Remembering Ivor Porter
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 18th December, 2012
I first met Ivor Porter, the British diplomat, writer and sometimes Special Operations operative, shortly after he had served as Ambassador to Senegal, at a time when I was Honorary Consul for the Islamic Republic of Mauritania to the Court of St. James’s, though the fact that we were both Liberal Democrats (as we call ourselves these days) tightened the bond. Ivor died earlier this year at the grand old age of 99 and this evening, at the Romanian Cultural Centre in Belgrave Square, a trilingual publication of tributes and his last interview — with Romanian scribe Marilena Lica-Masala — was launched in the company of his widow Katerina, various other family members, Romanian Ambassador Ion Jinga, numerous other Romanians and a good group of Kensington and Chelsea LibDems. Ivor first went to Bucarest as a lecturer at the university in 1939, but after a few months, as the Second World War took hold, he was absorbed into the British Legation, in the cypher department. He was at that time approached by the Special Operations Executive (SOE — a branch of the secret service that supported the resistance in occupied countries) before being returned to the UK in 1941, only to be parachuted back in with two intelligence colleagues in 1943. Unfortunately, they were captured, though their “imprisonment” was hardly uncomfortable, as they were held in a villa to which champagne and cavair were regularly delivered. After British planes bombed the city, Ivor’s Romanian “hosts” replaced the champagne with local firewater. The full account of his wartime exploits can be found in his entertaining memoir, Operation Autonomous. Later he would return to the country as UK Ambassador and he wrote a biography of King Michael, who had the surely unique distinction of carrying out a coup d’état against his own country’s pro-German dictatorship. Slight of build and diffidently erudite, Ivor — who liked to think of himself as training to be a Renaissance man — brought light into many people’s lives and it is good to have another slim volume to keep his memory bright.