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The great Tong wars of the late ‘twenties.

Then began the great Tong wars of the late ‘twenties. The two great New York Tongs, my own, the Hip Sings, and our rival, the On Lee Ongs, joined in combat. Over the weeks hundreds on both sides were killed and their houses and properties burned to the ground. It was a time of torture and murder and arson in which I joined with delight.

Dr No, Chapter 15

James Bond and Honey Rider are dining as guests of Dr No on Crab Key, listening to the Dr tell them the story of his life. He recalls his early years in China where he first became associated with the Hip Sings tong gang as a young man, and subsequently ran into some trouble which forced the gang to send him to New York.

Tong wars in the United States began in the 1880’s in San Francisco. Gangs spread to Chinatown communities across the United States. The Hip Sing tong was the first established on the east coast, and became the only bicoastal tong. Among their rivals in New York was the On Leong tong, with whom they battled from the early 1900’s to the 1920’s. The On Leong had the cops in their pockets; the Hip Sing won the district attorney’s office to its side.

New York tong members under arrest in the early 1900s.

The On Leong and Hip Sing organizations exist to this day.

The two plus decade run is well documented in Tong Wars: The Untold Story of Vice, Money, and Murder in New York’s Chinatown published in 2016.

Pictured in the top photo are members of the Hip Sing tong.

Clausewitz’s first principle

Bond had left Scotland Yard with the feeling that he had achieved Clausewitz’s first principle. He had made his base secure.

Moonraker, Chapter 10.

Irritation flickered at the corner of the thin mouth. “Mister Bond, power is sovereignty. Clausewitz’s first principle was to have a secure base. From there one proceeds to freedom of action. 

Dr No, Chapter 15

I. General Principles For Defense

1. To keep our troops covered as long as possible. Since we are always open to attack, except when we ourselves are attacking, we must at every instant be on the defensive and thus should place our forces as much under cover as possible.

Clausewitz, The Principles of War.

General Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was a Prussian general and military theorist. his works included On War and The Principles of War. He served as field soldier, with combat experience against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

His ideas are noteworthy for among other things, the idea that war is a continuation of politics, and his approaches are even taught in business schools today.

Fleming twice using the secure base theory confirms the idea that Bond and his enemies are involved in a strategic war, which requires planning and forethought, which brings to mind another of Clausewitz’s quotes:

“No one starts a war–or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so–without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.” 

It’s a similar thought to making your base secure, in Moonraker Bond makes his base secure by gathering information and having his objectives clear in mind. Dr No, on the other hand has a physical base at his disposal from which he attacks the outside world.

Decauville Track

The last iron truck of the day started off on the Decauville Track that snaked down the mountainside to the crusher and separator. 

Dr No, Chapter 13

James Bond and Honey are sleeping as guests of Dr No inside their mink-lined prison on Crab Key. Outside, the workers of Dr No’s guanay colony are finishing up their day with one final load being sent down the Decauville track. 

Island guano workers sending off a cart to be processed.

Paul Decauville innovated a movable railway system consisting of ready-made sections of light, narrow gauge track fastened to steel railway ties; this track was portable and could be disassembled and transported very easily. For an operation such Dr No’s, moving the track that transported the guano from the mountainside quarry up to the crusher and separator was needed as the location of the digging changed occasionally. 

Having a hard rail was essential as much of the island was made up of soft swamp and marsh ground. This type of setup was fairly common in the Caribbean among the sugar plantations, distilleries and mining operations. 

An old Decauville track used for guano digging.

By the First World War, the Decauville system had become a military standard and the French and British eventually built thousands of miles of trench railways track.

Note: To get a great feel for these old railways across the Caribbean, I highly recommend checking out Railway Relics (and more) in the Caribbean.

Guerlain Soap Products

There was everything in the bathroom–Floris Lime bath essence for men and Guerlain bathcubes for women. He crushed a cube into the water and at once the room smelled like an orchid house. The soap was Guerlain’s Sapoceti, Fleurs des Alpes.

Dr No, chapter 13

James Bond and Honey Rider are in the Mink-Lined Prison of Dr No, prior to their dinner date with the owner of the island of Crab Key. 

