The Daily reports from Chris- now back in chronological order
14th April 2008
Sixty four years and ten days after the original operation,
the British/Greek/ Australian "In the Footsteps of Heroes" team were
due to land in Crete at 1320 hrs local time today 14th April 2008, to make their
way to the Tsoutsouros beach at which William Stanley Moss and his party
landed on 4th April 1944. They will be calling in at the former home of Micky
Akoumianakis (Chief Agent in Heraklion and an original member of the abduction
team) near Knossos en route to Tsoutsouros.
They will start their trek "In the footsteps of
Heroes" this evening.
Technology permitting, I should receive daily updates and will
post them here for those of you who have expressed an interest.
In a day or two I will also post names and bio
details of those taking part together with the names of others who have
helped make this trip happen.
15th April 2008: First report from the team leader Chris
Paul is in.
A hectic day - although we weren't trying to parachute on
Crete, it was almost as painful. Minibus arrived - seats for 6 but zero luggage
space (cue furrowed brows and numerous attempts to repack the car like some
giant jenga game). Rethink involved a taxi to Knossos and a substantial repack.
Suitably lightweight (although Alan is still rather smarting at the loss of his
full kitbag) we set off across jumbled country eventually reaching Tsoutsorous
by 1800. Much celebration and relief to get out of the vehicle. It had been a
rough journey - Alan was out of the passenger's seat like a yo-yo. Mike Wright
did sterling service as team driver - getting the most of the puny engine.
Our local contact turned up, and what a total god-send he is
proving to be. Not only is he virtually bursting with bounding energy and
enthusiasm for our quest, but he did sterling work as interpreter.
So what did we learn tonight (other than cuttlefish stewed in onions is mightily
tasty)? Well, we have a good idea of the location of the German post here in the
village - further east that one would have thought. We also met a local (who was
brought up here) who was adamant that the right beach* was the one beyond Alyki
(Agios Nickalas). This is the one that we rather discounted due to the presence
of a church; and yet it seems this church is actually a cave, which may not have
been obvious. The church of the Holy Apostles is in Ano Kastelliani and is still
there. Our new contact said that they stayed there. A good confirmation of
Tomorrow we wake at dawn. Hurried preparation of kit will be followed by a short
boat trip offshore. We will have a look at both Demati and the other beach and
will jump out at the most likely one. Our packs are light, save for some village
wine, twice baked bread, onions and boiled eggs. The game is to get to Skinias
before the blazing sun reaches its height...
We'll be sorry not to stay longer here - the sea is exceptionally calm tonight,
and as I sit here there is only the faintest sound of the waves slipping over
pebbles...and yet there in the distance perhaps a muffled marine engine. Or is
that just an echo of another age? Anyone know morse code chaps? Pass me that
* The right beach-the perennial question! For some of the
debate and evidence for and against choosing various locations as 'the right
beach' see main site. (Tim)
17th April 2004
I fear that the communications are not working as well as we
had hoped. In the more remote parts it seems that the team are having a job
getting any signal. Last heard of on 15th April enjoying the delights of
Late 17th April - contact is made.
Latest update from us: 15 April
It is the end of an epic day - at 0800 the ropes were cast-off and our
motor-launch edged gingerly out of Tsoutsorous harbour to start our recce of the
possible landing beaches. Last night we met a few locals, who insisted that Agia
Nikalas was the beach. Oh, what to do!
In deference to the original military records (and Tim's earlier research) we
headed first to Demati beach. Two interesting responses - first, that the sea
approach to the beach was in sight and wholly exposed to the German observation
post in the village. Secondly, that the local skipper was not keen to go close
to the beach area, as there were plenty of submerged rocks. So on, on to the
other options (viz Alyki and Agias Nikalas). Rightly or wrongly, to a man we all
felt that the letter seemed the best fit with Billy's description.
As we crept along the coast, the skipper told us that the area had been used for
many evacuations, as the water was deep right up to the shore. Above us the
multitude of recesses and caves glowered like empty eye sockets - this is truely
a harsh and difficult landscape. Even Nico (the Cretan soldier who joined
our team by the kind co-operation of the Greek Military Forces) described the
jagged peaks above us as 'difficult'.
When we finally entered the secluded cove of Agias Nikalas, many on our boat
thought it made the ideal smuggler's cove. Deep yellow and grey cliffs are
fronted by an arc of sand and pebbles; to the western end larger boulders as the
beach tailed away into deeper waters. The skipper's brother went forward, signaling
the direction with a neat wave of his arm. Soon we grazed the bottom and, by
timing our jumps, were able to leap between the waves and run up the beach.
