Sgt Corbould
Home Up The Cretan Runner Kidnap Vasili Goniani andartes British characters Sgt Corbould

 

 

Hal Corbould has contacted me from Australia.  His father was on Crete for about two years during the period 1941-43. He was underground for much of that time, using false papers (see attached below).  His name was Charles John Corbould, and his Greek name was Johannes Petrakis (Johnny the Rock).
He was mentioned in despatches in 1944 (see document below).  He died in 1990 with almost all of his
Crete activities still untold,  Hal is trying to research his father's activities and what led to his mention in despatches.  

The photo shows Hal's father, taken in 1939, he would have been 20 years old then.

Hal also has a section on a web site that covers his father's time on Crete; http://www.corbould.com/ind/cjc_b1919/cjc_b1919_crete.html

I have updated the page with some more accurate information on the escape from Crete, from Hal's site mentioned above.

At the bottom of the page is an article from the Toronto Expositor in 1943. After Dad returned to Australia from Crete he joined the air force as a pilot and went to Canada for training. He met my mother in Toronto and they married in Australia as soon as the war had ended and she had made the journey to Aus.

Hal's father worked with the Cretan resistance and carried false papers, obviously, and below is one showing his 'adopted' date of birth as 16th April 1919, his true d.o.b was the 22nd April 1919.    mailto:john.dillon1@tesco.net

I must thank Nicolas Theofanakis  from Athens for the translation of the identity card, I asked if anyone could help and he was kind enough to respond.

Identity Card for Johannes Petrakis.  On the left of the form you can see his fingerprints.  The translation of the section in the middle is;

Father's name   Emmanuel
Mother's name  Maria
Place of birth   Chania
date of birth   16/4/1919
Residence       Cotsiana
Occupation     shepherd
The owner of the identity card must carry it with him always and show it on demand.  Issues according to order from 15th of March by the Commandant of Fortress Crete.
It is then dated 20/9 and probably 1941.  Underneath should be the signatures of the holder, the Police and the Mayor.
As mentioned at the top of the page, Hal is trying to find what exactly his father did that caused him to be awarded the 'Mention in Despatches'.  A copy of the document follows.

After sending me the info above, Hal sent me another mail after going through some of his fathers papers.  Rather than cut or change anything I have reproduced below Hal's mail and the text of the writings his father had left.  I suspect that as Hal suggests, it is not strictly a diary, more a fictionalized remembrance.
John

After much searching, I found the handwritten pages that my father had written after the war about his experience escaping from Crete. Or at least I think they are his experiences, but they could be fictionalized. I never had the chance to discuss the story with him as I found out his writings existed only after he died. He must have written them shortly after the war, since they are mostly written with an ink pen. I can't remember him ever using anything else but a ball pen so I'd say the writing was done before the end of the 1940s.

I attach a transcript for your interest. I have the actual writing in scanned PDF format as well, but it's a big file.

As you will read, the narrative ends abruptly, with the coast of Africa in sight. Since I know my father spent 18-24 months on Crete, arriving back in Sydney on 26 June 1943, so the caique  trip to the northern African coast must have gone wrong somewhere. Maybe they were intercepted and taken back to Crete by the Germans.

I have sent a copy of the transcript to the Cretan Federation of Australia and NZ to see if anyone's memory gets jogged by Dad's words. Slim chance - there can't be too many left these days.
Hal contacted me earlier this year (2008) with some corrections to the story of the escape of his father and others from Crete, I have deleted my old version and inserted the new from his site at http://www.corbould.com/ind/cjc_b1919/cjc_b1919_crete.html
The setting appears to be soon after the invasion by the German Army of the island of Crete in May 1941, and after the incomplete evacuation of Allied troops left many Allied personnel on Crete . Those in charge of those left behind had ordered the troops to surrender to the Germans.

It is likely that this is a true account of a group of four Allied soldiers' experiences. It is hard to imagine it being a work of fiction. Whether CJC was part of the group of four men is not known.

A ......... was overwhelming Crete . Was it just that the sun was disappearing beyond the rugged mountains that had, for the past 10 days witnessed the gradual erosion of their ...... by the invading the German paratroopers, or was it the emptiness that filled the air, that environment that was among the long lines of weary men who stood waiting on the battle scarred beach hopefully awaiting transport to the ship silhouetted on the horizon?

They knew that minutes were precious, and that some must yet see another sun rise on the island that they had fought so hard to save. Many must have felt that, after all, this was as the German propaganda claimed -- their " Island of Doom " when they saw the hulls of the [evacuating] ships turn away and gradually diminish into the night.

Their commanding officer call them together and explained that the ships would not be coming back and that the High Command had ordered them presumably the men to destroy all arms and surrender, without resistance, to the Nazi troops.

Among the ill-fated men there were four who decided to make a last bid for freedom. As they separated from the crowd, their one thought was to survey the coastline and to locate a boat. Each realized how media had their chances were, especially as some had had previous experience with sailing or navigating. However, knowing this could be their only means of escape, they decided to risk the sea rather than undergo the humiliation of imprisonment.

As they picked their way through the rocks, the stench of death hung all around like some permeating fog. It was not until some several hundred yards had been covered before they began to breathe pure air -- already a sense of freedom prevailed.

The conversation which until now had been rather meaningless, became more exhilarated, for on rounding a cliff, they sighted a small village nestling in a cove. Hopes were raised as they perceived two boats on the shore. Their pace quickened, as they realized that yet their hopes may be fulfilled if one was seaworthy.

As dawn was approaching, they had to make a rapid decision with what little knowledge they had, before they were discovered by Germans or Greeks.

