war, German spies attempted to uncover secrets about Britain's militarization plans.

The answer to stopping those pesky Germans? MI5 and MI6, of course! And so was born Britain's Secret Service Bureau which, at this time, was a joint effort from the country's War Office and Navy.

According to the organisation, the new Bureau was successful in uncovering no fewer than 20 German spies before the war. While one half of the new agency sought to combat an espionage threat from abroad another looked to gather intelligence about Britain's potential enemies from abroad.

And so the two parts of the UK's Secret Service were born...MI5 and MI6.

Benito Mussolini was hired by MI5 in 1917

Yes, indeed, the founder of the Axis of Evil was given a start to his career by MI5.

Benito Mussolini worked as an agent for Britain in 1917, charged with helping to keep Italy onside during the war.

By the middle of the next decade Mussolini was a fascist dictator of his country.

The Telegraph reported last year that a former naval chief, Commander Wilfred Dunderdale, worked for MI6 and identified with several episodes in Ian Fleming's novels.

Dunderdale and Fleming were reportedly acquaintances and the former admitted in later life that some of the episodes in Fleming's work were more than a little familiar to him.

Indeed, the book released last year entitled 'MI6, the History of the Secret Intelligence Service' revealed that while stationed in France in the 1930s and 1940s, Dunderdale had a passion for fast cars and beautiful women. However, the paper also reported that Dunderdale lacked Bond's trademark good looks.

MI6 had some pretty cool gadgets back in the day

Agents were provided with some pretty nice gadgets in MI6's early years.

The BBC reported that some were provided with cameras hidden inside matchboxes and shaving brushes with secret compartments, which also must have come in handy saving space when packing toiletries.

It may not be missiles firing from headlights or a car that disappears, but it ain't bad.

Some prestigious authors worked for the agency

Graham Greene, Arthur Ransome, Somerset Maugham, Compton Mackenzie and Malcolm Muggeridge are all reported to have been members of MI6, though some of them were rather reluctant spies.

It is said that the cohort were approached due to their knowledge of exotic locations.

Have a read of Greene's 'Our Man in Havana' which pokes a little fun at British intelligence.

MI6 approved the account of its early history, written by Professor Keith Jeffery partly because it wanted to dispel the myth that it's agents could kill whoever they wanted.

The account says that though deaths occurred, agents didn't have carte blanche to be wantonly trigger happy.

The wife of the head of MI6 once put all his personal details on Facebook

In a slightly perplexing blunder, the wife of MI6 chief, Sir John Sawers, almost screwed up big time when she posted a lot of the couple's personal information on Facebook in 2009.

Sawers saw his home address and location of all of his three children revealed on the social networking site after his wife updated her profile. The data was later removed.

One of its male agents was once arrested in Spain...dressed as a woman

No one has ever gotten to the bottom of this one.

MI6 agent Dudley Clarke was arrested in Madrid in 1941 while dressed as a woman. His story? The garments belonged to his friend and he was trying them on as a joke. That was quickly seen through: the clothes fitted him.

Clarke was released by Spanish police four days later and allowed to resume his successful spying career.

MI6 had a seriously low budget when it started

Aston Martins? Designer tuxedos? Pens that fold out into rubber dingies for a swift getaway? Sadly none of these were even in the agency's dreams when it began.

Professor Jeffrey's book documents that the organisation was so poor when it was created that it had to make do on a pathetic budget and was continually squeezed for office space.

MI6 tried to stop a Bond film from being filmed in front of it

If you've seen 'The World Is Not Enough' then you'll know that Bond flies out of MI6 headquarters in a speed boat and races down the River Thames.

What you may not know, is that MI6 initially banned the filming of the scene based on the fact that you're technically not allowed to film in front of the organisation's headquarters.

Luckily everything was sorted out, allowing Piers Brosnan to speed up and down the river while looking very dashing.

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