Category Archives: Obituaries

An obituary of the artist Adrian Daintrey

I am grateful to John Stewart who sent this to me. Adrian Daintrey was a great fried of Diana Cooper and produced a portrait of Paddy in Cretan costume. I cannot find an image of that online. If anyone has one please do forward it.

Adrian Daintrey obit

Daintrey’s Wikipedia page.

A Year of Memory: the top ten posts on the Patrick Leigh Fermor blog

As the year comes to a close it is time to reflect upon what has passed and to look forward to 2012. I make no predictions for the coming year. There are some things which are almost certain such as the continuing Euro crisis and the much anticipated publication of Artemis Cooper’s authorised biography about Paddy, but forecasts tend to be overtaken by events and are quickly forgotten.

What we can do is to look back on this year in the life and times of Patrick Leigh Fermor. The major event of course was Paddy’s death on 10 June at the age of ninety-six. A sad event for his family and close friends, but also for those of us who admired him for his writing and the life he lived. As the year closed it was time to celebrate his life at his Memorial Service held on 15 December in London.

As I hoped the blog has become a significant source of material about his life including rarely seen video. There have been over 228,000 visits over the last year and you have made it a much more interactive experience by using the comment facility to exchange information, provide your own memories of Paddy, and to express your admiration for him. At the time of his death I opened a page where you could express your thoughts about Paddy which has run to over 120 comments.

Paddy would probably have been somewhat bemused by the whole idea of the blog, but perhaps even more so by the interaction we now have with social networking sites with nearly 4,500 visitors finding the site from Facebook, and 850 via Twitter.

To conclude the year, and as the 365th post on the blog, let us take a look at some of the most popular articles over the last twelve months. Perhaps I can make one promise to you all which is that there is much more to come on the blog in 2012 which includes a lot of material submitted by you the readers of the blog.

The Funeral Service of Patrick Leigh Fermor, 16 June 2011 

Paddy’s funeral service was held on a typical English summer’s day at his home in Dumbleton. He returned to England just one day before his death and is buried beside his beloved Joan.

Obituary from The Independent by Paddy Leigh Fermor’s biographer Artemis Cooper 

Perhaps the definitive obituary.

Patrick Leigh Fermor … This is Your (Ill Met by Moonlight) Greek Life 

The amazing video from the Greek TV programme which reunited the participants of the Ill Met by Moonlight kidnap including Paddy, many of the Andartes, and General Kreipe and his wife.

Anthony Lane’s New Yorker article on Fermor is now free to view 

One of the most comprehensive profiles of Paddy which is now freely available to all. (the pdf download appears to be no longer available – click on the article to magnify to read and then drag your cursor to move around the page)

Intimate portraits from Kardamyli by Miles Fenton 

A series of personal photographs sent to me by Miles Fenton who is Paddy’s nephew and who now lives in Canada where he works as an artist.

Patrick Leigh Fermor recounts the kidnap of General Kreipe on video 

The ever popular video where Paddy talks in some detail about the Kreipe kidnap. (press play on Battle of Crete 7).

Colonel David Smiley 

David Smiley was a fellow occupant of Tara in Cairo with Paddy and Billy Moss et al who continued his military career with some distinction after the war and even led Japanese soldiers in a charge against VietMinh rebels!

Paddy’s eye for detail: Ian Fleming, Bondage, James Bond and Pol Roger 

It is probably the James Bond/Ian Fleming association which maintains the popularity of this article.

If food be the music of love … Bánffy’s lover in Cluj (Kolozsvár) 

No list of popular posts can be complete without the compelling combination of my passions for Paddy, Romania, Miklós Bánffy, and Cluj.

Patrick Leigh Fermor Memorial Order of Service 

The order of service from the joyful occasion that was Paddy’s Memorial Service.

Finally I would like to thank so many of you for your encouragement and support during 2011, and wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Tom Sawford

William Stanley Moss

"Billy" Moss with his Russians

There appears to be no surviving obituary for Billy Moss (if anybody can find one please contact me). His Wikipedia page has to serve as a substitute.

Ivan William “Billy” Stanley Moss MC (1921–1965), was a British army officer in World War II, and later a successful writer, broadcaster, journalist and traveller. He served with the Coldstream Guards and the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He was a best-selling author in the 1950s, based both on his novels and books about his wartime service. He featured events of his SOE years in Ill Met by Moonlight: The Abduction of General Kreipe (1950), which was adapted as a British film released under the main title in 1957. Moss travelled around the world and went to Antarctica to meet the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

He was known as William Stanley Moss, or I. W. S. Moss, or W. Stanley Moss, or plain Bill or Billy Moss – but never as “Stanley Moss”.  Stanley was the surname of a female forebear.  All family members (including Billy and his two daughters) were given this name, which was considered part of the surname, though not hyphenated.  Much like “Leigh Fermor”.

Early life and education

William Stanley Moss, (called Bill or Billy) was born in Yokohama, Japan. His mother was a White Russian émigrée, and his father, an English businessman. The family survived the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. Moss attended Charterhouse in England (1934–39).


In the autumn of 1939, Moss, aged 18, had just left Charterhouse and was living in a log cabin on the Latvian coast. By the outbreak of war, he reached Stockholm, and succeeded in crossing the North Sea to England in a yacht. After full training at Caterham, he was commissioned as an ensign into the Coldstream Guards. He served on King’s Guard at the Court of St. James’s punctuated by bouts of Churchillian duty at Chequers.

Posted to reinforce the 3rd Battalion, the Coldstream, after the losses at Tobruk, Moss fought with Montgomery’s Eighth Army chasing Rommel across North Africa to Alamein and finished up the campaign in Chianti and Pantellaria. He returned to Cairo, where he was recruited into Force 133 of the Special Operations Executive (SOE).

