Lionel Crabb OBE was said to be one of the inspirations for James Bond and it was the “Crabb Affair” that inspired Thunderball, the novel by Ian Fleming and the subsequent Bond Movie (two if you include Never Say Never Again).
In 1956 — during the height of the Suez Crisis (an embarrassing affair in British and French politics where they ultimately conceded to a militarised Egypt); Lionel Crabb was sent to spy on a Soviet Cruiser and was never seen ever again…
Crabb — born to a poor family in West London in 1909 — joined the Merchant Navy and during World War II joined the Army. With skills recognised by his superiors “Buster” (as he came to be known) was promoted to lieutenant commander and eventually placed in charge of all anti-mining operations around the coast of Italy. For his services during the war Buster later became known as Lionel Crabb OBE (an award for services to the empire).
In what seemed to be an olive branch between the UK and the USSR, the Russians were invited to harbour their cruiser SVERDLOV in Portsmouth Harbour in 1955. However; behind the scenes, Lionel Crabb made a series of secret dives to evaluate the potential of the ship.
In 1956 when the Ordzhonikidze arrived in Portsmouth carrying Soviet Premier Khrushchev; the Cold War was at its peak. However; out of loyalty to Egypt (who was receiving substantial arms from the USSR) the Russian premier called off his talks with Anthony Eden (the stoic UK Prime Minister) without warning and accused the British of spying. Anthony Eden was naturally furious.
It was around this time that the British government announced Commander Crabb missing with the dubious announcement that he was enjoying recreational time diving along the south coast of Hampshire. A series of occurrences lead to clear accusations of Soviet involvement and possible British knowledge which coincided with the sudden and unexplained resignation of MI6 head Sir John Sinclair.
The last sighting of Lionel Crabb was 17th April 1956 when Lionel and an unknown man took a room at the SALLY PORT HOTEL.
What made the mystery even stranger was the discovery, fifteen months later, of a frogman washed up in Pilsey Island, West Sussex. The corpse had its head and hands cut off and identification was impossible. However, no close relation to Crabb could identify the body, including former lovers.
Looking at the evidence and inquest into the decapitated body, it is my personal opinion that this was Lionel Crabb. Let’s look at the facts:
- Looking for a Y-shaped scar on Crabb’s left thigh. The pathologist did NOT make note of any scar. However; upon re-examination, the aforementioned scar was found on the body (the size of a six-penny).
- According to diving expert Rob Hoole the body was the same height, and body-hair colour (no head remember) as Crabb. Dressed in the same clothes including a Pirelli diving suit.
- Clad in a faded rubber green frogman suit issued to Royal Navy divers.
- Most evidence suggests that the body was Mr Lionel Crabb’s remains. I think this can be said with almost 95% certainty.
However many believe Crabb was captured and held in the notorious Lefortovo Prison. This has been strenuously denied by Moscow with some even going so far as quoting Crabb’s prison number 147.
Other more far-fetched rumours include Crabb being brainwashed and operating as a Soviet agent. And statements that Crabb was in charge of the Russian Black Sea Fleet under the name Lev Lvovich Korablo.
Sidney Knowles, Crabb’s diving partner, allegedly informed author Tim Binding (Man Overboard 2005) that Crabb intended to defect in 1955 and fearing a PR disaster; the British government assassinated Crabb. However, the length of time between Crabb’s disappearance and Knowles’ admission makes this story questionable.
By recent UK Law and Freedom of Information, any documentation on this case will not be made available until 2057. One hundred years after the incident.
Of course, to suggest that Crabb was a Quisling is a tragic slur and slanderous to the man without concrete evidence — IMAGINE JAMES BOND A TRAITOR? This is simply not fair to a man that risked so much for Blighty and who came from nothing to work his way up to esteem in the UK military.
What could be suggested is that there was a potential diplomatic disaster by the British government with the Soviets and Crabb was the scapegoat and sacrificial lamb. Rather than be caught in the act of spying during one of Khrushchev’s tantrums and fearing military escalation, Crabb was simply “off’d” to avoid the incident rather than be caught in the act of espionage.
Much like the tragedy of Alan Turing — it seems evident that Britain does not deserve their war heroes if we look at how they are treated.
I am sure if James Bond was a real character — he would have been left out to dry after royally fudging up in the first novel Casino Royale.
“The bitch is dead now.” Bond said [this was after he realised he himself had been double-crossed by a SMERSH agent].