William Samuel Stephenson (1896-1989) was a telegrapher who attested in the 101st Battalion in Winnipeg on January 12, 1916. He arrived in England in July 1916 and by the following June he was training to be a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps. He was posted to France in February 1918, and was shot down and captured on July 28, 1918. He was held as a prisoner of war until he escaped in October 1918. He was awarded both the Military Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. After the war Stephenson became a businessman and eventually settled in England. There he befriended Winston Churchill, who sent him to New York City in 1940 to establish British Security Coordination, an important facet of the Allied intelligence network during the Second World War. Stephenson became one of the most senior Allied intelligence officers of the Second World War, earning the code name "Intrepid." He was a close friend and colleague of the author Ian Fleming and was believed to be one of the models for the character James Bond. He was knighted in 1945 and invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1980.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: January 11, 1896 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Date of Attestation: January 12, 1916 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Age at Enlistment: 20 years
Height: 5 feet, 5 inches
Weight: 115 pounds
Description: Dark complexion, brown eyes, dark hair. Presbyterian.
Home Address: 175 Syndicate Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Details of Family: Mother, Kristina Stephenson, living at 175 Syndicate Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Next of Kin: Mother (Kristina Stephenson)
Branch of Service: Canadian Expeditionary Force
Theatre of War: England, France
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- July 6, 1916 – Stephenson arrives in England on the SS Olympia. (Page 15)
- May 1, 1917 – He is promoted to the rank of sergeant but with the pay of a clerk. (Page 16)
- August 15, 1917 – He is discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force upon having been appointed to a commission in the Imperial Army. His military character is described at this time as "very good". In contrast to information on his attestation papers, his height is now listed as five feet and seven inches, and his weight as 130 pounds. (Pages 4 and 19)
- October 2, 1917 – The Pension and Claims Board recommends that he not be granted a pension. (Pages 8-9)
- November 25, 1917 – He is taken on strength by the Cadet Wing of the Royal Flying Corps. (Page 16)
The London Gazette
The London Gazette—Supplement 30761, Page 7423, June 22, 1918
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When flying low and observing an open staff car on a road, he attacked it with such success that later it was seen lying in the ditch upside down. During the same flight he caused a stampede amongst some enemy transport horses on a road. Previous to this he had destroyed a hostile scout and a two-seater plane. His work has been of the highest order, and he has shown the greatest courage and energy in engaging every kind of target.”
Military Medals Honours and Awards
No records found
In 1911, William Stephenson is 14 years old and living in the Lisgar district of southern Manitoba with his parents, Warren (59) and Kristina (52), and three adult siblings: Minnie (27), Robert (23) and Duncan (21). William's maternal uncle, Hugh Carmichael (43), also lives in the home. Warren Stephenson is a farmer of Irish descent. His wife Kristina is of Scottish descent. William's two brothers work as labourers, while his mother, sister and uncle are listed as having no occupation. The family is Presbyterian.