Category Archives: Obituaries

Lady Anne Tree – Obituary from the Telegraph

Lady Anne Tree was Debo Devonshire’s sister-in-law and a friend to Paddy.

Duke’s daughter who became a prison visitor and persuaded inmates to earn money from needlepoint.

First published in The Telegraph 13 Aug 2010

Lady Anne Tree, who died on August 9 aged 82, was a scion of one of England’s most famous families, with friends and connections that ranged from John Betjeman to Lucian Freud, Oswald Mosley to John F Kennedy; but she became best known for her tireless campaigning on behalf of the incarcerated, and set up a successful, if unlikely, scheme that paid prisoners for needlepoint.

One of her prison acquaintances was the infamous Moors murderer Myra Hindley. Having been a regular prison visitor for more than a decade, in the late 1960s Lady Anne was appointed to see Hindley on a weekly basis, and introduced her to Lord Longford, who subsequently embarked on a quixotic campaign on the killer’s behalf. Unlike Longford, however, Lady Anne never saw reason to grant Hindley parole “because she wasn’t fit to come out. I don’t believe she was safe. She didn’t feel sorry and if you don’t feel sorry, you can do something again.”

The two women discussed books, and “kept pretty well off” the subject of Hindley’s crimes; the visits ended after a decade, to the relief of both.

Lady Anne continued to be involved with Britain’s growing prison population, and she wrote incessantly to the Home Office in an attempt to change the rules so that prisoners could earn money by working while they were locked up.

Lady Anne Tree (2nd left), her sister Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, John Betjeman (right) and the choreographer John Cranko Photo: GETTY

The work she had in mind was embroidery. “I noticed over the years what a terrible waste of time there was,” she said. “And I got such a lot of fun out of embroidery.” A long campaign finally brought a change in prison rules and the setting up, in 1997, of Fine Cell Work, a scheme in which prisoners are taught to produce high-quality needlepoint cushion covers, quilts and rugs – some to designs submitted by famous names.

Prisoners are allowed to keep a share of the proceeds (37 per cent), creating a small lump sum to help set themselves up on release. The financial attraction of Fine Cell was obvious, but embroidery also became popular as a “bird-killer”, or method of getting through jail time.

Perhaps surprisingly, 80 per cent of those inmates involved were men, with Lady Anne giving short shrift to those who considered themselves too manly for the pursuit. Her standard retort, delivered in an accent which she confessed was “too posh” for the surroundings, was: “If you feel this is poofy, don’t bother us, because we don’t want to train you.”

Anne Evelyn Beatrice Cavendish was born on November 6 1927, second daughter of the 10th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Mary Gascoyne-Cecil, Mistress of the Robes to the Queen. She grew up at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, but was never sent to school because her father disapproved of the idea. During the war she moved with her governess to Eastbourne, where she worked in an Army canteen.

Lady Anne began visiting prisons aged 22, shortly after marrying Michael Tree, a son of the Anglo-American Conservative MP Ronald Tree, whose house, Ditchley Park, had been used as a retreat by Churchill during the war. Michael was well-known in London society, where he was nicknamed “Radio Belgravia” because he was always first with the news. He was attached to Christie’s and was a good amateur painter.

In May 1944 Anne’s elder brother, William Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington, had married Kathleen Kennedy, younger sister of the future president John Kennedy. But four months later, in September, he was killed in action while serving as a major in the Coldstream Guards. Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy herself died young, in a flying accident, in 1948.

The Kennedy connection reinforced Lady Anne’s interest in helping prisoners. “Kick Kennedy had a close friend who went to prison,” she said. “When he came out, I thought him in very bad shape.” Diana Mosley (née Mitford), who had been locked up with her husband Oswald during the war, was another source of advice. The two women had a family connection because Lady Anne’s brother, Andrew, had married Deborah, youngest of the Mitford girls.

Lady Anne described Oswald Mosley as “very charismatic, but a beastly man”. She had much more admiration for the artist Lucian Freud. Lady Anne introduced the artist to her brother Andrew Cavendish in 1959, by which time he had become the 11th Duke. More than a dozen Freuds now grace the collection at Chatsworth. Among Freud’s sitters were both Lady Anne and her sister Elizabeth.

Lady Anne cited two reasons for focusing on needlepoint in her campaign. Her mother-in-law, Nancy Lancaster, owned the interior designers Colefax and Fowler, so “I had the possibility to sell good-quality needlework for good prices through shops.” She was also convinced that sewing was therapeutic: “It is meditative, a way of thinking, of taking stock.”

Lady Anne did other prison work, at one point serving as deputy entertainments officer at Wandsworth jail. Under her stewardship prisoners were treated to a display of samurai swords brought in by a former general, and to a talk from John Betjeman. “He came waddling on and was funny, but too highbrow,” Lady Anne noted.

Within a decade Fine Cell work was generating £200,000 in sales from the prisoners’ creations (cushions cost £95; quilts up to £1,000), and today more than 60 volunteers train 400 prisoners. The work has been exhibited by the V&A, commissioned by English Heritage and sold to leading interior designers. Prison systems in other countries have expressed interest in starting similar schemes.

The Trees lived in fine houses, notably the Palladian house Mereworth Castle, in Kent, in the 1950s and 1960s, and later Shute House, near Shaftesbury, where in 1969 they commissioned Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe to design the superb water garden.

Lady Anne could be fabulously outspoken. When Lady Diana Cooper was entertaining Harold Macmillan to lunch at her London house in 1982, Lady Anne noticed her hostess reach down for something in her handbag on the floor. “Diana’s got Uncle Harold by the privates and he doesn’t like it!” she called out across the table.

Michael Tree died in 1999, and Lady Anne is survived by her two daughters.

Xan Fielding’s Obituary from The Times

The following obituary of Xan Fielding was sent to me by blog correspondent Yvonne Carts-Powell to whom I am very grateful. It is from The Times and dated August 21, 1991. Times content is now subscription only so there is no point in putting up a link.

Xan Fielding, DSO, wartime secret agent and author, died in Paris on August 19 aged 72. He was born in India on November 26, 1918.

In his temperament, talents and physical courage Xan Fielding was well equipped to have made a mark in many spheres of life. Crete in the aftermath of the German invasion in May 1941 provided a theatre in which his individuality was able to blossom. Guerrilla warfare was particularly congenial to one of his character. He cherished the amateur’s view of war which saw it as a clash between the prowess of individuals and not as a contest between technologies backed by armaments industries and reserves of manpower. In addition to an innate romanticism, he possessed in abundance the classical Greek quality of arete (that excellence in thought and performance so often imperfectly translated as “virtue” in school texts) and revelled to the point of exultation in the exercise of his own initiative. Yet at the same time, through his mastery of the language and his psychological insight, he extended a discerning admiration to the often contrary and ferocious Cretan andarte groups which his efforts were designed, at least in part, to serve.

Regimental soldiering was anathema to him and the sharpest barbs of his wit were always reserved for the staff. But his exploits went far beyond being of mere nuisance value to the allied cause. In two remarkable years following the fall of Crete the efforts of Fielding and that other like-minded spirit, Patrick Leigh Fermor, built up a guerrilla network in the occupied island, facilitated the escape of many Australian and New Zealand soldiers who had remained in hiding and, most important, built up an intelligence network which provided invaluable information to the allies in North Africa on the movement of Axis materiel through this most important staging post.

Alas for the hopes of these romantics, who would have loved to have fulfilled the dream of the guerrillas and to have led an avenging descent out of the mountains to drive the German invader into the sea, such a moment was never to come. After the allied decision to invade Sicily and pursue the Italian option Crete was left to wither on the vine as a fruit to be plucked when a convenient moment should arrive. Guerrilla operations there were relegated to a sideshow and Fielding felt there was nothing more he could usefully do. More drama awaited him. Transferred to the Western European theatre, he was parachuted into France, captured by the Gestapo and escaped execution only thanks to the courage and resourcefulness of the ill-starred Christine Granville, to whom he later dedicated his book Hide and Seek (1954).

Alexander Wallace Fielding was born at Ootcamund, India, into a military family which had given long service in the subcontinent. His father was a major in the 50th Sikhs. After the death of his mother he was brought up in the South of France where her family had property and thus acquired fluent French. Sent to school in England at Charterhouse, he added the classics to his linguistic and cultural arsenal and acquired a profound knowledge of German through later studies at Bonn, Munich and Freiburg universities. This German sojourn gave him a thorough understanding of the nature of the Nazi threat to civilised values at a time when the British government under Chamberlain was temporising on the road to disaster. In a spirit of more than mild disillusionment Fielding wandered about Europe eventually gravitating to Cyprus. There after a short and unsuccessful flirtation with journalism on the Cyprus Times he ran a bar with not appreciably greater success. He simply could not comprehend the inability and unwillingness of his colonial compatriots to understand the island they administered while the automatic disdain which was extended to the governed populace was utterly odious to him. None of these attitudes endeared him to his British contemporaries and consequently made him a less than popular mine host in a colonial ethos. His determination to master Greek also made him an object of suspicion to the authorities, most of whom had neither the wit nor inclination to come to terms with the language. When war broke out Fielding went briefly to Greece, dreading the thought of being drafted into the forces in Cyprus and being forced to live by the dictates of the mess and the parade ground. But after Dunkirk, when Britain stood alone, this course came to seem a somewhat dishonourable one and he returned to Cyprus where he found a not totally uncongenial berth in army intelligence. Even this provided a somewhat circumscribed field for the exercise of his talents and it was not until after the German invasion of Crete that he was able to come into his own when he volunteered for service with the Special Operations Executive (SOE).

Put ashore on Crete from a submarine with a load of explosives and weapons, Fielding quickly linked up with local resistance leaders and adopted the protective camouflage of a Greek peasant. Nowhere in occupied Europe was resistance organised so quickly and effectively as it was in Crete. Clandestine operations took shape almost in the very chaos of evacuation. Fielding was lucky to team up with that other great linguist, philhellene and guerrilla leader, Patrick Leigh Fermor, and the mental kinship between the two men, who complemented each other in spite of their different temperaments, was instrumental in putting Cretan resistance operations on a sane and sound footing. Fielding realised at the outset that the task must be limited to building up an intelligence network and developing his guerrilla force with an eye to its use in the future, rather than wasting it in futile heroics which would certainly have drawn down ferocious reprisals on the unprotected civilian population. With great boldness he established an HQ not far from Crete’s northern coast from which he often sortied forth with impunity in his persona as a local to the town of Canea to visit the mayor who was astonished at the audacity with which the resistance leader virtually brushed shoulders with Wehrmacht officers on these calls.

With the battle for North Africa in full swing Crete had become a major staging post for the supply of Rommel’s forces and the intelligence Fielding was able to pass to the allies was invaluable. One of his most resounding successes was to be able to signal the precise air movements at Maleme airfield, thus enabling the RAF to intercept German supply aircraft on their way to the North African littoral.

After a spell in Egypt to rest and recuperate Fielding returned to Crete in 1942. In this second period one of his most remarkable feats was to engineer, in November 1943, a pact between the two main groups of andarte, the communist-led EAM-ELAS and the EOK, the national organisation of Crete.

But as the dream of liberating Crete faded Fielding felt more and more frustrated and early in 1944 he volunteered to join the French operations of SOE. Soon after being parachuted into the south of France, however, he and a French officer and another agent were stopped at a road block at Digne where minor discrepancies in papers, which had otherwise been forged with scrupulous care, led to their arrest and imprisonment by the Gestapo. Totally resigned to being shot, they were in fact rescued by the nerve and feminine guile of the SOE courier “Pauline”, Christine Granville, formerly a Polish countess. “Pauline” who had already been arrested herself but escaped after convincing her captors that she was a French peasant girl arrived at the prison at Digne and through a mixture of bribery and by telling the agents’ captors that the Americans had already landed on the French riviera, secured their release three hours before they were due to have been shot. Indeed Fielding was convinced that he was being marched from the prison to have precisely that sentence carried out on him and was astonished when he was, instead, bundled into “Pauline’s” car and driven off.

Fielding, who had already been awarded the DSO was given the Croix de Guerre by the French later in 1944 and did subsequently return briefly to Crete. But in the meantime Leigh Fermor had carried out his legendary abduction of the German general Kreipe later filmed as Ill Met By Moonlight, starring Dirk Bogarde as Leigh Fermor and with no decisive further action in prospect the atmosphere there was something of an anti-climax for Fielding. He was sent briefly to the Far East by SOE but here, too, the war was coming to an end. After witnessing the winding down of operations in Indo-China Fielding made a journey to Tibet on his own account.

