A revealing biography of Edward Yeo-Thomas GC, the man who inspired Ian Fleming's James Bond
Edward Yeo-Thomas GC was one of the bravest of the brave. A fluent French-speaker, he joined SOE and was parachuted into occupied France three times to work with the Resistance. Appalled by the lack of help the British were providing, he managed to arrange a five-minute meeting with Winston Churchill, during which he persuaded him to do more. On his third mission he was betrayed and captured by the Gestapo; he suffered horrendous torture before being sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, from where he eventually managed to escape, making it back to Allied lines shortly before the end of the war. This biography reveals new information about how the torture affected Yeo-Thomas, the state of SOE-Resistance cooperation, Gestapo typhus experiments at Buchenwald, and how "White Rabbit," Yeo-Thomas, provided the inspiration for Ian Fleming's famous secret agent, James Bond.
Though there's evidence that Ian Fleming was aware of the exploits of the subject of this book, it's unlikely that British secret agent Forest Yeo-Thomas (1902 1964), code-named "White Rabbit" by the Gestapo, really inspired the fictional character of James Bond. Jackson's (Churchill's Unexpected Guests) account is entertaining and well documented, but it lacks the pyrotechnics and thrilling triumphs of the 007 series; she mostly documents Yeo-Thomas's furtive travels, clandestine meetings, and political quarrels. But that doesn't mean the White Rabbit didn't live an extraordinary life in service of his country as with any good true tale of wartime spying, there are tense nighttime encounters with shadowy enemies and plenty of duplicitousness. As a member of the British Secret Operations Executive, Yeo-Thomas, a fluent speaker of French, parachuted into Nazi-occupied France to help unify and supply its many disorganized and feuding resistance groups. Soon after, he was arrested, relentlessly tortured, and shipped to the concentration camp at Buchwenwald, from which he and a small cohort miraculously escaped. Though the subtitle is a stretch, fans of WWII espionage will relish Jackson's portrait of the White Rabbit.