Peter Fleming (writer)
|Born||Robert Peter Fleming
31 May 1907
|Died||18 August 1971
|Spouse(s)||Celia Johnson (m. 1935–1971)|
Peter Fleming was one of four sons of the barrister and MP Valentine Fleming who was killed in action in 1917, having served as MP for Henley from 1910. His younger brother was Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books.
Peter Fleming was educated at Eton College and then at Christ Church, Oxford, where he got a First in English. While at Eton, he was the editor of the Eton College Chronicle, and the Peter Fleming Owl (the English meaning of "Strix", the name under which he later wrote for The Spectator) is still awarded every year to the best contributor to the Chronicle.
During World War II, he served with the Grenadier Guards; later Peter and his brother Ian were commissioned by Colin Gubbins to help establish the Auxiliary Units. This was to be the "secret army" of civilian volunteers that would fight on, behind enemy lines, as part of the British anti-invasion preparations of World War II. Fleming later served in Norway and Greece; his principal service, however, from 1942 to the end of the war, was as head of "D Division," in charge of military deception operations in Southeast Asia. He was awarded the Order of the Cloud and Banner (Chinese military honour) and he received an OBE(Military division), for his services in 1945.
After the war, Peter Fleming retired to squiredom at Nettlebed, Oxfordshire. He is buried in Nettlebed churchyard. The gravestone reads:
- He travelled widely in far places;
- Wrote, and was widely read.
- Soldiered, saw some of danger's faces,
- Came home to Nettlebed.
- The squire lies here, his journeys ended –
- Dust, and a name on a stone –
- Content, amid the lands he tended,
- To keep this rendezvous alone.
In April 1932 Fleming replied to an advertisement in the personal columns of The Times: “Exploring and sporting expedition, under experienced guidance, leaving England June to explore rivers central Brazil, if possible ascertain fate Colonel Percy Fawcett; abundant game, big and small; exceptional fishing; ROOM TWO MORE GUNS; highest references expected and given.”
The expedition, organised by Richard Churchyard, travelled to São Paulo, then overland to the rivers Araguaia and Tapirapé[disambiguation needed], heading towards the likely last-known position of the Fawcett expedition. During the inward journey, the expedition was riven by increasing internal disagreements as to its objectives and plans, centred particularly on its local leader, 'Major Pingle' (a pseudonym). Finally, Fleming and Roger Pettiward (a school and university friend recruited onto the expedition as a result of a chance street encounter with Fleming) led a breakaway from Major Pingle.
The remaining expedition members continued for several days up the Tapirapé to São Domingo, from where Fleming, Pettiward, Neville Priestley and one of the Brazilians hired by the expedition set out to find evidence of Fawcett's fate on their own. After acquiring two Tapirapé guides the party began a march to the area where Fawcett was reported to have last been seen. They made slow progress for several days, losing the Indian guides and Neville to foot infection, before admitting defeat. The expedition’s return journey was made down the river Araguaia to Belém; it became a closely fought race between Fleming’s party and Major Pingle, the prize being to be the first to report home and to gain the upper hand in the battles over blame and finances that were to come. Fleming's party narrowly won. The expedition returned to England in November 1932.
Fleming’s book about this expedition, Brazilian Adventure, sold well. A classic, highly readable adventure tale of its period, it is still in print.
Travels in Asia
As a Special Correspondent of The Times traveled from Moscow to Peking via the Caucasus, the Caspian, Samarkand, Tashkent, the Turksib Railway and the Trans-Siberian Railway to Peking; eventually written up in A Forgotten Journey. He then went overland from China to India, written up in One's Company (1936) and News from Tartary (1936). These were reissued in a joint volume as Travels in Tartary: One's Company and News from Tartary (London: Cape, 1941).