After the war he wrote a number of books. Besides his account of SOE’s Cretan operations he published The Stronghold which combined the experience of his days as a kapetan of the resistance with a scholarly knowledge and love of the island, its history and culture, all of which shone through in his account. Among his other books were Corsair Country, an account of a journey overland along the Barbary coast from Tangier to Tripoli, and The Money Spinner, an elegantly constructed history of the Monte Carlo casino. At one time Fielding’s linguistic abilities gave him a useful income as a translator and he was also a technical adviser on Ill Met By Moonlight. He had, in spite of illness, been able, recently, to attend Greek celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the battle for Crete, and was among allied officers awarded the the commemorative medal of the resistance on that occasion.

He was twice married, first, in 1953, to Daphne Bath, nee Vivian. The marriage was dissolved and he married, secondly, in 1978, Agnes (“Magouche”) Phillips, daughter of Admiral John H. Magruder of the US navy.

Related post:

Xan Fielding Obituary (from The Telegraph)

Related category:

Obituaries

Paddy’s Friends

One Man’s Great Game: Lieutenant Colonel “Billy” McLean

When you get involved with the life and times of Patrick Leigh Fermor, you find all sorts of possible avenues to explore. One group I am trying to bring together on the blog are the occupants of Tara in Cairo during the war. Given my interest in the Balkans, Albania in particular, I followed the route of “Billy” McLean and the British Military Missions to Yugoslavia and Albania which were manned by SOE men. Billy was an occupant of Tara and Xan Fielding wrote his biography. Of course Paddy was there as well.

In the course of my investigations I have read, in the last few weeks, the book Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy MacLean who as a very young Brigadier was personally chosen by Churchill to lead the mission to Tito’s partisans, and Billy McLean’s biography – One Man in His Time. Both books are interesting and I will review them if I have time. I have to say I was a little disappointed in Xan’s writing style, but it is workmanlike and is probably an accurate portrayal.

Billy McLean’s life is absolutely fascinating. He was a real adventurer and never stopped his adventures or travel until he died in 1986. I have dug out his obituary from the Daily Telegraph Second Book of Obituaries – Heroes and Adventurers, and as I did before with Xan Fielding’s obit, I have retyped it word for word as I cannot find an online version.

Go on, explore your own Paddy related avenue, and maybe write to me and we can publish for others to hear about!

First published in the Daily Telegraph, 20 November 1986.

Lieutenant Colonel “Billy” McLean, who has died aged 67, spent 40 years playing his own version of the Great Game. Like some latter-day knight errant, he travelled tirelessly in the Muslim world, working always against the encroaching influence of the Soviet Union, while at the same time seeking adventure among tribal peoples.

McLean’s unusual life often had elements of intrigue that no one else could unravel. “What is Billy really up to?” was a question that would be asked at the bar of White’s Club as he set off on another trip to Jordan or Iran, Morocco or the Yemen.

In McLean’s character there were shades of Buchan and Lawrence and Thesiger. All seemed to coalesce in the Yemen, where from five years, from 1962, McLean helped the royalists under Iman al-Badr to resist President Nassar’s attempts to take over the country. He made numerous reconnaissances in the Yemen desert and many arduous journeys, by camel and on foot, to the royalist forces in their remote mountain strongholds.

It was entirely due to McLean that Britain never followed America in recognising Nassar’s, and the Soviet Union’s, puppet republican government in the Yemen; and it was he who persuaded the Saudis to increase their aid to the Iman’s forces. Thanks also to McLean, the royalists received Western mercenary support and arms from the RAF. Largely as a result of McLean’s efforts, North Yemen did not become one of Nassar’s fiefdoms and did not join its neighbour South Yemen (Aden) in the Communist camp.

Neil Loudon Desmond McLean was born on November 28 1918, a direct descendent of “Gillean of the Battle-Axe”, known in Argyll in the 13th century.

After Eton and Sandhurst (where he rode several winners in point-to-points), McLean was commissioned into the Royal Scots Greys and sent to Palestine [prior to the war] in 1939.

At the end of the following year he went to occupied Abyssinia [Ed: Ethiopia] where he proved himself an outstanding guerrilla leader, as part of Orde Wingate’s Gideon Force. He led a force of Eritrean and Abyssinian irregulars – known as “McLean’s Foot” – against the Italians near Gondar.

His burgeoning career as an irregular soldier continued in Special Operations Executive; in 1943 he led a five man military mission to Albania, to co-ordinate resistance to the Axis powers. Peter Kemp (qv) described his first meeting with McLean when he parachuted into Albania to join the mission: “Approaching up the hill with long, easy strides came a tall figure in jodhpurs and a wide crimson cummerbund, a young man with long fair hair brushed back from a broad forehead and wearing a major’s crown on the shoulder straps of his open-necked army shirt.”

With one break, McLean remained in Albania until the German retreat from that country and inspired those under him with his military skill and courage. He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel at the age of 24.

His contacts with the Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha turned sour when the left-wing elements of SOE favoured the partisans at the expense of the Zogist faction led by Abas Kupi, which McLean supported against charges of collaboration with the Germans.

In 1945 he volunteered for SOE duties in the Far East, where he became military adviser in Kashgar, Chinese Turkistan. Here he learnt the ways of the Turkis, Uzbeks, Kazaks, Tajiks and Tartars, who were under threat of domination by the Soviet Union, and travelled extensively in Asia. McLean’s fascination and sympathy with Muslim minorities and tribal peoples would continue for the rest of his life. He devoted much of his time to the cause of the Pathans and the Kurds, as well as the royalist Yemenis.

After the war he sought election to Parliament, twice unsuccessfully for the Preston South constituency, in 1950 and 1951. He became Conservative MP for Inverness in 1954, and held the seat until the 1964 general election.

As a Highlander himself, McLean was able to identify with the Celtic character of his constituents. But they could not be expected to appreciate the reasons for his long absences on the Middle East.

While he was an MP, and afterwards, McLean was, as described by a colleague, “a sort of unpaid under-secretary for the Foreign Office”. His political contacts in the Muslim world were probably unique among Westerners, in particular his relationship with King Saud during the Yemen war and his personal friendship with King Hussein over many years. In the mid-1960’s he was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to “spring” a revolutionary leader from jail in Algeria [Ed: using a yacht and accompanied by King Leka of the Albanians who fancied coming along for the ride. The attempt was foiled by the CIA who wanted the ‘kudos’ of freeing the man, which they did some months later].

McLean was always passionate in defence of British interests, as he saw them, which did not always accord with the Government’s view. In his later years, still pursuing those interests he visited Somalia, Iran, Western Sahara, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, China, Israel, Turkey and Jordan.

In 1979 Harold Macmillan wrote to McLean: “You are one of those people whose services to our dear country are known only to a few.”

By his many friends and admirers he will be remembered as possibly the last of the paladins. While his role may not always have been appreciated in Britain, his independence and total integrity were recognised n all the countries where his influence was felt.

Alongside his flair for guerrilla fighting, he had a passion for secret enterprises, deep-laid schemes, and political complexities. He combined acute political understanding with military gifts ideally suited to irregular warfare.

His comrade-in-arms in Albania and the Yemen, David Smiley, has written of McLean: “His charming character seemed languid and nonchalant to the point of idleness, but underneath this façade he was unusually brave, physically tough and extremely intelligent, with a quick, active and unconventional mind.”

His wisdom, sense of humour, human curiosity and kindness endeared him to a wide circle of contemporary friends and younger people, who saw his values as ones they could respect without sentimentality or danger of being considered old-fashioned. He revelled in argument and banter, and was always interested in the opinions of the younger generation.

McLean was both a keen shot and underwater fisherman: one of his great pleasures was to spear moray eels off the coast of Majorca. He was very partial to Middle Eastern and Chinese cooking.

He married, in 1949, Daska Kennedy (neé Ivanovic), who supported, sustained and understood him during his unconventional life.

Related article:

Xan Fielding Obituary

Short obituary of George Psychoundakis from the BBC

The BBC also covered the death of George with this brief piece.

George Psychoundakis, who has died aged 85, became a hero figure to the Resistance in World War II by guiding Allied soldiers over the mountains of Crete so that they could escape the brutal German occupation. Later, he carried messages, wireless sets, batteries and ammunition. Wearing only worn-out boots, he would cover many miles each day. A poor shepherd, he had a love of learning, and formed a lifelong friendship with one of the Resistance officers, the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. Fermor translated Psychoundakis’s account of his heroics in the Cretan Runner.

Major Stanley Beckinsale obituary

First published in the Telegraph: 12:03AM BST 06 Sep 2004

Major Stanley Beckinsale, who has died aged 84, was a founder member of the para-naval section of the Special Operations Executive (Middle East) and was awarded an MC for evacuating several hundred Allied soldiers from enemy-held Crete.

In May 1941, the Anglo-Anzac forces in Crete were narrowly but decisively defeated by General Student’s airborne force. The para-naval section of SOE Middle East, part of Force 133, based in Cairo, was given the task of putting agents on the island to organise the retrieval of British and Commonwealth servicemen who had taken refuge in the mountains.

 The operation was run from Alexandria by Commander Francis Pool, RNR, a rotund figure known as “Skipper”. He was landed by submarine to make contact with the Cretans who were assisting the fugitives, often at great risk to themselves, and travelled between them on the back of a donkey, dodging the German patrols en route.

A few troops were rescued in this way, but it was considered too great a risk for submarines – and a rusty old trawler from Haifa was chosen for the job. After being fitted with a captured Italian 20mm Breda gun in the stern and six Lewis guns mounted at various points, the vessel was named Hedgehog, and Beckinsale was made second-in-command.

On his first trip to the south coast of Crete, Beckinsale ran into a Force 10 gale. Hedgehog had several tons of concrete fore and aft as ballast, and the former fish-hold was loaded with captured Italian rifles and Army boots for the guerrillas. New Year’s Eve 1942 was spent pumping the bilges and throwing the deck cargo overboard; but on the evening of the fourth day, the crew could see the Cretan mountains looming in the distance and smell the wild thyme on the wind.

The inlet chosen for the landing was little more than a cleft in the rocks with a small beach, well away from the German garrisons. When the signal flashed from the shore, they came in and moored by the light of a full moon. Their agent, Tom Dumbabin, a Fellow of All Souls, emerged from the shadows to report that he had managed to collect 150 Allied soldiers and a Greek Orthodox priest.

They lay up the next day, loaded their passengers and slipped anchor at dusk in order to begin the return trip to Alexandria. But the following morning, the lookout heard the engine of an approaching plane, and they quickly altered course. The deck was strewn with passengers, and Beckinsale hastily covered them all with blankets and ran to his Lewis gun. The Italian Arado circled several times before turning away, apparently satisfied that the ship was a coaster on German business.

Stanley Eustace Beckinsale was born in London on March 9 1920. He went to grammar school at Belvedere, Kent, and then to Reading University, where he read Agriculture and rowed in the VIII. The outbreak of war interrupted his studies and, in 1939, he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion Royal Tank Regiment before being recruited by SOE.

Beckinsale joined Saad, the first para-naval ship in the Red Sea, as an engineer in 1940. The schooner carried a crew of four, and was the only one with a draught shallow enough to carry it over the minefields. After the fall of Massawa, Eritrea, his unit was given the task of cleaning up the Italian garrisons on the islands guarding the entrance. He and his comrades negotiated the surrender of more than 2,000 Italian troops manning the batteries on five separate islands.

In 1942, in a further three operations, Hedgehog landed at Crete, where Beckinsale and his comrades rescued more than 100 additional people who were trapped on the island. The trawler was also instrumental in putting ashore a number of British agents, including Patrick Leigh Fermor (who later kidnapped General Kreipe, the commander of the island’s garrison) and George Jellicoe, of the Special Boat Section, who was on his way to sabotage planes at Heraklion airfield.

On Beckinsale’s last trip to south Crete, Hedgehog docked at Mersa Matruh, escaping just a few hours before Rommel’s Panzers arrived on their way to El Alamein. He later made long-distance reconnaissance trips in his 26ft caique Constantinos, some of which covered 1,000 miles and kept him at sea for more than a month. He was awarded the MC and was also mentioned in dispatches for capturing several Italian schooners.

In 1945 the para-naval section was disbanded. Beckinsale was posted back to England for a spell before spending a year with the Central Commission, Food and Agriculture, in the North Rhine Province of Germany. After being demobilised in the rank of major, he farmed in Oxfordshire for 22 years.

Beckinsale subsequently settled in a village in Wiltshire, where he went into partnership with Tom Thain, a former fellow member of the SOE. Together they formed Dentiststone Restoration, a company specialising in restoring stonework, tracery and statuary; among their clients were Wells and Winchester Cathedrals, Romsey Abbey and the Brighton Pavilion.

