Friday, 25 October 2013

25th October 1944 - Liberation day…

Today is the anniversary of the liberation of the island from its occupation, in 1944. This is a detail of what happened on that day ...


On 24 October 1944 M Squadron reached Skopelos which turned out to have been evacuated by the Germans.

During the night the squadron sailed on to the neighbouring island of Skiathos. Skiathos, too, had been evacuated, but Lassen encountered unexpected resistance. As he was about to land he was hailed from a patrol boat carrying a landing party from Turnbull’s Raiding Forces. Turnbull’s men felt that Skiathos was ”their” island and that the SBS had no business there. Following a short negotiation it was decided that Turnbull’s raiders should go ashore a couple of minutes before Lassen’s.

This double landing which took place before dawn had the islanders somewhat worried until they realized that the strangers were British and not returning Germans. The guests were treated to wine and brandy before breakfast and then participated in a service in the town’s cathedral where the islanders celebrated their liberation.

The British did not know whether the Germans had evacuated the northern Sporades, or whether M Squadron risked running into enemies spoiling for a fight. For safety’s sake, the fast and well-armed, but highly conspicuous gunboat was exchanged for two more anonymous caïques from the Levant Schooner Flotilla commanded by Lieutenant Alec McLeod of the Royal Navy Commandos. M Squadron continued northwards at a leisurely pace, in clear, warm, sunny weather.

In the morning of 25 October the caïques came alongside a British naval vessel described by Lassen’s Greek interpreter Jason Mavrikis as “a huge battleship”. Whatever it actually was, this “sea monster” made the men in the caïques feel “like mice”. Anders Lassen climbed aboard to speak to the captain while the British sailors bombarded the caïques with chocolate, biscuits and whatever other food came to hand. A pleasant supplement to the ”Compo”-rations which would otherwise have been the patrol’s sole sustenance.

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