Stories

In The Mountains Purely From Patriotism

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From Abducting A General
by Patrick Leigh Fermor

 

I put forward, to the powers in the SOE, the suggestion of kidnapping General Müller. He commanded the 22nd Bremen (‘Sebastopol’) Panzergrenadier Division based at Herakleion. It was the sort of action we all needed in Crete, I urged. The General was universally hated and feared – even more, perhaps, than General Bräuer in Canea (both were executed as war criminals in 1946)  – for the appalling harshness of his rule: the dragooning of the population in labour-gangs for the aerodromes, the mass shootings of hostages, the reprisal destruction of villages and their populations, and the tortures and the executions of the Gestapo.

The moral damage to the German forces in Crete would be great; a severe blow to their self-confidence and prestige. It would have its effect on us, too: our correct, but uninspiring task – trying to restrain random action in preparation for the mass uprising we all hoped for – was an arduous, rather thankless one. Above all, it would have a tonic effect among the Cretans; our spirits, after reverses in the Viannos mountains at the time of the Italian armistice, were low; and one important guerrilla band – that of Manoli Bandouvas – was in temporary dissolution. The deed would be a triumph for the resistance movement which had kept the island so effectively and improbably united; and it would be a setback for the emissaries of the mainland left-wing government who – fortunately too late – were trying to spread the same discord in Crete as that which was already tearing the mainland apart.

The suggested action would be, above all, an Anglo-Cretan affair, a symbol and epitome of the bond which had been formed during the Battle of Crete in 1941 and the thirty months which had followed. It could be done, I urged, with stealth and timing in such a way that both bloodshed, and thus reprisals, would be avoided. (I had only a vague idea how.)

To my amazement, the idea was accepted.

~

There was no need to look for the first recruit. Manoli Paterakis, from Koustoyérako in Selino, in the far west, had been my guide for over a year. A goat-herd and ex-gendarme, he had fought fiercely against the parachutists during the Battle of Crete. A year or two older than me, tireless, unshakeable as granite, wiry as a Red Indian, a crack shot, and as fast over the mountains as the ibexes he often hunted, he was – and still is – the finest type of Cretan mountaineer (there will be many such in this account). Completely unselfish, he was in the mountains purely from patriotism, and his mixture of sense, conviviality, stoicism, irony and humour, linked with his other qualities, made him more valuable than ten ordinary mortals.

We had been companions on hundreds of marches and in many scrapes; we had even, last summer, made an abortive joint attempt to sink a German tanker with limpets in Herakleion harbour. Neither of us had meant to leave Crete with the Italians – Manoli had been present at all the recent doings at Italian GHQ – but rough weather had hastened the vessel’s departure, and, when we realised that anchor had been weighed, we were too far from shore to swim back in the dark. So, luckily, here he was in Cairo.

~

We planned to drop by parachute as near to Herakleion as possible; Sandy Rendel, warned by wireless, found an ideal place for it. But, after training in Palestine and many delays, it was not until early January, after a tremendous Eqyptian Christmas, that we flew to Tokra airfield, near Bengazi. Here, with a score of people about to be dropped to Tito’s partisans and the Greek mainland, we waited for days while rain hammered down on the tents; all in vain.

Finally we were flown to Italy, arriving for the first night of The Barber of Saville in bomb-shattered Bari, now the swarming near-HQ of the Eighth Army. It was nice to be in a mainland European town again, but the days of standing-by were hard to bear. But, at last, at half an hour’s notice, we were being driven south at breakneck speed through the conical villages of Apulia. A converted bomber waited on the runway at Brindisi, and we took off in dismal February twilight.

Soon we were alone in the pitch dark, except for the despatcher and the parachutes, four of them for us, the others for huge cylindrical containers. In these, and about our persons, were the gear for our operation: maps, pistols, bombs, commando daggers, coshes, kunckledusters, telescopic sights, silencers, a sheaf of Marlin sub-machine-guns, ammunition, wire-cutters, sewn-in files for prison bars, magnetic escape devices, signal flares, disguises, gags, chloroform, rope-ladders, gold sovereigns, stealthy footwear, Bangalore torpedoes, every type of explosive from gelignite and gun-cotton to deceptive mule droppings which, they said, could blow a tank to smithereens; all the things, indeed, on which espionage writers dwell at such fond length; also Benzedrine, field dressings, morphine, knockout drops and suicide pills to bite under duress, if captured in the wrong clothes. I hoped we would use none of them, especially the last.

Much later on, shouting through the noise of the engine, the despatcher roused us from the torpor which is oddly usual at such times. There was moonlight all round, and then the glittering crags of the White Mountains and Ida, and a rush of cold wind from the hole the despatcher had opened in the floor. ‘Spiti mas,’ Manoli said, looking down: ‘Home.’ But it wasn’t except for me.

~

The nightly circlings above the plateau were making the region too hot for us. Just as we were about to signal Cairo suggesting an alternative sea-borne rendezvous in the south, a message from them arrived proposing exactly this. (Billy and the others had left Italy for Cairo once more; finally, they headed for Mersa Matruh.) Helped by a sudden thick mist, Sandy and I shifted out just in time, scattering with plans to join up later on.

March went by, travelling about in snowy and windy weather, gathering information, renewing contact, and locating the whereabouts of old helpers that I would need.

One item of news, late in March, came as a shock: General Müller was suddenly replaced by Kreipe, a General from the Russian front. All the delays seemed, retrospectively, more bitter. But, I consoled myself, the moral effect of the commander’s capture would be just as great, whoever he might be. All I could learn was that he had commanded divisions on the Leningrad and Kuban sectors, and was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.