Tara, Cairo

In 1943 in Cairo, Moss moved in to a spacious villa, with a great ballroom with parquet floors, which four or five people might share. Moss chose to live in the villa rather than the SOE hostel, “Hangover Hall”. He moved in alone at first, then bought his Alsatian puppy, Pixie; Xan Fielding, who had worked in Crete, joined him. Next was Countess Zofia (Sophie) Tarnowska, forced to leave Poland in 1939 by the German invasion, followed by Arnold Breene of SOE HQ. Finally Patrick Leigh Fermor, an SOE officer who had spent the previous nine months in Crete, joined the household. The villa’s new inhabitants called it Tara, after the legendary home of the High Kings of Ireland.

Sophie Tarnowska and two other women had been asked to share the house with the SOE agents, but only she went through with it, after the men pleaded with her not to let them down. Estranged from her husband, she moved in with her few possessions (a bathing costume, an evening gown, a uniform and two pet mongooses). She protected her reputation while living in the all-male household by the invention of an entirely fictitious chaperone, “Madame Khayatt”, who suffered from “distressingly poor health” and was always indisposed when visitors asked after her. The group were later joined by SOE agents Billy McLean, David Smiley returning from Albania, and Rowland Winn, also active in Albania.

Tara became the centre of high-spirited entertaining of diplomats, officers, writers, lecturers, war correspondents and Coptic and Levantine party-goers. The residents adopted nicknames: “Princess Dneiper-Petrovsk” (Countess Sophie Tarnowska), “Sir Eustace Rapier” (Lt-Col. Neil (Billy) McLean), “the Marquis of Whipstock” (Col David Smiley LVO OBE MC), “the Hon, Rupert Sabretache” (Rowland Winn MC), “Lord Hughe Devildrive” (Major Xan Fielding DSO), “Lord Pintpot” (Arnold Breene), “Lord Rakehell” (Lt-Col Patrick Leigh-Fermor DSO) and “Mr Jack Jargon” (Capt W. Stanley Moss MC). By the winter of 1944, the Tara household had to leave their battered villa and move into a flat. Their landlord secured their eviction on the grounds that the villa had not been let to “Princess Dneiper-Petrovsk” et al., as stated on the villa’s name plate.

Abduction of General Kreipe

Moss is best remembered for the capture of General Heinrich Kreipe on Crete and abduction of him to Egypt, in April and May 1944. He and Leigh Fermor led a team of Cretan Andartes, part of the Greek resistance.

Moss and Leigh Fermor thought of the Kreipe abduction one evening in the Club Royale de Chasse et de Pêche (Royal Hunting and Fishing Club) and planned it during the winter of 1943. On the last evening before Moss and Leigh Fermor set off, Smiley presented Moss with the Oxford Book of English Verse – his companion from Albania – for good luck.[2] McLean gave him a complete Shakespeare dedicated, “To Bill, with best of luck for Guernsey, Bill”.

Promoted to the rank of Captain, at age 22 Moss set off with Leigh Fermor, age 29, to Crete in 1944. Leigh Fermor landed by parachute. Moss, unable to jump due to cloud cover, followed several weeks later, landing by boat on the south coast where he joined Leigh Fermor, Andartes and other support. Walking north, they passed through Skinias, Kastamonitsa and Haraso. Just south of Skalani, they prepared for the abduction. Throughout the operation, as they travelled across Crete, they were hidden and supported by the Resistance and the local population.

Moss and Leigh Fermor, disguised as German soldiers, stopped the General’s car. With the help of their team, the driver was bundled out and the General and car seized. With Leigh Fermor impersonating the General, and Moss his driver, and with the General bundled in the back, secured by their Cretan team, Moss drove the General’s car for an hour and a half through 22 controlled road blocks in Heraklion. Leigh Fermor took the car on, as Moss walked with the general south into the mountains to Anogeia and up towards Psiloritis. Reunited, the entire abduction team took the general on over the summit of Psiloritis before descending, aiming for the coast. Driven west by German forces cutting off escape to the south, they travelled to Gerakari and on to Patsos. From here, they walked on through Fotinos and Vilandredo before striking south, finally to escape by ship.

After the war, a member of Kreipe’s staff reported that, on hearing the news of the kidnapping, an uneasy silence in the officers’ mess in Heraklion was followed by someone saying, “Well gentlemen, I think this calls for champagne all round.”

Post-war correspondence explains that Kreipe was disliked by his soldiers because, amongst other things, he objected to the stopping of his own vehicle for checking in compliance with his commands concerning troops’ reviewing approved travel orders. This tension between the General and his troops, in part, explains the reluctance of sentries to stop the General’s car as Moss drove it through Heraklion.

Moss was recommended for and received the Immediate Award of the Military Cross: “For outstanding courage and audacity.”

The episode was immortalised in his best-selling book Ill Met by Moonlight (1950). It was adapted into a film of the same name, directed and produced by Michael Powell and released in 1957. It featured Dirk Bogarde as Patrick Leigh Fermor and David Oxley as Moss.

The abduction is commemorated near Archanes and at Patsos.

Damasta Sabotage

Returning to Crete in August 1944, Moss led a resistance group consisting of eight Cretans and six escaped Russian soldiers in launching an ambush on German forces, intent on attacking Anogeia, on the main road connecting Rethymno and Heraklion. They chose an ambush site by a bridge in the Damastos location, one kilometre west of the village of Damasta. After the team destroyed various passing vehicles, among which was a lorry carrying military mail to Chania, the German force targeting Anogia finally appeared. It consisted of a track of infantrymen backed up by an armoured car. Moss and his group attacked the troops, Moss destroying the armoured car by dropping a grenade into the hatch. In total, 40 to 50 Germans and one Russian partisan were killed in the clash that followed. The operation is described in full in Moss’s book A War of Shadows (1952) and commemorated at Damasta. Moss’s exploits in Crete are recorded in the Historical Museum of Crete.

