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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. 6
John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury


John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury
The picture above is taken from "John Pendlebury in Crete".



Throughout, JDSP=John Pendlebury and PLF=Patrick Leigh Fermor

The name John Pendlebury, is synonymous with Cretan archaeology, wartime heroics and walks of mind-boggling length and difficulty, but it a name that is very rarely spoken nowadays. I would like - in a very small way - to redress that situation:

On my first visit to Crete, back in 1977, upon finding out I was British, the more elderly villagers of Eastern Crete,  used to say "Penty Boory" to me. Or at least that is what I thought they were saying. I had no idea of what or whom they spake at the time - my knowledge of Greek being even worse then than it is now, - I just nodded and agreed, but upon discovering the wonderful world of archaeology, a couple of years later, I came across the name John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury. Pendlebury was to be my inspiration for both archaeological field trips and long walks for the next two decades. In 1989, I visited Crete for three months, with a view to updating his book 'The Archaeology of Crete'. The book was to come into "public domain" (copyright would end), in 1991 as it would have been 50 years since the author died. Two reasons that this didn't happen. Firstly, they changed the copyright law from 50 to 70 years after the author's death the following year and secondly - and far more importantly, - I was just not up to such a monumental task.

Born in October 1904, Pendlebury's love of Greece was triggered by a trip to Mycenae in the Peloponnese at the age of 19. This amazing, giant of a man, had a charm and wit which affected everybody he met, he was a high jump champion, no slouch over hurdles, and a walker of tremendous endurance. According to Patrick Leigh Fermor -PLF-  (Anglo-Hellenic Review AHR, Spring 2002 ) his favourite companions (in Crete) were shepherds and mountain villagers. Egyptology was Pendlebury's first love, but he later devoted himself to finding Egyptian artefacts in Greece. After digging in Armant and Tell el-Amarna - the city of Akhenaten - in Egypt, JDSP succeeded Duncan MacKenzie (there is an excellent biography of MacKenzie available, written by  Nicoletta Momigliano and published by the British School at Athens) as curator at Knossos from 1929 until 1934. He was not averse to a drink or nine either, PLF has said of him that he could drink - and walk - the legs of even a Cretan. In The Villa Ariadne, Dilys Powell mentions the celebrations on the Aghios Ioannis (Saint John) saint's day, and quotes JDSP: "It was the best we have had up to date. I really felt (like!) the village father! - Pretty near 1000 people and dancing from 9-3! Total cost of making the whole village tight £7!" My sort of guy, as you can see! As a child, JDSP lost an eye, which was replaced with a glass one. At first glance (!), this may appear to been somewhat careless, but unlike the AWOL pieces of equipment I lost en-route, his loss was a result of a childhood accident. Maybe mine was too! According to various sources, he was fond of taking out his glass eye and leaving it all over the place, much like one would do with a monocle. No man, surely, could have got closer to the hearts and minds of the Cretans than JDSP. His hiking adventures and knowledge of the island and its people, were put to use as the Nazis invaded Crete. Pendlebury became British vice-consul for the island, and used that position and his close ties with the Cretan people, to gather together groups of brigands, with a cause. Unfortunately, the 5th Cretan division was still on the mainland, having distinguished themselves in the Albanian campaign. According to Pendlebury: "With them and 10,000 rifles...the island could be held forever". (Patrick Leigh Fermor AHR Spring 2002).

Pendlebury's wartime exploits are the stuff of legend, but his archaeological expertise and his walks into the Cretan mountains, were equally awe-inspiring. His seminal work "The Archaeology of Crete" is still the best field-guide to the archaeology of the island, though it is of course somewhat out of date, given that it was published in 1939 and he was executed by the Nazis two years later. Below, are two unabridged appreciations from 'John Pendlebury in Crete'; a book commissioned by the great man's wife Hilda (White) and privately published by Cambridge University Press (CUP) in 1948, to send to close friends of JDSP. I have asked CUP for permission to reprint the book, but they don't know who owns the copyright - there is no mention of copyright in the book -  so you'll just have to make do with these extracts. Only 200 of these were printed, though a further 100 needed to be hurriedly published, in a second edition, such was  JDSP's popularity. In addition to the appreciations, this small book has a prefatory note from S.C. Roberts and  two chapters written by JDSP himself. Very few of you would have read any of the following three appreciations. In the case of the first two, this is the first time that they have been reprinted, in any form, for over half a century - at least, as far as I know. If you ever come across this book - and, who knows, you may, one day, see it  in a second hand shop - grab it! It is absolutely priceless! The reason that I haven't been more thorough with the writings of Pendlebury himself, is that there is, supposedly, a biography of the great man - written by Imogen Grundon and called "The Rash Adventurer" - coming out this year. So little exists of his writing, and I don't want to step on Ms Grundon's toes in this any, so I have kept the JDSP quotes down to a minimum. The third appreciation (alluded to above) is from a talk, given by Patrick Leigh Fermor in Herakleion, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the battle of Crete, which was first published in Paul Watkins' superb 'Anglo-Hellenic Review (AHR)' (Spring 2002 issue). For the Cretans to be talking of the man, some 40 years after his death, is testament to his life.


