Papers of Peter Fleming

Scope and Content

The collection contains manuscript copies of Bayonets to Lhasa, Siege of Peking, The Fate of Admiral Kolchak, the unpublished novel The Sett, and various unpublished stories, sketches and articles.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 also typescript copies of articles and book sections; personal, literary and business correspondence 1926-1971; cuttings of Peter Fleming articles 1931-1970; proofs of Fourth Leaders from The Times; research notes and sources; papers relating to the author's father, Valentine Fleming 1912-1917; news cuttings on various subjects 1902-1945; review cuttings; material from Peter Fleming's war service 1940-1945; negatives and prints of photographs taken in China and Tibet 1930 and Russia 1957; family photographs; diary entries 1941, 1947, 1966; official army documents; papers relating to his service in the Territorial Army 1948-1970; certificates and programmes 1907-1930; account books 1962-1969; documents relating to the Nettlebed estate, and sundry other papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Peter Fleming was born in 1907. His father, 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 became literary editor of The Spectator and travelled widely, chiefly as Special Correspondent for The Times, for which he also wrote many Fourth Leaders during the later 1930s. He published popular travel books during this period, 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.

In 1939 he joined the Grenadier Guards, 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. In 1945 he received the OBE. After the war he retired to Merrimoles, his estate at Nettlebed in the Chilterns, to lead the life of a literary squire. He wrote pieces for The Times and The Spectator, the latter under the pseudonym Strix. He also published four books recounting historical episodes, including an account of the threatened invasion of Britain in 1940, the Younghusband expedition to Lhasa, the siege of Peking during the Boxer rebellion, and a study of the White Russian leader Admiral Kolchak. Peter Fleming died in August 1971, while on a shooting expedition to Scotland.

From 1947 onwards he 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.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the author's son, Nicholas Fleming, in March 1975.


Description prepared by Bridget Andrews with reference to internal sources.

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