Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE

Sir Ranulph is known as the World's greatest living explorer. He has climbed Everest and crossed both polar ice caps. He has led 30 expeditions, one of which circumnavigated the world via the poles. He has raised more than 10 million pounds for charity, and in 2003 ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. And that was 4 months after a double heart bypass operation. He has lost several fingers from frostbite, actually cutting them off himself. He hates mountains because he has a morbid fear of heights, but he climbed the north face of the Eiger in 2007. At one point he screen tested for the part of James Bond but Cubby Broccoli, who was looking for a real-life action man, said that he had the face and hands of a farmer.

Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet was born in Windsor on 7 Mar 1944, four months after the death of his father, so he was born the 3rd Baronet. His mother moved out to South Africa after the war and he was educated in Cape Town until the age of 12. Back in England he went to Eton and then trained at Mons before joining the Scots Greys on 27 July 1963. He was seconded to the SAS where he specialised in demolitions. He was discharged from the SAS for a raid he organised to demolish a dam near Castle Combe, built for the film Dr Dolittle. After serving in the Scots Greys he was employed in the army of the Sultan of Oman in 1969. On one occasion he led 20 men deep into Communist-held territory to meet a mysterious turncoat of whom he was rightly suspicious:

'I was hiding in a bush, with my 7.62 semi automatic rifle, waiting for him. Had a terrific dose of diarrhoea too which wasn't exactly convenient. Anyway, he appeared with a Kalashnikov. I shouted "Hands up!" in Arabic. Luckily, I was already in the gun-firing position because he swung round ready to fire. I pressed first. He died. I was devastated at the time. To have killed someone, from 10 feet, to see him fall dead at my feet. But late I discovered that the documents he carried were used to delay the Communists long enough for the Shah of Persia to send 2,000 crack troops to help the Sultan. It was important to me that it was justified.'

He led several raids and was decorated by the Sultan for bravery. After 8 years in Oman he left in July 1971. He has been married twice. His first wife of 36 years, Ginny Pepper, died in 2004 and he married Louise Millington. They have a daughter Elizabeth born in April 2006. He has written 19 books, both fiction and non-fiction. In 2010 his book tracing the family history was published by Hodder & Stoughton: Mad Dogs and Englishmen. The photo shows him in Scots Greys service dress in 1964.

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by Stephen Luscombe