Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming served in the Royal Navy during World War II. Fleming’s father, Valentine Fleming, was a wealthy Member of Parliament who was killed on the Western Front fighting the Germans in 1917, when young Ian was only nine. Winston Churchill penned Valentine’s obituary.
A classically educated English gentleman, Ian Fleming volunteered his services to his country at a time when the very existence of Great Britain was mortally threatened by the Nazi scourge. Where younger men served in combat behind Enfield rifles, tanks, Spitfires, and destroyers, Fleming’s skills took him to more delicate places. Ian Fleming was a spy.
His code name during the war was “17F,” and he directed the operations of 30 Assault Unit and the subsequent T-Force during their combat operations. These British intelligence units moved ahead of friendly lines, securing intelligence and critical documents from enemy headquarters facilities. These units were loosely based upon German counterparts run by the legendary SS operative Otto Skorzeny.
Once the war was over, Fleming returned to civilian life and began writing. His wartime adventures provided fertile material for the most famous spy in history, MI6’s inimitable 007. Fleming took the name James Bond from a real-world ornithologist of the day. He felt that the pedestrian name and its genesis were so non-descript and unremarkable as to make a proper undercover agent.
During the course of thirteen books and twenty-six movies, Bond has saved the world and gotten the girl under some of the most extraordinary circumstances. Despite overwhelming odds and all manner of variegated dangers, Bond inevitably prevails and looks awesome in the process. Equipped with the latest guns, gear, and gadgets that Her Majesty’s government can provide, 007, on paper at least, is what every proper little boy wants to grow up to be.
The Beretta 418
Bond’s first issue handgun was the diminutive Beretta .25ACP 418. He carried this miniature pistol through the first five Bond novels. The 418 was itself an evolutionary development of the Beretta 1919. This tiny little pocket pistol was a common weapon in Europe in the years between the two world wars. Originally designed, as the name implies, in 1919, this tidy pocket heater is easy to hide and fairly effective for its size, given the limitations of its cartridge.
My gun is nicely executed, as is the case with most Beretta products, and enjoys prewar standards of workmanship. The single-stack magazine holds eight rounds and is retained via a heel-mounted catch after the European fashion. The safety on the left side of the gun rotates through 90 degrees and serves to lock the action open over an empty magazine. When “S” is exposed, the gun is on safe.