Top positive review
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Clarity brought to a Complex Story
on 12 December 2001
This is a splendidly-written account of the British Campaign in Greece and Crete in 1941, and to a lesser extent, of the resistance to the Germans during the occupation. The account of the defence against the German airborne invasion is masterly, and though many units are involved, the writer has the knack of keeping them distinct in the reader's mind such that there is no difficulty in following the actions at four separate but simultaneous landing points. Stories of heroism and of initiative, and also sadly of failure of will, abound on all sides. The aspect of the knife-edge that separated success and failure is very well conveyed. Bernard Freyberg emerges as a tragic figure, a man of magnificent personal courage and a Homeric hero of an earlier war, and in the same general theatre, but sadly out of his depth in the Cretan operation. One is reminded poignantly of the merciless revelation of John Bell Hood's weakness as a commander during his invasion of Tennessee in late 1864. The only fault I found with the Resistance part of the book was that it was too short, and I would have enjoyed a more extended account of individual actions. Inspired by this, I am now keen to locate "The Cretan Runner", so favourably mentioned by the author. Given the prominent role played in the Resistance story by Patrick Leigh-Fermor, those who enjoy this book will be entranced by his two books detailing a foot journey he made as a youth from Hook of Holland to Istanbul in 1934. In Crete, he and small band of heroes, British, Commonwealth and Greek, faced terrifying consequences for any failure when they faced a ruthless and merciless foe. This book underlines how high was the price paid for freedom in the 1940's, and how dreadful were the consequences of disarmament and pacifism in the democracies in the two previous decades - a lesson we forget at our peril.