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Dame Victoire Evelyn Patricia "Paddy" Bennett

Dame Victoire Evelyn Patricia "Paddy" Bennett

Female 1921 - 2009  (88 years)

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  • Name Victoire Evelyn Patricia "Paddy" Bennett 
    Prefix Dame 
    Nickname Paddy 
    Birth Registration Between 1 Oct 1921 and 31 Dec 1921  Saint George Hanover Square Registration District, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Vol. 1a, p. 640 
    • Victoire E P Bennett, mother maiden name O'Shaughnessy, was born.
    Born 11 Oct 1921  Saint George Hanover Square Registration District, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Newspaper Article 26 Jan 1998  New York, New York County, New York Find all individuals with events at this location 
    People Magazine 
    • You Only Live Twice
      By Samantha Miller
      Victoire Ridsdale Was the Model for Bond's Miss Moneypenny

      AS LADY VICTOIRE RIDSDALE, 76, AND HER HUSBAND, Sir Julian Ridsdale, 81, returned to their London house after an evening out last year, they emerged from their car only to be pounced upon by muggers. One tore a gold watch from Lady Ridsdale's wrist, then tugged at her rings, warning her to cooperate or suffer dire consequences. "It takes 10 minutes and a lot of soap to get those rings off\emdash I thought he'd chop my fingers off," exclaims Ridsdale. "Well, I wasn't having any of that, and I just happened to have on my Marks & Sparks"\emdash a sturdy pair of mock-crocodile high-heeled shoes from London's stylish Marks & Spencer department store. Ridsdale buried a toe in the bloke's crotch with such force, she says with a blush, "that he doubled over with pain" before limping away.

      The experience left the grandmother of two stirred but unshaken. Hardly surprising, considering Lady Ridsdale was Ian Fleming's model for Miss Moneypenny, the unflappable secretary of his James Bond novels and the movies that followed, including the current Tomorrow Never Dies, starring Pierce Brosnan (and Samantha Bond as Moneypenny). During World War II, Ridsdale worked as an administrative assistant to Fleming in British Naval Intelligence. The future spy novelist, she says, was a dashing rogue with a fondness for beautiful women, fine suits, gambling and, yes, shaken martinis. "Ian Fleming was James Bond in his own mind," says Ridsdale. "He wrote about himself, there's no doubt about that."

      But while the fictional Moneypenny, secretary to M, Bond's boss, suffered an unrequited love for Agent 007, Ridsdale says that in real life the roles were quite the opposite. "He'd go off and do something brave and come back with silk stockings and lipsticks for me," she says of Fleming, but "I always kept him at arm's length." Ridsdale, who could hear Fleming's phone calls to women from his desk beside hers, "knew Ian too well" to become one of his many conquests. "He'd ring one in the morning, 'Oh, hello, my darling, oh yes, yes, that was a lovely evening,' " she recalls. "Then he'd put the receiver down and call somebody else: 'Darling, should we have lunch?' "

      But "despite all the dumb foolery," says Ridsdale, Fleming "was a very hard worker" who was involved in the Enigma project, an elaborate operation to crack the German military code. And Ridsdale herself helped with one of the war's most audacious coups: a project later made famous in the movie The Man Who Never Was. In 1943 the body of a dead civilian was dressed as a Royal Navy officer, planted with bogus documents suggesting the Allies would not invade Sicily and set afloat near the coast of Spain. Ridsdale's task was to help create a background for the man. "I was sent to buy clothes in all the best men's shops and had to pose as his girlfriend. I had to go to post offices and rather loudly send this telegram to 'my boyfriend,' hoping of course that somebody would overhear me. I wrote him love letters." The Nazis found the drowned man and eased their defenses in Italy, which saved thousands of lives when the Allies actually did land at Sicily.