He retired in 1990. An avid reader, he particularly enjoyed the study of English history and mediaeval architecture.

Stanley Beckinsale died on August 17. He married first, in 1946, Joyce Bolt, who predeceased him. He married secondly, in 1970, Mary Hackett (née Collins); she survives him with a son and a daughter from his first marriage and a daughter from his second.

George Psychoundakis – The Cretan Runner’s obituary from The Times

A second obituary of George who as a fit young man risked life and limb running messages for the Cretan resistance and then for the SOE operatives in Crete. Paddy helped to get George out of gaol (when he was mistakenly detained by the Greeks as a deserter) and then translated The Cretan runner into English.

Cretan partisan who wrote an unvarnished account of the wartime occupation

First published in The Times February 23, 2006

AS a runner for the Resistance in Crete during the German occupation, George Psychoundakis carried messages over vast distances across one of the most mountainous regions in Europe. It was a life of constant risk — runners captured by the Germans were often tortured and shot. Wearing worn-out boots and with a minimum of rations, Psychoundakis would cover up to 50 miles in only a few days. The threat from collaborators meant that he often had to avoid villages, thus depriving himself of comforts that would have eased the rigours of his journeys.

Psychoundakis approached his missions with a humour and a charm that made him a popular figure in the Resistance, as well as with the British officers serving under cover. One officer was the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, with whom Psychoundakis formed a lifelong friendship. It was Leigh Fermor who translated Psychoundakis’s account of life under the occupation, The Cretan Runner, republished in 1998.

In his foreword Leigh Fermor writes how he was captivated by the Cretan’s “gift for play on words, for funny repartee, light verse, improvisation, unpredictable flights of imagination and his instinct for teasing the great . . . which earned him a universal licence as a jester”.

More than merely fleet of foot, Psychoundakis was quick of mind. Before the war, as a shepherd boy, he was fascinated by literature. Among a barely literate population, he had to pester the village priest and the doctor for books, and even composed his own epic poems. Psychoundakis represented the Greek oral tradition: he had even composed a two-hour-long poem about the war. It ended with George firing Leigh Fermor’s pistol into the air, swearing vengeance on the German “ cuckolds”. At night and when the weather was awful, Psychoundakis would sit with his comrades in their caves, reciting the 10,000 lines of the 17th-century Cretan poem, the Erotokritos.

George Psychoundakis was born in 1920, the son of a shepherd from the village of Asi Gonia in Western Crete. The family was very poor — Psychoundakis, his two sisters and brother were raised in a one-room house — and owned only a handful of goats and sheep. After a few years at the village school Psychoundakis too became a shepherd until the German invasion in May 1941.

Had the invasion not happened, it is probable that he would have remained an unknown shepherd, eking out a tough existence on the craggy Cretan landscape. But the occupation allowed him to broaden his horizons, for the contacts he had made with scholarly warriors such as Leigh Fermor gave him the opportunity to make a name for himself as a man of letters.

But the transition from mountain boy to writer was not easy. Despite being awarded the British Empire Medal after the war, Psychoundakis was arrested as a deserter and imprisoned for several months, losing his thick head of hair through worry. Afterwards, he was forced to fight in the civil war, returning to Asi Gonia after two years to find his family poorer than ever.

It was then that he wrote The Cretan Runner. When he and Leigh Fermor met again in 1951, Fermor marvelled at the uniqueness of such a document. Most writing about the occupation had been by the English or the Germans, but here was a heartfelt testament to the horrors of being occupied. The book was published in 1955, and became a great success.

Written in a simplistic style, it is an episodic account of hardships and dangers, with moments of great humour set against a background of murder and torture.

“Nobody talked, but the Germans had positive information. They lined them all up, and, as they refused to speak, prepared to execute the lot. But, before they could press the trigger of their heavy machine-gun, ten Germans fell dead. For some of the village men — about ten — had taken up position along the top of a sheer cliff above the village, from where they could watch every detail, and, at just the right moment, had opened fire. Not a bullet went wide.”

Even after the publication of The Cretan Runner, Psychoundakis continued to live in Asi Gonia. There he translated the Iliad and the Odyssey into his Cretan dialect, and he was honoured by the Academy of Athens. He lived off the land and held a variety of jobs. That one of these was as the caretaker for the nearby German cemetery was a shining example of Psychoundakis’s sense of forgiveness.

He is survived by his wife, Sofia, their son and two daughters.

George Psychoundakis, BEM, shepherd, partisan and writer, was born on November 3, 1920. He died on January 29, 2006, aged 85.

The obituary of Daphne Fielding from The Independent

Paddy was very close to Daphne Fielding. She was the wife of the man who must be considered his best friend (read In Tearing Haste and you will have few doubts).

First published in The Independent 17 December 1997.

Daphne Winifred Louise Vivian, writer: born 11 July 1904; married 1926 Viscount Weymouth (succeeded 1946 as sixth Marquess of Bath, died 1992; two sons, and two sons and one daughter deceased; marriage dissolved 1953), 1953 Xan Fielding (died 1991; marriage dissolved 1978); died 5 December 1997.

Daphne Fielding was a society author in the decades between 1950 and 1980. Having been a part of the world of Bright Young Things in the 1920s, she was well known in society as the Marchioness of Bath, and following her marriage to Xan Fielding she produced a stream of books of easy charm which achieved great popularity. Good-looking when young, in later life she was a tall, handsome figure, and could have been mistaken for a distinguished actress.

Daphne was the daughter of the fourth Lord Vivian and his wife, Barbara, a former Gaiety Girl, who was to marry three further times. The family was eccentric; many years later, her brother the fifth Lord Vivian (who died in 1991), variously a farm labourer in Canada, a publicity manager in San Francisco and a partner of the impresario C.B. Cochran, had the misfortune to be shot in the stomach in 1954 by his mistress Mavis Wheeler, the former wife of Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the archaeologist, a drama which occupied the headlines for many days.

Daphne emerged from a childhood which was a mixture of hilarity and insecurity, later described with relish in her memoirs, Mercury Presides (though Evelyn Waugh declared these as “marred by discretion and good taste”). She passed through Queen’s College in London, and St James’s, Malvern, and gravitated, through her friends the Lygon sisters, to the stimulating world of Oxford in the 1920s, and to that set dominated by Harold Acton, Evelyn Waugh and Brian Howard. The friends she made then were friends for life, a group that gave each other unswerving loyalty despite infidelities and political differences, everlastingly self-protecting; and a group through which she met Viscount Weymouth, heir to the Marquess of Bath.

There was parental opposition to their union, Henry Weymouth’s father declaring that he needed “a steady wife” and finding that Daphne did not fit this category. Weighing in, her father announced that he thought Weymouth an unsuitable husband. They were married in secret at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, in 1926, and then again considerably more publicly at St Martin-in-the Fields in 1927, the bride dressed by Norman Hartnell. (When eventually they were divorced, there was a prolonged court case before three judges to dissolve that earlier marriage, and regularise the unusual situation.)

Old Lord Bath in 1928 handed the running of the Wiltshire family seat, Longleat, to his son (not without certain misgivings about his capacity for work) and he and Daphne threw themselves wholeheartedly into the management of the estate. They employed Russell Page to redo the gardens and were involved in extensive forestry work. To supplement her income, Daphne wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, which brought her under the protective care of Lord Beaverbrook.

They had four sons and a daughter. The eldest boy died in 1930, just before his first birthday, and the youngest, Lord Valentine Thynne, died after hanging himself in 1979. Her daughter Caroline predeceased her, and she is survived by two sons, the present Marquess and his brother, Lord Christopher, who are on notoriously bad terms. (There was a rumour that at Lord Christopher’s wedding to Antonia Palmer in 1968 the cake was laced with LSD. The Queen was a guest.)

Henry Weymouth spent much of the Second World War as a prisoner of the Germans, which did not help the marriage. In 1946 he succeeded his father as Marquess of Bath. Forced by crippling death duties he opened Longleat to the public in 1949, with an entrance fee of half a crown a head. By 1953 he had added a tearoom and tennis court, laid out a putting green, and floated pedalos for hire on the lake. But the marriage was over and the Baths were divorced in May 1953.

Daphne wrote the first guidebook to Longleat, a lively history of the Thynne family from 1566 to 1949, which she researched and wrote in three weeks. This she followed with Before the Sunset Fades (1953), a slim 30- page book about life above and below stairs at Long- leat, decorated, appropriately, by her old friend and Wiltshire neighbour Cecil Beaton.

In 1953 she married the war hero and travel writer Xan Fielding, a man 14 years her junior, a happy marriage which lasted until 1978. During these years they lived variously in Cornwall, Morocco, Portugal and Uzes, where they settled for some years, surrounded by a variety of pets and visited by their many friends.

While married to Fielding, she wrote her books Mercury Presides (1954) and its sequel, The Nearest Way Home (1970), and a novel, The Adonis Garden (1961), of which Evelyn Waugh wrote that she had “squandered six books in one”, adding, “You have used almost everything that has happened in the last twelve years.”

The Duchess of Jermyn Street, a life of Rosa Lewis of the Cavendish Hotel subsequently serialised on television, was to have been written with the help of George Kinnaird (a writer who also used to help Baroness de Stoekl with her books), but he gave up while going through a divorce. It was published in 1964 and Evelyn Waugh described it as “jolly good but I think full of inaccuracies”.

She wrote a joint life of Lady Cunard and her daughter Nancy, Emerald and Nancy (1968), which her friend Dirk Bogarde judged “light on the intellect”, fearing that Fielding had whitewashed these two monsters on the grounds that “she couldn’t be beastly to chums”; and a portrait of Iris Tree, The Rainbow Picnic (1974).

Raleigh Trevelyan, of Hamish Hamilton, then commissioned her to write a life of Gladys Deacon, the 93-year-old Duchess of Marlborough, whom he had come across while researching his book about the Whitakers of Sicily, Princes Under the Volcano (1972). This was not her usual milieu, since the duchess belonged to the belle epoque and intellectual world of Paris of a generation older than Daphne Fielding. Nevertheless she was able to tap her wide circle of loyal friends for anecdotes. To her surprise a man wrongly described as “a young intellectual” proved to have embarked on the same research. However, her friends closed ranks around her, and a word from Lady Diana Cooper to her biographer, Philip Ziegler, caused him to drop the rival’s incipient Collins contract like a hot potato.

I know this, for I was that rival. Both books were in due course published, hers under the title The Face on the Sphinx (1978). But the story had a happy ending, for those same friends helped me with my life of Cecil Beaton, and Diana Cooper, in her more usual role as peacemaker, effected a successful rapprochement between us. I enjoyed a number of meetings with Daphne in New York in 1981, during which she chatted amicably about our experiences and regaled me with Cecil Beaton stories. I always remember her line about Patrick Leigh Fermor: “Do you know Paddy? He’s such a good friend. He should be turned into pills so that you can take him when you feel low.”

Her friend Robert Heber-Percy averred that Daphne Fielding was a better conversationalist and letter-writer than author of books.

In 1978 Xan Fielding left Daphne for a lady described by her friends as “an older woman”. Bereft but brave, she was lucky to meet once more an old Oxford friend, Ben Kittridge, an American millionaire, with whom she went to live in Arizona until his death in 1981. Thereafter she returned to England and settled in the Old Laundry in the shadow of Badminton, where for two years the fox-hunting 10th Duke of Beaufort (“Master”) lived on, and where, until her death from cancer in 1995, her daughter Caroline lived as the next Duchess of Beaufort.

Daphne Fielding’s last years were spent there. At the famous Horse Trials she could be seen driving about in a tiny self- propelled vehicle and every Sunday she lunched with her son-in-law, where she was a by no means unnoticed figure at the table.

The 11th Duke of Devonshire – The Times obituary

Another obituary of Paddy´s friend. Note links to The Times may not work soon as it goes paid for within weeks.

First published in The Times May 4, 2004

Although descended from a line of dukes reaching back to the end of the 17th century, the 11th Duke of Devonshire did not expect to succeed to the title. Indeed, when he was 18, his father, the 10th Duke, took him to one side and told him that he would have to make his own way in the world. Chatsworth and the other great family houses, pictures and glorious gardens would all go to his elder brother, his father explained. This was the only way that the family’s valuable heritage could be preserved and passed down to future generations.

But things did not work out that way. The 10th Duke’s elder son, the Marquess of Hartington – who married Kathleen (“Kick”) Kennedy, sister of President Kennedy – was killed in action in the last months of the Second World War. His younger brother, Andrew, thus became Marquess of Hartington and heir to the vast ducal estates at the age of 24.

