Thursday, September 8, 2016

Abducting a General: The Kreipe Operation and SOE in Crete

I don't know what the catalyst was, but I have always been intrigued by Greece and for some reason Crete.  I recall reading a book about the Bull of Minos in what must have been late primary school, and of course there were plenty of Jason and the Argonauts and similar movies as well as the cartoon series The Mighty Hercules.  Whatever it was it meant I couldn't resist purchasing Abducting a General: The Kreipe Operation and SOE in Crete by Patrick Leigh Fermor when I came across it in a local second hand book shop.

Written by the architect of the plan and main participant this is as close to a first hand account as you can get.  The audacity to kidnap an enemy general!  While a brilliant exercise, the ultimate value probably did not justify the risks.  The general was not the butcher they hoped to nab and seems rather ordinary.  The blow to morale must have been immense, but Crete remained a backwater and probably fortunate that war did not revisit.

The author's style I found a bit challenging, but I soon got used to the banter.  The appendices were fascinating and the main tale amazing.  So much planing and so much good luck.  The fortitude and bravery of the Cretan guerrillas (freedom fighters against the terror of the German occupiers) comes across very strongly as does the love the author has for the land and the people.

It would be wonderful to visit Crete again (I was last there in 1986).  But for now I will try and revisit, following the escape route detailed in this book by using Google Earth.


  1. I, too, have become interested in the German invasion of Crete. Actually this interest was spawned having discovered GDW's Marita-Merkur in 1980. Have you read Beevor's Crete? That one tempts me especially in anticipation of MMP's upcoming release of Operation Mercury. Having an interest in ancient Greek archaeology, a visit to Crete is on my list of travels too. Since there is a wargaming retreat on Crete, a buddy has been suggesting a holiday on Crete with some wargaming. I think if I make it to Crete, it won't be for wargaming.

  2. The Beevor book is really good. I read it and then lent it to a friend. Years later I was at their place and asked to borrow it. He was very reluctant but I pressed him. This was after I moved interstate. So liked the book I kept it and sent him a cheque. It was only afterwards that it dawned on me that it was my book to start with. Doh! Not all bad as he did give me a book on "Crete 1941 - The Battle at Sea" by David A Thomas.

    That MMP game looks like a monster:

    I really enjoyed the GMT game (my AARs can be seen under the label "Operation Mercury"). I want to play it again, but need for it to be on Vassal as I don't have the table space to dedicate to it at present.

    One of my (sadly way too many) projects is to work out some scenarios for Crossfire based on actions in Crete. Also for Blitzkrieg Commander.

    While it was 30 years ago and I'm sure much has changed, I loved Crete (and Greece, although my trip only included Athens and Rhodes). I was back packing with a mate and we were able to stay in Tavernas in the centre of the old towns.

    When I was looking this year at a Waterloo tour and after that fell through I did think of a trip to Crete as I recall a battle field tour was available. Would have been problematic with my family though so it will have to be another time. The depth of history in Crete is amazing.

    All the best with your holiday plans.