      Ridsdale, who was 19 and working as a nurse when she was approached for the intelligence job, still marvels that she got the assignment, which she attributes to her "solid" upper-crust lineage. Her father, Joe Bennett, was an army colonel who served on the Control Commission, which negotiated the peace after World War I. Her mother, Edith, was the daughter of the last English judge to sit as recorder (circuit judge) of Dublin. Lady Ridsdale says her spunk is genetic: "Half of me is Irish, the other half is Yorkshire [England], so the battle is terrific."

      She was a child of privilege from day one. Her father, stationed in Germany after World War I, felt it unsafe for her to be born there. "So," says Ridsdale, "my mother came back and went into a nursing home, said it was terribly uncomfortable and moved into Claridges," perhaps London's ritziest hotel. Victoire Bennett, an only child, was born about 10 days later. After being educated in London private schools, she was sent at 16 to the Sorbonne in Paris, finishing her architecture studies shortly after Hitler invaded Poland. "First thing I thought of was, 'It's war, I better start nursing.' " The intelligence officer who recruited her three months later appealed to that same sense of national duty. "He said, 'I don't know of anything more valuable than if you came and worked for us,' " she recalls.

      After two years working with Fleming, Bennett left Naval Intelligence to marry Julian Ridsdale, the nephew of former British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and an officer with MI2, the intelligence arm dealing with East Asian matters. The two had met over tennis. "They said I was spoiling the war effort when I married her," he jokes. Fleming sent along a silver entrée dish but skipped the wedding.

      After the war, Julian and Victoire\emdash who gave birth to the couple's only child, Penelope, during an air raid in 1943\emdash bought a house in rural Sussex in the south of England and started a farm, growing gooseberries and raspberries while Julian tested his fortune in politics. In 1954 he was elected to Parliament, winning a seat he held until he retired in 1992. "I never really stopped working," says Lady Ridsdale, who founded a Conservative Wives' Club and continues to host the party's Winter Ball.

      In 1991, in honor of her wartime service, she was made a Dame of the British Empire (the female equivalent of knighthood) by Queen Elizabeth in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. She entertains frequently at her elegant house in London's luxe Kensington borough, where photos of her friends the Queen, Prince Charles and Margaret Thatcher adorn her grand piano. She and Fleming, who died in 1964, fell out of touch. "I met him a few times after the war," she says, and later she read his books and saw the movies (Sean Connery was her favorite 007). But, says daughter Penelope, 54, whose husband, Sir Paul Newall, is a former Lord Mayor of London, "she's never talked about any of her past, and it's only recently that things have come out." But though Ridsdale is now comfortable revealing her secrets, she insists on one important clarification. "I certainly wasn't as lovelorn as Miss Moneypenny," she says. "I had more sense than that."

      JOANNA BLONSKA in London
    Died 16 Dec 2009 
    Obituary 17 Dec 2009  London, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Lady Ridsdale

      Lady Ridsdale, who died on December 16 aged 88 was, as the wife of Sir Julian Ridsdale MP, the doyenne of her generation of Conservative consorts; as an assistant in naval intelligence during the Second World War, she was an inspiration for Ian Fleming's character of Miss Moneypenny, in his James Bond novels.

      Fleming, she said, was "very attractive, but with a great hardness in him". During working hours at naval intelligence headquarters in Whitehall he was constantly on the telephone to different women, arranging assignations at the Ritz.

      When he returned from mysterious operational missions, he was invariably laden with gifts of silk stockings and scent; but he "had so many girlfriends that I was not tempted to become one of them". Miss Moneypenny's unrequited love for Bond was, she inferred, pure fiction.

      Elegant, sharp-witted and boundlessly energetic, Paddy Ridsdale was a formidable political wife during her husband's 38-year career in the House of Commons, and in old age she remained indomitably cheerful.

      In January 1997 she was set upon by a mugger outside the garage of her South Kensington home. The man, whose identity was concealed by a motorcycle crash helmet, had seized her wristwatch and was tugging at her wedding ring when she lifted her high-heeled shoe and kicked him squarely in the groin.

      "It takes 10 minutes and a lot of soap to get those rings off \endash  I thought he'd chop my fingers off," she noted. "Well, I wasn't having any of that."

