Large numbers of Drax watchers have written in on this mystery. Most of them relied on the book, however, rather than the movie, and it was, of course, the movie that was being discussed – and when it comes to the Bond series the films, alas, often differ greatly from Fleming’s original plot. Anyway, different sources throw up these solutions (full disclosure: I have not seen the movie for about twenty years, or read the book for about thirty, so I’m taking this all on trust):
The book: M apparently noticed M cheating at cards at his club, raising the first suspicion that Drax might not be the pukka fellow he claimed to be. M was right. Drax was, in fact, Count Hugo von der Drache, a German commando severely wounded in a World War 2 battle while wearing a British uniform. He faked amnesia and passed himself off as a British soldier. M should not be too smug, however. Drax’s mother was English.
The author’s patriotism: According to one reader “there is not a single English or British villain in any of them, the closest is Donovan Grant in From Russia With Love , who is Southern Irish/German. Fleming’s villains were sinister Germans, sinister Chinese, a sinister Korean, sinister American Gangsters, sinister Corsicans, sinister Italians, sinister Bulgarians, and of course lots and lots of sinister Russians”.
The movie: Drax apparently says this: “”Frederick Gray! What a surprise. And in distinguished company all wearing gas masks. You must excuse me, gentlemen, not being English , I sometimes find your sense of humor rather difficult to follow.”
The alternative: Yes, the actor who played Drax is, inconveniently, French, but James Mason was offered the job first.
Here’s a frighteningly comprehensive resource on all this sort of thing, which I’d like to discuss more, but K-Lo, Kathry