The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis

Ariadne-jacket-453x680Recently I returned from a business trip to Cluj, the loveliest city in Romania, to find a parcel on my desk. It was a copy of The Ariadne Objective, a new book by Wes Davis about the resistance and SOE operations in Crete. It is added to my pile of books that I will read throughout the course of the year.Hugh and Gabriella Bullock (‘Billy’ Moss’ daughter) provided information to Wes about Billy and his wife Sophie Tarnowska. Hugh believes that this book makes ‘a different study of the people concerned’.

You can buy the book on Amazon. The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis

The blurb says this ….

The incredible true story of the WWII spies, including Patrick Leigh Fermor and John Pendlebury, who fought to save Crete and block Hitler’s march to the East.

In the bleakest years of WWII, when it appeared that nothing could slow the German army, Hitler set his sights on the Mediterranean island of Crete, the ideal staging ground for German domination of the Middle East. But German command had not counted on the eccentric band of British intelligence officers who would stand in their way, conducting audacious sabotage operations in the very shadow of the Nazi occupation force.

The Ariadne Objective tells the remarkable story of the secret war on Crete from the perspective of these amateur soldiers – scholars, archaeologists, writers – who found themselves serving as spies in Crete because, as one of them put it, they had made “the obsolete choice of Greek at school”: John Pendlebury, a swashbuckling archaeologist with a glass eye and a swordstick, who had been legendary archeologist Arthur Evans’s assistant at Knossos before the war; Patrick Leigh Fermor, a Byronic figure and future travel-writing luminary who, as a teenager in the early 1930s, walked across Europe, a continent already beginning to feel the effects of Hitler’s rise to power; Xan Fielding, a writer who would later produce the English translations of books like Bridge on the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes; and Sandy Rendel, a future Times of London reporter, who prided himself on a disguise that left him looking more ragged and fierce than the Cretan mountaineers he fought alongside.

Infiltrated into occupied Crete, these British gentleman spies teamed with Cretan partisans to carry out a cunning plan to disrupt Nazi maneuvers, culminating in a daring, high-risk plot to abduct the island’s German commander. In this thrilling untold story of World War II, Wes Davis offers a brilliant portrait of a group of legends in the making, against the backdrop of one of the war’s most exotic locales.


2 thoughts on “The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis

  1. Pingback: A new book by Patrick Leigh Fermor- Abducting a General – to be published in October | Patrick Leigh Fermor

  2. Tim

    Tom. I too had such a delightful package drop through my letterbox recently. I recommend elevating it towards the top of your ‘to read’ list.

    I do so because I have a very good idea of the depth of Wes Davis’s research. He began so long ago that I had forgotten that I had given him some hints about files of interest at the National Archives until he contacted me to thank me for the tips a year or so ago. I am not sure of the extent of my suggestions but was delighted to see that two of the files I had found provide the names for two chapters. Moonstruck and Bricklayer were the Royal Navy operation names for delivering Billy Moss and his party to Crete, and for removing Kreipe and his abductors from Crete. They are particularly helpful in understanding more about how the parties got to and from Crete

    But Davis hasn’t just looked and what others have written and files they might have found, he has dug and dug and come up new information and then pulled all into a very readable account. I know from others such as Hugh, Gabriella and Tamsin that he has explored every potential source in his search for facts. His finding of the Royal Air Force records about the attempts to parachute the team into Crete (Operation Whimsical) are, for the likes of me who search for new information, quite a coup,

    I am familiar with much of the record and literature, published, unpublished, and about to be published and would rate this as perhaps one of the most informative overall accounts, in English, since Ill Met by Moonlight was published. Hopefully it might also encourage others to read more by Xan Fielding, Sandy Rendel , George Psychoundakis, John Pendlebury and other SOE members – a couple more are in the pipleline.

    It is indeed a different account as Hugh suggests and that in itself is quite an achievement given the years that will have passed come this 26th April when it will be the 70th anniversary of the event that was to make the world aware of the work of the SOE in Crete.


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