Sir Patrick was well known for traveling across Europe in his teens and his World War II exploits behind enemy lines in Crete.
The British travel writer was born in 1915, of English and Irish descent. He was the son of the India-based geologist Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor and Muriel Aeyleen. As a child, he had problems with his academic structure. He was expelled from from The King’s School, Canterbury, when he was caught holding hands with a local greengrocer’s daughter. He read lots of texts about Greek, Latin and History, with the intention of entering the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Leigh Fermor began his big journey in December 1933, to Mount Athos for the trip written up as The Station (1931). His course took him across Hitler’s Germany to Transylvania, then through the Balkans to Constantinople.
Leigh Fermor completed his journey on New Year’s Day 1935, traveling across the militarized zone. He next visited the country with which he would become most associated, Greece, spending his 20th birthday at St. Panteleimon, the Russian monastery on Mount Athos.
Having not attended university, Leigh Fermor, who from a young age had been an avid reader, immersed himself in the literature of various cultures, including French, German and Romanian.
When the war broke out, Leigh Fermor first joined the Irish Guards but was then transferred to the Intelligence Corps due to his knowledge of the Balkans. He was initially attached as a liaison officer to the Greek forces fighting the Italians in Albania. He fought in Crete and mainland Greece.
In 1950, Leigh Fermor’s published his first book, The Traveller’s Tree, about his post-war travels in the Caribbean. Greece was the inspiration for his two other important books, Mani (1958) and Roumeli (1966).
Patrick Leigh Fermor was awarded a military OBE in 1943 and was appointed a Companion of Literature in 1991. He received a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List, 2004.
Leigh Fermor’s war exploits and books about Greek travel made him highly popular in Greece, where he lived most of the year in a house he had designed in the 1960s near the southern village of Kardamyli.
A Greek Culture Ministry statement described him as, “perhaps the greatest contemporary travel writer, who loved Greece as his second country.”
He married, in 1968, Joan Rayner (née Eyres-Monsell), daughter of the 1st Viscount Monsell. She was his solid companion in all he did for more than 50 years. She died in 2003. There had no children.