For those of us James Bond fans, we are enamored of the gadgets developed by “Q” for Bond, James Bond. It turns out that there was a “Q” during World War II and his name was Charles Fraser-Smith. In Secret War of Charles Fraser-Smith the real life “Q” (I’m not sure if I am supposed to keep putting “Q” in parenthesis). Sorry, no flying cars or watches that turn into a saw here, but many of the gadgets were developed to save lives of ordinary pilots who got shot down over enemy territory or spies being sent across borders to surveil the Germans.
Published in 1981, over thirty years after the war was won, Fraser-Smith had to wait until his non-disclosure agreement expired. He’d have waited even without the agreement. If you’re after a sexy, bond-like thriller, you’d be disappointed, but there is a lot here, though at times dry, to learn about the effort to tilt the war effort in the good guys’ direction.
“My piece of the war had been, I suppose, more unorthodox than that of almost anyone alive. I had seen the whole show from and oblique point of view, supplying equipment and gadgets to secret agents in the field or POWs trying to escape…And knowing when something of mine went well – a gadget that really worked and out-foxed the enemy, perhaps helping save a valuable life – had been all I needed by way of inspiration.”