      Poleaxed by the blow from Paddy Ridsdale's mock-crocodile high-heeled shoes, the robber fled. Lady Ridsdale attributed her kicking ability to childhood ballet training; her husband said it had to do with "her Irish blood".

      Victoire Evelyn Patricia Bennett, known to some of her family as Vicky but to everyone else as Paddy, was born on October 11 1921. Her mother, deeming the nursing ward where was installed uncomfortable, had moved into Claridge's for the birth. Paddy's father, an Army officer, had been taken prisoner at Mons during the First World War before his 18th birthday, and went on to serve on the Control Commission in Africa during the Second.

      Her mother (daughter of Sir Tommy O'Shaughnessy, the last English judge to sit as recorder of Dublin) was a passionate Francophile: hence the choice of the name Victoire, and the decision to finish the girl's education at the Sorbonne, where she studied Architecture. In 1939 Paddy was given a job in the directorate of naval intelligence. She was the only woman working for seven officers, of whom Ian Fleming was one, in Room 39 under the command of Admiral Godfrey, who became the model for Fleming's spy-chief "M".

      She left the service to get married in 1942, but took a continuing part in "Operation Mincemeat". This famous caper concerned "the man who never was", a corpse dressed as a naval officer and equipped with an elaborately constructed false identity, was floated in the ocean off Spain carrying fictitious plans of a purported Allied invasion of Sardinia and Greece and designed to deflect attention from the Allied landings in Sicily in 1943.

      Paddy's role had been to write love letters to be planted on the body, given the name Major William Martin, of the Royal Marines, and to add credence to the story for any observers back in London by sending him telegrams. "I was sent to buy clothes in all the best men's shops and had to pose as his girlfriend. I had to go to post offices and rather loudly send this telegram to 'my boyfriend', hoping of course that somebody would overhear me."

      The Germans found the body, and were duly taken in by the deception. Allied intelligence reported: "Mincemeat swallowed whole."
      Meanwhile, Paddy met her husband-to-be on the tennis court at Hurlingham. He was a staff officer recently returned from Japan, where he had been assistant military attaché obliged to leave hurriedly to escape accusations of spying. (The Ridsdales retained strong links with Japan in later years: Sir Julian led many parliamentary delegations there and received the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor in 1967.)

      The grandson of a Master of the Mint, Julian Ridsdale had strong political connections. His aunt Cissy, a noted lady cricketer, married Stanley Baldwin in 1892; his uncle Aurelian Ridsdale won Brighton for the Liberals in the landslide of 1906.

      Following Baldwin's advice that he should make a successful career for himself before entering politics, Julian became a company director and ran his family's Sussex fruit farm after the war, but he and Paddy soon became involved as Conservative Party workers.
      Their home was her family's mansion in the Boltons, a grand enclave of South Kensington, where they kept chickens in the garden and gradually repaired the damage of wartime bombing and neglect.

      The local Redcliffe ward Conservative branch had 10,000 members, and the Ridsdales went out and recruited 50 more in a good week \endash  among them the actress Diana Dors, a neighbour whom they tackled in the street. Julian Ridsdale fought North Paddington unsuccessfully in the 1951 general election, but won Harwich in February 1954. He was air minister from 1962 to 1964, and held his seat comfortably through 10 general elections \endash  becoming a loyal Thatcherite backbencher \endash  until his retirement in 1992.

      Paddy was his constituency secretary throughout, and held strong views on the need to work hard to retain the goodwill of local supporters. She did not conceal her displeasure when Sir Julian's successor, who had inherited a 15,000 majority, lost the seat to Labour in 1997.

      In the Boltons (where they found themselves, in later years, "sandwiched between a sheikh and a Saudi prince") Lady Ridsdale became an influential political hostess in the style of a bygone era \endash  in 1974, for example, she gave a party for 100 MPs to plot the ousting of Edward Heath.

