[NOTE: The events through 1945 are based primarily on John Pearson’s James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 unless otherwise noted, and may be altered or eliminated as more current canonical material on Bond is published. Based on references in the original Fleming novels, it seems Pearson placed some events from 1936 through early 1939 roughly a year, or even two years, too early, so I have made the adjustment to keep things in line with the original novels as much as feasible.]
September 1936 – April 1937
Bond’s Swiss relations, the Delacroixs, arrange to move him to the University of Geneva, where he could live off-campus (supposedly “supervised” by a landlady, who Bond found quite easy to charm and manipulate) and set his own schedule.
Bond attends lectures on psychology and law, and reads widely, but mostly does as he pleases, at times recklessly. He refers to the forthcoming year of his life as his era of les sensations fortes (“strong feelings.”)
After completing the intensely dangerous Aiguilli de Midi ski run, Bond gains a reputation as the “wildest skier in the university.” He also participates in bobsledding and mountain climbing that winter, taking particular delight in climbing under hazardous conditions — and climbing in the same area of the Aiguilles Rouges that claimed his parents. (OHMSS, FRWL, supported by AB)
It is probably also around this time that he begins doing some auto racing, in pursuit of the life-threatening thrill to which he is now addicted. (After he begins his Double-0 work in the post-war years, motoring in his rare and vintage Bentley racer is described as his “only personal hobby.” Although he still makes time for cards and golf, it’s clear that his car is his true passion.) (CR)
Bond travels to Paris for his Easter break, where he visits a brothel on his very first night — he is summarily de-flowered and has his wallet stolen at almost the same time. The brothel madam, Marthe de Brandt, recovers his wallet. De Brandt is nearing thirty years old, notorious, wealthy — and something of a freelance spy, mostly in the employ of Eastern European powers. (AB; supported by FYEO.)
April 1937 – January 1938
Bond and de Brandt engage in a tempestuous affair, despite (or because of) their twelve-year age difference. The head of the British Secret Service in Paris, a man named Maddox, confronts Bond regarding de Brandt, explaining that she is the most likely the source that recently leaked information damaging to the English-French alliance…and has also been frequently and flagrantly unfaithful to him (he has the photos to prove it.) Driven by a cold, furious mix of patriotism and romantic hurt, Bond drives himself and de Brandt off an embankment into the Seine. She is killed instantly, he suffers a few broken bones and a concussion. (The crumpled Bentley remains in storage for the next thirteen years — and sometimes Bond recalls this as the incident that gave him his distinctive scar.) (AB; fate of the Bentley from FAAD.)
Maddox covers up Bond’s involvement, and establishes a mentoring relationship with him as he recuperates. Bond later discovers that de Brandt was probably not the source of the leaked information, and the pictures Maddox had shown Bond were from before her time with him.
Maddox convinces Bond to work in an as-yet-undetermined capacity for the Ministry of Defence. (Maddox was surely aware that his Secret Service had been keeping tabs on Bond since 1934.)
Bond falsely adds two years to his age (to make him nineteen), provides a letter of recommendation from a cooperative former Vickers colleague of his father, and officially joins the Secret Service. He returns to London and is vetted by various medical, linguistic, and firearms experts at the Ministry of Defence. His probationary period for top secret intelligence work has begun. (YOLT; FRWL provides 1938 date)
Maddox suggests he continue as a student at the University of Geneva to provide himself cover.
He is attached to the Paris station, and begins doing routine courier and contact work through Europe, at times going as far as Moscow.
He vacations again at Kitzbuhel, Austria, skiing and climbing with Hannes Oberhauser.
Bond ends his time at the University of Geneva, and moves to Paris, where he can now concentrate on his intelligence career full-time, gradually gaining experience and building his skill-set. When not on assignment, he obsessively practices shooting, swimming, and unarmed combat.
Bond trains with American card sharp Steffi Esposito in the art of manipulating cards, learning the intricacies of various games of chance, and how to win at them illicitly.