Macedonia and the Far East

After being promoted to Major, Moss served in Macedonia. Toward the end of the War, he served in the Far East, also described in A War of Shadows.

Marriage and family

In Cairo in 1945, Moss married Countess Zofia Tarnowska, his former housemate.  She was the granddaughter of Count Stanislaw Tarnowski (1837–1917) and a direct descendant of Catherine the Great of Russia.

They had three children: Christine Isabelle Mercedes, Sebastian (who died in infancy) and Gabriella Zofia. Initially living in London, they moved to Riverstown House, County Cork in Ireland. They later returned to London. They separated in 1957.

Writer and Traveller

Moss achieved success as an author with three novels, as well as his two books based on his wartime adventures. In addition, he travelled to Germany and wrote an investigation of post-war Germany, studying what happened to gold accumulated by the Nazis: Gold Is Where You Hide It: What Happened to the Reichsbank Treasure? (1956).

Disappearance of Reichsbank and Abwehr Reserves

Between 1952 and 1954, Moss joined up with his friend and former SOE agent, Andrzej Kowerski, (who adopted his cover name, Andrew Kennedy, after the war), in order to unravel a mystery of the final days of the Third Reich. In April and May 1945, the entire remaining reserves of the Reichsbank – gold (730 bars), cash (6 large sacks), and precious stones and metals such as platinum (25 sealed boxes) – were dispatched by Walther Funk from Berlin under armed escort to be buried on the Klausenhof Mountain at Einsiedel in Bavaria, where the final German resistance was to be concentrated. Similarly the Abwehr cash reserves of hundreds of thousands of dollars where hidden nearby in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Shortly after the American forces overran the area, the reserves and money disappeared.

Moss and Kennedy travelled back and forth across Germany and into Switzerland and corresponded with fugitives in Argentina, to research what had happened. They talked to many witnesses before finally establishing what had become of the treasure. What Moss and Kennedy uncovered, and the conclusions they reached on the various people responsible for the disappearances, have not been disputed to this day. The disappearance of Major Martin Borg, the US Military Governor of Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the time, has not been explained.[22] (And? who and what?)

Later, Moss and Kennedy went on to uncover the consequences of Heinrich Himmler’s order of 28 October 1939, which confirmed the Lebensborn programme. They researched what had become of the children born as a result of the order.


He continued to travel extensively first to New Zealand from where, on 14 February 1958, he flew in a Globemaster aircraft (with one engine cutting out six hours from his destination) to Scott Base at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica to report on the arrival of the first Antarctic crossing achieved by the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1957-8 led by Vivian Fuchs and Edmund Hillary. Months later, he returned to New Zealand in the icebreaker, The Glacier.

Sailing the Pacific

Taking to sea from New Zealand again, he sailed with Warwick Davies, John Ewing, Rex Hill and Bill Endean in Endeans’s 47 ft Alden-rigged Malabar ketch, the Crusader,[23] through the islands of the Pacific via Tahiti, Pitcairn Islands, Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands to Panama, eventually landing at Nassau, Bahamas in December 1959.

He moved on to Kingston, Jamaica, where he settled. He died on 9 August 1965, aged 44.

Obituary Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (Nikos Ghika)

From the left: Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, John Craxton, Barbara Hutchinson-Ghika, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Lydia Aous, 1958

by John Craxton

First published in The Independent Wednesday, 7 September 1994

Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (Nikos Ghika), artist: born Athens 26 February 1906; Hon RA 1986; married 1961 Barbara Warner (nee Hutchinson; died 1989); died Athens 3 September 1994.

It was in 1945 that Peter Watson, the owner and art editor of Horizon magazine, asked me to look at some photographs of paintings by a Greek artist which had just arrived through the post. I remember well our enthusiasm for their freshness, clarity and strength. Their subject was inspired by houses in Hydra, the geometry of which was full of Mediterranean light. The style was a revitalised Cubism. It was at once decided to reproduce the paintings in Horizon.

That autumn I met the painter himself – Nikos Ghika – on his first visit to London. I found an immediate rapport with him, talking to this seemingly most English of Greeks, elegantly dressed, serious, charming, approachable. Like so many of my fellow artists then I had a deep desire to go south to the Mediterranean. Greece was very much on my mind. To find a sympathetic artist who would welcome me in his native country gave me added impetus. I mention this first meeting with Ghika, for it is quite typical of how European painters are often cross-pollinated by chance encounters.

Next year, in May 1946, it was my good luck to find myself in Athens. There began a friendship with Ghika which lasted till his stoic death 48 years later.

Ghika was always aware of the importance of influences, both unexpected and those discovered by intent. These happen all the time in the arts, in music especially. In 1922 Ghika determined at the early age of 16 that he would go to Paris to continue his studies as a painter. He was already a mature student, raised in a cultivated European Athenian society, and was gifted with languages. A year later he was exhibiting in the Salon des Independants. His first one-man show was held in 1927 and presented by Maurice Raynal. These years were a wonderfully fertile period for a young painter. Ghika enjoyed a close friendship with most of the leading painters and poets of the time, especially Jean Arp and Jean Helion, with whom he had a joint exhibition in 1934. On this occasion, Ghika showed paintings and some stunning bas-reliefs which reveal how rapidly his artistry had developed.

