Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor 1915-2011

Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor has died at the age of 96.

The New York Times says of him:
Once described by the BBC as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene,” Mr. Leigh Fermor was as renowned for his feats of derring-do as for his opulent prose.

After joining the Irish Guards during World War II, he was judged to be promising officer material for the Special Operations Executive, the unit created by Winston Churchill to wage war by unconventional means. Mr. Leigh Fermor’s superiors deemed his fluency in modern Greek useful in leading resistance to German occupation in the Aegean.

For 18 months he lived disguised as a shepherd in Crete, emerging from the mountains with a team that in 1944 kidnapped Gen. Heinrich Kreipe, the island’s German commander. The operation provoked brutal reprisals toward the local population. It earned Mr. Leigh Fermor the Distinguished Service Order and later became the basis for the 1957 English film “Ill Met by Moonlight,” directed by Michael Powell and starring Dirk Bogarde.
Latterly Leigh Fermor was best known as a travel writer, particularly for the two volumes - A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water - describing his journey as an 18-year-old across a Europe on the verge of war. The good news is that he did complete the final part of the trilogy and it will be published.

One trivial fact that will not make the obituaries is that there is a suburb of Leicester named after Leigh Fermor's father-in-law. Eyres Monsell is named after Bolton Eyres-Monsell, from whom the land upon which it is built was compulsorily purchased. His daughter Joan married Patrick Leigh Fermor.


Mark said...

Wasn't Leigh-Fermor one of those involved with some very right wing clandestine organisations in the mid-70s considering a military coup in the UK?

Farrah-Hockley was another -something about double barreled names I supposed.

Jonathan Calder said...

No that is completely wrong and a libel on a brave and cultured man.

Off you go.

Malcolm Baines said...

I loved the comment in the Guardian's obituary that Leigh Fermor and Kreipe were reunited in the 1970s on a Greek TV version of "This is your life".

Jonathan Calder said...

"You thought he had fled to South America, but he's here tonight..."

Tom Sawford said...

Paddy and Fermor were reunited .. you can watch it here