As a Sergeant in the Canadian Engineers, William Samuel Stephenson was badly wounded during a gas attack in 1916. On 16 August 1917, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and was posted to 73 Squadron on 9 February 1918. Flying the Sopwith Camel, he scored 12 victories before he was wounded in action, believed to have been shot down by Justus Grassmann, and captured by the Germans on 28 July 1918. In 1940 Stephenson was Winston Churchill's choice to head British Intelligence in the Western Hemisphere. For his counter-intelligence work during World War II, Stephenson was knighted and received the Presidential Medal for Merit from the United States. His biography, A Man Called Intrepid, was published in 1976.
"James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is...William Stephenson." Ian Fleming, The Times, October 21, 1962.
Military Cross (MC)
T./2nd Lt. William Samuel Stephenson,
Gen. List and R.F.C.
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.
Lieut. William Samuel Stephenson, M.C.
This officer has shown conspicuous gallantry and skill in attacking enemy troops and transports from low altitudes, causing heavy casualties. His reports, also, have contained valuable and accurate information. He has further proved himself a keen antagonist in the air, having, during recent operations, accounted for six enemy aeroplanes.