Seeking Out Xan Fielding ׀ Part One

Making contacts

Blogs are great social networking platforms, and for a Picture Editor they are also an excellent source of information.

 

Xan Fielding disguised as a Cretan shepherd, c.1942. (Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor archive, by permission of the National Library of Scotland)

 

My work on Folio’s new edition of Hide and Seek – SOE agent Xan Fielding’s account of his experiences in enemy-occupied Crete during the Second World War – began when I came across the Patrick Leigh Fermor blog, run by Tom Sawford, whose aim is ‘… to bring the life and work of Paddy, and his many colleagues, to the attention of a wider audience and to create an archive of online material that can be used for research’. This blog became a starting point to connecting with an extensive network of experts and enthusiasts on the subject of Crete in the Second World War.

Through Tom Sawford, I was able to establish contact with Artemis Cooper, author and Patrick Leigh Fermor’s biographer; Gabriella Bullock, daughter of Xan’s fellow SOE agent William Stanley ‘Billy’ Moss; and Tim Todd, an expert on the Cretan resistance. From here, the net widened much further.

 

British propaganda leaflet dropped by the RAF October–November 1943. (C. E. Mamalakis Archive)

 

I was first introduced to Constantinos E. Mamalakis, a Cretan collector and historical researcher with a personal archive of more than eight thousand items. He not only provided invaluable assistance throughout the project, but also supplied unpublished images for Folio’s new edition, including a handwritten coded message in Greek by Xan and an original British propaganda leaflet, dropped on Crete by the RAF in 1943.

Ian Frazer, a New Zealand resident whose father was in the Australian Army and stranded on Crete, led me to some letters he found hidden amongst Xan Fielding’s monthly reports in files at the National Archives. A selection of these have been printed in the appendix to our edition; they provide a real insight into Xan’s emotional state during his second trip to Crete between November 1942 and January 1944.

Harold Corbould in Australia told me the story of his father, Charles John Corbould, who was engaged in undercover activities in Crete while serving in the Australian Army. After an unsuccessful escape attempt in 1941, he remained on the island living under a false name and carrying false papers until 1943, when he escaped in a group under Xan’s organisation.

 

Searching through files in the National Archives.

 

From just one email, I was able to establish a global list of contacts – contacts who were not only knowledgeable, but also incredibly willing to share their stories and to help make this new edition unique.

The Folio edition of Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek by Xan Fielding is now published by The Folio Society.

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