Three great war heroes, of the "great island", appreciate JDSP in their own words: 
(any typos or mistakes are my own SJ)


Below, unabridged, is the penultimate chapter from 'John Pendlebury in Crete', written by Nicholas Hammond, and entitled 'JOHN PENDLEBURY '

Meetings with John Pendlebury were always memorable. My first during the war was in a dingy, dark and depressing basement room in the War Office, when the retreat towards Dunkirk was at its height. We had been summoned for special duties, he from his cavalry regiment and I from teaching in Cambridge. The mists of unreality, which had enveloped me after my first experience of Red Tabs and the hocus-pocus of ‘special service’, were dispelled by the sight of John poring over the latest maps of Crete. He had already a firm grasp of the situation. In his mind’s eye he was planning the organization of Crete for resistance with a clarity of purpose and a care of detail which were fully fledged. He hated that vague hovering around the fringe of the subject which is not uncommon in staff officers far removed from the scene of action and which is infinitely discouraging to volunteers for ‘special service’; and so he had swooped on to the practical details of planning with unbounded energy and enthusiasm. He talked to me of swordsticks, daggers, pistols, maps; of Cretan klephts from Lasithi and Sphakia; of hide-outs in the mountains and of coves and caves on the south coast; of the power of personal contacts formed by years of travel, of the geography of Crete, its mules and caiques, and of the vulnerable points in its roads. Sometimes we talked in the War Office, sometimes in his club, sometimes by ‘phone, when John used the ‘tch-kappa’ of the Cretan dialect and I replied in the broad vowels of the Epirote dialect; for secrecy was the salt of success, as he saw from the start. His enthusiasm fired me to collect my notes on Albania, list my contacts and map my roads, although the chances of war never carried me farther than within sight of the Albanian frontier in 1943. During our few days in London we were learning the tricks of the trade. But the rising confusion of the retreat in France cut short every course of instruction on which we were sent or were about to be sent. Apart from firing a few detonators in a conference room at the War Office and contracting gelignite headaches by blowing up some mud and angle-irons in a suburban gravel-pit, we learnt very little; but we were inspired by an R.E. officer, who had seen service in Norway, and by the sight of troop trains bringing survivors from Dunkirk. On the 3rd of June we were sent off from London by a staff officer in full dress Guards’ uniform, a spectacle which even in those days struck us as incongruous. Of the party of experts who set off on a fine June morning for the Middle East, none was more optimistic than John and none knew his terrain more thoroughly; for Crete was in his blood and he knew its mountains, as the Greeks say, stone by stone. It was inspiring to feel that our special knowledge and experience would be put to effect in one form or another. The entry of Italy into the war was expected in a matter of days—hence our route by Corsica, Bizerta, Malta, Corfu, Athens—and the Italian bases in Albania threatened the Balkans.

John was eager to learn all that the experts among us knew of Albania, which looked like being the first scene of any subversive operations—and he certainly intended to be in the first line. He questioned me thoroughly about the harbour 1939, and about the Albanian attitude towards Italy, the minority in North Epirus, the mountain-routes and the vulnerable points in the roads leading from Greece into Albania. Before leaving England he had studied the recent Italian maps which showed the construction of new roads in South Albania, and he consulted me and the others about their significance. His firm grasp of practical detail and his insight into the character of Balkan peoples made his conversation inspiring and his proposals sensible. He tackled the others in the same manner and was distressed to find sometimes that their knowledge did not extend beyond the 1920’s and fell below the high standard of accuracy which he himself demanded. On landing at Corfu we gazed across the trait to the barren mountains of South Albania and discussed the harbours of Santa Quaranta and Butrinto and the wild interior called the Kurvelesh, lying between the Acroceraunian range and the birthplace of Ali Pasha at Tepeleni, which was to prove the limit of the Greek advance in the coming winter. If John had been sent to Albania, he would have got off to a flying start. As it turned out, the Greek authorities at Athens viewed our party with not unjustifiable suspicion; John and some others were allowed to land and the rest of us were sent on to Egypt. We next met in early May 1941 when Albania and the Greek mainland had been lost. The intervening months had taught us a great deal about the difficulties of our job. The department for which we worked had not at that time acquired the full recognition of the regular branches of the services. It was necessary for the man on the spot to win the personal confidence of the local naval and military officers, who at first regarded his nose as false and his schemes as harebrained. John had succeeded to a remarkable degree in winning this confidence; his unique knowledge of Crete, his personal charm, his tenacity and determination, and his aggressive views had overcome most opposition. During the winter, when I had been arranging to send caiques to the Dodecanese, Naval Intelligence officers at Alexandria had spoken with enthusiasm of John as a man they trusted. And I found the same respect for him at Souda and Herakleion, when I landed from Greece. The next difficulty was one of supply, which was short in the Middle East. During the winter all available arms for guerrilla warfare had gone to Abyssinia, and in the spring they were sent to the Greek forces in Albania and to arm the forces in Jugoslavia which later emerged under Mihailovitch. John had been pressing for priority to arm his Cretans but so far with little success. The greatest difficulty was to maintain secrecy. One normally worked under some cover either as a civilian or as a soldier, a technique which was more easy in a big city such as Athens or in a cosmopolitan country like Palestine. In preparing Future guerrilla bands it was necessary to choose the key personnel with the greatest care and to ensure that their activity did not become known; for before the time for action they had to be trained in weapons, explosives and organization.