Back in Athens later in 1934 he began to plan the publication of The Third Eye, a Greek-language monthly review of arts and letters, in which Ghika and his friends published the works of avant- garde painters and sculptors, such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, and of writers not previously translated into Greek, among whom were Matila Ghyka, Alfred Jarry (Ubu-Roi) and James Joyce (Ulysses). Ghika himself was represented by his essays on ‘Elements of a Language of Plastic Art’, ‘Introduction to Harmonic Tracings’, and ‘Introduction to the Law of Numbers in Art and Technique’. The seeds of the modern movement had reached Greece, but were broadcast on very rocky terrain.

Once returned to his homeland, Ghika discovered that his rejuvenated philosophy of Cubism already had deep roots in medieval Greek painting: reversed perspectives, dismissal of the horizon line, economical use of colour and colour used emotionally rather than descriptively. These aesthetics are to be found in Byzantine art, for example in the mosaic of the city of Nazareth; in the church of Karye Tzami in Constantinople. What was dismissed in the 19th century as primitive, was now accepted as an escape from the tyranny of photographic representation. Painters were now free to find joy in transformation instead of being restricted by imitation. This was the freedom that Ghika reintroduced to his native country.

From his earliest years Ghika was an outstanding example of what a serious artist must be in order to survive. He was born with a naturally searching mind, the essential equipment of a creative artist. Furthermore, he was intelligent, human, and knowledgeable, inquisitive, learned, and daring. He possessed, too, a towering dignity and an aristocratic presence. Fortunately, he could also be mockingly witty, satirical, and full of fun. How else could he have translated so sympathetically Edward Lear’s ‘Yonghy-Bonghy- Bo’ into Greek?

Night ceremony

Ghika was in his element designing for the ballet and the theatre. He was an architect of originality, an illustrator of books, a superb etcher. He created some of the most lovely and inventive sculpture, much of it inspired by ancient themes. He animated whatever materials came into his beautiful hands. Deep down he was a classicist at heart; form and content always in happy union. There is no mistaking his style; he made no paintings that lacked underlying form and all of them respected the scale and dimensions of his canvases.

Into his sometimes hidden geometries he poured his poetry of light and darkness, infusing colour into his forms with unmatched confidence, inventiveness, and authority. Always hand in hand with imagination, he let the spirit of poetry invade the labyrinthine city and moonlit walls. Here were landscapes radiant and full of joy as well as of enigma and mystery, so rare these days when so much art is paper- thin.

Ghika was a lesson to all young artists for he drew endlessly, helped by an astonishing visual memory. I have never seen a drawing by him that was not searchingly elegant or clearly structural and informative. A recent book of his caricatures is my constant delight. His last years, despite the gnawing loss of his wife Barbara whom he mourned privately, and his failing eyesight, were borne with true stoicism. Fortunately, an Indian summer of recognition in his own land was a solace to him. This final period saw the publication of many superbly produced books on him and by him, among them Ghika: Drawings, by Evita Arapoglou (1992), and Ghika, by Jean-Francois Bonhomme (1993).

It is to the credit of the English that the first retrospective exhibition of his painting was held at the British Council in Athens in 1946, that he had six one-man exhibitions in London from 1953 onwards, and a major retrospective at the Whitechapel in 1968. He was elected an Honorary Royal Academician in 1986.

Like all great artists, Nico Ghika was an inspirer. He would rebuke all who claimed painting to be easy. Those whose way of painting seems to declare ‘I can do that, too’, would do well to gaze on Ghika’s art and recognise his individuality.

Related article:

Paddy’s Illustrator – John Craxton Telegraph Obituary

Sir William Deakin, historian and founding Warden of St Antony’s College, Oxford

William Deakin and Josip Broz ('Tito') in Jajce, 1943

I thoroughly enjoyed Deakin’s book – The Embattled Mountain – which tells of his night-time parachute drop right into the midst of the ferocious battle for survival of Tito’s partisans around Mount Durmitor in Montenegro, and subsequent development of a very positive relationship with the future leader of Yugoslavia. One cannot but be amazed how these men were whisked out of academia, put in uniform and because of their language skills given the most important of missions. Today they would be micro-managed to death. Deakin’s mission to Tito is often subordinated by that of the dashing Fitzroy Maclean, but having read the accounts of both, I think that Deakin should be given huge credit for doing the groundwork and keeping the relationship going through some very difficult times. Treat yourself and buy Deakin’s book from Amazon.

by Michael Howard

First published in the Independent 27 January 2005

William Deakin was one of the last British heroes of the Second World War, and one who had a significant effect on its outcome. He began and ended his career as an Oxford don; but as a young officer in the Special Operations Executive it was largely his experience and advice that persuaded Winston Churchill to support the Communist partisans in Yugoslavia; thus confirming the position of Marshal Tito as national leader and, ultimately, the independence of his country vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.

Frederick William Dampier Deakin, historian and university administrator: born 3 July 1913; Fellow and Tutor, Wadham College, Oxford 1936-49, Research Fellow 1949, Honorary Fellow 1961-2005; DSO 1943; Warden, St Antony’s College, Oxford 1950-68, Honorary Fellow 1969-2005; Kt 1975; married 1935 Margaret Ogilvy (née Beatson Bell; two sons; marriage dissolved 1940), 1943 Livia Stela (died 2001); died Le Castellet, France 22 January 2005.

William Deakin was one of the last British heroes of the Second World War, and one who had a significant effect on its outcome. He began and ended his career as an Oxford don; but as a young officer in the Special Operations Executive it was largely his experience and advice that persuaded Winston Churchill to support the Communist partisans in Yugoslavia; thus confirming the position of Marshal Tito as national leader and, ultimately, the independence of his country vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.

