Where is that 'stuff' that was removed from K's shed to make way for the wine?
Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Saturday, 27 November 2021
Greek priorities in November. First comes the fresh olive oil but then it's playtime
Bringing home the wine
Bringing home the wine
We shall come rejoicing
Bringing home the wine.
Thursday, 25 November 2021
Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Autumn flowers are rather few and far between
Sunday, 21 November 2021
It was now obvious that the war would soon be over, so we had no desire to do many more raids, but it was equally obvious that our superiors were going to force the Germans into submission as soon as they could. We learned that the people on Rhodes were close to starvation and that the Red Cross had landed a large number of relief parcels of food for them. These, we were told, had been taken by the Germans, which prompted our Army Commander to send General Wagner a signal that his actions had been noted and if he did not feed the poulation he would be classified as a war criminal and tried for his crimes.
We landed patrols on Rhodes which caused a lot of damage if the black smoke was any indication. That night we picked up 33 Greeks and 24 Germans and rendezvoused with the destroyer Catterick. Everywhere else the Armistice had been signed so we were careful not to be the last casualities in the war in Europe.
The destroyer Kimberley came into Symi harbour with German General Wagner and his staff aboard. They were being brought to Symi to sign an armistice for the cessation of hostilities in the Aegean. We embarked the Germans and I thought they wouldn't appreciate having their photos taken so lining up my camera I clicked the shutter as they looked sullenly seawards. It was a beauty, even showing the duelling scars down the cheeks of one of the staff officers. When the signing was complete we returned them to the Kimberley.
The next day we left for Rhodes. Archbishop Damaskinos who was acting Regent of Greece arrived to look the place over. With the Greek National Guard in uniform and our guard of honour it was a splendid occasion.
Next day my relief arrived and with very mixed feelings I handed the ML over to Lieutenant Dyer. I embarked on Kimberley to have the smoothest trip ever to Alexandria.
It was always the same everytime I came back to Egypt and tasted of the good life ashore. I would get gyppo tummy which would last for three or four days before I adjusted. Then it was no holds barred. One of our amusements was to stand on the side of the road and when a self-important Pasha was driven past in his latest American car, to jump into the roadway shouting 'taxi, taxi'. We never got a lift except for our ego.
Several of us waiting for transport home took a few days leave and booked in a pension in Cairo. It was too hot for comfort so we didn't move too far afield. Staying at the same place was a very red faced Pukka Sahib. We were having dinner at night when the waiter brought him rice for sweet. His face turned purple and he turned on the poor fellow. 'Coolie food. Take the damn stuff away'.
Relaxing in the bar of the Union club one evening a soft-footed steward gently told me I was wanted on the phone. Fearing that I was being recalled for service I reluctantly picked up the receiver to find it was cousin Hester returning from the wilds of Naxos to stir up official help for her cause. That was the finish of any peace and quiet for me. In no time I was calling on all the people she thought would pull strings on her behalf and she was soon getting her own way as she had already softened them up on her first visit. I never learned if the worthy Bishop of Jerusalem had had second thoughts but almost overnight the whole situation changed. She must have decided that the Greek islanders would receive sufficient assistance and her services would be better utilised elsewhere. She completely abandoned them to take the Arabs of the Hadramut to her bosom. In a few days she was gone and life returned to normal"
And that was the end of the Greek adventure. My father came back to Greece several times when we were living in Piraeus and then in Crete. He enjoyed the experience, living like a greek, trying out his greek words, eating, drinking and having siestas with his half-greek family. But he would have been happy to travel elsewhere and see the rest of the world. It was my mother, enthralled by the history and ancient ruins that dragged him back. One of her well known sayings was 'see Delphi and die'.
She managed to visit Delphi* twice so she died happy.
*Delphi - is known here as the navel of the world. The ruins on the side of Mount Parnassus are from around 2,000 BC. It is the site of the Oracle Pythia, famous throughout the classical world for her enigmatic predicitons. The ruins include a Treasury, temples, theatre and stadium. The site has a magnificent view of a sea of shimmering silver olive trees.
*Harry Creasy. My father was only in his early twenties when he became Captain of the Motor Launch which saw action all over the Mediterranean. The Greek Islands were only part of the story.
*Cousin Hester Viney. My cousin Jenny googled Hester and found a little about her and even a photo. Isn't that amazing. You can even google cousin Hester, circa 1925, and come upon pages of information. She wrote 'The Book of Breastfeeding' and seems to have given lectures far and wide on Motherhood and Public Health, besides taking her message to far away places and diverse peoples.
