Category Archives: Britain

Fall of the Dakotas after 1815

From Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, by Pekka Hämäläinen (The Lamar Series in Western History; Yale U. Press, 2019), Kindle pp. 155-156:

In the summer of 1815, seven months after the Treaty of Ghent, U.S. officials invited the western Indians to a council at Portage des Sioux just north of St. Louis. Two thousand Indians showed up, and Americans made treaties with Lakotas, Mdewakantons, Wahpekutes, Sissetons, Wahpetons, and Yanktons. The pithy compacts pardoned past aggressions and brought the Sioux under the protection of the United States. The Americans understood the last article as a corroboration of U.S. jurisdiction over the Sioux, but the seventy-two Sioux delegates who touched a pen probably understood it as a confirmation of the prewar status quo whereby Americans traded with them without dictating to them. When U.S. soldiers began building an unauthorized fort at Prairie du Chien a year later, Mdewakanton chiefs approached British agents in the upper Great Lakes, pleading for help in preventing their “final extinction.” It was only when the agents refused them that the chiefs realized that they would have to face the United States without British counterweight. Their fall from power was shockingly fast.

Left alone to face the Americans, Dakotas were soon reeling. In 1818 Benjamin O’Fallon, a newly appointed U.S. agent for the Sioux and William Clark’s nephew, led two heavily armed keelboats up the Mississippi and Minnesota to stop Canadian incursions and establish American authority in the region—an enterprise that echoed his uncle’s famous expedition fourteen years earlier. O’Fallon found the Sioux divided and quarrelling over trade. At a Mdewakanton village, chief Shakopee, “ferocious and savage,” complained that his warriors lacked guns and could not contain their Chippewa enemies. O’Fallon urged them to “be always last in war” and place their faith in “the Great Spirit.”

Cut off from the British trade and political support, the Mdewakantons accepted O’Fallon’s gifts—a little whiskey and some goods—and demands. Within a year the U.S. Army started planning a military fort at the Mississippi-Minnesota junction on lands Pike had purchased fourteen years earlier.

O’Fallon had succeeded where Lewis and Clark had failed. While the Corps of Discovery had inadvertently prompted Lakotas to strengthen their hold of the Missouri and its peoples, O’Fallon had extorted from Dakotas a tacit acceptance of a military fort on their lands. Fort Snelling was in operation by 1820 and was soon accompanied by St. Peter’s Indian agency. The complex marked the beginning of a growing American presence in Dakota lives. It became a hub for the growing fur trade, which soon cut into the region’s animal populations, creating food shortages and entangling Dakotas into chronic wars over hunting privileges with Chippewas and Ho-Chunks [aka Winnebago]. Indian agents tried to mediate, but they lacked the know-how to be effective. Things came to head in 1827 when Mdewakantons and Wahpetons killed two Chippewas in a council at Fort Snelling under a U.S. flag. The fort commander, Josiah Snelling, imprisoned several Dakota warriors and demanded the culprits be turned over to him in return for their release. He was given a few men whom he handed over to Chippewas. Chippewas let them run before shooting them down. Then they scalped them in front of the shocked American officials.

A century earlier, less than fifty miles downriver from Fort Snelling, the French had built Fort Beauharnois to serve Dakotas. That trading fort had been the focal point of a deep Dakota-French accommodation that stabilized the upper Mississippi Valley, fueled the expansion of the fur trade west of the Great Lakes, and made the Dakotas the dominant power in the interior. Now the region’s dominant fort was a military establishment that heralded U.S. sovereignty over the Mississippi Valley, monitored the Dakotas, and staged U.S.-sponsored public executions of Dakota people.

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Great Plains Migrations, 1812-1815

From Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, by Pekka Hämäläinen (The Lamar Series in Western History; Yale U. Press, 2019), Kindle pp. 153-154:

Lakotas stayed out of the War of 1812, but the war years were a dynamic time for them. There were exhilarating advances in equestrian technology: several winter counts record how Lakotas captured their first wild horses with lariats somewhere in the western plains. The practice signaled a larger expansion of the horse culture across the grasslands. Herds of wild mustangs had multiplied in the southern plains to the point where animals began spreading into colder northern latitudes, and Lakotas may have adopted the use of the lariat from their more experienced Cheyenne allies.

