Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor and The Folio Society

Paddy and George Psychoundakis the “Cretan Runner”

From the Folio Society website.

Ten years ago, The Folio Society decided to publish a book by William Stanley Moss, entitled Ill Met by Moonlight. It told the story of a daring war-time adventure in Crete, in which Moss and Patrick Leigh Fermor, two young SOE officers, kidnapped a German general, spirited him away across the mountains and into captivity. The book was based on the detailed diary kept (entirely against the rules) by Moss, and its undeniably romantic aspects were highlighted when, in 1957, a film was made starring Dirk Bogarde as the dashing Leigh Fermor.

When we planned the book, it occurred to us that Patrick Leigh Fermor, known to his friends as Paddy, had never contributed any kind of comment on it in writing. We assumed there was a good reason for this – a certain delicacy perhaps, since, at the time of the operation, he was already embedded in Crete in a cave under Mount Ida, with the role of facilitating Commando raids on the island, and was dependent on the friendship and loyalty of the local partisans. But we wrote to him anyway and asked if he would contribute an introduction.

He rang up from his home in Greece. It was indeed, he said charmingly, ‘delicate’ and for various reasons he’d always felt the less said the better. We parted genially, my suggesting that we might ask Michael Foot, historian of the Special Operations Executive and an old friend of his, to do it instead. This we did. A week later, Paddy telephoned again. He’d been thinking about it, and he felt that there were things he would like to say: the coup had, in his view, been diminished by being reduced to the level of a ‘tremendous jape’ and he hoped to restore the balance by providing something of the context for the enterprise. He did not wish to interfere with Michael’s introduction, but would contribute a short Afterword, describing his own experience. It would be 500 to 1,000 words. It eventually emerged at 6,500 words, all of which had to be wrested from him in hand to hand combat, so anxious was he that nothing could be misinterpreted. Michael Foot, in the meantime, was triumphant to be able to tell Paddy that General Kreipe (who was not the intended victim of the kidnap, as that gentleman had been moved on) was so unpopular that, when they heard he had been snatched, his officers broke open the champagne.

Most Folio books have their unexpected rewards, but this one had more than most. Through it we met Billy Moss’s daughters who showed us photograph albums and the original diary; Sophie, their Polish mother, a formidably attractive SOE operative who had been based, with Moss and Leigh Fermor, at Tara, the Cairo House; Michael (M R D) Foot, whose own experiences as prisoner of war were at least as hair-raising as the exploits he went on to chronicle; and of course Paddy himself – courageous, witty, modest, famously attractive and – both with this book and The Cretan Runner – a good friend to The Folio Society. We will miss him.

Related article:

A Meeting between Paddy and George Psychoundakis the “Cretan Runner”

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3 thoughts on “Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor and The Folio Society

  1. John Chapman

    Copies of the Folio edition of Ill Met… are widely available via Abe Books on the web, and not expensive. I quickly availed myself of a copy, so now have two editions. I informed a close friend of Paddy’s of the Afterword. He had the Folio addition but had not spotted the Afterword. So two happy punters…

    Reply
    1. proverbs6to10 Post author

      Thanks John. There are also many copies on eBay. Always good to sign up for the daily alerts. Use “Ill Met by Moonlight Moss” and you will receive notification of what is available and can either ‘Buy it Now’ or bid in an auction.

      Reply
  2. Alun Davies

    In August 2005 on our return from Crete – where we had followed the abduction route to the coast – Paddy generously entertained us to (his words) “a midday feast” at Dumbleton. As we arrived he was standing tall and upright in the porch of his home with a chilled bottle of champagne in one hand. He greeted us with the words “come on in boys and have a drink”. We were entertained to a marvellous lunch of white fish cooked by his housekeeper and we then sat in the shade of apple trees in the sunny garden to drink coffee. I had taken a copy of the Folio society book by Billy Moss for Paddy to sign. On page 193 he neatly put a line through his name and then put his signature alongside it – surrounded it with a cloud and drew four small birds on the wing. With me on that memorable day were Artemis Cooper, who had kindly arranged the whole thing, Richard Cowper, Chris Paul, John Ellis Roberts and Tim Todd.

    Reply

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