With the help of Maddox and Esposito, Bond goes undercover in Monte Carlo as “Pieter Zwart,” a South African millionaire’s son, to assist the Deuxieme Bureau (French intelligence service) in breaking up a group of Romanian card cheats who had been bleeding the casino dry over several seasons. Bond discovers they are using luminous dye to mark the cards, visible only through dark glasses. (The Deuxieme Bureau agent attached to the case is Rene Mathis, whom Bond had briefly met when he was still a gendarme aboard the ocean liner Colombie three years before. They do not seem to remember each other.) (AB; supported by CR)
[NOTE: The “Secret Service” that employs Bond is generally assumed to be the M.I.6, which operates under the Foreign Office, even though Fleming never uses that term — its very existence was considered a “state secret” until the 1990s. Fleming’s Bond seems to work for a semi-fictional Secret Service that operates under the Ministry of Defence. From 1939 to 1945, Bond’s official employer at the Ministry of Defence is the Admiralty, which administers the Royal Navy.]
World War II begins in Europe. Bond is summoned to return to London to be commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, and attached to a “special branch” of the Department of Naval Intelligence.
Bond’s first assignment for Naval Intelligence is working several weeks as a hidden U-boat observer on the isolated North Sea island of Wangerooge. After being spotted by a German seaplane patrol, Bond manages to hijack the seaplane and its pilot, only to be shot down by British anti-aircraft fire. He is rescued at sea by the R.A.F.
Bond is transferred to active naval duty. He goes through basic training at Davenport and is assigned to the S-class destroyer H.M.S. Sabre.
Late May – Early June 1940
Aboard the Sabre, Lieutenant Bond takes part in the Battle of Dunkirk and its famous evacuation, ferrying three loads of British troops across the Channel.
June 1940 – July 1941
The H.M.S. Sabre performs Atlantic convoy escort duty, crossing the ocean between Britain and New York or the Caribbean several times.
July – October 1941
Bond returns to Naval Intelligence. He spends three months in intense commando/saboteur training at a secret facility near Ontario, Canada, with an emphasis on “frogman” underwater combat swimming.
Bond engages in various commando activities on behalf of Naval Intelligence, including missions in Brest, Vichy France, Alexandria, and Lisbon. At the end of the year, he is promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
Late 1943 – Early 1944
More missions for Bond in Switzerland, Italy, and northern France, working with the French resistance in anticipation of D-Day.
June 7, 1944
Bond goes ashore on Normandy’s “Gold” beach the day after D-Day as part of BRODFORCE, a small commando unit charged with gathering documents, files, and coding devices left behind during the German retreat. (S)
December 1944 – January 1945
During the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler’s last desperate offensive in the on the French-Belgian border, Bond’s assignment is to find the location of a major underground Nazi resistance cell, designed to keep Nazism alive after their likely defeat in the war. He is inserted behind enemy lines under heavy fire, discovers the location (it was hidden in a hospital near Rosenfeld), and reports his findings to the Allied security services.
Late Summer 1945
One of Bond’s final assignments for Naval Intelligence takes him to Hong Kong, which is where he is when the Japanese surrender and World War II comes to an end. (CR)
Bond receives the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.
Bond transfers from the military Department of Naval Intelligence to the civilian Secret Service. The position of Director of the Secret Service had recently been filled by Admiral Sir Miles Messervy, a lifetime naval officer who turned down the opportunity to be the Fourth Sea Lord to head up British intelligence after the previous director had been assassinated at his desk. Messervy, known to be cold and taciturn in general, develops almost paternal feelings for Bond over the next decade. Messervy is known primarily by the code letter “M.”