There were also far-reaching political developments. Lakotas fought with Crows in the west, clashing over horses and hunting rights, while also engaging in active diplomacy with Pawnees and Kiowas to the south. The talks were often tentative, rendered so by the very dynamism of the rising horse nations of the plains. Comanches, Kiowas, Crows, and other plains nomads were now rapidly accumulating horses, their ambitions growing along with their herds. They were jockeying for position in the western steppes, competing for the richest hunting grounds, the best riverine pasturelands, and key trade corridors.

Though still bound in the Mníšoše [Missouri R.], Lakotas were not exempt from these rivalries. Most of their oyátes had begun regular bison hunts in the West where, at the edge of the Black Hills, they sometimes wintered with Cheyennes. The western excursions drew them into conflict with Kiowas, who were in a habit of traveling to the Black Hills from their southern homelands around the Arkansas, where they lived in an alliance with the powerful Comanches. Lakotas could ill afford a war with Kiowas, who had become prominent middlemen, carrying Comanche horses to the North Platte where they traded with Cheyennes. In 1815 a Lakota delegation traveled there to hold a peace council with Kiowas. It went badly. A Kiowa tried to steal Lakota horses, and a Sicangu warrior buried a hatchet in his head. Lakotas drove the Kiowas all the way into the Rockies. It was a major event, recorded in numerous winter counts, for it anticipated Lakota expansion into the West.

Lakotas were not plains nomads yet. They ventured into the grasslands to hunt and trade and raid, but they did not feel safe out in the open. They were still building up their horse herds, and the Black Hills were dominated by Crows and Cheyennes who commanded the western grasslands from the rocky bastion. In around 1815 Sans Arcs astonished other Lakotas by building dirt lodges at Peoria Bottom above the Bad River. They then did something even more unexpected: they built large wooden houses, which they occupied for at least two years. The pictographs of the boxy structures appear at once cozy and utterly alien on the buffalo hides.

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Smallpox Epidemics of 1775, 1779

From Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, by Pekka Hämäläinen (The Lamar Series in Western History; Yale U. Press, 2019), Kindle pp. 94-96:

The smallpox epidemic began in late 1775 in Quebec and spread down the eastern seaboard with the peripatetic British and Patriot armies. The epidemic’s most significant intrusion into the war came in 1781, when it caught up with the loyalist African Americans who had joined the British Army in a march across the South. In September General Charles Cornwallis was besieged in Yorktown, his black allies dying in masses and his soldiers succumbing to malaria. When Cornwallis surrendered, his army had nearly melted away under the double pathogenic assault. The first British Empire had come to an end.

While smallpox was thriving in the war-ravaged East, it found another opening some fifteen hundred miles to the west. This epidemic originated in Mexico City in August 1779 and moved from there to New Orleans, San Antonio, and Santa Fe by December 1780. There trade became the principal vehicle for transmission. Comanches, who dominated the lands amid those colonial capitals, were infected and seem to have passed on the pestilence to their trading partners, some of whom transmitted it into the Missouri Valley. Carried by equestrian Indians, the malady could travel far during its long incubation period, and a trading expedition may have reached the Missouri with the virus before succumbing to it.

Dying began in 1781—just as the British Army was wasting away at Yorktown—among Arikaras and Mandans. Lakotas contracted the disease around the same time, possibly while raiding. Oglala and Sicangu winter counts record two successive years of smallpox. They depict human figures in agony, their faces and torsos covered with red spots, documenting the infection’s aggressive spread from small blood vessels in the mouth and throat across the body until sharply raised, pus-filled blisters covered the skin; they capture the ineffectiveness of traditional healings methods in the face of an alien organism. There is no way of knowing how many died. Lakotas’ migratory way of life and dispersal into small hunting bands gave them a measure of protection against the pestilence, but cold and erratic weather around the outbreak must have compromised their ability to fight off the virus.

While the epidemic ravaged Lakotas, it nearly ruined the villagers. The virus found in the crowded villages an auspicious setting to spread. Arikaras may have lost more than three-fourths of their people, and they abandoned all but seven of their thirty-two villages. Mandan losses were similarly catastrophic. Their eight villages were reduced to two, and their thirteen clans became seven. The Hidatsa population was cut by half. An ancient political geography collapsed in a matter of months as the combined villager population of tens of thousands was reduced to roughly eight thousand. Thick clusters of Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa villages melted into thinly sprinkled nodes; permanent settlements no longer governed the riverscape. Cheyennes, too, were afflicted. Most of them abandoned their Missouri villages, making an abrupt and uncertain leap to a nomadic existence in the open plains to the west. Only one band, the Masikotas, stayed along the Missouri, attaching themselves to Lakotas.

