I may have read a bowdlerised version of this before.
Back in my teens, in the mid- to late-Sixties, I used to subscribe to the occasional Purnells partwork. The two in particular that I remember were Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples, which I collected in its blue and gold binders and in which I learned that the accompanying essays were far more interesting, informative and better written than the chapters from Churchill’s original book that opened each weekly part, and the History of the Second World War which came with black and gold binders. I still had both sets until a few years ago, I think they disappeared when I was redesigning my study.
Anyway, Patrick Leigh Fermor was originally commissioned to write about the abduction of General Kreipe from Crete for the History of the Second World War. What I have learned, from reading as much about Fermor as I seem to have done over the last few years, is that if you wanted 5,000 words from him it was probably wise to commission 500. The editor of History of the Second World War asked for 5,000 words; sometime after the deadline, Fermor delivered 30,000 words. The editor, exasperated, as I am sure he must have been, slashed the article down to the required 5,000 words and published it. This book is the first time the original piece has been published in full. Continue reading