      From 1978 to 1991 she was chairman of the Conservative MPs' Wives group, which arranged informal monthly gatherings, "end of term parties" and support for wives left in distant constituencies while their husbands were at Westminster. She was also president and long-serving organiser of the Conservative Winter Ball at Grosvenor House.

      She became Lady Ridsdale when her husband was knighted in 1981, and was appointed DBE in her own right, for political services, in 1991.

      The Ridsdales had a daughter, Penny, whose husband Sir Paul Newall is a former Lord Mayor of London. Julian Ridsdale died in 2004.
    Lady Victoire 'Paddy' (Bennett) Ridsdale (1921-12009)
    Lady Victoire "Paddy" (Bennett) Ridsdale (1921-12009)
    Newspaper Article 19 Dec 2009  London, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Woman who provided the inspiration for Miss Moneypenny dies aged 88
      By Ben Macintyre

      The secret service secretary who inspired the character of Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond stories has died aged 88.

      Dame Victoire "Paddy" Ridsdale once described Ian Fleming as "definitely James Bond in his mind". Dame Paddy was definitely Miss Moneypenny \emdash   or at least a part of her.

      Fleming and Dame Paddy, then plain Paddy Bennett, were colleagues in the wartime Naval Intelligence Department: he was assistant to the Chief of Naval Intelligence; she was a secretary, and a most formidable one, with at least some of the characteristics associated with Fleming's second-most beloved creation.

      Dame Paddy did nothing to dampen speculation that she had been a model for Moneypenny, although there are other contenders.

      In the books, Miss Moneypenny, M's secretary, smoulders with unrequited love for 007. In Thunderball, we learn that she "often dreamed hopelessly about Bond". Dame Paddy was a friend but denied harbouring amorous feelings for Fleming. She insisted that she was "never taken in by his charm". "He'd go off and do something brave and come back with silk stockings and lipsticks for me," she told People magazine in 1998. "I always kept him at arm's length."

      Another possible inspiration for the Moneypenny character was Kathleen Pettigrew, personal assistant to Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6, known as C. Anyone attempting to gain access to C had to get past Miss Pettigrew, who was described by one colleague as a "formidable, grey-haired lady with the square jaw of the battleship type".

      A third contender is Vera Atkins, executive officer with the French section of the Special Operations Executive set up by Churchill to "set Europe ablaze" with clandestine operations behind enemy lines. Fleming knew Atkins, who trained and handled more than 400 agents, through his intelligence work.

      Another possible inspiration is Margaret Priestley, who helped to run 30 Commando Assault Unit, an intelligence commando squad set up by Fleming which he referred to as his "Red Indians".

      The name Moneypenny came from an unfinished novel by Peter Fleming, Ian's brother, entitled The Sett. The elder Fleming gave up after 30,000 words, and his brother simply appropriated the name.

      Miss Moneypenny became a staple of the Bond films but in the novels she is a fleeting figure: a non-smoking, milk-drinking poodle-owner, who "would have been desirable but for eyes which were cool and direct and quizzical".

      In the novels, Bond has his own secretary, Loelia Ponsonby, "tall and dark, with a reserved unbroken beauty" but also "a cool air of authority that might easily become spinsterish". The real Loelia Ponsonby was a friend of Fleming's, who later became Duchess of Westminster.

      In reality, the Naval Intelligence Department contained a number of extremely attractive women. The head of Naval Intelligence, Admiral John Godfrey, who was the model for M, deliberately recruited attractive women in the peculiar belief that they were less likely to want to impress men, and therefore less likely to spill intelligence secrets.
    Dame Paddy Ridsdale
    Dame Paddy Ridsdale
    Dame "Paddy" Ridsdale, left, with Lois Maxwell, who played Miss Moneypenny, M's secretary, in 14 James Bond films
    Obituary 19 Dec 2009  London, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Dame Paddy Ridsdale: Conservative grande dame

      Dame Paddy Ridsdale was a political hostess and the leading light among her generation of Conservative wives who delighted in the fact that she was the model for Miss Moneypenny in Ian Fleming's novels about James Bond, although, with her striking good looks, she was rather different from her lovelorn fictional alter ego.