Reformed as a group, we headed up the steps to the monastery, perched high above
the cliff. I. Had always discounted this beach due to the presence of this
church, yet Nico* revealed that during the war it was just a cave. It is very
possible that the team were not aware of it at the time.
The walk inland was tough - 25km over rough terrain made for a long day.
Initially we were forced to keep to tracks, but on the occasions that we broke
across open land, we were quickly mired in hidden ravines - with thorned bushes
making going uncomfortable, particularly for those hardy fellows wearing shorts
(John Ellis Roberts looked like he had been fighting with a cat).
We were eventually spat out of the hills at Dermati. We met an old man in the
fields, and he explained that there was an old track from Agia Nikitas to
Dermati, but it was overgrown. Of course that doesn't mean anything - there are
also tracks to Dermati beach. At least it doesn't rule out Agia Nikitas. The
jury remains firmly out.
By the time we got to Skalani, we were hot and tired. It had been a bit too much
for our first day, but spirits were still high. We were shown Mihali's house
(where the team stayed) and also discussed the operation with many village
members. After gifts of raki and sweet Easter pies, we retired to well earned
PS - we have it on good authority that the Monastery of the Holy Apostles is at
Ano Kastelliani - bought by a businessman, but still there across the fields. I
am afraid limbs were too tired to allow the detour. Next time perhaps.
* Nico Frankioudakis, our Cretan companion.
18th April 2008
Found Sifoyannis cave yesterday, and the very loft they stayed
in at Khorasso. Today we walk to Skalani.
18th April - fuller update from Chris Paul
Tim - update number 3
Crikey, where to start. When we left you, * we were in Skinias. We had a
wonderful reception, and the village president kindly allowed us to stay in the
village hall - Nikolaos Fragioudakis (from the village of Agios Thomas) did
sterling work explaining why we were there, and our need for a place to stay. To
say we couldn't have done this without Nico would be an understatement - he has
been an absolute god-send, and has literally opened doors for us.
After packing kit, we had strong coffee and mountain tea at the taverna and set
off northwards towards Kastamonitsa. The tracks from the village were
delightful; tracing lazy arcs through the olive groves over a series of peaks
and valleys. Here and there the concrete roads were replaced by traces of the
past - flat rocks fashioned together to form long pavements, and ancient
retaining walls. We enjoyed the route through Kassanos and Panagia. In the
distance the peaks of the Koprokefala Mountains showed us the route to the
safety of the mountains. We aimed for an obvious pass which led to Geraki. The
climb up the pass was hard - the sun was high by the time we reached the foot of
the slope, and we were all hot as we slogged up the slope. In Geraki we stopped
at the spring on the edge of the village and slaked our thirst on the ice cold
After a quick lunch in the village (the most wonderful tomatoes, fresh bread and
local cheese), we continued on the climb to the mountain stronghold of
Kastamonitsa. Here we received a wonderful reception - Nico arranged accommodation
in the village hall next to the main square. After supper a little way down the
hill, we were shown the house where Paddy and Billy had set up their base - it
has been modernised a little, but is still the same place. The house allows a
secret route across the fields, and also offers a great view of the main
entrance road to the village - we had no doubt that this was the right place.
We learned a great deal today - not only the likely route across the lowlands
and the pass to the higher ground, but Paddy and Billy's location in the
village, and the names of many of the local Cretans who helped and supported
them. We were particularly enthralled to hear from those who had brought food
and messages to Siphoyannis' sheepfold, and we were incredibly excited by the
prospect of meeting Siphoyannis' grandson and finding the cave high above
Kastamonitsa (where Billy and the others waited until Paddy returned from his
We all slept well, warmed through from the raki we had drunk with the local
farmers. The phrase "Yammas" was becoming so very familiar; as was the
taste of the raki. Already we were rating each demijohn. I can assure readers
that the raki in Kastamonitsa is among the very best (particularly Mr. Manoli's
special brew) - but more of that tomorrow, as we begin the climb up those
shattered mountains above us.
* left after phone call to me Tim
9th April 2008
Tim, here is update no 4:
After breakfast of bread, jam and cheese in the taverna where we ate the
previous night, we walked back up the hill to the main square. We were greeted
by Manoli, who had agreed to take us to the cave the team had used back in 1944.
We piled into the back of the pick-up truck - perhaps cheating a little, but it
would have taken all day to climb the steep cliffs above the village. The
military road, which climbs upwards from the western side of the village, offers
a fairly quick route to the sheepfolds that lie on the plateau above the visible
peaks. En route, Manoli stopped to show us the view across to the village of
Littos and the remains of the Roman aqueduct.