Feistily British in his insouciant class condescension (Moscow was like a “servant’s quarters”), for Fleming, says Nicolas Clifford, China “had the aspect of a comic opera land whose quirks and oddities became grist for the writer rather than deserving any respect or sympathy in themselves.”  One's Company reported that Beijing was “lacking in charm,” Harbin was a city of “no easily definable character,” Changchun “entirely characterless,” and Shenyang “non-descript and suburban." Fleming, however, gave sharp insights into Japanese-run Manchukuo which helped readers understand Chinese resentment and resistance. When he arrived in the cool mountain resort of Kuling, he had a piece of luck. Mme. Chiang Kai-shek happened to spy him in the street outside her house and invited him in to meet Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Since he had not expected to meet Chiang, he was not prepared and asked only three questions. With Chiang's permission, Fleming then took a quick trip south where he was frustrated in his attempt to enter and investigate “Red China,” which was cordoned by Chiang's troops. He contented himself with noting that “Mao Dsu Tung,” as he spelled Mao Zedong's name, was “a gifted and fanatical young man of thirty-five suffering from an incurable disease.” 
Of Travels in Tartary, Owen Lattimore remarked that Fleming, who "passes for an easy-going amateur, is in fact an inspired amateur whose quick appreciation, especially of people, and original turn of phrase, echoing P. G. Wodehouse in only a very distant and cultured way, have created a unique kind of travel book." Lattimore added, it "is only in the political news from Tartary that there is a disappointment," as Fleming offers "a simplified explanation in terms of Red intrigue and Bolshevik villains which does not make sense." 
Peter and Celia Fleming remained married until his death in 1971, while on a shooting expedition near Glencoe in Argyll, Scotland. He was also survived by their three children:
- Nicholas "Nichol" Fleming (1939–1996) deposited Peter Fleming's papers for public access at the University of Reading in 1975. These include several unpublished works, as well as the manuscripts of several of his books that are now out of print.
- Kate Fleming (b. 1946) is now Kate Grimond, wife of John Grimond, foreign editor of the news magazine The Economist. John is a son of the late British Liberal Party leader Jo Grimond, and grandson maternally of Violet Bonham-Carter, herself daughter of the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. Kate and John have three children, Mary, Georgia and Rose. Kate has since the late 1990s been the co-owner of the Ian Fleming estate, with her sister Lucy. Through marriage, Fleming is distantly related to Hollywood actress, Helena Bonham Carter.
- Lucy Fleming (b. 1947), now Lucy Williams, is an actress. In the 1970s she starred as Jenny in the BBC's apocalyptic fiction series Survivors. She was first married in 1971 to Joseph "Joe" Laycock (d. 1980), son of family friend Robert Laycock and his wife Angela Dudley Ward. Lucy and Joe had two sons and a daughter, Flora. Flora and her father, Joe, were drowned in a boating accident in 1980. Lucy later married the actor and writer Simon Williams.
After the death of his brother Ian, Peter Fleming served on the board of Glidrose, Ltd., the company purchased by Ian to hold the literary rights to his professional writing, particularly the James Bond novels and short stories. As part of the board, Peter Fleming helped guide the future of the literary James Bond in the mid-to-late 1960s. He also tried to become a father-figure to Ian's surviving son, Casper, who committed suicide in his twenties.
Peter Fleming was the godfather of the British author and journalist Duff Hart-Davis, who wrote up Fleming's life as Peter Fleming: a Biography (London: Cape, 1974).
- "Public opinion in England is sharply divided on the subject of Russia. On the one hand you have the crusty majority, who believe it to be a hell on earth; on the other you have the half-baked minority who believe it to be a terrestrial paradise in the making. Both cling to their opinions with the tenacity, respectively, of the die-hard and the fanatic. Both are hopelessly wrong." – One's Company
- The recorded history of Chinese civilization covers a period of four thousand years.
- The Population of China is estimated at 450 million.
- China is larger than Europe.
- The author of this book is twenty-six years old.
- He has spent, altogether, about seven months in China.
