The Kreipe pennants – the story of their rediscovery by Billy Moss’ daughter

The pennants from General Kreipe’s car

Discovering the full details behind a particular story or event is often tricky with clarifications, enhancements, or downright contradictions emerging sometimes many years after the event. Fortunately we have not had to wait so long for some further detail to be added to the story I ran last year about what happened to the pennants on General Kreipe’s car at the time of the kidnap, and their subsequent discovery many years later.

‘Billy’ Moss’ daughter Gabriella Bullock read Artemis Cooper’s account of how the pennants were found after so many years in a trunk in Paddy’s house at Kardamyli. Gabriella then wrote to me to ask me to pass on the full story behind their (very fortunate) re-discovery in Ireland some years before and how they were passed by her mother (Sophie Moss née Tarnowksa) to her. It sounds like we are very lucky to have them at all.

Gabriella’s account starts during a recent visit to Crete …

In Rethymnon we met the delightful people who run the Folklore Museum. This is where the pennants from the General’s car are now housed, in accordance with PLF’s wishes. We found that they were very interested in the story of how the pennants were randomly and luckily rediscovered, and this leads me to think that the story definitely has a place on your website

In the early 1950s my family lived in Co. Cork, Ireland, but moved back (supposedly temporarily) to London in 1954. My parents intended to return, and left many of their possessions in the safe-keeping of various Irish friends or in store. My father never did go back to Ireland; indeed, in 1957, eight years before his death in 1965, my father also left England never to return. As things turned out, however, it was also many years before my mother went back, and all that had been left in storage was lost.

A number of years after my father’s death my mother bought a cottage near Cork, and thereafter divided her time between London and Ireland. I was staying with her at the cottage one summer in the late 1970s when a friend of hers announced that she had a trunk belonging to us which she wanted to return; it had been sitting in their attic since the 50’s.

A battered tin trunk duly arrived with my father’s name, rank and regiment painted on the outside in white. My elder sister has it now and it is, without doubt, the one described in the first chapter of our father’s book A War of Shadows, even down to the grains of sand:

“an old letter, a scrap of notepaper smeared with the sweat of one’s hip-pocket, the rain-spattered pages of a diary, an operational report written in the bloodlessly forbidding vocabulary of a headquarters’ clerk – these relics, discovered in a tin trunk which still creaks with grains of sand when you open the lid…”.

My mother opened and unpacked it, and said to me, “I think you’d better have these”. Amongst the things inside it were my father’s original diary, already entitled Ill Met by Moonlight, in remarkably good condition and perfectly legible, and the two German pennants.

It was a heart-stopping moment. My mother gave these things to me, and I gratefully and unthinkingly received them. I was in my mid-twenties then. The diary I still have. As for the pennants, they were much prized, and adorned a wall in my house for nearly 15 years.

But one day about 17 or 18 years ago, when I was re-reading IMBM, it dawned on me for the first time that in fact since it was Paddy who had taken them as trophies from the General’s car, they were rightfully his. So I gave them to him. This was in the early 90’s. Paddy was completely astonished, and moved, to see them again, so unexpectedly, after 50 years! He was awfully pleased, and after his death they were donated to the Folklore Museum in Rethymno, in accordance with his wishes.

And now they are back in Crete, which is absolutely as it should be.

With best wishes,

Gabriella Bullock

Further reading:

The Kreipe pennants

Articles about the kidnap in the Ill Met by Moonlight category


4 thoughts on “The Kreipe pennants – the story of their rediscovery by Billy Moss’ daughter

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

  2. Christos Paganakis

    The choice of placing them in the folklore museum in Rethymnon seems a just little quirky .
    ( Nothing against it , we remember well the small red clay dish artifact charmingly labelled ” Dish for small animals to drink out of ” ! )

    I seem to remember (20 years ago now) another museum in Heraklion , ( possibly devoted to Nikos Kazantzakis memorabilia ? ) along the seafront in a tall house somewhere near the restored Franciscan monastery church , which had a quite a collection of battle and occupation era displays , artifacts and a roomful of sundry WW2 related detritus — including the floor frame from a German Glider , which (I think) had been mislabelled as a stretcher ( gurney ) Perhaps that might have been a better home , given that the “Car” events took place there .

