Tag Archives: Crete

75th anniversary of the kidnap of General Kreipe – watch 11th Day movie

The kidnap gang pose before the action (Courtesy of Estate of William Stanley Moss)

The kidnap gang pose before the action (Courtesy of Estate of William Stanley Moss)

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.

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!

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Obituary from 2006 – George Psychoundakis the Cretan Runner

George Psychoundakis during the Resistance

The wartime resistance fighter and SOE courier George Psychoundakis, who became a writer and literary translator, has died in Chania, Crete, at the age of 85 (2006 obituary). He won international fame in 1955 with the publication of his memoir of the Nazi occupation of his homeland, The Cretan Runner, which was translated with inimical lyricism by Patrick Leigh Fermor (later Sir Patrick), who had been parachuted on to the island to help organise the resistance.

By Simon Steyne

First published in the Guardian 21 February 2006 (and later corrected – see below)

Born in the mountain village of Asi Gonia, George had only a brief schooling before becoming a shepherd, a craft that made him familiar with the island landscape’s every feature. He joined the resistance as soon as the airborne German invasion of Crete began on May 20 1941, and operated as a messenger for Leigh Fermor, who took over command of the underground forces in western Crete from Xan Fielding in January 1942. Leigh Fermor’s wartime exploits became widely known through his own writings and Dirk Bogarde’s portrayal of him in the 1957 film, Ill Met by Moonlight, about the kidnapping of the German commander General Karl Kreipe.

George’s memoir told the story of the German occupation and the Cretan resistance from the time of the invasion to the island’s liberation on May 23 1945. His effortlessly poetic account reflected a passionate love of his homeland and its people, a geologist’s and botanist’s eye, the wonder of a young shepherd’s experiences during furlough in Egypt and Palestine, chortling bemusement at the habits of the upper-class British agents, and deep comradeship with his fellow resistance fighters – not least Manoli Paterakis and “Michali” (Leigh Fermor’s codename), who remained his lifelong friends.

George and I got to know each other in Crete in 1990. At our first meeting, he held up his map stolen from a German guard post. Against the lamp, the light shone through the pinholes left by the flags charting troop movements – and smiling with typical wryness, he displayed the helmet he had also taken from the guard “after I’d slit his throat” (an incident not recounted in his book). As a student of the German resistance, I had interviewed communists and social democrats who had been anti-fascists long before the war. But when I asked George why he had immediately joined the resistance in Crete, he looked at me as though I was from another planet and replied with one word: “philopatria” – love of my country.

George Psychoundakis in 2004(?)

George was imprisoned after the war because there was no record of any Greek military service, and in those 16 months he wrote his memoir in exercise books filched by Leigh Fermor from the British School in Athens. Dispatched to fight in the civil war for two further years, he finally returned to his village. His sheep had been stolen in 1941 – he once offered me the ruined hut to rebuild as a home in Crete – and, soon embroiled in a family feud that was to dog the rest of his life, he began a period of isolated existence as a charcoal-burner.

He worked as a navvy and was even an extra in the 1964 film, Zorba the Greek. But later, George – no leftist – was supported by friends in high places in the conservative Nea Demokratia party. Partly through that patronage and, with evident irony, in 1974 he and his friend Paterakis became groundsmen at the German war cemetery at Maleme. As he reportedly said, “I’m surrounded by Germans, but none of them will talk to me.” But George’s long service at the cemetery affirmed his respect for the war dead; he knew what life was worth.

The Cretan Runner brought George little wealth and also irritations. Some on the island appeared to resent the greater recognition he enjoyed than others who had fought. John Murray published the first English edition, but it was pirated by Greek publishers who sold many copies for which George received no royalties. Penguin reprinted the book in 1998. His translation of Homer’s Odyssey from the ancient Greek into a modern Cretan dialect was published, to much acclaim, in 1979.

May 1991 saw the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Crete, and the commemorations included an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. Its deputy director, David Smurthwaite, and I arranged for George and his wife, Sofia, to come to the royal opening, and during the week he visited Winston Churchill’s country home at Chartwell, Kent. George always had a deep affection and admiration for the wartime British and New Zealanders; Churchill and General Bernard Freyberg, the allied commander on Crete, were his heroes, and he had his photograph taken standing by a picture of Freyberg.

Visiting George was remarkable. Apart from lazy meals in tavernas run by his extended family and at home (memorably including a kid, slaughtered and grilled for us at his daughter’s house), lubricated by home-made rakis and everyday stories, there were times of sadness and almost farcical humour. One moment he was recounting the death of comrades or pointing to villages in the Amari valley burnt in reprisal for the Kreipe kidnapping; the next he was yelling for me to stop the car. “Here,” he said, with a grin that betrayed both pride and mischief, “disguised as a woman, I took a donkey loaded with explosives through a German checkpoint.”

He is survived by Sofia, a son and two daughters, and four grandchildren.

· George Psychoundakis, resistance fighter and author, born November 3 1920; died January 29 2006.

The following correction was printed in the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, Friday March 3 2006.

