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



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 spot, Kaloyeros.
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 mountain villages.
The following is an extract from Elliott's book, describing some of the activities of that period;
"The 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 especially boots.
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 villagers.
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.