British characters
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Pendlebury
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.

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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 23, 2000.
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, General Benthag.  

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 motorboat. 
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 brigand-like appearance.
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.
"Monty" Woodhouse
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. (The Times)

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.

Hugh Fraser
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 spotted.
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).
Lt-Colonel Geoffrey 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.
I received 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 Maleme.  He 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.
Reg Tarves.  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 record.]

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 13-10-42)
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 Reserve)

Final Assessment:-

"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 soon after.

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 Runner"

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 Psychoundakis.