We were in Stratford-upon-Avon at the weekend to watch two brilliant performances of Shakespeare’s Henry IV parts I and II, and on the way home we paused to visit Paddy’s grave. It was a lovely day and as ever a beautiful and peaceful setting. Do visit if you can; Dumbleton is just 5 minutes off the A46.
Thank you for this quintissential English picture of Paddy and Joan’s last resting place. His
headstone in Gloucestershire took me back just two months to Soudha Bay’s serried ranks of 1,527 such white stones for the Allied dead after the Battle of Crete. They gleamed in early morning sun, symmetry stretching same in diagonals as row upon row gently down to the bay. Beyond lay the water beckoning open sea and guarded by the commercial port to
starboard and south, Greek naval base to port and north. The Commonwealth War Graves
Commission had excelled once more while the Cretan message said it so simply :
” The Land on which this cemetery stands is the gift of the Greek People for the
Perpetual Resting Place of the Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen who are honoured here.”
I had come to pay respects to them all in keying into the start of a first fascinating fortnight following up the Battle, the Resistance, the island and the people. Especially I wanted to
respect John DS Pendlebury. I was humbled and touched by this whole experience and what it meant.
Later walked through the White mountains to the little port of Sfakia to see for myself
the Via Dolorosa and then the telling memorial hard by the ferry terminal to the Evacuation of 18,000 Allied troops in late May 1941. Some readers may know of the quotation by Admiral Sir Andrew Brown Cunningham – ( ‘ ABC ‘ ) – Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, which rates as highly as Nelsons words in 1805. He made this signal to all RN units at the height of the Battle of Crete:
” It takes the Navy three years to build a ship. It would take three hundred years to build a new reputation. The evacuation will continue. ” The Royal Navy suffered huge losses as had the Allied force on land both from a rampant Luftwaffe dominating the skies after the first airborne landing in history. But 18,000 soldiers were evacuated to fight again. Ships lost were 1 carrier, 6 cruisers and 6 destroyers sunk; 3 battleships and 3 more cruisers badly damaged for 2,000 killed, matching the same number of dead soldiers and 500 wounded.
All this sacrifice spurred me on to ferry and to walk west to ‘Finix’ – the old Phoenix family run hotel right by the beach only reachable by foot or ferry. A wonderful experience with many Cretan characters en route and in situ, where I stayed for Euros 30 the night. In high season this hikes to 35 ! I was in heaven; I was falling in love with Crete and her people and I would return from this Recce. Thank you Crete; thank you Allied forces and Resistance.
Many photos taken; books studied and locals met including Mrs. Koula Varydakis, who runs
Cretan Cookery classes and in whose converted oil press we met an American family on furlough from work in Russia’s Caspian. Koula’s parents both worked and fought for the
George Andreas Hatzidakis’s WW2 War Museum in Askifou was a potpourri of equipment, relevant British Newspapers and relics from both the attackers and defenders, started by his father in 1947. Cretan experiences deserve better treatment than this first stab
and I must do better for your amazing legacy, that is the PLF Blog, Tom. Thank you too most
Former Naval Person
Nice pic of a special spot. We might go to Prescott Hill Climb soon, which is very close by, and will definitely try to visit. We haven’t seen Paddy’s headstone yet. Can anyone remind me of the translation of the Greek inscription please?
For Tom : have now tried again to submit my two penn’orth but finger trouble failed again.
A case of 3rd time lucky, I hope.
Really Julian. What has happened to your Greek? Here is all 🙂 https://patrickleighfermor.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/paddys-headstone-unveiled/
It’s been a long day and my Greek has never been too good. It’s also been eighteen months since I had a chance to try it out. Too long…
Please Tom, would you ping me to confirm that my message got through at approx 1405 this Monday 7 July – or not, as Error was reported after entering 2 x e-mail addresses. I had described in brief some salient points of my visit to Crete in May 2014 .. and they may now be lost, in which case will re-write.
Thank you Richard Little
Hi Richard – I have no messages either in here (apart from the above) as a comment or by personal email.Sorry about that.
Thanks Tom. Mea Culpa in toto and will rewrite. RSL