At last, at the beginning of April, Sandy, John Stanley – another old hand – and I, and a number of people for evacuation, were lying up in the mountainous, prohibited zone, above the south coast, not far from Soutsouro.

In Die Berge Suiwer As Gevolg Van Patriotisme

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Cape Rebel

Uit Abducting A General
deur Patrick Leigh Fermo

 

Ek het aan die gesagdraers van die SOE aanbeveel en voorgestel dat generaal Müller ontvoer moes word. Hy was in bevel van die 22ste Bremen (“Sebastopol”) Pantsergrenadierdivisie wat in Herakleion gebaseer was. Ek het daarop aangedring dat dit dié soort aksie was wat ons almal in Kreta nodig gehad het. Die generaal was alom gehaat en gevrees – miskien selfs meer as generaal Bräuer in Canea (hulle is albei in 1946 as oorlogsmisdadigers tereggestel) – vir die ontsettende wreedheid van sy bewind: sy mishandeling van die bevolking wat as werkspanne by die vliegvelde gebruik is; die gyselaars wat en masse doodgeskiet is; die dorpies en hulle inwoners wat uit weerwraak vernietig is; en die Gestapo se foltering en teregstellings.

Die morele skade aan die Duitse magte in Kreta sou reusagtig wees, en dit sou ’n ernstige terugslag vir hulle selfvertroue en aansien wees. Dit sou op ons ook ’n uitwerking hê: ons korrekte en onopwindende taak – om te probeer om onreëlmatige optrede in voorbereiding vir die massa opstand  waarvoor ons almal gehoop het, te beteuel – was ’n veeleisende, en nogal ’n ondankbare taak. Maar bowenal sou dit ’n verfrissende uitwerking op die Kretensers hê. Ons gemoedere, na die terugslae in die Viannos-gebergtes ten tyde van die Italiaanse wapenstilstand, was bedruk, en een guerrilla-afdeling – dié  van Manoli Bandouvas – was tydelik ontbind. Dié daad sou ’n oorwinning wees vir die weerstandsbeweging wat die eiland so effektief en onwaarskynlik verenig gehou het. Dit sou ’n terugslag wees vir die onderhandelaars van die vasteland se linkervleuel-regering wat – gelukkig te laat – probeer het om dieselfde verdeeldheid in Kreta te bewerkstellig as dit wat klaar besig was om die vasteland uitmekaar te skeur.

Die voorgestelde aksie sou veral ’n Anglo-Kreta-aangeleentheid wees, ’n simbool en beliggaming van die band wat gedurende die Slag van Kreta in 1941 gevorm is, en die dertig maande wat daarop gevolg het. Ek het daarop aangedring dat dit met geheimhouding en tydsberekening gedoen kon word – op so ’n wyse dat bloedvergieting, en die gepaardgaande vergelding vermy kon word. (Ek het slegs ’n vae idee gehad hoe dit gedoen kon word.)

Tot my verbasing is die idee aanvaar.

~

Dit was nie nodig om vir my eerste rekruut te soek nie. Manoli Paterakis uit Koustoyérako in Selino, in die verre weste, was vir meer as ’n jaar my gids. Hy was ’n bokwagter en ’n vorige-polisiesoldaat wat verwoed teen die valskermsoldate gedurende die Slag van Kreta geveg het. Hy was ’n jaar of wat ouer as ek, onvermoeibaar, rotsvas soos graniet, so taai soos ’n Rooihuid, ’n uitstekende skut, en so vlugvoetig oor die berge soos die steenbokkies wat hy dikwels gejag het. Hy was, en is nog steeds, die voortreflikste tipe Kretense bergklimmer (hier sal daar baie van sy soort wees). Hy was totaal onselfsugtig, en was in die berge suiwer as gevolg van sy patriotisme; en sy samestelling van gesonde verstand, vrolikheid, stoïsisme, ironie en humor, tesame met sy ander kwaliteite, het hom waardevoller as tien ander gewone sterwelinge gemaak.

Ons was saam op honderde opmarse kamerade, en saam in baie skermutselinge betrokke. Ons het selfs die vorige somer gesamentlik ’n mislukte poging aangewend om ’n Duitse tenkskip met kleefmyne in die Herakleion-hawe te sink. Nie een van ons twee het bedoel om Kreta saam met die Italianers te verlaat nie – Manoli was by al die onlangse doen en late by die Italiaanse Algemene Hoofkwartiere teenwoordig – maar ongure weer het die vaartuig se vertrek vervroeg, en toe ons besef het dat die anker gelig was, was ons reeds te ver van die kus af om in die donker terug te swem. En so, gelukkig, was Manoli hier in Kaïro.

~

Ons het beplan om so na as moontlik aan Herakleion met die valskerms te land. Sandy Rendel, wat deur middel van radio bygestaan het, het ’n ideale plek daarvoor gevind. Maar ná opleiding in Palestina en heelwat vertragings, was dit nie voor vroeg in Januarie, ná ’n uitstekende Egiptiese Kersfees, dat ons na die Tokra-lughawe naby Bengazi gevlieg het nie. Hier, tesame met ’n horde mense wat reggestaan het om by Tito se guerrillastryders en die Griekse vasteland neergelaat te word, het ons dae lank gewag terwyl dit op ons tente gestortreën het – alles tevergeefs.