At the age of 21 he had married Deborah (“Debo”) Mitford, the sixth of the 2nd Lord Redesdale’s daughters. She was to prove a remarkable chatelaine, restoring the main family seat, Chatsworth, to the grandeur of 50 years earlier, when it was known as “the Palace on the Peak”. More than that, her salesmanship and the style of her refurbishment made Chatsworth a house that people from all over Britain and the world wanted to see (for decades it has notched up 300,000 paying visitors a year).

This was not something that anyone could have envisaged on their wedding day in 1941, least of all the young couple themselves. A few days beforehand the bride had written to her sister, Diana, then in Holloway prison (she was married to the leader of the British Union of Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley), saying how sorry she was that they could not be together for her marriage and adding that she and her husband expected to be “very poor”.

But by 1950, at the age of 30, the Marquess of Hartington had become the 11th Duke. His father had died suddenly at the age of 55. The 10th Duke’s great interest had always been in country pursuits. One of these was cutting up fallen trees with a saw for the family fires. It was while doing this at Compton Place, his seaside house in Eastbourne, that he suffered a coronary thrombosis and died.

The 10th Duke was under the impression that he had, in 1946, divested himself of personal ownership of his estates, greatly lessening death duties, which were then the highest the country had ever known. Unfortunately, the arrangements did not pass muster with the Inland Revenue, and the arguments over the Devonshire inheritance went on for 17 years.

In the end, the bulk of the inheritance was saved, but formidable bills had to be met. Hardwick Hall, part castle and part Tudor fort in Derbyshire, with its High Great Chamber – which Sacheverell Sitwell called “the most beautiful room, not in England alone, but in the whole of Europe” – had to be sold to help meet the debts. The family had been living there until the 1950s. Old Masters and rare Italian drawings were also dispatched to the salerooms. Indeed, over the past 20 years alone, paintings from the Devonshire estate have realised more than £26 million, with books raising a further £600,000.

In 1952, two years after succeeding to the title, the Duke bought a pretty, small, terraced house in Mayfair. It was there he brought up his three children. The seller was Anthony Eden (later the Earl of Avon), who had moved to the Foreign Secretary’s official residence in Carlton Gardens.

It was 1959 before Chatsworth was in a condition for the family to move in. By then it was owned by a trust, of which the Duke was just one trustee, and he had leased a suite of rooms for his family. Most of the 175 rooms today bear the constant burden of the visitors who keep the place going. The family rooms are big and spacious, with glorious views and handsome pictures. In the private dining room are portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, Charles I and Henry VIII. But the Duke kept on the terraced house in Mayfair as a London bolt hole.

It is on the inherited landed estates that the commercial action has taken place. Shoots and well-known stretches of river are let. Two hotels have been developed: the fairytale castellated Lismore Castle in Ireland, pitched high above the River Blackwater and once the home of Sir Walter Raleigh, is in constant demand for renting by wealthy Americans.

In the 1980s the Duke came to an agreement with the Inland Revenue, allowing more public access to his estates in the Yorkshire Dales in response to a cut in death duties. This was made possible by a Land Act passed by the Labour Government in 1975. Neither side has disclosed the saving in death duties but it is believed to amount to some millions of pounds.

In the 1990s the Duke decided that if he could get planning permission on the Chatsworth estate for some open-cast coal mining, it would benefit financially for some years to come. Local traditional miners, who had lost their jobs when the mines were closed, were furious. Anne Scargill, married to the Yorkshire miners’ leader, led protesting miners’ wives to Chatsworth, loudspeakers blazing, in opposition to the whole idea. It was a cold day and the Duke met them carrying a large silver tureen of hot consommé laced with sherry. Afterwards, he said that he found Mrs Scargill “absolutely charming”, and added that if he was in her position he, too, would protest. Mrs Scargill’s verdict was: “Such a gent, we couldn’t get cross with him.” She added: “He was dead straight with us too, he said he wanted the open mining because he needed the money.”

He was a tall, slim, fit man and noticeable wherever he went. He wore suits of the finest lightweight worsted, always well brushed and pressed. And there was something else that made him recognisable: as a young man he took to wearing pale lemon socks, and it became a lifetime habit. He made no secret of the fact that he liked clothes and when he went on his summer holidays to Eastbourne he used to wear a boater. He had the youthful figure to carry it off.

Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish was the younger son of the 10th Duke, who had held junior post in the Colonial and Commonwealth Offices, and his wife, Lady Alice-Mary Cecil (known as “Moucher”) a woman of note in her own right. She was the first Chancellor of the University of Exeter and in Coronation year, and for 16 years subsequently, she was the most senior of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, as Mistress of the Robes. Her brother was the 5th Marquis of Salisbury (known as “Bobbity”), who resigned with Eden in 1938, going on to be Leader of the House of Lords and an influential presence in the Tory Party at least until his rash second resignation in 1957.

The Duchess made the bigger impact of the two on their second son. From her he derived his interest in politics and current affairs, a love of books, gardening and much else. She also encouraged him to speak out and question things. Harold Macmillan, who married her husband’s sister, Lady Dorothy Cavendish, had written about how hard the Duchess found it when she moved from the Salisbury seat at Hatfield to Chatsworth: “The Cavendishes went in for long silences which she found trying; the Cecils talked all the time about everything under the sun and had animated and furiously contested verbal contests.”

Andrew Cecil went to Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, but at the age of 20 he was in the Coldstream Guards and training for the Second World War. In 1944 he led his company to capture a hill during the Italian campaign and held onto it with dwindling supplies and under fire from three sides until relieved. For this he was awarded the Military Cross.

In 1945 and in 1950 he contested Chesterfield unsuccessfully for the Tories in two hard-fought general election campaigns. During one his car was overturned: the Cavendishes had not yet become the popular figures they are today. Harold Macmillan made his wife’s nephew Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in 1960, and in 1962 promoted him to be Minister of State. (The Prime Minister would murmur as he made his evening tour of the Smoking Room: “You know, Andrew is awfully good with natives.”) Inevitably the cry of nepotism was raised – never more effectively than in a political pamphlet prepared by the Daily Mirror, which listed all the relatives, whether through blood or marriage, to whom Macmillan had given jobs in his Government. At the time such criticism seemed to be water off a duck’s back so far as the Duke was concerned. But more than 30 years later, in 1996, the Duke criticised the ministerial appointments made by Macmillan as “nepotism of an unacceptable kind in the 20th century”. But by then he had left the Tories, having tired of Margaret Thatcher’s dictatorial tendencies, and become an early member of the Social Democratic Party (actually entertaining Roy Jenkins during one SDP annual conference held in Derbyshire). He never enrolled as a Liberal Democrat, and on his rare visits to the House of Lords sat on the cross benches.

He was a man of many interests, the principal one, perhaps, being books. Requests to his bookseller, Heywood Hill in Curzon Street (which he owned) would frequently come on Monday mornings in the wake of his weekend house guests, one of whom had probably aroused his interest in some subject. Biographies of British prime ministers and American presidents could always be counted upon to appeal. Even so his tastes were catholic. One morning he called up and said: “I want to start a shelf of really good, interesting rogues.” He had been a customer at Heywood Hill since the end of the war, during which it was run for a while by Nancy Mitford, his sister-in-law. He was a little irritated in 1971 when the shop was sold without his being warned beforehand. No one, however, realised that he wanted it. But, in 1991, when it came up for sale again, he promptly bought it, also founding in 1995 the Heywood Hill literary prize of £10,000. This is awarded annually for style, wit and elegance, and is open to publishers, writers, collectors, reviewers and even cartoonists. For years he was a pillar of support to the London Library. When the library raised more than £3 million for its work in 1991, the Duke had helped in various ways, not least lending a room in Pratt’s Club in St James’s where he was proprietor, for use during the appeal. The library made him a vice-president in 1993.

Few other things gave the Duke greater pleasure than the successes of Derby County or Chesterfield in the League or the FA Cup. Their colours were sported and banners unfurled at Chatsworth and over the years there were parties and celebrations. “It is no pose,” he insisted. “When Derby or Chesterfield do well people go around with a spring to their step – I do myself.”

Racing was a challenge that fascinated him, though running horses was never as great a preoccupation for the Cavendishes as it was with the Derbys or the Roseberys. But the Duke won top races, and with horses for which he had not paid a vast sum of money. His best horse was the chestnut mare Park Top, the winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Coronation Cup in 1969. His only book was written about her. It was Park Top’s failure in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe which resulted in the Duke’s good manners snapping. On form, the mare was expected to win, but she failed and the French crowd booed. This annoyed the Duke as she was clearly off-form and he gave them the V-sign, saying afterwards: “The crowd were so unfair to the horse and I did what I saw Harvey Smith do to the establishment at Hickstead.”

Tennis was another interest and well into middle age the Duke had a coach come regularly to give him a game at Chatsworth. He was president of the ruling body, the Lawn Tennis Association, for six years and had been a vice-president of the All England Club at Wimbledon since 1965.

In 1991 the Duke and Duchess celebrated the 50th anniversary of their wedding in an imaginative and original way. It was a great success. They invited all the couples in Derbyshire who had married in 1941 to come to Chatsworth for a full afternoon tea, with bands playing. Some 3,700 people sat down to tea, which was provided by eight field kitchens. Traffic jams were predicted but were minimal as marshals patrolled the approach roads with two-way radios and coloured flags.

In a speech the Duke said that he and his wife had been very lucky in life and they were very happy to share their good fortune with the people of Derbyshire. His speech was cut short by the Duchess, saying in an audible aside: “Come on dear – you are sounding like President Ronald Reagan.”

The Duke served as trustee of the National Gallery, 1960-86; he was Mayor of Buxton, 1952-54; and a member of the Horserace Totalisator Board, 1977-86. He was appointed one of the 24 Knights of the Garter in 1996. Every head of his family from the 1st Duke in 1698 had held this honour before him.

 

The 11th Duke of Devonshire, KG, MC, was born on January 2, 1920. He died on May 3, 2004, aged 84.

Obituary: John Smith-Hughes who served in Crete with SOE

Young officer who served in Crete and then joined SOE working with many of Paddy’s colleagues. It is almost certain Paddy and Smith-Hughes met but there is no mention in this obituary.

by Antony Beevor

First published in The Independent Thursday, 17 March 1994

John Smith-Hughes, soldier and barrister: born 27 November 1918; OBE 1945; married 1945 Angela Louvaris (died 1972; one son, one daughter); died Tortola, Virgin Islands 4 March 1994.

LIKE many of those who joined Special Operations Executive in the Middle East, Jack Smith-Hughes possessed considerable intellectual talents matched by a lack of reverence for conventional army pieties. His path to SOE’s headquarters in Cairo had also been decidedly unpredictable.

At the end of 1940, Smith- Hughes, a portly and precocious 22-year-old subaltern in the Royal Army Service Corps, was shipped to Crete as part of the Allied garrison sent to defend the island after the Italian invasion of Greece. When the German airborne invasion took place in May 1941, he was in charge of shipping supplies to outlying detachments from Chania, in north- west Crete. On the night that Brigadier Robert Laycock and Evelyn Waugh landed with the Layforce commandos at Suda Bay, the most chaotic moment of the battle, Smith-Hughes was astonished to find himself walking up and down the jetty for a considerable time with General Bernard Freyberg VC, the Allied commander on the island. Freyberg was worried that the Australian force at Rethymno, on the coast to the east, would not receive the order to withdraw. Unfortunately, this concern for his troops meant that Freyberg was out of touch with his headquarters during several hours while the last Allied counter-attack collapsed in confusion.

The next day, retreat nearly turned into rout. Smith-Hughes was soon one of the 20,000 exhausted men making their way over the White Mountains to the southern coast for evacuation by the Royal Navy. He was one of the unlucky ones. On his way to join the queue on the last evening, he was turned back by an embarkation officer and told not to worry: the warships would be back again the following night. A couple of hours later, he realised that the man had lied to him. Captured by Austrian Alpine troops the next morning, he was marched back over the mountains, the most painful journey of all, to prison camp.

He escaped soon afterwards and hid at the house of Colonel Andreas Papadakis, who later proclaimed himself chief of the Cretan Resistance. George Psychoundakis, ‘The Cretan Runner’, then guided him to the monastery of Preveli on the south coast. Evacuated finally to Egypt by submarine, Smith- Hughes had the satistaction in a Cairo restaurant of encountering the embarkation officer again and telling him exactly what he thought of him.

