WO Bill Knox
|The Cretans were a proud and determined people, but they
also had a number of British officers who joined them to help organize
their resistance, and to liaise with Cairo for the dropping of necessary
equipment. Many of these British officers were
"characters" in their own right.
These two books are good for obituaries, some of which I
have used on the site.
|Dennis Ciclitira (Dionysos)
|The following is an extract from the obituary column of The Times, June
|Operating in enemy-occupied territory between 1943 and the end of
the war, Dennis Ciclitira had a hand in some of the most celebrated
episodes in the story of resistance to the Germans in Crete.
|When Patrick Leigh Fermor and Stanley Moss seized General Kreipe
in 1944 - an
exploit made famous by the book and film Ill Met by
Moonlight - it was Ciclitira, as an officer of the Special
Operations Executive, who arranged the evacuation of this precious
commodity to Egypt under the noses of the Germans. Later, in
the spring of 1945, with the Germans withdrawing to the western end
of the island and taking a number of captured agents with them under
threat of execution, Ciclitira was able to negotiate an exchange of
prisoners, so saving the underground men, including a future Prime
Minister of Greece, from almost certain death by firing squad.
Finally, in May 1945, he effectively took the surrender of the
12,000 German troops remaining in Crete from their commander,
Photo shows Ciclitira
at sea between Cairo and Crete. (The Times)
|In between he supervised local resistance, ranging from guerilla
attacks to sabotage, as well as other measures to undermine German
morale in the island. Notable among these was a regular
newsletter circulated in German and Greek, which published
particulars of the sexual indiscretions of senior German officers
with local ladies - in minute detail, so as to suggest that nothing
the occupiers did was a secret from the scrutiny of the subject
population. All this was calculated to instil a sense of
unease among the conquerors.
|Of Greek parentage himself, Ciclitira was highly valued by his SOE
masters in Cairo. In many a ticklish negotiation with the
proud Cretan andartes (resistance fighters) his unorthodox
methods were known to succeed when the more straightforward British
military approach was clearly making no progress.......... His
fluency in Greek made him a natural choice for operations in the
Eastern Mediterranean and after a couple of years of regimental
soldiering he joined the SOE in Cairo, looking after Greek affairs.
|In December 1943 he was infiltrated into Crete to take over SOE's
operations in the western part of the island from Xan Fielding, also
meeting and working with Dudley Perkins
(Vasili). He arrived at a secret mountain hideout near Canea
and installed himself there with a radio transmitter. When, in
April 1944, Leigh Fermor and Moss abducted General Kreipe they
sought out Ciclitira in his mountain fastness, and he was able to
radio Cairo and arrange for them and their prize to be picked up by
|In May he returned to Cairo himself, but he was back in Crete by
September 1944. There, again operating from the Canea area, he
was active in various nefarious operations designed to discomfit the
Germans, reveling in his codename Dionysos and cultivating a
|The delicate operation to secure an exchange of prisoners came
after his second return to Crete in March 1945. By this time
Heraklion had been liberated, but 12,000 still well-armed and
equipped German troops had withdrawn to the western end of Crete and
were concentrating around Canea.
|During the occupation they had caught 12 underground agents who
had been working to sabotage their efforts. These included
Constantine Mitsotakis, who was to be Prime Minister of Greece from
1990 to 1993.
|Misotakis's sister Kaite visited Ciclitira in his hideout and
asked for his help. Although the prisoners had been sentenced
to death, she felt that the Germans were at heart reluctant to carry
out executions at this late date and that some sort of deal might be
struck if Ciclitira were to make a move.
|Ciclitira called on Bishop Xiroukhakis of Kydonia, who arranged a
meeting with the Germans which also included a British captain of
commandos. An interminable and semi-farcical negotiation
followed, during which the commando captain lost patience and
suggested a soccer match between his men and the Germans - winner
take all - the bishop laughingly agreeing to referee. Putting
this suggestion down to "British humour", the Germans
insisted on a return to a more serious tenor of discussion.
After a good deal more horse-trading an exchange was agreed at the
rate of one German officer and two other ranks for one agent.
Thus 12 of the andartes were spared to fight another
day. [This meeting was also attended by George Psychoundakis, The
Cretan Runner, although George only talks of 10 of the
resistance fighters, not 12.]
|Ciclitira's final act of the war was his involvement in the
surrender of the entire occupying force, with Mitsotakis, who spoke
fluent German, as his interpreter. This too involved
complicated negotiations but provided an element of amusement.
|Since the German officer commanding, General Benthag, could not
surrender to a lowly major in the South Staffs Regiment, as
Ciclitira then was, he needed to be flown to Allied headquarters at
Heraklion. Ciclitira told Benthag that this presented no
problem and an aircraft would be summoned immediately. Benthag,
worried about the possibility of reprisals from vengeful andartes,
asked him how he intended to communicate so swiftly with distant
Heraklion. He was astonished and mortified to be told that the
SOE radio was situated only three doors away from his own HQ, where
it had been operating with impunity for several years.
|Dennis Ciclitira died on June 9, 2000, aged 81.
|The following is taken from the obituary column of The Times,
February 15, 2001.
|Wood house was an outstanding Classicist, and it was in Greece - a
land where legends flourish and abound - that he was catapulted or,
more literally, parachuted into the front rank of war heroes.
There he helped to transform the Greek resistance - divided between
communists, monarchists, democratic republicans and bandits - into a
much more effective fighting force.
Woodhouse in 1981.
|His most celebrated success was, as the senior allied officer, to
be in charge of the demolition on November 25, 1942, of the
Gorgopotamos bridge on the railway line between Athens and Salonika,
down which had passed much of the tonnage of supplies and weapons to
the German forces in Crete and North Africa.
|Though Woodhouse maintained strongly that this guerilla action had
an important direct strategic effect in disrupting German plans, its
greatest impact is often seen as psychological. It strikingly
contributed to increase the tendency of the German staff to
overestimate the power of the guerillas and to leave large bodies of
troops tied up on inactive guard duties at weak points in their long
lines of communications.
|An early attempt to co-ordinate resistance in Crete failed, when
Woodhouse found himself (at the age of 24) unable to handle that
most turbulent and thug-like of guerilla chieftains, Manoli
Bandouvas. But once he had returned with the Allied Military
Mission to mainland Greece and begun a series of forced marches,
secret rendezvous and other romantic exploits in the full T.E.
Lawrence tradition, his fame quickly spread among a peasantry
waiting and eager to welcome their allies. With the
Gorgopotamos bridge exploit, the momentum to resistance to the
Germans gained strength.
|Towards the end of the struggle Woodhouse's main task was to
advise Middle East headquarters on the fighting capacity of the
different guerilla groups. Though he yielded to none in his
liking for the Greek peasant, he was far too shrewd not to foresee
the danger to the Western Allied cause of the predominance of the
communist guerilla bands in most of Greece.
|"Monty" Woodhouse (Lord Terrington, 5th Baron, DSO, OBE)
died on February 13, 2001, aged 83.
In Robert Fisk's book "The Great War for Civilization",
a book about all the troubles in the Middle East he refers to
Woodhouse. Apparently Woodhouse was the British agent in Iran
who was working with the US for the overthrow of prime minister
Mossadeq (Operation Boot was the UK SOE operation) in order to get
the Shah of Iran into a stronger position. This tends not to
be mentioned in the newspaper obituaries.
|The following is taken from the Obituary page
of the Daily Telegraph, July 19, 2001.
|Hugh Fraser died at the age of 79, he had an
adventurous war with SOE in German-occupied Crete. Fraser joined
the SOE in 1943, and initially spent much of his time accompanying the
fishing boats which crossed the Libyan Sea on moonless nights to deliver
supplies to the guerillas in Crete. Then on June 1 1944 he was
landed on the island, where for nine months he worked with the
resistance under the overall command of Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Dunbabin.
|Using the Greek name "Levtheri",
Fraser moved about the mountains disguised as a shepherd, lowering his
gaze when he ran into German patrols so as to hide his blue eyes.
He had a number of close shaves, once going to sleep in the same
vineyard as a group of the enemy.
|He was woken by George Psychoundakis, with
whom he had been travelling and who had been alerted by a shout from a
village girl - "the black cattle are among the vine
shoots!" Keeping low, they managed to slip away without being
|With Psychoundakis, Fraser later guided a
Special Boat Service raiding party which destroyed a bridge near Kouphi
and shot up a truck full of enemy soldiers. After this, Fraser
took care to leave a British beret behind so as to encourage the Germans
not to take revenge on the local population. His work on Crete
earned him a mention in dispatches.
|Fraser was born in Malaya, and in 1945 he was
parachuted into the country to train the Chinese communists in the fight
against the Japanese. After the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima he
came out of the jungle and was one of the first British officers to whom
the Japanese surrendered before the main forces landed. He was
awarded an OBE in 1978.
|In his retirement, he maintained his affection
for Greece and took many walking holidays in Crete. He also helped
the historian Anthony Beevor with his account of the war on the island (I
have used this book as one of my sources).
Gordon-Creed died in 2002, and The Daily Telegraph of December 17th had
an obituary column on him. He was in the SOE and active in
Greece. The following is taken from the column.
|After the German invasion of Greece in 1941,
British military missions throughout the Balkans were ordered to do
everything possible to sabotage the German war effort, making the
enemy's lines of communication a prime target. But before joining
SOE, and getting involved in these activities, Gordon-Creed had been in
North Africa with 7th Armoured Division and as a result of action
against the Italians at Bir El Gubi on November 17th, 1941, he was
awarded the MC. However, some time later following a chance
meeting in Shepheard's hotel in Cairo he was persuaded into the SOE.
|The Asopos viaduct on the railway line between
Salonika and Athens, approximately 12 miles south of Lamia, was strongly
guarded and most difficult to approach; but its destruction would cut
all railway communication to the south of Greece for at least two
months. A the highest and narrowest point of the gorge, the
railway line comes out of a tunnel and crosses a long steel viaduct,
before re-entering the tunnel on the other side. From the centre
of the main span to the river bed is a drop of about 200ft.
|Clustered about the mouth of the tunnel on the
north side were the huts of the German guard, comprising 50 men,
searchlights and machine-gun positions. The approaches were
heavily wired and mined. In May, following a report that the guard
on the viaduct was being strengthened and the base of the structure
reinforced, GHQ in Cairo ordered its destruction without further
delay. Gordon-Creed, then a captain, was selected to establish a
military mission in the Greek provinces of Dorice and Parnassus and, in
March 1943, parachuted into the area of Mount Giona.
|After a careful reconnaissance, in which
Lieutenant Stott, a New Zealander, played a leading role, it was decided
that the only hope of success was to get down the seemingly impassable
gorge at night from a direction which would be least expected; scale the
200ft cliffs up to the abutments; climb on to the main structure; then
set the charges and escape back up the gorge. The operation was
codenamed 'Washing'. On the night of May 31, an attacking party of
three officers and two NCOs under the command of Gordon-Creed set
off. After marching through the night, with four mules to help
carry their stores and explosives, they made a campsite at the head of
the gorge at first light.
|Every morning, for the next 18 days, the men
crawled out of their blankets, brewed up something hot and entered the
icy river. They took it in turns to swim ahead with the rope,
relayed by the others until it was possible to clamber on to a rock
further downstream and make fast for the others to follow. Hours
of swimming, struggling and climbing, where a slip would have meant
almost certain death by drowning or being swept over a waterfall, took
them a few yards further down the gorge.
|On the morning of June 18, the party sighted
their target. The bridge, abutments and spans were covered with
scaffolding which, they hoped, would make their task easier. They
laid up for two days, and b 8pm on June 20 they were in the icy river
under the bridge carrying their explosives - but armed only with coshes
to make climbing easier. Gordon-Creed and Stott led the climb, and
would have been in full view of the guards had the searchlights been
directed downwards. They had just reached the girders of the
bridge when, glancing upwards, Gordon-Creed saw a sentry 30ft above his
head. When the sentry went off duty, he decided to take a stroll
in the moonlight before turning in.