Uiteindelik is ons na Italië toe gevlieg waar ons vir die openingsaand van Die Barbier van Saville in die bomverwoeste Bari aangekom het, nou amper die hoofkwartier van die Agste Weermag. Dit was aangenaam om weer in ’n Europese dorp op die vasteland te wees, maar die dae wat ons moes staan en wag, was moeilik om te verduur. Maar uiteindelik, ná ons ’n halfuur vroeër ingelig is, is ons op dolle vaart suidwaarts deur die kegelvormige dorpies van Apulia vervoer. ’n Omskepte bomwerper het op die aanloopbaan by Brindisi gewag, en in trietserige Februarie-skemerdonker het ons opgestyg.

Nie lank daarná nie was ons alleen in die pikdonker behalwe vir die versendingsoffisier en die valskerms. Vier van hulle was vir ons, die ander vir die silindervormige houers. In ons klere en ook in die houers was die toerusting vir ons krygsverrigtinge: kaarte, pistole, bomme, kommando-dolke, knuppels, vuisysters, teleskoopvisiere, knaldempers, ’n bondel Marlin-submasjiengewere, ammunisie, draadkniptange, ingewerkte vyle vir tronktralies, magnetiese ontvlugtingstoestelle, seinfakkels, vermommings-maskers, muilbande, chloroform, toulere, goue muntstukke, stewige skoene, Bangalore torpedoes, elke moontlike plofstof van geligniet en skietkatoen tot  misleidende muilmis wat, so word daar gesê, ’n tenk in sy moer in kon blaas. Al die dinge wat spioenasieskrywers so lief is om graag en lank oor te skryf, was daar. Daar was ook amfetamien, noodverband, morfien, uitklopdruppels en pille vir selfmoord om in gedwonge gevangenskap aan te kou indien mens in die verkeerde klere gevang is. Ek het gehoop dat dit nie nodig sou wees om een daarvan te gebruik nie, veral nie die laaste een nie.

Heelwat later, terwyl daar hard geskree moes word om bo die lawaai van die enjin gehoor te word, het die versendingsoffisier ons uit ons beweginglose dwaal, wat snaaks genoeg tipies in sulke tye is, opgewek. Oral om ons was daar maanskyn, en toe sien ons die glinsterende rotse en kranse van die Wit Berge en Ida, en toe het ’n koue windvlaag uit die opening ingewaai ná die offisier die vloer oopgemaak het. “Spiti mas,” het Manoli gesê, terwyl hy afgekyk het: “My tuiste.” Maar dit was nie, behalwe vir my.

~

Die nagtelike sirkelvlugte oor die plato het die omgewing te warm vir ons gemaak. Net toe ons reggemaak het om ’n sein aan Kaïro te stuur om ’nrendezvous in die suide oor die see voor te stel, het ’n boodskap deurgekom met dié presiese boodskap. (Billy en die ander was reeds weer uit Italië op pad na Kaїro toe; uiteindelik het hulle koers ingeslaan na Mersa Martuh.) Gehelp deur ’n digte mis wat skielik verskyn het, het ek en Sandy net betyds wegbeweeg en padgegee met planne om later weer bymekaar te kom.

Maartmaand het verbygegaan terwyl ons in die sneeu en winderige weer rondbeweeg het. Ons het inligting ingewin, kontakte hernu, en die skuilplekke van ou helpers wat ons sou benodig, uitgesoek.

Een stukkie nuus wat ons laat in Maart ontvang het, was ietwat van ’n skok: generaal Müller was skielik deur Kreipe vervang. Hy was ’n generaal van die Russiese front af. Al die oponthoude het, in retrospek, net bitterder gevoel. Maar, het ek myself getroos, die morele effek van die bevelvoerder se gevangeneming sou net so groot wees, maak nie saak wie hy was nie. Al wat ek kon uitvind, was dat hy in bevel was van divisies by die Leningrad en Kuban-sektore, en dat hy gedekoreer was met die Ridderkruis van die Ysterkruis.

Uiteindelik, aan die begin van April, het ek, Sandy, nog ’n ervare vegter, John Stanley, en ’n klomp ander mense wat gereed was vir ontruiming, by ’n lêplek in die bergagtige terrein bokant die suidelike kus, nie ver van Soutsoura af nie, in afwagting gewag

Singing And Storytelling With The Cretans

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From Abducting A General
by Patrick Leigh Fermor

 

The sierras of occupied Crete, familiar from nearly two years of clandestine sojourn and hundreds of exacting marches, looked quite different through the aperture in the converted bomber’s floor and the gaps in the clouds below: a chaos of snow-covered, aloof and enormous spikes, glittering as white as a glacier in the February moonlight. There, suddenly, on a tiny plateau among the peaks, were the three signal fires, twinkling. A few moments later, they began expanding fast: freed at last from the noise inside the Liberator, the parachute sailed gently down towards the heart of the triangle. Small figures were running in the firelight and in another few moments, snow muffled the impact of landing. There was a scrum of whiskery embracing, a score of Cretan voices, and one English one. A perfect landing!

The Kathero plateau was too small for all four of the passengers to drop in a stick: each jump needed a fresh run-in. So, once safely down, I was to signal the all-clear with a torch. But the gap I had dropped through had closed; our luck, for the moment, had run out. We took turns to signal towards the returning boom of the intermittently visible plane just the other side of the rushing clouds until the noise died away, and we knew the plane had turned back to Brindisi. Our spirits sank. We were anxious lest the noise should have alerted the German garrison in Kritza; dawn, too, might overtake us on the way down.