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European Islets, Indigenous Sea, 1600s

From Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, by Pekka Hämäläinen (The Lamar Series in Western History; Yale U. Press, 2019), Kindle pp. 46-47:

Seventeenth-century North America was a vast Indigenous ocean speckled with tiny European islands. The Spanish, English, and French newcomers claimed vast chunks of the continent through the doctrines of discovery and terra nullius (no one’s land), but such claims mattered little on the ground where the Indians controlled the balance of power. Through shrewd diplomacy, warfare, and sheer force of numbers, the Indians held the line. In 1700 French settlement remained tethered to the St. Lawrence and a small foothold on the mouth of the Mississippi, and the Spanish possessions amounted to two isolated clusters of missions in New Mexico and in Florida. English settlers were more numerous and assertive, but they too huddled on the margins, expanding up and down the coastal lowlands rather than inland. Conquistador fantasies stayed alive, but they were becoming increasingly detached from reality.

Yet, wherever they planted themselves, the colonists were a force to be reckoned with. Their fringe outposts were pockets of dense military-technological power that could shape developments far beyond their borders. The Europeans fought, dispossessed, and enslaved nearby Indians, whose ability to resist was severely compromised by disease epidemics. The more distant Indians in the interior required more subtle measures, for the colonists could not simply rely on pathogens to obliterate them. Numerous and fiercely independent, the interior Indians could be neither killed nor commanded; they needed to be cajoled and co-opted. The key instrument for achieving this was a frontier post. Europeans thought of trading posts and missions—military forts would come later—as means to claim and control faraway lands. Indeed, an inland post brought the frontier into existence and demarcated it by announcing that the lands around and behind it belonged to the people who had built it. Posts made empires.

Such ideas were laughable to the Indians, who thought that land belonged to those who lived on it and whose ancestors lay in it. They almost invariably welcomed trading posts and missions on their lands because they were concrete expressions of the newcomers’ largesse—both material and spiritual—and of their willingness to share their power. A trading post was particularly desired because it signaled a commitment to a particular people and its needs. This is why the Indians competed so fiercely to secure them. A single post could dramatically change their fortunes by opening access to the new technologies that had irrevocably changed the parameters of the possible. Reliable access to guns, powder, and iron was a promise of safety, prosperity, and otherworldly power, while lacking them spelled hurt, retreat, and shame.

At the turn of the century Sioux knew both sides of the equation. Since the 1650s they had seen how French trading posts proliferated in the western Great Lakes among their enemies, rendering them horribly vulnerable. An alliance with Sauteurs [Ojibwe] in the late 1670s punctured the imagined wall that cast them as outsiders. They had their own post from 1685 onward and, at last, a secure access to firearms. Guns gave military teeth to their overwhelming demographic strength, making them the epicenter of interior politics. French officials saw them as the last best hope to contain the Iroquois and save New France, and they worked hard to integrate them into their alliance system. For decades Sioux had grappled on the margins of the bustling Indian-European world of trade and alliance that had emerged in the east; now that world began to converge around them, bestowing them with substance and power. They now had options and, it seemed, time to weigh them.

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Imperial Japan’s POWs at War’s End

From When the Shooting Stopped: August 1945, by Barrett Tillman (Osprey, 2022), Kindle pp. 180-182, 187:

VJ Day also was Survival Day to large numbers of prisoners of war and internees in Japanese hands. In August approximately 150,000 Allied personnel were thought held captive in some 130 camps throughout Asia. However, a complete accounting revealed 775 facilities in the Japanese Empire; 185 in Japan itself.

The prisoners represented not only the U.S. but Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, and India. Approximately 36,000 soldiers and sailors were sent to Japan itself with most of the balance in the Philippines, China, Korea, Burma, Malaya, Java, and various Pacific islands. Japan also held large numbers of civilian prisoners and internees, as many as 125,000, mainly in the Dutch East Indies and Philippines, with more than 10 percent in China and Hong Kong. That figure excluded Nationalist Chinese personnel. Frequently the Imperial Army killed Chinese prisoners as a matter of policy.