In the obituary above we said that Patrick Leigh Fermor parachuted into Crete to help organise the resistance. In fact he arrived at Crete by sea. We said Leigh Fermor “filched” from the British School in Athens the exercise books in which Psychoundakis had written his memoir of the Nazi occupation. In fact he first saw them in 1951 when Psychoundakis himself showed them to him. The villages in the Amari valley were not burned in reprisal for the kidnapping of the German General Kreipe; he had been kidnapped several months earlier.

The Cretan Runner Museum

If holidaying in Crete this year, you may wish to make a visit to the Cretan Runner Museum. The Museum celebrates the life and achievements of George Psychoundakis, and is based in his village of Asi Gonia.

It was established by his son Nikos Psychoundakis and grandsons George and Stelios Psychoundakis, in a building built by the late George Psychoundakis himself. The purpose of this museum is to exhibit and share important documents, books, photos, missions with friends and colleagues and other various personal objects of George’s with the public instead of being stored away in cupboards and boxes.

A dedication in Greek by Patrick Leigh Fermor with typical seagulls!

The museum has no website, but there is a Facebook page with further information.

Holiday Planning? Crete, between the mountains and the sea

View from the village of Kapetaniana, Asterousia.

Thinking of going to wild and rugged Crete this year? It is the 75th anniversary of the Kreipe kidnap and there will be a lot going on. A nice little article here about one family and their efforts to create a unique holiday environment in Heraklion province.

By Michael Sweet.

First published in Neos Kosmos

On the Orthodox Feast of the Holy Cross, every September 14, the faithful from villages near Mount Kofinas climb its peak to observe an ancient rite. On the summit, three small trees – a species of white-beam – bear fruit at this time of year. The fruit, which looks like cherry-sized apples, is gathered, soaked in water, and blessed, before the priest shares the tiny ‘apples’ with the worshippers. They eat them not only as a holy Eucharist, but for their believed healing properties. Predating Christianity, this ritual dates back more than three thousand years, for here at this Minoan peak sanctuary, one of more than twenty across Crete, the echoes of deep history are carried in the wind.

What attracted the Minoans to settle at this sacred place is what brought the founder of Thalori Retreat – Marcos Skordalakis here: a spiritual energy which weaves its way through the peaks and passes, before sweeping down to the beaches that lie a dizzying thousand metres below.

The village of Kapetaniana, perched high on the western approach to Kofinas, is where Marcos began building (or rather rebuilding) Thalori in 2001. For six years the former restaurateur set about transforming a dozen ruined houses into some of the finest holiday accommodation available in Heraklion province. Combining rustic authenticity with contemporary comfort, Thalori opened in 2007 and today comprises 20 houses, a restaurant, and a working farm with riding stables.

“It was my dream to make a place that felt like a home, for my family and for my guests,” says Marcos, as we talk at one of the restaurant’s exterior tables and look out to the Libyan Sea. “I wanted it to be a place where guests could explore nature – all the special things the mountain and the sea has to offer.”

Below Thalori is the village of Agios Ioannis. Connected to Kapetaniana by an 8 km dirt road that spears downwards in a series of hair-raising bends, it’s a journey not for the faint-hearted. This is where Marcos keeps his boat, and it’s the set-off point for the remarkable cruises he offers along this wild shore. For adventurous types, in the summer he’ll even take you to your own beach (with cave) for the night, and pick you up the next day. [Read more]

The Extraordinary Life of Mike Cumberlege SOE

Great to have been contacted by Robin Knight the author of this book about a truly brave friend and colleague of Paddy’s.

This first-ever biography of Lt. Cdr Mike Cumberlege DSO & Bar, Greek Medal of Honour, murdered in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in February-March 1945, recalls a man who was ‘truly Elizabethan in character – a combination of gaiety and solidity and sensitiveness and poetry with daring and adventurousness – and great courage.’

Cumberlege came from a maverick sea-going family. He was highly resourceful and lived by his wits, skippering ocean-going yachts for wealthy Americans before the war. In 1936, he married Nancy; their relationship was close and, with the sea, forms a thread in The Extraordinary Life of Mike Cumberlege SOE.

From 1940, Cumberlege served in undercover roles in the Royal Navy in Marseilles and Cape Verde and was on the staff of General de Gaulle in London. Posted to Egypt in 1941 in the SOE, he formed a para-naval force of fishing vessels, took part in fighting in Greece, attacked the Corinth Canal, escaped from Crete, was wounded and returned three times to Crete clandestinely. On a second operation to destroy the Corinth Canal in 1943, he was captured. Tortured in Mauthausen concentration camp, he was transferred to Sachsenhausen and spent twenty-one months in solitary confinement.

The book contains unique material gathered from the family and from well-wishers in places as far apart as Ukraine, Australia and the US.

Robin’s book claims to offer:

  • Unique insights into the pre-1940 world of top-end ocean sailing in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Aegean
  • Never-before published letters, images and original documents about SOE para-naval activities in the eastern Mediterranean during the Second World War
  • More than seventy previously unpublished photographs, many taken during the war by the subject
  • A story of love and hope, identity and belief, tragedy and evil

The book can be purchased at Fonthill Media for £17.50 or on Amazon

Faraway Greek fun in the third largest Greek city

It appears that the most fun is to be had in Melbourne these days. A report by Brent McCunn of some highlights of the recent Greek Week which included talks about Paddy and his Cretan links. Be like Brent; send in your thoughts and articles (no matter how obscure) to share with fellow Paddy enthusiasts in our community.

by Brent McCunn.

