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Sunbeam Alpine Talbot

I’ve got you a car, Sunbeam Talbot coupé. New tyres. Fast. Right car for these roads.

Live and Let Die, chapter 16

At the tail of the line stood the black Sunbeam Alpine of Commander John Strangways, RN (Ret.), Regional Control Officer for the Caribbean–or, less discreetly, the local representative of the British Secret Service.

DR NO, chapter 1

They got to the car. It was a black Sunbeam Alpine. Bond looked sharply at it and then at the number plate. Strangways’s car. What the hell? “Where did you get this, Quarrel?”

DR NO, chapter 4

See they look the part and send them off in the Sunbeam with the roof down. Right?”

DR NO, chapter 5

The Gleaner said that a Sunbeam Talbot, H. 2473, had been involved in a fatal accident on the Devil’s Racecourse, a stretch of winding road between Spanish Town and Ochos Rio–on the Kingston-Montego route. A runaway lorry, whose driver was being traced, had crashed into the Sunbeam as it came round a bend. Both vehicles had left the road and hurtled into the ravine below.

DR NO, chapter 7

The car’s outside. You remember Strangways? Well, it’s his old Sunbeam Alpine. The Station bought it, and now I use it. It’s a bit aged, but it’s still pretty fast and it won’t let you down. It’s rather bashed about, so it won’t be conspicuous. The tank’s full, and I’ve put the survey map in the glove compartment.”

The Man with the Golden Gun, Chapter 4

The various descriptions above have me a little confused as to whether Fleming is saying that the car that Strangways brought to Bond in Live and Let Die, is the same car Strangways still had in Dr No, and was still around for the events of The Man With The Golden Gun.

There are several factors here which bear pondering. In LALD, the car is described as a “Sunbeam Talbot coupé.” A 1951 model of this car is shown here:

Sunbeam Talbot drophead coupe 1951

The first two descriptions in Dr No describe Strangways car as a “Sunbeam Alpine” which was a two-seater sports car manufactured by Sunbeam-Talbot from 1953 – 1955 and then again from 1959 – 1968. Of the first series, (which would’ve been the car described in Dr No) only 1,582 were made. Outside of the UK, US and Canada, only 175 were sent to other world markets.

Sunbeam Alpine 1953 -1955

Despite the similarities, there are some differences here, namely that the Alpine (which to add the the confusion here was also known as the “Talbot” Alpine) was a true open car, it had no roll-up windows or roof. You’ll recall that Bond instructed Quarrel to send the two men “off in the Sunbeam with the roof down. Right?”

If this was a true Alpine, it had no roof to put down. There were snap-on roofs (and windows) available, but Bond’s direction was to put the roof down. The Talbot, as you can see in the top picture, did have a roof that could be put up and down.

Then, after the car is sent off, Bond sees the news that the Sunbeam Talbot was in a fatal accident. You see the confusion?

Then finally, Mary Goodnight is driving Strangways old Sunbeam Alpine? So was the accident on the Devil’s Racecourse fatal to the passengers, but the car was able to be hauled out of the ravine and then salvaged to the point that it could be driven again? Goodnight does describe the car as “rather bashed about” so I guess it is possible, if not plausible.

But again, we’re back from the “Talbot” to the “Alpine.” My guess here is that Fleming did intend for the car to be the same all the way through, and that it was actually a Sunbeam Talbot, from which the Sunbeam Alpine was derived. It seems that the terms were pretty interchangeable during that decade, and most readers then would not have noticed.

Hillman Minx

Outside the sun blazed down on the gravel sweep. The interior of the Hillman Minx was a Turkish bath. Bond’s bruised hands cringed as they took the wheel.

DR NO. Chapter 20

James Bond has just completed his report to the Acting Governor and is now set to return to Honey in Beau Desert. You’ll recall earlier in the novel, Bond had been given Strangways’ Sunbeam Alpine to drive, but had sent two men in it, posing as Bond and Quarrel down the Devil’s Racecourse, where the men and the car met an unfortunate end. (or did it?)

So now Bond has apparently been provided with a Hillman Minx to drive. The Minx is actually a very similar car to the Sunbeam, which is a badge-engineered variant. The car was a mid-sized family car from the British car maker Hillman, and was manufactured between 1931 – 1970.