    For those who like WW2 lethal ironmongery there is a splendidy Cretan private museum located high in the hills on the plain of Askifou , (under General Student’s early assault plans one of the original objectives for dropping part of his airborne force .)
    Askifou lies at the top of the ” Retreat road ” which the Allied forces in the west had to climb on their way to Sphakia and evacuation , on the south coast .
    It is a typical Greek Oro-pedio ( a billiard-table-flat agricultural plain , inexplicably located at height in the hills – Omalos , Nida , and Lassithi are others )

    I had caught the Late bus up the infernal zigzags of the southern slopes from Xora Sphakion , alighted at the top at Imbros and bivouacked surrepticiously at dusk just north of the hamlet .
    The following day I walked along the main road north and kept seeing handmade signs to the War Museum , and being in no rush and with the day to waste up there , turned aside into the plain to see it .
    A scrubby hillock held a hamlet of more or less ruined houses , and as a further sign pointed me upwards , I ascended .
    The cobbled mule-stair was bordered with old scrap metal which increased in lethality as you rose above the plain .
    Commencing with bonnet panels from Morris trucks and Austin ambulances , one proceeded through mooring bouys and festoons of barbed wire on screw pickets , to arrive at balloon cable , broken artillery carriages , rusted hulk of brencarrier , portable runway sections of US make , and finally to the museum itself , a large “avli” yard fronting the big room in a semi-ruined house .

    The staff was a minature Cretan lady in Granny-widow-black who regarded me gravely and responded to my (admittedly fractured) modern Greek with dignified and silent reserve , while taking my banknote , issuing change and ticket .

    It is plain that this collection has been building all down the years , and that everything ” interesting ” in old family houses and barns , caves , and laying about generally , for miles around , has gravitated that way .
    Many Small arms , mortars and machine guns , ammunition of all sorts , sizes and nationalities , uniforms , documents , parachutes , a stock sufficient to commence a fair sized conflict lay there , or hung in clusters on the walls , like Onions .

    Having served , ( very briefly and ingloriously ) for H.M. some 40 years ago , I regarded with unease and trepidation what appear to be clusters of 88mm and British 3.7 AA rounds , Unpleasant black 81mm and 3″ mortar bombs , of several kinds , in small heaps , grenades of the Mills and German stick types , all apparently fused , and a lot of smaller ammunition which also appeared to be live . I recalled some of what we had been taught long ago , about the delicacy of Fulminates , the breakdown , over time , of Nitro-cellulose propellant , and of shell-fillings , and the necessity to rid yourself of time-expired nasties promptly .

    I asked her whether the Greek Army had ever come up there to see this stuff was safe .

    She gave me that Greek look of contempt , accompanied by the flung back head and the “Tskk !” sound which indicates a definite ” No ” .
    ( And which conveys the message that only an imbecile could ever imagine that the answer to the question could be anything different – disconcerting if you are unaccustomed to this national characteristic )
    ” But Madam ” I gently expostulated , ” I have been in the British Army , I know that these things can be very dangerous ! ”

    Deadpan in expression , she took me by the arm and led me gently across to the door .
    ” Koita , Paidaki mou ” ( Look here , my child ) she said , quietly , indicating a small handwritten notice on the wall , by the entrance .

    ————– Which read , ” Please do not touch any of the exhibits ” .

    I have chuckled over that ever since .
    The place is probably still there , go , see , enjoy , but ………..
    please DONT touch ………… !

  3. John Youde

    Absolutely fantastic to see the Pennants and greatful thanks to Billy Moss’s daughter Gabriella Bullock that they have now found the appropriate home in the Folklore Museum of Crete. I met Paddy in Kardamyli some years ago and I would of loved to have met Billy Moss, but sadly he died very young and I was serving in the Royal Navy then and never got to his part of the world.

    John Youde

  4. Tim

    The mystery of the pennants,something that I was not alone in always wondering about, becomes clearer almost by the day. Just need to see then for myself now.


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