Lynette Silver’s main interest lies in investigating various aspects of Australian history. Her work in this field was recognised in 1989 when, following the publication of her books A Fool’s Gold? and The Battle of Vinegar Hill, she was made a Fellow of the Australian Institute of History and the Arts.
More publications followed: a centennial history on St Peter’s Church, Hornsby; a number of children’s non-fiction books on ballet, craft and games; craft books for adults and ten more non-fiction historical works. The latter includes the official bicentennial work Unsung Heroes and Heroines of Australia, to which a number of writers contributed; two World War II books, Heroes of Rimau and Krait: The Fishing Boat that went to War, and Fabulous Furphies – Ten Great Myths from Australia’s Past.
In 1995, following lengthy research into the fall of Singapore, she was appointed official Historian to the Australian 8th Division Association, a post she held for seven years. Her highly successful book, Sandakan – A Conspiracy of Silence, released in 1998, concerns the loss of almost 2,500 Allied POWs in British North Borneo. It is now into its fourth edition in Australia, with a Malaysian edition launched in 2007. The research undertaken for this book, recognised world-wide as the definitive history, led to her appointment as adviser and consultant to novelist Bryce Courtenay in his blockbuster, Four Fires, which reached Number 1 on the bestseller list.
The Battle of Vinegar Hill, extensively updated and revised for that bi-centenary in 2004, was re-released in 2003. Although originally published in 1989, it remains the only full-length account of the battle and is cited as the leading authority in The Oxford Guide to Australian History.
The Bridge at Parit Sulong, released in 2004, was described by Major General Duncan Lewis, Australia’s Special Forces Commander as ‘one of the finest pieces of investigative history you will read’. The book, which took six years to research and write, deals with one of the least known, and most gallant fighting retreats of World War II and its terrible aftermath.
In 2003 Lynette received a Defence Forces Commendation and Medal from Special Operations Command Australia, for her work during the 60th Anniversary of Operation Jaywick, the first civilian ever to receive this prestigious award. In January 2004 she was awarded an OAM in the Australia Day Honours for her services to veterans and their families for her work on Sandakan. The Sabah Government recognised her research work and her contribution to Sabah’s war history with a Minister’s Special Award, an honour rarely conferred on a foreigner, which was presented to her in November 2009 by Datuk Masidi Manjun, Minister for Tourism, Culture and the Environment.
In her book Marcel Caux: A Life Unravelled, published in 2005, Lynette unmasked the true identity of Australia’s last WW I combat soldier who, for 85 years, passed himself off as someone else. In 2006, she teamed up with Di Elliott, an experienced researcher, to revise and re-compile the unit history of 2/18 Infantry Battalion, entitled A History of the 2/18th Infantry Battalion, AIF.
During the next two years she researched and wrote Deadly Secrets: The Singapore Raids 1942-45. The catalyst for this book, which sheds a great deal of new light on Operations Jaywick and Rimau, and ventures into the murky world of the secret service, was a momentous meeting on Central Railway Station, Sydney, with a former MI6 agent who was heavily involved in both missions.
Lynette and Minister’s Special Award
The year 2010 saw the release of Blood Brothers, which tells the Sandakan story from the local point of view. Launched at Sandakan by the Governor General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, this book, a companion volume to Sandakan A Conspiracy of Silence, follows the development of Sabah from the 1870s, to the post-war period, with special focus on Sabah’s unsung war heroes.
In 2014 a novel, In the Mouth of the Tiger, will be released. It is based on the exploits of the M16 secret agent she met on Central Station, and father of her co-author, Derek Emerson-Elliott.
Lynette is a recognised expert in isolating and identifying previously unidentified graves of servicemen killed in action or who died as prisoners of war. Since 1995, she has been a consultant to the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) and Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and has, since 1998, identified the graves of 38 military personnel who died during WW2 and were buried as ‘unknown’. She also works closely with the Defence Department’s Unrecovered War Casualties Unit, which investigates possible burial sites of personnel still ‘missing in action’.
From 1999-2006, Lynette travelled, in an honorary capacity, to Borneo each year with a group of POW relatives, to organise and conduct commemorative services on Anzac Day at the site of the infamous Sandakan Camp. In December 2006, one of her long term goals was realised when she learned that her ultimate aim, to have Sandakan officially recognised, had been fulfilled. In 2007, for the first time, Anzac Day was officially commemorated at Sandakan with a Dawn Service organised by the office of Australian War Graves. ‘I can’t tell you’ she said,’ how satisfying it is to see the commemoration grow from a small group of relatives to a gathering large enough to be officially recognised.’
