Desmond Llewelyn, whose eccentric interpretation of the character Q made him a beloved figure to generations of Bond fans, died at Eastbourne District General Hospital with his son by his side. The 85-year-old, a notorious technophobe in real life, was the quartermaster of 007's lethal gadgets and had been an enduring figure since 1963, outlasting a string of leading actors.
In a recent interview, Llewelyn, who described himself as a "small-part actor", said he hoped to continue appearing in the films. "I suppose it doesn't matter what I'd like to be remembered for, I shall be remembered as being Q."
The son of a Welsh coal mining engineer, Llewelyn won the role of Q despite resisting attempts by the director to have the character speak with a Welsh accent.
"My interpretation of the character was that of a toffee-nosed English," he once said.
"At the risk of losing the part and with silent apologies to my native land, I launched into Q's lines using the worst Welsh accent, followed by the same in English."
He went on to appear in 17 of the films, including the latest The World Is Not Enough, missing only two. Shortly before his death, Llewelyn completed work on a new film entitled Error 2000, in which he finally got to save the world himself. The role was his first non-Bond movie for more than 20 years.
His son Ivor, 50, was the first of many to pay tribute to him last night. "Really what you saw in the films was what he was. He was a very kind man, very lovable man," he said.
Sandy Hernu, who worked with him on his new biography - Q, The Biography of Desmond Llewelyn - added: "He was enormously funny and entertaining and loved telling me lots of stories and was great fun to be with."
The actor was driving back from a signing event for his book when his Renault Megane collided with a Fiat Bravo on the A27 near Firle, East Sussex.
He was airlifted to hospital, but died of his injuries. Away from the glamour of the big screen, Llewelyn spent most of his time in relative obscurity at his house in Bexhill, East Sussex.
Last month he spoke of his own private tragedy and how he felt powerless to help Pamela, his wife of 61 years, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Pamela, who he credited with helping him through the lean post- war years, lost her sight four years ago and no longer recognised him.
The driver of the other car, a 35-year-old man, was said last night to be in a serious but stable condition in hospital.Reuse content