Scattering the fires, whacking the loadless pack mules into action, and hoping for a snowfall to muffle our tracks, we began the long downhill scramble. Tauntingly, a bright moon lit us all the way. At last, we plunged wearily through the ilex and the arbutus into the home-cave as the dawn of 6 February 1944 was breaking.

~

As it turned out, I stayed with Sandy Rendel in his cave for over a month. It was perched near a handy spring in the Lasithi mountains, above the village of Tapais in Eastern Crete. Smoky, draughty and damp, but snug with strewn brushwood under the stalactites, it was typical of several lairs dotted about the island, each sheltering a signal sergeant, a small retinue of Cretan helpers, and one each of a scattered handful of heavily disguised British Liason Officers.

None of these BLOs were regulars. The only thing they had in common was at least a smattering of Ancient Greek from school. They all had a strong feeling for Greece and Crete, and were deeply involved, not only in the military grandeurs and miseries of the island, but, as the occupation lengthened, in every aspect of its life: the evacuation of our own stragglers, and (for training and re-entry) of resistence people on the run; in trying to help the bereaved, gathering information about the enemy, assisting commando raids, and the dropping of arms and supplies, the organising of resistance and the composing of discord between leaders.

We became, as it were, part of the family. Our cave-sojourns were often brief. They were a cruel danger to the villages that supplied us with runners and with food and look-outs, and we were often dislodged by enemy hunts in force. It was a game of hide-and-seek, usually ending in a disorderly bunk to a new refuge in the next range. We could not have lasted a day without the islanders’ passionate support: a sentiment which the terrible hardships of the occupation, the execution of the hostages, the razing and massacre of villages, only strengthened.

A time of bitter weather ensued: postponements, cancellations, and false starts. Night after night, Sandy and I set out with our party for the plateau; again and again, we heard the plane circling over the clouds; always in vain. Sergeant Dilley was permanently crouched over his set, tapping out or receiving messages from SOE Headquarters in Cairo. (How far away it seemed!) We filled our long leisure lying round the fire, singing and story-telling with the Cretans, keeping the cold out with raki and wine. There were endless paper-games and talk, and plenty of time, it soon turned out, to grow one of the moustaches that all Cretan mountaineers wear, and to get back the feeling of mountain clothes: breeches, high black boots, a twisted mulberry silk sash with an ivory-hilted dagger in a long silver scabbard, black shirt, blue embroidered waistcoat, and tight black-fringed turban; augmented, when on the move, with a white hooded cloak of home-spun goat’s hair, a tall twisted stick, a bandolier, and a slung gun – the apt epitome of a long and reckless tradition of mountain feud, guerrilla, and armed revolt against the Turks. There was time, above all, to think about the scheme on hand.

Om Te Sing En Stories Te Vertel Saam Met Die Kretensers

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Cape Rebel

 

Uit Abducting A General  
deur Patrick Leigh Fermor

Die siërras van die besette Kreta, heel bekend na my twee jaar van geheime verblyf en honderde veeleisende opmarse, het baie anders gelyk deur die kykspleet van die omskepte bomwerper se vloer en die openinge in die wolke onder ons. Dit was ’n warboel van sneeubedekte, alleenstaande en ontsaglike spitse wat so wit soos ’n gletser in die maanlig van Februarie gevonkel het. Toe was daar op ’n klein plato tussen die pieke skielik die flikkering van drie seinvure. ’n Paar oomblikke later het hulle vinnig groter geword: uiteindelik bevry van die lawaai binne in die Liberator, het die valskerms stadig na die hart van die driehoek afgedaal. Klein figuurtjies het in die lig van die vuur gehardloop en binne die volgende paar oomblikke het die sneeu die impak van die landing gedemp. Daar was ’n skrum van baardmanne wat mekaar omhels het, die geluide van die Kretensers se stemme, een daarvan Engels. ’n Perfekte landing!

Die Kathero-plato was te klein vir al vier die passasiers om saam te spring: vir elke sprong was daar ’n nuwe invlug nodig. Nadat ek dus veilig geland het, moes ek met die flits ’n veiligheidsein gee. Maar die opening in die wolke waardeur ek gespringval het, het toegetrek; vir ’n oomblik het die geluk teen ons gedraai. Ons het beurte geneem om in die rigting van die terugkerende gedreun van die vliegtuig, wat met tussenposes net aan die anderkant van die drywende wolke gesien kon word, te sein. Dit het ons gedoen totdat die geluid nie meer gehoor kon word nie, en toe het ons geweet dat die vliegtuig na Brindisi teruggekeer het. Ons moed het ons begewe. Ons was bevrees dat die geluide deur die Duitse garnisoen in Kritza gehoor kon word. Ook was dit moontlik dat die daeraad ons kon inhaal op ons pad na benede.

Ná ons die vure geblus en die vraglose pakmuile met ’n paar klappe aan die gang gekry het, en gehoop het dat ’n sneeuval ons voetspore sou verbloem, het ons die lang afwaartse geklouter aangepak. ’n Honende helder maan het ons pad die hele tyd verlig. Uiteindelik, toe die oggend van 6 Februarie 1944 aangebreek het, het ons stokflou deur die eikebome en die bessiestruike in die kamergrot neergesak.