A 1957 Hillman Minx
The Turkish bath interior

S.S. Blanche

An aged tanker of around ten thousand tons deadweight was secured alongside the top of the T. It stood well out of the water, its deck perhaps twelve feet above the quay. The tanker was called Blanche, and the Ant of Antwerp showed at her stern.

DR. NO Chapter 19

The men from the SS Blanche would have dug him out.

DR. NO Chapter 20

Throughout his writings, Ian Fleming would include the names of his friends (and sometimes enemies) in his books.

This one makes me laugh. Blanche is a reference to Blanche Blackwell his (intimate) friend in Jamaica. Describing the fictional ship as An aged tanker of around ten thousand tons deadweight was, as Mathew Parker notes, “a sign that their relationship had reached the point of affectionate teasing”.

Blanche Blackwell

H.M.S Narvik

And if I may say so, sir, I submit that we should take steps to clear up Crab Key without waiting for approval from London. I can provide a platoon ready to embark by this evening. HMS Narvik came in yesterday. If the programme of receptions and cocktail parties for her could possibly be deferred for forty-eight hours or so…” The Brigadier let his sarcasm hang in the air.

DR. NO Chapter 20

DR. No has met his demise and James Bond is back in Jamaica where an emergency meeting is underway in King’s House. The Brigadier in command of the Caribbean Defence Force suggests a plan of action.

There appears that there was a ship by the name of H.M.S. Narvik. There isn’t a whole lot of information that is readily available. The real ship was a submarine support ship, which apparently supplied and supported a fleet of submarines.

There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that the vessel ever came to Jamaica, it appears most of its time during that period was in the South Pacific. I’d be interested to know how Fleming came to choose this ship to be the cited for this adventure.

HMS NARVIK (FL 10201) Underway in the Solent with a deck cargo of five LCAs. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120861

Lord Mayor’s Show

The long garage was empty. Under the neon lights the black and gold painted dragon on wheels looked like a float waiting for the Lord Mayor’s Show. It was pointing towards the sliding doors and the hatch of the armoured cabin stood open.

DR. NO Chapter 19

James Bond has just finished Dr. No’s obstacle course and disposed of the Dr, and is now, along with Honeychile Rider looking for a means to get away from the compound, which is in pure chaos at the moment. He spots Dr. No’s “dragon” and it reminds him of a float for the Lord Mayor’s Show.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the oldest annual events in London, being 802 years old as of 2020. In 1215, King John attempted to win over the city of London to his side by appointing a mayor who would be loyal to him. According to the event’s website:

The King added a careful condition: every year the newly elected Mayor must leave the safety of the City, travel upriver to Westminster and swear loyalty to him. The Mayor has now made that journey nearly 700 times, despite plagues and fires and countless wars, and pledged his or her loyalty to 34 kings and queens of England.

https://lordmayorsshow.london/history/origins

As the procession went up to Westminster by river, this is why to this day, vehicles used in processions are referred to as “floats.” In 1757 a magnificent State Coach was commissioned. The coach had “gilded coachwork and painted panels depicting London’s majesty, piety and global reach.” The Black and Gold dragon of Dr No brought the State Coach to Bond’s mind.

Lord Mayor’s Day 1958, during the events of Dr No.

Heavyside Layer

There is a million dollars’ worth of equipment up above us in the rock galleries, Mister Bond, sending fingers up into the Heavyside Layer, waiting for the signals, jamming them, countering beams with other beams.

DR. NO, Chapter 16

Doctor No is continuing to brag to James Bond about his installation on Crab Key, having just named a bunch of armed missiles that he has interfered with on behalf of the Russians.

Fleming tosses in a reference to the Heavyside Layer, referring to the Heaviside layer, sometimes called the Kennelly–Heaviside layer. This is a region of the Earth’s ionosphere, between roughly 90 and 150 km above the ground.

This region was predicted separately and at almost the same time by Arthur E. Kennelly and Oliver Heaviside. At the time the use of radio waves was in its infancy, and scientists didn’t understand why radio waves followed the curve of the earth rather than shooting directly out into space.

Heaviside, a self-taught British engineer, hypothesized in 1902 that there was a layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that forced radio waves to skim around the planet.

This led to great advances in radio technology so that by the time of Doctor No, it was possible not only to guide missiles by radio but also to intercept them.

