From Abducting A General
by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Patrick Leigh Fermor, a British officer conducting covert operations in Crete during the Second World War, was put ashore on the south coast of the island on 23 June 1942.
German and Italian troops were in control, and Fermor’s task was to harness civilian forces hostile to the occupation, gather intelligence and undermine enemy spirit by means of subversion and sabotage.
Living in the mountains, hiding in caves, and moving under the enemy’s nose disguised as a local Cretan, Fermor operated as an undercover guerrilla, leading the partisan resistance in a dangerous life of extreme daring and adventure. He successfully abducted a German general and delivered him to the Cairo headquarters of the SOE (Special Operations Executive), of which he was a member.
While in Crete he wrote several reports for the SOE, mostly on the run and in great haste, to be couriered to Cairo at short notice.
In his report dated 27 April 1943, he describes enemy strength and spirits, local guerrilla politics, intelligence gathering, and his propaganda work. Dealing with propaganda, he mentions:
‘Carefully placed proclamations to be found by Huns from imaginary guerrilla leaders, Black Dimitri etc, telling his followers to assemble at such and such a place – just where we want the Huns to be in fact.’
He gives an example of such propaganda:
‘Here is a fruity one:
You have now been two years in our island, and your rule has been the blackest stain on the pages of your already besmirched history. You have proved yourselves unfit to be considered a civilised race, and infinitely worse than the Turks, who were noble enemies and men of honour.
You have proved yourselves savages, and as such you will be treated.
But not yet.
Wherever you go, Cretan eyes follow you. Unseen watchers dog your footsteps. When you eat and when you drink, when you wake and when you sleep, we are there watching you.
The long Cretan knife makes no sound when it strikes between the shoulder blades.
Your time is running out. The hour of vengeance is drawing near.
Archegos of Central Crete’
Like all the books from which we extract stories, we heartily recommend Abducting A General by Patrick Leigh Fermor, now available in all good South African bookshops.