The selection of hide-ups for dumps of stores, the reconnaissance of roads and of coves, and the choosing of targets had all to be done with the maximum of security. In preparing for the planting of agents with suitable cover in cities, where they could maintain wireless communication, collect intelligence and undertake sabotage under eventual enemy occupation, nothing was more vital than secrecy. In Crete this was a peculiarly difficult problem. John was universally known, with that complete familiarity which is almost unparalleled outside Greece, and every Cretan would speculate about the activities of so public a figure. As he had come to Greece when she was a neutral country there could be no doubt that the Germans had had their eye on him. To secure secrecy in his key personnel and in his agents must have been a harassing task, for the Greek is not by nature either secretive or cautious or modest. Later, when I served with the Allied Military Mission in Greece, we relied not so much upon the secrecy of the guerrillas as their garrulity; for they spread so many rumours that the German Intelligence rarely penetrated the barrage. Our meeting in May was at Herakleion, where John had his headquarters. A few days before, I had joined the company of H.M.S. Dolphin, a Haifa-built variation of the armed caique, which had shot down several planes in Greece during the evacuation. Her skipper was Mike Cumberlege, a natural buccaneer of superlative courage, whose single earring was as famous as John’s swordstick; his cousin Cle Cumberlege, a regular Major in the Royal Artillery, had escaped from a distasteful staffjob to take charge of the two-pounder and machine-guns on the caique. The mascot of the crew and my particular buddy was able-bodied seaman Saunders, possessing the efficiency and humour engendered by seventeen years of service on the lower deck; we had met before when he sat on a magnetic mine and I drove the truck carrying it through the middle of Athens during an air-raid. At Herakleion we exchanged the last member of our crew, a Jewish engineer, for a South African private of the Black Watch, Jumbo Steele, an independent youngster who had run away from home as a boy and was still eager for adventure. Jumbo was a first-class shot with any weapon; a few weeks later this saved some of us, for he winged the Messerschmitt 109 which had already killed Cle and Saunders and wounded Mike and was coming in to give us the coup de grace. But when the Dolphin put in to the little Venetian harbour at Herakleion all was as quiet and as sunlit as in the early summer days of peace. After the frequent raids in Greece and at Souda we liked Herakleion and decided to stay for several days and overhaul our engines. And in the evening I walked up through the narrow streets above the harbour to see John in his small rooms up a single flight of stairs.

He had a much clearer sense of impending crisis than we whose nerves had relaxed after experiencing the evacuation from Greece. He thought a German attack on Crete would not be long delayed and he realized how ill-prepared we were to face it. The loss of the entire Cretan division in Epirus, as a result of the Greek armistice, was particularly galling and he spoke of it with the same warmth as the Cretan people, who had approved the assassination near Canea of the divisional commander for escaping without his men. If only the older generation of Cretans could be armed, they would give a good account of themselves; but the arms were not available, and even his own men, who were organized for guerrilla warfare in the event of Crete being overrun, were far from adequately armed. He told me something of his own organization, for he was probably turning over in his mind the offer he made to me later of staying with him in Crete if the worst should happen. John Pendlebury’s thugs, as they were named in more orthodox circles, were all personal acquaintances from the time of his travels and they owed him a deep personal devotion; they had been selected with an insight which none other than John could have brought to bear, and they covered the majority of mountain and coastal villages.

Next morning John came down to the Dolphin. He and Mike Cumberlege took to one another at once. Both were men of vigorous speech and independent ideas, with great force of character and abundant humour; and both possessed that clear-headed audacity which undertakes the apparently more dangerous course after a detached study of the advantages and disadvantages. They possessed too a simplicity of motive in facing or inviting danger, something much more spontaneous and automatic than the ordinary man’s sense of duty, a rare quality which I only met once again during the war. This virtue, this "areth", made them incomparable leaders of limited numbers of men such as subversive operations envisage. It was typical of their confidence in one another that they had soon planned a joint operation, a raid on Kasos. The Dolphin was to carry over John and a party of his Cretans, leaving soon after dark; they would carry an Italian post by assault and bring back prisoners who might divulge any preparations for an attack on Crete. John had previously made a reconnaissance raid on this part of Kasos, and this time he was eager to baptize his Cretans with the offensive spirit. There were of course a number of incalculable factors, which made the operation less simple than it looked. The Dolphin could only carry a small number, some fifteen men apart from ourselves, and the post in question might have been strongly reinforced, if an attack was pending. The Dolphin was also slow and we calculated that with a favourable wind and sea we should still be out in the Kasos channel when dawn broke on our return; and that meant the probability of attack from the air, to which we could reply with our four machine-guns on anti-aircraft mountings. But it was clearly a worthwhile operation; and the naval and military authorities were agreeable to our attempting it.