One quarter to one third of Anglo-American prisoners held by Japan had died in captivity, with about 12 percent dying in the Home Islands. In contrast, about 3 percent of Western POWs perished in German Stalags. War crimes investigators later determined that 27 percent of Allied POWs in the Pacific died in captivity – officially seven times the rate of Western POWs in German camps.

Allied POWs existed in a hellish world of perennial malnutrition during Japan’s food shortage amid disease and routine brutality. Postwar investigators often referred to ritual or informal executions but the killings were largely extrajudicial or, to put it bluntly – murder.

Though Tokyo had signed the Second Geneva Convention in 1929, the government had never ratified the agreement regarding treatment of prisoners of war. After a qualified pledge to abide by the convention in early 1942, Japan quickly reverted.

Prisoners endured horrific conditions in captivity, eventually subsisting on 600 calories per day. What few Red Cross parcels arrived often were confiscated by the captors. The situation could hardly have been improved in the final months of the war, however, because in mid-1945 virtually all Japanese civilians were also malnourished.

Almost lost amid war’s end was the residue of its origin: Japan’s conquest of the Dutch East Indies’ petro-wealth. In 1940 Tokyo had requested half of the Dutch oil exports, but officials in the capital Batavia replied that existing commitments permitted little increase for Japan. That response set the Pacific afire. With only two years’ oil reserves on hand, and denied imports from the U.S. and Java, Tokyo’s warlords launched themselves on an irrevocable course.

The Japanese had to sort out a large, diverse population of some 70.5 million. Upwards of 250,000 were Dutch, mostly blijers, Dutch citizens born in the East Indies. Around 1.3 million Chinese had enjoyed preferred relations with the Netherlands’ hierarchy, but there was also a small Japanese population.

Conquest of the archipelago only took 90 days, ending in March 1942. Japan pledged Indonesian independence in 1943 but never honored it. And despite the Asia for Asians theme of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Indonesians suffered terribly under Japanese rule. The new rulers interned all Dutch military personnel and 170,000 civilians. Conditions were appalling: approximately 25,000 died in captivity. Estimates range between 2.5 and 4 million total deaths, more than half of whom perished during the Java famine of 1944–45.

Additionally, millions of Javanese were pressed into servitude elsewhere, notably on the Burmese railroad.

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ULTRA vs. IJN Submarine I-29, 1944

From Ultra in the Pacific: How Breaking Japanese Codes and Ciphers Affected Naval Operations Against Japan, 1941-45 (The Secret War), by John Winton (Sapere Books, 2022), Kindle pp. 294-296:

ULTRA betrayed not only convoys but single blockade runners. The fate of I-29 was a perfect ULTRA coup. I-29, named Matsu, was the submarine which rendezvoused with a German U-boat off Madagascar in April, 1943, embarked Subhas Chandra Bose, the leader of the movement for Indian independence and self-styled C-in-C of the Indian National Army, and took him to Penang. I-29 (Cdr T. Kinashi) left Penang, bound for Europe, early in November, 1943, and sailed from Lorient, bound for Japan, on 16 April, 1944. Among the passengers were four German technicians and thirteen Japanese Army, Navy and civilian personnel. The cargo included German anti-submarine counter-measure equipment, acoustic and magnetic torpedoes, radar apparatus, plans for the latest high-submerged-speed submarines, and influenza virus.

I-29’s passage was traced through intercepted signals from Berlin, and a Singapore broadcast in diplomatic code, addressed to I-29 only on 3 July, indicated its presence in the Indian Ocean. An ULTRA from Anderson on it July read: ‘Friendly sub [identified as probably I-29] scheduled to pass through Sunda Strait on morning of 12 July, and arrive at eastern entrance to Singapore at 1200 on 14th.’ It was later confirmed by ULTRA that I-29 had indeed arrived that day.

On 17 July, 1944, a decrypted message from Berlin to Tokyo listed I-29’s cargo in detail: five ‘special weapons’, various radar apparatus, 20 Enigma coding machines, ordnance parts, rocket-type launching apparatus, bomb sight plans, pressure cabin parts and plans, parts of a British Mosquito plane, and atabrine ampoules and tablets. Two days later, in a decrypted message, Berlin congratulated Tokyo: ‘It is indeed gratifying to learn that the MATSU has arrived safely at Singapore with her passengers and cargo. We pray for her safe voyage to Japan.’

