Everyone’s Moneypenny

To celebrate the new James Bond movie, Mark Steyn reposted his remembrance of Lois Maxwell, the original Moneypenny.

“…Fleming based Moneypenny on Vera Atkins, secretary to Maurice Buckmaster, head of the French section at Britain's wartime Special Operations Executive. Miss Atkins lived into her nineties, died in the year 2000, and, although a spinster to the end, didn't recognize herself in Fleming's fictionalization. She was one of those fiendishly smart gals whose talents it took a global conflagration to liberate. It was Vera Atkins who recruited and supervised the over 400 British agents who parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, standing on the runway night after night to watch her boys take off and disappear into the clouds. Like Moneypenny, she was indulgent of the Secret Service's penchant for secret servicing, as long as it stayed brisk and businesslike. Romance was another matter. “Oh, the bloody English!” she sighed, after one of her boys, George Millar, revealed he was in love again. “We never have bother of this sort with the French. They just copulate, and that is that.” Where Moneypenny was devoted to just one agent, Miss Atkins was devoted to all of them: 118 vanished in the course of their duties, and after the war she demanded to be allowed to investigate their cases. She discovered the fate of 117, all dead, and brought many of their killers to justice.

“Vera Atkins,” like “Lois Maxwell,” sounds as English as you could get. But Vera was born Vera Rosenberg in Bucharest, and Lois was born Lois Hooker in Kitchener, Ontario. She took the name “Maxwell” from a gay ballet dancer pal in London, and back in Canada her family liked it so much they all adopted it, too….”

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