Today marks the 75th anniversary of the extraction of General Kreipe from Crete, and this evening in the Travellers Club a dinner will be held to mark this event. Paddy grabs much of the attention, but as we know, this sort of operation is a team effort, as much to do with the bravery and hardiness of the Cretan Andartes as anything else. And of course the second-in-command, William Stanley Moss who was as cool as a cucumber acting as the new “general’s” driver.
Jack Smith-Hughes was a SOE officer who served in Crete and who knew Billy Moss very well. This short obituary was written by him and passed via Roderick Bailey to Billy’s daughter, Gabriella, and thence to me so that you all may read it on this special day. Roderick informed Gabriella that “the obituary by Jack Smith-Hughes comes from what was then called, Special Forces Club Magazine and Newsletter. To be even more precise, it was printed on page 25 of edition No.47 (Vol. VII, December 1965).”
If you can’t read the image above, download the pdf here.
In 2015, the experienced BBC reporter and presenter, John Humphrys, hosted a BBC Radio 4 programme about Paddy’s life in the village of Kardamyli in the Mani, exploring his the life and work. The programme is now available (for how long I don’t know) on the BBC Sounds website. Maybe take half an hour this weekend to listen to one seasoned veteran talk about his passion for another.
At the time the BBC website introduced the programme thus:
Fermor is arguably the most influential travel writer of the 20th Century. At the age of eighteen he took off, with notebook in hand, on a walk across Europe. During the Second World War he fought in Greece and Crete, and is still remembered in the country today for his daring exploits with the resistance. His most celebrated action came in 1944 when he led a commando operation to abduct the German General Heinrich Kreipe.
In the early 1960s he moved to Greece, to the Southern Peloponnese. He built a house in the village of Kardamyli in the Mani. It was here that he wrote much of his most celebrated work and where he remained until his death in June 2011.
John Humphrys visits Fermor’s village to explore the influence that Greece had upon his life and work, and also to consider the impact that he had on the village and the people he lived alongside. John visits Fermor’s former home, now in the care of the Benaki Museum in Athens, and discusses the plans for its future. He meets those in the village who met Leigh Fermor when he first arrived in the 1960s – a man in his nineties recalls how they “danced on the tables into the night” – and he hears tales of influential guests, great writers like Bruce Chatwin and John Betjeman, even a King and Queen.
Accompanied by Fermor’s book ‘Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese’, John Humphrys also travels into the deep Mani, one of the remotest, wildest and most isolated regions in Greece.
Visit the BBC Sounds website here for further details.
Vanessa Fenton (nee Fermor) relaxing in India (copyright by Miles Fenton 2017)
Paddy’s nephew Miles Fenton sent me this photograph of a painting he did of his mother, Paddy’s sister Vanessa, relaxing in a chair in India. We are indebted to Miles for this.
Miles lives in Canada and is an artist. He has contributed a number of photographs and comments to the blog over the years.
Robert Macfarlane is a splendid writer, and a great admirer of Paddy. His books are always worth reading. His latest, Underland: A Deep Time Journey is published today.
But I wanted to highlight a little known work of his. Called The Gifts of Reading. This essay is a joy in itself celebrating the enjoyment of reading and inspired by Macfarlane receiving a copy of a Time of Gifts as a gift. This little pocket sized book is an ideal little present for those you love, just to show that you care and wish them to share in your joy of the gift of reading. The Gifts of Reading
This is a very belated announcement to inform those who do not yet know, that Charles Arnold, the driving force behind the PLF Society, died on 17 December 2018 following a short illness.
There is little more to say at this stage as the remaining members of the Society board try to sort out affairs.
Ill Met by Moonlight movie poster – Bogarde as flamboyant Cretan
The Aussies are getting more organised! Even more disturbing the Greek gods appear to have motivated the Melbourne Greek Cultural Centre committee, and in particular the Battle of Crete sub committee, to even more heroic feats of organisation. The screening event that we publicised has moved to a new venue and tickets can be purchased online!
The screening, to be held on 14 May, is moving from the Melbourne Greek Centre, to the Westgarth Cinema in Northcote. Tickets can be purchased here.
We all wish you a very enjoyable and successful evening.
On the evening of 26th April 1944, SOE officers, Patrick Leigh Fermor, and William “Billy” Stanley Moss, supported by the small but determined gang of Cretan Andartes, kidnapped German commander in Crete,Heinrich Kreipe, in an action that was on the one hand heroic and dashing, and on the other controversial for its impact and consequences.
The kidnap gang pose before the action (Courtesy of Estate of William Stanley Moss)
Paddy Leigh Fermor and ‘Billy’ Moss (Courtesy of estate of William Stanley Moss)
As we remember this small event in that catastrophic global war, you may like to take the opportunity to watch the movie, 11th Day, which documents the key events in the struggle of the Cretan people and their allies against the German occupiers, from the invasion to the German retreat, including interviews with Paddy, and many of the characters made famous by the kidnap of General Kreipe.
Watch the full movie here before it is pulled from You Tube!