20TH MAY 1917 AGE 35


This is a really obscure inscription, something that seems rather appropriate for Valentine Fleming, father of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels. But what does it mean, where does it come from?
Chosen by Evelyn Fleming, Major Fleming's wife, it is not a quotation. The source is possibly 'In Excelsis' by the American author Henry van Dyke (1852-1935), published in his collection, 'Music and Other Poems' 1904.

Two dwellings, Peace are thine.
One is the mountain-height,
Uplifted in the loneliness of light
Beyond the realm of shadows, - fine,
And far, and clear, - where advent of the night
Means only glorious nearness of the stars,
And dawn, unhindered, breaks above the bars
That long the lower world in twilight keep.
Thou sleepest not, and hast no need of sleep,
For all thy cares and fears have dropped away;
The night's fatigue, and the fever-fret of day,
Are far below thee; and earth's weary wars,
In vain expense of passion, pass
Before thy sight like visions in a glass,
Or like the wrinkles of the storm that creep
Across the sea and leave no trace
Of trouble on that immemorial face, -
So brief appear the conflicts, and so slight
The wounds men give, the things for which they fight.

In this reading of the inscription,'The heights hold peace' because from the mountain height, "all thy cares and fears have dropped away", leaving, as verse two confirms: -
Thou, from thy mountain-hold,
All day, in tranquil wisdom, looking down
On distant scenes of human toil and strife ...

Valentine Fleming was a wealthy banker and the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Oxfordshire. Already a member of a yeomanry regiment, the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars, Fleming went with them to France on the outbreak of war. He was killed in May 1917 in a German bombardment at Guillemont Farm. The Flemings had four sons, including Peter the travel writer, Ian the author of the James Bond novels, and the youngest, Michael, who was wounded at Dunkirk and died of his wounds in October 1940 whilst a German prisoner-of-war.
Both Valentine and his son Michael are commemorated in a stained glass window in St Batholomew's Church, Nettlebed.