Fleming, Peter (writer)

Reference: MS 1391Date: 1902-1971Extent: 34 boxes

Robert Peter Fleming, commonly known as Peter Fleming, was a British journalist and author. He was born on 31 May 1907 to Valentine Fleming and his wife Evelyn. Valentine Fleming, a barrister, was MP for Henley 1910-1917 and was killed in action in 1917. Peter’s brother Ian, the creator of James Bond, was born in 1908.

Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, Peter Fleming began his writing career in 1931 as a literary editor for The Spectator and, shortly after, became a special correspondent on foreign expeditions for The Times, for which he also wrote many “Fourth Leaders” during the later-1930s. He enjoyed travelling and journeyed to places such as Russia, China and Brazil. In his early career, Fleming published popular travel books, including Brazilian Adventure (1933), One’s Company: a journey to China (1934) and News from Tartary (1936). In 1935, he married the actress Celia Johnson, and the couple went on to have three children.

Fleming joined the Grenadier Guards in 1939, serving in Norway in 1940, in Greece in 1941 and subsequently in Burma, ending the war as head of strategic deception in South East Asia Command. He published two books during his service in the Second World War: The Flying Visit (1940) and A Story to Tell: And Other Tales (1942). In 1945, he was appointed OBE.

After the war, Fleming moved to Merrimoles House, his estate at Nettlebed in the Chilterns, to lead the life of a literary squire. He continued to write pieces for The Times and The Spectator, the latter under the pseudonym Strix. He published collections of essays and a fiction book entitled The Sixth Column: A Singular Tale of Our Times (1952). In 1955, he translated Caravane vers Bouddha by André Migot and published it as Tibetan Marches. Fleming also wrote several non-fiction novels about historical events, such as: Invasion 1940 (1957), an account of the threatened invasion of Britain in 1940; Siege at Peking (1959), which detailed events during the Boxer Rebellion; Bayonets to Lhasa (1961) about the Younghusband expedition to Lhasa; and The Fate of Admiral Kolchak (1963), a study of the White Russian leader Admiral Kolchak.

From 1947 onwards, Fleming was a member of the Court and Council of the University of Reading, and he served as one of the Curators of the University Library from 1967. Peter Fleming died on 18 August 1971, while on a shooting expedition to Scotland.

This collection comprises correspondence, notes, photographs, news cuttings, typescripts and manuscripts, and various sundry papers. There are manuscript copies of Bayonets to Lhasa, Siege of Peking, The Fate of Admiral Kolchak, the unpublished novel The Sett, and various unpublished stories, sketches and articles. There are cuttings of Peter Fleming’s articles from 1931-1970, news cuttings on various subjects from 1902-1945 and review cuttings. There are also proofs of “Fourth Leaders” from The Times as well as typescript copies of articles and book sections, research notes and various sources.

The collection also includes personal, literary and business correspondence from 1926-1971. There are some papers relating to Peter’s father, Valentine Fleming, from 1912-1917. There are also family photographs and negatives and prints of photographs taken in China and Tibet in 1930 and Russia in 1957. There are papers relating to Peter’s own military career, including material from his war service from 1940-1945, official army documents, and papers relating to his service in the Territorial Army dated 1948-1970. The collection also contains some diary entries dated 1941, 1947 and 1966; account books for 1962-1969; certificates and programmes dated 1907-1930; documents relating to the Nettlebed estate; and other sundry papers.

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