Further despatches from the Hellenic outpost of Melbourne-iniki!

What a week of Greek! I remind readers that Melbourne is the third largest Greek city! Our Grecian week started with the inaugural Rebetiko Music Festival at the Melbourne Recital Centre, a prestigious venue!

After recovery, Friday night offered a performance of Cretan music from the visiting Xylouris brothers from Crete. Saturday afternoon saw a lecture by Chris White at the Greek Culture Centre in Melbourne – the topic being, ‘The Resistance of Grete’ during WW2 and in particular the history of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Billy Moss and the SOE. Of particular interest to the audience were the unique collection of ‘then and now photographs’, collated, researched and photographed by Chris White and his brother.

At this point it is important to illustrate the global reach of the PLF Blog. As a result of this correspondent’s earlier post (to this blog), advertising the above lecture, Melbourne subscribers did indeed turn up!

Chris enthralled all with his unique collection of images and has been invited back to present again to a wider audience drawn together by the cultural centres head of lectures – watch this space! I, Brent McCunn then presented details related to the main books on the Subject – Ill Met by Moonlight and Abducting a General – and how to purchase copies.

We then attended the Messines Community’s Greek Independence dinner and dance (Once they found about the lecture it was compulsory for us to attend this event – how Greek!) – Messines is the region where Paddy and Joan’s house was located. Whilst at the Messiness dinner your correspondent spent quite a few minutes on Google maps, with locals, being shown the family village and its relationship to Kardamyli!

One for the road in Greece means an impromptu music session at a local Greek restaurant! Katerina Douka, a well known Rebetiko singer from Thessaloniki, who appeared at the Rebetiko festival with her band, was still in town and gathered some local musicians and presented an enthralling session of northern Greek music. Food, wine and beer flowed of course.

Chris’s lecture became a feature story (by Jim Clavens) in the local Greek newspaper which is published in both English and Greek. A main thrust was to seek out decedents of the villages featured in the Kreipe kidnap and SOE operations. They have been asked to make contact and add their histories.

Your Philhellene correspondent in Melbourne,

Brent (alpopolous) McCunn from Passport Travel.

The ANZAC Cretan theme continues in Melbourne in the month of April with a lecture by Professor Peter Monteath. Entry is free.

When: 19 April 2018 at 19:00
Where: The Ithacan Philanthropic Society, Level 2, 329 Elizabeth Street
Synopsis: In the Second World War many thousands of ANZAC’s were sent to mainland Greece and then Crete in the hope of preventing German invasion and occupation – but to no avail. After the Battle of Crete hundreds of ANZAC’s were stranded on the island and spent weeks, months and even years trying to get off it.

This presentation looks at the experiences of those ANZAC’s who found themselves trapped, but who also discovered the extraordinary hospitality of Cretans, who offered the ANZAC’s shelter even when they themselves were enduring great hardship and danger.

Beyond that, the presentation looks at the collaborative efforts made to evacuate these ‘stragglers’ from the island, and how those efforts evolved into a series of ‘special operations’ to resist a brutal German regime of occupation. The person who occupies the centre of attention here is the Tasmanian Tom Dunbabin, an important and influential figure in the resistance in Crete through to the last weeks of the war.

Peter Monteath was born in Brisbane and educated in Queensland and in Germany. He has taught previously at The University of Queensland, Griffith University, Deakin University, The University of Western Australia and The University of Adelaide. He has also been Adjunct Professor at The University of St. Louis Missouri and the Technical University of Berlin, where he was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow. At Flinders University he is Professor of Modern European history. His research interests span modern European and Australian history. His latest book, Escape Artist: The Incredible Second World War of Johnny Peck (New South 2017), is about an Australian who spent time in Greece and Crete in World War II.

 

Presentation in Melbourne, Australia: The Cretan Resistance and SOE in WW2

British-based author and historian, regular blog contributor, and co-author of Abducting a General, Chris White, will outline his research into the story of the resistance to German occupation on Crete during WW2, including the experience of the British SOE agents and the famous kidnapping of the German General Kreipe in 1944. The presentation will feature photographs from the time – many rarely seen before – as well as Chris’ own taken as part of his identification of the locations used by the resistance and SOE.

There will be an opportunity afterwards for attendees to meet with Chris to discuss specific villages and areas, and to consider some of the many photographs taken on Crete in WW2 in his collection.

A unique presentation not to be missed.

Where: Mezzanine, Greek Centre, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
When: 2.00pm start, Saturday, 17th March 2018

As an addendum, happening the week before, is the inaugural Rebeitiko Festival being held at the Melbourne Recital Centre (very prestigious venue). https://www.melbournerecital.com.au/events/2018/rebetiko/

Rebetiko is the music of struggle and resistance. Songs were written in Crete recording the exploits of the Cretan resistance and the kidnapping. It is possible that they include a few songs on that subject. No committal as yet!