1946 – 1949
Bond’s first post-war civilian assignments for Secret Service are attache work at the British embassies in both Washington, D.C. and Moscow. (AB and MR)
Bond is also assigned to a long-term mission in Jamaica, on an operation to prevent pro-Communist Cubans from infiltrating Jamaican labor unions. Despite the inconclusiveness of the overall mission, Bond grows very fond of the island and becomes something of an expert on its customs and geography, in addition to becoming particularly adept at snorkeling among the coral reefs. (LALD)
During this period, Bond drives a midnight-blue Jaguar XK 120. (FAAD)
Bond is assigned his first assassination — the target is a Japanese cipher expert who had been cracking British codes. Bond is part of a two-person team, targeting the code-breaker on the 36th floor of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center, New York City (at the time home to the Japanese Consulate General’s offices.) (CR; approximate 1949 date supplied by FAAD)
Spring – Summer 1950
Bond is groomed as a candidate for the “Double-0” section of the Secret Service. A prospective Double-0 should be unmarried with no close family (the implication is Aunt Charmaine has died at this point), and have two confirmed kills in the line of duty. (CR, supported by MR and FAAD.)
Bond’s second assassination mission was of a Norwegian double agent who had provided sensitive information to the Nazis during the war, resulting in the loss of two British agents (and an unknown number of combat casualties.) The job went down in Stockholm, Sweden, and had to be absolutely silent — Bond used a knife. (CR, supported by FAAD)
The Japanese code-breaker and Norwegian double agent serve as Bond’s two “officially” confirmed kills carried out on the explicit orders of his government. (Evidently, self-defense and wartime kills do not count, as Bond had already racked up a number of these.) Bond is accepted into the “Double-0” section and becomes “007.” Numerical suffixes to “00” are assigned randomly. The Double-0 section operatives handle the most unorthodox cases the Secret Service comes across, and are often a last resort against the U.K.’s highest-level human threats, after all other diplomatic and intelligence options have been exhausted. The Double-0 is informally referred to as a “license to kill” at their professional discretion. The actual implication is that Double-0s are expected to kill. For all intents, they are government assassins. (Bond often pictures himself as “a bullet from a gun fired by M at his country’s enemies.”) (Edward Biddulph of the James Bond Memes website argues convincingly that 00s are not assassins. You be the judge.) (CR, supported by FAAD)*
Later that month, Bond is sent on his first Double-0 mission to the south of France, to investigate why an earlier agent had been killed, and why the normally robust heroin trafficking seems to have been cut off entirely. Bond discovers that an American industrialist, Irwin Wolfe, also a rabid isolationist, had been processing then stockpiling massive amounts of heroin in order to flood America with it, triggering a public health crisis that would turn the country away from foreign involvements. The ship carrying the dangerous payload is sunk by Bond, who barely escapes with his life. (FAAD)
On assignment at the casino in Royale-les-Eaux, near Dieppe on the north coast of France, Bond’s objective is to defeat Le Chiffre at high-stakes baccarat. Le Chiffre is the paymaster of the Soviet counterintelligence agency known as SMERSH, and has been skimming funds for his own use. He is attempting to earn back the missing money at the gaming tables. If he can be beaten, he will be discredited and likely targeted for elimination by SMERSH.
The objective is completed with the assistance of Service employee Vesper Lynd, but Bond is captured by Le Chiffre and tortured to the brink of death in an attempt to get back the winnings. His life is saved by a SMERSH agent’s timely assassination of Le Chiffre.
The SMERSH assassin spares 007, but gouges the Russian abbreviation for SMERSH into the back of his hand with a sharp knife.
On this assignment, Bond meets C.I.A agent Felix Leiter for the first time, and is reunited with Rene Mathis. (CR)
Bond enters post-mission physical rehabilitation at a hospital and (later) an inn on the north coast of France. He seriously contemplates retiring from the Secret Service and getting married to Vesper Lynd, whom he has grown close to over the course of the mission. His prospective fiancee turns out to be double agent working for SMERSH. He decides to stay with the Service and make the total elimination of SMERSH a personal mission. (CR)
Bond spends some time in West Germany. (LALD)
Bond is back on active duty. He receives an assignment to eliminate the operations of “Mr. Big,” a Harlem gangster working for the Russians. Mr. Big, who doubles as a Jamaican voodoo priest, is providing funds for SMERSH with his priceless stash of pirate gold. Working with the CIA’s Felix Leiter, Bond’s assignment takes him from New York City, through St. Petersburg, Florida, and into Jamaica.