~

Dit het so gebeur dat ek vir meer as ’n maand saam met Sandy Rendel in die grot deurgebring het. Dit was geleë naby ’n gerieflike fontein in die Lasithi-gebergtes bokant die dorpie Tapais in Oostelike Kreta. Die grot was rokerig, trekkerig en klammerig, maar nogtans knussig met gestrooide struikgewas onder die stalaktiete. Die grothuis was tipies van verskeie wegkruipplekke wat verspreid op die eiland geleë was. Elke skuiling het ’n sersant vir seinwerk, ’n klein gevolg van Kretense helpers, en een elk van ’n verspreide handjievol swaar vermomde Britse liaison-amptenare bevat.

Nie een van hierdie Britse liaison-amptenare was beroepsoldate nie. Die enigste ding wat hulle in gemeen gehad het, was ’n paar woordjies klassieke Grieks uit hulle skooldae. Hulle het almal egter groot simpatie gehad vir Griekeland en Kreta, en hulle was diep betrokke, nie slegs by die militêre grootsheid en ellende van die eiland nie, maar, soos die besetting voortgeduur het, ook in elke ander aspek van die lewe daar: die ontruiming van die agtergeblewe verdwaaldes, en (vir opleiding en herontplooiing) van opstandelinge op vlug; om die bedroefdes te probeer help, help met die versameling van inligting oor die vyand, om behulpsaam te wees met kommandostrooptogte, en met die neerlaat van wapens en voorrade, die organisering van verset, en om die geskille tussen leiers te besleg.

Ons het, so te sê, deel van die familie geword. Ons verblyf in die grot was meestal van korte duur. Ons teenwoordigheid daar het ’n ernstige gevaar geskep vir die dorpies wat ons voorsien het van boodskappers, van kos en brandwagte, en ons was dikwels verdryf deur die vyand wat met geweld op ons jag gemaak het. Dit was ’n spel van wegkruipertjie, wat gewoonlik geëindig het in ’n wanordelike wegsluipery na ’n nuwe skuilte in die volgende bergreeks. Ons sou nie ’n dag kon uithou sonder die eilanders se geesdriftige ondersteuning nie. Dit was ’n sentiment wat deur die verskriklike ontberinge van die besetting, die teregstelling van die gyselaars, en die uitwissing en slagting van die dorpies, slegs versterk is.

’n Tyd van bitter weersomstandighede het aangebreek: uitstellings, kansellasies, en mislukte en valse aanvangsreëlings. Nag ná nag, het ek en Sandy met ons groep na die plato gegaan, en weer en weer, het ons die vliegtuig bokant die wolke hoor sirkelvlug, en altyd was dit tevergeefs. Sersant Dilley het permanent voor sy stel gesit en boodskappe van die SOE Hoofkwartiere in Kaïro oorgetik of ontvang. (Kaïro het deksels vêr van ons af gelyk!) Ons ledige ure het ons langs die vuur gelê en sing, en saam met die Kretensers stories vertel terwyl ons die koue weerstaan het met Turkse raki-likeur en wyn. Die papierspeletjies en gepratery het nooit opgehou nie. Dit het geblyk dat daar baie tyd was om ’n snor te kweek, soos een van daardie waarmee al die Kretensers gespog het, en om die gevoel van bergklere weer terug te kry: ’n Kort broek, hoë swart skoene, ’n gedraaide moerbei-syserp; ’n dolk met ’n ivoor handvatsel in ’n lang, silwer skede, ’n swart hemp, blou geborduurde onderbaadjie, en styfpassende swartgesoomde tulbandhoed. Verder, wanneer daar beweeg is, ’n mantel van tuisgespinde bokhaar met ’n wit kap, ’n groot inmekaargedraaide stok, ’n bandelier, en ’n geweer met ’n skouerband – die gepaste verpersoonliking van ’n lang en roekelose tradisie van bergvyandskap, guerrilla en gewapende weerstand teen die Turke. Maar, bowenal, was daar tyd om aan die plan wat gewag het te dink.

A Mind As Conscientious And Thorough As It Was Fanciful

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From Patrick Leigh Fermor – An Adventure 
by Artemis Cooper

 

Xan Fielding and Paddy met in Yerakari, a large village celebrated for its cherries, which sits at the head of one of the two valleys of the Amari. This area was so green and fertile that British officers coming down from their harsh life in the mountains called it ‘Lotus Land’. It was not their first encounter. Both remembered that they had met several years before, probably in the summer of 1933, but in Yerakari they embarked on a friendship that was to last until Xan’s death in 1991. ‘Like Paddy,’ wrote Fielding in his war memoir, Hide and Seek, ‘I had tramped across Europe to reach Greece. Like him, I had been almost penniless during that long, arduous holiday – but there the similarity between our travels ended, for whereas I was often forced to sleep out of doors, in ditches, haystacks or on public benches, Paddy’s charm and resourcefulness had made him a welcome guest wherever he went.’

~

Sabotage remained a top priority for SOE, but it was constantly impeded by other demands on the time and energy of those on the ground. Days and nights were spent waiting for messengers, or the next wireless schedule, or parachute drops, usually postponed because of the weather. Moving the wireless sets in their suitcases involved back-breaking marches through the night. There were also marches to the coast to meet incoming craft, marches through the mountains to secret conferences, marches to gather information. The Cretan terrain is among the harshest in Europe, and distances on a map bear no relation to the ground that has to be covered. When asked how far it was from one place to another, a Cretan would reply by saying it was ‘ten cigarettes away’, or however many he thought would be smoked en route.