Founded in Paris in 1828, Guerlain House is a manufacturer of fragrance, skin care and make up. All products are made in France to this day.  There were also Floris products in the bathroom, as mentioned previously

Royal Zoological Society

“Bryce, John Bryce.”
She wrote busily. “Permanent address?”
“Care of the Royal Zoological Society, Regent’s Park, London, England.”
“Profession.”
“Ornithologist.”

Dr No, Chapter 13

Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of animals and their habitats. In 1829, King George IV gave the society a Royal Charter. 

James Bond uses the ZSL as part of his cover story in Dr No, when he and Honey Rider arrive in the reception area of the Dr’s headquarters on Crab Key. Bond lists his next-of-kin as M (using his real name), describing him as his Uncle, and giving his address as Managing Director, Universal Export, Regent’s Park, London.

Thus, the Regent’s Park location of the Zoological Society and the London zoo, is conveniently located near Bond’s office in the secret service building in Regent’s park.

A more modern look at the offices of the Zoological Society.

Dr No’s Dragon

What was it? Half a mile away, coming across the lake, was a shapeless thing with two glaring orange eyes with black pupils. From between these, where the mouth might be, fluttered a yard of blue flame. The grey luminescence of the stars showed some kind of domed head above two short batlike wings. The thing was making a low moaning roar that overlaid another noise, a deep rhythmic thud. It was coming towards them at about ten miles an hour, throwing up a creamy wake.

Dr. No, chapter 12

The Dragon of Crab Key is one of the more terrifying creations of the mind of Ian Fleming. It had a fearsome reputation which traveled across the Carribean and kept visitors from the island.

What do we know about the dragon?

  • Diesel engine (“deep rhythmic thud“)
  • Some kind of domed cabin above two short batlike wings
  • Flamethrower
  • Giant, solid rubber tires, at least two feet across, twice as tall as
    Bond. (“giant aeroplane tyres probably
  • Single tire in rear width of motor
  • Iron fin painted black and gold
  • A long snout mocked-up with gaping jaws and
    gold paint to look like a dragon’s mouth.
  • Iron tractor seats

Bond still had no idea what this contraption was. Under the black and gold paint and the rest of the fancy dress it was some sort of a tractor, but of a kind he had never seen or heard of. The wheels, with their vast smooth rubber tyres, were nearly twice as tall as himself. He had seen no trade name on the tyres, it had been too dark, but they were certainly either solid or filled with porous rubber. At the rear there had been a small trailing wheel for stability. An iron fin, painted black and gold, had been added to help the dragon effect. The high mudguards had been extended into short backswept wings. A long metal dragon’s head had been added to the front of the radiator and the headlamps had been given black centres to make ‘eyes’. That was all there was to it, except that the cabin had been covered with an armoured dome and the flame-thrower added. It was, as Bond had thought, a tractor dressed up to frighten and burn–though why it had a flame-thrower instead of a machine gun he couldn’t imagine. It was clearly the only sort of vehicle that could travel the island. Its huge wide wheels would ride over mangrove and swamp and across the shallow lake. It would negotiate the rough coral uplands and, since its threat would be at night, the heat in the iron cabin would remain at least tolerable.

I’ve had a hard time figuring out this contraption as well. My best guess is that it was some sort of gulf marsh buggy:

Picturing this contraption has been a challenge, I first attempted to use the above marsh buggy as a starting point and tried to add in the rest of the details. My art skills, however, are non-existent. This was what I came up with:

Please don’t laugh!

I tried to incorporate the huge tires, the mudguards turned into short, backswept bat wings, the long metal dragon’s head added to the front, with the existing headlights turned into the dragon’s eyes, the armored dome on top and the fin. Definitely a crude sketch, but I think it at least gives us an idea.

I then went and looked at the 1960 comic strips for Dr No which appeared in Express Newspapers and examined the strips drawn by Martin Asbury which show the dragon. Here are a couple of them:

From The Complete Ian Fleming’s James Bond Dr No The Classic Comic Strip Collection.
From The Complete Ian Fleming’s James Bond Dr No The Classic Comic Strip Collection.

The tires are not quite the same as described by Fleming, but the other details check out. Interestingly the head of the dragon here is elongated, which is something that hadn’t occurred to me but makes sense. The lower picture shows the bat-like wings over the tires, which match up pretty well with my version. 

The Nautilus (Magazine)

I talked to the local schoolmaster, without telling him my secret of course, and he found out that there’s an American magazine called Nautilus for shell collectors. I had just enough money to subscribe to it and I began looking for the shells that people said they wanted in the advertisements.

