X Company, new CBC drama, inspired by real-life Canadian spy camp

CBC's new drama series X Company brings long overdue recognition to Camp X, the real-life Second World War spy facility located on the shores of Lake Ontario.

The WW II spy drama premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC-TV

CBC's new drama series, X Company, may do for a secret Canadian spy training camp what the Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game did for Britain's code breaking centre Bletchley Park — bring long overdue recognition to a little-known place that played a vital role in the Allied war victory.

The character drama, which premieres Wednesday on CBC-TV, tells the story of Camp X, the real-life Second World War operation located on the shores of Lake Ontario near Whitby, Ont. Camp X opened in 1941 and trained hundreds of spies. It was North America's first such facility.

Can't see the video? Watch the X Company trailer here

X Company follows five young recruits from Canada, Britain and the U.S. as they train and take their new skills behind enemy lines to sabotage the Germans.

A 'cool' part of our history

Actor Connor Price admits he knew nothing of Camp X before being cast in the show. "I hadn't heard the term before. I didn't even know how involved Canada was in the war," said Price. "Being a Canadian it's quite embarrassing."

Connor Price plays radio operator and explosives expert, Harry James.
​Fellow Canadian castmember Dustin Milligan agrees. "I think, like a lot of Canadians, I didn't realize that modern espionage had been created and people were being trained in Canada," he told CBC.

"I think it's such a cool and important part of our history."

Adding to the cool factor is the revelation that Ian Fleming, who created the legendary James Bond series of spy books, trained at Camp X, as did noted British children's author Roald Dahl.

X Company co-creator Stephanie Morgenstern hopes the drama series will help make Canadians more aware of their own history. "I think people will be surprised that something as critical, as important, and let's face it, as sexy as a spy camp actually happened in Canada first."

Historian Lynn Philip Hodgson has devoted decades to researching Camp X and served as a consultant on the show.

Stars of X Company

9 years ago
Duration 8:07
Interview with Evelyne Brochu, who stars as Aurora Luft, and Jack Laskey, who plays Alfred Graves, on X Company

Can't see the video? Click here for more on Camp X from the CBC archives

"[Camp X] played a tremendous role in the successful outcome of World War Two," said Hodgson. "And that's because a lot of it led right up to the D-Day invasion. A lot of agents were trained to go in and create cells, create resistance fighters, arm them, train them through the training that they'd received at Camp X." 

Hodgson says they saved thousands of lives by laying the groundwork for the Allied invasion of France through their covert operations.

Inspired by remarkable true stories, X Company is about the origin of spycraft. (CBC Media Centre)
The significance of Camp X remained little known for decades since its activities were protected by the Official Secrets Act.

Adding to its mystery, nothing remains today of Camp X except some artifacts Hodgson has collected which are displayed in a Whitby government office. The buildings were demolished in 1969. 

A modest monument that was erected in 1984 marks the site, which was renamed Intrepid Park in honour of Camp X founder Sir William Stephenson, whose code name was Intrepid.

X Company premieres this Wednesday at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC-TV.