Inevitably there were also days of tedium when there was nothing to do but wait, for a message or a runner. But for someone like Paddy, who enjoyed singing and poetry, the Cretans provided a rich seam of distraction. He picked up a range of Cretan songs, and was always ready for a round of mantinades, improvised rhyming couplets that were taken up by one person after another in the circle. Many of the older shepherds could recite great chunks of the Erotokritos, a seventeenth-century romance in the Cretan dialect, the recitation of which could go on all night.

~

The Battle of El Alamein had turned the German advance into a retreat, and the Afrika Korps was now being hounded out of Cyrenaica. There were tales of bad discipline, failure to salute officers and drunkenness.

Tom Dunbabin, Xan and Paddy did all they could to prey on German fears and frustrations. They dropped leaflets in German, stamped with swastika-bearing eagles as if they had been made by disaffected German soldiers. Xan and Paddy also began a chalk-scrawling campaign, enlisting young Cretans to help. ‘Wir Wollen Nach Haus’ (we want to go home) and ‘Wo Ist Unsere Luftwaffe?’ (where is our airforce?) and ‘Scheisse Hitler’ (shit Hitler) were the most common scrawls, but Paddy also took advantage of the rumours that Communism was spreading through the sullen German ranks. Some slogans read ‘Heil Stalin!’ or ‘Heil Moskau!’ accompanied by a defiant hammer and sickle. The success of his graffiti could be judged by the arrest of German soldiers, and searches of their billets and incoming parcels.

~

Xan was always surprised by the high sartorial style that Paddy managed to maintain in the roughest conditions:

‘Though we all wore patched breeches, tattered coats and down-at-heel boots, on him these looked as frivolous as fancy-dress. His fair hair, eyebrows and moustache were dyed black, which only added to his carnivalesque appearance, and his conversation was as gay and witty as though we had just met each other … at some splendid ball in Paris or London. His frivolity was a salutory contrast to Tom’s natural gravity and my own temper … It was also a deceptive quality, for although it enhanced his patent imaginative powers, it concealed a mind as conscientious and thorough as it was fanciful.’

At dusk on 25 May, about ten people were sitting around the sheepfold when there came a warning. Three hundred Germans were heading towards them. This happened so often that it aroused no particular alarm, but Paddy told everyone to get packed up and reached for his rifle. It had been cleaned and oiled that morning, and he thought it was empty. He was unaware that some of the company ‘had been amusing themselves by doing Greek and British arms drill with my rifle, and practising loading and unloading’.

‘I drew the bolt backwards and forwards, easing the springs to see if it was working smoothly after being oiled (without realising it, I had put a round in the breech). I pressed the trigger and the round hit Yanni, who was sitting by the fire a little distance away doing his sariki, through the left hip … [the round] had passed twice through his leg before entering the body. There were six wounds in all. We bound them up, but it was no use, and he died about an hour later, shedding very little blood. He did not seem to suffer a great deal, and said some very kind words to me before he died that I shall never forget.’

They buried him at dawn under two ilex trees, about a quarter of a mile from the camp. Yanni had been one of Paddy’s closest Cretan friends, and ‘the best and hardest worker we have ever had here’.

Those who witnessed the scene knew it had been an accident. They tried to ease Paddy’s shock and distress by reminding him that similar things happened all too frequently among the Cretans, whose approach to gun safety was casual, to say the least. ‘Everyone was extremely decent to me about this horrible accident,’ he wrote, although his own remorse was not so easily assuaged. ‘No amount of writing about it will bring Yanni back to life, nor excuse my not examining the magazine before closing the bolt, and I am not going to attempt it.’

’n Gees Net So Pligsgetrou En Deeglik As Wat Dit Fantasievol Was

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Cape Rebel

Uit Patrick Leigh Fermor – An Adventure
deur Artemis Cooper

 

Xan Fielding en Paddy het in Yerakari ontmoet. Dit was ’n groot dorp wat algemeen bekend was vir sy kersies, en dit was geleë aan die bopunt van die twee valleie van die Amari. Hierdie omgewing was so groen en vrugbaar dat die Britse offisiere wat vanuit die harde lewe bo in die berge daarheen afgedaal het, dit “Lotusland” genoem het. Dit was nie hulle eerste kennismaking nie. Beide van hulle het  onthou dat hulle ’n hele paar jaar tevore al ontmoet het, moontlik in die somer van 1933, maar in Yerakari het ’n vriendskap tussen hulle ontstaan wat voortgeduur het tot met Xan se dood in 1991. Fielding het in sy oorlogsgedenkskrif, Hide and Seek, geskryf: “Soos Paddy het ek dwarsoor Europa voetgeslaan om Griekeland te bereik. Soos hy, was ek gedurende die lang, veeleisende vakansie amper platsak – maar daar het die ooreenkoms tussen ons reise opgehou, want waar ek genoodsaak was om buitekant, in slote, hooimiedens of op openbare bankies te slaap, het Paddy se sjarme en vindingrykheid van hom ’n welkome gas gemaak, waar hy hom ookal bevind het.”