Doctor No states that “And we track it, as accurately as they are tracking it in the Operations Room on Turks Island.”

The ninth was the top floor of the building. Most of it was occupied by Communications, the hand-picked inter-services team of operators whose only interest was the world of microwaves, sunspots, and the ‘heaviside layer’. Above them, on the flat roof, were the three squat masts of one of the most powerful transmitters in England, explained on the bold bronze list of occupants in the entrance hall of the building by the words ‘Radio Tests Ltd.’

Moonraker, Chapter 2

The term (with the correct spelling) also appears in Moonraker in a description of MI6 headquarters building.

SNARK, ZUNI, MATADOR, PETREL, REGULUS, BOMARC, MASTODON (oh my)

“Perhaps you have read of the rockets that have been going astray recently? The multi-stage SNARK, for instance, that ended its flight in the forests of Brazil instead of the depths of the South Atlantic?”

DR NO Chapter 16

“There have been other failures, decisive failures, from the long list of prototypes–the ZUNI, MATADOR, PETREL, REGULUS, BOMARC–so many names, so many changes, I can’t even remember them all. Well, Mister Bond,”

DR NO Chapter 16

“You do not believe me? No matter. Others do. Others who have seen the complete abandonment of one series, the MASTODON, because of its recurring navigational errors, its failure to obey the radio directions from Turks Island.

DR NO Chapter 16

Doctor No is feeling pretty good about things and is showing off a little to his guests James Bond and Honeychile Rider. He reveals that all these recent failed missile tests are a result of a million dollars worth of equipment on his installation there on Crab Key.

As usual, Ian Fleming is mixing in real events with the story, giving it a stronger feel of plausibility. All but one of the named missiles were real.

SNARK: (Northrop SM-62 Snark) An intercontinental cruise missile used by the USAF from 1958 through 1961. It was meant to be able to carry a nuclear warhead as a deterrent to the U.S.S.R. It had landing skids, making it able to be re-used. In a 1956 test, a Snark flew too far and refused its destruct command, and disappeared over Brazil, just as Doctor No said. (“You recall that it refused to obey the telemetred instructions to change its course, even to destroy itself. It developed a will of its own?“)

Snark Ground-Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM)

ZUNI: A 5 inch air-to-air and air-to-ground missile developed in the early 1950’s by the U.S. Navy and approved for production in 1957. Designed to carry a variety of warheads, this missile was used extensively in the Vietnam war and continues in use to this day.

Zuni Aircraft Rocket

MATADOR: (Martin MGM-1 Matador) The first operational surface-to-surface cruise missile developed by the U.S. Deployed in 1953, these were made to carry a nuclear payload. A total of about 1200 were produced before being taken out of service in 1962. The missile was guided via radio link which made it vulnerable to radio jamming by Doctor No’s team.

Matador

PETREL: (AUM-N-2 Petrel, or Kingfisher C) An air-to-surface missile intended for use against ships or surfaced submarines. It carried a torpedo as its payload. It came into operation in 1956, but was cancelled in 1959.

REGULUS: (SSM-N-8 Regulus) Developed by the U.S. Navy this was a turbojet cruise missile launched from ships and surfaced submarines, carrying a nuclear warhead. It was in service between 1955 and 1964.

BOMARC: (Boeing CIM-10 Bomarc IM-99 Weapon System) The world’s first long-range anti-aircraft missile. It was in service from 1959 to 1972. Produced by Boeing in collaboration with the Michigan Aeronautical Research Center (MARC) gave the missile its name.

CIM-10 Bomarc missile complex at Fort Dix, NJ, Oct 1960

MASTODON: Unless Fleming knew about a secret program by this name which was abandoned, it seems like this is the only fictional missile named in this group.

Grand Turk Auxiliary Air Force Base

“Doubtless you know that Turks Island, about three hundred miles from here through the Windward Passage, is the most important centre for testing the guided missiles of the United States?”

DR NO, Chapter 16

Dinner has just been completed between Doctor No, James Bond and Honeychile Rider. They have moved on to their “after-dinner entertainment.” Bond has asked what is next for Doctor No, and the reply is noted above.