      She did not demur from the belief, widely held in the media, that she played an important part in creating an identity for "The Man Who Never Was" by writing the love letters that were found in the pockets of the corpse which was used by the Allies as a means to deceive the enemy about the location of the Mediterranean landings during the Second World War. This was in fact a fiction worthy of the creator of James Bond himself.

      Victoire Evelyn Patricia Bennett was born in 1921, the daughter of Colonel J. and Edith Bennett, and was educated at the Sorbonne.

      "Paddy", as she was known, was 19 when, during the war, she became a civilian assistant at the office of the Director of National Intelligence. At the old Admiralty building in Whitehall that looks on to Horse Guards Parade at the rear she met Fleming whose job as assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence was to mastermind clandestine missions to occupied Europe and to devise means of spying on, confusing and generally provoking the Nazis. They both worked in the celebrated Room 39, one of the more secret parts of the Admiralty building, where Fleming, with his fertile mind (although he had yet to write a novel), cooked up ever more outlandish schemes to deceive the enemy.

      One of these, which worked perfectly, unlikely though it seemed, was Operation Mincemeat, or The Man Who Never Was. In 1943, after the their successes in North Africa, the Allies' plan to land in Sicily as a prelude to the big push into Italy hinged on deceiving the Italian and German forces into believing that the expected landings in southern Europe would involve an invasion of Greece and Sardinia.

      Room 39 came up with the idea of disguising a corpse as a Royal Marines officer, "Major Martin", with a "secret", different plan of attack in a briefcase attached to the body by a detachable chain then in common use by bank couriers. The body, appearing to be a casualty from a downed aircraft, would be taken by submarine to the southern coast of Spain, off the town of Huelva, where it would be carefully floated ashore where it was hoped that a Nazi agent who was known to be operating in the area would get to know of it. To make the body, whose real identity was that of a Welsh tramp, seem totally convincing, theatre tickets and the love letters were also placed in its pockets. The body was picked up by fishermen in April 1943. The subterfuge worked remarkably well and the Axis powers were caught by surprise on July 9, 1943, when the Allies unleashed their huge amphibious and airborne invasion of Sicily.

      In truth, Paddy Bennett, as she then was, had not written the love letters. But in years to come that did not prevent the newspapers from rehearsing the myth. It made a good story.

      Years later, reflecting on her association with Fleming, Dame Paddy said that she was never in love with him. "Fleming based Bond on himself," she told The Times in 1997. "He was the brave, handsome spy who had women falling at his feet. He was always wooing me with presents of silk stockings and lipstick from strange places. But I was never taken in by his charm because I knew what he was like. He was always on the telephone to different women, taking them to lunch and dinner at the Ritz. He had so many girlfriends that I was not tempted to become one of them."

      Indeed, she became engaged while working at the Admiralty, and was married to an army officer, Julian Ridsdale, later Sir Julian, in 1942 at the height of the war.

      On one occasion her husband held her by the ankles while she used a broom to push an incendiary bomb off the roof of their London house.

      "Things were so different then," she said on another occasion. "Now you look at a man and you're supposed to go to bed with him. It wasn't so in our world. It was an innocent world in that sense."

      But she nonetheless enjoyed her association with Fleming and her part in the novels as the secretary to 007's boss "M" who harbours an unrequited love for Bond and enjoys a playful badinage with the secret agent whenever he breezes into the office. She even met Lois Maxwell (obituary, Oct 1, 2007), the Canadian actress who played Miss Moneypenny in all the early Bond movies.

      In real life Paddy Ridsdale became the wife and constituency secretary of an MP when Sir Julian won Harwich in Essex for the Conservatives in 1954 and held it until 1992. In that time he served as Under-Secretary for Air and Under-Secretary for Defence among other appointments. As a student at London University he had attended the School of Oriental Languages where he specialised in Japanese, and had spent time in Tokyo before having to flee the country on its sudden entry into the war at Pearl Harbor. Japan remained a preoccupation and a love of his ever afterwards and, as president of the Anglo-Japanese Parliamentary Group, he led many a fact-finding trip there by MPs over the years. He was knighted in 1981.

