Though nothing visible remains of it now, but a park with a gorgeous view of Lake Ontario and a multitude of cycle paths, this was once one of the most important places on the planet during WWII.
The Camp was designed to link Britain to North America and was the brainchild of William Stephenson, who is commonly referred to by his code name – ‘Intrepid’.
The Camp’s location was specifically chosen – an isolated, remote site just off the shores of Lake Ontario, and only thirty miles straight across the lake from the United States. Itwas ideal for bouncing radio signals from Europe, South America, and New York.
This was the first training school for clandestine operations in Canada and North America.
Camp X trainees learned special techniques including; silent killing, sabotage, partisan support and recruitment methods for resistance movements, demolition, map reading, use of various weapons, and Morse code.
The OSS operated an “assassination and elimination” program here coined “the school of mayhem and murder” by George Hunter White, a former trainee at the facility.
It’s said that by the time they left, every one of its students could kill a man with their bare hands in 15 seconds.
Camp X was influential in the development of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Five future heads of the CIA were trained here.
Many years ago the Camp itself was disassembled and auctioned off, and the flooded underground tunnels filled. Now, though it is difficult to find parking, the grounds serve as a beautiful, serene place of recreation known as ‘Intrepid Park’.
THE MAN CALLED INTREPID
“James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is … William Stephenson.”
Both men are said to have trained at Camp X, though there is some evidence to the contrary in Ian’s regard.
William was already a WWI hero when he became an important informant for Winston Churchill during WWII, filling him in on Nazi developments.
His contributions are widely noted, and as such he has been the recipient of a multitude of awards including; Knight Bachelor, Companion of the Order of Canada, Military Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Medal of Freedom and the Medal for Merit.
He is also famous for having worked without a salary. He often covered staffing costs out of his own pocket.
At only 5′ 5, for many reasons, he far outsized his nickname ‘Little Bill’.
Ian Fleming found much of his inspiration here at Camp X – from both people and operations. The character ‘Goldfinger’ and story line behind his role are said to have been based on a failed mission proposed by Stephenson. The plan was to steal millions of dollars worth of gold from French reserves to fund the war effort.
In Dr. No, agents are being trained while Q walks Bond through the Camp.
“That’s Camp X, bang-on.”
Says historian and author of ‘Inside Camp X’, Lynn-Philip Hodgson.
The name ‘James Bond’ is said to have come from the church across the street from where Ian was billeted in Toronto – St. James–Bond United Church, located at 1066 Avenue Road.
A PERSONAL CONNECTION
Before I was born, in the late 1960’s, my Mother and Grandfather attended a Camp X building auction. My Mother thought perhaps one of the former Camp buildings would make for a nice ‘first home’. Though she didn’t end up purchasing, she still remembers her walk through the grounds.
My father grew up nearby, and used to go with friends to the site to explore the partially flooded underground tunnels. Dangerous for sure, but he recalls it as an incredible adventure.
IN THE NEWS
War history buff Robert ‘Bob’ Stuart ran a Camp X museum near the Oshawa Airport for more than 30 years. When he died, his daughter took over and immediately tried to sell the collection online for 1 million dollars.
Outraged Veterans and their families insisted that the items were deeply cherished and of personal significance, having been loaned or donated in gentlemen’s agreements with Robert Stuart. Through all of the drama, the sale eventually fell through.
However, on Saturday August 3rd 2013, Stuarts daughter Deirdre put hundreds of items on the block at Bruce Kellett’s auction barn in the hamlet of Blackstock, south of Lake Scugog – selling what was left for about $40,000.
Though a few people attended in hopes of buying back their cherished family items, all but one were unsuccessful.
Adding insult to injury, Deirdre Stuart is on record as having said, to those claiming ownership of the cherished historical items;
“If you didn’t put it in writing, you pretty much gave it to us, like, hello? How stupid are people?”
The younger Stuarts apparent disregard for her fathers work, the value of our history and the sacrifice of our Veterans serves only as salt to the freshly re-opened wounds of everyone affected.
My heart goes out to them, and my hopes are that the new owners of these important artifacts appreciate them for what they are.
Additional photos in the slideshow.