We left the vehicle and set off down a ravine, Manoli in front darting
gracefully from rock to rock with incredible agility. Every now and then he
would look back and grin at us - although it had been over 30 years since he had
been here, he remembered the route well. With a flower behind his ear and a
gleam in his eye, it was clear he was enjoying himself.
The first stop was at a lookout that Manoli said had been permanently staffed
during those times. This flat area next to an isolated tree had all round
visibility, and close at hand was a large mitato where the team had stayed.
Above the lintel was carved the date 1943 - Manoli said it had been carved by
After looking around the roofless shell, we continued down the slope; descending
into the darkness through tangled ilex trunks. Each step sent a shower of rocks
tumbling down the hill; the slope was carpeted with a layer of acorns, like
walking on marbles. We stopped at an outcrop facing the slope down which we had
just come - Manoli pointed at a spot a little way down from the peak. Although
hidden by trees, he said there was a small cave where the radio was sometimes
kept. There were a number of locations in the area where the radio was kept -
making it more difficult for the Germans to locate the transmissions.
We continued around the slope, up and down ravines and over shattered rock. Alun
had a very close shave at one point, when a handy branch broke off in his hand
and he very fell down the slope. We finally broke out of the woods to a flat
area with a view down a deep valley. A jumbled pile of stones was Siphoyannis'
mitato - where the team had posed with their guns. Close by was a flat rock -
the view behind and down the valley was exactly the same as in the famous
photograph of Billy Moss with the two Russians.**
A little further up the slope was the cave where Billy, George and Manolis
Paterakis had waited (while Paddy went to Heraklion). Totally hidden under a
dark canopy of trees, there was also a flat terrace nearby, under a rock
overhang. It was here that the others had slept. We were all rather excited -
this was our second definite location for the team, and our first cave.
With a spring in our step, we followed Manolis on a difficult route on up the
slope, eventually breaking out near to another Mitato on the upper slopes. They
had cooked a feast - sardines and twice-baked bread. With a few cries of
"Yammas", we toasted the bravery of the Cretans who had helped the
team back in 1944, our guide Manolis and the bravery of the people of
Kastamonitsa. We were then joined by the grandson of Siphoyannis (also called
Siphoyannis) who brought two large wicker baskets filled with fresh, white
cheese. It was so fresh, it was still warm! As we sat on top of the hill in
glorious sunshine, I decided to call Paddy. He was enthralled to hear where we
were, and had a long conversation with Siphoyannis. It was with heavy hearts
that we shook hands with these fine mountain men and headed back to the village.
The sun was already beginning to set, and we had a long walk ahead of us to
arrive in the village of Kharasso. With gifts of olive oil and raki stuffed in
our rucksacks, we thanked our kind hosts and set off down the track to the next
The results so far - well, we have found the house the team stayed in at
Kastamonitsa, the location of the German hospital/rest-home, Siphoyannis' cave
and various radio locations. Time has passed slowly here, and we were sorry to
Follow this link for the photos Chris refers to
20th April 2008
Dear Tim - we are on our rest day based in Knossos area. A
chance to wash kit and recover (and catch up on reports/notes).
Update no 5 - to Kharasso!
Our raki-fuelled trek from Kastamonitsa was in danger of becoming an epic - it
was nearly 4pm when we finally left the village, and there was some grumbling
about the route to Kharasso (and our ability to cover the ground before
We followed dusty tracks heading northwards out of Kastamonitsa, before taking
the plunge and heading through the olive groves in search of a suitable route.
The farm tracks we were following were not ideal - often changing direction
gradually (slowly pulling us in the wrong direction) or even just ending in the
most difficult places. But enough of our challenges and back to the route.
I have to say that I was a little worried when one and a half hours later we
were still only above the village of Aski. The jumbled contours in the area,
combined with terraces, fences and sensitive crops, made movement difficult. The
sun was already dropping from the sky, and Nico was rightly concerned at the
prospect of arriving in the next village after dark.
We decided to make for the next village and then to assess our position. Above
Kato Karouzana we decided to descend and send the team back to pick up the
minibus. A friendly taverna owner organised taxis, although we were all
disappointed to have slipped from our schedule.
We arrived in Kharasso in two contingents - the first included Nico, and he
wasted no time in contacting the village president, organising food and
accommodation. The second contingent had barely arrived in the village when the
president whisked us off to his brother's house, a little way up the slope. He
explained that Paddy and Billy (and some others) had stayed in the small
upstairs room, the design of the houses allowing quick escape through the small
window and across the roof. They explained that a British radio operator
(codename Alexis)*** had stayed in the house for 8 months.
