|Vasili was the name given to
Sergeant Dudley Perkins, a New Zealander who earned the sobriquet of
"The Lion of Crete" for his work with the resistance.
I have used the book "Vasili, The Lion of Crete" by Murray Elliott as my
source, you can purchase from Amazon via the link below.
|Sergeant Dudley Churchill Perkins was one of
those captured on Crete, who then escaped and went back to the island to
assist the resistance groups. On the 1st July 1943 he was in Cairo
with George Psychoundakis, preparing to return to Crete. George (The
Cretan Runner) was enjoying a rest from his 'runner' duties, Perkins
was returning to the island where he had lived with the locals after
escaping from the Germans, following the Allied collapse in May
'41. Perkins felt he owed something to the brave islanders who had
helped and sheltered him, before he was taken off the island in a Greek
submarine. These two and two others made their way by train and
army truck, via El Alamein and Tobruk, to Derna, from where a naval
motor launch would take them to Crete. Because of bad weather,
detection by an aircraft on one attempted crossing and problems with the
launch, it was not until 29th July that they made a successful
crossing. They were put ashore on the south-west coast at a small
|Perkins joined the NZ armed forces on the 16th
Sept. '39 and went with his unit to Cairo in February 1940, and then
sailed to Greece in March 1941 as part of the
allied units sent to assist that country. Perkins was evacuated
from Porto Rafina on the 26th April when the Allies pulled out, aboard
the destroyer Khandahar, which landed him and the others in Souda
Bay the next day. Now, instead of continuing their journey to N.
Africa as many hoped, they found that they were to be a part of the
force defending Crete. The New Zealanders would cover the area
from Canea to Maleme, and Perkins would be a part of what was known as
the "Composite Battalion" in the area of Galatas.
Eventually the fighting around Galatas was won
by the Germans and Perkins, like thousands of others, made his way to
Chora Sfakia for evacuation.
Unfortunately for him he was one of the 6,000 left behind and then
captured on the 1st June.
|After a couple of weeks
in the prison camp in poor conditions Perkins escaped with Tom Moir, a
Staff Sergeant. Perkins, like many other Allied soldiers loose on
Crete, made his way to the south coast in the hope of being taken off,
but I cannot determine why he was not among those evacuated. The submarine Thrasher took a large group, and arrived in
Alexandria on 31st July, another sub, Torbay, took off another 130,
getting them back to Alex on 22nd August. It would be 1942 before
Perkins got off the island, a period which was spent living off his own
initiative, and the help and hospitality of the Cretans in the many
|The following is an extract from Elliott's
book, describing some of the activities of that period;
search for food occupied much of their time. Sometimes eels
could be caught, and large freshwater crabs which came out at night to
forage near the banks of streams. Once or twice they joined a
fisherman in the hazardous sport of dismantling mines around the coast,
using the explosives to blast a haul of octopus, squid or other
fish. They learned, too, how to make a meal with the aid of the
fungus which grew near the roots of the olive trees. Boiled with
tomatoes and onions, with olive oil added, it was quite delicious.
There were also mushrooms to be found.
Les appreciated for the most part were
snails. These were first boiled to remove the slime and then,
after rinsing, were dropped still in their shells into a vegetable stew
into which a liberal amount of olive oil had been poured. Meat was
never plentiful, but occasional rabbits or hares could be snared.
In Western Crete partridges and pheasants were fairly abundant, but this
was sometimes a disadvantage as their presence attracted unwelcome
parties of German hunters.
Mulberries, raisins or grapes were often to be
had, and a kind of tea made from sage, or some of the German ersatz
coffee made out of ground roasted acorns and barley. Of course
there was wine, and the potent spirit tsikouthia, or raki and
ouzo. Such spirits were not always drunk. They might be
rubbed into tender feet, or used a s a skin lotion after shaving off a
ten-day growth with a blunt German blade. They were also valuable
for the rheumatics and lumbago which followed long exposure to rain and
damp sleeping places."
|While striving to survive, escapees also found
ways to send messages to each other so that whenever there was a rumour
of a possible boat to evacuate them, groups would assemble near the
south coast, often to be disappointed. Groups like Perkins and his
colleagues did not just wait for boats to arrive, they were continually
trying to find boats that they could sail to Egypt. Most of the
boats they found were totally inadequate, but Perkins and co. tried
anyway, three or four times.