However, Lynette’s research work has resulted in more than the publication of her various books. During the past decade she has investigated bogus claims made by people regarding military service and has exposed a number of frauds. In September 2007, following a campaign she initiated in 1997, which had the support of OAWG, The Parit Sulong Memorial was unveiled. Situated at the village Parit Sulong, Johor, West Malaysia, it honours all those who fought and died at Muar, Bakri and Parit Sulong in January 1942. With the memorial established, Lynette continued pressing for an official search for the remains of a large number of badly wounded Australians and Indians, massacred by the Japanese near the bridge. Finally, in March 2011, a joint Malaysian-Australian team undertook an exhaustive search of the area, which established what happened.
Since then, she has been the driving force behind the establishment of memorials in Sabah at Quailey’s Hill and The Last Camp, near Ranau, and with her husband Neil has set up two financial support groups, Friends of Kundasang War Memorial, to assist with the maintenance of that memorial, and Friends of Miruru Village, which provides funds to improve the quality of life in a village whose people sheltered a prisoner of war, rescued from the death march track. After a 19-year campaign, Lynette was also instrumental in the installation of the Rimau Historical Marker on Dover Road, Singapore, where ten of the Operation Rimau men were executed in 1945. This plaque also honours the local people, who suffered hideously as a result of both the Jaywick and Rimau raids.
Apart from being reported in various radio and TV news items, Lynette’s research work has been featured in scores of newspaper articles and journals, and she has been interviewed for the electronic media many times. She has also played a pivotal role as consultant on history programs and appeared on numerous current affairs’ programs and in TV documentaries. Among those dealing with prisoners of war are the ABC Four Corners program, “No Prisoners”; ABC Compass program “Windows to Sandakan“, which was awarded best overseas documentary by the Sabah Tourism Board in 2009; ”If Only”, an SBS documentary; a 7.30 Report special on Sandakan; Channel 9′s Sunday program, ”A Slow Walk through Hell” and Channel 9′s 60 Minutes program, “Secret Heroes”. She was also featured in an episode in the series “Tony Robinson Discovers Australia”, entitled ”The People are Revolting”; ABC TV’s ‘Rewind’ (both on the Vinegar Hill rebellion) and the BBC production “Fall of a Fortress”, on the fall of Singapore.
She is currently working on three separate documentary projects.
Lynette Silver is an Honorary Member of the 2/18th Battalion and 2/19th Battalion AIF; the NSW Commando Association; and Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), QLD. She is a Life Member of RUSI, NSW; Patron of the M V Cape Don Society (a group dedicated to the restoration of this historic vessel for possible use as a mercy ship; Patron of The Sandakan Family, NSW; and a Honorary Trustee of the Sandakan Memorial Window Project, Sandakan Memorial Scholarship Scheme, The Last Camp Memorial,Quailey’s Hill Memorial, Friends of Miruru Village and Friends of Kundasang War Memorial. Each Anzac Day she organises a tour for POW relatives to Sabah, to coincide with Anzac Day and also accompanies groups along the Sandakan-Ranau death march track, ‘lost’ for 60 years, and which she located and re-established with trekking expert Mr. Tham Yau Kong in 2006.
Winning Tourism Malaysia Award 2005/2006 on 22 July 2007for the “Most Innovative Tour Operator” – Sandakan Death March tour innovation
Lynette has two children and is the grandmother of three. She lives in Sydney with her husband Neil, whose help and support is integral to her memorial projects. When not researching and writing Lynette’s time is fully occupied in consultative work with various organisations, raising money for her projects, public speaking, and accompanying tour groups to Singapore and Sabah.
1/ Lynette, was becoming an author a career you specifically set out to do? Or was this something that happened by pure chance?
It happened by pure chance. In 1984, while investigating my family tree, I discovered that my great-great-great grandfather and his brother, both free settlers, had established the iron industry in Australia. While investigating that, I also discovered that the uncle, a mineralogist, had actually discovered Australia’s first payable goldfield but had been the victim of a corrupt government official. Many people, some of them very eminent, had looked for years for the missing documents, which would have shed light on the story, listed in registers in England but strangely removed from the files. I found these documents, lost at that time for 134 years, and in so doing unravelled the mystery. The historians and geologists at the Mining museum in Sydney, which no longer exists, urged me to write it all down. So I did. The book was launched by the mining museum, which also ran a big exhibition on gold to support my work. All this was featured on ABC TV news, on radio and in major newspapers. The actual writing came easily, but it was the research – the chase – that gave me the thrill.
