Geoffrey Elliott: 22 April 1939 – 1 May 2021

Honorary Fellow Geoffrey Elliott passed away on Saturday 1 May at his home in Bermuda at the age of 82. Geoffrey was a long-time friend of the College and a very generous benefactor, who, along with his late wife Fay Elliott, took a great interest in the work of both Fellows and students, especially those in the Russian and East European (now Russian and Eurasian Studies) Centre. The Elliott Lecture, which normally takes place every 2 to 3 years, is named after him and Fay.

Geoffrey, who was born in London in 1939, had Russian and East European forebears. But it was during compulsory National Service in the 1950s that he learned Russian from scratch, and to a very high standard. Following that, he worked for Reuters before moving into merchant banking, first with Siegmund Warburg in London and then as a Managing Director of Morgan Stanley in New York. He also served as Director of the Bank of Bermuda and Chairman of Latsco Shipping.

A very widely-read, and intellectually curious man, with a keen (and often self-deprecating) sense of humour, Geoffrey turned to authorship during his semi-retirement and retirement from banking. During that phase of his life, he enjoyed, and found helpful, his connection with St Antony’s, with both Fellows and some of the College students providing useful advice and, on occasion, research assistance. One of Geoffrey’s books was co-authored with an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s Russian Centre, Harry Shukman. Their account of the National Service Russian Course, Secret Classrooms: An Untold Story of the Cold War (2002), is a vastly entertaining, as well as informative, account of the Joint Services School for Linguists ‘in which over 5,000 young men were semi-secretly pushed through intensive training in Russian’.

Geoffrey’s other books include, I Spy: The Secret Life of a British Agent (1998), a fascinating voyage of discovery of his elusive father who, in the words of the book’s blurb was ‘dropped blind into Serbia in 1942 on a mission for Special Operations Executive – and spent much of the war in a Nazi prison camp’ and whose ‘nomadic life entangled him in a complex web of deception, glamorous women, Communist double agents and interrogation at the hands of the Gestapo and the Hungarian secret police’. One of Geoffrey’s sources of information for that book was the first Warden of St Antony’s, Sir William (Bill) Deakin, who (in a more successful mission than that of Geoffrey’s father) was parachuted into wartime Yugoslavia. Geoffrey’s other books included (as sole author), From Siberia with Love: A Story of Exile, Revolution and Cigarettes (2004) and (as co-author with Igor Damaskin), Kitty Harris: The Spy with Seventeen Names (2001).

Geoffrey Elliott was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of St Antony’s in 1997, having previously been a Senior Associate Member, and, to the end of his life, retained his links with the College. His long and very happy marriage to his wife Fay ended with her death in August 2020, after which Geoffrey’s own health went into decline. Both Geoffrey and Fay are remembered with great affection and appreciation by all in St Antony’s who had the privilege to know them.

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