|Illness was also always a difficult time for
escapees, it usually meant they would need to rely on villagers more
than usual, sometimes their illness required them to be bed-ridden, with
the attendant risk to themselves and their hosts, that they would be
betrayed to the Germans. In November '41 Perkins developed
jaundice; "Christmas Eve I spent in a stable
alongside two pigs, a donkey, a couple of goats, three sheep and a few
fowls - good company. I had a bout of jaundice and was about as
yellow as a Chinaman."
|They were protected at that time, around
Christmas, in the village of Sklavopoula by the Papantunakis family (he
was a doctor). Later in the war the doctor and his wife were
betrayed to the Germans and jailed. At times, while Perkins and
Moir were upstairs hiding, Fifi, the doctor's wife, would deal with the
German patrols that called at the house, at the risk of being shot
herself. Brave people.
|Eventually Moir's efforts to find a boat paid
off, he stole a boat large enough for a party of eight, but was unable
to contact Perkins and Kerr (a colleague of Perkins), and after three
days of trying, set out on the boat and four days out he landed at Sidi
Barrani in May '42, a year after the invasion. Moir was able to
tell the authorities in Cairo of the men on Crete, and two boat loads
were evacuated in May and June.
|On the 6th
June some SBS raiding parties were put ashore for attacks on Kastelli
and Heraklion, Kerr then heard of the rendezvous to take off the raiding
parties on the submarine Papanicolis. He did not want to leave
without Perkins and when he found him they left their few possessions
and struck out for Mesara Bay. After an eventful journey to the
bay, and in the dingy to the sub, they were taken off in a group of
eight New Zealanders. The transit to Alexandria took a few days,
during which they were depth charged by patrolling aircraft. On
arrival at Alex they went through a few days of de-briefing by
Intelligence Officers. Although offered home leave when in Cairo,
Perkins wanted to remain in theatre, feeling circumstances had prevented
him from contributing much to the war effort, which he had joined to do.
|Perkins rejoined his original unit, but
because of events and changed personalities, he no longer felt one of
them, he was put forward for an officer training course, but was
'returned to unit'. No doubt he would have found the stifling
atmosphere of such a course rather alien after his time on Crete,
evading capture in the hills. Perkins' earlier colleague on Crete,
Moir, had returned to Crete in February as a member of the SOE, and
Perkins also wished to go back. On 28th April 1943 he was "transferred
to Force 133", the SOE. Moir, some months later, was betrayed
by a Cretan, Christos, and ended up in Ayia jail at Galatas, and later a
POW in a camp in Germany, escaping twice, but recaptured each time.
|So, Perkins, together
with George Psychoundakis landed at Kaloyeros on the south coast, to be
met by Xan Fielding who "commanded" in the west of the
island. They based themselves in Pytheraki where they had a
wireless station, good shelter and Cretans who were keen to assist the
work against the Germans.
|August and September were fairly quiet months
for Perkins, he stayed at the camp with their radio operator while
Fielding went out into the country to assess the feelings of the people
towards the rivalry between the growing politically motivated resistance
groupings. The EOK had been recognized by the British agents in
Crete, with authority from Cairo, while on the mainland of Greece the
communist led EAM was the recognized group. As both were present
on Crete this would present some problems. As German patrols in
their area became more frequent Fielding wanted to build up the strength
of his group, and called in successful airdrops of arms, supplies and
|In October '43 Perkins was involved in an
operation to try to get one of the Cretan leaders, Manoli Bandouvras,
off Crete to Egypt. As so often happened on that island, word
spread and they were joined by other resistance fighters, including a
suspected traitor. When a German patrol came upon them they shot
the suspected spy and also caught and killed all of the patrol except
one, who died later. They eventually got Bandouvras and his men
away to Egypt but by then the Germans were executing Cretans and burning
villages in their attempt to get the Cretan leader. In late
September and early October the Germans, searching for Allied soldiers
and resistance groups they knew to be in the area, destroyed the village
of Koustoyerako which had formed the base for Perkins and
Fielding. Once again the local villagers would suffer to help
Perkins and the others, but they now needed to move away from the
increasing patrols because of the threat to themselves and the
|Perkins had gone to
the island as Fielding's second in command but after the destruction of
Koustoyerako, while Fielding went to Asi Gonia, Perkins would move to
Selino to operate alone with the resistance, effectively having his own
command. By now Fielding had a lot of respect for Perkins'
abilities, who was now setting about organizing his group into a well
led partisan group, well supplied by the Allied air drops he called in
as needed. The Cretans began to call him "Kapetan"
Vasilios. By now he himself looked every inch the Cretan in his
dress and appearance, and he led a group that respected him.
