Earlier this year – on February 28 - was the 75th anniversary of the death of Dudley Perkins in the mountains of Western Crete. Perkins was serving with Special Operations Executive (SOE) alongside the Cretan resistance to the German occupation of Crete when he was killed. He was given the codename Vasili by the resistance. This presentation will revisit the Dudley Perkins story and provide new insights based on Dr Ian Frazer’s recent historical research.
Perkins and his small party of Cretan fighters were ambushed – Perkins and one of the Cretans, Andreas Vandoulas, were killed, others were wounded. They had been ambushed while delivering a radio set for the SOE commanding officer, Captain Dennis Ciclitira, on the other side of the island. They were not the only casualties then. One month later, another SOE operative was killed, Warrant Officer William Knox, with two Cypriots, when the cave they were hiding in was raided. There was no investigation into either of these incidents, no court of inquiry.
In 1987 a book was published on Perkins’ wartime exploits called Vasili: The Lion of Crete written by British-based journalist Murray Elliott. While the only full length account of Dudley Perkins, the recent availability of SOE files has highlighted a number of important errors in the book.
Elliott raised some issues which he left effectively unanswered including whether or not Perkins and the others killed were betrayed and whether or not he deserved the Victoria Cross? Murray Elliot did not have access to SOE files when he wrote the book, and has little to say about the role of that organisation. Since then these files have become available and what they reveal allows a much more complete understanding of what happened to Perkins and the role of SOE in that event. This presentation will reveal Dr Frazer’s recent research into these matters.
Dr Ian Frazer is an Honorary Fellow in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago. He became interested in Crete wartime history through his father who served in the Australian forces in Greece and Crete, evaded capture when Allied forces capitulated in Crete, and spent twelve months on the run before being rescued. This led to a more general interest in escape and evasion among Allied soldiers in wartime Crete and co-authoring a book on the topic, with Sean Damer, called On the Run: Anzac Escape and Evasion in Enemy-occupied Crete (2006). This was followed by another work co-authored with Mike Sweet, called James de Mole Carstairs: Escape from Crete (2016).
We thank the following donor for making this seminar possible: Jim Claven and Christina Despoteris.
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