Ill Met by Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss is an account of how two British officers from the Special Operations Executive and a band of partisans conspired to kidnap a German general on the island of Crete. What’s interesting about this memoir is that Moss, one of the officers involved, actually wrote most of it as a diary during the events themselves. He and his cohort Patrick Leigh Fermor lived on Crete for months and spent many idle days hiding in caves and waiting for developments. During that time Moss recorded events as they unfolded. He added some explanatory text after the war (like what their actual plan was, which he didn’t write down in case the Germans should get hold of his diary), but largely the events are related within days or even hours of their happening.
The bold band succeeds in kidnapping German General Kriepe and then spends three weeks dodging German patrols before getting him off the island and whisking him to Cairo. They manage to do all this without firing a shot. This was possible because they had the support of an angry Cretan populace. Again and again, the band is sheltered, fed, hidden, and assisted in ways great and small by Cretan villagers and shepherds. As a Greek-American, I found the details of the Cretan resistance movement quite interesting (so much so that I just ordered a used copy of Antony Beevor’s Crete: The Battle and the Resistance).
I really enjoyed Ill Met by Moonlight. It is focused on just this one mission, so after reading it I had to look up the main characters and find out what happened to them during and after the war. To my surprise I found a clip of a 1972 Greek television show about the kidnapping. It reunited Patrick Leigh Fermor with many of his partisan comrades and General Kriepe himself! The video is not subtitled but I watched it anyway to see these characters I had read about and see their reactions and body language. I’ll have to have my mom translate it for me some time.
The book was a birthday gift from Will Hindmarch, so thanks, Will!