Regardless of whether you prefer Connery or Craig, forget about the fictional feats of James Bond. Here are 5 real life spies to inspire you to slip under the radar and become a master of deception - skills that will serve you well in our immersive game, Undercover.
Sidney Reilly – 1873 - 1925
Sidney Reilly is rumoured to be one of the many real spies who served as the archetype for Bond- not least because he was an absolute ladies’ man. Nicknamed the Ace of Spies, his biggest mission was an attempt to overthrow Lenin in 1918, by infiltrating and working alongside the Latvian guards at the Kremlin. The details of his other exploits remain clouded in mystery, which is next level spy skill!
Virginia Hall – 1906 – 1982
Amongst aliases such as Artemis, Diane and Nicolas, American spy Virginia Hall appeared on the Gestapo most wanted list as the Limping Lady; in 1932 she accidentally shot her own foot, and undeterred, she used the prosthetic leg to transport secret documents. It even had its own code name: Cuthbert. She was responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of Allies, managing drop zones for supplies, finding safe houses and even training guerrilla forces to support her until a larger army could join her, delivering vital information throughout the Second World War. Unsurprisingly, she was awarded the MBE for her incredible efforts.
Melita Norwood – 1912 – 2005
British civil servant and Communist, Melita Norwood spilt state secrets to Soviet spy network, the NKVD. She worked at the British Non‑Ferrous Metals Research Association, and was able to report on the atomic bomb project in Britain. After racking up almost four decades of espionage undetected, and living a relatively normal life for many years, Melita gave one of the most incredible statements upon being discovered, aged 87: “Oh dear, I thought I had gotten away with it.”
Roald Dahl – 1916 – 1990
Yes, the beloved children’s author dabbled in the fraught world of covert intelligence before penning classics like Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Dahl worked as a Royal Air Force pilot during World War Two, and squeezed in some work for the British Security Coordination (BSC) on the side, promoting UK interests in the U.S.A and blocking Nazi propaganda. He was apparently a terrible gossip, so his undercover career as was very short lived!
Shi Pei Pu – 1938 – 2009
The story of Shi Pei Pu is so incredible, it inspired an award-winning play – M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang. Shi Pei Pu posed as a female opera singer and conducted a passionate affair with Bernard Boursicot, a French diplomat based in China, in order to obtain confidential documents for the Chinese Communist Party. The affair lasted for 20 years, and Pu even produced a child to keep the deception alive. Boursicot delivered over 500 documents to his spy lover, leading to them both being arrested in 1983, and convicted in 1986. However, they each only served one year of their sentences, as both France and China were keen to lessen tensions and the impact of the bizarre story.
Think you can cut it as a covert agent? Put your money where your mouth is and try the ultimate test. Undercover gives you the chance to intercept messages, deliver secrets and unmask rival spies in a two-hour immersive game experience in Central London and Adelaide, Australia. Find out more and book your tickets here.