The one [boat] chosen was apparently seaworthy, it was a 20 foot fishing caique, with masts capable of mounting sails. Feverishly working against time they pushed it into deeper water and rowed it to a well concealed inlet which fortunately was nearby -- the task had barely been completed before daybreak.

The next step was to obtain the cooperation of the villagers. Water and food was essential, its future used to remain obscure -- inability to speak the language presented another problem.

On entering the village, they were met with looks of both welcome and fear. Prospects were beginning to fade when they heard an encouraging word, which sounded to them like a greeting. On turning they could not help being amused by the attire of the speaker, an elderly bearded Cretan. He wore a "petsika" or bandanna around his unruly hair, a double-breasted embroidered waistcoat of bluish colour, black baggy knee-length "brakas" held up by a long dull red sash wound around his waist, and knee high boots. He looked dirty in appearance but kind of heart and he was evidently the mayor of the village.

By rubbing their stomachs in a see-saw motion the four men intimated that they needed food. The old Cretan appeared to understand. Consequently, it was not long before they left the village fully provisioned.

It was agreed that, after preparing and loading the boat, they part to keep a strict watch over their domain, reassembling at night fall.

It was dark and moonless when next they met; only one specifically watching would have observed them slipping away. Not a word was spoken for fear that at this stage, they would be apprehended. As the minutes passed uneventfully the tension eased as their straining backs rowed them further from the shore, but there was no time for rest and the one thought in every mind was to put as much water between themselves and the island before daybreak. Soon after midnight a gentle breeze allowing use of the sails which they managed to hoist with much difficulty gave tired men relief.

It was only then that they allowed their minds to wander back to their comrades, now languishing in the prison camps. It seemed too good to be true that the first and most difficult part of their escape had been accomplished.

Geoff Brown who, from the outset was deemed as the leader, immediately set about dividing the party into two shifts, one to watch their course, whilst the other gained a little respite. He realized that now their only enemies were to be a quiescent wind or a patrolling Nazi plane which would either strafe them or radio back to have Stukas attack them in force.

The African coast was so extensive that he knew it was impossible to miss it, for had he not, only prior to the battle of Crete, learnt that the Allies had formed a line 150 miles southwest of Benghazi .

He grimaced as his mind wandered back over the first campaign in which he had participated in Libya . He remembered the exuberant feeling of victory as he, together with the others of his company, had so utterly defeated the Italians, but the lines on his forehead deepened as he compared that campaign with the one from which he had just emerged, had they not fought just as skillfully, and with the same brilliant leadership? Why was it then that the second Dunkirk had to be staged? It gradually dawned on him. Yes - the same old cry - material, equipment, men - the Nazis dropping from the sky shielded by hundreds of planes, Nazis equipped with everything from saccharin tablets and compasses to Lugers and automatic guns compared with the Britisher, who, if he was lucky, had a bandolier slung across his shoulder and a rifle in his hands.

Someday, he mused, when we meet again - perhaps it will be a little while - but we will bring you to your senses begging for mercy just as we did to the Italians.

Dawn. the most crucial period had been with them for just an hour, it seemed longer, this was the time which any plane, whether friend or foe, patrolled an island base.

Geoff suggested that the sails be taken down so that apart from the gentle heaving, the boat would remain motionless. He realized that there was a chance the boat may be passed, particularly if the plane was to be at high altitude. Minutes dragged by, the men sat nibbling at bread and olives unconsciously tossing the stones into the water silently lapping against the hull. Their muscles tensed as the expected drone reached their ears, it was not then possible to define whether it was the unsynchronized beat of the Nazi or the even tempo or the even tempo let forth by the British planes. It gradually grew louder and by the manner in which the four looked at one another, it became evident that the aircraft would be carrying the black swastika, that dreaded cross, which had overrun numerous countries, carrying death and destruction before it, not only to the armed forces in which it contacted but to terrified civilians and innocent unsuspecting children.

Soon they could see the silhouette of a twin-engine bomber against the greyish stratus clouds, it was travelling toward them bBut some distance astern. Perhaps, after all, with no billowing sails, or foaming wake to help disclose their position, they may be missed or even if seen, they may be mistaken for fishermen. The too-familiar sight of a Junkers sped by apparently unconcerned by their presence, was it their good fortune to survive what seemed to be their last hazard, it seemed certain when they saw the black dot gradually disappear without altering its course. No time was wasted rehoisting the sails and soon they were travelling slowly towards Africa and freedom.

Three days had past, days of monotony, hunger and the expectancy of what would lie over the horizon. Apart from the droning of aircraft, the journey had been uneventful, they had been fortunate that the wind prevailedotherwise with their diet of only bread and the detested olives they would have been in a very weak state.

It was approx 10 a.m. when one of them sighted the long, low coastline .... (the narrative ends at this point, and was never finished).

Editor's note: It is possible that "Geoff Brown" is CJC, who had served in Libya against the Italians prior to fighting in Greece and Crete . As a sergeant, it is probable that he was the highest ranking person in the group of four and thus leadership would fall naturally to him. But we will never know for certain ....

If it is a record of CJC's attempt to escape from Crete, then the attempt failed because he ended up back on Crete just after the middle of 1941, and remained on the island until May 1943, when he escaped in a group under the organisation of (British) Captain Xan Fielding. For a full account, refer to Jim McDevitt's book - Chapter XXX, page 266. (It's a good read!)

Initially, in 1941, CJC was a prisoner of war, but escaped sometime that year and spent the rest of his time on Crete with a false name, false papers and the ability to speak Greek.