The Ariadne Objective
What should be your first objective when dropped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Crete? To kidnap the commanding officer of course. So concluded Patrick Leigh-Fermor, musing in his bath in Cairo in 1944.
In this rollicking account of SOE operations on Crete during the occupation, Wes Davis perfectly captures the bizarre sense of fun with which the likes of Leigh-Fermor, Billy Moss (who later wrote Ill Met by Moonlight, the memoir which inspired the Dirk Bogarde movie of the same name) and Xan Fielding discharged their duty. Although largely based on secondary research, including the writings of Moss and Leigh-Fermor, this book is packed with dash – officers brandishing swordsticks, Cairo parties fuelled by War Ministry-issue Benzedrine, Polish countesses and Cretan bandits, and at the centre of it all, the quixotic Leigh-Fermor, sporting Cretan knee-boots with his fake Nazi uniform and extracting information from his Italian informer over roast lamb and Bollinger.
This is the war of Evelyn Waugh, hilarious and heroic in equal measure. Improbably, an excellent beach read if you happen to be in Crete this summer.