- He does not speak Chinese.
- Preface, One’s Company,
- 1933 Brazilian Adventure — Exploring the Brazilian jungle in search of the lost Colonel Percy Fawcett.
- 1934 One's Company: A Journey to China in 1933 — Travels through Manchuria. Later reissued as half of Travels in Tartary.
- 1936 News from Tartary: A Journey from Peking to Kashmir — Journey from Peking to Srinagar via Sinkiang. He was accompanied on this journey by Ella Maillart (Kini). Later reissued as half of Travels in Tartary.
- 1952 A Forgotten Journey — A diary Fleming kept during a journey through Russia and Manchuria in 1934. Reprinted as To Peking: A Forgotten Journey from Moscow to Manchuria (2009, ISBN 978-1-84511-996-6)
- 1955 Tibetan Marches – translation from French of Caravane vers Bouddha by André Migot
- 1956 My Aunt's Rhinoceros: And Other Reflections — A collection of essays written (as "Strix") for The Spectator.
- 1957 Operation Sea Lion — an account of the planned Nazi invasion of Britain in 1940.
- 1957 Invasion 1940 — an account of British anti-invasion preparations of World War II.
- 1957 With the Guards to Mexico: And Other Excursions — A collection of essays written for The Spectator.
- 1958 The Gower Street Poltergeist — A collection of essays written for The Spectator.
- 1959 The Siege at Peking — An account of the Boxer Rebellion and the European-led siege of the Imperial capital.
- 1961 Bayonets to Lhasa: The First Full Account of the British Invasion of Tibet in 1904
- 1961 Goodbye to the Bombay Bowler — A collection of essays written for The Spectator.
- 1963 The Fate of Admiral Kolchak — a study of the White Army leader Admiral Kolchak who attempted to save the Imperial Russian family at Ekaterinburg in 1918.
- 1940 The Flying Visit — A humorous novel about an unintended visit to Britain by Adolf Hitler. Illustrated by David Low.
- 1942 A Story to Tell: And Other Tales — A collection of short stories.
- 1952 The Sixth Column: A Singular Tale of Our Times
- The Sett (unfinished, unpublished)
- Short fiction
- "Obituary Colonel Peter Fleming, Author and explorer". The Times, 20 August 1971 p14 column F.
- "Author bio], I.B. Tauris Publishers. Retrieved 2010-08-11.".[dead link]
- Nicholas J. Clifford. "A Truthful Impression of the Country": British and American Travel Writing in China, 1880-1949. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. pp. 132-33
- French, Paul (2009). Through the Looking Glass: China's Foreign Journalists from Opium Wars to Mao. Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 9622099823.
- One’s Company p. 185.
- Pacific Affairs 9.4 (1936): 605-606 
- "Peter Fleming Award". Rgs.org. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Hart-Davis 1974, p. 316.
- "Bibliography: The Kill". Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
- "Bibliography: Felipe". Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
- Cited works
- Hart-Davis, Duff (1974). Peter Fleming: A Biography. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-01028-X.
- Clifford, Nicholas J (2001). A Truthful Impression of the Country: British and American Travel Writing in China, 1880-1949. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0472111973.
- A short biography provided by the University of Reading
- A profile stressing his travel writing
- Peter Fleming genealogy. Retrieved 21 September 2007.
- Peter Fleming's daughters
- Source for the death date of his son Nicholas Fleming at ianfleming.org
- Peter Fleming's rook rifle – a correspondence
- Source for the second marriage of Lucy Fleming to a fellow actor; her father, mother, sister, and uncle are also listed in the IMDb database
- Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers.
- Podcast talk and live blogging at the Shanghai International Book Festival with Paul French's talk on Peter Fleming
- Paul French, "Peter Fleming" 
- Archival material relating to Peter Fleming (writer) listed at the UK National Archives
- Portraits of (Robert) Peter Fleming at the National Portrait Gallery, London