If there’s one orang puteh in Malaysia that everyone young or old knows, it’s James Bond. As Hollywood’s most dependable franchise, we Malaysians have been lining up to catch his latest adventures for more than 50 years now, since Dr. No in 1962. Don’t believe? Here’s proof 😉
In fact, this whole spy-vs-spy idea has captured the imaginations of Malaysians for years, usually packaged with some good looking women, and someone wearing a tuxedo. Mention the words TOP SECRET, and our Malaysian ears perk up instantly! Local companies running spy-themed parties? Check. Political leader comparisons – check and check. Cheesy Bond-style wedding video (or at least we think it’s a wedding video)? Check.
Actually… speaking of cheesy (bear with us here)…
Even Dominos got TOP SECRET also…shshshhhh..
Yep! That screencap is taken from www.dominos.com.my. They’re launching something TOTALLY TOP SECRET this coming week! AND they’ll only reveal what it is to a select few at a secret party next Friday, 16th October!
Wanna go for DOMINO’s Top Secret Parteh?
1. Head to www.dominos.com.my, and just key in “WEB2” to get – 50% off your pizza purchase for the next one week.
2. Take a picture of the 50% off pizza, use hashtag #dTopSecret and #cilisosnoshame to SHARE it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
2. We’ll select 5 of you to go for the parteh (which will of course have lotsa free pizza, and PROBABLY a guy in a tuxedo)!
Ok #plugdone. Got yer pizza? Now grab a slice, pour yourself a nice cold drink, sit back and relax. Because you’re about to read one of the coolest stories CILISOS has ever come across.
What if we told you that Ian Fleming created James Bond based on a guy who used to live in Cameron Highlands?
So you know the character of James Bond was created by a guy called Ian Fleming, right? Well, what you might not know is that Ian Fleming wasn’t just a guy with a great imagination – he was ACTUALLY a former naval intelligence officer, and frequently interfaced with the British Secret Service during his time there.
During that time, he saw many real-life events that eventually ended up in James Bond’s adventures, including personally witnessing a ridiculously high-stakes poker game, and seeing a Serbian double agent, Dusan Popov, coming out from the sea in 1940 to make contact with Dutch agents, wearing a full tuxedo, inside his rubber dive suit!
However, while some suspected Ian Fleming to have based James Bond on his own life (including the serial drinking, fast cars, and golf handicap), an Australian author named Lynette Silver has strong reason to believe that James Bond was actually modelled after an MI6 agent named Denis Emerson-Elliot, who used to live in Cameron Highlands in the height of communist-threatened Malaya.
“I was nine years old when we decided to move to Cameron Highlands in early 1948. But all the while, I had absolutely no idea that my father was a secret spy, neither did I know that my mother was Russian, and that her identity as an English girl born in Somerset Scotland was a cover for her true identity,” – Derek Emerson-Elliot, his son. Dailyexpress.com.my
And it’s not just being a spy either. Here are some other coincidences between James and Denis.
- Both were officers with the Royal Naval Reserve
- Both worked for MI6 and spoke several languages fluently.
- Both were ladies’ men, and loved fast cars
Unlike Bond tho, Denis (like real spies probably should) kept a very low profile, and used a surprisingly profitable business selling confiscated items from the Japanese, as his cover after WWII in Malaya. He even used to play rugby and cricket for the Selangor Cricket Club. After World War II, Denis Emerson Elliot was quietly doing all sorts of spy-vs-spy stuff in neighbouring Singapore, which was still recovering from the Japanese occupation.
However, in early 1948, he suddenly relocated (together with his whole family and his business) to Cameron Highlands, Pahang. He told his family that he’d made the move to spare them from the hot and humid weather of Singapore – at the time, Cameron Highlands was the favoured retreat for the colonials to escape the tropical heat of the region.
And here’s where you the reader might be saying…
“Your topic con me! Just because the fler MI6 and was in Cameron Highlands doesn’t mean JAMES BOND WAS IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS! PTUI. At least got 50% off Domino’s pizza.” – Imaginary CILISOS reader in our head.
But here’s the big proof.
His codename was actually 007.
“One day Derek sent me some of his father’s papers and, as I was reading through them, the number BB007 came up. I asked Derek if he knew what it meant. He didn’t. But I did. It was his father’s British secret service number, and I jokingly remarked that it was the same number as the fictitious James Bond.” – Lynette Silver
Derek didn’t know that BB (according to Lynette) stood for British Bureau. And then, to Lynette’s amazement, Derek replied…
“Well my father was a close friend of Ian Fleming, trained with him in Scotland for MI6 and was his “opposite” number in England during the war, where he held the same post with British Naval Intelligence as my father had in Australia. They were in close contact throughout the entire war.” – Derek Emerson-Elliot, his son, in the book“‘In the Mouth of the Tiger” by Lynette Silver.
So what was Denis doing in Cameron Highlands in 1948?
Back in the late 1940s, there was no Strawberry Park or butterfly farms (although there were tea plantations). Cameron Highlands was known as a retreat for the British from the humid heat of Malaysia – where they could sit around, drink tea, eat scones and play a round of golf. However, with the murder of three plantation managers in nearby Sungai Siput in 1948, a state of emergency was declared in Malaya, and soon… Cameron Highlands changed from a quaint little holiday town into a dangerous communist hideout, where colonialists put sandbags on their doors and travelled only in convoys with armed escorts.
All except the Emerson-Elliot family, who travelled unescorted as they pleased, and even played golf at the nearby course without any armed protection. They stayed at a pair of bungalows at the far end of the golf course – the Starlight Cottage (today, still standing, but changed name to Sunlight Cottage), and the neighbouring Moonlight Cottage (amazingly, the same cottage where another Cameron’s mystery of Jim Thompson occured).
So how did Denis and his family remain untouched? Well, when the communists started moving into Cameron Highlands, security branches started closing alot of businesses, due to suspected involvement with the terrorists. One of these businesses, was the Blue Cow Hotel.
When the hotel shut its doors, the head chef there, a tall, thin Chinese guy known as Ah Khow, lost his job. Denis hired him as the family cook, and the children were told that with Ah Khow on their side, they were safe from any potential harm from the communists, who were rumoured to have camps all over the gentle rolling hills.
But the truth… was that Ah Khow was just a convenient story for the kids – because Denis Emerson-Elliot himself, was actually a trusted associate of those same communists.
So yes. This story even has a Bond ‘villain’ + henchmen
So the REAL reason Denis was in Cameron Highlands was because he had infiltrated the Malayan Communist Party. It wasn’t easy, either.
“Father managed to convince the MCP that he was on their side. They thought he was a double agent. Lynette and I both believe that he proved his credentials by betraying to the communists a Russian secret service agent, Lt Skripkin, who told the British Secret Service he wanted to defect all on his own. When his defection became known to Mi6 in Singapore, my father had to tell his KGB handler of the fact, in case the ‘defection’ was just a ploy to test whether or not my father was really on their side,” Derek Emerson-Elliot, to dailyexpress.com.my.
Unfortunately, that KGB spy was subsequently executed, proving to the MCP that Denis was on their side. Denis, however, had his own mission – to convince the MCP to operate from the jungle, for two reasons –
1. So that they would be seen as a bandit organisation and not a real party with a chance of getting traction. They were at the time in many towns across Malaya, starting to gain support from many worker unions.
2. Operating from the jungle was physically difficult, and expensive… and eventually doomed to failure.
And guess who was also based in Cameron Highlands at the time? The young (under-30) and recently appointed leader of the MCP, CHIN PENG. Yes. The same Chin Peng whose ashes had more trouble coming into Malaysia than Singaporean cars full of petrol.
According to Lynette, Chin Peng and his henchmen stayed next door at the Moonlight Cottage, barely 80 metres up the road from Starlight, where Denis’ family resided with Ah Khow. To warn Chin Peng of any impending danger up the road, Denis installed a military-field telephone line between the two houses… and warned the children sternly NEVER to touch it.
“While the children lived in ignorant bliss at Starlight, over at Moonlight, the MCP’s killing field, the communists were executing ‘defectors’ and ‘running dogs’ and burying the bodies in the rose garden.” – Lynette Silver
One morning in late 1948 though, the family’s short-lived stay in Cameron Highlands came to an unexpected end when they were hurriedly moved to a different bungalow nearer to town. They found their old home surrounded by British Gurkha soldiers, who for the next few weeks, also escorted the family around, even sitting outside their classrooms with guns on their laps.
A few weeks later, Denis moved his family out of Cameron Highlands, unescorted, in his Austin Wolseley car. As they made their way down the mountain, passing a rubber plantation in Tapah, shots rang out, and a bullet pierced the front-right mud-guard of the car. Rather than speeding off in panic though, Denis braked the car suddenly, got out, and shouted a few words in Malay and Cantonese to the unseen attackers.
The firing stopped, and the family resumed their journey unharmed.
Denis did his job exceedingly well though, and on 27 July the MCP was officially outlawed, forcing them into the jungle and effectively preventing them from taking part in any elections. The Communists never came out of the jungle (eventually moving to Thailand) until their subsequent surrender much later in 1989.
And that was how 007’s adventure in Cameron Highlands ended
After that brief, but harrowing adventure in Malaysia, Denis moved back to the United Kingdom. There, they stayed for the next few years, with Denis entertaining some of his old buddies, including a certain Ian Fleming, who was just putting together his thoughts for his first book, Casino Royale, which he described as his “dreadful oafish opus”.
In 1955, Denis relocated again… this time settling in Perth in 1955 before moving to Canberra in 1964. It was here that he first met with historian/author Lynette Silver, whom CILISOS would like to formally thank for her help in putting this article together. (Please buy her book here! Amazingly, this book is not sold in any major Malaysian bookstore. We checked). But here’s Lynette’s experience of meeting BB007 for the first time.
“He set the time and date, and we’d have lunch. He went past all these cozy little cafes and I thought “Why is he not going in there?”. (Instead) he went to this busy cafe, took a seat in the far corner of the room, sat down with an eye-line to the door and I thought “Old habits die hard”. At that point, I knew I was having lunch with a real spy!” – Lynette Silver to Channel 9 Australia.
In his later years, Denis actually had alot of regrets. His son told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was “ashamed he had to lie, deceive and betray on a daily basis, and was deeply saddened by some of the things he had done.”
“Bond was fictional. Nobody but a fictional character could possibly smile his way through the deceit, treachery and mayhem Bond encounters. In real life, it certainly affected my father. He ended his life loathing what he’d had to do, and grieving for the many people whom he’d had to harm in the course of his duty. At the very end, he hated the secret service with a passion.” – Derek Emerson-Elliot, SMH.com.au
Haiz. No wonder the Daniel Craig movies so serious.
While reality is important, to be honest…writing this article made us miss the good ol’ Sean Connery days.
PS: For a cheesier ending, do visit our sponsors at www.dominos.com.my and use the WEB2 voucher code to get 50% off your pizza 🙂