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The amazing story of a Norfolk soldier and an operation which it is claimed provided inspiration for James Bond

PUBLISHED: 16:03 11 January 2013 | UPDATED: 16:03 11 January 2013

Norfolk hero of Postmaster: Future Norwich Union boss Desmond Longe, later agent W30

Norfolk hero of Postmaster: Future Norwich Union boss Desmond Longe, later agent W30

Archant

It was an image that might have been plucked straight from the pages of Robert Louis Stephenson.

In a scene reminiscent of the blood-curdling raids of Blackbeard, Morgan and Kidd, the high-sided tug boat closed its unsuspecting prey for a spectacular rendezvous with fate.

Beneath a makeshift boarding plank, small parties of men, their faces blackened like piratical cut-throats of old, lay ready for action with tommy guns, knives and packs of explosive in place of cutlasses, flintlocks and round shot.

Out of the darkness the lights of Africa blinked back at them, their beguiling beauty striking at least one of the gentlemen guerrillas as weirdly incongruous.

To 23-year-old Norfolk soldier turned clandestine warfare expert Desmond Longe, aka secret agent W30, the flickering lights resembled a horde of fireflies flitting through the night.

It was shortly before midnight on a January night a little more than 70 years ago and, after months of planning and subterfuge, one of the second world war’s most controversial missions was nearing its extraordinary climax.

Some seven decades on, the remarkable story of Operation Postmaster, the attempt to hijack enemy ships lying in the port of Santa Isabel, on the neutral Spanish island of Fernando Po, reads like the stuff of fantastical fiction.

And according to historian Brian Lett Postmaster and its leaders served as inspiration for the greatest fictional spy hero of all – James Bond, codenamed secret agent 007.

The full, amazing story, is revealed in tomorrow’s EDP.

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