To his surprise, Smith-Hughes was summoned to SOE’s Cairo headquarters, in Rustum Buildings – known to Cairene taxi-drivers as ‘secret building’. He was then sent back to Crete ‘to feel out the country and see who had influence’. Accompanied by Ralph Stockbridge of Inter-Services Liaison Department, the cover-name for MI6, he landed on 9 October 1941. Smith-Hughes was fortunate not to never encounter a German patrol or roadblock: his Cretan disguise only seemed to draw attention to his unusual bulk, his Britishly pink compexion, and his ungainly walk.

Smith-Hughes and Stockbridge set off to see Papadakis, the only person they knew who claimed to have influence. But Papadakis’s folies de grandeur made him impossible to use as a focus of resistance. Other leaders were sounded out, mainly those rallied by the archaeologist John Pendlebury who had then been executed by German paratroopers during the battle. Smith-Hughes handed over to Monty Woodhouse from Egypt shortly before Christmas and returned to Cairo, where he ran the Cretan desk at SOE headquarters with great skill.

Promoted to major, Smith- Hughes managed to preserve the section from the terrible infighting in Rustum Buildings by moving out to an annexe. It was Smith- Hughes who briefed and backed up Woodhouse’s successor, Tom Dunbabin, another distinguished archaeologist of great courage, and his two deputies, Xan Fielding for western Crete and Patrick Leigh Fermor for eastern Crete. Unusually for SOE in the Middle East, the Cretan section, B5, was neither riven by animosity nor plagued by rivalry with ISLD. Smith-Hughes’s joint mission with Stockbridge laid the foundations for an unusual degree of co-operation between the two organisations, and he managed to maintain it even in the torrid bureaucratic warfare carried out by the ‘Gaberdine swine’ in Cairo.

The Germans did all they could to track down the ‘espionage organisation of Captain Huse’, as one of their reports put it. But perhaps the greatest contribution made by SOE officers in the field and in Cairo was to prevent the latent civil war between the Cretan nationalist EOK and the Communist-dominated EAM-ELAS from exploding into a war to the knife. After the liberation of Heraklion, when a reactionary kapitan shot and wounded one of the Communist andarte leaders, Dunbabin and Smith-Hughes managed to prevent an explosion by driving round the town in open jeeps, and persuading both sides to back away from a battle which would have led to the virtual annihilation of the Communists. The Nationalists, unlike their counterparts on mainland Greece, were untainted by collaboration and much stronger than the Left.

Smith-Hughes, with typical self-deprecating humour, recounted that his most terrifying experience during the war was the formal liberation of Kastelli Kissamou, on the north-west tip of Crete. As a mark of honour, the Cretan kapitan for the area insisted that he should ride with him into the town. Smith- Hughes, who had never felt comfortable with horses, was obliged to overcome his fears, and when the cheering crowds made the horse caracole, he had to hold on to the saddle with both hands.

After the war, Smith-Hughes turned his incisive mind and astonishing memory to the law, first in the Army, and then as a barrister at Tortola in the Virgin Islands, where he became Attorney-General. In 1991, he returned to Crete for the 50th anniversary of the battle and was one of the guests at the memorable all-night glendi in honour of Patrick Leigh Fermor and his Cretan comrades who abducted General Heinrich Kreipe in April 1944.

The Duke of Devonshire’s obituary from The Independent

Andrew Cavendish was the 11th Duke of Devonshire, Debo’s beloved husband and a close friend of Paddy for over half a century. Paddy and Andrew shared many long walks and expeditions together some of which are detailed in the book of letters ‘In Tearing Haste’ whilst the most comprehensive account of one of their shared journeys is ‘Three Letters from the Andes’ published in 1991 during which Paddy described his own responsibilities as ‘looking after the primus stove’. 

First published in The Independent Thursday, 6 May 2004 

 Rescuer of Chatsworth and reviver of the family tradition of patronage 

“I am a very rich duke, a most agreeable thing to be, even in these days,” said the hero in Nancy Mitford’s 1945 novel The Pursuit of Love. Her brother-in-law Andrew Cavendish, when he succeeded five years later as 11th Duke of Devonshire, had every reason to disagree. 

Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish, landowner: born London 2 January 1920; MC 1944; styled 1944-50 Marquess of Hartington, succeeded 1950 as 11th Duke of Devonshire; Mayor of Buxton 1952-54; President, Royal Hospital and Home (formerly Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables), Putney 1954-91; President, Building Societies Association 1954-61; President, Lawn Tennis Association 1955-61; Chairman, Grand Council, British Empire Cancer Campaign 1956-81; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations 1960-62; Minister of State, Commonwealth Relations Office 1962-64, and for Colonial Affairs 1963-64; PC 1964; Chancellor, Manchester University 1965-86; Steward, Jockey Club 1966-69; President, National Association for Deaf Children 1978-95; Chairman, Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association 1978-81; President, RNIB 1979-85; Patron in Chief, Polite Society 1991-2004; Vice-President, London Library 1993-2004; KG 1996; married 1941 The Hon Deborah Freeman-Mitford (one son, two daughters, and two sons and one daughter deceased); died Chatsworth, Derbyshire 3 May 2004.  

Born a second son on the second day of 1920, he grew up with no expectation of becoming a duke. His father’s premature death in 1950 left him with huge death duties to pay, and the extra liability of palatial Chatsworth, at a time when smaller houses were going down like ninepins. How he overcame all these difficulties, making Chatsworth habitable and a source of widespread enjoyment, discovering in the process new ways of helping all manner of people and institutions, as well as reviving the family tradition of enlightened patronage, is one of the success stories of our time. 

The Cavendish family roots were in Suffolk, but “Bess of Hardwick”, founder of the dynasty, was born in Derbyshire, in 1518. Successive marriages, the second to Sir William Cavendish, enabled her to expand her property. Quarrels with her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, led her to leave the house she had built at Chatsworth, and build another, even larger, at Hardwick itself. Her sons built on this foundation, the second becoming father of the first Duke of Newcastle, the first buying back Chatsworth and created Earl of Devonshire in 1618 (the title came not from any territorial connection, but because it had just become vacant by the death without issue of the previous holder). 

They were royalists in the Civil War, when the family wealth was diminished – save in the library, watched over by Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher. The fourth Earl, of imperious disposition, fell out with the Stuarts and retreated to Chatsworth, which he rebuilt and enlarged. He supported William III, who elevated him to be the first Duke of Devonshire. His son, Steward of the Household to Queen Anne and later to George I, was the first great virtuoso of the family, and built up the collection of old master drawings at Chatsworth. He was the first, too, to succeed on the Turf, buying Flying Childers, “the fleetest horse that ever ran at Newmarket”. 

The second Duke’s son and grandson were both Lord-Lieutenants of Ireland, and between them remodelled the grounds at Chatsworth, the fourth Duke commissioning James Paine to build the new stables. By his marriage to the only daughter of the great Earl of Burlington, architect and connoisseur, more came to Chatsworth, from the Boyle Irish estates to the drawings of Inigo Jones. His son, husband of the famous Georgiana Spencer, was himself a notable figure. Their only son, the sixth Duke, the greatest collector of all, made Chatsworth what it is today. 

“He appears to be disposed to spend a great deal of money,” said the family auditor to his father. “So much the better,” was the memorable reply. “He will have a great deal of money to spend.” He did, enlarging and beautifying Chatsworth with the help of Jeffry Wyatville and Joseph Paxton. He bought wonderful books, marble and antiquities, including a fifth-century bronze head of Apollo, commissioned sculpture from Canova, and for him Paxton built the splendid conservatory at Chatsworth, forerunner of the Crystal Palace. 

But he remained the “Bachelor Duke”: dying childless in 1858, he was succeeded by a cousin who had fortunately inherited much himself, including the wealth and books of the scientist Henry Cavendish and the Compton family estates on the South Coast. He himself invested in industry, built up Eastbourne and gave Cambridge the Cavendish Laboratory. His son reverted to politics (he was the only person to refuse the premiership three times) and horse-racing. The ninth Duke became Governor-General of Canada during the First World War, when Chatsworth was inevitably neglected. All the plants in Paxton’s conservatory died and it had to be pulled down, but gradually life returned to normal. 

So Lord Andrew Cavendish grew up between the wars, when the hereditary peerage had not become a political plaything and leisure was a way of life, not a profession. Devonshire House in London had gone, pulled down to make way for a motor showroom, and so had Chiswick House (now in the care of English Heritage), but the family still owned four other great houses besides Chatsworth and Hardwick. The footmen still wore full livery (lemon coat, dark blue breeches and white stocking) if there were more than six to dinner. 

It was 1938 when his grandfather died, aged 69. Andrew’s father was Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and abroad, and Andrew was about to leave Eton for Trinity College, Cambridge. He had taken neither very seriously. His father worried about this, as about his occasional flutters on and off the Turf. But an old friend said to him, “Surely you wouldn’t like your son to get good reports?”, and Newmarket turned youthful diversion into an abiding passion. Neither overcame an earlier, deeper and even more long-lasting love of books and reading. A year later his elder brother William, now Marquess of Hartington, came of age, with a series of parties – the last at Chatsworth in August 1939. Then came the war and goodbye to all that. 

Both brothers went into the Coldstream Guards, to be “sorted out” like many others by drill, boots and sergeant-majors. Caterham was varied by escape to London, where Andrew would take Deborah Mitford, the youngest of the six daughters of Lord Redesdale, out to dinner; in April 1941 they married. Then came posting abroad, via North Africa to Italy, where he first saw action; unable to sleep the night before, he read Nigel Balchin’s The Small Back Room, just out, from cover to cover. In the fierce fighting north of Rome in July 1944, he was awarded the MC. His company captured a hill south of Strada, and held it despite being cut off on all sides. The citation records his “endless cheerfulness, energy and disregard of danger”; he himself said, “I got it for being cheerful”, a characteristic self-depreciation. 

That same spring his elder brother married Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the future President of the United States; only four months later he was killed in action in France. This was a crushing blow, still remembered with pain almost 60 years later. Used, by gentle warning from his father, to accept the minor, less demanding role of a younger son, he now found himself pitchforked into new responsibility. When he left the Army, he dutifully stood in the Conservative interest for the neighbouring seat of Chesterfield in 1945 and again in 1950. 

Adjusting to post-war austerity and high taxation was another problem. His father, well advised like his forebears by Currey & Co, made over the estate, the gift dependent on his living for five years. In November 1950, 14 weeks short of this term, he died, aged only 55. 

His estate was then valued at £5.9m, and at the current rate of 80 per cent death duties came out at £4.72m. It was clear that huge economies would have to be made; the question was how to make them without diminishing the sources of revenue needed to maintain what was left. The 11th Duke and his Duchess counted their assets: they were both 30, young, energetic and, untrammelled by conventions now out of date, were prepared to do something different. Time was on their side, and Chatsworth, hitherto more a place just to visit, proved to be the key to the future. Continue reading

The obituary of George Psychoundakis aka The Cretan Runner

The Cretan Runner

The obituary that follows is of George Psychoundakis, who as a young man was a runner for the resistance in Crete during the German occupation in World War II. First of all he ran for local partisans groups or andartes, but from about 1941 he did most of his work with the Special Operations Executive.  At the end of the war George was mistakenly taken for a deserter and locked up. He spent around 16 months in gaol and whilst there he wrote his wartime memoires. Somehow Paddy became aware of his incarceration and had George released. He then helped George by translating his memoires into English and sorting out a publisher. The book has been translated into many languages and is called The Cretan Runner. This obituary includes a section written by Paddy at the end.

First published: 12:10AM GMT 18 Feb 2006 in the Telegraph

George Psychoundakis, who died at Canea, Crete, on January 29 aged 85, was best known for his extraordinary account of clandestine life in the Resistance after the German occupation of his island in 1941; the book was translated into English by Patrick (now Sir Patrick) Leigh Fermor, and enjoyed success in Britain as The Cretan Runner.

George Psychoundakis was born on November 3 1920 at the village of Asi Gonia, perched high in a mountain pass in central Crete. He was the eldest of four children, born to a family whose only possessions were a single-room house and a few sheep and goats.

Education at the village school was basic; but unlike most of his fellows George learnt to write as well as read, and gleaned what learning he could from books lent by the schoolteacher and the village priest.

George Psychoundakis during the Resistance

When the German invasion of Crete began, he was 21, a light, wiry, elfin figure who could move among the mountains with speed and agility. While the Germans imposed their rule with the utmost brutality, Psychoundakis was among the many who guided straggling Allied soldiers over the mountains to the south coast, from where they could be evacuated.

