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Patrick «Paddy» Michael Leigh Fermor , OBE, DSO (London, February 11, 1915 – Worcestershire, June 10, 2011), was a writer, historian and British soldier, who he played a decisive role behind the lines in the Battle of Crete during World War II. As a writer he is famous in the travel literature genre.
Leigh Fermor’s father, Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor, was a distinguished geologist. Shortly after his birth, his mother left him in the care of another family to join his father in India. As a child, Leigh Fermor had problems with institutions and the academic organization. Being sent by it to a school for difficult children in Canterbury, from which he was expelled for being caught by the hand of the daughter of a shopkeeper of the place. He continued his education in a self-taught way, reading works in Greek and Latin, as well as Shakespeare and texts of History, keeping in mind the entry into the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst.
Soon, however, he decided, only 18 years old, to walk all over Europe, from Hoek van Holland to Constantinople, today Istanbul. Leigh Fermor began his journey on December 8, 1933, when Hitler had just come to power in Germany, with a few clothes, the Oxford Book of English Verse and a volume of Horace’s odes. He slept in shelters of shepherds, barns and cabins, but also in the country houses of the aristocracy and the principal ones of Central Europe. Throughout his trip he heard many stories and heard many languages. Two of his travel books, The Time of Gifts and Between the Forests and the Water, detail his journey and, since they were written decades later, benefit from all his subsequent cultural learning, giving him a wealth of historical, geographical information , linguistic and anthropological to the course of the narration.
He arrived in Constantinople on January 1, 1935 where he continued his journey through Greece. He was involved in a monarchical campaign in Macedonia against the Republicans. He fell in love with Greece and its language. In Athens he met Balasha Cantacuzène, a Romanian noble she fell in love with. They shared an old river mill on the outskirts of the city overlooking Poros, where they dedicated themselves to painting and writing. Then they moved to Băleni, the home of the Cantacuzène family in Moldova, where Leigh Fermor was when the Second World War was declared.
World War II
He joined the Irish Guards, but due to his command of the Greek he was assigned to the intelligence corps where he was posted to Albania as liaison officer. He fought in Greece and in Crete. During the German occupation of the island he returned to the island three times, one of them parachuted. He was one of the few officers assigned by the department of special operations to organize resistance to the German occupation. Disguised as a shepherd he lived for two years in the mountains and led the patrol that captured and evacuated the German commander of the island, General Heinrich Kreipe in 1944. The episode was taken to the cinema in the movie Night Ambush (Ill Met by Moonlight), in 1957, in which Leigh Fermor was played by Dirk Bogarde.
He was appointed officer of the Order of the British Empire and the Order of Distinguished Service (DSO), as well as an honorary citizen of Heraklion and later of Kardamili and Gytheio.
After the war
In 1950 Leigh Fermor’s first book, The Traveler’s Tree, was published about his travels in the Caribbean after the war; He visited Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and Jamaica, among other islands. The book won the Literature Prize of the Heinemann Foundation, placing it on the literary scene. He continued to write travel books, such as Mani and Roumeli, about his journeys on foot and in mule through remote parts of Greece. For many critics and readers his 1977 book The Time of Gifts is one of the best travel books in English language of all time. He translated and published The Cretan Runner, written by one of his former subordinates in Crete during the war, the messenger George Psychoundakis. He also wrote a novel, The Violins of Saint-Jacques, converted into an opera by Malcolm Williamson.
After many years together, Leigh Fermor married in 1968 with Joan Elizabeth Rayner, born Eyres Monsell, daughter of Bolton Eyres-Monsell, first Viscount Monsell, who accompanied him on many of his trips until his death in Kardamili in June. 2003 at 91 years old. They divided their time between their house in an olive grove on the peninsula of Mani, south of Peloponnese, and part of the year in Worcestershire.
Patrick Leigh Fermor was knighted in February 2004. In March 2007 he was named by the Greek government Knight of the Order of the Phoenix, his highest honor. At the same time it was known that Leigh Fermor, at an advanced age was learning to type (since he had always written by hand), to finish the third and final volume of the trilogy about his trip to Europe in the 1930s. twentieth century, however, he died before the end of that volume.
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