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Sir William Samuel Stephenson, CC, MC, DFC 
(b at Winnipeg, Man 11 Jan 1896; d in Bermuda 31 Jan 1989) 
Sir William Samuel Stephenson, inventor, businessman, master spy! 


Sir William StephensonBorn in the Point Douglas area of Winnipeg, Manitoba, he left school at a young age. In 1916 he volunteered for the 101st Battalion (Winnipeg Light Infantry), CEF. He earned a field promotion to Sergeant and a medal for battling in the trenches before he turned 19.

While recovering from being gassed in 1916, Stephenson learned to fly and then transferred to the British Royal Flying Corps on August 16, 1917. Posted to 73 Squadron on February 9, 1918, Stephenson flew the British Sopwith Camel fighter biplane and scored twelve victories, among them was Lothar von Richthofen, the younger brother of the famous Red Baron, before he was shot down and captured by the Germans on July 28, 1918.

Stephenson flew as a fighter pilot in WWI, winning several medals for bravery. By the end of World War I he had achieved the rank of Captain and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Military Cross.

Sir William StephensonWhile a student at the University of Manitoba, he invented the wirephoto and then a radio facsimile method of transmitting pictures without need of telephone or telegraph wires. He moved to Britain in 1921 to develop and market this invention to newspapers and rapidly earned a fortune and an entrée to influential political circles in London. Thus, for example, he served on a royal commission in the 1930s to plan the development of India's natural resources.

 At the beginning of WWII, Stephenson was placed in charge of British Security Co-ordination (counterespionage) in the Western Hemisphere, with headquarters in New York C (where the telegraphic address was INTREPID - later popularized as Stephenson's code name). His organization's activities ranged from censoring transatlantic mail, breaking letter codes (which exposed at least one German spy in the US) and forging diplomatic documents, to obtaining Vichy French and Italian military codes, protecting against sabotage of American factories producing munitions for Britain, and training (at CAMP X, near Oshawa, Ont) allied agents for surreptitious entry into Nazi-occupied Europe. 

Sir William StephensonAlthough Stephenson was knighted by King George VI and awarded the US Medal for Merit by President Harry S. Truman, at that time the highest U.S. civilian award; he was the first non-American to receive the medal. General "Wild Bill" Donovan (founder of the OSS which later became the CIA) presented the award.  

On August 2008, Stephenson was recognized for his work by Major General John M. Custer, Commandant of the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps. Custer inducted him as an honorary member of the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, an honour shared by only two other non-Americans. A duplicate of the Citation hangs in our branch.007

Not much was known about his war services until the publication of H. Montgomery Hyde's "The Quiet Canadian" (1962). William Stevenson (no relative to Stephenson) later published 2 books about him, "A Man Called Intrepid" (1977) and "Intrepid's Last Case" (1983).

The novelist Ian Fleming, a member of his wartime staff, is said to have adopted Stephenson as a model for the character ‘M’ in the James Bond books.  Ian Fleming himself once wrote, "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is ... William Stephenson".