      Dame Paddy, who was full of energy, recourceful and quick, was not prepared to stand on the sidelines of her husband's career and founded the Conservative MPs' Wives group which arranged meetings at the House of Commons and elsewhere so that the wives could become better informed about political and social affairs and so engage much more in their husbands' duties. Society was changing; women were no longer expected merely to mind the home, and Paddy Ridsdale was in the vanguard of the revolution. She and her husband gave a party at their Chelsea home for 100 or so Tory MPs in 1974 where they plotted the overthrow of their party leader, Edward Heath. She proved just how feisty she was during a mugging in the street outside their London house when she was attacked while getting out of her car in 1997. The mugger, wearing a motorcycle helmet, tore a watch from her wrist and tried to wrench her wedding ring from her hand. Anger got the better of fear and she aimed a kick of her high-heeled shoe to his nether regions which left him doubled up in agony. It could have been straight out of a Bond story. The mugger, stunned, fled with an accomplice and the watch was found discarded in a nearby street soon afterwards.

      "I felt cross. That was why I hit out," she said. At Southwark Crown Court the prosecuting counsel, Robin Griffiths, said: "Lady Ridsdale may be of retirement age, but she was not prepared to submit to such indignity without response. So she kicked the intruder in a place where it appeared to hurt."

      Dame Paddy had a strong character; vibrant, extrovert and vivacious.She was appointed DBE in 1991.

      Her husband predeceased her in 2004 and she is survived by her only child, her daughter, Lady Newall.

      Dame Paddy Ridsdale (Lady Ridsdale, DBE), founder and chairman of Conservative MPs' Wives, 1978-91, was born on October 11, 1921. She died on December 16, 2009, aged 88.
    Sir Julian and Dame Paddy Ridsdale
    Sir Julian and Dame Paddy Ridsdale
    Dame Paddy with her husband, Sir Julian Ridsdale, at their home in Chelsea in 1997, the scene of a 1974 party for 100 MPs intent on ousting Edward Heath
    Person ID I1900  Ridsdale Families
    Last Modified 21 Oct 2015 

    Father Col. Joseph "Joe" Bennett,   d. Unknown 
    Mother Edith Marion O'Shaughnessy,   b. 1883,   d. 30 Jun 1963  (Age 80 years) 
    Family ID F1111  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Sir Julian Errington Ridsdale,   b. 8 Jun 1915, Westbourne, Sussex, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 22 Jul 2004, Kensington & Chelsea Registration District, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 89 years) 
    Married Between 1 Jul 1942 and 30 Sep 1942  Westminster Registration District, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Marriage Registration Between 1 Jul 1942 and 30 Sep 1942  Westminster Registration District, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Vol. 1a, p. 919 
    • Julien E Ridsdale and Victoire E P Bennett were married.
     1. Lady P.M.". Ridsdale
    Last Modified 1 Jan 2012 
    Family ID F490  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBirth Registration - Vol. 1a, p. 640 - Between 1 Oct 1921 and 31 Dec 1921 - Saint George Hanover Square Registration District, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 11 Oct 1921 - Saint George Hanover Square Registration District, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - Between 1 Jul 1942 and 30 Sep 1942 - Westminster Registration District, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarriage Registration - Vol. 1a, p. 919 - Between 1 Jul 1942 and 30 Sep 1942 - Westminster Registration District, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsNewspaper Article - People Magazine - 26 Jan 1998 - New York, New York County, New York Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsObituary - Telegraph - 17 Dec 2009 - London, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsNewspaper Article - Times - 19 Dec 2009 - London, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsObituary - Times - 19 Dec 2009 - London, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Lady Victoire 'Paddy' (Bennett) Ridsdale (1921-12009)
    Lady Victoire "Paddy" (Bennett) Ridsdale (1921-12009)