~

Sabotasie het die hoogste voorkeur by die SOE geniet, maar dit was voortdurend in die wiele gery deur ander vereistes op die tyd en energie van die mense op die grond. Dae en nagte het verlore gegaan terwyl daar op boodskappers gewag is, of op die volgende draadloosskedule of valskermaflewerings wat uitgestel is omrede swak weersomstandighede. Om die draadloosstelle deur die nag in hulle tasse rond te dra, het harde werk vereis. Daar was ook staptogte na die kus toe om inkomende vaartuie te ontmoet, staptogte deur die berge na geheime konferensies en staptogte om inligting te versamel. Die Kretense terrein is van die ontoegeeflikste in Europa, en die afstande op ’n landkaart hou geen verband met die werklike afstande wat gedek moes word nie. Wanneer daar gevra is hoe ver dit van een plek na ’n ander is, sou ’n Kretenser antwoord deur te sê: “Tien sigarette ver,” of hoeveel ook al hy gedink het hy en route sou rook.

Dit was onvermydelik dat daar vervelige dae was waar daar niks was om te doen nie, behalwe om vir ’n boodskap of boodskapper te wag. Maar vir iemand soos Paddy wat van sang en gedigte gehou het, het die Kretensers heelwat kostelike afleiding verskaf. Hy het ’n hele reeks Kretense liedere bymekaargemaak, en hy was altyd reg vir ’n rondte mantinades, waar rymende koeplette deur een persoon begin is, en daarna word daar uit die vuis uit, een na die ander in ’n sirkel, bydraes gelewer. Baie van die ou veewagters kon groot dele van die Erotokritos, ’n sewentiende eeuse romanse in die Kretense dialek, voordra. So ’n voordrag kon die hele aand aanhou.

Die Slag van El Alamein het die Duitse opmars in ’n terugtog verander, en toe was jaggemaak op die Afrika-Korps, en is hulle uit Cyrenaica verdryf. Daar was stories van swak dissipline, versuim om die offisiere te salueer en dronkenskap.

Tom Dunbabin, Xan en Paddy het alles in hulle vermoë gedoen om Duitse vrees en frustrasies verder aan te wakker. Hulle het strooibiljette, met stempels van swastika-draende arende, wat gelyk het asof hulle van ontevrede Duitse soldate afkomstig was, laat val en versprei. Xan en Paddy het ook ’n kryt-krap-aksie aan die gang gekry. Hulle het jong Kretensers gekry om te help. “Wir Wollen Nach Haus” (ons wil huis toe gaan) en “Wo Ist Unsere Luftwaffe?” (waar is ons lugmag?) en “Scheisse Hitler” (skyt Hitler) was die algemeenste, maar Paddy het ook voordeel getrek uit die riemtelegramme dat kommunisme besig was om deur die sombere Duitse geledere te versprei. Sommige slagspreuke het die volgende uitgebasuin: “Heil Stalin!” of “Heil Moskau!” vergesel van ’n uittartende hamer en sekel. Die sukses van sy graffiti kon bepaal word deur arrestasies van Duitse soldate, en hulle kwartiere en pakkies wat deursoek is.

~

Xan was altyd verras deur Paddy se stylvolle kleredrag wat hy selfs in die rofste omstandighede in stand gehou het.

“Hoewel ons almal gelapte broeke, verflenterde jasse en verslete stewels gedra het, het dit aan hom van so min belang gelyk soos ’n fantasiekostuum. Sy blonde hare, wenkbroue en snor wat swart gekleurd was, het bygedra tot sy karnivalagtige voorkoms, en sy geselskap was so vrolik en geestig soos dit sou gewees het as ons mekaar so pas ontmoet het … by een of ander luisterryke bal in Londen of Parys. Sy ligsinnigheid was ’n heilsame kontras in vergelyking met Tom se natuurlike erns en my eie humeur … Dit was ook ’n misleidende kwaliteit, want hoewel dit sy duidelike verbeeldingryke vermoë versterk het, het dit ook ’n gees so pligsgetrou en deeglik as wat dit fantasievol was, verberg.”

Teen sononder op 25 Mei het daar omtrent tien mense om die vuur in die skaapkraal gesit toe daar ’n waarskuwing gekom het. Driehonderd Duitsers was in aantog in hulle rigting. Dit het so dikwels gebeur dat dit nie juis enige alarm uitgelok het nie, maar Paddy het aan almal gesê om op te pak en hy het sy geweer nadergetrek wat daardie oggend skoongemaak en geolie is, en hy was onder die indruk dat dit leeg was. Hy was onbewus daarvan dat iemand in hulle span “hulself vermaak het deur Griekse en Britse wapendril met my geweer te doen, en geoefen het om dit te laai en te ontlaai.”

“Ek het die slot vorentoe en agtertoe getrek, gekyk of die veertjies mooi gewerk het ná dit geolie is (en sonder dat ek bewus was daarvan, ’n koeël in die slot gesteek). Ek het die sneller getrek en Yanni, wat ’n entjie verder weg langs die vuur gesit en sy sariki gedoen het, deur die linkerheup geskiet … [die koeël] het twee keer deur sy been getrek voordat dit sy liggaam binnegedring het. Daar was altesaam ses wonde. Ons het hom verpleeg, maar dit was nutteloos, en hy is omtrent ’n uur later oorlede, sonder om te veel te bloei. Dit het nie gelyk of hy baie gely het nie, en voordat hy gesterf het, het hy baie vriendelike woorde aan my gesê wat ek nooit sal vergeet nie.”

Hulle het hom dou voor dag die volgende oggend onder twee eikebome omtrent ’n myl van die kamp af, begrawe.  Yanni was een van Paddy se hegste Kretense vriende, en “die beste en hardste werker wat ons ooit daar gehad het.”

