Sir Alexan­der Glen, ex­plorer and spy, once set off for the Arc­tic in a din­ner jacket…

The Scots Magazine - - Focus On… Cumbrae And The Ayrshire Coast - By LAURA BROWN

IMAG­INE if you thought you were go­ing to a soirée of danc­ing and drink­ing, only to dis­cover you had un­wit­tingly signed up for a voy­age to the Arc­tic. That’s what hap­pened to Glaswe­gian ex­plorer and wartime in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer Sir Alexan­der Glen.

In 1932, Sandy – as he pre­ferred to be known – ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion to a debu­tante ball. On the evening, his chums in­formed him they were set­ting sail from King’s Lynn. Sandy re­alised there was no party: he’d some­how agreed to sail with seven oth­ers to Spits­ber­gen on a fish­ing boat owned by a Cam­bridge don.

Pre­sum­ably dressed to the nines and with no sleep­ing bag, he gamely went along for the ad­ven­ture. By the time they re­turned after 6400km (4000 miles) and two months spent sur­vey­ing the moun­tains, his pas­sion for the Arc­tic was un­shak­able.

The fol­low­ing year, he led his own Arc­tic ex­pe­di­tion of 16 men, and re­turned that win­ter to live for a few months with the Lapps in north­ern Swe­den. In the sum­mer of 1934, he set sail again, this time with nov­el­ist Eve­lyn Waugh and their mu­tual friend Hugh Ly­gon, who in­spired the char­ac­ter of Lord Se­bas­tian Flyte in Waugh’s Brideshead Re­vis­ited.

This was a dis­as­trous trip – the three nearly drowned when a glacier be­gan to thaw. Waugh was none too keen on be­ing or­dered around by Sandy, so he made life dif­fi­cult when­ever pos­si­ble.

Mirac­u­lously, the men re­turned home in one piece. Sandy later worked along­side Waugh in Yu­goslavia dur­ing the war.

Another naval in­tel­li­gence col­league was Ian Flem­ing, who is ru­moured to have based James Bond on Sandy. He al­ways de­nied the link. “I don’t think it’s true for a mo­ment; I’m far too gen­tle, too law-abid­ing.”

“They nearly drowned as a glacier be­gan to thaw

The most sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment of his time in Yu­goslavia was meet­ing Baroness Zora de Col­laert, with whom he fell in love. He pro­posed, de­spite hav­ing a wife in Bri­tain. They wed in 1947, their courtship hav­ing sur­vived not only a ter­ri­fy­ing es­cape from the Nazis, but also Sandy’s hair-rais­ing covert mis­sion back to Spits­ber­gen to see off the Ger­mans. They had more than 50 happy years to­gether. After the war, Sandy in­vested in ship­ping. He was chair­man of ship­bro­kers Clark­sons which pi­o­neered pack­age hol­i­days. Later, he be­came di­rec­tor of Bri­tish Euro­pean Air­ways, wrote three books, re­ceived sev­eral medals for wartime ser­vice and was knighted in 1967. Sandy died in 2004 and is re­mem­bered as a charm­ing, coura­geous man with a gen­er­ous spirit, he may not have be­lieved he in­spired James Bond – but Sandy Glen’s life was dar­ing and, at times, stranger than fic­tion.

James Bond, por­trayed by fel­low Scot Sean Con­nery

Spits­ber­gen was just the start for Sandy

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