But we had first to overhaul the Dolphin and complete a reconnaissance of the beaches on the south coast for the Navy, which we had already begun from Souda. We had then gone by truck along the uncompleted narrow road which peters out like so many Greek roads above the torrent-bed on the east side of Sphakia—the torrent-bed where thousands were to take cover a few weeks later in the final stages of the evacuation. In the tiny cove of Sphakia we had met the first of John’s men, who took us by a diminutive caique across the azure swell to the Larger bay of Loutro; a good sailor and neither inquisitive nor talkative, he was the right type, and he knew the dangerous south coast well. He gave us information too about the small islets south of Crete. Mike was interested in these, for he was already looking for secret harbours which would make possible a return to Crete in small craft if it fell into the hands of the enemy. At the moment we were more concerned with landing beaches and coves on the south coast, where troops and supplies could be landed for the defence of Crete and avoid the heavily bombed harbours of the north coast. John gave us a number of suggestions for suitable points and accompanied our truck from Herakleion as far as the top of the pass leading to the plain of Messara. He wanted to consult me about his plans for demolishing some bends in the road; he had already driven some bore-holes for camouflet charges, and he had trained men in the neighbouring villages. Not many days later this strategic point was held by the Germans and was forced with some difficulty by a battalion of Argyll and Sutherland High-landers, who had landed on the beaches at Kokkinos Pyrgos and come north to relieve Herakleion. John had given us an introduction to one of his leading men in a village east of the plain, a bald-headed giant with a ferocious moustache and a large family of sons; he breathed blood and slaughter and garlic in the best Cretan style and marched us off at a fast pace to the inlet of Matala. The cliffsides of the inlet are riddled with caves, and the colours and style of the approach are reminiscent of smugglers’ coves in Cornwall, a picturesque place but too obviously suitable for use as a secret base. From Matala our guide took us on to the shelving beach of Kokkinos Pyrgos, suitable for beaching light craft, and to Ayia Galene where the water was so clear that we dived to gauge its depth; for it seemed possible that ships of moderate draught could be brought close inshore.

"On our return to Herakleion we received orders to go round to lerapetra and investigate the possibility of salvaging the cargo of a ship sunk offshore. A vessel of some 12,000 tons, she had sailed from Alexandria with a cargo of ammunition, light anti-aircraft guns, machine-guns and small arms—a cargo that might have turned the scales in the defence of Crete. But the Germans knew of her departure. Torpedoed in the open sea she limped into the roadstead of lerapetra, only to be sunk by German bombers, but she lay in fairly shallow waters. This meant delaying our raid on Kasos, which we fixed provisionally for the night of the 20th; we were to pick up John and his men on the evening of the 19th at Herakleion. Before leaving for lerapetra John gave us a dinner at the Officers’ Club overlooking the harbour; he insisted on Saunders coming, who as a regular seaman was somewhat abashed but greatly delighted at dining in an Officers’ mess. John was in tremendous spirits, keyed up by the increasing tempo of the German raids on Herakleion aerodrome and harbour during the last few days. They came over at dawn and at dusk, usually thirty strong, and had shot down the three gallant Lysanders which went up to engage them whatever the odds. John had come down to the Dolphin to take a machine-gun for the evening, when the German planes flew low over the town machine-gunning the harbour and we replied from our mooring close under the quayside. Souda, too, was being heavily bombed and salvage operations on H.M.S. York had been abandoned; we hoped to get the divers from there to help at lerapetra. The cruisers Fiji and Gloucester had also called at Herakleion a night or two before and sailed off to the north. The feeling that action would not be long delayed gave a spice to our dinner of fresh fish collected by the fishermen when bombs had concussed them. And Herakleion in May had plenty of fresh lamb and cheese and wine, which had made our stay unusually delightful. John had become an honorary member of the Dolphin’s crew as we had of his headquarters with the picturesque Kronis in full Cretan dress as guard. The Greek policeman who directed traffic under a large umbrella in the centre of the town always came down from his platform to share a morning drink with us. And the Greek commander of the town, when he knew we were friends ofJohn, allowed us to take on a sponge-diver from Kalymnos, called Kyriakos, who had fought as an infantryman in the Dodecanesian battalion in North Greece and had escaped by devious routes to Crete.

