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article imageCamp X: Canada's secret spy training facility & the 007 connection

By Sheba     May 8, 2008 in Lifestyle
This week's Caledon Perspectives reported on a little-known fact. Camp X - Canada's secret spy training facility located just minutes outside of Toronto, Ontario, opened on December 8, 1941, the day after the Pearl Harbour attack.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and this was certainly desperate times. Britain was under siege by the Germans, at least when it came to their food supplies which the German U-boats were cutting off, preventing them from reaching home to feed hungry mouths.
America was blissfully happy to ignore what it considered a "European conflict" leaving Britain to handle her own problems. Sir Winston Churchill called on his friend, Bill Stephenson, from Winnipeg, Manitoba to help. Bill, who would later become Sir William Stephenson, was called Intrepid. He headed the BSC British Security Co-ordination.
Stephenson set up shop in New York City, later purchasing a 275-acre farm named Glenrath, in Whitby, Ontario just a little east of Toronto. Using his own money so as not to raise suspicion, Stephenson transformed the farm into a secret military training camp - Camp X, which opened on December 8, 1941, one day after Pearl Harbour.
To the few RCMP who knew of it, it was known as S25-1-1. To a few Canadian Forces personnel it was Project-J. British MI-6 referred to it as STS-103. (Canadian) Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie was kept unaware of Camp X.
Deadly Skills Taught
From newly formulated explosives, forgery, silent killing, disguise and evasion among others these skills were taught to a select few. "About 500 secret agents were processed through this training camp. Those who died in mishaps at the camp, their bodies were sewn into diplomatic bags and flown home to the country of their origin." Most of the agents selected to train at Camp X were chosen for their ability to speak the languages of occupied countries and for their willingness to put themselves in harm's way. One such agent was none other than author Ian Flemming of James Bond 007 fame.
Everyone was sworn to secrecy under the Official Secrets Act which still applies today. Lynn Philip Hodgson has some interesting information in his book titled Inside Camp X. He was contacted by both British and Canadian authorities when his research raised a red flag.
Today Lynn conducts free guided tours of the remains of the Camp X site. He can be reached through this link.
The Caledon Connection
Her name is Evlyn Davis and she's been living in Caledon for the past 20 years. She is one of the ladies who worked on the Hydra, nicknamed the "transmitter shack," according to Davis. Davis, who was trained in the Canadian Women's Army Corp, was recruited to work at Hydra because she was experienced in Morse code and Teletype. She and several other operators coded and decoded messages to and from England, New York and South America.
Her cover was that she was posted to Long Branch, Ontario and her family never knew that she was not far off. Every recruit was followed when on leave and engaged in conversation to test their silence.
Agent Adams
Eric Adams died a couple of years ago but his friend Greg Smith shared some of Eric's experiences working for Camp X. "Eric was a writer for the Toronto Star and an expert ham radio operator. He could send and receive Morse code faster than most operators." Eric was approached by a fellow ham operator who after learning of his sentiments for the plight of the British put him on to the secret operation through a series of secret and intricate meetings with unknown individuals.
Read (PDF) Greg's account of Eric's experience getting to the secret location and his experience working in Venezuela and Chile.
Camp X site
From the official Camp X Historical Society site:
The Camp played a integral role in the subsequent development of the OSS, now the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Candidates selected to train at Camp X included the members of the SOE, OSS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Industrial and Port Security Officers, US Army Intelligence, US Naval Intelligence, the Office of War Information, the Canadian Wartime Information Board, and the Department of External Affairs. The Camp, hosted such notables as Bill Donovan and William Colby (former Director of the CIA), George McClellan (former RCMP Commissioner), Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond), Paul Dehn (who later wrote screenplays for The Taming of the Shrew, Murder on the Orient Express, Goldfinger, and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold), Roald Dahl (author of “The Gremlins” and other children’s stories) and Robert Sherwood (four time Pulzer Prize winner, speech writer and confidante to President Franklin Roosevelt).
Camp X is now called Intrepid Park after the man who founded it. Only about 17 acres of it remains. A monument along with flags were erected in 1984 to honour the sacrifices of those who served after leaving - some never returned. Every year on November 11, Remembrance Day, a ceremony is held in their memory. Further information and how to contact the Camp X Historical Society can be found here
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