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News > Notable RMAS Alumni > Desmond Llewelyn

Desmond Llewelyn

Known to millions as 'Q' in the Bond Films but did you know about his military service and connection to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst?

The son of a mining engineer, Desmond Wilkinson Llewelyn was born in Newport, Wales on 12th September 1914. Educated at Radley College, he worked on school drama productions with small acting roles and, forsaking the chance of studying for ordination, secured a small part in the 1939 comedy, Ask a Policeman. However, the war intervened, and he was commissioned from Sandhurst into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Serving with the 1st Battalion, Llewelyn was captured during the retreat to Dunkirk and became a prisoner of war. A troublesome inmate, he was eventually transferred to the notorious Oflag IV-C at Colditz Castle where he was incarcerated alongside such notables as RAF fighter ace Douglas Bader, Charles Upham VC and Bar and David Stirling, founder of the SAS. After the war Llewelyn worked on the stage and secured occasional roles in the burgeoning British film industry. In 1950, fellow Sandhurst alumnus Terence Young directed the semi auto-biographical film about the Guards Armoured Division, They Were Not Divided. Seeking actors with military experience, he cast Llewelyn as a tank commander. However, the seismic change in his career was not immediately apparent as he appeared in small roles in a further 15 films over the next 12 years.

In 1962 Young directed the first official James Bond film, Dr No, which was an unexpectedly huge commercial success. The Producers immediately followed up with From Russia With Love and Young cast Llewelyn in the role ‘Q’ - the head of the Quartermaster department. Over the next 36 years Llewelyn appeared in 16 further Bond films, the only exception being Live and Let Die which does not include any reference to ‘Q’. Although an instantly recognised and much-loved character in the Bond films, the franchise did not make his fortune as Llewelyn was paid a day rate and did not share in the film’s immense profits. However, Both Sean Connery and Roger Moore would deliberately engineer filming to run into extra days to ensure Llewelyn benefited.

                                                                    

Appearing in a small number of other films including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a major role in the TV series Follyfoot Llewelyn remained wedded to the role of ‘Q’ in numerous documentaries, adverts and promotional trailers and featured in This is Your Life in 1995. His last Bond appearance was in the 1999 The World is Not Enough when he introduced John Cleese as his heir and when questioned by Bond about his retirement quips that ‘One should always have an escape plan’ – before being lowered through a hatch in the floor. After the film’s release, Desmond Llewelyn stated that he would continue to play ‘Q’ “as long as the producer wants me and the Almighty doesn’t.” A few weeks later, on 19 December 1999, he was involved in a road traffic accident and died in hospital.

                                                                   

Discover more in our new book: They Also Served

Found this article interesting? Curious to delve deeper into the intriguing world of RMAS alumni? Discover the extraordinary stories of 200 people who trained at Sandhurst, but went on to gain recognition beyond the Military, in the new Sandhurst Trust exclusive book. ”They Also Served”

Available exlusively from the Sandhurst Trust Shop.

                                                            

 

 

 

 

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