Bond succeeds in his mission, but Felix Leiter loses an arm and part of a leg after being thrown to the sharks by Mr. Big’s henchmen in Florida. (LALD)
For his actions against Mr. Big, Bond is decorated with the Companion to St. Michael and St. George medal, entitling the him to add the initials “C.M.G.” after his name. (MR)
On a rare assignment within U.K. borders (normally out of the Service’s jurisdiction), Bond is selected to be a “Security Officer,” helping to guard Britain’s newest weapon, the Moonraker rocket, against sabotage. Investigations show that the Moonraker’s mastermind, Sir Hugo Drax, is actually a former Nazi and is planning to use the Moonraker against Britain. The Moonraker and Drax are both destroyed.
In the process, Bond’s beloved 1930 Bentley is totaled. It is replaced with a new 1952 Mark VI model, still flat battleship-grey, with an open touring body and dark blue leather upholstery. (MR)
(Did this mission actually happen? Bond himself denied the events of Moonraker ever occurred [AB]. See also the Appendix below in the next entry.)
Bond takes a holiday in France. (DAF)
On assignment in New York and Las Vegas, Bond goes undercover as petty criminal “Peter Franks,” to follow the route of a diamond smuggling pipeline ran by an American gangster outfit known as the “Spangled Mob.”
Bond is assisted again by Felix Leiter, now with an artificial arm and pronounced limp, and working for the Pinkerton detective agency. [Unlike his cinematic version, the literary Bond cannot fly a plane, and must rely on Leiter’s piloting skills.]
There is a brief clean-up operation in Sierra Leone, Africa. (DAF)
Bond takes a short assignment in Vienna.
SMERSH targets 007 for elimination. To achieve this, they send a female decoy into Turkey to pose as a defector from Soviet Intelligence. The purloined Soviet cipher machine she has to offer will interest the Secret Service, and her confessed obsession with Bond will ensure his personal journey to Turkey to collect both girl and machine. En route to Paris on the Orient Express, Bond encounters and eliminates SMERSH’s Chief Assassin, the Irish-born Red Grant. SMERSH’s Head of Operation and Executions, Rosa Klebb, is captured in Paris at the end of the mission, but not before she stabs Bond in the leg with a blade heavily coated with a powerful neurotoxin when his gun jams. (FRWL)
August 1954 – February 1956
The poisoning is Bond’s closest brush with death to date**, requiring eighteen months’ recuperation at various London hospitals under the care of Service neurologist Sir James Molony. (DN)
After being pronounced healthy by Dr. Molony, Bond prepares to return to duty. The Secret Service insists on a change of weaponry, from the .25 Beretta (which Bond had used since 1940) to the .32 Walther PPK. The Walther has more stopping power and is less likely to jam.
Bond is sent on what is intended to be a light, recuperative assignment, a sort of “working vacation” in Jamaica to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Strangways, the Head of the Caribbean Branch of the Secret Service. Further investigation reveals the Strangways was killed because he became aware of the operations of Dr. Julius No, a Chinese-German industrialist who owns the lucrative guano mines on Crab Key Island, just north of Jamaica. Dr. No was using radar technology to scramble the flight paths of American and British rockets. Dr. No and his operations are eliminated, and Bond returns once again to the hospital to treat injuries sustained on this assignment. (DN)
On an aborted assignment during the Hungarian Revolution, Bond is forced to jump from a moving train to escape pursuers, resulting in a slight back injury. (TB)
April – Early May 1957
Bond is on assignment to stop the trafficking of heroin into Britain from Mexico. Bond destroys the processing warehouse in Mexico City with a thermite bomb, and is forced to kill Mexican assassin with bare hands. (GF)
Bond takes a mission to investigate a gold bullion leak from the Bank of England. The leak is traced to the richest man in England, Auric Goldfinger, proprietor of a chain of jewelry shops — and a treasurer for SMERSH.
In an Aston Martin DB III equipped with a homing device (borrowed from the Secret Service motor pool), Bond trails Goldfinger through France into Switzerland.
