Spying gadgets serve as tribute to the real-life Q: Exhibition recalls the eccentric inventor who became the model for James Bond's saviour

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE DEVICES are fiendishly cunning. The tiny camera masquerades as a cigarette lighter and the golf balls have compasses hidden inside them.

At the entrance to the exhibition is a cut-out figure of James Bond and the music playing is the theme from the 007 films. But the display is not about the suave British agent.

It is a tribute to Charles Fraser-Smith, an eccentric figure who spent the Second World War fooling the Germans by providing spies, saboteurs and escaping prisoners with concealed gadgets.

But for the children who go to the exhibition at Dover Castle, the lure is that Mr Fraser- Smith was the model for Q, the inventor of scores of devices that enabled Bond to escape repeatedly from the jaws of death.

Ian Fleming, author of the books on which the films were based, worked alongside Mr Fraser-Smith for British Intelligence during the war, and realised that for a novelist he was a dream character.

The exhibition, just opened, is called Live and Let Spy: Who Was the Real Q?. On display is a hairbrush which conceals a compass, a map and a double- edged saw; a miniature radio disguised as a lunch box; and a set of apparently innocuous plastic balls coated inside with luminous radium paint, which were used as landing lights.

With typical ingenuity Mr Fraser-Smith realised that the one liquid people were not going to run short of was urine. So he devised a handkerchief which when dipped in it revealed a map which could be used by escaping prisoners.

Compasses concealed inside buttons became standard issue for British agents dropped into German-occupied territory, while the camera disguised as a lighter enabled spies to take pictures of the damage caused by Allied bombing without attracting attention.

Many of his devices were sent to British prisoners of war who used them to escape. The Germans failed to spot maps hidden inside playing cards and cutting wire concealed inside shoelaces.

The exhibition was the brainchild of Mr Fraser-Smith, who was born in Deal, Kent, but he never lived to see it open. He died last November, aged 87.

For years he used the prototypes on display for giving talks. But as he neared the end of his life he got in touch with Ken Scott, general manager of Dover Castle.

Mr Scott went to see him at his home in Bratton Fleming, north Devon, and Mr Fraser- Smith offered the devices to the nation. English Heritage, which runs Dover Castle, will keep them there for two years and then move them to another site.

English Heritage hopes that with the James Bond connection as bait, the exhibition will teach children about the Second World War, which is now part of the national curriculum.

(Photograph omitted)