He was an Old Etonian who spent his war years with the Secret Intelligence Service in Malta and Italy. After 1945 he was posted to Vienna where he was appointed SIS station head. In a long career, he served successively as station head at Berlin, Bonn and Beirut. Throughout his life he was a devoted skier. He learnt to ski in 1916 aged 2, and he captained the British skiing team in the 1936 Winter Olympics. During his retirement, he returned each year to Mürren in Switzerland.
War-hero, skier, spy. Peter Lunn, who died in November aged 97, could have been the model for James Bond. I don’t know whether Ian Fleming knew him, but I wonder whether Peter Lunn made his mark on the world of 007 in another way.
One of Peter Lunn’s achievements while working for SIS was to pioneer the excavation and use of tunnels to allow the intelligence service to eavesdrop on the KGB. In Vienna, he arranged for tunnels to be dug which would intercept communication cables between the Soviet embassy and the city’s airport. The operation lasted from 1948 to 1951. In Berlin in 1955, a tunnel was excavated deep into East Germany and enabled Soviet communications to be tapped. The ruse was exposed in 1956, but not before years’ worth of useful material had been gained.
Given the success of the tunnelling operations, what must SIS chiefs have thought when they turned to chapter 16 of From Russia, with Love (1957) and read a description of a tunnel extending from SIS Station T in Istanbul to the Soviet embassy? The details do not match entirely – Fleming’s tunnel allows Kerim Bey to physically spy on the Russians with the use of a periscope, rather than to tap their communication cables – but the general idea is the same.
At this time, Ian Fleming still had connections in the intelligence community, and it is possible that he heard of Peter Lunn’s tunnels and thought it worth adapting for his latest novel. If so, then, to paraphrase M in his obituary of James Bond in You Only Live Twice, if the degree of the description's veracity had been any higher, Fleming would certainly have been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.