|Vera Atkins CBE, Légion d'Honneur, C de G|
British Intelligence Officer; SOE F-section
"In the real world of spies, Vera Atkins was the boss"—Ian Fleming
Few individuals were as vital to the success of the resistance efforts in occupied countries as Atkins, whose fascinating life and times are chronicled in William Stevenson's Spymistress.
Vera recruited her agents carefully, trained them until they dropped from exhaustion, constantly tested them, then personally packed them off on missions. Her clandestine army went deep behind enemy lines, linked up with resistance fighters, destroyed vital targets, helped Allied pilots escape capture, and radioed information back to London. Her agents and saboteurs were not armed with aerial fighting machines. If they chose to die to escape capture, they crunched on lethal cyanide pills.The origins of many elements of Fleming's novels are to be found in the work of Atkins and her circle before and during WWII, including the prototype of Miss Moneypenny and the arsenal of spy gear described by Stevenson:
Gadgets included incendiary bricks, limpet mines, tire bursters, silenced weapons, daggers, magnets, rope ladders, railroad charges, underwater gear, dehydrated rations, double-sided briefcases, pedal generators, a one-man submarine, whiskey flasks, folding shovels, watersuits, explosives disguised as wine bottles, driftwood, plastic fruit and flowers, rusty bolts, stone lanterns, bicycle pumps and even a German flashlight that detonated when switched on. By 1945, the catalog of secret gadgetry filled 200 pages.In this video Fleming reveals the intriguing origin of his hero's name: