James Bond. The name invokes espionage, danger, martinis (shaken, not stirred) and a bevy of beautiful women with every spy adventure. Bond also conjures up something that men have drooled over for years (besides the women)—spy gadgets. In each Bond movie, master inventor Q hands James a few spy gadgets to ensure his safety, and save the world. In The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book 2 of my tween and teen time travel series, Ravi Sharma buffs up his cufflinks and straightens his bowtie to pretend to be Double-O-Seven before he’s even imagined by his creator, Ian Fleming. It was fun writing the Bond culture into this book, and quite an eye-opener when I went to research all the spy gadgets that were really created during World War Two.
Here’s a look at some of those outrageous spy gadgets:
One plan was to create synthetic goat dung loaded with anthrax as part of PROJECT Capricious in 1942. By using flies, the government hoped to infect German troops in Spanish Morocco in an attempt to stop Spain from joining Axis powers. Now that just sounds baaaad!
Another plot was to introduce estrogen to Hitler’s food in the hopes of eliminating his trademark moustache and affecting his baritone voice. Wait…that could have been an improvement! A deadlier plot included hiding a capsule containing mustard gas in flowers to cause blindness among Nazi generals inside the German High Command Headquarters. Yikes, spying is a nasty business!
Cigarettes laced with tetrahydrocannabinol acetate (Indian hemp). The compound works similarly to morphine and was used as a possible none-lethal incapacitating agent. When given to someone, the cigarette would bring about uncontrollable chattiness. Hmm…didn’t they realize that loose lips sink ships?
Knives concealed within shoes, lapels, pencils, sleeves and coins. Cameras small enough to fit into a match box; a cigarette case which exploded upon opening. Suicide pills (L-pills) hidden in necklaces or rings. Boy, these spy gadgets were playing for keeps!
Explosive coal or the “coal torpedo”, as it was also named, was invented by Capt. Thomas Edgeworth Courtenay of the Confederate Secret Service. Originally, it was a hollow iron casing (to look like coal), that was intended to be shoveled into the firebox of Union steam transportation ships, where it would explode. While Courtenay had approached the British War Office to further refine his idea, they turned him down. However, both the American OSS and the British SOE used forms of his original explosive during World War II. Maybe Courtenay should had gotten a patent…
The next time you squeal when you see a rat, spare a thought to the men and women of the Second World War. One deceptively cunning way to blow up enemy bases would be to fill dead rats up with explosives. The rats would be placed in factories close to enemy camps. When factory workers discovered the dead rodents they would throw them into the fire, ignite the explosives and blow up everything and everyone in the vicinity. However, the Germans discovered the rodent bomb plan, and consequently left the dead rodents to rot and spread disease. Even the Piped Piper couldn’t help them.
And finally, my favorite…
Today, we have satellite imagery and stealth airplanes for aerial reconnaissance. In the 1940s and 50s, we had pigeons. During the World Wars, carrier pigeons completed more than 95 percent of their missions—strap an automatic camera to one of those messengers, and you’ve got yourself a camera roll of discrete reconnaissance, ready for development. I can see Q cringe now.
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Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel adventure series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.
Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.
BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE