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interkriti:the E4 and other Mythical Trails-by Stelios Jackson
A diary of events of the trials and tribulations
of a lone walker, in his attempt to cross Crete
from Kato Zakros to Kissamos...
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History Box Nr. 1
Ill Met by Moonlight


"At times we almost ran, our route taking us up and down steep gradients like a madman's switchblade and before long we were feeling pretty exhausted...we were unfortunate to find no springs and streams in our path..."

W. Stanley Moss describing the journey to Rodakino from Vilandredo - not far from Velonado with General Kreipe a reluctant participant - in his book,  "Ill Met by Moonlight"
"Ill Met by Moonlight"
On the April 26th, 1944, the divisional commander of the Nazi regiments based in Herakleion - one General Heinrich Kreipe - was abducted by W. Stanley Moss, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Manolis Paterakis, Antonis Zoidakis among others. This was the propaganda story of the war, capturing the hearts of millions at the time and - thanks to the publication of Moss' diary of events 'Ill met by Moonlight' - millions since. First published in 1950 - and still available in a Cassell reprint, the book was later made into a film starring Dirk Bogarde as "Paddy" Leigh Fermor and directed by the wonderful team of Powell and Pressburger.

Patrick Leigh Fermor was already an expert in offering generals directions off the island! The year before the Kreipe abduction, he had managed to spirit-away the leader of the Italian forces on Crete. General Carta (pronounced with an Italian accent and not as in Jimmy Carter!), had been a willing party - the Italian forces having capitulated, he wanted to escape the island - and so this new operation was to be a whole different kettle of fish!

Kreipe had been abducted close to the Villa Ariadne - erstwhile home of Arthur Evans at Knossos - just outside Herakleion, where he had been living at the time. Now for the tricky part; Kreipe's abductors had to negotiate a dozen or so check-points - with Leigh Fermor wearing the General's hat! - before they could get their captive out of this sprawling city (nowadays Greece's fifth largest). There were to be a number of "close shaves", before this small band of brave men managed to escape Herakleion and with the General their prisoner, walked South-West across the island to the beach at Rodakino (Koraka bay) - via Anoghia (Anoyia) and Psiloritis (Mount Ida) - finally boarding a boat to Egypt on May the 15th, some 19 days after their journey had begun.

This is a truly wonderful story; full of tales of derring-do, but it was not to be without its repercussions. The plan - conceived the previous year - had been to abduct Kreipe's predecessor; the loathed General Muller (occ. Mueller). British Intelligence - The Special Operations Executive (SOE), based in Cairo - had reported that Muller had left the island for the Dodecanese. The SOE had been wrong! Muller had replaced General Brauer as Festung Commander of "Fortress Crete" (Nazi command); in other words, he was now the top Nazi on the island. Now based in Chania - merrily goosestepping around Venizelos former dwelling, which he now occupied - Muller had been responsible for killing 100s of innocent Cretans and sanctioning a policy which stated that for every Nazi soldier killed, 10 Cretans would lose their lives. Kreipe filled the vacancy left by Muller's promotion. "One General was as good a catch as any other", was Moss' viewpoint. Can't say that agree with that statement. All things being relative Kreipe had been a saint compared to his predecessor. Now back in Herakleion - the Nazi HQ for this region was at Archanes - Muller proceeded to do what he did best and what he did best was pure murder!.

The poster below, written in both German and Greek, was an attempt by the British to distance any Cretan involvement in the capture of General Kreipe, as they feared the reprisals that the Nazis were likely to carry out.
The text reads:
"General Heinrich Kreipe, was taken prisoner by British officers, without any assistance from the Cretans. General Kreipe is already safely away from Crete, held in security."
Ignoring allied claims that the Cretans had nothing to do with the operation to abduct Kreipe (see picture), Muller set-about executing villagers and destroying villages such as Anoghia. The destruction of villages such as Yerekari, Smiles, Vrises and Kerdaki, were also on Muller's "hit-list", though some believe that the later destruction of villages in the Amari valley came too late to be connected to this incident.

It's not for me to question the rights and wrongs of this operation, but I shall! Was it all worth it? Did the end justify the means?

Ample evidence was available at the time as to the atrocious lengths the Nazis would go to - by way of reprisals - but the British had gone out of their way to distance the Cretans from any involvement in the abduction. This didn't stop General Muller in exacting revenge in any way he saw fit, saving his worst atrocities for the people of Anoghia, as they had been, in his view: "...the centre of English espionage in Crete". Muller (in a leaflet to the people of Anoghia), makes it quite clear that at least some of the cause of his wrath was due to the Kreipe abduction: "...and since the abductors of General Kreipe passed through Anoyia, using Anoyia as a stopping place when transporting him, we order its razing to the ground and the execution of every male Anoyian who is found within the village and an area of one kilometre around it" (General Muller from "Crete: The Battle and the Resistance" (C:TBATR), by Antony Beevor, published by Penguin). So why does Beevor - in an earlier chapter - say of the reprisals: "...this is a canard"; apparently contradicting his own quote from Muller? 

For sheer propaganda purposes, the mission was a total success. Manoussos Manoussakis (an important member of the Allied intelligence operation, based in Chania): '"Everybody felt taller by 2 centimetres the next day... (the day after the Kreipe abduction) ...out of 450,000 Cretans, 449,000 claimed to have taken part in the Kreipe operation...", indicates the immense pride aroused' (Beevor, C:TBATR).

Whilst I have my reservations at the rationale behind the abduction, the operation was a success in exactly the area that it set-out to be, i.e. undermining Nazi (and therefore boosting Allied) morale; and this should be taken into consideration by those wholly against the operation. Also, both the Cretan and British participants were extremely honourable men. Moss had to be controlled in his over-enthusiasm - he later planned to abduct Muller in the same way, which would have been a somewhat madcap mission - Sandy Rendel (a radio operator when his radios' weren't being given the same treatment as my erstwhile mobile phone'!) and Leigh Fermor, all come-over as true British gents. Both Moss' and Beevor's books are essential reading.

Adam Hopkins in his excellent book - "Crete, its Past Present and People" (sadly out of print) - in the chapter 'The Pity of War', say's that the event  "... raises questions, which few cared to face clearly at the time...", though he also points out - quite rightly - that to show no resistance to the Nazis would have been untenable and most certainly against the character of this island nation. "If there was to be a resistance at all, its success would inevitably be measured in blood and flames. The Cretans have always known this...".

If the book Ill Met by Moonlight comes across as a touch "boys-own", it has to be remembered that this is a publication taken directly from Moss' diary and whilst there would have been some serious copy-editing, alterations and additions, it is still essentially just that: a diary of events as seen by Moss and not a misty-eyed reminiscence.

Stelios Jackson's sponsor :
The Hellenic Bookservice - Britain's Greek (and Latin) bookshop. Est. 1966
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