Dr. No, chapter 11

James Bond is talking with Honey Rider about her life and how she began collecting shells for money. 

The Nautilus started in Philadelphia in July, 1886, as The Conchologists’ Exchange (TCE). William D. Averell (1853–1928), a shell trader from Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, created TCE as a small publication aimed at “giving information of vital interest to the student of Mollusca” (Averell, 1886a).*

In 1889, the publication was renamed The Nautilus. It is a peer-reviewed quarterly magazine on the subject of malacology. Since 1999 it has been under the purview of the National Shell Museum. Archives of the publication are available online here

It is fitting that Fleming would reference perhaps the most prestigious publication in the field in his book. While I don’t know if Fleming himself was a subscriber, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, given his interest in aquatic life. 

As Honey stated, the publication would have sections where collectors would be asking for specific shells, or looking to exchange shells from a different area. 

Some ads in The Nautilus from 1957.

*Celebrating a long life: The Nautilus turns 120!

Heinz pork and beans

There were the remains of a fireplace made of lumps of coral and a few scattered cooking pots and empty tins. They searched in the debris and Quarrel unearthed a couple of unopened tins of Heinz pork and beans.

Dr No – Chapter 10

After their arrival at the former camp of the Audubon Society wardens, James Bond, Quarrel and Honey Rider search around the camp. Among the items the unearth are what ends up being their dinner that night – a couple of tins of Heinz pork and beans.

Pork and beans had been a staple of the American diet since at least the middle of the 19th century. Commercially canned pork and beans were introduced in the United States during the 1880s. This became essentially the first convenience food. Consisting of rehydrated navy beans packed in tomato sauce with small chunks of Salt pork or rendered pork fat, the ingredients are cooked, canned and placed in large pressure cookers to ensure sterility.

Heinz baked beans were first sold in London in the Fortnum & Mason department store in 1901. Heinz opened several UK factories to produce the beans, and between 1941 and 1948, The Ministry of Food classified Heinz Baked Beans as an "essential food" as part of its wartime rationing system.

Heinz UK and Ireland's main food manufacturing facility is based in Kitt Green, near Wigan in the North West of England and turns out more than 1 billion cans every year. It is Europe's largest food factory.

Our threesome on Crab Key had to eat their pork and beans cold, cupped in their hands. They had "about two full handfuls each and a cricket ball of bread."

U.S. Army Remington Carbine, .300.

Quarrel splashed out of the mangroves. He was carrying a rifle. He said apologetically. "No harm'n havin' anudder gun, cap'n. Looks like us may need hit."
Bond took it. It was a U.S. Army Remington Carbine, .300. These people certainly had the right equipment. He handed it back.

Dr No – Chapter 10.

As James Bond, Quarrel and Honey Rider head up the river to the former camp of the Audubon Society men, they are forced to hide from Dr No's men who are looking for them. One man is lingering behind, and Bond kills him. Quarrel takes the man's gun – a U.S. Army Remington Carbine, .300.

This was likely the M1 carbine, which was the standard firearm for the U.S. military during World War II, the Korean War and well into the Vietnam War. A lightweight, easy to use , .30 caliber (7.62 mm) semi-automatic carbine, this rifle was also very popular with military and police forces around the world. 

Dr No equipped his security team with them, showing, as Bond noted, that he gave his people the right equipment. 

Spandau

One of them was holding a long black loud-hailer with a wire attached. The other was manning a machine gun on a tripod. It looked to Bond like a Spandau.

Dr No – Chapter 9

Bond watched the snout of the Spandau swing and depress. The man was going to start with the canoe among the rocks. 

Dr No – Chapter 9

James Bond, Quarrel and Honey Rider have just made acquaintances on the beach of Crab Key, when Dr. No's henchmen, searching for them, drive by the beach in a high-powered motorboat. (Converted MTB, British Government surplus? Bond wonders.) The occupants of the boat issue orders for the trio to show themselves.

When there is no response, they fire a warning round from the Spandau. This could've been an MG 42, which was called "Spandau" by British troops, but Spandau was also a traditional generic term for all German machine guns.

When the warning round is fired, it sparks a note of recognition in Bond. There came the swift rattling roar Bond had last heard coming from the German lines in the Ardennes.

What was Bond doing in the Ardennes? He was in the Royal Navy.