in London. Known in French as
, it was used during the Second World War as the London base of F section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
The spying industry had its professional origins during World War II - it had previously been quite an amateur affair.
As the war went on and SOE’s operational capacity grew, 64 Baker Street
became its headquarters from October 1940 onwards. By 1943, various apartment blocks around the Baker Street
area became an SOE hub.
In Orchard Court
, SOE’s F section vetted new recruits for secret missions to France.
The F Section was commanded by Maurice Buckmaster, assisted by Vera Atkins, who are said to have been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s ‘M’ and Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond stories. Vera Atkins was responsible for interviewing recruits, as well as organising their training and creating the cover stories for spies. Atkins has been much praised for her extraordinary work in the SOE. During her time at Orchard Court
she sent 470 agents into France, including 39 women, 12 of whom were never to return.
In the words of one former spy, Noor Inayat Khan: The time the agents spent at Orchard Court was a brief period of luxury before their gruelling, dangerous stints in the field.
After the war, SOE moved out and Orchard Court
retired back into its previous life as just another block of flats.