Deakin was born in 1913 and educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford, where he took a First in Modern History. He was elected a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, in 1936, but a more important step in his career was his introduction to Winston Churchill as a research assistant when the latter was writing his life of Marlborough.

When the Second World War broke out, Deakin joined the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, but after two years he was seconded to SOE and posted to Cairo. There he found a ferocious battle in progress between the Foreign Office, which wished to support the Yugoslav monarchist resistance movement under General Draza Mihailovich, and a section of SOE, whose intelligence sources indicated that the only serious fighting was being conducted by the Communist-led partisan movement under Tito.

In May 1943 a small mission under Deakin was parachuted to Tito’s headquarters to investigate the situation. This providentially arrived just as Tito was having to fight his way out of a German encirclement in a battle that has become legendary to Yugoslav history. Deakin himself became part of the legend; not least because of the close relations he established with Tito himself as a result of their shared experience.

Deakin’s presence in Yugoslavia had become known to Churchill, and his report was enough to make the Prime Minister intervene between the opposing factions in London and Cairo, send his own mission to Tito under Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean, and eventually order the transfer of Allied support from Mihailovich’s Chetniks to Tito’s partisans.

This provided Tito not only with increasing military aid but with an opening to the West that was to make it possible for him to sever his links with the Soviet Union after the war and establish a position of “non-alignment”. But the abandonment of Mihailovich and the perceived “loss” of Yugoslavia to the West has, in some quarters, never been forgiven, and Deakin’s part in it was to make him a highly controversial figure.

Deakin himself returned to Belgrade as First Secretary to the British Embassy for a year after the war, where he laid the foundations for his expertise in Yugoslav politics and cemented his friendships among politicians and historians who were prepared to speak freely to him, although they were barely on speaking terms with one another.

In 1946 Deakin returned to Oxford, but time for his academic duties was severely restricted by the demands made on him by Churchill, to whom he now became principal research assistant in writing his history of the war (The Second World War, 1948-54). It came to an end altogether when in 1950 he was appointed the first Warden of St Antony’s College. The college was funded by a French businessman, Antonin Besse, who intended it mainly for French graduates; but the French themselves showed little interest, the funds were insufficient and the university authorities themselves were not supportive. Deakin thus had to devote himself to fund-raising, and generous grants from the Ford and Volkswagen foundations eventually enabled him to put the college on a firm financial basis.

Much of his time was also dedicated to recruiting students from overseas, making the college an international centre unique in Britain, if not indeed the world. His cheerful presence, combined with the bubbling charm of his second wife, Livia (always known as “Pussy”), made the college a happy place from the very beginning.

By 1968 Deakin felt with good reason that he had done all that could be expected of him and, leaving behind a flourishing college, he retired to live in France; within reach of London (where he frequently returned to entertain his friends generously at Brooks’s or White’s) but equally accessible to Yugoslavia for the collection of material for a life of Tito which he was uniquely qualified to write. He never completed it.

His work The Embattled Mountain (1971) was a personal account of his own adventures in Yugoslavia and of the background to his mission, written in an effort to set the contentious record straight. But he will be remembered mainly for his account of German-Italian relations during the Second World War, The Brutal Friendship (1962), written while he was still at Oxford. His strength as a historian was an unbounded curiosity; his weakness a difficulty, especially as he grew older, in digesting his material into a coherent narrative.

The key role that Bill Deakin had played in the war may have made him political enemies, but his modesty, friendliness and charm made it impossible to dislike him. He was much honoured: a DSO and knighthood from the British government, a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur from France; the Russian Order of Valour, and the German Grosse Verdienstkreuz.

Related article:

Sir Fitzroy Maclean Bt: Obituary 

Archduke Otto von Habsburg

Otto von Habsburg with a bust of himself at Paks, Hungary, in 2005

The funeral of the last heir to the Habsburg throne takes places today in Vienna. By family tradition his heart will be buried separately in a Bedendictine monastery in Hungary at Pannonhalma Archabbey, symbolising I suppose Vienna’s claim on the Hungarian empire. The characters in his early family life feature in Miklós Bánffy’s books. Many of the old aristocrats that Paddy came across in Hungary and Romania had served the collapsed Habsburg Empire.

First published in the Telegraph July 4 2011

Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died on July 4 aged 98, began his public life as the infant Crown Prince of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire, and ended it as Father of the multinational European Parliament.

Within that neatly closed circle lay all the major political dramas of the 20th century, most of which he witnessed and some of which he influenced. He was centre stage for one of them — the unequal struggle against Hitler for the survival of his Austrian homeland, which he tried to conduct as an exiled Pretender in the 1930s. Not for nothing did the Führer call the triumphant march-in of March 12 1938 “Operation Otto”.

All that seemed unimaginable to the world in which young Otto, as he was known, started life during the deceptively tranquil Indian summer of the 650-year-old Habsburg monarchy. He was born third in line to the throne on November 12 1912 in the small Vienna palace of Hetzendorf and christened with a string of names demonstrating that the blood of all the Roman Catholic royal families of Europe flowed in his veins: Franz Josef Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius.

His father, the Archduke Karl, was a great-nephew of the ruling Emperor Franz Josef, and was then serving as an infantry major-commander at the regimental barracks in the capital. His mother was the former Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, and their marriage the year before had been that rare event in a dynasty plagued with so many matrimonial mishaps and misalliances — a happy union of two people perfectly matched in attractiveness, temperament and lineage. Their firstborn was to follow the prescription almost to the letter in his own marriage 38 years later.

At the time of his birth, the 11-nation monarchy still seemed safe, if somewhat wobbly, and his own time at its helm still fairly distant. One Viennese newspaper hailed the newborn prince as the future monarch who “according to the human calculations, will be called upon to steer the future of Europe in the last quarter of the 20th century”.

