Maj. Macalister Hall
Home Up Into Battle Heraklion Pull Out Maj. Macalister Hall


Major Malcolm Macalister Hall was one who escaped from the Germans after being taken prisoner on Crete.  The following is from an obituary in the Daily Telegraph, July 11, 2002.
Maj. Hall escaped from a POW camp in Greece, and then made his way on foot and by boat to Turkey.  He was awarded the MC for this exploit.
Hall was in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and in May 1941 they were sent to Crete.  He was captured along with some 300 officers and men from the battalion when they failed to pick up radio messages telling them of the intended evacuation.  A few days after being captured Macalister Hall and seven other officers were flown to Athens and taken to a POW camp, where at once they began plotting their escape.
The plan they came up with was to hide in the cookhouse behind loaves of bread and wait until dark.  They would then creep out and crawl 100 yards to the perimeter wall, taking care to evade the sentries on patrol.  Shortly before the appointed day, the camp commandant assembled the POWs to tell them that any further escape attempts would result in two out of every 10 prisoners being shot.  But by then their minds were firmly made up, and on June 30 Macalister Hall and three others made good their escape.  Landing on the other side of the wall,  they shook each others hands and whispered "We are free, chaps!" before making for Mount Hymettus to spend the night in thick undergrowth.
The next day, from their hiding place, they spotted a young Greek goatherd whom they persuaded to bring them food and civilian clothes.  For footwear, Macalister Hall had to make do with some old patent leather shoes and evening socks, which quickly wore out.  To pass more convincingly for a local he dyed his blond hair with a mixture of Brilliantine, boot polish and burnt cork.  They had decided that if they ran into any Germans, each of them would speak a different foreign language to the other, with one speaking a few words of classical Greek mixed up with Maori, another choosing to quote Homer in Latin, while Macalister Hall elected to count up to 20 in his atrocious Arabic and conjugate some Latin verbs.
The first German soldier they came across was so bemused by the animated nonsense they spoke that he waved them on.  They soon realised that four was too clumsy a number (with none of them having more than a smattering of Greek) and they split into two parties.  Macalister Hall went with John Phillips, a classical Greek scholar.  Their objective was Turkey, but with the area crawling with Germans they made slow progress, spending much of their time hiding in the houses of Greek families.  To avoid the German search parties, they were continuously shunted about, and even spent several days in the maternity wing of a hospital, registered as expectant mothers.
Having sailed dinghies as a boy in Argyll, Macalister Hall was determined to try to escape by sea to Turkey in a stolen caique.  His companion was equally set on doing the journey by rail.  Unable to persuade each other, they went their separate ways, and Macalister Hall set about finding a suitable boat.  The first boat that Macalister Hall stole only made it as far as a nearby peninsula, where it was wrecked as he slept overnight.  He then walked along the coast to Lavrion, where he made off with another.  This time he managed to island-hop, braving several gales, as far as Giaros.  There he ran into a group of Greek Army officers, posing as coal miners, who were on their way to Turkey, hoping eventually to join up with their own forces in Egypt.  They initially suspected him of being a German spy, but after much persuasion finally agreed to take him with them.
Landing at an isolated spot on the Turkish coast, they walked for several days with very little food and water before eventually Macalister Hall was able to make contact with British Consular officials at Smyrna.  He was given a bogus identity card describing him as a Jew on his way back to Palestine, then put on a train.  On October 14, three and a half months after his escape, he crossed into British-occupied Syria and that evening sat drinking beer in an Australian officers' mess at Aleppo.  On December 5 1941, he rejoined his battalion, which was by now at Asmara in Eritrea, and was awarded the MC.  He took part in the battle of El Alamein, was wounded in Sicily in July 1943, recovered in Malta, landed at Dieppe in November '44, and later fought in the Ardennes.