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Greek Adventure

Chapter 10

I spent the next three or four days reconnoitring nearby villages in an effort to find a suitable place at which to billet my men on their arrival. Radage was also getting busy buying up supplies of wheat, beans, black market sugar, etc. I might explain here that our agents would go into German occupied towns and buy minor luxuries for us. In this way we could obtain on occasions, sugar, cakes, ink, paper, etc. There was also a Greek market town nearby from which both we and the Germans were in the habit of buying farm produce.

While the Hun was able to do this openly, we did our buying through the Greek agents. It was a peculiar position, but one which always seemed to work. I have a note in my diary of the prices we were paying for various items at that time. Taking the golden sovereign as being worth £4 sterling, the following were the rough prices: sugar, 15/- a lb.; wheat 1/- a lb.; a loaf of bread working out at about 2/6d. Whenever possible we bought the wheat in bulk and then sent it to the local village mill for grinding before getting one of the village women to bake the bread. This was a roundabout way of getting a loaf of bread, but the trouble was that all the villagers were too poor to buy the wheat themselves, and sell us the bread direct.

Goat's meat when we could get it cost 2/6d. a lb.; eggs were reasonably cheap at threepence each; goat butter at 5/- a lb.; and beans at 9d. a lb.

After several days spent on recces we finally decided on a small village about an hour's march from Palioyanetsou, as being suitable. It's name was Rivolari. There was plenty of water and we hoped to lay on showers for the men, and even had an ambitious scheme for water borne sewerage! Radage and I decided that he should take up his residence in the village immediately and start building up our food reserves. We still had had no word as to when my men were due to arrive and I was beginning to get anxious.

We made arrangements to connect the village with area headquarters by phone. Telephone lines in this part of the world were most primitive. They were either made of barbed wire or wire stolen from the German Salonika-Athens main telephone line. As barbed wire was in short supply at this time we organised a small party to go down to the railway line to cut 5 miles of wire the following night. There had been a time when the Germans had resorted to hanging hostages from telegraph posts when the line was cut by the Andartes. But the line had not been touched for some time in this area, so we decided to take a chance. All went well, we cut our wire, carried it off on mules, and the Germans did not retaliate.

The 23rd May was a red letter day. We received our first mail, dropped by parachute the previous night near our rear base and brought forward on our mules. It was at this stage that I had my week-end trip to Karpenisi to visit Major Dickinson. Karpenisi was connected to Lamia by a road which the Italians had built early in their occupation of Greece. The Germans had staged a major offensive up this road during the Greek civil war of November, 1942, but had later withdrawn leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. The town had once been quite a busy mountain pleasure resort. Now every hotel had been completely smashed and there was not a single shop left standing. The destruction had been quite blatant and served no military purpose whatsoever.

On our way back from Karpenisi we visited the Greek market town of Spekiarthur where we spent the night with an old Greek colonel of the regular army. He wore an M.C. which he had won at Salonika fighting with the British forces in the last war. The Germans had visited the village the previous day, but had left the same evening.

The next few days we spent doing further recces along the railway. We had a very pleasant swim at the Patistomen sulphur baths one day. In peace time this must have been a very pleasant holiday resort. It was situated at the foot of the Lamia hills, and besides the baths possessed what must once have been a luxury hotel. We learned from the villagers that the baths were often visited by the Germans, so that the day we were there, willing villagers kept a look out along the road to see that our ablutions were not interrupted by an unexpected Hun bathing party.

One item of news which gave us all a great deal of pleasure was the Greek agreement which had been arrived at during the Lebanon conference. We hoped that this might ease our relations with the ELAS guerilla leaders, which at times were rather strained.

There was a tragic accident at the Goura Mission during the week when Lt. Ken Walker and Sergeant Doug Phillips, a wireless operator, were blown up and killed when laying explosive charges on the railway line.

Previous Chapter: Chapter 9
Next Chapter: Chapter 11

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