The Man Who Inspired James Bond
“Tommy” very much enjoyed the company of women – or several of them – and was ruthless in pursuit of his enemies.
Yeo-Thomas parachuted into (the then-occupied) France three times before he was captured and tortured by the Gestapo. He was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he escaped.
Sophie Jackson, a historian, found the link between Yeo-Thomas in Bond in the National Archives. There she found a memo dated May 1945 where Fleming informs his colleagues of Tommy’s escape.
“There are other significant parallels between Yeo-Thomas and Bond, in their personal life, their relationships with women and attitudes towards women and the way Yeo-Thomas acted as a secret agent. He acts in a way we think of fictional spies acting,” says Jackson.
“Some of the sequences that Yeo-Thomas went through are things which are then portrayed in James Bond. And these were experiences that Fleming knew about.”
For instance, in Casino Royale, Bond is tortured in a way similar to the way the Gestapo tortured Yeo-Thomas. Then, in From Russia With Love, Bond has dinner with an enemy agent on the Orient Express, much like when Yeo-Thomas had a conversation with Klaus Barbie on a train. Barbie was a well-known Nazi known as the “Butcher of Lyon.” And of course, he never left home unarmed.
Unfortunately, Yeo-Thomas’ lifestyle scarred him mentally. He suffered from recurring nightmares and illness following World War II. He passed away in 1964 at the age of 62.