Bond is captured by Goldfinger and taken to U.S., where he is forced to assist in Goldfinger’s plan to rob the depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky. With the assistance of detective Felix Leiter, Bond stops the robbery and eliminates Goldfinger. (GF)
The Secret Service uses Bond’s skill as a driver to thwart a SMERSH sabotage attempt on a Grand Prix race in West Germany. In the aftermath, Bond uncovers a connection between SMERSH and vicious young Korean War orphan determined to destroy the American space program. (TM)
On assignment in Rome and Venice to stop the trafficking of heroin into Britain from Italy.
Further investigation shows that the heroin actually comes through Italy from the USSR as part of a “psychological warfare” campaign against Britain. The operation is disbanded and its participants eliminated or arrested. (R)
SMERSH is officially disbanded by Krushchev. (GF)
On assignment in the Bahamas to stop the importation of arms to Communist rebels in Cuba, including follow-up conferences with the F.B.I and Coast Guard in Miami. (QOS)
March – April 1958
On assignment to investigate possible Communist infiltration of the new British naval base in the Seychelles Islands off the coast of East Africa. Upon further investigation, the base appears free of any infiltration.
During his last week in the islands, Bond takes a private job as a snorkeling expert for Milton Krest, who is collecting rare specimens for his self-serving tax shelter, “The Krest Foundation.” Over the course of an overnight boating trip, the sadistic Krest dies “mysteriously” — though it’s obviously at the hands of his long-suffering wife. Bond assists in the cover-up. (HR)
On a failed assignment in Vienna to assist in smuggling a high-ranking defector out of Hungary. En route back to London through Paris, Bond assists NATO intelligence group SHAPE in breaking up a Soviet spy ring that had been operating in the French countryside. (FVTK)
On an unconventional and extra-legal assignment, with the assistance of certain Canadian officials, to assassinate the ex-Batista loyalists who killed two personal friends of M’s in Jamaica, and fled to a hideout in northern Vermont. Bond eliminates the targets sniper-style with a Savage 99F .250 hunting rifle. (FYEO)
Bond buys a wrecked Bentley Continental, and has it restored and heavily customized, with a more powerful Mark IV “big six” engine, and a supercharger with a magnetic clutch. He refers to it as the “Locomotive.”
Bond undergoes two weeks of physical therapy at the Shrublands natural health care facility in Sussex. (TB)
Two nuclear weapons are hijacked by the freelance terrorist organization SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-espionage, Terror, Revenge and Extortion), and they will be detonated over a major population center unless the governments of Britain and the U.S. pay SPECTRE the equivalent 1,000,000,000 pounds in gold bullion.
A General Call goes out amongst the world’s intelligence agencies to scour the globe in search of the weapons. This activity is code named Operation Thunderball.
On an intuition of M’s, Bond is sent to the Bahamas. Felix Leiter, having been called back to duty by the CIA, joins him.
The intuition proves correct and SPECTRE’s plan is derailed. SPECTRE temporarily disbands. (TB)
At some point in 1960, Bond spends three “tedious” weeks in Beirut. (S)
On assignment in Jamaica to extract a confession from Colonel Smythe, ex-Royal Marine who stole two large bars of Nazi gold at the end of World War II. (Bond volunteered for this assignment because Smythe, in his attempt to steal the gold, murdered Hannes Oberhauser.) (O)
Early September 1960
On assignment in East Germany to provide covering fire for a defector crossing the dangerous line between East and West Berlin. The defector will almost certainly be picked off by an East German sniper if Bond can’t spot and eliminate sniper first. The mission is successful, with the enemy sniper wounded in shooting arm. (TLD)
September 1960 – September 1961
Bond is removed from normal Double-0 work and placed on a long-term assignment to eliminate the re-formed SPECTRE and its enigmatic leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Investigations are made around the globe for a period of twelve months, culminating in the near false arrest of an innocent Italian viniculturist, and subsequent ejection of Bond from Sicily. Bond considers the assignment a waste of time. (OHMSS)
In between jaunts around the globe looking for Blofeld, Bond is given a brief assignment to discover the identity of the Resident Director of the KGB in London by observing the bidding at Sotheby’s auction house on a Fabrage emerald sent as payment to a Russian double-agent. (POL)
Dissatisfied with fruitless search for Blofeld, Bond drafts a letter of resignation from the Secret Service. While considering his resignation decision in Royale-les-Eaux, France, he assists in preventing the suicide of a distraught young woman, Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo. (OHMSS)
Late September 1961
Bond spends time in New York City en route to Toronto. (NY)
On assignment in Toronto to assist the Canadian Mounties in preventing the assassination of a high-ranking Russian defector by SPECTRE.