We arranged to meet the same family the following day, and headed off for supper
and an early night in the village hall. In the morning, we were treated to
coffee and food at the same house - we are truely thankful for the hospitality
shown to us throughout our travels. There we met George Pahiadakis, now aged 92,
who had been the original guide from Kharasso to Skalani. He explained that the
original team had stopped at a spring on the edge of the village. Paddy sent
messengers to find George, but he always stayed by a big rock outside the
village, and only his father knew where he stayed. His father came to find him,
and he was afraid. Luckily someone recognised one of the party, and they met the
team and brought them into the village.
George said that the team was 32 strong by the time they got to Kharasso, and
they had to spread them between two houses. They sent the radio away to a nearby
cave, and Paddy, Billy, George and Manolis climbed the ladder to the upstairs
room. In the morning, Paddy asked George to go to the next village to find the a
shepherd called Leftaris, and to get a lamb to feed the party. They stayed
inside all day, and Paddy asked George to show one of the party the route to the
village of Episkopi. Before nightfall a man called Dimitris came from the
village of Episkopi, and started to lead the team westwards.
We too had to move to Skalani - we were led up the hill and out of the village,
stopping on the way to see George's medals and his Force 133 (SOE) identity
card. On then to Skalani to find the cave and farm of Pavlo Zographistos. We
followed the village tracks westwards towards Episkopi, ahead of us the
snow-covered slopes of Mt Ida showing our eventual route across the island...
To recap, we have now located the houses where the team stayed, and the man who
guided them on the next section to Skalani - a good day's work that was only
possible through Nico siga siga approach. Thanks Nico!
*** Aleko was the name given to Xan Fielding, this Aleko
is believed to be O mikros Aleko (Little Aleko), Cpl, (later Sgt-Maj) Alec
Tarves MM ,also known as 'The Tinker' according to George Psychoundakis.
20th April 2nd post!
Tim - virtually up to date. Here is the section from Kharasso
After our wonderful send off from Kharasso, we skirted the village of Galifa and
eventually arrived in the village of Episkopi. We took the opportunity to stop
and take stock. John Ellis Roberts took the chance to grab a quick haircut (the
poor girl looked rather shocked when presented with this wild man fresh from the
hills). After a cold drink, we bought our usual fare of bread and cheese and
headed down the hill out of the village for lunch in the shelter of a small
It has been an incredibly windy day, and we had all feared that the weather was
finally breaking (judging by the dark clouds as we left Kharasso). We had all
packed wet weather gear, as it looked so gloomy. However, Nico assured us that
provided the wind kept blowing there was no chance of rain. Mind you, the
swirling winds made our lunch break rather uncomfortable and we were all happy
to move on.
We reached the village of Aitania, perched high on a natural ridge overlooking
the valley to the west, and a deep gorge. We stopped and Nico did sterling work
talking to an old woman to try an discover any local knowledge. She recognised
the name of Zographistos, and took us around the side of her house to point the
route to the farm. She said she wasn't certain, but thought that the
Zographistos farm was near to the second bridge we could see below us.
We cracked on at a fair pace, descending into the valley and breaking off the
road into open country. We first tried asking at a garage, but the mechanics
hadn't heard of the name. In fact, Nico wasn't certain that they were from the
area. They did give us a useful lead though, an old man who lived a few fields
away. We bounded along, keen to talk to someone who knew the area well.
The man was eating when we arrived, and was slightly surprised by the size of
our group surrounding his smallholding. Nico did his best - the man had lived in
the area all his life, but had never heard of the family, the farm or any cave.
Deflated, we sloped away. He called goodbye in German as we walked up his track,
whereupon Jonathan and I explained we were British/Australian. Aha - the lock
opened. Suddenly he remembered the family (although we had pronounced it
wrongly) and knew the location of Pavlo's house and the cave with the wine
The caves (in fact there are two) are located on the hill above the garage. The
larger cave is about 12ft square, and is walled at the front with a door. It
would have been essential to stay inside during the day, as the slope is wholly
exposed to people watching from Aitania. Following the road, it skirts the edge
of the deep ravine - before the bridge, a fine ruined farmhouse sits abandoned
in an olive grove. It is well apart from other houses, and is bounded on one
side by the deep ravine. It is a sad shell, but the well dressed yellow stone
shows the house must have been impressive in its time (even if only 2 rooms).