But on 20 July Kinashi broadcast a fatal signal giving full details of his route to Japan: leaving Singapore at 1500 on the 22nd, arriving Kure at 1000 on 30 July, and giving his noon position for the 26th as the Balintang Channel [between Formosa and Luzon]. CincPac’s Bulletin for 24 July read: ‘I-29 recently arrived Singapore from Europe carrying samples and plans of many recent German developments in fields of radar, communications, gunnery, aeronautics and medicine. Left Singapore 22 July en route Kure. Believe very important cargo very likely still aboard. Will pass through posit 15 N., 117 E., at 251400 and through Balintang Channel at 261200, speed 17 arriving western channel of Bungo Channel at 291000.’

On 25 July I-29 signalled that a surfaced enemy submarine had been sighted (possibly the ‘cover story’) and gave the position, about 300 miles west of Manila. On the 26th Sawfish (Cdr A. B. Banister, leader of ‘Banister’s Beagles’) signalled: ‘He did not pass. At 0755Z [1655 local time] in posit 20-12 N., 121-55 E. [Balintang Channel] put three fish into Nip sub which disintegrated in a cloud of smoke and fire.’

On 7 August a mournful Tokyo broadcast to Berlin was intercepted: ‘All her passengers had proceeded to Tokyo from Singapore by plane, but her cargo had been left aboard. Though it is indeed regrettable, we can no longer hope for her safety. Despite the fact that we received, through your great efforts and the understanding cooperation of the Germans, many articles which were to strengthen the nation’s capacity to prosecute the war, our inability to utilize them owing to the loss of the ill-fated ship is truly unfortunate and will have a great effect throughout the Imperial Army and Navy.’

I’m pleased to see that Cdr. T. Kinashi’s name is spelled consistently in this book, and that this remarkable naval officer has a detailed article in English Wikipedia (linked above). Several other Japanese names are handled quite sloppily. For instance, the IJN destroyer Kuroshio (‘Black Current’) is consistently misspelled Kurishoyo six times on pp. 276-278, and Lt. Gen. Kuribayashi, the Japanese Army commander on Iwo Jima, is transliterated correctly on p. 304, then misspelled as Kuribayasha twice on p. 306. (The Hawaiian place name Wahiawa is also misspelled as Wahaiwa on p. 158.)

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Breaking the Ice in the Himalayas

From Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, by Artemis Cooper (New York Review Books, 2013), Kindle loc. 6152ff.

The Himalayan party consisted of Robin and Renée Fedden, her friend Rosie Peto, Myles Hildyard, Carl Natar and Peter Lloyd, and Paddy. They flew north from Delhi, assembled a team of six Ladakhi porters and began their climb in mid-October. They were following the Beas river upstream, which marks the easternmost point of Alexander’s conquests in 326 BC. Their goal was Malana: one of the most isolated villages in the world, which lay to the north-east of the Kulu valley, dominated by the great peaks of Chanderkhani and Deo Tibba.

The people of this village worship an ancient god called Jamlu, and believe that even the sight of a foreigner, let alone his touch, risks pollution and defilement. The travellers spent their first night outside the village, waiting for permission to enter, and this permission was granted only on condition that they touch nothing, not even the walls. They also had to remove their watches, boots and belts, for leather is an abomination to Jamlu. As they entered the village ‘Men averted their gaze, children ran off as though ogres were coming down the street and the women at the spring . . . stood transfixed, and after a long disbelieving glance, turned away in a rictus of bewilderment and pain. Nearly all the village was out of bounds . . . and even along the permitted ways a flutter of anxious hands herded us innocuously into the middle.’

The holiest spot in the village was an open space, where a slab of stone lay embedded in the grass. One of the villagers, a kind man called Sangat, had made himself their guide and mentor. Under his direction the party made offerings, joined their hands in prayer and prostrated themselves before the stone. ‘Our pious homage to Jamlu had made a good impression, it seemed; and here, bit by bit, linguistic curiosity began to break the ice.’ Exchanging words was one of Paddy’s favourite games, and as usual his enthusiasm flung bridges over the chasms of fear, shyness and suspicion that separated the strangers and the local people. Soon sherpas, foreigners and villagers were swapping words in Tibetan, the Hindi dialect of Kulu, English, and Kanishta, the language spoken by the Malanis. ‘By now we were among friends.’

