14 Jun 2011

Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE (11 February 1915 – 10 June 2011)

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Patrick Leigh Fermor (right) in German uniform before the capture of General Kreipe in April 1944

Leigh Fermor’s most famous exploit was the capture and abduction during WWII of the German military governor of Crete General Karl Heinrich Kreipe on April 26, 1944, which episode’s highpoint is described in William Davenport’s 2008 review of a published collection of the letters exchanged between Leigh Fermor and Deborah Devonshire.

In Leigh Fermor’s own account of the abduction of General Kreipe, the climax comes not as the general’s staff car is stopped at night by a British SOE partly dressed in stolen German uniforms, nor as the Cretan partisans help smuggle the general into the highlands and hence to a waiting British submarine; but instead as ‘a brilliant dawn was breaking over the crest of Mount Ida’.

‘We were all three lying smoking in silence, when the general, half to himself, slowly said, “Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte“. It was the opening of one of the few Horace odes I knew by heart. I went on reciting where he had broken off… The general’s blue eyes swivelled away from the mountain top to mine – and when I’d finished, after a long silence, he said: “Ach so, Herr Major!” It was very strange. “Ja, Herr General.” As though for a moment, the war had ceased to exist. We had both drunk at the same fountains long before; and things were different between us for the rest of our time together.’

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The Telegraph obituary

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Wikipedia biography

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Paul Rahe knew Leigh Fermor and wrote his own tribute.

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