Ian Fleming: return to civilian life

Ian Fleming had received a salary as partner in a stock broking firm throughout the war, but rather than return to that role, he decided to accept the role of Foreign Manager for Kemsley Newspapers, owner of the Sunday Times, at the end of 1945 instead.

His role was to gather intelligence for the newspaper group from around the world and was part of a new strategy by its owner, Lord Kemsley, when his original growth plans failed. Fleming’s appointment was quite a coup for Kemsley as he brought with him first hand experience of organising an intelligence operation and also had the bonus of tremendous social cachet.

His annual salary was £4,500, with an expense allowance of £500 and two months holiday, which he insisted upon so that he could fulfil his dream of spending part of the year in Jamaica. He managed to recruit many journalists with intelligence connections and some of the foreign correspondents worked for both Kemsley and SIS/MI6 simultaneously.

During this time, Ivar Bryce found a suitable location to build a house overlooking the sea at Oracabessa on the site of an old donkey racetrack. Fleming dusted off the drawings he’d made while at the Admiralty, which consisted of a large living room with less space allocated for bedrooms or kitchen. As he liked the tropical breezes – the Doctor’s Wind and Undertaker’s Wind he later wrote about in the Bond books – his design included the slatted shutters typical of the Caribbean rather than having glazed windows.

The property included a small sandy beach and just offshore was a coral reef where he was later to spend much of his time with a facemask and snorkel looking at the variety of colourful tropical fish, octopuses, lobsters and other marine life that he so loved.

His first visit to the house – named Goldeneye, after the wartime plan to protect Gibraltar – was in December 1946, for a stay of 5 weeks, when a sunken garden and steps down to the beach were added.

Meanwhile, Ann Rothermere was working for her husband’s newspaper, the Daily Mail. She and Fleming continued their affair, although he continued to see other girls too, and Fleming was often a guest of Ann and her husband, whose other guests included assorted aristocrats, writers, artists and politicians.

Ann’s first visit to Goldeneye was in January 1947, when she travelled with the wife of the Duke of Westminster, Loelia, to give an aura of respectability to her visit. While Loelia later complained that she’d been used, Fleming bought his guests a book to amuse his guests – the Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies by an ornithologist named James Bond.

Returning to London in March 1948, Fleming learnt that Ann was pregnant by him. However, the child was born a month prematurely in August during a golfing holiday in Scotland arranged by her Esmond, with Fleming and Loelia Westminster as guests; the child survived for just eight hours.

Esmund took Ann to Europe to convalesce, but while there demanded that she stop seeing Fleming. Ann ignored his request and visited Goldeneye the following January, during which they both realised they need to break the stalemate in their relationship. However, she was greeted in Southampton with an ultimatum from her husband and the relationship continued much as before until 1951, Esmond finally tired of the situation and divorced Ann, also forcing her out of her role at the Daily Mail.

When Ann arrived in Jamaica in 1952, she already knew she was pregnant by Fleming and free at last to get married, they resolved to do so as fast as possible while in Jamaica.

For more comprehensive information on the life of Ian Fleming see Andrew Lycett’s excellent biography, available at Amazon.co.uk/Amazon.com.

Read more about Ian Fleming

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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