The Columbite King

Moonraker Chapter Two

James Bond heads up to the ninth floor of the building, where M’s offices are. He goes into the last room down the hall and is greeted by Miss Moneypenny.

Miss Moneypenny, M’s private secretary, looked up from her typewriter and smiled at him. They liked each other and she knew that Bond admired her looks. She was wearing the same model shirt as his own secretary, but with blue stripes.

The Chief of Staff comes out of M’s office, and arranges to have lunch with Bond after his meeting with M. After Bond goes in, the Chief of Staff tells Moneypenny that he doesn’t believe that the summons is business – an assignment.

As Bond enters the office, M is lighting his pipe…a ritual that seems to be taking place whenever Bond is in there. Bond is questioned about the leave he just recently returned from – rest and recovery after the adventures of Live and Let Die. M notes that Bond still has his sunburn, adding that he always distrusts sunburned men in England. They either don’t have a job, or use a lamp. He mentions that it looks like they will end up with at least some of the gold recovered from Mr Big’s operation, they may still have to go to Hague court (see below) but M seems confident.

There is a short period of silence in the room, and Bond feels it. He actually gets the impression that M is embarrassed about something. After calling him “James” – something he rarely does – the old man finally breaks the silence by telling Bond he’s got something on a personal level he’d like him to help with.

‘Of course, sir,’ said Bond. He was relieved for M’s sake that the ice had been broken. Probably one of the old man’s relations had gotten in trouble and M didn’t want to ask a favour of Scotland Yard. Blackmail, perhaps. Or drugs. He was pleased that M should have chosen him. Of course he would take care of it. M was such a stickler about Government property and personnel. Using Bond on a personal matter must have seemed to him like stealing the Government’s money.

Bond is thus surprised when M next asks him what he knows about Sir Hugo Drax. Bond thinks for a moment and starts to tell what he knows. The man has become a national hero “much the same class as Jack Hobbs or Gordon Richards” (see below) he’s “sort of a Lonsdale figure”. As Bond is gushing about this man, he notices M’s eyes getting chillier. He continues. He relates what is known about Drax’s background.

Hugo Drax was apparently involved in the fighting in the Ardennes (see below) during the war, and was injured. was disfigured and lost his memory. In the weeks following his injury, officials were unable to identify him. They across the name of Hugo Drax, an orphan who was in the fighting, and the description seems to fit. After some more time, he is given the identity of Drax and a full pension.

After the way, he disappeared for some time, but started making a name for himself while making huge investments and trades in various precious metals, including basically cornering the market on Columbite. (see below) Drax suddenly burst onto the national scene when he offered to pay out of his own pocket for a rocket defense system which would keep London safe from any further conflicts. The offer went through the House and was approved by the Prime Minister. Newspaper headlines lauded Drax, noting that he could be responsible for “Peace in our Time – This Time”.

M then comments.

‘That’s about it,’ he said slowly. “I don’t know much more than you do. A wonderful story. Extraordinary man.’ He paused, reflecting. ‘There’s only one thing…” M tapped the stem of his pipe against his teeth.

‘What’s that, sir?’ asked Bond.

M seemed to make up his mind. He looked mildly across at Bond.

‘Sir Hugo Drax cheats at cards.

Terms and references from this chapter of Moonraker:

Hague Court – International Court of Justice

Sir Jack Hobbs – One of the greatest cricketers in England’s history.

Sir Gordon Richards – Racing’s greatest jockey?

Drax referred to as “sort of a Lonsdale figure” What does this mean? The “5th Earl of Lonsdale, was a wealthy British aristocrat and a colorful sporting figure in Victorian England”. Interestingly, when “Moonraker” was made in a motion picture in 1979, Drax was played by actor Michael Lonsdale.

“German breakthrough in the Ardennes” AKA The Battle of the Bulge.


Woomera Range – South Australia