Valentine Fleming

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For the mid-19th century Chief Justice of Tasmania, see Valentine Fleming (judge).
Valentine Fleming from the Roll of Honour published in The Illustrated London News on 9 June 1917.

Major Valentine Fleming, DSO (1882[1] – 20 May 1917) was a British Conservative Member of Parliament who was killed in World War I. He was the father of author Ian Fleming who created the James Bond character.

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Born in Newport-on-Tay, Fife, Scotland,[2] Valentine was the son of wealthy Scottish banker Robert Fleming, founder of merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co. He lived in Arnisdale House, Loch Hourn, Inverness-shire, Scotland.[1] He was married to Evelyn Beatrice St. Croix Rose and was the father of adventurer and travel writer Peter Fleming (father of actress Lucy Fleming), novelist Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond books), Major Richard Evelyn Fleming (whose son is billionaire Adam Fleming), and Michael Fleming.

He was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford.

From 1906 to 1911, the family lived at Braziers Park close to Wallingford. On his election to parliament, they moved to Pitt House on Hampstead Heath in 1910. He was a Member of Parliament for Henley from 1910 to 1917. In 1914 they built a house at Arnisdale, near Kyle of Lochalsh in the Scottish Highlands.

War years[edit]

In 1914, Valentine joined "C" Squadron, Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars, a cavalry regiment. He rose to the rank of Major.[3]

He wrote a "brisk and breezy account" to a fellow officer in England in 1914 about the start of the war. Initially the regiment had little more than "a tour of the principal French watering places" followed by a fortnight hanging about Dunkirk and St Omer ("Very dull"), but then on 30 October were told by General de Lisle to:

occupy a line of trenches on the right of Messines. This was disagreeable as projectiles of every variety were exploding with a disquieting regularity all over the ground of our advance. .... Off we went, over some very holding ground, three squadrons in a succession of rushes in extended lines, the regularity of which was still disturbed by the wire! (Never move without nippers on the Sam Browne belt!). Luckliy we had no man hit – I can’t think why – which put some heart into the men .... we began to wonder how to fix the bloody bayonets with which we had been issued two days previously. .... About 4.30 am they were relieved and marched back about two miles to get breakfast, v. hungry and sleepy . (But then De Lisle told them that the line had been broken, so) with empty bellies we become plodding up the usual wire-enclosed ploughed fields on the left of Messines, being pooped at by very high and wild rifle fire .... It was a very trying day for the men, they were d—-d hungry. (The line held, just; but Messines and its Ridge were taken, see Battle of Messines and First Battle of Ypres).[4]

He also wrote to a close friend Winston Churchill in 1914 (the following is an excerpt):

Imagine a broad belt [of land], ten miles or so in width, stretching from the Channel to the German frontier near Basle, which is positively littered with the bodies of men…in which farms, villages, and cottages are shapeless heaps of blackened masonry; in which fields, roads and trees are pitted and torn and twisted by [artillery] shells...

Fleming was killed by German bombing in Gillemont Farm area, Picardy, France on 20 May 1917. For his service, Valentine was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Fleming is buried at Templeux-le-Guerard British Cemetery, near the village of Templeux-le-Guérard.[5] Fleming is commemorated on Panel 8 of the Parliamentary War Memorial in Westminster Hall, one of 22 MPs that died during World War I to be named on that memorial.[6][7] Fleming is one of 19 MPs who fell in the war who are commemorated by heraldic shields in the Commons Chamber.[8] A further act of commemoration came with the unveiling in 1932 of a manuscript-style illuminated book of remembrance for the House of Commons, which includes a short biographical account of the life and death of Fleming.[9][10]

Fleming's obituary was written by Churchill.

Legacy[edit]

In 1914, shortly before leaving England to fight in France, Valentine signed a will that left Pitt House and his effects to his wife Evelyn, most of his estate was left in trust to benefit their 4 sons and their future families. His wife Evelyn would have a generous income from the trust unless she re-married, in which case she would receive a reduced amount of £3000 per annum. Evelyn never re-married and felt it was a "bad will".[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Person Page 1906 thePeerage.com
  2. ^ "Ian Fleming". Scottish Roots. Retrieved 21 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Cycling the Somme
  4. ^ Brown, Malcolm (2001) [1993]. The Imperial War Museum Book of The Western Front (2 ed.). London: Pan Books. pp. 34, 35. ISBN 0-330-48475-3. 
  5. ^ "Casualty Details: Fleming, Valentine". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 30 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "Recording Angel memorial Panel 8". Recording Angel memorial, Westminster Hall. UK Parliament (www.parliament.uk). Retrieved 31 August 2016. 
  7. ^ "List of names on the Recording Angel memorial, Westminster Hall" (pdf). Recording Angel memorial, Westminster Hall. UK Parliament (www.parliament.uk). Retrieved 31 August 2016. 
  8. ^ "Fleming". Heraldic shields to MPs, First World War. UK Parliament (www.parliament.uk). Retrieved 31 August 2016. 
  9. ^ "House of Commons War Memorial: Final Volumes Unveiled by The Speaker". The Times (46050). London. 6 February 1932. p. 7. 
  10. ^ Moss-Blundell, Edward Whitaker, ed. (1931). The House of Commons Book of Remembrance 1914–1918. E. Mathews & Marrot. 
  11. ^ Andrew Lycett, Orion Books (1996). Ian Fleming. ISBN 978-1857997835.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Philip Edward Morrell
Member for Henley
1910–1917
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Hermon-Hodge