A short trudge up the road and we were in Skalani itself, where we were to spend
So a quick update - we found the route from Kharasso (as the original team were
guided), the cave with the grape press where the andartes hid the night before
the operation, and Pavlo's house. A good day's hunting! Tomorrow the walk to the
abduction point, and then across the island!
Late 20th April
A report from Nick Troulakis, courtesy of Theodore Kitsos.
Today, Sunday morning
at 09:30 he went to Archanes and carried 3 members of the team. They passed from
Heraclion for Mrs Cooper and they went to Drosia (known with the old Turkish
name of Yeni Gave). From there, he and Mike driving the minibus, went to Anogia.
They left the minibus and continued with Nick’s car again to Drosia where the
others had been waiting. After a couple of rakis, they left, and the team
reached Anogia at 17:30.
had no time for photos, but he promised some, this week.
Update no 7 below - things going very well in the team (other than Jonathan's
boots succumbing to the harsh terrain - more soon)
From Skalani to the Abduction Point.
Today was supposed to be a rest day, but being adventurous sorts we decided to
use the afternoon to complete the short walk from Skalani to the junction of the
Archanes road. This was also a useful test-run for our most recent participant -
We started by spending some time exploring the ruined farmhouse on the edge of
Skalani, and the gorge that runs along the edge of the property. Artemis agreed
that it was virtually certain that this was the place. We then crossed the road
near to the old stone bridge, and cut a new track up the slope. We passed
through old olive groves, before carefully edging along past the vines (Nico was
careful to ensure that we didn't damage the next crop). Once we gained the
ridge, we headed southwards towards the abduction point. We were all rather surprised
to find a road whizzing across out path. Eventually we popped out of the olive
groves directly above the abduction.
So what did we learn? Well, we think it would take at least 30 minutes to get to
Point A, longer perhaps if the fields were particularly difficult. We also
learnt that walking in the heat is pretty tough, and we were thankful for the
As the sun began to set on Knossos, we decided that we had achieved a great deal
on the walk-in. Tomorrow we start tracing the route followed after the General
was captured. More later...
23rd April St George's Day.
I am a few days behind, so here goes with an attempt to
To the stronghold of Anogia!
We set off quite early from Archanes (which had been the location of our rest
day). Because of the logistical problems with the size of our minibus, Nico
Troulakis had kindly agreed to help move the team to Yeni Gave (now Drosia) and
bring our driver back to walk with us. If that wasn't enough, he also agreed to
help us pick up our latest team member, Artemis Cooper. It would have been
extremely difficult to achieve this without his involvement, so a sincere thank
We followed the path of the original team as best we could, leaving through the
West Gate and following the sinuous route of the old road. This is a long route,
which left us in no doubt as to Billy's skill in piloting the car to the
eventual destination of Yeni Gave.
We alighted at Yeni Gave (now Drosia) and after asking around picked a logical
route southwards towards Anogia. The walking was enjoyable - following a track
for most of the way. In deference to the original team, we did travel
cross-country for a short section. The going was difficult, and we were glad to
pick up another track over the ridgeline.
It took us nearly 4 hours to cover the distance, which made Paddy's night march
cross-country all the more impressive. After a cold lemonade in the main square,
we began planning the next day - Anogia to the cave hideout in the foothills of
So what did we discover - well, we were all surprised by the distance the team traveled
by car. We also had increased respect for the terrain and the ability to move
with speed across the landscape.
Here is our report - from Anogia to Mt Ida!
We had a slow start to the day, which was no bad thing (a few stiff legs from
the first part of the journey). Through Nicos' contacts we had tracked down a
man who had been part of the original andarte team supporting the Kreipe
operation. Spahis Vasilios was part of the band under Kapetan Petrakogeorgis. It
was fascinating to see his photographs (one showing 2 team members sporting Bren
guns) and hear his recollections.
He told us that the team had traveled to a point near a spring - there is now a
church there, but the team had stayed in caves all around the hillside. The
caves were not deep, but he said that the weather wasn't bad and they could
sleep under the stars. He looked at our photos of the abduction, and recalled
that the famous snap of Petrakogeorgis was taken during a heated discussion with
Paddy about whether the team could travel over Ida and not find any Germans.
We could have stayed and listened to his all day, but alas Mt Ida loomed high
above us. We had to move on.
We headed due south out of the village, following a clear track that snaked up
the escarpment and into the hills. To keep on line, we broke out across the
landscape, working on a bearing to bring us out at the caves in the Ebriskos
area (not far from the observatory near to Nida). It was a long day, the wind
howling around the trees, but eventually we emerged at the correct spot, near to
a spring. The ice-cold water was pure luxury, and we made ourselves as
comfortable as we could, although the clouds settling on the slopes of Ida
suggested tomorrow could be difficult.
