Dear New Left Review:
George Catephores’ review of The Kapetanios, Dominique Eudes’ account of the Greek Partisans (nlb, 1972), is the fullest and most balanced yet to appear. As a former member of the British forces and the British cp at the time, I would like to add a few footnotes, to that tragic story of betrayal. Perhaps other survivors could also add their recollections before they die, or their memories fail irrevocably.
First, the Lebanon Conference of May 1944 which was supposed to unite the different sections of the resistance. The physical arrangements were in the hands of British Intelligence and the official handouts were prepared by the British Ministry of Information in Cairo. These handouts were supposed to have been the agreed texts of all the participants. But they were constantly given a pro-Royalist slant against eam, the National Liberation Front. One example among many: eam claimed, since they were in control of most of Greece outside the cities, that in the post-war coalition they should have the key ministries of the interior, defence and foreign affairs. The handout to the press read ‘.Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior and Defence [sic]’. The ironic ‘sic’ was added by the British secretariat.
At the end of the conference arrangements were made for flying the elas/eam representatives back to Greece. After considering that they might simply be ‘lost’ on the way, it was proposed to drop them by parachute over a part of Greece held by the anti-Communist Zervas. They would thus be reported to have ‘been killed by the Greeks themselves’. There was little time to spike this plot and it was impossible to warn the eam delegates, who were being held, in effect, incommunicado and who were in any case wary of local characters who approached them as ‘friends with inside information’. In an attempt to prevent the murders, details of the plan were leaked to a liberal American journalist who was the Cairo correspondent for the Chicago Tribune at the time. This far from liberal paper had a tradition of anti-British jibing which it found difficult to maintain in the conditions of the wartime alliance. Hence the calculation that it would welcome an inside story showing the goddam British aristocrats in an unfavourable light. The journalist filed his story and was startled at the furore in the censorship office. ‘They kept asking me where the hell I got all these lies and I kept saying that if they were lies maybe I just made them up,’ he said later.
As well as this, a man, who had still better remain nameless, went and nobbled the completely unpolitical raf pilots. As expected they rushed to report this extraordinary conversation to their superiors. A leaflet was got out, illegally, and distributed among the British forces most concerned. The plan was dropped. Whether or not these actions played any part in its defeat cannot be known.