It was WWII and the Germans were beginning to dominate most of Europe. During this time, Winston Churchill had an idea that it would be beneficial to send troops over enemy lines to infiltrate and sabotage their progress. He then shared this idea with William Stephenson, Director of British Security Coordinator. Stephenson was such an incredible resource to the war efforts that his nickname was “Intrepid,” meaning “fearless.”
Together Churchill and Stephenson created a secret agency to train soldiers in the art of espionage, essentially beginning the CIA. Eventually they settled on the title “Camp X”, but for confidentiality purposes was known by multiple titles throughout various military and law enforcement groups. These code names included Special Training School 103 (STS 103), Project J and S25-1-1. In fact this was such a confidential program that even the Canadian Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, was unsure of the full purpose or protocols of the camp.
Camp X opened in December 1941 located near Whitby, Ontario on a spacious farm on the Northeast shore of Lake Ontario. It was set up to be an introductory school meant to weed out the weak and the students that excelled would be sent for more advanced training overseas. In truth the education and testing that these soldiers were exposed to was not for the faint of heart. They studied bullet dodging, shooting, Morse code, disguise tips, self defense, unarmed combat, silent killing, explosive assembly and placing, lock picking, sabotage, radio operation, encryption and interrogation. Parachute jumping was also an essential skill to learn as this was the most common and simple way to infiltrate enemy lines and would be practiced daily.
Once through with the classes, there were the drills and tests that really put the soldiers through their paces. Most of these drills were of the purpose to test and create courage or to test or teach stress management. For example, soldiers would be forced to crawl through trenches while being shot at with the bullets whizzing just over their heads. Another simulation would have them stand behind bullet proof glass while being shot at with a machine gun. Then there were mock missions. These could get very intense as they would range from recovering documents from local businesses, sneaking into industrial sites and placing fake bombs on train tracks all without being noticed or caught by security to having to undergo actual murder scenarios.
Camp-X under construction - November 1941
As an interesting fact one of the worlds most successful and renowned authors, Ian Fleming, actually attended Camp X. Fleming is the author of all 14 James Bond books. Unfortunately he failed a mock mission. He had been asked to enter a hotel and assassinate a “dangerous” target. Fleming got to the hotel door and stood outside a while and came to the realization that he just could not kill a man this way and left. Had he entered the room however, he would have realized that it was actually one of the camp instructors that was especially skilled in dodging close fire. The hotel was simply staged as part of training but Fleming hadn’t a clue and ended up losing his spot.
Even through all this though there was still so much good that came from Camp X. It trained soldiers from all around the world; Canada, America, Britain, Italy, China, Yugoslavia, Romania, etc. This was incredibly important as it meant being able to use these soldiers to infiltrate the Germans in a more covert manner. An example would be that French Canadians were able to disguise themselves as French citizens in France to steal intelligence and sabotage bridges, railways and roads used by the Germans. These acts were a major contribution in ending the war. As a matter of fact, multiple Camp X trainees received rewards and acknowledgments for their services and contributions.
Camp X was also home to Hydra, the top radio and communication center which allowed Britain and North America to trade intel quickly.
Sadly, in 1944 it was decided that enough soldiers had been trained and sent overseas (500 total) and Camp X was shut down. Most of the records were destroyed and any remaining were locked away. In 1969 all of the buildings were also destroyed and eventually replaced with a monument honoring the site. Today Camp X is known as “Intrepid Park”, giving credit to the man who started it all.