The assassination at Sarajevo on June 28 1914 of the heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, alongside his morganatic wife, put a brusque end to all such calculations. Indeed, the First World War which broke out six weeks later was to spell the doom of Europe’s continental empires, that of the Habsburgs included.

Half way through the war, in the early hours of November 22 1916, the old emperor Franz Josef, who had ruled for a record-breaking 68 years, died at last.

An era, as well as a reign, was over, but the succession was smooth. Otto’s father automatically became the new emperor, and he, aged four, the new Crown Prince. His first ceremonial appearance came on November 30 1916 when he walked, a tiny figure in a white fur-trimmed tunic, between his parents behind the hearse of the late ruler at the great funeral procession in the capital.

A month later he was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the monarchy’s Magyar subjects when his father was crowned in Budapest as the new King of Hungary. The official photograph shows the young boy, dressed in ermine and velvet with a great white feather in his cap, sitting between his parents in their ornate coronation robes.

He always retained vague memories of those events, but these became much sharper when, two years later, the monarchy collapsed under the combined pressure of domestic upheaval and defeat on the battlefield.

The beginning of November 1918 saw him and his siblings stranded in a royal shooting lodge near Budapest, where an armed revolution had broken out. They were rescued by one of their Bourbon uncles, Prince René, who smuggled them across the border to rejoin their parents in the Schonbrunn Palace of Vienna. Otto had a child’s eye view of the collapse of the monarchy, abandoned by the aristocracy it had created.

On November 11 1918 the Emperor Karl, though not formally abdicating, “renounced participation in the affairs of state”. That same night they fled the deserted palace, heading at first for Eckartsau, their privately owned shooting lodge 40 miles north-east of the capital.

The winter there passed fairly calmly, but by the spring their tiny self-styled “court” was under threat from Left-wing agitators. (Austria had promptly declared itself a Republic after their flight from Vienna.)

Their rescuer now was not a family member but a British Army officer — Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Strutt, dispatched on the personal authority of King George V with orders to escort the beleaguered Austrian emperor and his family to safety. This Strutt accomplished in some style, reassembling their royal train for the journey into Switzerland on March 25 1919. Otto never forgot the experience. Whenever he heard in later life complaints about British indifference to the Habsburgs’ fate he would reply: “Yes, but there was always Strutt.”

The two and a half years of their Swiss exile were marked by the two attempts of the ex-Emperor to regain his Hungarian crown. Both were blocked in Budapest by Miklos Horthy, who had now ensconced himself in power as Regent. After the ignominious failure of the second restoration bid the family were exiled by the allied powers to Madeira, where Karl died, a broken man, on April 1 1922. That same day the nine-year-old Otto heard himself addressed as “Your Majesty” by the tiny household-in-exile. To the end of his days he remembered the shock it gave him: “Now it was my turn.”

Under the protection of their kinsman, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, the family moved to Lequeitio on the Spanish Basque coast. Otto remembered the seven years they spent there as their most tranquil time of exile. They were also, for him, the most hardworking. Under the strict supervision of his mother he took, under various tutors, the Matura (roughly, English A-levels) in both German and Hungarian. His further education was also the motive for their next move — to the gloomy castle of Hams at Steenokkerzeel, in Belgium, so that Otto could take his degree at the nearby university of Louvain. It was at Hams that Otto reached his 18th birthday and was duly declared, in a family ceremony with few outside guests, “in his own right sovereign and head of the house”.

However ghostly that title appeared, it was enough to impress the Austrian-born Adolf Hitler, who was manoeuvring to seize power in Germany. When in the winter of 1931-32 the young Pretender spent a few months studying in Berlin Hitler twice suggested a meeting.

The first invitation came from Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia, the dim-witted Nazi son of the exiled Kaiser, and the second via Goering himself. Otto refused both times on the spurious excuse that he had not come to Berlin to discuss politics (in fact, he was doing nothing but). Hitler was incensed by the snub and it touched off a six-year battle between the two men for the fate of their Austrian homeland.

The climax was reached in February and March of 1938 when a Nazi takeover in Vienna seemed imminent, prompting a short-lived show of defiance from the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg — a monarchist at heart but without the strength of his convictions. His vacillation prompted a remarkably courageous offer from the young Pretender to return from exile to take over the reins of government in order to repel Hitler. Schuschnigg dithered but eventually rejected the idea — perhaps just as well for Otto, who was already high on the Gestapo’s wanted list.

He had moved close to the top of that list by the time, two years after the Anschluss, that German armies swept into France and Belgium. The exiled Habsburgs got away from Hams only a few hours before Goering’s bombers attacked the castle, and then they joined the vast stream of refugees heading south. They eventually reached Lisbon, where they were still being hounded by the Gestapo. President Roosevelt (whom Otto had met in Washington just before the fall of France) then honoured his offer of “hospitality in an emergency” and they were all flown by Clipper seaplane to the United States.

As Otto von Habsburg later admitted, he wasted far too much energy during those wartime years in America on the faction-fighting among Austrian refugee groups instead of concentrating on the broader political picture. But, thanks largely to his personal ties with the President, he was able to repair the image of Austria so tarnished by its supine surrender to Hitler in the Anschluss. And, in the last months of the war, he worked closely with the White House in the vain attempt to lure Horthyite Hungary over to the Allied side.

Churchill, whom he met at the Quebec Conference, warmly supported the vision of a post-war conservative federation in Central Europe. Stalin put paid to those visions, however, and it was to a Communist-controlled Danube Basin that Otto returned in the spring of 1945.

