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Ben’s Licence to Killect memorabilia

Bens Bond collection. 
Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (123522-6)

Bens Bond collection. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (123522-6)

 

The original novels had been a massive success, portraying a Royal Navy commander turned agent as a smooth and handsome Brit who preferred his martinis shaken, not stirred.

Featuring a never-ending string of beautiful women and a host of memorable villains, the Bond franchise has gone on to make billions of pounds at the box office.

With suave actor Daniel Craig now at the helm as the sophisticated killer, Bond is marking his 50th with a new film which has touched upon the character’s troubled roots.

Skyfall has already been hailed as one of the best-ever Bond films, ensuring that a whole new generation gets turned on to the charms of 007.

Ben Stratford was just 12 months old when Pierce Brosnan was wowing cinemagoers in GoldenEye.

It was 1995 and Ben hadn’t yet become the Bond super-fan that he is today.

But the 17-year-old, from Leigh Park, is now the proud owner of a massive collection of Bond memorabilia – and he’s the first to admit that there’s just something about the character that’s got him hooked.

‘I’ve seen every single film – at least twice,’ says Ben, a student at South Downs College, in Waterlooville.

Ben’s fixation with Bond began one afternoon when his grandfather, Ed Walker, was visiting.

A young Ben perched next to him on the sofa and they began watching GoldenEye together.

For Ben, it was to spark a lasting obsession with the character and the films.

Ben remembers how he would spend his school breaks racing around the playground acting out spy scenarios with his friends and then continue the game as soon as he got home.

‘I just loved all the action and the cars and the gadgets,’ he explains.

‘Everything about Bond was amazing. I loved the vehicles and the boats. I just thought the films were brilliant.

‘That’s when I started collecting all the old memorabilia.’

Ben got hold of all the Bond films he could get his hands on and his grandfather bought him a fortnightly magazine that celebrated the secret agent and came complete with limited edition toy versions of the iconic cars in the films.

‘I loved James Bond and it was a chance to collect all the different memorabilia from the films,’ adds Ben.

‘I pretty much had a James Bond bedroom, I just couldn’t get enough of it.

‘I could watch maybe one of two of the films a night and at other times I would sit through a whole day and watch as many as possible on video.’

Instead of taking the cars straight out of the boxes to play with, as many excited children would, Ben kept his prized items safe, tucked away in pristine condition in their boxes.

‘I also have one of the original books and I have signed photographs by the Bond actors. I have some original playing cards too. I just wanted to find out as much information as possible about Bond.’

The teenager recently had his room redecorated and has now stored all of his collectables away in the attic.

But that doesn’t mean his interest in Bond is waning.

People have debated who makes the best Bond for years – and not surprisingly, Ben has his own take on the subject.

His favourite 007 is Pierce Brosnan because he says he grew up watching films such as Die Another Day and Tomorrow Never Dies.

Ben may not have seen the new film yet, but he can’t wait to get to the cinema to check it out: ‘I’m waiting to see Skyfall when I can. Although I didn’t think much of Quantum of Solace, I can’t wait to see it.’

He adds: ‘I think British people love Bond because it’s such a classic British story now.

‘The character has been around since the start of the 1960s and I think most generations have an association with a particular Bond and have grown up with the films.

‘He’s just always been there.’

BOND FACT FILE:

Bond film crews have set up camp in a host of exotic locations over the years – but even Portsmouth has had a starring role in the past.

Some scenes for 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, starring Pierce Brosnan, were shot in the city.

HMS Dryad – the Southwick home of the Royal Navy’s Maritime Warfare School until 2004 – was used, as was HMS Westminster.

And parts of 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me were also filmed at Portsmouth Naval Base.

Even Skyfall has a local connection, as some scenes were shot a few miles up the A27 in Bognor Regis.

One thing’s for sure – Bond is back on Portsmouth’s radar.

A regional premiere for Skyfall took place in Gunwharf Quays and a James Bond Murder Mystery will take place on December 6 at the Groundlings Theatre, Portsea.

Bond’s certainly a British institution – and 007’s long-standing association with the Royal Navy is a key part of the character, as he was originally a navy commander before joining the secret service.

In Ian Fleming’s novels, Bond’s naval career is detailed in an obituary in You Only Live Twice.

Fleming’s character joined the Ministry of Defence in 1941 and reached the rank of lieutenant in the Special Branch of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).

He was soon promoted to commander before he joined the Secret Service at the end of the Second World War.

BOND’S INSPIRATION?

There are many theories about who the character of James Bond is based on – and many believe it to be Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb, the infamous Royal Navy frogman and MI6 diver.

To add fuel to the fire, Crabb’s own death sounds like it could be something out of a secret agent novel. Crabb had been enjoying a drink with friends in Havant in April 1956 when he mysteriously disappeared.

His body was found two months later off Pilsey Island, near Chichester, and is buried in Portsmouth’s Milton Road cemetery.

Many people believe it wasn’t actually him – Crabb’s ex-wife was not sure enough to identify the body, nor was Crabb’s girlfriend Pat Rose. Others are certain Crabb had gone to inspect the bottom of the cruiser Ordzhonikidze in Portsmouth. It was carrying the Russian president Kruschev and his foreign minister, Bulganin, on a goodwill visit.

Many believe Crabb was spotted and killed. British journalist Don Hale wrote The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabb in 2007.

‘Crabb was a heavy drinker, gambler, smoker and loved women and fast cars, similar to the early Bonds,’ says Don.

‘He also loved gadgets. Crabb had a colourful career and had travelled the world gaining wartime experience and knowledge of counter espionage, very much like Bond.’

During the war and before James Bond had ever had his first martini, Ian Fleming was Crabb’s superior in the navy.

Don adds: ‘Crabb’s aunt, Kitty Jarvis, became the inspiration for Miss Moneypenny. Her hatstand in the corner of the office also became a feature for Bond films, especially with Sean Connery.

‘At times of boredom when Crabb was visiting along with Ian Fleming, they would try to throw Bowler hats, Homburgs and other head gear onto the stand as a source of amusement.’

He adds: ‘Crabb and Bond are both field agents too. It’s clear that certain aspects of Crabb’s life were weaved into the books.’

 

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