After dinner John and Mike made the final arrangements for the raid on Kasos for which John’s party was already prepared. He also discussed the possibility of my joining him after this raid, although Mike was loth to lose a Greek-speaking officer. John was confident that if Crete was lost his Cretans could be depended upon to carry on guerrilla warfare in the hills. He had received a considerable supply of stores and ammunition since our arrival at Herakleion and there was a large dump on one of the islands at Souda Bay which could be moved to suitable hide-ups. His main shortage was in small arms, but he had sufficient with which to start operations; and from his discussions with Mike he knew that communications could probably be kept open by sea from the south coast to Africa. It had always been his intention to stay in Crete and lead the resistance, and he never talked as if any other course was possible. Yet on the Greek mainland, where plans for forming nuclei for guerrilla warfare were too late to be effective, it was not intended that British personnel should remain behind; nor, so far as I know, was this either contemplated or done in Jugoslavia. John’s plan was therefore original and daring, and given his personal qualities as a leader in a limited area with a more or less homogeneous population the plan was full of promise. It required more resolution in an Englishman to stay behind voluntarily and be submerged by the German tide than to return later as many did when the ebb was likely to set in. But for John the choice did not exist; he felt himself a Cretan and in Crete he would stay until victory was won. In this singleness of  purpose he was happy. And we felt his happiness that evening, which proved to be the last time we saw him. At lerapetra the water was clear enough for one to see the wreck lying on her side, and Kyriakos, who swam like a fish under water, explored the entries. It would require equipment from Souda to raise much of the cargo, and German reconnaissance planes were keeping an alert eye on lerapetra. While awaiting a reply to a signal, we slipped down the coast in the Dolphin to Sudsuro in order to explore a small cove which John had commended to us; tiny and well-hidden with a sandy beach, it had no houses within sight and its nearest neighbour was a small monastery of which the solitary and soft-headed monk pursued us to the shore in his desire to join the Navy. We thought this a compliment to Saunders, but he was unwilling to acknowledge it. Months later, when Saunders and Cle were dead, Mike and Jumbo brought their first ship into this cove in occupied Crete. On the way back from the cove the Dolphin put me off at Sudsuro to deliver a note from John to his agent there, a particularly charming villager with whom I sat in the evening light, looking out across the calm water of the bay. I got through by ‘phone to John and told him we had to await a reply from Souda and might be two days late on our rendezvous; part of his conversation was in Cretan dialect and part of mine in Epirote, just as it had been in London long ago.

"We were not delayed at lerapetra and on our way up the Kasos Strait we put in to the little desert island of Elasa which Mike wished to explore for future reference. While we were there he decided to cross that night to Kasos in order to pick up his bearings and test out the time factor without including the assault. Cle and I thought this a good idea, being perhaps more orthodox in our outlook on raids than John or Mike. We meant to sail an hour before dark. Then the engine failed to start. While Jumbo toiled at it, a patrol of four seaplanes passed down the strait and came back again, flying low but not spotting the Dolphin moored in a small cove with one bulwark touching the rock. Shortly after they passed over us, darkness fell and then we heard bombing and gunfire in the Kasos Strait which lasted for some time. We blessed our luck that we were not out in it that evening on our rehearsal; as a matter of fact it was the evening of the 20th, the original date for the raid. When our engine did start we put in at Sitia on a bright calm dawn with a dazzling sea; I wanted to give John a time for our arrival that evening at Herakleion, but I was told that the ‘phone was out of order and it had also been impossible to make contact through other stations with Herakleion. It seemed odd, but then Greek telephones are odd. As we coasted along towards Herakleion, we were several times fired upon from the shore and cursed the zeal of the Cretan coastguards and the slackness of the Navy in not giving them warning. It was only when we were fired on by machine-guns in approaching Herakleion that we felt something must be seriously wrong. So Mike fetched up at the extreme end of the mole, and Cle and I walked along the mole with a Mauser apiece. As we approached the Venetian fort which guards the entry into the inner harbour, we saw that machine-guns were covering us from the embrasures. To our right we could see nothing, being bounded by a high sea-wall; and then we saw the Nazi swastika flying on the electric power station not far off. In the inner harbour there were a number of British dead and in the street ends which abutted on the harbour we could see Greek soldiers firing from cover. The occupants of the Venetian fort were Greeks tending some wounded; they told us of the dropping of the parachutists and the departure that evening of the British troops to hold the aerodrome outside Herakleion. Greek troops and civilians were holding the west side of the town in desperate street-fighting, but they were unlikely to save the harbour. As it was already dusk, we put out to sea pursued by angry bullets.

"We did not see John again, for in the afternoon of that same day he was wounded and captured. During the rest of our days in Crete he lived in our minds, and he lives still in mine, for the others too are gone. What I have written of him does not describe what he did in Crete, for I never knew the detail of his work, but what he was to some of us in Crete. And this is perhaps more important; for the Cretans themselves and Englishmen who followed in his steps in Crete and in Greece saw in him the symbol of honour which knows no defeat and the spirit of undying resistance. (NH 1948)



Below, unabridged, is the final chapter from 'John Pendlebury in Crete', written by T.J. Dunbabin, and entitled 'Last Days: May 1941'
In the confusion  which attended our withdrawal from Crete, it was not known for certain what had happened to John. Many wild tales circulated at the time and later, and the story of his last days has inevitably been worked, in Cretan belief, into something like saga. It is only recently that full, eyewitness accounts of his last days and his death have been recovered, so that the truth stands out from this picturesque embroidery. In the afternoon of the second day of the German parachutists’ attack (21 May) he left his office, seized a rifle and made for the Canea Gate with a few Cretan followers. Here he took his leave of Captain Satanas, leader of his guerrillas in Krousonas, one of the largest hill-villages on the side of Psiloriti, and made an appointment to meet him in Krousonas. He set out by car, unattended except for his driver, but had to leave it when he fell in with the first parachutists, less than a mile outside the Gate. From this time he was alone, except for a reservist soldier of the Greek forces at Kaminia, already in process of being withdrawn, who was in charge of a machine-gun at a point close to the car-road. John encountered him when he left his car and climbed the low hill north of the road; together they continued to fire at the parachutists as they descended; four dropped close to them and a hand-to-hand battle took place in which  John killed three and Polybios one. It was in company with this soldier that John made his attempt to break through and reach Krousonas. It seems that he had no thought of turning back but tried to make his way past the small and as yet ill-established force of parachutists. At Kaminia he was wounded in the body and was taken prisoner with his companion, who was taken to a prison camp; John was carried into a little house on the south side of the road, the house as it happened of one of his agents. The Germans who carried him in laid him on a bed and Aristea Drosoulakis and her sister tended him; later a German doctor came and attended to his wound and late at night a second German doctor gave him further treatment. It was arranged that next morning he should be moved to a hospital. In the meanwhile the Germans were forced to withdraw from the immediate neighbourhood of the town.

On the next day they were reinforced and some men of the new unit are said to have searched the house in which he lay in bed; they took his identity disc and according to one narrator knew him by his glass eye. There is no doubt that his mission in Crete, which had begun while Greece and Germany were still at peace, was well known to German agents. Mrs Drosoulakis and her sister were driven out; another witness has told of his execution outside the house and of his proud bearing at this last scene. This was on the morning of 22 May 1941. He was buried first near the main road from Herakleion to the west, and was afterwards moved by the Germans, for the grave near the road became too well known and was a source of inspiration to the men of the hill-villages who came in and out of the Canea Gate. His body later rested for a time in the British part of the Herakleion cemetery and now lies in the British Military Cemetery at Suda. Such is the story as it has been recovered since the liberation of Crete. Those who left Herakleion in the evacuation of 27—28 May1941 did not know it, and many of them believed that John had remained behind on Mount Ida, to carry on the war by the side of those whom he bad armed and trained. And in a sense he did. His friends were the first to take to the hills in the traditional Cretan manner, the first rallying-point of the people who were still stunned with the speed and success of the new form of war which the Germans had carried out in Crete. The Cretans gave a good account of themselves during the occupation. They preserve the simple patriotism and old-fashioned qualities implanted in them by their long struggles against Venetian and Turk.

They had leaders, like John’s friend Satanas, who had fought against the Turk, and the younger men had the same spirit. The development of operations did not call for large-scale guerrilla action in Crete, but there were before the end many thousand men in the hills, and every Cretan looked forward with relish to the day of reckoning. If John had indeed remained among them to organize them immediately, to tell them what to do, to keep in touch with Egypt by wireless and by small boat as he had planned with Mike Cumberlege, they might have given the Germans even more trouble than they did. For one of  their weaknesses was that they had no single leader, and few of them were known outside their own area of a few villages. John was known from one end of Crete to the other, could talk to each man in his own dialect and ask after his family and gossips. The Cretans would have accepted him as one of themselves. Most of the men who rose to command the little guerrilla bands were the men he had chosen, and with them he could have used the first precious months, when the Germans had not yet clamped their hold on every corner of the Cretan coastline, to organize a strong and united force. As it was, he made the task of those British officers who took up the fragments of his work immeasurably easier. It was enough for any Cretan seeking to introduce himself to one of them to say: ‘I am a friend of Pendlebury. He stayed in my house. Here I have this paper from him.’ The unshaken loyalty which those officers found in the Cretans, not only in their close associates but in the great mass of the population, which could conceive no other than a British friendship, is the best tribute to his memory. (TJD 1948)


Below is an extract from Patrick Leigh Fermour's 'John Pendlebury 1904-1941', taken from the wonderful 'Anglo-Hellenic Review' (Spring 2002 issue), and originally given in Herakleion, as a tribute to JDSP on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the battle of Crete (2001).
...The last few days have taught us a lot about the Battle. We are all of us familiar with the heavy bombing which was followed at last by the drone of hundreds of planes coming in over the sea in a dark cloud; and the procession of troop-carriers flying so low over the ground they seemed almost at eye level, suddenly shedding a many-coloured stream of parachutes. The roar of guns broke out, the invaders were caught in olive branches, or many of them were killed as they fell, others dropped so close to headquarters that they were picked off at once. Heraklion is a great walled Venetian city. The enemy forced an entry and after fierce fighting they were driven out again with very heavy loss by the British and Greek troops. This was the first astonishing appearance of Cretan civilians, only armed with odds and ends, until they could get hold of more modern devices old men long retired and boys below military age, even women here and there, all suddenly fighting by our sides all over the island. In Heraklion, the swastika flag, which had been briefly run up over the harbour, was torn down. The Wall was manned by Greek and British riflemen and many counter-attacks were launched, and apart from this break-in, the town and the aerodrome remained firmly in the hands of our troops until the end. This is the moment to slip in a word about Nick Hammond, the brilliant scholar and archaeologist turned soldier, a very old friend of Pendlebury’s, whose involvement in the run in to the battle and whose adventures in the caique ‘Dolphin’ deserve an entire saga. It is he who should be making this talk about his old friend, not me. But he was 94 this year, and he died, lucid to the end, three weeks ago, saying in a letter ‘I’m sure you’ll do him proud’, so I must do my best. After leaving the Brigadier, Pendlebury and Satanas left for the Kapetanios’ village of Krousonas by different routes. They hoped to launch a flank attack on the steadily growing throng of dropped parachutists west of the city. He got out of the car he had set out in with a Cretan comrade, Miron Samaritis, and climbed a spur to look down on the German position. They were closer than he thought and opened fire. Pendlebury and Samaritis fired back. Here the fog of battle begins to cloud things. He was still firing back with another friend called Marketakis, and a Greek platoon when a new wave of Stukas came over, and Pendlebury was shot in the chest. He was lifted into a cottage, which belonged to one of his followers, George Drossoulakis, who was fighting somewhere else and was killed the same day. But his wife Aristeia took him in and he was laid on a bed. One of the Germans who came into the house was a doctor and he cleaned and bandaged the wound, which was not fatal. Another doctor came in later and gave him an injection. He was chivalrously treated.

Next morning Pendlebury told the women of the cottage to go and leave him. They refused, but were eventually led off as prisoners. During all this Pendlebury’s identity discs seem to have disappeared. A field gun was set up just outside as a fresh party of parachutists was soon in the house. Here was an English soldier in a Greek shirt he had been changed into, and with no identification. A neighbour’s wife saw them take him out and prop him against a wall. Three times they shouted a question at him, which she couldn’t understand. Three times he answered ‘No’. They ordered him to stand to attention and then opened fire, and he fell dead, shot through the head and the body. The battle raged on. Heraklion stood firm and we had similar good news from the Australians and the Greeks defending Retimo. When the lines of communication were cut, we had not a glimmer of the turn things had taken at Maleme. It was a shattering story. In Heraklion we thought we had won the campaign. The news became more bitter still later on when we learnt that the enemy casualties had been so high that it looked as if abandoning the campaign was their only solution. It was only much later that we learnt what happened to Pendlebury’s remains. At first they were buried near the spot where he fell. Later, the Germans moved him about half a mile outside the Canea Gate beside the Rethymnon road (I remember bicycling past it, dressed as a cattle dealer, next year). It was marked by a wood cross with his name on it, followed by ‘Britischer Hauptinann’, British major. There was a bunch of flowers under it and a fresh one was put there every day until the enemy shifted it somewhere less central. He now lies in the British War Cemetery at Souda Bay. Meanwhile, legends were springing up. For the Cretans, it was the loss of an ally and a friend, with a status dose to that of Ares or Apollo. For the enemy he was a baleful and sinister figure, a darker T. E. Lawrence, perhaps still lurking in the dreaded mountains. Many bodies were exhumed until one skull with a glass eye in it was dug up and sent up to Berlin, or so they said. According to island gossip Hitler had not been able to sleep at night for fear of this terrible incubus. To the British officers who were sent to Crete later on to help the resistance, he was an inspiration. In the words of Tom Dunbabin, the memory of Pendlebury turned all his old friends into immediate allies of the officers infiltrated into the island. We were among friends at once. Perentevvy Penterby Pentebury however it was distorted, the word meant resistance, revolt and victory. It was partly their influence, one posthumous, the other active, that helped the island to avoid too much of the trouble and discord that afflicted the post-war world elsewhere..." (PLF May 19 2001)


For me, however, JDSP is best remebered for his archaeological work and for his monumental walks. The man was absolutely tireless. Upon reading 'The Villa Ariadne' by Dylis Powell, in the late '70s, I bought (or rather, liberated from The Hellenic Bookservice, if truth be told, but I did work there at the time, and as punishment I am now the webmaster for their site!)  his 'Archaeology of Crete' (Methuen 1939), and his 'Palace of Minos' (Hutchinson 1933). I fell in love with this man; his enthusiasm, his knowledge, his boundless energy. He was only 36 when he died. Had he lived another 12 years, he would have witnessed the decipherment of 'Linear B', and had he not been murdered by the Nazis, he would have been just 61 years old when Nicholas Platon unearthed the unplundered 'palace' at Zakros. I could go on, as you know only too well, but I shall resist that temptation and allow John Pendlebury to type for himself. In the first of these three extracts taken from 'Travelling hints' in 'John Pendlebury in Crete', concerns "hullo boys"; Cretan lads that had spent a while away in the USA. The second and third extracts concern JDSP's hints on hiring a mule driver and the dangers of being driven around by a Cretan. Remember that Pendlebury loved the Cretans with all his heart, and had a great sense of humour, which he liked to share with the Cretans who at times were the at the receiving end of this humour.

Pendlebury on "Hullo-Boys"

"Among the trials of the road, may be mentioned the 'hullo-boy' or English-speaking (?) Greek. The first sign of his presence is usually a loud nasal voice. "Hello, boy! Where you come from? How you like this country?". Now I have nothing in theory against this breed, It is a very fine thing that making quite good money in America they should return to their village. It is natural that they should want to show off their command of American. They are very hospitable, but in practice they often make one foam at the mouth. The vulgarity they learned on their travels, their clothes, their scorn of their own country are terrible. Almost always they only want to be helpful, for like every Greek who can talk two languages they are ashamed of their own and can not conceive any foreigner knowing it (here we have a footnote which attempts to explain that these chaps actually believe that Greek is too difficult for a foreigner to learn). Some methods of dealing with them are as follows: (Here JDSP has the "hullo boy mostly speaking English, and the traveller ocassionally responding in (katharevousa) Greek, which I have transliterated and translated (in brackets) ).

a)

Hullo-Boy. You spik English

Traveller. Den katalamvano (I do not understand)

Hullo-Boy. Where you come from?