He made a brief foray into Western Austria but was expelled by the reborn Austrian Republic, which had reaffirmed the anti-Habsburg legislation of 1919. He then faced a personal crisis — without a valid passport, a home or any regular income. He solved the last problem by embarking on a career as a journalist and public lecturer. This was exhausting but highly remunerative and, within five years, he had paid off all his wartime debts and was enjoying a comfortable income.

He could now think of finding a home and founding a family. The ideal partner appeared by chance in 1950, when he visited a refugee centre near Munich. Working there as a nurse was Princess Regina of Sachsen-Meiningen, herself a refugee whose father, Duke George III, had died in a Soviet concentration camp. The ideally-matched couple were married a year later and settled in a comfortable villa at Pocking, near Lake Starnberg in Bavaria. Their first five children were all girls, and it was not until 1961 that the birth of Karl Thomas, the first of two sons, assured the line of direct succession.

This prompted Otto to renounce his own dynastic claims and pursue what had long fascinated him, a full-time career in politics. He acquired dual German-Austrian nationality, and in 1979 was elected to the European Parliament as Christian Democrat member for North Bavaria. There he stayed for the next 20 years, becoming the highly regarded Father of the House and its only member to have been born before the First World War.

He proved an accomplished debater with a fluent command of seven European languages. Though he spoke on a variety of topics, his abiding theme was the need to bridge the East-West division of the continent and ultimately to bring all the nations of the old monarchy within the new European Union. He continued to work successfully at this even after his retirement, using the pan-European movement as his principal platform. He had been the president ever since the death of its founder, Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, in 1972.

On October 3 2004, Pope John Paul II beatified Otto’s father, Emperor Karl. It was an important event in Otto von Habsburg’s life, and one that perhaps softened the blow that had occurred five years earlier.

He had hoped that his son Karl would carry on the Habsburg name in the European Parliament, but in 1999 the young archduke — who had been sitting alongside his famous father as a Right-wing member for Western Austria — was dropped by his party after a controversy over the financing of his campaign funds. A subsequent attempt to launch Karl on to the Austrian domestic political scene proved a dire, if gallant, failure.

Otto von Habsburg’s wife, the Archduchess Regina, died in February 2010.

Obituary: Sir Wilfred Thesiger

Sir Wilfred Thesiger

The great soldier, explorer and travel writer who may have met Paddy in Egypt.

First published in the Telegraph 26 August 2003

Sir Wilfred Thesiger, who died on Sunday aged 93, was the quintessential English explorer, and the last and greatest of that small band of travellers who sought out the secrets of the desert in the years before Arabia was transformed forever by the oil beneath her sands.

Thesiger’s reputation was established by two epic journeys he made in the 1940s across the Rub ‘al Khali, or Empty Quarter, the most forbidding, least known and least penetrated region of Arabia.

His motive for crossing it was not primarily to reap glory for himself, but to share the hardship of the life of the Bedu and to earn their comradeship. He was not in thrall to the desert itself but, like T E Lawrence, to his admiration of those who lived there: “The harder the life,” ran his credo, “the finer the person.”

The Empty Quarter is the largest sand desert in the world. It covers 250,000 square miles and contains ranges of dunes 100 miles long and 1,000ft high. At noon, the temperature of the surface of the sand reaches 80C.

The first European to traverse this fearsome waste had been Bertram Thomas in 1932, later followed by St John Philby, the father of Kim. But both these had travelled as well-supplied Westerners; Philby had even carried with him a wireless to listen to Test matches. Thesiger’s achievement was to make longer journeys than either, dressed like the Arab tribesmen with whom he rode and rationed to their daily pint of water and handful of dates.

It was a spare, almost monastic way of life, and one in which Thesiger found a near-spiritual contentment. “In the desert,” he wrote, “I found a freedom unattainable in civilisation; a life unhampered by possessions.”

Ostensibly in Arabia to search for the breeding grounds of locusts, Thesiger made his first crossing of the Empty Quarter – a circular journey by camel of some 1,500 miles – in 1946, becoming in the process the first European to see the fabled quicksands of Umm al Sammim. His second expedition, two years later, took him even further through the desert and, in constant peril from hostile Bedu, was still more dangerous.

It was also the most fulfilling experience of Thesiger’s life, albeit a humbling one; for though he withstood the physical hardship, he felt that he rarely matched the standards of behaviour the Bedu expected of themselves.

In the 1950s, as Arabia began to change, he took to the mountains, travelling in remote parts of Kurdistan, the Karakoram and later Afghanistan.

There, on the banks of the Panjshir, he and Eric Newby had the most celebrated meeting between travellers since that of Livingstone and Stanley, with Thesiger (presented in Newby’s account as the hardened professional to his own inept amateur) deriding the attempts of Newby and his companion to blow up their rubber mattress: “God,” he scoffed, “you must be a couple of pansies.”

Thesiger had made his new base, however, in the marshes of Iraq, where he lived for eight years in the 1950s, travelling by canoe and giving basic medical assistance to its inhabitants; he also became expert at circumcision.

His time there, recounted in The Marsh Arabs (1964), together with his precise yet emotionally charged account of his desert journeys, Arabian Sands (1959), gained him a new reputation in late middle age as a writer, albeit one influenced by the romanticised prose of Lawrence and Doughty.

In these books and in his partial autobiography, The Life of My Choice (1987), Thesiger set out his belief that Western civilisation was a corrupting force which had robbed the world of its diversity and stripped the primitive peoples he so admired of their finer traits. It was a floodtide from which he had spent his life trying to escape.

To many he appeared simply an arch-conservative, and critics pointed to the fact that, though Thesiger was horrified by the changes modernity had wrought on the Arab world, the Bedu themselves had not hesitated to swap their camels for cars, a harsh life for one of comfort.