With a camp fire swirling sparks high into the night, we sat and drank village
wine. As the sun dipped behind Ida, we all felt that it had been a good day.
Tomorrow we cross the snow-covered peak of Ida!
24th April- brief update
Just found sheepfold above Patsos. Still there! Shown it by
George Pattakos, who was a guide. Incredible!
Update 9 late 24th April.
Dear Tim, here is our update. Over Mt Ida and down the
We had a terrible night - the wind grew in strength in the early hours, and we
were all pretty sandblasted by the time dawn came. Everyone looked a little
tired, and after a quick breakfast we set off towards Nida. It took about 40
mins to reach the base of the mountain, and we then set off up a natural ravine
to the first col. We then picked a route to take us towards the track that leads
down the southern face. We avoided the worst of the snow patches, and after
passing mitato after mitato we emerged on the upper slopes with views far down
the Amari valley.
Route finding was difficult - we sheltered in a ruined mitato for lunch, before
pushing on down the slope. While we only had to climb 800m from Nida, we had to
drop nearly 1800m to get to out final destination of Agia Paraskevi. Each step
was difficult - the terrain changing from sharp blades of rock, tumbled scree
and deep layers of acorns and leaves. We fought our way down the worst the
mountain could throw at us - sending scouts ahead to seek the best paths. We
eventually tumbled out of a ravine near Nithavaris, our thighs burning from the
After a rapid lemonade in Apodolou, we enjoyed the final walk through the olive
groves outside the village of Agia Paraskevi. We assembled outside the Taverna,
trying our best to forget the hellish descent. Here we met Stilionos Giosofakis
- he had been a boy at the time, and remembered hundreds of Germans spread
through the village searching for Kreipe. He showed us the river bed where the
team had hidden - in the village the gossip was that they "had brought the
We slept well after our 30km ride across Ida. As Alun said, we had soft
concrete. Thanks to Nicos for helping us get down safely, and for settling us
into the village so quickly.
En route - we travel up the Amari!
We stopped to look at the haunting Byzantine paintings before we left the
village of Agia Paraskevi.
Once on the road, our destination was Gerakari - high above us along the lotus
land of the Amari. We stopped at the old bridge and mill at the foot of the
escarpment (this is the place mentioned in the Cretan Runner). We took a daring
route up a series of terraces and tracks, switchbacking under a canopy of trees.
We eventually met the road high above, and once out of the trees we were
presented with an incredible view northwards across to the village of
Fourfouras, with the striated slopes of Ida providing a breathtaking backdrop.
Our first stop was at Ano Meros, where we met Nicos commanding officer (Maj.
Nick) who had very kindly traveled out from Malame to meet us. We were honoured
to be presented with a regimental shield, and embroidered caps - in turn we
presented Maj. Nick with a boxed edition of 'Ill Met By Moonlight' - signed by
each of our team and with a copy of Paddy's letter inside. We had a few
photographs outside, and then we had to be on our way.
It was a long slog up the hill to Gerakari - each village memorial providing a
sobering reminder of the human impact of the war on Crete. The Germans arrived
in numbers on 22 August 1944 and wreaked their terrible revenge. In a few days
the Amari villages were ablaze and many lay dead. We placed a wreath at each
memorial, in memory of those who paid the ultimate price.
The cherries were not yet ripe in the Amari, but we received a warm welcome in
Gerakari nevertheless. We met Koustantinos Kokonas, who had been 13 years
old at the time. He had been given notes to carry between villages. The team had
been taken to Kineospilios first, but it had been too near the village. Within a
few hours they had been moved further up the slope to a place called
We had a good supper, then retired for an early night. Tomorrow we travel to
Fotinos via Patsos!
To Fotinos via Patsos
An early start from Gerakari. After a hearty breakfast we set off out of the
town towards Patsos. We picked up the old track over the mountains,
descending from the heights along washed-out and rutted trails. The views across
the valley were incredible, but by the time we reached the square in Patsos we
were hot and tired.
We were incredibly fortunate to chance upon Georgios Pattakos, who had been part
of the group that hid the original team in a sheepfold above the village. Now
86, he had full recollection of those days, and offered to show the sheepfold to
us. We scrambled in the back of his son's van for the short (but bumpy) ride up
the tracks leading out of the village - after Georgios hacked the brambles out
of the way, we pushed through the remaining branches to see the sheepfold,
virtually unchanged even after the intervening 64 years. He showed us where they
had slept, where Billy had bathed, and where they had sat in the open. As we sat
under the cliff overhang listening to Georgios singing about the invasion and
the resistance, we felt very close to Paddy, Billy and the others.