En route by car from Toronto to Washington D.C., Bond rescues a young motel employee in upstate New York from two gangsters attempting to burn the motel (along with her) for the insurance money. (TSWLM)
Late December 1961
On assignment to verify the identity of the mysterious Blofeld, Bond travels to Blofeld’s isolated hideout in the Swiss Alps. Working undercover as “Sir Hilary Bray,” a heraldry expert consulted to establish Blofeld’s claim to nobility, Bond confirms that the suspect is indeed Blofeld, and he is performing some kind of scientific research. Bond’s cover is blown after a only two days, and he makes a dangerous Christmas Eve escape on skis, pursued by SPECTRE agents…and an avalanche.
After briefing superiors in London, Blofeld’s strange science experiments are determined to be biological warfare targeted at Britain’s agricultural system.
The Alpine research facility is destroyed, but Blofeld escapes. (OHMSS)
Early January 1962
Bond marries Tracy di Vicenzo in Munich, Germany. She is shot and killed by the revenge-minded Blofeld later that same day as the newlyweds drive down the Autobahn. (OHMSS)
January – February 1962
Bond takes a month’s leave of absence to mourn his wife. He spends this time in seclusion in Jamaica. (YOLT)
March – August 1962
Bond returns to work for the Secret Service, although he is still in a deep depression. He becomes a liability, badly mishandling two missions, and takes takes to drinking excessively and losing money at the gambling tables. M is contemplating terminating Bond’s employment with Secret Service. (YOLT)
As a “last chance” assignment, Bond is removed from the Double-0 section and “promoted” to the Diplomatic section. He is to travel to Japan and attempt to trade with the Japanese Secret Service for vital intelligence information. (YOLT)
September – October 1962
Bond begins a working relationship with “Tiger” Tanka, the head of Japan’s Secret Service. Tanka offers Bond a newly developed decoding machine, the MAGIC 44, in exchange for Bond’s elimination of “Dr. Shatterhand,” a mysterious botanist who recently emigrated from Switzerland.
Shatterhand has isolated himself in a remote fortress, with a “Garden of Death,” a bizarre collection of highly poisonous plants and animals. Security is just lax enough to allow local suicides into the Garden to end their lives. Japanese officials are helpless, because Shatterhand is not doing anything technically illegal. Suicides in his Garden number in the thousands. (YOLT — Tanka is under the misapprehension that Bond was born in the Year of the Rat  instead of the Year of the Monkey . Whether this is a deliberate attempt by Secret Service to disguise Bond’s background or a simple mistake on the part of the Japanese Secret Service is not known. See Appendix C in the next entry.)
Bond infiltrates Shatterhand’s fortress, but is captured. Shatterhand turns out to be Blofeld. After a brief struggle, Bond succeeds in throttling Blofeld to death with his bare hands, and destroying the castle by closing the safety valve that regulates the pressure of the volcanic geysers under the foundation. An errant bullet fired by one of Blofeld’s henchmen strikes Bond in the head during his escape, causing him to plummet into the Sea of Japan…(YOLT)
* When Bond’s pre-Double 0 assassinations are mentioned in Casino Royale, there is an assumption in the reader’s mind that they took place during the war. Forever And A Day makes them explicitly post-war.
** Fleming had legitimately intended for Bond to die at the end of From Russia With Love, but changed his mind.