Malana was every bit as strange and mysterious as the travellers had hoped, but the whole expedition was overshadowed by the fact that Robin was becoming increasingly ill. He was diagnosed with cancer on his return to England, and within three months he was dead. The article that Paddy wrote about his last journey appeared two years later as ‘Paradox in the Himalayas’, in the London Magazine. It was dedicated to Robin’s memory, though neither Robin, nor Renée, nor any other member of the group was mentioned by name in the piece.

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Fate of Romania’s Cantacuzenes, 1965

From Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, by Artemis Cooper (New York Review Books, 2013), Kindle locs. 5580ff & 6120ff.

Rumania in 1965 was just beginning to open up to the non-Communist world, although a meeting with the Cantacuzene sisters would involve considerable risks. As Paddy put it, ‘Mixing with foreigners incurred severe punishment, but harbouring them indoors was much worse . . .’ But it was too good an opportunity to miss, and Balasha and her family felt it was a risk worth taking.

By early June he was in Bucharest, now stripped of its pre-war gaiety, and made contact with Pomme’s daughter Ina who was then working as a draughtswoman in an architect’s office. She met him after work on a borrowed motorbike, and with Paddy riding pillion, they began the eighty-mile journey to the town of Pucioasa in the foothills of the Carpathians. It was a long ride over rutted roads, and by the time Ina let him into the house it was well after dark. They climbed upstairs as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the neighbours, but it was hard to stifle the cries of welcome that greeted his arrival at the top of the house.

Pomme, Constantin and Balasha had been sharing an attic studio since their eviction from Băleni on the night of 2–3 March 1949. On that evening, a small posse of Communist apparatchiks and police had arrived in a truck. Pomme and Constantin were forced to sign a document surrendering ownership of the house, and the family was told to pack a small suitcase each. They were advised to take warm clothes, and told they would be leaving in fifteen minutes. They were taken to Bucharest, where they lived until orders came through that they were to be transferred to Pucioasa.

‘In spite of the interval,’ wrote Paddy, ‘the good looks of my friends, the thoughtful clear glance and the humour were all intact; it was as though we had parted a few months ago, not twenty-six years.’ Hidden behind that carefully worded sentence was the shock of finding Balasha ‘a broken ruin’ of her former self. Though only in her early sixties, she was shrunken by hardship and anxiety; her black hair was grey, her face lined, and she was very deaf. She and Pomme managed to survive by teaching English and French. Constantin, already ill with the heart disease that would kill him two years later, was too frail to work.

‘Their horrible vicissitudes were narrated with detachment and speed,’ he continued. ‘Time was short and there were only brief pauses for sleep on a couple of chairs. The rest of our forty-eight hours – we dared risk no more – were filled with pre-war memories, the lives of all our friends, and a great deal of laughter.’ He had brought new watches for Pomme and Balasha, and later he set up an account for her at the Heywood Hill bookshop so she would never be short of books. He also knew that Balasha had a present for him. On her last night at Băleni, in the fifteen minutes she had been given to pack, she had seized a battered green notebook. It was Paddy’s last journal, the one he had begun in Bratislava in 1934; she now put it into his hands.

He was back home in December, elated and relieved, having been given the all-clear – and then he heard that Balasha was dying of breast cancer. Had she had it treated earlier, she might well have survived; but she had kept the symptoms to herself, refusing to see a doctor until it was too late to operate. It was a decade since Paddy had been to see her in Pucioasa and now he wanted to rush to her bedside, but Balasha forbade him to come: ‘nothing would upset me more,’ she told Pomme to write on her behalf. Her letters to Paddy, and Joan to whom she wrote separately, reveal that she had made a decision to live in books and her memories and expected nothing more from life. She died in March 1976. Seven months later her niece, Ina Catargi, who had taken him to Pucioasa on the back of a motorcycle, was also dead – of lung cancer. Of that generous family which had been such a part of his life only Pomme Donici remained, now bereft of husband, sister and daughter. She arranged for Balasha and Constantin’s remains to be buried in the Cantacuzene family crypt in the cemetery at Băleni, where she eventually joined them in 1983.

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Paddy Offends Willie, 1957

From Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, by Artemis Cooper (New York Review Books, 2013), Kindle loc. 5015ff.