As the Resistance grew more organised, Psychoundakis became a runner, carrying messages, wireless sets, batteries and weapons between villages and secret wireless stations, always on foot, always in danger, often exhausted and hungry, over some of the most precipitous terrain in Europe.

It was gruelling work, but in an interview many years later Psychoundakis made light of the hundreds of miles he covered at a run: “I felt as if I were flying, so light and easy – just like drinking a cup of coffee.”

Patrick Leigh Fermor, one of a handful of SOE officers whose job it was to co-ordinate the Cretan resistance, first met Psychoundakis at the end of July 1942 in a rocky hide-out above the village of Vaphé.

The messages Psychoundakis was carrying were twisted into tiny billets and hidden away in his clothes: “They were produced,” wrote Leigh Fermor, “with a comic kind of conjuror’s flourish, after grotesquely furtive glances over the shoulder and fingers laid on lips in a caricature of clandestine security precautions that made us all laugh.” His clothes were in rags, one of his patched boots was held together with a length of wire – but his humour and cheerfulness were infectious.

Humour and danger went hand in hand. Psychoundakis told how a couple of German soldiers decided to help him with an overladen donkey, which was carrying a heavy wireless set under bags of wheat. The Germans beat the poor creature so hard that Psychoundakis was afraid they would knock off the saddle-bags – but mercifully their attention was drawn to some village girls, and the soldiers started flirting with them instead.

He also describes British officers with wry amusement – one had “pyjamas, a washbasin, and a thousand and two mysterious objects. He wore a row of medals on his breast, and had a rucksack full of geological books which he studied all day long.”

At the same time, the harshness of everyday life was everpresent. Near starvation at one point with another SOE officer, Jack Smith-Hughes, Psychoundakis described how they picked broken snail shells off blades of grass and ate them, pretending that each was more delicious than the last.

A bed of springy branches in a dry cave was a luxury: George spent many a night freezing on a rain-soaked mountainside, listening out for German search-parties, knowing what they would do if he were caught. Tales of torture, burning villages and summary executions were all too familiar. On the one occasion he visited England, in 1955, Psychoundakis was awarded the King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom. Continue reading

Xan Fielding Obituary

After much searching I can bring you what I believe to be the only on-line obituary to Xan Fielding which I have retyped from the Daily Telegraph Second Book of Obituaries: Heroes and Adventurers. This includes a special tribute from Paddy to one of his closest friends.

First published in the Daily Telegraph 20 August 1991

Xan Fielding, the author, translator, journalist and adventurous traveller, who has died in Paris aged 72, lived a charmed life as a Special Operations Executive agent in Crete, France and the Far East during the Second World War.

Short, dark, athletic and a brilliant linguist, he was God’s gift to operations in rugged mountainous regions and wherever his languages were needed.

Major Fielding was awarded the DSO in September 1942, “for going into a town”, as he said later with a typical modesty.
He had a boyish, slightly rebellious spirit which he shared with many of his contemporaries in SOE. His self-confessed, or self-proclaimed, amateurishness certainly belied a tough professionalism, great resourcefulness and bravery in action. Fielding was the sort of man one would be happy to go into the jungle with.

While still in his early twenties he was responsible for clandestine and subversive activities in large areas of enemy-occupied Crete. He survived numerous encounters with German forces, only to be rumbled by the Gestapo in France towards the end of hostilities in Europe.

Even then his luck held. Locked in a death cell at Digne in 1944, he was “sprung” in an audacious move by Christine Granville (nee Krystyna Skarbeck) whose SOE exploits matched his.

Alexander Wallace Fielding was born at Ootacamund, India, on November 26 1918. His family had long links with the Raj and his father was a major in the 50th Sikhs.

Xan’s mother died at his birth and he was largely brought up at Nice, where his grandmother’s family had considerable property. Fluent in French, he subsequently became a proficient classicist at Charterhouse and then studied briefly at Bonn, Munich and Freiberg Universities in Germany. He saw what was happening in that country and was so shocked at the attitude of the Chamberlain government that he came close to joining the Communist party.

At the end of the 1930s Fielding – who had recently been sacked as a sub-editor on the Cyprus Times and was by now unsuccessfully running a bar – found himself a misfit in the Mediterranean colony. Colonial officials abhorred his refusal to adopt their disdainful description of Cypriots as “Cyps”. That he was also reasonably fluent in Greek rendered him suspect to district commissioners, who could not speak the language of the people they administered.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, haunted by the thought that he might find himself trapped in Cyprus for the duration, he fled to Greece and found asylum on St Nicholas, an island owned by the anthropologist, Francis Turville Petre. Fielding dreaded not so much the battlefield as joining the conventional officers’ mess. But eventually news of the fall of France, the Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain induced a “stab of guilt”.

He returned to the colony and was commissioned into the Cyprus Regiment, which appealed to him on account of its perverse refusal to have any regimental pride.

On hearing in Cairo that Cretans had taken up arms against the Germans, he yearned, as he wrote later, to help lead “this concerted uprising of the technically non-combatant”.

When Crete fell, Fielding was interviewed in Egypt by SOE. He was asked: “Have you any personal objection to committing murder?” His response being deemed acceptable, Fielding was put ashore in Crete with a load of weapons and explosives by Cdr “Crap” Miers, VC, skipper of the submarine Torbay.

Continue reading

Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor obituary from Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Science

The obituary of Paddy’s father, Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor, Kt. OBE. DSc. A.R.S.M. F.G.S. M.I.M.M. F.N.I. F.A.S.B. from Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Science, Section A, Volume 8.

Page one click here for the pdf file.

Page two click here for the pdf file.

Original source.

Captain Henry Diacono

Captain Henry Diacono, who has died aged 86, was a member of SOE and was dropped into enemy-occupied France in 1944.

Published: 6:46PM BST 23 Apr 2010

Captain Henry Diacono

On February 6 that year, Diacono was dropped “blind” – that is to say, with no reception committee to meet him – into France, landing near Chartres. Accompanying him was René Dumont-Guillemet, who became leader of the “Spiritualist” circuit to the east of Paris.

They landed at 3am in a ploughed field some 15 miles from the farmhouse that was their destination. They had no time properly to hide their suitcases and parachutes, and after crossing fields, ditches and fences were still in the open when it grew light. A barn where they might have hidden up for the day had a sign on it in gothic lettering and they decided to avoid it. Then, as they passed a house in a small village, they heard the sound of a programme being broadcast in heavily-jammed English.

Dumont-Guillemet knocked on the door, while Diacono stood behind him, revolver drawn. After a few moments hesitation, they were allowed in. They washed and rested and were given directions for continuing their journey.

After a night in their “safe” house, they returned to collect their belongings but found, to their consternation, that they had disappeared. It seemed that their arrival had been spotted and that their arrest might be imminent.

At that moment a peasant appeared; and, after several minutes of verbal fencing, he told them that he had watched them hurriedly bury their possessions, had recovered them and put them in his house for safe-keeping.

Continue reading

Paddy’s Illustrator – John Craxton Telegraph Obituary

Published: 6:18PM GMT 18 Nov 2009

John Craxton, who died on November 17 aged 87, was one of the leading artists of the 1940s Neo-Romantic movement – a label which he detested throughout his life; although remaining essentially an English painter, for the past half-century he had lived an expatriate existence in Greece. He illustrated Paddy’s book covers (see blog header) and provided pen sketches for almost fifty years.

John Craxton's Reaper in a Welsh Landscape

John Craxton's 'Reaper in a Welsh Landscape', 1945 Photo: BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY

One of six children, and the fourth of five sons, John Leith Craxton was born on October 3 1922 at St John’s Wood, London, into a highly musical family. His father, Harold Craxton, was a pianist and Professor of Pianoforte at the Royal College of Music, his mother, Essie Faulkner, a violinist; his sister, Janet, was to become an oboist. The visual arts, however, were represented in his family history by the 18th-century painter Benjamin West, an ancestor on his mother’s side.

After attending seven different schools, of which the only one he enjoyed was Betteshanger, near Deal, at 17 John went to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris; on the outbreak of war he returned to London, enrolling at the Westminster and then the Central School of Art. By the age of 19 he was established in a maisonette at Abercorn Place in St John’s Wood, which he shared with another young artist, Lucian Freud.

The rent on the flat was paid by one of the most influential patrons of the day, Peter Watson, who owned Horizon magazine. Watson’s friendship was a boon in other ways: having lived in Paris before the war, he was a source of first-hand information about the latest developments in the Continental avant-garde.

Watson also gave the young artists introductions to such figures as John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Augustus John and the art historian Kenneth Clark. Clark called on the St John’s Wood flat dressed in tweeds and a country cap, and was soon giving Craxton and Freud the run of his Hampstead library as well as buying their pictures.

Because he suffered from pleurisy, in 1941 Craxton was rejected for military service. Poet in a Landscape (1941), executed after he heard that he would not be expected to fight, is typical in its combination of a subject from the romantic repertoire with disturbingly up-to-date elements. A youthful figure, based on the artist himself, sits reading in a field. But the landscape is far from idyllic: instead it is a threatening tangle of spiky, writhing branches and enormous, fleshy leaves. Both this drawing and a similar one, Dreamer in a Landscape, were reproduced in Horizon in March 1942.

Although in the early 1940s Craxton’s style oscillated rapidly between different influences – and was, to that extent, immature – it was during this period that he produced his most intense images. At this time both he and Freud were fond of using dead animals as models (when Clark called, there was a dead monkey hidden in their oven). This enthusiasm was expressed in Freud’s Chicken in Basket and Craxton’s Hare in Larder (1943), two memorable, if disturbing, works.

For Geoffrey Grigson’s anthology, The Poet’s Eye (1944), Craxton executed 16 colour lithographs which are widely regarded as among the finest book illustrations of the Neo-Romantic movement. In general they sustain the earlier mood, a point of balance between rustic dream and modernist nightmare; but some show the effect of the time he had spent in 1943-44 painting beside Sutherland in Pembrokeshire.

Sutherland’s stark influence was strong at this time, but another attraction was that, according to Peter Watson, west Wales represented the closest approach in Britain to the strong light and elemental landscape of the Mediterranean.

As soon as the war was over, Craxton took off for the Continent. By the end of 1946 he had spent time in France, where he met Picasso and patronised opium dens (but “did not inhale”). He had also visited Switzerland, where he exhibited; Italy, where he smoked a joint with Raymond Mortimer in Toscanini’s private box during the latter’s triumphant return to La Scala; and Greece, a country with which Craxton fell in love.

In Geoffrey Grigson’s monograph John Craxton: Paintings and Drawings (1948), Craxton is quoted as saying that in postwar London he felt “like an émigré… and squashed flat”. His intention, he declared, was to return to Greece as soon as possible. Years later he explained: “I wanted to put myself in an alien land and see if my talent would stand it.”

Over the next decade Craxton spent much of his time travelling in southern Europe, first settling on Poros, where he was visited by his old friend Freud. They sketched each other and exchanged the drawings as in the old days.

Back in London, Craxton joined his old friend at the gaming club Aspinalls. Over scrambled eggs and champagne, Freud told him that, desperate for money, he had sold the drawings Craxton had given him, adding: “You don’t mind, do you?”

Some time later Craxton too found himself strapped for cash, and was persuaded to sell some Freud drawings. When these were put up for sale in London, Freud was called upon to authenticate them. “Craxton is a —-“, he wrote on the back, which did no harm to their value.

In 1960 Craxton finally settled at Hania on the island of Crete, where his life was by all accounts as idyllic as his pictures had become. A devotee of Greek music, Byzantine art and Moto Guzzi motorcycles, he was for many years the honorary British consul on the island; from time to time he would be telephoned by the embassy and asked if he could find a hotel for a visiting dignitary such as the Duke of Kent, or girls for cocktail parties for the ships that came in.

From the late 1940s Craxton’s favourite subject had been the sun-baked south, with its sparkling seas, olive trees, goats and human inhabitants; and his characteristic mood was a lyric contentment very different from the bleak misanthropy of many of his contemporaries.

The Tate’s Pastoral for PW (Peter Watson) of 1948 is a good early example of Craxton’s mature manner. The subject – a solitary piper strolling among trees and grazing flocks – belongs to the world of Virgil’s Eclogues; but the paramount stylistic influences are now Picasso and Miró (purged, however, of their violence and savage vitality). The flat, numinous art of Byzantium also made a deep impression on the artist.

Craxton painted prolifically throughout his life. He also designed a ballet, Daphnis et Chloë, for Frederick Ashton in 1951, and produced the scenery and costumes for Stravinsky’s Apollo at the Royal Opera House in 1968.

Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese

Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese

Of his many illustrations for the books of Patrick Leigh Fermor, the most delightful – and the most expressive of the ardent philhellenism he shared with the author – was the frontispiece for Mani (1958).

John Craxton was elected a Royal Academician in 1993. His last London exhibition was at Art First in 2001.

Craxton had his detractors – at the time of his Whitechapel retrospective in 1967 critics muttered scathingly about superior “Chelsea restaurant murals”.

His unfashionably happy later work may come to be valued more highly in the future, but it is probably for his early work that he is likely to be best remembered.

He is survived by his long-term partner, Richard Riley.

Original obituary in the Telegraph

Joan Leigh Fermor – Obituary from The Independent

Published Tuesday, 10 June 2003

Muse who enlivened a distinguished generation

Like all adorable people Joan Leigh Fermor had something enigmatic about her nature which, together with her wonderful good looks, made her a very seductive presence.

Joan Elizabeth Eyres Monsell, photographer: born London 5 February 1912; married 1939 John Rayner (marriage dissolved 1947), 1968 Patrick Leigh Fermor; died Kardamyli, Greece 4 June 2003.

Like all adorable people Joan Leigh Fermor had something enigmatic about her nature which, together with her wonderful good looks, made her a very seductive presence.

She was also naturally self- effacing. Even in a crowd she maintained a deep and private inner self. In fact I know she regarded every agora with phobia. Paradoxically, she loved good company and long and lasting friendships. It was her elegance, luminous intelligence, curiosity, understanding and unerring high standards that made her such a perfect muse to her lifelong companion and husband Patrick Leigh Fermor, as well as friend and inspiration to a host of distinguished writers, philosophers, painters, sculptors and musicians.

Cyril Connolly described her in a letter to his mother in 1949 as “a person with whom I have everything in common – friends, tastes, intellectual interests – and very beautiful: tall, fair, slanting eyes, yellow skin”. For the future editor of the Times Literary Supplement Alan Pryce-Jones, 17 years earlier, she was

very fair, with huge myopic blue eyes. Her voice had a delicious quaver – no, not quite quaver, an undulation rather in it; her talk was unexpected, funny, clear-minded. She had no time for inessentials; though she was a natural enjoyer, she was also a perfectionist whom [aged 20] experience had already taught to be wary.

When I first met her in 1942 through Peter Watson, owner and founder with Connolly of Horizon magazine, she was living as his neighbour in the only modern block of flats in London, 10 Palace Gate, designed by Welles Coates. She was a dazzling beauty and I, an awkward 20-year-old, was utterly stage-struck when she invited me to dance with her one evening at the very smart Boeuf sur le Toit night-club. The manager tried to remove me as I was wearing sandals, but was promptly reprimanded by Joan.

By wonderful good fortune she was already in Greece when in May 1946 I turned up for the first time in Athens, where she introduced me one evening to Paddy Leigh Fermor, who with his knowledge of the Greek countryside near Athens was instrumental in finding me a place to live and paint on the island of Poros. Joan’s love of Greece and the Greeks started, like mine, from this time.

Athens just after the Second World War was host to a unique group of marvellously talented men and women that included the philhellenes Steven Runciman, Maurice Cardiff, Lady Norton and Osbert Lancaster (whose secretary she had been), the Anglophile Greek painter Nico Ghika, the poet George Seferis and George Katsimbalis, Henry Miller’s colossus of Maroussi.

Anyone who thought foolishly that Joan herself was not really doing anything was as far from the truth as it is possible to get. Her unwavering empathy, generosity, taste and intelligence made her a creative catalyst to all who became her friends. Later on, Constant Lambert, Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Dadie Rylands, Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, Balthus, Maurice Bowra and Freddie Ayer, to name only a few, were all devoted admirers.

Joan herself was at that time one of the finest amateur photographers in England. Her photographs were first published, through her friend John Betjeman, in the Architectural Review, and then in Horizon, and are to be found in her husband Paddy’s books about Greece – Mani: travels in the southern Peloponnese (1958) and Roumeli: travels in northern Greece (1966). In 1948 she was employed by Cyril Connolly to be his photographer for a guidebook to south-west France, a book he never wrote, perhaps because, as he recorded in his journal, he “fell very much in love”, distracted by

her dark green cardigan and grey trousers, her camera slung over her shoulder and her golden hair bobbing as she walks, always a little fairer than you think, like the wind in a stubble-field.

During the war she was commissioned to take photographs of buildings vulnerable to bombing. After it a favourite subject was cemeteries – in Paris (Père la Chaise), notably, and Genoa. Somehow I never dared ask her why she gave up photography. It was always foolish to ask Joan a question when one already had a jolly good idea of what the answer might be: probably she did not think she was good enough.

At one time she owned a large convertible Bentley, appropriately nicknamed Moloch. It guzzled petrol as a row of thirsty Lombardy poplars needs water. One summer we set off in it with Paddy to drive to Italy, Joan at the wheel all the way, to meet up with Tom Fisher, Ruth Page, Freddy Ashton and Margot Fonteyn at the Villa Cimbroni in Ravello. We made frequent stops to explore Romanesque churches and eat unforgettable meals in little out-of-the-way restaurants, serving exactly the kind of French cooking admired and written about by Elizabeth David, whom Joan herself so much revered.

Joan and I shared a lifelong affection for cats. Paddy had less admiration and called them “interior desecrators and downholsterers”. Greek cats are good examples of a feline Parkinson’s Law. They prosper. Joan managed to have a large and endearing accumulation of them. One could not call them a collection; they were more like a flock, with Joan their shepherdess, handing out free meals. They repaid her generosity by offering her in winter a duvet of living fur for her bed.

With her beloved brother, Graham Eyres Monsell, she shared an exceptionally good and discerning ear for music. Her collection of eclectic and legendary performances of records was a constant joy for her and all her musical friends. Unfortunately, the vinyl long-playing discs made themselves irresistibly attractive to Greek dust.

She was born Joan Eyres Monsell in 1912, the second of three daughters of Bolton Eyres Monsell, the Conservative MP for South Evesham, later First Lord of the Admiralty and first Viscount Monsell. He had adopted the “Eyres” on his marriage in 1904 to Joan’s mother, Sybil Eyres, heiress to Dumbleton Hall in Worcestershire (subject of two Betjeman poems). Joan went to school at St James’s, Malvern, where in seven years she regretted that she learnt no Latin or Greek; all they taught, she said, was how to curtsy. She was “finished” in Paris and Florence.

When Alan Pryce-Jones fell in love with her in 1932, the First Lord saw him off. “I gather you want to marry my daughter,” he said. “What is your place? And what job have you?” Pryce-Jones had no “place” and no job. “And so, Pryce-Jones, having nothing, without prospects, without a home, you expect to marry my daughter, who has always had the best of everything . . . No, no, Pryce-Jones, come back in a few years when you have something behind you.”

Instead, two months before war broke out in 1939, she married John Rayner, then features editor of the Daily Express, but the marriage did not last, and they divorced in 1947. She served as a nurse, and then worked in the cipher department of embassies overseas, in Spain, then in Algiers and in Cairo, where she moved in the set that included Lawrence Durrell, Robin Fedden and Charles Johnston. It was in Cairo that she met Paddy Leigh Fermor.

She was happiest living with Paddy in what must be the most beautiful house in the Peloponnese, at Kardamyli in the Mani, which she and Paddy built of stone for themselves by the sea on a low promontory between two small bays. “Of course that big room,” John Betjeman wrote to the Leigh Fermors in 1969, “is one of the rooms in the world.”

John Craxton

Joan Leigh Fermor was one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Apart from beauty and acute intelligence, she had to an unusual degree genuine goodness, both natural and willed, which informed all her actions and relationships. Her great generosity was as natural as discreet, based on her perceptive understanding of those less privileged or lucky than herself.

I first met Joan and Paddy when I married my English husband and settled in London in the early 1960s. Their house in Chelsea was always full of guests, and Joan was the most gracious and informal of hostesses. But unlike some hostesses she did not care whether her guests were successful or not, famous or obscure. I never heard her pronounce a second-hand opinion about a book or a picture. She helped both maternally and with friendship many an impecunious writer and artist whose work she liked, and her sympathy extended to all those to whom life had dealt less favourable cards.

Joan was not religious – just saintly. And although not a believer she was deeply spiritual, to me an example of alma naturalis Christiana. Although she had no children, she had a few daughters and sons – among whom I hoped to be counted – who adored her. She made one feel that, as long as she was there, all was not ill with the world.

Shusha Guppy (whose obituary can be read here)

From The Independent

Joan Leigh Fermor – Obituary from Daily Telegraph

Published: 12:00AM BST 05 Jul 2003

Joan Leigh Fermor, who has died aged 91, created a remarkable house in southern Greece with her husband, the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, which attracted a host of distinguished figures from the literary and social spheres.

Joan Leigh Fermor was a noted beauty, with a ready gift for company and a sharp intelligence; her friends and admirers included Maurice Bowra, Cyril Connolly, Stephen Spender, Giacometti, Lawrence Durrell, and what sometimes seemed like almost every figure from the literary and scholarly worlds who gathered around the Mediterranean after the Second World War. She was also one of the most distinguished amateur photographers of her generation, and provided the illustrations for several of her husband’s books.

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Mani (1958), an account of his travels with his wife in the southern Peloponnese, was illustrated with Joan’s photographs; eight years later, the couple produced Roumeli, devoted to the north of the country. In addition, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Three Letters from the Andes (1991), an account of his mountaineering expedition 20 years earlier, were addressed to his wife. They provided a picture of the gentleman traveller, stoical in the face of all hardships (other than the preparation of a hard-boiled egg at altitude).

Joan Elizabeth Eyres Monsell was born on February 5 1912 at Dumbleton, Gloucestershire. Her father was Bolton Eyres Monsell, the Tory MP for South Worcestershire who went on to become Chief Whip and First Lord of the Admiralty before being created Viscount Monsell in 1935. He had added the name Eyres on his marriage to his wife (Caroline Mary) Sybil, who was lady of the manor and patroness of the living at Dumbleton.

Joan was educated at St James’s, Malvern, and at finishing schools in Paris and Florence. Afterwards she became keen on photography, concentrating – on the advice of her friend John Betjeman – on architectural studies. The first among these were published in Architecture Review; she went on to become a contributor to Horizon.

On the outbreak of war, Joan Monsell became a nurse, and also took photographs of architectural sites which were thought vulnerable to bombing. She then joined the cypher departments of the British embassies in Madrid, Algiers and then Cairo, where she became friendly with Lawrence Durrell, Robin Fedden and Charles Johnston, and where she met Patrick Leigh Fermor. From Cairo, she managed to escape on leave in order to travel in Kurdistan, before moving to Athens, where she became secretary to the cartoonist Osbert Lancaster.

Joan Leigh Fermor was passionately fond of cats, eight of which were settled about her her bed on her last morning. She was also addicted to chess, and kittens were reprimanded only if they had the temerity to muddle the pieces. She was accommodating, too, of her husband’s derring-do – though she watched him swim the Hellespont (at the age of 69) “sitting on her hands so as not to wring them”.

She died on June 4 after a fall in the Mani, where she and her husband had settled nearly half a century before, living in tents while constructing their home. The house, centred on a great room full of books (and often also music), stands on a wild peninsula on the southernmost tip of Greece, looking out on olive groves and cypresses toward the sea, against a backdrop of mountains. There the Leigh Fermors entertained many visitors, plying them with large quantities of wine and the sea-green olive oil from their own trees.

She married, first, in 1939, John Rayner, features editor of the Daily Express; but the match did not survive the war, and was dissolved in 1947. She married Patrick Leigh Fermor in 1968.

Billa Harrod writes: Joan and I met when we were both 18 and remained great friends for more than 70 years. Neither of us was quite the sort of daughter our mothers would have hoped for (luckily they had others). We were very lucky in our backgrounds of big comfortable houses – which we did not always treat as well as we should have, once breaking off an arm of a dignified candelabrum at Dumbleton. (Though when Joan’s father was First Lord of the Admiralty and they lived at Admiralty House in Whitehall, we did appreciate the beautiful fish furniture.)

Joan had more money than most of her friends and was quietly but largely generous when she saw that it would be helpful. She was beautiful and elegant, and also a highbrow, who had the highest standards, and did not suffer fools gladly. Although her actual schooling was rather feeble, she had read a vast amount and had an excellent memory. Music and literature were her real interests, but she was also a superb cook, and taught others to be. The food in her various houses was always delicious.

Major Dennis Ciclitira Obituary from Daily Telegraph

Published: 12:00AM BST 16 Jun 2000

SOE officer undercover in Crete who organised the German surrender

MAJOR DENNIS CICLITIRA, who has died aged 81, was in charge of SOE’s operations in western Crete during the Second World War and eventually arranged for the German surrender of the island.

