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Buster Crabb: Ian Fleming’s favourite spy

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Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb was author Ian Fleming’s favourite real-life spy, whose daring exploits eventually became the main inspiration for his fictional character ‘James Bond.’ Crabb was a drinker and a gambler, who loved women, fast cars, and gadgets.

A British naval frogman, and bomb disposal expert, he worked directly under Fleming during WW2 at Naval Intelligence. He also worked on many covert operations for both the Secret Intelligence Services (SIS), and MI5, throughout the war years and afterwards.

Certain extracts from his dangerous mission reports, and from his eccentric lifestyle, were later incorporated within Fleming’s varied Bond novels. Crabb even discovered the real ‘Odd-Job,’ later of ‘Goldfinger’ fame, together with his deadly steel-brimmed hat, whilst working as a bodyguard in the Far East. And his underwater battle with enemy divers, whilst investigating a mysterious plane crash in shallow waters, later became a crucial scene in ‘Thunderball.’

His innovative inventions also sparked the role of ‘Q,’ and the famous ‘Miss Moneypenny’ character, was originally based on Crabb’s aunt, Kitty Jarvis, who worked at the Intelligence Services with both Fleming and Anthony Blunt, complete with her bizarre hat-stand, with her private phone number also ending in 007.

Crabb disappeared in 1957 following a secret dive beneath a Russian warship which had brought Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Bulganin to Britain. A year later, A decapitated and handless body was found, sparking a major row between the government, the secret services and the Admiralty that still smoulders today. Painstaking research discovered who sanctioned Crabb’s final dive in a case which claimed the jobs of Admiralty top brass and many notable Intelligence officers, and contributed to the downfall of Anthony Eden.

By Don Hale OBE

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