“Ach so, Herr Major.”

28th April 1944.

PLF and the kidnap team spend the day at Petrodolakkia with Xylouris and his andartes, where they take many photos. Tom Dunbabin has sent 3 members of his team from the Amari to the hideout, including Reg Everson and a wireless. The plan is to send a message to Cairo so that an evacuation date and beach can be identified, but the radio is broken. They are stuck. PLF sends off various messages, including one to Dick Barnes who has a radio station near Rethymno. The team are joined by Grigori Chnarakis, Nikos Komis and Andoni Papaleonidas, who have walked up from the kidnap point. They are meant to bring with them the General’s driver, Alfred Fenske, but he has been killed on the journey.
At Bletchley Park the codebreakers decode a German signal stating that Kreipe has been kidnapped.

PLF records the following incident:

‘A curious moment, dawn, streaming in the cave’s mouth, which framed the white crease of Mount Ida. We were all three lying smoking in silence, when the General, half to himself, slowly said:

“Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte”

The opening line and a bit of one of the few odes of Horace I know by heart. I was in luck.

” … Nec jam sustineant onus” I went on
“silvae laborantes geluque
Flumina constiterint acuto”

And continued through the other stanzas to the end of the ode. After a few seconds silence, the General said: “Ach so, Herr Major.” For five minutes the war had evaporated without a trace.[i]

[i] William Stanley Moss recorded this mutual love of the Classics in ‘Ill Met by Moonlight.’

‘Paddy discovered that the General is a fair Greek scholar, and, much to the amusement of our Cretan colleagues, the two of them entertained each other by exchanging verses from Sophocles.’

4 thoughts on ““Ach so, Herr Major.”

  1. Pingback: Your Introductory Philology Reading List – The Philological Crocodile

  2. Southewing Fine Books

    Cheers Tom
    Any chance of getting maps from Chris White? The pics are magnificent for an old bloke who walked many of these peaks. Old passports show a total of seven visits. If this wretched lockdown did not detain us I’d be back there again. Still moderately fit but no match for the Cretans. I led a party from Anopoli over Pachnes, over the Mitraki ridge, down the Tromarissas and, finally, we were in Zourva. We were on our way to Xania. The Cretans told us we could do it in a day. We got, in my defence, terrible snowstorms but it took us four days. George Psychoundakis would have put his collar up and done it in about ten hours.

      1. Southwing Fine Books

        The Mountaineering Club of Crete, or its current incarnation, has a superb collection of maps of Crete. They did not allow me to copy any of them when I wandered in many years ago. The best maps were of British and German 1940s’ vintage. Why on earth did we all go to war?
        You can get by without maps. My favourite peak is really Spathi on Mt Dikti in eastern Crete. I went up on a glorious but very cold and windy spring day. And, a second time, I went up in a horrid winter in quite dangerous conditions. Cretans would disagree: just a pleasant stroll.


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