In Search of Philedem.
June 30th, 2017 8:39 pm     A+ | a-
In Search of Philedem “Ill Met by Moonlight” 

For many years I have been intrigued by a 1957 Dirk Bogarde black and white film “ILL Met by Moonlight” a true story from the wartime diary of Ivan William Stanley “Billy” Moss  MC  Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) of the abduction of a German General in April/May 1944 from the Island of Crete. After the World War II his diary became a successful book although published with sixty pages missing, under official secrets act, followed by the film. The film was shot in in Alps Maritime France & Italy, the inside scenes set at Pinewood Studios England. This said the film was probably too difficult to shoot in Crete due to the extreme terrain and other complications prevalent in Crete in the 1950’s.

The plot perpetrators  of  this heroic deed Major Patrick “Paddy” Leigh Fermor ( PLF) DSO OBE & Captain Ivan William “Billy” Stanley Moss (WSM) MC became my hero’s the more I read of their  escapades the more I admired their bravery strength and endurance they became “ Boys Own” characters. The two S.O.E agents were supported by a group of local Cretans who without their help and guidance the outrageous abduction would certainly have run into trouble.
The Cretans are an amazing race of tough mountain men and women who have been fighting for independence and survival against the harsh elements and various invaders for millennia. A stoic nation who could not be supressed or controlled by any other force than themselves. A sheep stealing people of granite hardened individuals who would share their last morsel of food with any needy British or Commonwealth soldier, after making them welcome under their roof. This generosity to the fleeing troops would cost many a family their lives if discovered or disclosed by an informer to the German Occupation Army.
Nearly every village or hamlet we visited had lost men and women folk shot by Nazi forces just lined up against a village wall or murdered beneath the olive trees , that today gives us shelter. Many villages were depopulated and razed to the ground for helping the Allies. Did this deter the locals, certainly not if anything it made them more determined to rid the island of the Nazi jack boot. The Cretans are a breed apart, almost every mountain village has a hero or a story of heroism many have monuments celebrating the names of their fallen heroes, none are forgotten. The Cretans never doubted the Axis powers would be soundly beaten, the powers of evil put to the sword.

Our journey begins on the north coast at Sise where PLF and George Tyrakis dumped the brand new Opel 4 door saloon hoping to deceive the Nazi pursuers into believing they had departed Crete with the General by submarine. Sise had been used before for clandestine operations by the SOE &  British Forces using Allied submarines. Billy Moss and General Kreipe and the rest of the abduction crew vacated the Opel car a few miles before, to start the trek to Anogia. The Generals car was suitably decked out with British Army paraphernalia beret grey coat including a letter signed by PLF and WSM dated April 23rd 1944. So there could be no doubt who had pulled off the daring raid the British not the Cretan partisans.

The climb begins, we are in a Land Rover Defender a brute of an off road vehicle, that will prove its worth as the day progresses. Michalis an expert off road driver who 4 times a week takes on Levka Ori (The White Mountains) is not conversant with Psiloritis (Mount Ida). Although as with all organised journeys he is equipped with GPS, a handy tool for later when he rescues two young Czech Republic souls who were driving a totally inadequate vehicle for the punishing terrain. They were so relieved to see us we offered them a few raisins and a bottle of water, while Michalis turned their vehicle a Peugeot 207 around going perilously close to a 1000ft drop a 10 point turn in no space at all. We all hoped they returned safely as we moved on. The views are stunning.      
As we climbed through the olive groves and vines the terrain became noticeably tougher and unforgiving, first Aloides then Drosia the former Yeni Gave famed for the local speciality wild pig. A German garrison town during the occupation it was near here Billy Moss (WSM) two Cretans and General Kreipe vacated the car. Then Honos little villages and hamlets the view of the sea of Crete  as we swept around the countless corners was welcoming on the eye, tranquil shimmering azure. Juxtapose to the harsh limestone reflecting the remorseless dazzling sun.  How do goats climb these precipitous cliffs they must have exceptional balance my god there’s one climbing a tree to get at the remaining green vegetation, madness. In this part of Crete goat herds roam free enjoying their liberty, as long as it lasts.

As we pull into Aimonas we have a dilemma the road forks, there are two roads we could take do we go right or left, we stop traversing the two prongs of the fork in front of the memorial. While Michalis asks for directions to our next destination Axos, I notice two distinguished looking elderly gentlemen sat in conversation drinking strong Turkish coffee in front of the Kafeneon (come general store). This cornucopia was a joy on the eye, too good an opportunity to miss. Out of the defender I jump (that can be tricky as I find to my cost) walking over to the elder statesman I offer my hand  “Kalimera” I am from England. Little did I know it would be a once in a lifetime experience a chance meeting with a surviving Andarte (Cretan WWII partisan). He stood up touched his heart and hugged me he spoke a couple of words in English which equated my Greek, words seemed superfluous. He grabbed my hand excitedly and lead me into his shop, over the door hung garlic cloves no doubt to ward off evil spirits. Look, look he said pointing to a pair of WWII binoculars hanging on the wall among old photographs of his family, bottles of wine, locks, batteries, cigarettes, sweets, onions, beer, saw blades and a plastic pop gun. I asked him his age with the help of Michalis 92 years old he proudly stated so born in 1924 he would have been 17 when the Nazi’s came. His name Joseph Terzakis who hailed from Lakkoi in Levka Ori (The White Mountains) one of my favourite places near where Dudley Churchill Perkins the legendary Vasili was ambushed and killed in 1944. Never in my wildest expectations did I believe when I planned this special trip that I would shake hands with a member of the Andartes.