Ann [Fleming] had been invited to stay at the Villa Mauresque on Cap Ferrat by Somerset Maugham, then in his eighties and living in retirement with his partner, Alan Searle. On her arrival she found a letter from Paddy, urging her to arrange an invitation. Paddy was duly invited to lunch, and arrived (according to Ann) with ‘five cabin trunks’ (according to Paddy, all he had was one zippered holdall), ‘parcels of books and the manuscript of his unfinished work on Greece strapped in a bursting attaché case’. Paddy made himself very agreeable at lunch. He and Maugham exchanged memories of the King’s School, Canterbury, and Maugham asked him to stay on for a few days. All went well until dinner that night.

Maugham had lived with a pronounced stammer since childhood. In his novel Of Human Bondage, which deals with the misery of his schooldays, the stammer is turned into a limp. Paddy knew the book and had been hearing the stammer all day, but neither sufficed to stop him from putting his foot in it. The first jokey reference to stuttering passed without comment, but the second was more serious. Maugham had just staggered through a sentence to the effect that all the gardeners had taken the day off because it was the Feast of the Assumption. At this point, Paddy recalled being in the Louvre in front of a painting of the event, with his friend Robin Fedden (who also had trouble getting his words out): ‘and Robin turned to me and said “Th-th-that’s what I c-c-call an un-w-w-warrantable assumption.” There was a moment’s silence – the time needed for biting one’s tongue out.’

The evening was wrecked. When the other guests left, Maugham turned to Paddy and said, ‘G-goodbye, you will have left by the time I am up in the morning.’ After their host had retired, Ann described Paddy breaking the silence with a cry of anguish, as he slammed his whisky glass on the table ‘where it broke to pieces and showered a valuable carpet with blood and splinters’. Ann helped Paddy pack the following morning, and as he picked up his bag and walked to the door, Paddy heard ‘a sound like an ogre’s sneeze’. The monogrammed linen sheet had caught in the zip, leaving a great tear a yard long.

Ann Fleming and Diana Cooper, who was staying nearby, persuaded Maugham to have Paddy back to lunch to make up. ‘It was really a gasbag’s penance and I, having learnt the hard way, vouchsafed no more than a few syllables.’ Maugham was perfectly polite, but he had had enough of Paddy. He was later heard to describe him as ‘that middle-class gigolo for upper-class women’.

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Blood Feud on Crete

From Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, by Artemis Cooper (New York Review Books, 2013), Kindle loc. 4340ff.

As Paddy and Joan proceeded on their triumphal progress through the villages, they saw that Cretan hospitality had lost none of its over-abundance, and only the long walks and mule rides from one place to the next gave them an opportunity to rest their digestions. Groups of armed mountain men greeted them outside each village, and welcomed them with volleys of shots fired into the air.

There was also another man with a gun, though he was not mentioned in Paddy’s introduction to The Cretan Runner, nor indeed in his notebooks. At Alones they had spent a few days with Father John Alevizakis and his sons, prior to attending a feast in Rethymno. They were warned not to go on: Yorgo, the son of Kanaki Tsangarakis, had heard Paddy was there. ‘He was waiting,’ wrote Paddy, ‘with rifle and binoculars, to pick me off when I left the village.’ The blood feud was still alive, and the only way out of the village was through a deep ravine.

Yorgo was on one side, our way out on the other . . . I asked whether he was a good shot and Levtheri, Father John’s son, laughed and said ‘Yes, the blighter can shoot a hole through a 10 drachma piece at 500 metres,’ which made us all laugh rather ruefully, including Joan . . . The only thing to do in such a case is to be accompanied by a neutral figure, head of a rival clan or family in whose company nobody can be shot without involving the whole tribe.

A suitably friendly figure agreed to accompany them to safety, and ‘under his protection Joan and I crossed the blank hillside, looking across the valley at Yorgo sitting on the rock, binoculars round his neck and gun across his knees; but unable, by Cretan ethics, to blaze away . . .’ In Vilandredo they were received like kings by Paddy’s god-brother Kapetan Stathi Loukakis. When Stathi heard that the Tsangarakis men were lying in wait for his guest, he too took steps to protect them. Joan noticed that when they left the village they were guarded by lookouts posted at key points, who could challenge anyone who came within firing distance.

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