WWII spy eyed for street honour in Winnipeg

Winnipeg plans to name a street after a local man who became a legendary Second World War spy known as Intrepid — an inspiration for the fictional spy James Bond.

Winnipeg plans to name a street after a local man who became a legendary Second World War spy known as Intrepid — an inspiration for the fictional spy James Bond.

A city hall committee agreed on Tuesday morning to recommend that Water Avenue, which links Main Street to the Provencher Bridge, be renamed as William Stephenson Way.

City council must still approve the recommendation. Council will vote on it later in September but is expected to full endorse the proposal.

Sir William Samuel Stephenson was born in Winnipeg's Point Douglas neighbourhood on Jan. 23, 1897.

As a Canadian soldier, airman and spymaster, Stephenson became the senior representative of British intelligence for the Western Hemisphere during the Second World War.

Stephenson used the code name "Intrepid" and was an inspiration behind author Ian Fleming's fictional spy James Bond.

According to an interview with The Times, in 1962, Fleming said, "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is … William Stephenson."

Stephenson was also a radio pioneer who helped develop a way of transmitting photographs around the world.

But it was his espionage work that garnered the most fame. Some suggest his covert operations in the Second World War were a decisive factor in the Allied victory.

Helped create CIA

Following the war, Stephenson played a key role in the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States.

As Winston Churchill's personal representative to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Stephenson became a close advisor to FDR, and suggested he put William J. Donovan in charge of all U.S. intelligence services.

Donovan, a good friend of Stephenson, founded the U.S. wartime Office of Strategic Services, which eventually became the Central Intelligence Agency.

For his wartime work, Stephenson was knighted in 1945. In his homeland, Stephenson was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1979 and invested in the Order in 1980.

He died on Jan. 31, 1989, in Paget, Bermuda.

Intrepid Society lobbied for name change

Winnipeg's Intrepid Society, a group dedicated to honouring and sustaining the memory of Stephenson, had sought to rename a section of Portage Avenue, east of Main Street, in Stephenson's honour.

The group's president, Gary Solar, said the short road was an ideal and symbolic choice because it connected with other streets that led to the area where the Canadian Museum For Human Rights is being constructed and set to open in 2012.

Water Avenue, however, is a longer stretch of road and runs right beside the museum's location.

Paul Armstrong, a member of the Intrepid Society, said the route is a good choice, considering what Stephenson helped accomplish.

"By shortening the war, and working against the Nazi regime and saving a lot of lives, I think there's certainly a big human rights issue right there," he said. "William Stephenson certainly is one of the greatest individuals to ever come out of this country."

A memorial will likely be erected near the renamed road, if the decision of the property and development committee is given approval by city council.