After a quick lunch, we headed down the track to our next destination - Fotinos.
It was a long walk on hot tarmac, and we were all glad to hit the main road
before beginning the slow ascent to the village. As we threaded our way through
the olive groves in the deep valley to the south of the village, we were spotted
by John Andre from his vantage point on one of the distinctive conical hills
around the village.
It was with sore and tired feet that we walked the final hundred metres on the
sandy track and arrived in the main square. It was late and we needed
accommodation, food and water - and as before the true Cretan hospitality never
27th April 2008
From Fotinos to Velondredo
The last update left us on the edge of Fotinos as light was falling. As we
congregated in the main square, we were very lucky to meet Stavros Perros - the
grandson of the man who had hid the original abduction team near to the village
back in 1944.
He showed us the area on the edge of the village, where the General had been
hidden. He introduced us to his aunt Despina, who had personally taken food and
water to the General (she was 18 at the time). She remembered the General as
being very quiet, and resigned to his fate - he must have been exhausted after
the long marches from Drosia.
Despina remembered Paddy fondly - she said that he had been in the village quite
often, and was to be the best-man at her wedding. Unfortunately he was unable to
come to the wedding, but she asked to be remembered to him.
While we were drinking coffee with Despina, Stavros had been busy. A runner came
to say we should follow him to Stavros' house - where he had laid out an
incredible feast of pork steaks, lamb chops, chips and salad. His home-made wine
was first rate, and we enjoyed hearing about his time in Canada (his English was
excellent, which gave Nico a break) and more stories about the village. All was
well until Alun uttered the immortal words "do you make your own
Raki?" - the rest of the evening is a little hazy!
We had an early start, but Despina had kindly made a great breakfast spread,
with excellent coffee. She told us more about the Kreipe operation, and revealed
that the abduction team had gone to Koumi, and then cut across country to
Velondredo. She also remembered that a radio had been kept in a cave high above
the village, operated by a man called Pavlo. All fascinating stuff!
We left in high spirits, Stavro showing us the correct path with Despina waving
us off. The track cut a sinuous path through the rocky terrain, our slow
progress being heralded by a euphony of bells as we drove the village flock
virtually the whole way to Koumi!
We had intended to ask the way, but it seems as if the path is not clear. As one
local farmer, the paths "are like mushrooms" - they appear and
disappear over the years. We ended up on the path that heads south to the
village of Paleoloutra, instead of south-west. Rather intrepidly (and in
retrospect quite foolishly) we abandoned the track and headed cross-country to
try and find a suitable route. What followed was a fine example of how not to
navigate in this rugged terrain - at each rise we were presented with an
enticing track in the distance, yet each track in turn tailed out into dense
trees. At one point we were forced to climb high boulders just to progress.
After 2 hours of truely horrible route finding, we descended a steep hill to a
well travelled north-south track. Our luck was in, as we soon chanced upon a
sheep farmer who was rounding up his flock. He was amused to hear that we had
dropped out the hills - his view was that it was "impossible". He was
absolutely correct, save for some mad fools.
His father, George Spontidakis, was with him in the field, and we were delighted
to meet him. His dark eyes sparkled when he revealed that he had been part of
the andarte band who had waited at a point known as Nifis Polamia, and taken the
group from there to Velondredo. It was incredible to be put on the right path by
one of the original team members.
We arrived in Velondredo after a hot slog uphill. Our arrival was met with
multiple fireworks - the local children excited at the Easter celebrations. We
found the village rather quiet at first, but Nico explained that this was normal
for Holy Friday.
After supper, we crept into the back of the church to hear the wonderful singing
- the women and men taking turns to sing. The whole village was crammed into the
compact space, and the multitude of candles and haze of incense made for a heady
atmosphere. It was incredible to think Paddy had baptized his god-daughter at
this very spot - I suspect the service would have been very familiar to him.
Later that evening, we followed the bier procession around the village, each of
us being given the great honour of carrying the Epitafios for a short section
around the twisting lanes of the village. It was a magical experience, and more
than ever we felt ashamed at forcing Nicos away from his family during this
While following the bier back to the church, we met the two grandaughters of the
Loukakis brothers (who had given such help to Paddy and the British forces
during the war). We arranged to meet the family in the morning. After a final
duck under the Epitafios (Nico said it would bring us luck), we headed off to
bed, each of us clutching a handful of the flower petals that had fallen from
the bier during the procession.
Tomorrow we climb our last mountain...