|While Perkins was involved in a number of
actions between the resistance and the Germans, one in particular should
be mentioned. In November of '43 they had come across German
troops stealing sheep and during the action Perkins was injured by a
ricochet bullet when they had some of the Germans surrounded. When
they took the German position they found nine who were taken prisoner,
and four dead. The Cretans did not want the risk of moving
with the prisoners and wanted them killed, Perkins was against the
killing of prisoners. By now he realised that the bullet which had
entered at his shoulder had now traveled close to his kidney and had to
be removed. This was done by a butcher in the group with a sharp
knife and no anaesthetic, re-inforcing the Cretans respect for
him. Soon after one of their scouts alerted them to more Germans
approaching, and now the Cretans were insistent on the disposal of the
prisoners. Perkins had to agree. They were tied together and
were to be shot over a pothole, unfortunately the first few shot pulled
in the others still alive, and the hole was deep, the fall did not kill
them. One of Perkins' group, Andonis, was lowered to kill off the
survivors, but the rope broke and he fell on top of them, injuring his
leg in the process. Perkins insisted that he be lowered to give
the coup de grace to the survivors, and also to retrieve Andonis.
Following all this they escaped, but now the Germans were out in force
to find them.
|Having escaped, the German sweeps now had them
pinned in the mountains, almost without food for at least a week before
the Germans left. The hungry group then fed themselves on the
remnants of the goats that the Germans had been roasting while looking
for them. It was now the 25th November, the Feast of St Catherine,
and some of those who were there or who remember those times, still
honour the memory of those who died in the actions around this time,
including Dudley Perkins.
|On the night of the 17th December Perkins and
some of his group were at Kaloyeros (where he had landed when he came
back to the island) to meet Fielding's replacement, Captain
Dennis Ciclitira who would later be involved in organizing the kidnap
of General Kreipe. Fielding left his camp for a long cold trek
to Perkins' camp at Selino to brief Ciclitira and was well impressed
with the operation there, he could see how well Perkins was running his
group, and how they respected him.
|In February Perkins led a patrol to see what
opposition might be expected when the boat came in to Kaloyeros to
collect Fielding. He found a guard of one German and five or six
Italians, these were quickly taken prisoner by Perkins' group.
Fielding left Crete uneventfully on the 9th February feeling that all
would be well with Perkins assisting Ciclitira. Fielding's leaving
was followed on the 10th by the Germans starting a new sweep of the area
occupied by Perkins' group, but they were spotted and ambushed and over
the next few days there were constant scrapes between the group and the
Germans. While all this was happening Ciclitira had been making
his way to his new HQ in Asi Gonia.
|Soon after arriving at
his HQ Ciclitira sent a message that his radio needed a new battery, and
it would come from the cave store near Koustoyerako. Against the
advice of his men Perkins decided to make the delivery himself and on
the 25th February he set out with some of his men. On the 28th,
with Perkins in the lead position in the group, they came into contact
with a large German patrol. The first machine-gun burst from the
Germans hit Perkins in the chest, killing him instantly. Andreas
Vandoulas also died, but the other four with them miraculously escaped,
though all were wounded. Perkins and Vandoulas were later
buried there, though Perkins' body was later moved to the cemetery at
Souda Bay. His headstone gives the date of his death as the 25th
February, though the Cretans insist it was the 28th and this is the date
they have on a roadside memorial at Stefanoporo, erected in his
memory. Andreas Vandoulas was reburied in his village.
|Since the death of Perkins and Vandoulas there
has been a certain amount of controversy over whether or not there was
an element of betrayal in way the Germans came upon Perkins'
group. There was motive, he had a very successful resistance group
and the Communists would have preferred to have the respect that was
given to his group. Also, Perkins was carrying a quantity of gold
sovereigns, which would have been very attractive to many.
At the end of the day, apart from speculation there has been nothing
conclusive to prove that it was anything other than a chance encounter
of war. Perkins died in the Cretan mountains, leading his band of
resistance fighters against the Germans, he had gained the respect of both
the Cretan resistance fighters, and those Allied soldiers who helped the
resistance on Crete. He went back to help them fight against the
Germans, and he died a brave man.