Xan Fielding

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Major
Xan Fielding
DSO
Birth name Alexander Wallace Fielding
Born (1918-11-26)26 November 1918
Ootacamund, India
Died 19 August 1991(1991-08-19) (aged 72)
Paris, France
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1940 – 1946
Rank Major
Service number 159770
Unit Cyprus Regiment
Special Operations Executive
Battles/wars World War II
Awards
Other work Author, translator

Major Xan Fielding DSO (26 November 1918 – 19 August 1991) was a British author, translator, journalist and traveller, who served as an Special Operations Executive agent in Crete, France and the Far East during World War II.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Alexander Wallace Fielding was born at Ootacamund, India, where his father,[1] Percival Wallace Fielding[2][3] served in the Indian Army, as a major in the 50th Sikhs.[1] Fielding's mother died soon after his birth, and he was largely brought up in Nice, France, by his grandparents. He was educated at Charterhouse School, and then studied briefly at the Universities of Bonn, Munich and Freiberg in Germany. In the late 1930s Fielding moved to Cyprus, where he worked as a sub-editor on The Cyprus Times and ran a bar.[1]

Crete[edit]

Following the fall of France, Fielding joined the Army,[1] and was commissioned into the Cyprus Regiment as a second lieutenant on 1 September 1940.[4] After the fall of Crete in May 1941, he joined the Special Operations Executive, and was eventually landed in Crete with a supply of weapons and explosives by the submarine Torbay, under Commander Anthony Miers.[1] Fielding teamed up with Patrick Leigh Fermor, and built an intelligence gathering network which provided detailed information on the movement of Axis troops, shipping, and air transport.[5] He also arranged for the transportation to Egypt of hundreds of Allied soldiers left behind after the evacuation, and now being hidden by the Cretans.[6] After six months Fielding returned to Cairo,[1] and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 15 October 1942.[7]

Fielding finally returned to Crete at the end of 1942.[1] In November 1943 he successfully concluded a pact between the two rival groups of andartes, the communist-led EAM-ELAS and the EOK, the national organisation of Crete.[5] He was then relieved by Dennis Ciclitira.[8] In Cairo, he became a member of the famous Tara household created by Bill Stanley Moss.

France[edit]

In early 1944 Fielding volunteered to join the French section of SOE, and was parachuted into the south of France in mid-1944, where he was met by two other SOE agents; Francis Cammaerts (codename "Roger") and Christine Granville (codename "Pauline") of the "Jockey" network.[1] On 13 August 1944 Fielding, Cammaerts, and a French agent Christian Sorensen, were stopped at a road block near Digne. An irregularity in Fielding's papers, plus the large amount of cash he and Cammaerts were carrying aroused suspicion and they were arrested. Granville soon arrived at Digne prison posing as Cammaert's wife and using a mixture of bribery and threats persuaded the Germans to release them. As a result the men were led out of prison expecting to be shot, and were astonished to be met by Granville, waiting for them with a car.[1]

Post-war career[edit]

Before the war in Europe ended Fielding briefly returned to Crete; he was one of the first Allied officers to enter liberated Athens. He served in the Far East for a few months until the end of the war, and visited Tibet. He then spent six months in Germany serving with the Special Intelligence Service, before serving as a United Nations observer in the Balkans in 1946.[1]

In 1948 he met Daphne Thynne, the wife of Henry Thynne, 6th Marquess of Bath. After her divorce, they were married in 1953[1] and lived in Cornwall, Morocco, Portugal and Uzès.[9]

In 1956 Fielding was hired by Michael Powell to act as technical adviser for the filming of Bill Stanley Moss's book Ill Met by Moonlight – the story of Leigh Fermor's and Moss's abduction of General Kreipe, the German commander in Crete.[1]

Fielding wrote a number of books; including The Stronghold, an account of SOE's Cretan operations, and a memoir of his own wartime experiences Hide and Seek (which he dedicated to Christine Granville).[5] He also provided the English translations for many of the works of the French novelist Pierre Boulle, including his best-known books Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï (The Bridge over the River Kwai) and La Planète des singes (Planet of the Apes). He translated several books by Jean Lartéguy, as well as works by Gabriel Chevallier, Pierre Schoendoerffer and Jean Hougron. Fielding also collaborated with Patrick Leigh Fermor in a translation from Greek of George Psychoundakis' book The Cretan Runner.

His marriage to Daphne was dissolved in 1978,[9] and he married Agnes "Magouche" Phillips, the daughter of Admiral John H. Magruder of the U.S. Navy and the widow of the artist Arshile Gorky.[5]

Fielding died in Paris, France, in 1991.

Publications[edit]

  • The Stronghold: An account of the four seasons in the White Mountains of Crete (1953)
  • Hide and Seek: The Story of a War-time Agent (1954)
  • Corsair Country: The diary of a journey along the Barbary Coast (1958)
  • The Money Spinner: Monte Carlo and Its Fabled Casino (1977)
  • One Man in His Time, The Life of Lieutenant-Colonel N.L.D. ("Billy") McLean DSO (1990)
  • Images of Spain (1991)
  • Aeolus Displayed (1992)
  • A Hideous Disguise (1994)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Obituary : Xan Fielding". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). 20 August 1991. 
  2. ^ Lundy, Darryl (2012). "Major Alexander Wallace Fielding". thepeerage.com. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "Alexander Wallace (Xan) Fielding". Special Forces Roll Of Honour. 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35034. p. 130. 3 January 1941. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d "Obituary : Xan Fielding". The Times (London: News Corp.). 21 August 1991. 
  6. ^ Rudd, Bill (2011). "ANZAC POW : Free Men in Europe". aifpow.com. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35745. p. 4479. 13 October 1942. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  8. ^ "Major Dennis Ciclitira". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). 16 June 2000. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Vickers, Hugo (17 December 1997). "Obituary: Daphne Fielding". The Independent (London: INM). ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 

External links[edit]