Yet with the passing of time, many others came to share his distaste for the by-products of progress and, with the arrival of such concepts as eco-tourism, Thesiger’s traditionalist concerns now perversely seemed very contemporary.

Paradoxically, one modern invention gave Thesiger an edge over predecessors such as Richard Burton and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt – the camera. Thesiger taught himself to become an excellent photographer and perhaps his most enduring legacy will prove to be his vast photographic record (willed to the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford) of ancient races and ways of life since extinguished within a generation.

His great fortune was to see them just before they were lost from sight; his tragedy that the ones he cared for most have vanished forever.

Wilfred Patrick Thesiger was born on June 3 1910 within the mud walls of the British Legation in Addis Ababa, Abyssinia. His father, a younger son of the 2nd Lord Chelmsford – commander of the force destroyed by the Zulus at Isandhlwana – was Consul-General and Minister at the court of Emperor Menelik.

Billy, as Wilfred was known in his young days, spent his first seven years in Abyssinia, absorbing a spectacle of savage splendour that bred in him his lifelong craving for adventure. At two, he saw the arrival at the British Legation of Crown Prince Lij Yasu’s 1,000-strong war band, resplendent in their scarlet cloaks trimmed with lions’ manes.

At six, he witnessed the victory parade of Ras Tafari, who had triumphed over Lij Yasu in a civil war – wave after wave of glinting spear points and captives in chains. The next year, he went tiger-shooting in India with his uncle, the Viceroy.

Such outlandish tales did not endear him to his fellow pupils at the prep school in England to which he was sent at eight, and Thesiger, already a dominant character who did not take rejection well, retreated within himself. A further blow was the sudden death of his father.

He enjoyed himself more at Eton, which proved another formative influence. Its spartan regime hardened him further and the ancient school also confirmed in him his love of the past. He afterwards retained great affection for the place and had latterly judged its annual travel writing prize, named for him.

Indeed, the simple room in the nursing home near Purley, Surrey, in which he was to live for the last few years of his life appeared almost a re-creation of his Eton study: a single tartan blanket on the bed; a shelf of books by Conrad and Buchan; a drawing of the school presented to him by the pupils.

In 1929 Thesiger went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, to read History, but he enjoyed greater success as a sportsman, winning a Blue at boxing from 1930 to 1933 and captaining the university team in his last year.

He spent his summer vacations working on tramp steamers and fishing trawlers, but the high point of his time at Oxford came in the winter of 1930 when he was invited to Addis Ababa to attend the coronation of Haile Selassie (the former Ras Tafari), who remembered the help afforded by Thesiger’s father during the civil war.

While in Ethiopia, Thesiger took the opportunity to plan his first expedition, a journey north into the Danakil country to search for the destination of the Awash river. This he carried out in 1933, although the Danakil had a murderous reputation for treachery and accounted a warrior’s standing by the number of men he had killed and castrated. The success of Thesiger’s enterprise began, at the age of 23, to make his reputation as an explorer and helped win him a place in the Sudan Political Service.

He served in the Sudan from 1935 to 1940, although he was too unconventional to make a success of it as a career and spent his last years there as a freelance District Officer. He used much of his time to travel as far afield as Chad, and relished the opportunities for hunting lion, which preyed on village cattle. He bagged more than 70, and raised two cubs himself. Thesiger, though, was not a sentimental man, and subsequently shot both the cubs. He did this in the belief that, having been tame, they would grow up to become man-eaters.

On the outbreak of war, Thesiger was assigned to the Sudan Defence Force, and later, under the command of Orde Wingate, helped organise the Abyssinian resistance to the occupying Italians. In May 1941 Thesiger led a flying column which marched 50 miles in a day through sweltering heat to harry a much larger retreating force at Wagidi. Having accomplished this, Thesiger went on to force the surrender of 2,000 Italian troops and the fort at Agibar. His leadership in this action was recognised by the award of the DSO.

Having been recruited by David Stirling, Thesiger later served briefly in the Western Desert with the SAS, but then saw out the rest of the war in some frustration as political adviser to the Abyssinian Crown Prince.

In March 1945 he resigned this post, and while waiting for an aeroplane back to London, was invited to dinner with O B Lean, head of the Middle East Anti-Locust Unit. Lean was looking to employ somebody to investigate locust sites in the Arabian desert; Thesiger had accepted the job before the meal was over.

After leaving Iraq, from 1968 onwards Thesiger lived for much of the year in northern Kenya, with the pastoral Samburu and Turkana peoples, although he dwelt apart from them and, unlike in Arabia, retained his English identity. In reference to this, and to his outsized ears and jutting nose, the tribes called him sangalai, “The Old Bull Elephant Who Walks By Himself”.

Occasionally, Thesiger returned to the flat he kept in Chelsea; but England was an unfamiliar country to him, and he hoped to see out his years in Kenya, with his corpse being left on the hill for the jackals. But after the death of the two Kenyan men whom he had treated as sons, he reluctantly returned to England for good in the mid-1990s, living out his days at the retirement home in Surrey, where he coped valiantly with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease.

He continued to write, publishing several more books, again well illustrated with his own photographs. These included My Kenya Days (1994), Among the Mountains: travels in Asia (1998) and A Vanished World (2001).

Wilfred Thesiger was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holder of the Founder’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, of the Lawrence of Arabia Medal of the Royal Central Asian Society, of the Livingstone Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and of the Burton Memorial Medal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

He was appointed CBE in 1968 and KBE in 1995. At the coronation of Haile Selassie in 1930, he was awarded the Star of Ethiopia, Third Class.

He never married.