Remembrance Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on war and honour those who gave their time, energy and in many cases, their lives toward ensuring the safety of those at home. While those who perished on the front lines are commemorated, there were individuals participating in the war effort whose identities had to be kept secret. These were the people who worked under cover, carrying on clandestine operations behind the scenes. One of the most noted of these was a Canadian named Sir William Stephenson.
Stephenson’s accomplishments and history are well documented, and I was introduced to him through a book called “A Man called Intrepid”. It is due to Stephenson that organizations like the CIA came into being. He also created a training ground for World War II spies at Camp X in Whitby Ontario, which incidentally, Camp David in the US is modelled on. Would be spies came from all over the world to train at Camp X in all areas of espionage. One of the most well known was Ian Fleming, who was the writer of the classic James Bond stories. In fact, Ian Fleming said “James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is…William Stephenson.” —Ian Fleming, The Times, October 21, 1962.
It seems apt that a Canadian, and many Canadians, were involved in behind the scenes work during the war, as we are so often perceived as being ‘quiet’ and unobtrusive (except when attending a hockey game). In fact, Stephenson was known as ‘The Quiet Canadian’.
If you are interested in finding out more, the Camp X Historical Society has an excellent website and the write up on Stephenson in Wikipedia is very good. When we have our moment of silence November 11, we should remember these silent heroes.