Ciclitira arrived on Crete just before Christmas 1943, taking over supervision for the area around the town of Canea from Xan Fielding. Liaison with the Cretan Resistance was led by the classicist Tom Dunbabin, who from the spring of 1942 had been supervising the activities of a handful of SOE officers, among them Patrick Leigh Fermor, who were living rough with the andartes or guerrillas in mountain eyries.

Ciclitira at sea between Cairo and Crete. (The Times)

One of Ciclitira’s first important tasks was to help to organise the evacuation of Leigh Fermor after he and Billy Moss had successfully abducted the commandant of the island, General Kreipe, from his staff car in April 1944. In his book Ill Met By Moonlight (1950), Moss describes encountering Ciclitira in his cave hideout.

“He has grown an impressive beard,” he wrote, “which he treats with the affection of a spinster for her favourite cat, and wears an elegant sort of musical comedy costume, complete with wine-coloured cummerbund, turban and the usual trappings.”

Two of Ciclitira’s men had already been killed by the Nazis, but despite their strenuous efforts to catch him, he managed to maintain wireless communications with Cairo and to arrange for Leigh Fermor and his prize to be picked up by motor launch. When he arrived at the rendezvous he found Moss and Leigh Fermor flashing their torches out to sea in frantic desperation, as neither knew the Morse Code for the pre-arranged signal. Fortunately, Ciclitira did.

Ciclitira left with them on the boat, but subsequently returned to Crete, where he operated under the codename Dionysios. In January 1945, the German garrison of 12,000 began to withdraw to the western end of the island, taking with them prisoners who included Costa Mitsotakis, later the Prime Minister of Greece but then an agent for the Resistance. The Germans had orders to execute all such captives, but Ciclitira managed to contact the German authorities with a view to making an exchange of prisoners.

Ciclitira went to the meeting with Captain Lassen of the Special Boat Section, who soon became exasperated by the horse-trading and suggested that his commando unit, who were hiding in the mountains, should play the Germans at football, with the winner to take all. This suggestion greatly amused Bishop Xirouhakis of Kydonia, who was mediating at the talks and offered to act as referee in any such match.

In the event, after Ciclitira had travelled by caique to Athens for further discussions, 36 German PoWs were exchanged for 10 Cretan agents, probably saving their lives. On May 8, Ciclitira received a message to contact General Benthag, the German commander, to make arrangements for a formal surrender. Dressed in suits, he and Mitsotakis – a fluent German speaker – presented themselves at Benthag’s headquarters. Preliminary terms were then agreed, but since the general could only surrender to an officer of equal rank, it was decided that he should be flown to the British HQ at Heraklion.

Benthag asked how Ciclitira proposed to contact his senior officer, and was most put out to discover that Ciclitira’s transmitter was hidden next door to German HQ, where the volume of radio traffic concealed Ciclitira’s own signals from direction-finding cars. The next evening, although the surrender had not been made public, Ciclitira and his comrades sneaked into Canea and invited their German counterparts to a party; the garrison provided them with a jazz band. The next day, Ciclitira joined in the wild celebrations that greeted Liberation.

Read the full Telegraph obituary.

Colonel George Lane

Colonel George Lane, who has died aged 95, fought with SOE and was awarded an MC for his service with the Commandos during the Second World War; captured on a secret mission, he was invited to tea by Field Marshal Rommel, who, Lane always thought, courteously prevented him from being shot by the Gestapo.

Read the full Telegraph obituary.

Sophie Moss Obituary from Daily Telegraph

Sophie Moss

Sophie Moss, who has died aged 92, was, as Countess Zofia Tarnowksa, the hostess of a villa in wartime Cairo where high-spirited young SOE agents on leave from secret assignments behind enemy lines held some of the most riotous parties of the war.

With considerable misgivings (and a fictitious chaperone), she agreed to join the all-male household on Gezira island at the invitation of her future husband, the officer Billy Moss, and moved in with her few possessions, which included a swimsuit, an evening dress, a uniform and two pet mongooses.

In the field, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Billy McLean, David Smiley, Rowland Winn and Xan Fielding were cold, hungry, lice-ridden and in constant danger. But on leave with months of back pay to spend, they held uproarious parties at the villa, which they called Tara.

These attracted the most distinguished soldiers, diplomats, writers and, on one occasion, King Farouk, who arrived with a crate of champagne. The evenings grew steadily more rowdy. Usually glasses were smashed. One night some chairs were broken when a mock bullfight was staged. On another, Sophie’s Polish friends shot out all the light bulbs, and on yet another a sofa caught fire then was hurled through a plate-glass window.

Since costly repairs were needed afterwards, Abbas, the butler-cook, tried to raise funds by accosting guests at the gate and holding out his tarboosh for contributions. Sophie put a stop to this, then remembered how soft fruits were added to vodka to make delicious liqueurs on her father’s Polish estates. The household agreed to an experiment using the bath, in which prunes were mixed with raw alcohol from the local garage. The results were disappointing, though Sophie insisted that this was because they were too impatient to wait for the mixture to mature. When they started drinking it after three days, two imbibers passed out.

The bathroom had other uses. In late 1943, when Leigh Fermor and Moss were planning a kidnapping on Crete, they sat around wearing next-to-nothing while David Smiley, fresh from Albania, explained how to organise the perfect ambush – drawing a diagram on the steamed-up tiles. After their success in capturing General Heinrich Kreipe, Leigh Fermor and Moss returned to Tara as heroes.

Zofia Roza Maria Jadwiga Elzbieta Katarzyna Aniela Tarnowska was born on March 16 1917 at Rudnik, a forested estate near Tarnobrzeg, a town in south-eastern Poland founded by her family in 1593. Over the centuries the Tarnowskis had held some of the highest offices in Poland. But Sophie’s father descended from a cadet branch of the family, and wanted to be only a country gentleman. His marriage was unhappy, and Sophie and her brother Stanislaw grew up headstrong and mischievous.

Her tricks and practical jokes turned her governesses into nervous wrecks until her mother sent her to a convent. Sophie got into trouble for standing on a pudding to prove it was inedible, ran away and refused to go back. She was happiest with animals, galloping through the forests on horseback or playing with deer, foxes, a goat and a red squirrel.

In 1937 she married Andrew Tarnowski, a member of the senior branch of the family. Her first son was under two when he died (on the day she gave birth to her second) in July 1939. As war drew closer, Sophie decided that she would never abandon Poland and burned her passport. It was, as her daughter said, “a very romantic and Polish thing to do”, but it changed nothing. On September 8, when the Germans were pouring over the western frontier and the Russians were approaching from the east, she set off by car for Romania with her husband and their baby, her brother, his fiancée Chouquette and her sister.

On arriving in Belgrade she lost her second son before the family drove on to Greece and Palestine. Her husband, now a corporal in the Carpathian Rifles, was on leave in Jerusalem when he told Sophie he was in love with Chouquette. Later Sophie accompanied Chouquette and her son to Cairo, where an uncle of King Farouk, who had often hunted on the Tarnowski estates, had offered them a luxurious villa. She soon moved out.

After joining the International Red Cross, Sophie met General Sikorski, Poland’s prime minister, who suggested she start a Polish branch of the humanitarian organisation. She agreed, but only if it were established without ranks. “Are you a communist?” asked Sikorski. “No” was the reply. But senior Polish ladies might resent a badge of superiority on someone whose husband was only a corporal, she explained. The general agreed, but when he departed she had difficulty confirming her position.

Finally she presented a large bouquet of flowers to the wife of the British ambassador in Cairo, Sir Miles Lampson – with whose help she was equipped with a committee, an office and a truck to
deliver clothes and food. She also visited hospitals and arranged patients’ outings, and helped Polish PoWs in Germany to contact their scattered families.

After divorcing Andrew, she married Billy Moss in 1945. The couple settled in London, where he prepared his Cretan diary about the kidnapping for publication as the best-selling Ill Met By Moonlight. But money was always tight. She lost a third son, but had two daughters. She and Moss translated a book of short stories by the Polish writer Bruno Schultz. But by the late 1950s, their marriage was over. She took in lodgers and spent time in Ireland, where she became a keen gardener.

In 1957 Sophie and her brother were allowed to visit their childhood home, where the NKVD had used the cellars as a jail during the war. They were not allowed into the building, but were treated to an open-air banquet by dozens of old retainers and peasants. At Gora Ropczycki, the house where she and her first husband had lived till 1939, old farmhands thanked her for keeping up their spirits in the first days of the war.

After the fall of communism Sophie’s nephew Adam bought back Rudnik, and Sophie presided over a family gathering in 1999. But too much had changed for her to contemplate settling there.

Last year some of the poems she had written in Cairo were published in a private edition. One, which was translated into English, asks for the white wings of her childhood guardian angel to take her home.

She died on November 22, surrounded by her family in Sussex.

Sophie Moss

Sophie Moss was wilful, lively and bloody-minded, with an almost total recall of a past in pre-Second World War Poland that was privileged yet full of turmoil. Later, in wartime Cairo, she lived with members of Britain’s Special Operations Executive in a house where wild parties were the norm.

Sophie Moss was born Countess Zofia Roza Jadwiga Elzbieta Tarnowska on 16 March 1917 on the estate of her father, Count Hieronim Tarnowski, at Rudnik in Galicia, south-eastern Poland. She spent her childhood roaming free, taming foxes, birds and deer. When she was 13 her parents separated, and she went with her mother, née Countess Wanda Zamoyska.

She married Andrew Tarnowski, a close cousin she had fallen in love with at 17 on a wolf hunt, and by 1939 she had had two sons; the elder died the day his brother was born. Sophie never forgot her return to her marital home with her second baby, (who would also soon die). She stood on Krakow Station: “I saw my train arriving with blood streaming down its side. Young military conscripts had travelled on the roof and, as it passed under a low bridge, had lost their lives. The sight of that train pouring blood was an omen of what, within days, was to be the fate of Poland.”

Within hours of the German invasion, refugees from western Poland started arriving. Sophie put them in bedrooms, then on mattresses, and in the stables, then had sheep and cows from the estate killed to feed them. She said that it was then that she grew up. She was persuaded by her husband and brother to flee with them. The men wanted to enlist abroad to fight for their country and, after an arduous and long journey they ended up in Palestine, and eventually Cairo, where she started the Polish branch of the Cairo Red Cross.

In autumn 1943, estranged from Tarnowski, she was invited to live in a villa with seven young British officers working for the Special Operations Executive. She moved in with a bathing suit, an evening gown and two mongooses she had rescued for 10 shillings.

She called this time her “university”, her teachers being the daredevil officers. Tara residents included Arnold Breene, Billy Maclean, David Smiley, Rowland Winn (later Lord St Oswald) and Xan Fielding. Another was William Stanley Moss (Billy), whom Moss went on to marry, in 1945.

In 1944 Moss and Patrick Leigh-Fermor kidnapped General Major Karl Kriepe, commander of the German forces occupying Crete; Billy’s account of the incident, Ill Met by Moonlight (1952), was made into a 1957 film.

Wild parties were thrown at the house, for diplomats, officers, war correspondents, princes, the British Ambassador and King Farouk. Moss tried to replicate the liqueurs from her father’s estate, using plums added to vodka. However, the concoction was always drunk before it had had a chance to ferment. At one party, Poles shot out all the light bulbs.

Another resident was a beer-drinking, house-trained bear, acquired in Russia by Poles who had been let out of Stalin’s gulags to form the Second Polish Army. Worried that the British authorities would not allow the bear to continue fighting with them into Europe, they asked Moss to take him while they retrained. She appealed to King Farouk, who declared: “You are my guest, and so is the bear!” and delegated Egyptian policemen to take it for walks. The bear went on to experience many battles, including Monte Cassino, and died in Scotland of old age. He now resides, stuffed, in London’s Sikorski Museum.

Last year Sophie’s poems, written mostly in Cairo during the war in Polish, were found. Sophie’s relation, the actress Rula Lenska, helped translate them at a launch held at the Sikorski Museum, the stuffed bear nearby In one poem she wrote: “If I fear death / it is of dying of boredom.”

Elisa Segrave

Ralph Stockbridge

Stockbridge (centre, in the spectacles) with some of his comrades in Crete

Ralph Stockbridge, who has died aged 92, was awarded two MCs for the notable part that he played in the Cretan Resistance to the German occupation; he spent the remainder of his career working for MI6.

During his time in Crete he knew and worked with Paddy.

Read his Telegraph obituary here.