28th April 2008
Velondredo to Rodakino (via Alones)
As promised, we met the Loukoyeorgakis family before heading on our way. They
were incredibly generous and laid out a great spread of bread, cheese, honey,
roast lamb and goat, all washed down with very fine wine. In fact the breakfast
was so good that some of our group doubted the ability to stand, let alone make
any progress uphill.
We were enthralled to see the multitude of awards and certificates given to the
family for their work during the war, and in turn they were very interested to
see Paddy's maps and our collection of photographs.
Manolis, who had been 10 years old at the time, had worked tirelessly as a
runner - taking the food cooked by his mother to the abduction team. The team
were holed up in a small cave on the left hand side of the gorge near to the
village. As the river was high, it wasn't possible to get to the cave at the
moment, but they reassured us that it was still there!
We were sorry to have to leave, but the road called. The family put us on the
old path to Alones, which saved us a long slog on tarmac. As we climbed the
slope opposite the village, we had great views of the village framed by the
mountains and gorges behind. As we passed close to beehives, Nico told us to
take care - apparently bees don't like the smell of meat. After our incredible
breakfast, we had to hurry past!
Alones was rather quiet, and it took a few shouts from Nico before the taverna
was opened - we treated ourselves to a quick Frappe before the big climb. While
in Alones, we looked at the tiny church which lies just off the main road.
Sadly, we were unable to find anyone with recollection of the resistance work in
the village - this was a real shame as Paddy recalls both Velonandredo and
Alones with great affection. Perhaps next time.
We had put off the final ascent as much as we could. It was time to cross the
skyline, and to find the beach. Back in 1944 the abduction team had split into
two groups, taking different routes and meeting up on a bluff overlooking the
beach. We decided to follow the more direct route, although the initial path was
difficult to find (we found ourselves on the wrong side of a few fences now and
Once we had established a steady pace, we gained height quite rapidly. The view
down to Alones and Velonandredo was impressive, but the aggressive landscape
forced us to keep our eyes on the path. The rocks here are particularly brutal;
limestone weathered into unforgiving knife edges, sabres and scythes. One trip
would have had dire consequences.
At last we hit the skyline - a view of both the north and south coast, and there
stretched below us the wide arc of Plakias. We followed the ridgeline west, our
scouts scattered to obvious cols to seek a route down. Eventually we found one -
and there far below was Koraka beach, just below Rodakino. As if in celebration,
the heavens opened, and our near-vertical path south became even more slippery
The Final report
Onto the beach, dear friends...
The penultimate update had us perched rather uncomfortably
on the peaks overlooking Rodakino and the southern coast. The descent was slow
and hard fought, but eventually our path became less steep. The rain
and driving wind dogged our every step, and for the first time on our
expedition we were forced to break-out the wet weather gear. A rough road now
links the lower slopes, and this gave us a semblance of direction downhill -
but far below the notch of Koraka beach beckoned us onwards.
Of course, we cannot be wholly certain about the route
followed by the team, or where they met overlooking the beach. We descended
the easterly spur, and we couldn't see the beach until we were virtually upon
it. We dropped down through valleys thick with oleander, before threading our
way down steep olive groves to skirt the
village of Rodakino. It is likely that the
team followed a similar route, and would have experienced the tough descent
from the relentless mountains that shadow the shoreline.
The final few kilometres were taken
at a slow pace, with much joking and laughter. I think we were all
sad that our adventure had to end. But all good expeditions have to have a
conclusion, and ours was on the narrow cove at the far eastern end of Koraka
beach - where Paddy, Billy, the General and the others departed on a dark
night back in 1944. As we stood on the pebble
berm, with the drag of the surf beneath us, we all felt very close to the
abduction team and the events of 1944. There was time for a few group
photographs, but all too soon we had to say our goodbyes to Nico and head
The aims of our expedition were two-fold - not only to map a
definitive route and find the caves, sheepfolds and hideouts used by the original
abduction team, but also to remember the heroism and sacrifice of the
Cretan families who supported them in those dark times. It was a great honour
to pass in the footsteps of those heroes, and to hear the memories of the
survivors of those who took part and supported the team. More than anything we
witnessed true Cretan hospitality, and we were touched by the kindness and
generosity afforded to our wild band of adventurers.
It is impossible to name everyone who helped make
our expedition so special, but we would particularly like to thank Lt.Col
T. Kitsos and all at the Greek Embassy, Major
Nikos Kostakis, WO Nick Troulakis and of course our trusty companion
MSG Nikolaos Fragioudakis,
without whom our expedition would not have been possible.
A fuller report, pictures and maps will follow soon