Friday, 19 November 2021
Greek tales no. 2
"When we were not doing patrols or landing raiding parties we visited the various islands to 'show the flag' and create goodwill. The Second Officer and I would leave the Coxswain in charge, hire some donkeys and visited the villages up in the hills. In Mykonos we had a most heart warming reception. We went to three villages, visited a dozen or so houses with the Mayor and the inevitable Greek who had spent some of his life in the US and could remember enough english to be understood. We gave speeches, ate, drank and were merry, got kissed by countless children and a very beared priest who reeked of garlic. Unfortunately in the excitement the donkeys had been taken away, so we had to walk miles back to the harbour. Hours later we limped painfully aboard the ML , mouths as dry as a chip but feeling as though our duty had been nobly done.
The Aegean islands are steeped in history and mythology. The island of Delos still had an air of mystery which seemed to set it apart. Milos was renowned for its Venus, Rhodes once had its Colossus and we used to pass a headland which was marked on the chart 'Homer reputed buried here'. Lemnos further north had been well known to the Gallipoli campaigners and is revered as the burial place of poet Rupert Brooke.
When we moved to Naxos I heard that an english woman had recently arrived, gathered up an escort of donkeys and guides to transport all her equipment and taken to the villages in the hills. Without showing too much enthusiasm and with careful questioning, my suspicions were confirmed. Cousin Hester had apparently been turned down by the Bishop of Jerusalem but had suggested to UNRRA that her ministrations were required for the poor and needy in Greece. They had welcomed her warmly and given her passage to Alexandria where she soon had everyone dancing attendance on her. She had organised all her medical requirements and sailed in a caique from place to place until she and her band slipped, unnoticed by the Greek authorities, into the Greek islands. I didn't feel like an expedition by donkey up into the hills to renew acquaintance, so we headed back to base.
By mid-March the weather was getting warmer and the seas less stormy. We were based on Symi doing patrols, checking caiques and landing raiding parties on Kos, Leros, Rhodes and other occupied territories. On 13th April we were told Turkey had entered the war against Germany so it was now in order for us to hug the Turkish coast to avoid the Germans. Better still we could make use of the Turkish ports. It was always frustrating travelling up the coast at night to see all the lights blazing from the towns and villages on the way while we had to maintain a black-out both at sea and ashore. We were ordered to go to Marmaris to make contact with the Turks and report how they reacted to us.
As we neared the entrance we were a little apprehensive, as maybe the locals hadn't been told they were our allies and might not welcome us. We knew there was a Naval Signals station on one of the headlands so we hoisted a few international signals to let them know we were friendly and having located their base did some flashing with a lamp. It must have been their morning siesta because we got no response for about half an hour. Then someone must have spotted us as signals went flying up the flagstaff. A Turkish soldier appeared at the entrance to the fort waving his arms with semaphore flags as if he had a hive of bees around him. Nothing made any sense to us so we rang engines for slow ahead and with all lookouts watching for trouble from the fort we made for the entrance to the bay. All was quiet as we moved out of range and increased speed to close the jetty off the beach. We tied up alongside a caique but for all the notice that was taken of us we might have been there every day of the week. As expected there were some English speaking Turks but no-one seemed interested in us so we bought some boxes of Turkish delight and eggs and tied up for the night alongside the destroyer Active which had arrived after us. Next morning , in an atmosphere of anti-climax, we left for Symi, keeping a watchful eye on the fort as we went out.
After some leave in the classical atmosphere of Athens we returned to Syros where we learnt that cousin Hester was still in Naxos. A caique going to the island next day took a parcel and a note offering my regrets at once again having missed seeing her.
Our next duty was to go to the island of Patmos where some 160 Italians had shown the white flag and had to be moved. We took a caique with us as there were too many prisoners for us to handle on the ML. She could only do 5 knots so we passed her a towline and got her speed up to eight. Unfortunately, being slowed down in this way upset our timing and we had to go past the German guns on Leros and Kos in daylight which was rather a hazard. But we passed without incident. We found that the Italians were not on Patmos but on Lipsos which meant a return journey of about five miles close under the guns of Leros. We loaded all the prisoners into the caique 'Pepina', waited till dark and towed them back to Patmos. Next day we were taken up to the top of the hill to see the Monastery built to commemorate St Paul's sojourn in a nearby cave. On the way back to Symi we noticed 'Pepina' with her cargo of Italians. The caique was very low in the water and as the weather was worsening we took her in tow again, crawling back to Symi with a very miserable band of seasick Italians."
Unfortunately I know little about cousin Hester. She was famous in our household for being another eccentric in the family tree, the one who trekked into the dark depths of a greek island on a donkey in the middle of a world war to help the poor. I wonder what the greek villagers thought of her.
Thursday, 18 November 2021
My father was in the Fleet Airarm of the British navy and Captain of an ML, Motor Launch, which patrolled the greek islands towards the end of WW11 and the German invasion of Greece .