Traveller. Eimai Germanos (I am German)

Hullo-Boy. pou pygaines; (Where are you going)

Traveller. Non Parlo Italiano (Non Parlo Italiano)

b)

Hullo-Boy. Hullo, Boy!

Traveller. Haven't I seen you in New York?

Hullo-Boy. Very likely. When were you there?

Traveller. Oh, I was never there; I nearly went there once.

Pendlebury on hiring a mule:

"...A guide without a mule, gets about 70 drachmas a day; with one mule, anything up to 150 dr. and with two mules, anything up to 225 dr.This includes the man and the animal's food, though if you do not explicitly state as much in the agreement, they will 'try it on'. In Crete, for some reason, guides and mules are more expensive than on the mainland. Always bargain; remember if you pay the man what he asks he worries himself nearly sick imagining how much more he might have got. Cast aside all feelings of delicacy. In Greece, unlike Turkey and Egypt, there are few of the courtesies of the bazaar. Cultivate beforehand an automatic look of horror, whatever price is mentioned and ask the man whether he thought you wanted to buy the animal. Luckily the Greeks have a great sense of humour and a few jokes do wonders, even when they are at their expense. On the other hand, if no bargain has been made, you are at the mercy of the man. Greeks will stick to a bargain once made, but have no compunction in making extortionate demands otherwise. I have it on good authority that expostulation is the most effective remonstrance and that if you want to get angry, you must work yourself up into such a rage as to be nearly ill in front of them. They are the most reasonable people; too reasonable sometimes..."

Pendlebury on Cretan drivers:

"...The average life of a Greek car is about two years. This is partially due to the art which has been displayed in allowing the roads to go artistically to ruin and partly owing to the cunning of the driver. To him, petrol is money, therefore petrol must be saved. To do this he switches off his engine at the slightest suspicion of a downward slope. Never say you have looked death in the face until you have been down a steep winding road with a precipice on one side and only a probably inactive brake between you and the rocks below. The bends are taken at the greatest possible speed, braking being left until the last moment and only employed to avert certain death. To switch on your engine prematurely is worse than lunacy, to lose one yard of free-wheeling more bitter than death..."

I shall leave this box with more mirth and merriment from the second part of 'John Pendlebury in Crete', entitled 'First trip to Eastern Crete'. Just a couple of shorties, these, but again they show JDPS's wicked sense of humour:

" Up forgotten little tracks we climbed, past amazed goats and scared sheep, draughty stone cots and wondering children who had never seen our like. Twice we received the grave greetings of tall priests. Before we had gone far our friend with the fresh horse caught us up, and the usual conversation began:

Where are you from?

‘England.’

Where are you going?

‘Sitia.’

Why?

‘To see the place.’

What are you?

‘Archaeologists.’

Which of the ladies is your wife?

‘Neither: they are also archaeologists.’

How much does it cost you to travel like this?’

‘Who knows?’

Have you vines in England?

‘No: beer.’ Then, taking the war into the enemy’s camp: ‘Do you love Venizelos?’ All the answer was a hand to the heart.

‘Where are you from?’

Muliana.’

‘Where are you going?’

Sitia.’

          ‘How did you make enough money to buy a horse like that?’ Victory! He spurred his horse and was gone... "

Later...

"...The rain came on again that night, and we splashed through pools of mud to the Venizelos restaurant where we had a reasonable meal served by a magnificent brigand (judging purely from appearances). And so to bed. Morning came with the discovery that there was no normal method of opening my bedroom door from the inside. This delicate operation having been performed with a tin-opener and the skill of a master criminal we proceeded on our way, turning with such swing and violence as nearly to disappear down a steep bank.."

As I say, absolutely priceless! Stelios Jackson 27/4/04


Further reading:

'The Villa Ariadne' by Dilys Powell has a chapter on Pendlebury, and is a wonderful book. Available in a rather tacky edition on the island or from Athenian flea-markets, based in London such as the one I am the webmaster for. There is supposed to be a new edition of this coming out late 2004, and published by Libri. If you are interested in finding out when this book comes out, please e-mail me

I am hoping that Imogen Grundon's biography of the great man will come out soon. 'The Rash Adventurer', was originally planned for publication in 2001, but three years later there is still no sign of it. If it appears, I shall change this box to include it.

'Cretan Quests' is an excellent book on British travellers to Crete, and includes a number of entries for JDSP and a section, written by the archaeologist Keith Branigan, entitled 'Between the Wars', which is mostly on the great man.

If you come across  'John Pendlebury's in Crete', buy it. It is as rare as hen's teeth. The two appreciations of JDSP appear above in unabridged form, though hopefully Ms Grundon's book will have longer extracts than I have included of Pendlebury's walks and travelling hints.

For Pendlebury in Egypt, see 'Nefertiti lived here', by Mary Chubb, a new edition of which, is published by Libri.

and by the great man:

'Aegyptica'. 'The Archaeology of Crete'. 'Handbook to the Palace of Knossos' among others.


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