Patrick Leigh Fermor

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Sir Patrick 'Paddy' Michael Leigh Fermor DSO OBE (born 11 February 1915) is a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Battle of Crete during World War II. He is widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer".[1]



He was born in London, the son of Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor, a distinguished geologist, and Muriel Aeyleen (née Ambler).

Shortly after Patrick was born, his mother left to join his father in India, leaving him in England with another family. As a child, Leigh Fermor had problems with academic structure and limitations. As a result, he was sent to a school for difficult children. He was later expelled from The King's School, Canterbury, when he was caught holding hands with a local greengrocer's daughter. He continued learning by reading texts on Greek, Latin, Shakespeare and History, with the intention of entering the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Early travels

At the age of 18, Leigh Fermor decided to walk the length of Europe, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople.[2] He set off on 8 December 1933, shortly after Hitler had come to power in Germany, with a few clothes, the Oxford Book of English Verse and a volume of Horace's Odes. He slept in barns and shepherds' huts, but also was invited by landed gentry and aristocracy into the country houses of Central Europe. Along the way, he heard many stories and dialects.

Two of his subsequent travel books, A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between the Woods and the Water (1986), detail this journey. Written decades later, they benefit from his scholarly learning, and give a wealth of historical, geographical, linguistic and anthropological information as the narrative proceeds. A planned third volume, intended to follow the journey to its completion in Constantinople, has not yet appeared.

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