The Grand Turk Auxiliary Air Force Base was a missile tracking station built as a joint agreement between the United States and Great Britain which went into operation in 1953. The purpose of the base, and other tracking sites, was to track the long-range missiles launched from the United States as well as the satellites and manned flights launched from Cape Canaveral.

The first missile tracked from the station was in November, 1955 when it tracked a SNARK missile. (more on that later!) The station was an early member of the Atlantic Missile Range and was operated by the Pan American Airways Guided Missile Range Division. It wasn’t quite the most important base, as Doctor No claimed, but it was an important installation during that time period.

1977 stamp commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the station.

Grand Turk, along with several other bases, was used to track all of the space launches from Explore 1 to the last of the Mercury flights and was the first place that John Glenn was taken to on Feb 20, 1962. It continued through the Gemini and Apollo as a “satellite” station of Cape Canaveral. The base was closed in 1984.

The Windward Passage refers to the strait between Cuba and Haiti.

Full set of stamps

Why Did Dr No Go To Milwaukee?

Then I went to Milwaukee, where there are no Chinamen, and enrolled myself in the faculty of medicine. I hid myself in the academic world, the world of libraries and laboratories and classrooms and campuses. And there, Mister Bond, I lost myself in the study of the human body and the human mind.

DR NO. Chapter 15

Doctor No is continuing to tell his life story to his captive audience of James Bond and Honeychile Rider. He has just finished the talking about his escape with the funds of the Hip Sings (his New York Tong gang) and for his next move he heads to Milwaukee.

Milwaukee?

Well, he did say he wanted to lose himself. At the time that Doctor No would’ve been enrolled he likely went to the Marquette University School of Medicine, which is now Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW)

Screen Shot

It was one of the top medical schools in the country at the time, while remaining out of the spotlight that Ivy League schools would’ve garnered. It was really the perfect spot for the young fugitive to hide himself for a few years.

Rare shot of a young Doctor No (middle, in toupée) entering one of the medical buildings.
A publication that Dr No’s studies may have been included in.

The medical school gave Doctor No a few years to disappear from anyone who may have been hunting for him, before he was ready to begin the next phase of his life.

So, if you recall, there I was, in Milwaukee. In due course, I completed my studies and I left America and went by easy stages round the world. I called myself ‘doctor’ because doctors receive confidences and they can ask questions without arousing suspicion. I was looking for my headquarters.

DR. NO, Chapter 15

Silberstein, the greatest stamp dealer in New York.

When they let me out of the hospital I went to Silberstein, the greatest stamp dealer in New York. I bought an envelope, just one envelope, full of the rarest postage stamps in the world. I took weeks to get them together. But I didn’t mind what I paid–in New York, London, Paris, Zurich. I wanted my gold to be mobile. I invested it all in these stamps. I had foreseen the World War. I knew there would be inflation. I knew the best would appreciate, or at least hold its value.

Dr. No, Chapter 15

James Bond and Honey Rider are dining with Dr. No, listening to their host tell the story of his life. Having escaped death at the hands of the Tongs whom he betrayed, he recounts his next steps.

Nassau Street in Manhattan was the center of New York City’s “Stamp District” from around 1915 up until the 1970’s. Philately probably hit its peak during the 1950’s. Fleming, with his love of New York was likely aware of the Stamp District and perhaps even had been there during one of his trips through the city.

I was unable to find any reference to a Silberstein as a famous stamp collector. The most famous character of that time in New York Philately appears to have been a fellow named Herman (Pat) Herst Jr. Herst was ubiquitous in the stamp world, constantly making speaking appearances, publishing a newsletter Herst’s Outbursts, writing 18 books, including the best seller Nassau Street in 1960. He contributed to stamp columns in publications all over the country. His sister was Edith Herst Silverstein, which was as close as I could get to a connection.

In the course of writing this post, I came across the British Caribbean Philatelic Study Group, and in the April 2018 edition they have a bit on Ian Fleming – go to the section British Colonial post-World War II High Values (Part 2). I was drawn to this part:

Ian Lancaster Fleming has never been noted as a stamp collector or philatelist. As far as is known, he never had a collection — his interest was first editions — none of them philatelic (Figure 3). Valuable stamps never play a part in any of the James Bond adventures — they should!

Well, this is a minor part in a Bond novel. They must’ve overlooked this bit from Dr. No!