'There are many ways of not having a father.' These are the opening
words to the story of Maximilian Carden Despard, written by his
youngest daughter, Annabelle, who felt she knew him all too little.
She has pieced together the story of an officer, born in 1892, who
achieved glory and honours in a dramatic action off Dover in 1917.
A post-war accident forced him to abandon his career in the Royal
Navy and in the Thirties he started a new life as naval attaché, at a
time when there was another enemy to face. In Yugoslavia he was a
significant mover behind the scenes in Bond-like exploits to hamper
the German war machine. His life was not all excitement and drama
there was pain, loss and sadness too. This he never showed, however.
Annabelle's book is an affectionate portrait of a man of outstanding
good humour and great presence. 'Formidable' was one word used of
him - 'redoubtable' another.
Annabelle Despard was born in 1943 when her father was stationed
in Cardiff in preparation for the Normandy landings. She was
brought up alternately in England and Norway and has spent her
adult life in Norway. In 1976 she moved to Kristiansand where
she was associate professor of British Studies at the University of
Agder. She has written five books of poetry in Norwegian and one
in English, one autobiographical prose book and several textbooks
for students of English. She also works as a translator. She has two
daughters - Minda and Anna - and five grandchildren.