Death of Patrick Leigh Fermor

Soldier, scholar and travel writer

Sir Patrick (Paddy) Leigh Fermor, often called Britain's 'greatest living travel writer' (The Washington Post went as far as to call him 'the greatest living Englishman') has died aged 96. He was visiting Britain from his home in Greece when he passed away on 10 June in Dumbleton, Worcestershire. Born and educated in Britain, at the age of 18, Leigh Fermor decided to walk the length of Europe, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople - a journey immortalised in A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. During the Second World War, as part of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) he fought alongside the Cretan Resistance, where he met George Psychoundakis, whose account, The Cretan Runner, Leigh Fermor translated. Thanks to his extraordinary experiences in the war, he was once described by the BBC as 'a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene'. Perhaps his best-known exploit was his involvement in the abduction of German General Heinrich Kreipe in Crete in 1944, immortalised by William Stanley Moss in Ill Met By Moonlight. After the war, he began to write, publishing The Traveller's Tree in 1950. Among his many honours, Sir Patrick was named Chevalier, Order des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1995, was knighted in 2004 and made a Commander of the Order of the Phoenix by the Greek government in 2007.

Folio Society Editor James Matthews worked closely with Sir Patrick on our recent edition of The Cretan Runner, and has written this tribute:

In 2009 I began work on our Folio Society edition of George Psychoundakis’s autobiographical account of partisan fighting in the hills of Crete during the Second World War, The Cretan Runner. The book is not only translated by Patrick Leigh Fermor but includes him as a major character as well. It became obvious when considering illustrations for this book that photographic evidence of the characters and events depicted are notoriously hard to come by, for obvious reasons - it was not common for men, hiding from the enemy and living often in caves, to take many snapshots. So I decided to approach the translator directly to ask if we might reproduce any personal pictures he may himself have taken. Sir Patrick obliged. He sent through a package of images, many of which had never been published before, and which also contained some of the sketches of ‘andartes’ he made during the war. These were accompanied by hand-written captions and provided a unique, personal selection. Sir Patrick was, throughout my dealings with him, always kind, patient, polite and keen to show off the work of his friend George Psychoundakis - after the book was finished Sir Patrick wanted only to receive one copy for himself, insisting that any others be sent to George's son, Niko. It has been a great honour to have worked with a man who was a wonderful traveller, a war hero and a great writer. I consider myself very lucky.

last modified: Mon, Sep 12th 2011Bookmark and Share
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