2/ What was the very first book you wrote/published? And when was that?
The book I wrote about gold discovery was my first published book. It was entitled ‘A Fool’s Gold?’ and was published in 1986.
3/ Apart from four books: The Battle of Vinegar Hill, Australia’s Irish Rebellion; Fabulous Furphies – 10 Great Myths From Australia’s Past; On This Rock – The Church of St Peter, Hornsby 1898-1998 & A Fool’s Gold?, all of your other (and most recent) publications are Australian Military history subjects. What got you started into this specialty subject?
I have also written a number of adult craft books, and books for children, covering a diverse range of subjects from craft to games to ballet, but since 1990 have concentrated on Special Operations in the far east in WW2, the Malayan-Singapore Campaign, and prisoners of the Japanese.
All are inter-twined, but I began by documenting two behind-the-lines missions, the 1943 and 1944 raids on Singapore harbour, using material largely based on research work accumulated over a number of years by a retired major in the army reserve.
I ‘inherited’ boxes and files of research material, all of which had to be sorted and welded into a cohesive story. There were a number of substantial gaps in the work, which demanded my direct involvement, and so I began to hone my research skills, which had previously concentrated on colonial history, in wartime documentation. The end result was The Heroes of Rimau and Krait: The fishing boat that went to war. The books were also published under licence in Malaysia and Singapore.
In 2010, as all editions of these books had been out of print for some time, and as I had located a great deal of additional and most illuminating new material, including an unknown eyewitness to the action on one of the islands and a British secret agent intimately involved in both raids, I decided to re-write the story as Deadly Secrets. As twenty years had now passed since the previous publication, this new book filled in many gaps, and answered a number of perplexing questions that could not be answered when I collated the first two books. It also has an entire chapter devoted to the fallacies and fabrications that have emerged over the years, and which are still being peddled as fact, in regard to the two missions.
4/ Sandakan – A Conspiracy of Silence & more recently Blood Brothers – Sabah and Australia 1942-1945 relate to Australian POWs in Borneo. (For those unfamiliar this is where the infamous Sandakan Death Marches & Ranau POW Camps were). What has made the fate of the POWs in Borneo so important to you?
My involvement in the Sandakan story actually came about through my work on Special Operations, which I had continued to research long after the publication of the Rimau and Krait books, and an interest in Sandakan generally, especially from 1993 onwards, when I met three of the six POWs survivors (out of a total of almost 2500) who had been imprisoned at the Sandakan Camp. The other three who had also survived had died some years previously. I became very close to one of the three and, as he was terminally ill, he decided to share many of his experiences with me over the next three years.
I had also accumulated a great deal of archival material on all 81 missions carried out or planned by Special Operations Australia, including one that involved the rescue of POWs from the Sandakan Camp. It was generally accepted that the mission was cancelled at the 11th hour as General MacArthur had suddenly and inexplicably refused to make available the aircraft to transport paratroops to carry out the rescue. In 1995, knowing that MacArthur had approved the plan months before, I questioned the veracity of this claim and discovered it was a complete fabrication. It was part of a post-war cover up, to conceal the fact that the intelligence collected by our behind-the-lines teams – that the Sandakan Camp had been evacuated – was faulty. On receipt of this intelligence, that there were no POWs left at Sandakan, the rescue mission was cancelled. By the time it was discovered that the intelligence was incorrect, it was all too late. In order to cover up this appalling error, General Sir Thomas Blamey, Australia’s most senior wartime commander, the person to whom Special Operations was directly answerable, decided to make General MacArthur the scapegoat. Because Special Operations was a highly secret organisation, the operational files were fileted to remove any mention of the mission. Blamey’s deliberate fabrication, as to the reason why the mission was cancelled, remained undetected for almost 50 years.
While searching for the documentation to prove the real reason for the mission’s cancellation, I came across a mass of material gathered in regard to the POWs’ fate, which had not been examined or collated since it was collected in 1945.
5/ Which book was the most difficult for you write? I don’t necessarily mean in terms of time or costs; more so the sadness and emotion that came from the connection you must have made with the Soldiers you never met – except on paper; during your research of the terrible times these Soldiers went through?
