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I was the real Moonraker: Bond author Ian Fleming recruited teenager for secret mission to spy on German nuclear bomb programme that inspired 007 tale

  • Peter Lyons was just 19 when he went on a secret mission to recover uranium
  • Despite not finding any his three-man squad captured scientist Hellmuth Walter
  • The mission, under the command of author Ian Fleming, is said to be the novel's inspiration
  • A scientist character who helps antagonist Hugo Drax is even called Dr Walter

The inspiration behind the 007 film Moonraker has been revealed by a veteran who was recruited by Ian Fleming as a teen spy to stop the Nazis from building a nuclear bomb.

Peter Lyons, now 92, was just 19 when Fleming asked him to join a specialist Commando Unit he led called the 30th Assault Unit, which was tasked with seizing material the Germans were gathering to construct a nuclear bomb.

Mr Lyons was part of a group of just three Commandos sent behind enemy lines to a factory in Kiel, Germany, to find the uranium needed to build a bomb.

Peter Lyons aged 15, roughly a year before he was recruited for the war effort Aged 92

Peter Lyons aged 15 (left) roughly a year before he was recruited for the war effort, and aged 92 (right)

Mr Lyons serving during his time, during which he was sent behind enemy lines to find uranium and captured German scientist Hellmuth Walter

Mr Lyons serving during his time, during which he was sent behind enemy lines to find uranium and captured German scientist Hellmuth Walter

However, while the radioactive substance was not uncovered, it led to capture of German-born scientist Hellmuth Walter in May 1945.

Some people believe his capture formed the basis of Ian Fleming's James Bond novel 'Moonraker', with antagonist Drax's henchman also named Dr. Walter and said by Bond experts to be based on Hellmuth.

Peter said: 'Ian Fleming was the commander of the 30th Assault Unit of which I was in.

'We were sent to Kiel to find Uranium that we thought was being used for a nuclear bomb, but the ships that contained it managed to get away a few days before we got there.

Mr Lyons was under the command of Bond author Ian Fleming during the war

Mr Lyons was under the command of Bond author Ian Fleming during the war

'We got there as the Russians were also closing in and managed to capture the German scientist Hellmuth Walter and brought him back to Britain.

'He was the top man in the factory which was building torpedos.

'We captured all of the top people from the factories and brought them back to Britain and sent the top rocket scientist to America.'

hile the radioactive substance was not uncovered, it led to capture of German-born scientist Hellmuth Walter (pictured) in May 1945

hile the radioactive substance was not uncovered, it led to capture of German-born scientist Hellmuth Walter (pictured) in May 1945

Hellmuth and a number of colleagues were later taken to the UK to work for the Royal Navy.

Mr Lyons, who was just 19 at the time of the capture, believes that Fleming used the unit as inspiration for the famous 'Moonraker' novel.

In the novel, Bond is seconded to Drax's staff as the businessman builds the Moonraker, a prototype missile designed to defend England.

Unknown to Bond, Drax is German, an ex-Nazi now working for the Soviets, planning to build the nuclear rocket and fire it at London.

He added: 'Ian Fleming set up the 30th Assault Unit a few years before the end of the war.

'The henchman of Drax in the novel is Dr. Walter who has the same surname as the top scientist that we captured.

'There are a number of similarities between parts of the Bond novel and the missions that we were sent on.'

The secret intelligence unit, which had been set up in 1942, featured later in a book titled Ian Fleming's Commandos by author Nicholas Rankin.

The mission is said to be the inspiration for Moonraker (Roger Moore pictured as James Bond), in which 007 foils a nuclear bomb plot by a former Nazi

The mission is said to be the inspiration for Moonraker (Roger Moore pictured as James Bond), in which 007 foils a nuclear bomb plot by a former Nazi

Antagonist Drax (pictured, portrayed by Michael Lonsdale in the film) has a henchman in the book who is also named Dr. Walter and said by Bond experts to be based on Hellmuth

Antagonist Drax (pictured, portrayed by Michael Lonsdale in the film) has a henchman in the book who is also named Dr. Walter and said by Bond experts to be based on Hellmuth

After two years of service, Peter, a father-of-two, who has six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, was tasked with tracking down and seizing any materials which could be used in the creation of an atomic bomb.

He is believed to be the last survivor of 30 Assault Unit.

The veteran from Penketh, Lancashire, said: 'It was the end of the war and they were short of people.

'We didn't do much training – there wasn't much time.

'They were stuck for people in the war. I signed up in 1943 and I went out on a boat not long after.

'They were drafting people to Japan and they told me that's where I was going. But then the three of us were given this secret mission.

After the war, Peter, who has been married for 69 years to his wife Gladys, received a number of medals for his service

After the war, Peter, who has been married for 69 years to his wife Gladys, received a number of medals for his service

'We had to find an atomic bomb. They were unheard of in England.'

Peter said that he understood the gravity of his task but kept calm to carry out the capture.

He added: 'I just took each day at a time.

'You don't think about what could happen. You have a job to do and that is what I decided to focus on.'

After the war, Peter, who has been married for 69 years to his wife Gladys, was recognised for his time in the forces and has received a number of medals for his service.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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