Alas time was against us we had to go, Joseph grabbed a handful of toffees thrust them in our hands. I asked for a photograph with him he was delighted. Before I left his shop he gave me the traditional kiss on both cheeks, punched his heart again mumbled England we were brothers in arms. Joseph gave us a large bag of raisins, just like Billy Moss (WSM) all those years ago, I thought. I couldn’t resist buying a large jar of honey no doubt from the local hives we have just passed on the road. Back to the land rover it was with regret we departed the next villages were Axos and Livada then onto the renowned Andartes stronghold Anogia.
On arrival in Anogia we searched for a place to park the town was busy with a number of tourist buses it wasn’t long before we were set fortunately we found a typical Greek kafeneon that many of the locals congregate. In fact we sat on the next table to the Town Mayor, the café had a very imposing bust on a plinth of a hero of Anogia. Going native I was served malotira which I am informed means bad lands, the herb only grows on poor land, you sweeten with local honey to make a very refreshing interlude. We now headed for the town square to visit the war memorial, commerating the fallen from three periods of turmoil 1822, 1867 and 1944. Listing the dead by name and date, Anogia has been razed to the ground more than once. The last occasion in 1944 the Germans burned down and blew up every house in the town as a punishment for the pro British stance with 104 casualties shot by the Nazi’s in the occupation. From todays experience it could not kill the spirit of this great little town, so proud of its heritage and stubborn heroism of past generations. As the plaque in the square states all brought about by the support Anogians gave to British and Commonwealth troops. 
We leave Anogia with profound respect for their loss but admiration for their will to fight back. 
We now start to climb again the terrain has changed markedly only sparse growth trees Oaks and Pines distorted by the strong winds it becomes a lunar landscape with shepherds huts (Mitato) the only sign of human activity. Seemingly, dead bushes of gorse that will tear your legs to shreds if you are not careful. We haven’t seen any kind of vehicle since Anogia. Seeing with our own eyes it’s not surprising PLF WSM Kreipe and the Cretan band struggled on foot we are relieved we are in a Land Rover.
They of course climbed the summit of Mount Ida (Psiloritis) in appalling weather conditions, we are travelling as close as possible in Summer.

We have no idea what awaits round the next corner rock falls are frequent and on a number of occasions the path has been virtually washed away only inches between safety and a plunge of over 1000ft to the depths below. Thankfully the climb eases and after a flat area we begin our descent driving becomes noticeably easier.
We now leave the lads PLF and WSM as they climb to the summit we will join them later in the story as they descend the mountain.
The next place of interest is Rouvas Forest a forest of Kermes Oak trees Cretan Maple and Platan trees in Psiloritis natural park to add spice the Cretan wild cat and the bearded vulture both of which were absent at the time.
As you can see from the images we are still at a great altitude. We travel through the villages of Gergeri, Nivritas on our way to Zaros. Zaros the village where Michalis has booked a table in a typical Cretan taverna , Vergera Zaros its on Trip Advisor what an excellent spread we had. Nothing was too much trouble, I couldn’t decide on red or white local wine with my lunch so had both it’s great to have a driver and not worry about driving. The food hit the spot and plenty of it didn’t want to leave but still had so much to do.

We are now in Andartes country again most of the blue and white road signs have been shot up used for target practise in modern times of course, in someway it adds to the experience. We were travelling through many interesting villages with WWII connections many had lost their menfolk to the Nazi war machine mostly lined up against walls and shot.
Voriza will also be remembered end of September for the Swifts by the 100’s flying on their way to Africa its’ wonderful to see them ducking and diving they departed the North West of England mid August and won’t return until April 2017 special to see them again.

On we drive Kamares, Lohria, Platanus, Apodoulou, Nithavris , Agios Ioannus, Hordaki and Ano Meros many of these villages were looted and razed to the ground burnt and then dynamited the burning continued for a week. The Germans who were about retreat to Chania were taking no chances they shot any male they could find.
Drigies, Vrisses, Gourgouthi, Gerakari  all Andarte strongholds peaceful today with so much history, many with monuments to the fallen of WWII the Cretans will never forget their lost ancestors who died for helping the British many summers ago. We are now approaching the final destination on this journey of remembrance of hero’s who gave their lives for future generations to live free.

 A quiet inlet on the South coast Rodakino the beach where Brian Coleman brought his ML (motor launch) ML842 to collect his valuable cargo on May 14th 1944 at 23.00 hours. They were covered for any trouble from the Germans by Bob Bury and his SBS (Special Boat Service) who were disappointed when the evacuation moved without a hitch they wanted a fight. The only difficulty that evening came when PLF and WSM realised they were not conversant with morse code the signal to the ML was SB sugar baker this tricky moment was overcome when Denis Ciclitira a fellow SOE agent arrived to save the day.

As the story goes they were soon eating lobster sandwiches drinking Navy rum and sleeping in clean white linen sheets.

The job was done, now for the Ritz bar.  
The Team.
  • Alan M Fildes.
  • Christine E Fildes.
  • Michalis Kanelakis.
  • Sharon Smith.
Alan Michael Fildes.
September 2016
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