Sandakan, most definitely. I realised very early on that the numbers were so huge – almost 2500 dead, and in dreadful circumstances – and that, unless I could make the reader relate to these men, in human terms, the POWs would simply be cold, hard statistics. So I chose a number of prisoners to follow, from the battlefields in Singapore to their respective deaths. Some met a violent end, others simply faded away from lack of food and illness; some died most gallantly, others had death thrust upon them. However, I soon realised that all were heroes.
I made contact with relatives, who were desperate for any information about the fate of their POWs. They gave me personal information that allowed me to turn them into real, live, flesh and blood. The families sent me photos of fine, bright-eyed, handsome, slouch-hatted young men, proudly wearing their uniforms – a far cry from the dull-eyed, emaciated creatures, clad in skimpy loin-cloths, who ended their years of suffering in the jungles of Borneo.
Their story was complex to weave together, with layer upon layer to be peeled away to reach the core issues. Determined to find out the fate of each prisoner, I spent thousands of hours immersed in Australian and Japanese records, sifting through tens of thousands of documents for the slightest clue. I traced every single skeleton, one by one – whether exhumed from a POW cemetery at the various camps or found scattered on the jungle floor – to a holding cemetery and then to its final resting place in a beautiful War Cemetery on Labuan Island.
Discovering the fate of each person, and tracing his remains was, in itself, very rewarding, but it was also very hard and tiring work. However, the hardest part was writing about the deaths of the various POWs I was following in detail. I could not be too clinical, or too overtly emotional. I could not be dismissive, because there were so many of them. These men – the sons, brothers and children of people waiting for me to record their story – had been my silent, watchful companions for many, many months. I had their photos pinned to the wall to inspire me to keep going. I had their families willing me not to give up. And so, in the end, when the time came to tell others of their fate, I simply wrote from the heart, factually but with a sense of real personal loss, with tears trickling down my cheeks.
6/ Tell us about the St. Michael and All Angels Church in Sandakan and their stained glass windows? And what is the connection between the POWs and this Church? (In 2003 Lynette established a fund so the Church could have these stained glass windows put in).
As I had discovered that the vast majority of the prisoners, on arrival at Sandakan from Singapore, had spent the night at St Michael’s before marching 8 miles to the camp and, ultimately, their deaths, I took POW relatives travelling with me in Borneo to see this beautiful stone church. It is very important to the story, as it is the only building left, anywhere, which has a direct link to the Sandakan POWs.
In 2003, I learned that the church was investigating the possibility of installing some stained glass in the church. I asked if my husband and I might be able to contribute by raising money for a small memorial window to the POWs, but such was the immediate and overwhelming response from POW families and others, that the small idea blossomed into a huge project. A master artist, Australian Philip Handel, accepted the commission and began work in early 2004. In April 2005 we unveiled the magnificent Windows of Remembrance, a large tri-panel filling the west wall. It is dedicated to the memory of the POWs and is also a thanksgiving to the local people who risked, and gave, their lives to help them. The suffering of the locals and their sacrifices effort had not been previously acknowledged.
In 2008 we completed the project by unveiling the Friendship Windows in the north and south transepts. Whereas the Remembrance Windows are reflective, the Friendship Windows look to the future and celebrate the bonds of friendship, originally forged in the dark days of WW2. Every single cent donated for the windows project, some in very small amounts, others very substantial, came from the private sector. Often dubbed, ‘Windows from the Heart’, their replacement value in 2014 was estimated to be close to half a million Australian dollars.
7/ You are an honorary consultant on treks and tours to the World War 2 historical sites like the St. Michael and All Angels Church and Sandakan March. How did this come about?
The tours: In 1999, shortly after publication of my Sandakan book, I was asked by a travel agent if I would be willing to take a group of relatives to Sandakan. I agreed, with one stipulation – I was not to receive any payment. I simply could not accept money for telling traumatised families what had happened to their loved ones. This trip was expected to be a one-off visit, but here I am in 2014 still escorting an Anzac Day Tour each year.
The treks: In 2005 I met a trekking expert, Tham Yau Kong, who lives in Sabah and facilitated a commemorative ‘death march’ walk that year, organised by a local society from Sandakan to Ranau, much of it along minor roads and the busy highway. I had no desire to walk along roads, but I went to Sandakan to see them off and to Ranau to welcome their arrival.
