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The Cretan Runner
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British characters
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The Cretan Resistance, and the British involvement

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When the Germans invaded Crete they did so with poor intelligence regarding the strength of the Allied forces available to Freyberg for the defense of the island.  They also made another wrong appreciation of the situation on the ground.  They believed they would see little resistance from the villagers on the island, the Cretans themselves.  Although Freyberg had decided not to arm the Cretans (they were believed to be anti-royalist and also likely to cause later problems for the Greeks), they fought bravely with whatever was to hand during the invasion.  For the four years following the Allied withdrawal from the island they put up a courageous guerilla resistance, aided by some British and Allied officers and troops.  The scale of this resistance caused the Germans to garrison more troops on the island than they would have wished, making them unavailable for other war theatres.

Major Stanley Beckinsale
The Cretan Runner was one of the local resistance. 
  British Characters is a page relating to British Officers assisting the resistance.
Kidnap is the story of the capture of General Kreipe in April, 1944.
Brief comment on Jack Stuart, and a link to his story in a New Zealand newspaper.
Barbara Macdonald's photos of a Greek memorial.
Signal refering to rescue of an RAF crew.

A good small book with many eyewitness accounts, Cretan, Allied and German is "Crete Eyewitnessed" which you can get from Amazon via this link

 Crete 1941, Eyewitnessed: Eyewitnessed


Try this DVD

In the months following the Allied evacuation it was necessary for those forces who had not been evacuated to make contact with the Allied Headquarters in Egypt, hopefully to arrange their removal from the island.  It was also important to the Allies that these forces contact the Cretan Resistance on the island, and so get these resistance forces also in contact with Egypt.  The Monastery of St. John the Theologian at Preveli on the south coast became an important link in this early communication, before the Germans later raised it.  In July of 1941 the first batch of 79 men was evacuated on the submarine Thrasher.  Lights had been used to signal out to sea from the monastery, this had been done nightly for weeks before Commander Pool came ashore to tell them their signals had been seen and contact established.  The Allied soldiers had been hidden and looked after by the Cretans, at great risk to themselves, their families and their villages.  Without the self sacrifice of the islanders these men would not have been able to get to Egypt.

Now that contact had been made it was possible over the coming months to evacuate many more Allied soldiers from the island.  It also cemented the link between the island and Egypt and allowed a strengthening of the capabilities of the resistance.

The photos below are from Preveli monastery and were sent to me by Gianni Avalle from Italy who has been on a recent (2004) visit to Crete.

coverIn the years of occupation that followed the people of Crete, aided by a small number of Allied personnel, continued their fight against the Germans.  Many were captured and killed and many villagers were also executed as a reprisal for the actions of the guerilla forces.  The islanders were, and still are, a hardy breed.  You can still see today in some of the hill villages old men in their black tunics, calf length boots and full moustaches, much as they were in that period of struggle. 

The Cretan Runner cover Ill Met by Moonlight
I have had an email from Helena Charlton (UK), text follows; "My mother, Eleftheria Rallis at the age of 18/19 helped the allies in Crete hiding them in the hillside when they landed, she got caught interrogated and sent out to a PoW Camp in Germany , she had a fascinating lifestyle during the war years. We are very proud of her and still visit our Greek families in Crete every year, war books I've read confirm how proud & independent the Greek people are."
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mätauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
Shepherds who helped New Zealand troops escape capture.
I have been contacted by Paul London, New Zealand, with some information on a cousin of his, Jack Stuart.  Paul spent time researching what had happened to his cousin, who had  fought with the resistance in Greece.  Private John Richard “Jack” Stuart, of Pauatahanui, a rifleman with the New Zealand Army’s 4th Reinforcements, was wounded and taken prisoner during the Battle of Crete. He was taken to an Allied-run hospital in Athens and a few weeks later while in transit to a German POW camp, he escaped along with five other Anzacs and a British civilian, Tony Handkinson.  He was later executed.  A very abridged account of Paul's findings regarding his actions in Greece can be found at the following URL:
A mail has come to me from Kevin Haigh who is trying to discover more information about Harry Barber, Kevin has been to Crete and met Harry's contact in the Cretan Resistance, Stelios Paraskakis who is now 87 years old.  If anyone has information on Harry Barber, or an Australian Officer called Thomas (surname unknown at the moment, or an RAF communications officer called Ted Williams, please let me know and I'll put you in touch with Kevin.
Major Stanley Beckinsale

The Daily Telegraph for Sep 6 2004 carried an obituary to one of those who helped get people off Crete during the German occupation, Major Beckinsale helped evacuate hundreds and earned the MC for his exploits with SOE.

