Where d’you get them bird-like ways recruit Leigh-Fermor?

I am currently reading my first edition of A War of Shadows, William Stanley Moss’ sequel to Ill Met by Moonlight. It covers Moss’ wartime activities from the point after he and Paddy arrived back in Cairo with the captured General Kreipe.

Moss returned to Crete to attempt a repeat of the first escapade but was frustrated in this by much increased levels of security and constant betrayal by the Communist ELAS andartes. He was then posted to (Greek) Macedonia and finally to the Far East where he saw out the war.

Paddy was unable to accompany Moss to Crete as he had been brought down with a very severe attack of rheumatic fever after the rigours of the Kreipe kidnap, and the harsh conditions they experienced whilst on the run. As we know Paddy did recover and returned to Crete. It is perhaps a little ironic that whilst Paddy was described as being somewhat less physically strong, it is Paddy who has outlived virtually all of his contemporaries and, as far as we know, still swims even to this day.

There is one little piece that amused me and I would like to share it with you. Whilst Moss was waiting upon his expected return to Crete after the failure of his second kidnap mission (he never made it back, being sent to Macedonia instead), he joined Paddy in Beirut where he was convalescing at the home of the commander of the British legation. Moss and Paddy were sitting on a patio enjoying whisky and soda, recounting stories and Moss relates the following (p 68):

Though a little thin in the face, Paddy looked surprisingly well; and it was only when he walked that one could have guessed that he had just recovered from so dangerous an illness. “But I manage to crack along,” he said, “—like some strange bird.”

We laughed at the recollection of an incident at the Guards’ Depot during the early days of the war, when Paddy had been a recruit in the Irish Guards. “Recruit Leigh-Fermor!” the drill sergeant had bawled across the parade ground. ”Why’re you walkin’ about like some strange bird? Where d’you get them bird-like ways? Put ‘im in the book, Corporal Driscoll. For walkin’ about like some strange birrrd!”

Having been on the wrong end of Guards sergeant-major’s humorous put-downs I can sympathise! Perhaps my fondest memory is of an Irish Guards Sergeant-Major ordering us to get sorted out before an orienteering event at Sandhurst: “Get into your t’ree groups … A, B, C, and D!”


5 thoughts on “Where d’you get them bird-like ways recruit Leigh-Fermor?

  1. Evangelia Dascarolis

    ……I absolutely love how I begin to read vignettes of Paddy’s life which lead to stories of his contemporaries,all fascinating,then back to the present,with the family of Billy & Sophie Moss honouring his memory & keeping the Cretan connection alive.This whole blog is priceless-thank you all so much…….Evangelia Theodorakis Dascarolis……

  2. Pingback: Patrick Leigh Fermor’s ‘magical’ tour « Patrick Leigh Fermor

  3. Yvonne Carts-Powell

    Hey, I just wanted to let you know: I’m reading “Million Dollar Movie” by Michael Powell, which has some info about the making of “Ill Met By Moonlight”. He also recounts a meeting with PLF, in which an interview in Athens turned into bar-hopping which turned into trespassing on the Acropolis in the wee hours, which lead to their arrest.

      1. Yvonne Carts-Powell

        Hi! I just saw your response, and I don’t think I received an email alerting me to it. So, more than a year late, I apologize for the long silence, and also that I can’t scan those pages. I’ve returned the book long since.


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