Die mense wat die tragedie waargeneem het, het geweet dat dit ’n ongeluk was. Hulle het Paddy se skok en verdriet probeer verlig deur hom daaraan te herinner dat soortgelyke dinge heel gereeld tussen die Kretensers plaasgevind het. Hulle houding wat veiligheid betref was heeltemal te ongeërgd, om die minste daarvan te sê.  “Almal was besonder vriendelik teenoor my oor hierdie verskriklike ongeluk,” het hy geskryf, hoewel sy eie selfverwyt nie so maklik was om te lenig nie. “Dit maak nie saak hoeveel ek daaroor skryf nie, dit sal Yanni nie lewend terugbring nie of my verskoon dat ek nie die magasyn geïnspekteer het voor ek die slot toegeskuif het nie, en ek gaan dit nie probeer doen nie.”

The Opportunity He Had Been Waiting For

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From Patrick Leigh Fermor – An Adventure
by Artemis Cooper

 

Patrick returned to Cairo in July where things suddenly became more interesting. He was summoned to Rustum Buildings, known to every Cairene taxi driver as ‘Secret Building’, from where covert operations were controlled. Here he was inducted into what became known as the Special Operations Executive, although in those days it lurked behind a smokescreen of different names, of which perhaps the best known were MO4 and Force 133. Paddy was interviewed by an unknown colonel whose language was so veiled and elliptical that he had no idea what was being said, nor how he should respond. But his pay was raised, and he was told that he would soon receive his orders.

He was to join a unit known as ME 102, probably at the suggestion of Monty Woodhouse. The unit was a training camp for people who wanted to continue the fight by joining resistance units that had been formed across Europe. Paddy went to Palestine in September 1941 to join ME 102, established in a spacious house on the slopes of Mount Carmel, overlooking the town of Haifa. They called the house Narkover, after the imaginery school invented by J. B. Morton (‘Beachcomber’) where the pupils were taught forgery, gambling, theft and arson. From his only surviving notebook of the time, the place seems aptly named: it is peppered with remarks such as ‘Demolitions were new to all except the fishermen and sailors, and as usual aroused great interest’, or ‘The Molotov cocktail lecture and practical went off successfully’. The students also learnt map-reading and report-writing, how to handle boats, wireless sets and small arms. They came from a wide range of nationalities, including Yugoslavs and Kurds.

Among the Cretan Greeks, Paddy met two men who were to be among his closest wartime companions: George Tyrakis and Manoli Paterakis, both of whom were later key figures in the Kreipe Operation. Paddy was probably more useful as a Greek speaker than as a weapons expert. Most of his students had been handling guns since childhood and had an instinctive grasp of how they were put together, whereas their instructor had to spend hours in the armoury, mugging up how to dismantle and reassemble guns with the aid of an instruction manual.

Paddy went to Jerusalem for the New Year 1942, where a number of friends from Cairo had gathered. Roaring about on a motorcycle, he took the opportunity to visit all the holy places around the Sea of Galilee. At the Hotel Saint-Georges in Beirut he ran into Costa again, and that night the energy and skill of Costa’s dancing brought the hotel ballroom to a standstill. Costa explained that this was probably his last opportunity to dance, for he had only joined the Free French in order to get himself to the Middle East. Now he was transferring to the Greek army, in which dancing was forbidden for as long as the homeland was occupied.

Paddy left Narkover for Cairo in April 1942, and soon after that new orders came through: in the next few weeks he would join the handful of SOE officers sent into occupied Crete, to work with the Cretan resistance. He would be in Crete, out of uniform, living in the open, in constant danger. This was the opportunity he had been waiting for.

~

The Germans increased pressure on the resistance with raids on mountain villages, and arrests were made all the more terrifying for being undertaken by large numbers of men. The kapetans responded by executing six informers in May, but this led to the immediate killing of fourteen patriots. In June, the first of what became an annual sabotage operation was undertaken by the Special Boat Service. One team destroyed five aircraft at Kastelli while another Free French team, under Captain the Earl Jellicoe, destroyed eighteen planes and a number of vehicles at Herakleion airfield. The following day fifty hostages, including the ex-mayor of Herakleion and the ex-governor-general, were shot by the Germans.

Such a brutal show of strength threw the Cretans into a state of shock and panic, and many questioned whether there was anything to be gained from heroic resistance. But the instinct to strike back at the oppressors was as strong as ever and, in the hope of launching a general uprising, the kapetans urged SOE to give them more support. Tom Dunbabin explained that the moment was not yet ripe, but they insisted on being taken to Egypt in order to put their case to GHQ Cairo. Dunbabin agreed with reluctance and, on the night of 23 June, Bandouvas, Petrakogeorgis and their families, together with Satanas, who was gravely ill with cancer, were assembled on a beach near Trypiti, awaiting the caique Porcupine, which was bringing Paddy for his first spell of duty in occupied Crete.

The Porcupine stayed discreetly out at sea, while a tender rowed the incoming party to shore. Paddy was accompanied by a wireless operator, Sergeant Matthew White, and Yanni Tsangarakis, a runner for Ralph Stockbridge who had volunteered to return as Paddy’s guide. Each of them was carrying a heavy load as they disembarked in a rough sea, and Paddy’s boots were ripped apart as he scrambled over the wet rocks to the beach.

The officer in charge of the tender made it clear that he could not accommodate all those awaiting passage, and that the sea was too rough to attempt more than one journey back to the Porcupine. Only Satanas and his family were evacuated that night, leaving the other kapetans and their entourages seething with anger and resentment. This was reflected in Paddy’s first signal, which began with the words: ‘Situation Here Ugly’.

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