Website last updated: 4-10-2017

25 August 2008
From Bletchley, With Love

By: FSWL team
Published:
2008-02-25
Bletchley park james bond event
IAN FLEMING AND BLETCHLEY PARK.

By 1940 the greatest threat to the Allies was U-boat attacks on North Atlantic convoys. If the Allies could discover in advance where U-boat packs were assembling, they could direct convoys away from them. The German Naval Enigma was not being broken, therefore it was essential that current German Naval Enigma material should be captured from their ships. On 12 September 1940, Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming RNVR, Personal Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, concocted an extraordinary plan to crash-land a captured German plane in the English channel and overpower the patrol boat crew that came to rescue its ”survivors”, thereby gaining access to Enigma materials.

Fleming’s proposal, Codename ‘Operation Ruthles’ was as follows:
I suggest we obtain the loot by the following means:

1. Obtain from Air Ministry an air-worthy German bomber.
2. Pick a tough crew of five, including a pilot, W/T operator and word-perfect German speaker. Dress them in German Air Force uniform, add blood and bandages to suit.
3. Crash plane in the Channel after making S.O.S. to rescue service.
4. Once aboard rescue boat, shoot German crew, dump overboard, bring rescue boat back to English port.

In order to increase the chances of capturing an R. or M. (Räumboot – a small minesweeper; Minensuchboot – a large minesweeper) with its richer booty, the crash might be staged in mid-Channel. The Germans would presumably employ one of this type for the longer and more hazardous journey.

Ian Fleming later added other details to the plan:
N.B. Since attackers will be wearing enemy uniform, they will be liable to be shot as franc-tireurs if captured, and incident might be fruitful field for propaganda. Attackers' story will therefore be "that it was done for a lark by a group of young hot-heads who thought the war was too tame and wanted to have a go at the Germans. They had stolen plane and equipment and had expected to get into trouble when they got back". This will prevent suspicions that party was after more valuable booty than a rescue boat. Fleming added that the pilot should be a ‘tough bachelor able to swim’; and that a German-speaker would also be needed to travel on the bomber. He put his own name forward.

‘Operation Ruthless’ was quickly given the go-ahead; a plane and crew were procured and Fleming travelled down to Dover to put it into practice. However, to the deep frustration of the Bletchley Park Codebreakers, the plan was abandoned due to the lack of suitable German boats operating at night.

Frank Birch, Head of German Naval Section at Bletchley Park lamented that “Turing and Twinn (both key Codebreakers at Bletchley Park) came to me like undertakers cheated of a nice corpse …all in a stew about the cancellation of Operation Ruthless”. It now seemed that only the Naval equivalent of a miracle would enable the Codebreakers to break into Naval Enigma but the prolific genius of Ian Fleming for writing spy plots had been born.

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