The following is extracted from the obituary.

Major Stanley Beckinsale was a founder member of the para-naval section of the SOE and was awarded an MC for evacuating several hundred Allied soldiers from enemy-held Crete.......After being fitted with a captured Italian 20 mm Breda gun in the stern and six Lewis guns mounted at various points , the vessel [which Beckinsale was to use to evacuate troops] was named Hedgehog, and Beckinsale was made second-in-command.  On his first trip to the south coast of Crete, Beckinsale ran into a force 10 gale.  Hedgehog had several tons of concrete fore and aft as ballast, and the former fish-hold was loaded with captured Italian rifles and Army boots for the guerillas.  New Years Eve 1942 was spent pumping the bilges and throwing the deck cargo overboard; but on the evening of the fourth day, the crew could see the Cretan mountains looming in the distance and smell the wild thyme on the wind.
The inlet chosen for the landing was little more than a cleft in the rocks with a small beach, well away from the German garrisons. When the signal flashed from the shore, they came in and moored by the light of a full moon.  Their agent, Tom Dumbabin, a fellow of All Souls, emerged from the shadows to report that he had managed to collect 150 Allied soldiers and a Greek Orthodox priest.  They lay up the next day, loaded their passengers and slipped anchor at dusk in order to begin the return trip to Alexandria.  Bu the following morning, the lookout heard the engine of an approaching plane, and they quickly altered course.  The deck was strewn with passengers, and Beckinsale hastily covered them all with blankets and ran to his Lewis gun.  The Italian Arado circled several times before turning away, apparently satisfied that the ship was a coaster on German business.
In 1942, in a further three operations, Hedgehog landed at Crete, where Beckinsale and his comrades rescued more than 100 additional people who were trapped on the island.  The trawler was also instrumental in putting ashore a number of British agents, including Patrick Leigh-Fermor (who later kidnapped General Kreipe, the commander of the island's garrison) and George Jellicoe, of the Special Boat Section, who was on his way to sabotage planes at Heraklion airfield.  On Beckinsale's last trip to south Crete, Hedgehog docked at Mersa Matruh, escaping just a few hours before Rommel's Panzers arrived on their way to El Alamein.  He later made long distance reconnaissance trips in his 26ft caique Constantinos, some of which covered 1,000 miles and kept him at sea for more than a month.  He was awarded the MC and was also mentioned in dispatches for capturing several Italian schooners.

Stanley Beckinsale died on August 17 2004, aged 84.

The photos below were sent to me by Barbara MacDonald who, together with her husband, is a frequent visitor to Crete.  Barbara says; "The memorial is near the village of VIANOS which is between SKINIAS  and IERAPETRA on the south coast.  The people who were executed were from the village of VIANOS and surrounding area.  The picture of the guns etc. was taken at a fabulous Museum at
AMMOUDARI which is halfway between VRISSES and SFAKIA.  Well worth a visit
if you are in Crete again.   There is another great Museum we found.  It is
off the main road from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos at a place called
KASTELI.  Again well worth a visit."

In one of the documents in the National Archives [HW 1/222] there is an interesting signal intercept.  The original signal was from the Operational Staff of the German Air Force to Fliegerkorps X, dated 18 November 1941; "In a wire dated 16/11 O.C. armed forces southern Greece reported lively British air reconnaissances over Crete and Southern Greece.  A British aircraft, probably a Beaufort, was reported to have been found in badly damaged state on west coast of Crete.  According to the local inhabitants this plane made a forced landing on 2/11 and during the same night the crew was rescued by British aircraft.  Note: Your views on the subject and full details are required by the Reichsmarschall, who is particularly eager to learn how 2 British aircraft were able to rescue the crew."  One can only imagine there was an embarrassed German officer on Crete who had to respond to Goering!