Much of Sabah is now under oil palm cultivation and bears no resemblance to the terrain and vegetation of 1945. As I could see no historical value in walking along a busy highway, I suggested to Tham that if we could open up that section of the POW route that still passed through jungle (the difficult mountain section), we might be able to attract younger, adventurous Australians to Sabah and, in so doing, have them learn about their wartime history by default. Tham thought it a great idea, but pointed out that ‘the route has not been used since WW2. It has been lost for many years and no one knows where it actually went’. I replied that I had traced all the bodies, had all the locality documentation, and had the original map, hand-drawn by one of the recovery teams. It showed which way the POWs walked but it was not to scale, nor was it correct in latitude and longitude. The only way to reconstruct the route was to actually follow the map on the ground, using the river crossings, plus distances covered and times taken to walk from A to B in 1945, all gleaned from written accounts of the recovery work and investigations held in archives. For four months I sent a stream of information to Tham and his jungle experts, as they slowly followed the clues from the map and documents, hacking their way through dense jungle foliage, and finding a way through cultivated and village lands. In March 2006, after combining our respective expertise, we ‘opened’ the last 100 kms of the 240 km track to trekkers.
My consultancy work for Sandakan began in 1995, when I was asked to assist the Office of Australian War Graves in creating the Sandakan Memorial Park. This is an on-going project. However, I also work on many historical projects other than Sandakan, including various documentaries and programs for Australian media and overseas networks.
8/ Now you are a well-known author in this field; do you find the fame as an Australian Military historian is making it easier for you to promote and sell your books? Or is each new publication a new struggle in marketing and promotion? I assume it must be easier now – than it was for you on your first book at least?
I am fortunate in that I have never had any problem having my books published. Publishers have read the finished manuscript and signed me up, have commissioned a book, or have agreed to publish, based just on an idea. For the first book, written in longhand and then typed on a manual typewriter, I just phoned up a publisher, said I had discovered colonial papers relating to gold that had been lost for 134 years and had written a book. The commissioning editor came to my house the very next morning, sat there all day reading the manuscript and said they would like to publish. That was it. Easy. Once the first book was published, the second was just as easy.
My books are a niche market, but sell well within that market. Sandakan has never been out of print and it was first published in 1998. However, it takes a long time to recover the research costs from the ten per cent royalty for a book that was six years in the making, especially when documentation had to be physically located by going to the various Commonwealth and State repositories, and then photocopied at 50 cents per page! These days, it is much easier and cheaper, because researchers can pay to have huge files digitised at a fraction of the photocopying costs. Computers have also made locating files easier.
However, as my motivation in writing books is never for monetary gain, but to simply record an untold story, I think I actually prefer the old way. As I have no research assistants, or any money to pay for one, I do all the research work myself. The big advantage is that, as I hold all the data in my head, I can make connections that may never occur if other people are doing the research. In any case the physical search is more like an adventure. There is something special about dusting off and handling old documents and files; of undoing bundles tied in pink tape stiff with age; to be the first person for decades to open a long-forgotten document. It is akin to going on a safari in Africa and watching a documentary on it. No comparison!
Collating it all is a great mental exercise, and in many ways uses the same skills employed by a forensic investigator. As we all know by the plethora of ‘popular history’ books published in recent years, any journalist can retell a story, with varying degrees of success and in a very short space of time, using someone else’s research work. It takes commitment to the cause to start from scratch to investigate a piece of history, following paths that may, or may not, lead anywhere. All my investigations have begun from a tiny clue or idea, and evolved into a story that has always exceeded my greatest expectations. And all have been immensely satisfying.
9/ Which of your books (if one stands out) makes you most proud?
While I enjoyed creating them all, and found The Heroes of Rimau and Deadly Secrets very interesting books to write, the three that head the list are Sandakan, Blood Brothers and The Bridge at Parit Sulong,
as their publication has had the greatest impact on the people who matter – the relatives of the thousands of people involved in the stories. It is extremely egotistical of me, but at the same extremely rewarding, to know that, of all the billions of people alive in the world today, I have been able to tell someone the one thing they have wanted to know, and which all the money on earth could not buy – the fate of their family member. Nothing can match this kind of satisfaction or reward, either for me, or the recipient. Any monetary reward from book sales fades into insignificance, compared to the privilege of being able to do this, and to know how much that sliver of information is valued and treasured. I, and the people who benefit from my work, are fortunate that since 1984, when I first began serious research, my husband has provided on-going moral and financial support, giving me the resolve to continue when the workload seemed endless, and, very importantly, the means to pay for it all.
