So there I was, ambling speculatively round Bletchley Park – the wartime Enigma code cracking mecca in the heart of England – when I stepped into this hut much like all the others.
It was an unassuming scout hut-alike, grey and low and prefab, and as I had already taken many arty farty peeling-paint pictures of the site – some of which is much as it was when they walked out of it after the war – I did not pick up my camera and ooooh and aaah.
Which is rather a shame.
Because the moment I stepped inside I realised that this was a very important hut indeed.
Mainly because only around 70 years ago, in the very spot where I was standing, just by the green baize door to the cabin, stood the desk of Ian Fleming.
So much of what he heard and saw at Bletchley – the iconic Government Code and Cypher School during the second world war -must have permeated the books about the dashing spy we all want, or want to be: but he died in 1964, ten years before he could talk about the truth that was surely stranger than fiction.
It was Rear Admiral John Godfey, director of Naval Intelligence for the Royal Navy, who recruited Fleming to work as his PA. And before long, the job began to entail liaison with Bletchley,just outside Milton Keynes, close to the machines and minds which could decrypt those baffling codes which floated across the airwaves carrying vital clues to enemy plans.
Early on in 1940, when naval shipping was being decimated as it made its way across the Atlantic, and no-one could crack the Enigma codes, the Poles handed the British an enigma machine.
Whereupon Fleming was despatched down to meet Alan Turing and his colleagues. What did they need to crack the code, the director wanted to know?
And they told him; it was the key settings. Whereupon Fleming began to plan a daring and bloodthirsty scheme to get them.
Yes, you read right. Crash a captured German bomber into the sea and lure a German team to rescue it; shoot the team, and get hold of their code apparatus and books in a bid to get something new on the key settings.
He even, it is reputed, pencilled himself in to take part, although Bletchley staff were expressly ruled out from operations like this in case they were caught, captures and information extracted from them.
This is just the tip of an iceberg of Fleming’s wartime activity. It is chronicled in the little hut which sits unassuming, a short walk from the old house which formed the centre of so much crucial manoevring during the second world war.
Apart from that, the hut is bare; you have to imagine Mr Fleming scheming by the green baize door.
It does show, doesn’t it: you can never judge a book by its cover.