From Kent, With Love: Ian Fleming & James Bond -  The Kentish Connection

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) Directed By Ken HughesStrong Kentish connections can also be found in Ian Fleming’s legendary children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was adapted for the cinema in the evergreen 1968 movie musical starring Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts, and the successful touring stage version, both produced by Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions. Fleming’s ‘Chitty’ stories [illustrated by John Burningham (1936-2019)] are affectionately dedicated to the memory of the original Chitty Bang Bang (sic) Mercedes built in 1920 by Count Louis Zborowski (also co-creator of The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway) on his estate at near Pett Bottom and Canterbury. In the ‘Chitty’ stories the Potts family lived in a wood beside a big lake with an island in the middle, echoes perhaps of Leeds Castle near Maidstone. On the other side of the lake the M20 motorway on the old Dover road swept towards the sea. When Commander Potts finished rebuilding Chitty, he and the family headed for a seaside picnic, but the car, unhappy at being stuck in a traffic jam takes to the air! They fly over Canterbury, where Commander Potts insists on circling the tall tower of the cathedral and then on to Dover Castle. They fly up the coast looking for a picnic spot beside the sea, but everywhere – St. Margaret’s Bay, Walmer, Deal, Sandwich, Ramsgate – are all crowded with families on the beaches who have the same idea. So the Potts family eventually picnic on the Goodwin Sands in the English Channel.

1932: Ian Fleming (middle) takes part in the Alpine Trial as navigator of the car ‘Invicta’, while Donald Healy (of Austin-Healy fame) is in the driving seat.

ABOVE: 1932: Ian Fleming (middle) takes part in the Alpine Trial as navigator of the car ‘Invicta’, while Donald Healy (of Austin-Healy fame) is in the driving seat. Healy had previously won the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally; (right) Tony Lago, who drove an Armstrong Siddeley in the Trial, was a flamboyant Italian design engineer who later created many beautiful Talbot-Lago cars.

Chitty Bang Bang

Count Louis Zborowski (1895-1924)
Between 1921 and 1923 Louis Zborowski, the millionaire racing driver son of a Polish Count and an American mother, designed and built three aero-engined cars assisted by his engineer Captain Clive Gallop. These cars were all known as "Chitty Bang Bang".

In the film version, the name "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" came from the noise the car made, but for the original cars it was actually the words to a World War I bawdy soldiers song about Officers based in France which gave the car its name. British Officers would obtain a weekend pass or "chit" so they could go to Paris to "enjoy the favours of the ladies of the night". Hence "Chitty Bang Bang".

Chitty Bang Bang

ABOVE: Louis Zborowski in 'Chitty Bang Bang 1'

Ian Fleming at Goldenhurst Farm - painting of Romney Marsh by Noel Coward

Although Ian Fleming’s wife Ann never really liked living in Kent – she always longed to be back in the Cotswold country of her girlhood – she did enjoy visiting the churches on Romney Marsh, and would often lunch at The Grand in Folkestone before going off to explore the countryside.

The Royal St. George's Golf Club, Sandwich

The final connection Fleming had with Kent was when he was informed that he was to become the next captain of The Royal St. Georges Golf Club – an honour which meant more to him than the ‘taste of ashes’ success his James Bond books had brought him. Sadly, before he could take up his captaincy he suffered a heart-attack and was rushed to the Kent & Canterbury Hospital, where he died aged 56 on August 12th, 1964.

There is no doubt that Ian Fleming loved Kent. It so well suited him, offering proximity to London, homes by the sea in beautiful settings, a wonderful golf course, his type of hotels serving his kind of food; history, mystery and easy access to a European golf course via Lydd Airport to Le Touquet – and also handy for Royale-les-Eaux.