I grew up on Bond films. As a child, the release of a Bond film at the cinema meant a family outing to see it. I had the toys and I’m sure that the final battle scene in Thunderball was instrumental in the career choice I made many years later.
I spent fifteen years as a Navy frogman, which may not have included fighting pitched battles in the crystal waters of the Bahamas, but certainly included long underwater swims at night to board vessels, oil rigs etc, crawling up beaches and jumping out of perfectly good aircraft and helicopters.
Nowadays, I’m fortunate to be a member of a club in London whose membership is made up of ‘real life’ Bonds. The club itself is located in a small street in Knightsbridge. It was originally formed in 1945 as a ‘home from home’ for Special Operations Executive agents returning from the war, but in the 1970s it opened up membership to serving and retired members of the UK Special Forces units, as well as serving and former members of allied Intelligence and special forces units.
The Events Chair is also a huge Bond fan and, in 2021, the inaugural ‘James Bond Dinner’ was organised to celebrate the release of No Time To Die. In October 2022, a similar dinner was held to commemorate the UK premiere of the very first Bond film, Dr No.
My wife and I enjoyed the inaugural dinner, which saw Vesper Martinis being made up as fast as members could drink them and a menu of Bond inspired dishes, so we bought our tickets as soon as they went on sale. There was no doubt in my mind as to what I would wear: a midnight blue, shawl collar dinner suit from Charles Tyrwhitt, Turnbull & Asser pleated dress shirt with a Mason & Sons bow tie, and a spray of Floris 89 eau de parfum. However, what should Mrs D wear?
Having watched the film again, I decided that Mrs D probably wouldn’t want to wander through Knightsbridge in a bikini, so Ursula Andress’s outfit was a non-starter. Then I recalled the scene where we first meet Bond and hear his iconic introduction, playing Chemin de Fer opposite the beautiful Sylvia Trench, played by Eunice Gayson, wearing a striking red dress.
That was it. I set about trying to find somewhere that either stocked or could make a replica of ‘that’ dress. I found a website that claimed to make Bond Girl dresses and, sure enough, there was the red dress. Not cheap, but if the photos were to be believed, an exact copy.
I measured Mrs D, sent off the measurements clicked ‘buy’ and then immediately wondered if I would ever see a dress and, if so, would it look anything like the photos? Within 48 hours, I had photos in my email inbox of the dress under construction in China. Ten days later, a package arrived.
It was (almost) perfect! One tiny alteration at a local dress maker and it fitted like a dream. Unfortunately, try as I might, I could not source a copy of the brooch worn by Eunice in the film, so had to go for ‘as close to’.
The guest list for the dinner included one of the surviving members of the Fleming Family, James Fleming, also an author. The menu was Bond inspired and taken from a selection of the dishes mentioned in the novel.
The food was beautifully prepared and served with matched wines. Between courses we heard from James Fleming and discussed the novel and film.
Post dessert, The Chair opened bottle number 1 of a 50 bottle run of gin, specially distilled and bottled for the club. A very citrus forward gin, smooth and easy to drink neat. I bought bottle number 10 as a Christmas present for Mrs D (unsurprisingly, bottle number 007 was unavailable).
There was much discussion of the novel and comparisons to the film over the course of the dinner and it was a surreal situation to hear former members of SIS and other similar organisations discussing their fictional counterpart.
For the inaugural dinner a Bond quiz was organised, with the prize being a bottle of the club Pol Roger champagne, which, I am pleased to say, we won!
For the second dinner, we had decided to stay over. The three hour journey back and work at 06:30 the following day put a slight dampener on the first dinner. So, after the courses were served, those of us that remained adjourned to the drawing room where we finally called it a night at about 1am.
Last modified: 3 January 2024