|With discovery imminent, Gordon-Creed hit the
man with his cosh, and tipped him silently into the bottom of the gorge
some 200ft below. After setting the charges with a two-hour fuse,
the attacking party was three-quarters of the way home, and up to their
necks in a deep pool, when a reverberating roar reached them over the
noise of the torrent. The viaduct fell into the gorge, and its
complete destruction was confirmed by air reconnaissance photographs
shortly afterwards. The men returned to base exhausted, with the
skin on their arms and legs in ribbons, but jubilant at their
success. The Germans, convinced that there had been treachery,
shot the guard commander and 10 members of the guard.
|Winston Churchill was convinced that as a
result of this action two German divisions that would have been on
Sicily at the time of the Allied landing had been moved to Greece.
Gordon-Creed was awarded an immediate DSO.
a mail from Kevin Haigh who has
been gathering information on his Godfather Harry Barber. Kevin
wrote; "It seems he did amazing work in Crete between May 41 (
battle of Maleme) and summer 1943 ( he was in 252 AMES, Air Ministry
Experimental Station, from December 1940 based close to Maleme) when he was captured for the third
time and condemned to death by the Germans but ,being in very poor
condition, they sent him to Athens and then on to Poland. While
he was on the island, after it had been captured, he assisted Allied
soldiers to leave via Sougiao on the south coast, due south of
ended up in Stalag 17 after an enforced march of 450 miles when many
soldiers died. [I think this may be the 'Long March of
which there is now a book in the shops. J Dillon] It is
his time on Crete I am interested in, I know it is a long
time ago but, I wondered if you could advertise information on
your web site for people who escaped during the above period to
contact me ? I have met his contact in Crete,
Stelios Paraskakis (now 87 years old) from Maleme and am going back to Crete next May.
Stelios mentioned an Aussie Officer Thomas who came to Crete to
help Harry and escapees, and a British communications officer by
the name of Ted Williams, can you throw any light on these ?
|If anyone has any info for Kevin, let me know
and I will pass it on.
Colin Hill has sent me the following, it was prompted by the obituary
for George Psychoundakis; Reg and
George worked together on Crete in the Resistance..
A late friend of mine, Reg Tarves, lived rough with George in the
mountains during the war. Reg was a very quiet, unassuming man, and he
never mentioned his war service and time in Crete (for which he was
awarded the M.M.) until I told him I was going there on holiday in the
early 1980's. He gave me the "Cretan
Runner" to read and said I might find it interesting. Reg was
known by George as "Tinker" and was portrayed in the film,
"Ill met by moonlight". Reg's
enduring memory was of the harsh conditions they endured. He told me
that to blend in with the Cretans, he never washed or bathed for months
on end, he spent all of the occupation in Crete and was evacuated by
submarine. Reg was persuaded to travel to Crete once more in about
1985 where he met up with George and spent several weeks talking about
old times. Reg had not spoken Greek for 40 years, but said that when he
met George, the language just came back. Local children were astonished
to hear an English visitor speaking the mountain dialect!
[Colin also included a few details of Reg's service
Royal Corps of Signals
Home 21-9-37 to 9-2-39
India 10-2-39 to 3-10-39
Egypt 4-10-39 to 18-9-44 (M.M. London Gazette
Home 19-9-44 to 5-5-45
NWE (?) 6-5-45 to 5-1-46
Home 6-1-46 to 11-5-46 (transferred to the Army
"Hard working, reliable and thoroughly trustworthy he has been in
charge of a wireless signal section which has worked most efficiently.
He is particularly good in an emergency"
Three things I [Colin] forgot to mention:
Reg ran away from home in the Highlands, lied about his age and joined
the Seaforth Highlanders, aged 15! He transferred to the Royal Signals
He told me that when he was on the run and expected to be captured, he
hid several "tubes" of gold sovereigns (used to buy favours)in
the mountains. They are probably still there!
His Cretan name was "Kalaidzis" (the Tinker).There are
numerous references to him in George's book, "The Cretan
The citation for Reg's Military Medal.
Below is a photo of Reg and George, on the right, in
Crete about 1985.
This was Colin's info. Please see separate
page for explanation that it is in fact Costas Paterakis, not George