10/ You have written so many books packed with history; however there must be a story or parts of those histories that didn’t make it to the final publications? Is there any specific story you wish in hindsight was included in one of your books – but wasn’t for whatever reason?
After the publication of Sandakan, I did hear some rumblings of discontent from some of the officers who had been transferred from Sandakan to a much better camp, where all but five out of 150 survived the war. The three Sandakan POW survivors still alive in 1993, plus several who had been shipped back to Singapore for various misdemeanours, had been very critical when talking to me about the behaviour of some of their officers, who were accused of abusing their officer privilege, not looking after their men, and were allegedly lacking in leadership skills. Suspecting that these criticisms might simply stem from a general ‘anti-officer/anti-authority’ attitude, I decided to ask 12 of the officers if there was any dissention at Sandakan before they left, and if there was any chasm between officers and men. Apart from one, who refused to comment, they all supported the opinion of the rank and file, some in extremely candid terms.
I decided not to reveal in the book that I had interviewed some of the officers, or that they had broken ranks and spoken frankly, in case it created bad blood among the 40 or so who were still alive and were now quite advanced in years. In hindsight, it was a poor decision. The criticisms, which were presented in my book as general observations by those who were there, were taken out of context, in isolation, and I was accused by some of ‘officer bashing’. No one ever contacted me directly. Eventually, one officer (the one who refused to comment) went public. When he wrote a rather heated letter to a military magazine, denying that there was any dissention and that all officers had behaved in an exemplary fashion, I decided to respond. I laid out the facts and made it clear that I had interviewed 12 officers and canvassed their views. I then proceeded to quote their responses, verbatim, adding that when all my informants were deceased, their records of interview would be placed in the War Memorial for the use future researchers. I never heard another word of complaint.
That is the only occasion that I can recall when I deliberately withheld information that was pertinent to the narrative. I have withheld details from time to time that have no bearing on the story. However, if someone does something that impacts adversely on something or someone, I always put it in, irrespective of the possible consequences. The truth is often unpalatable, so this can create a ruction, particularly if previous versions of any action or story have been sanitised, given a particular spin or if the facts have been deliberately distorted or fabricated.
So most of what I uncover, I include, and any interesting peripheral stories are filed for possible use at a future time. I have three books in the pipeline at the moment, one of which is well under way.
11/ As I write these questions, you are in Indonesia working on a Documentary. Can you tell us more?
Unfortunately not, because of confidentiality agreements, other than to say that it involves the secret world of Special Operations, and that working on these kinds of projects is very interesting, if at times exhausting.
12/ You have been working on a Novel called ‘IN THE MOUTH OF THE TIGER’ – tell us more about that please? Including when it will be released?
This book, which will be released in the first half of 2014, is a joint project between myself, as an historical writer, and my friend Derek Emerson-Elliott, who has a fertile imagination and is a great storyteller. The narrative, which is largely based on fact, is set against the exotic backdrop of Malaya and Singapore and enters the world of secret intelligence, incorporating much of the research collated for my various books on Special Operations and the Malaya Campaign. The title of the book has been taken from an old Malayan saying: ‘the safest place in the jungle is in the mouth of the tiger.’
The central figure is a character based very closely on Derek’s father, Denis Emerson-Elliott, who worked for the British secret service before, during and after the Second World War. Real people, who are featured in my books, weave in and out of the story, which is held together by a most unlikely but completely true love match between Denis and Derek’s mother, a much younger and very beautiful White Russian.
Denis Emerson-Elliott was a most engaging figure, and one of his close friends was writer Ian Fleming, to whom he bore an uncannily close physical resemblance. There has been much speculation on the identity of the wartime naval intelligence officer on whom Fleming is said to have based his famous character James Bond. Some people now believe that Fleming used himself as a model for Bond.
Both Denis and Fleming were in the British secret service, were about the same age, moved in the same circles and in fact had identical wartime intelligence roles – Fleming based in the UK and Denis based in Australia. These two look-alikes were suave, charming, sophisticated, charismatic, mysterious, had an eye for the ladies and could be ruthless, when and if the need arose. Although both would be equally suited to play the part of the fictitious James Bond, Denis has a definite edge. Documents reveal that his wartime secret service number was, indeed, 007.
Lynette, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions for the Booksforever blog.
- Sandakan – A Conspiracy Of Silence
- The Bridge At Parit Sulong
- The Battle Of Vinegar Hill
- Deadly Secrets
Other Material On Sandakan:
- Return To Sandakan (DVD)