SOE Greek Section: The capture of General Heinrich Kreipe, Crete 1944.

Members of the Cretan Resistance. Top photograph SOE agents Fermor and Moss dressed as German soldiers.

Leigh ‘Paddy’ Fermor served with the Irish Guards but due to his knowledge of modern Greek history he soon came to the attention of the Greek Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He fought in Crete and mainland Greece during the German occupation and infiltrated Crete three times once by parachute to organise the Cretan Resistance whilst disguised as a shepherd and lived in the mountains for two years.

Fermor with SOE officer William Stanley ‘Bill’ Moss as his second in command and a small group of Cretan Resisters received orders to capture the German commander of Crete General Muller but before the start of the operation Muller was unexpectedly replaced by General Kreipe and after informing SOE they were instructed to capture Kreipe.

General Kreipe

General Kreipe was a career officer who served at the Battle of Verdun during the Great War and during the Second World War participated in the Battle of France, the Siege of Lenigrad and after a short period working in Germany he returned to the Eastern Front. On 1 March 1944 he was appointed Commander of 22nd Air Landing Infantry Division stationed in Crete and replaced General Muller as the senior officer on the Island.

Villa Ariadni

On the night of 26 April 1944 General Kreipe was driven by staff car from his headquarters in Archanes without an escort to his well-guarded Villa ‘Ariadni’ approximatley 5 km from Heraklion. Fermor and Moss dressed as German Military Police Officers waited some distance from his residence for his car to arrive.

After being flagged down by the two SOE officers the car stopped at what appeared to be a routine security check. As Moss asked the driver for his identity papers Fermor opened Keipe’s door, jumped in and threatened him with his pistol. Moss then shot the driver, got into the driving seat and quicklt drove away.

Staff car used by General Kreipe (source unknown)

They successfully drove through 23 German checkoints before abandoning the car and with assistance from members of the resistance disappeared into the mountains. It was not long before the alarm was sounded, and the small team was being pursued across Crete by large numbers of German troops supported by a spotter aircraft, but the Crete resistance was familiar with the mountains and various caves where they could hide and eventually guided them undetected to the pickup point on the south coast where they were taken by boat to Egypt.

Offcial document for the award of an OBE.

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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