When asked by my brother why I wasn’t writing any new reviews, I shamefacedly had to admit that I was actually trying to finish a non-fiction from my last batch of books before beginning on the new ones. When I told him about the subject matter of the book, I was immediately regaled for almost an hour by my normally reticent brother with the whole story with the fervor of a true WWII addict. Not only did he know the story, he also knew various titbits that were not included in the book. Spurred on by his enthusiasm, I too tackled the book with new eyes and decided that I really did like it after all.
In 1941, the German forces took over the island of Crete. This in itself is a fascinating story as the author narrates the fantastic spirit of the local people in trying to fend off the attack. In any other town or city the advance of an armed army would have sent people running for cover and trying to save their lives. In Crete it seems all the local people, men, women and children, thronged onto the streets with whatever weapons they could lay their hands to. Eyewitness accounts tell of people walking out with kitchen knives lashed onto broom handles as their only weapons to face an enemy carrying three different types of guns and enough ammunition to last for days. What kind of spirit did these people possess that prompted them to take such action? It defies a simple explanation.
The German invaders were in no way less impressive. When I first read about the ‘gliders’, I thought they were small planes. It was not until a few pages later that I saw that they were in effect collapsible gliders that were tied by a rope to the Junker planes and carried one platoon of paratroopers. The Germans lost almost half their paratrooper force when they were killed while still in the flimsy gliders. What were their superiors thinking? But hey, a soldier’s not to question why, a soldier’s but to do or die.
From 1941, until the end of the war, the Cretans had an active resistance movement. The British seemed to have an almost proprietorial interest in the island. They seem to be a bit hurt when an acting general of the Cretan resistance proposed that they were fighting for the independence of Crete and would not recognize any other state’s dominance. Still, it was the British who kept fuelling the fires of the resistance with continuous supplies and exchange of information and were a big help in their own way.
As for the kidnap itself, I failed to understand the point of it. It seems that the intelligence officers were mavericks looking for a new high in the form of life-threatening adventures. Apparently, there was only one individual in their camp who thought like me and tried to deter the kidnapping by saying that it made no sense to expose the local population to reprisals by at Germans at this late stage when the war was almost at its end. Nobody listened to him, of course.
The journey was long, tedious, exciting and everything that these British officers had hoped for. That it was a complete waste of time and energy is another matter.
I loved this book. The author is so obviously a boy in love with adventure stories that he tends to glorify all the main characters throughout the book. Most people would absolutely love this book for the bravery and sheer recklessness of the protagonists, while I was pleased to point out all the flaws in their plans and bemoan the stupidity of men. It is a good read and the author provides anecdotes from various sources that constantly liven up the narrative.
My brother thinks I am a sissy female to have a problem with this ‘glorious escapade’ and that I have no understanding of war tactics. Yes, I have loved this book – it has given rise to hours of debate and discussion in my home.