Here are the ingredients: an archeologist excavating a Minoan temple at Phalasarna on Crete; a swim in the shallow waters to clean off work-dust; a mysterious wreck from World War 2; a young man navigating the Mediterranean with a broom handle, the northern star and memories of school astronomy; official denials and a paucity of documents; a Cretan with a Vickers gun in his cellar; Churchill’s special convoy; a pair of another man’s shoes; an ongoing obsession.
So many stories, told by Dr Michael Bendon, a man who knows how to tell a story. Finding the wreck sent him off on a terrier-like journey to discover its identity and its story. It was a landing craft developed in secrecy under orders from Churchill after Dunkirk to enable mass landings and evacuation of tanks and men. This one was used at Tobruk and later in evacuations from Crete.
As he searched for information about these landing craft he found the man who captained this one (Mark1) when it was sunk by dive-bombing stukas, John Digby Sutton DSO, whose shoes he is wearing. Because? All because of a book, “The forgotten flotilla“. He had 18 copies in his luggage, so he ditched everything but the books and arrived in England wearing shorts, Tshirt and thongs. The very proper Sutton provided him with a pair of shoes, and so he is “wearing the shoes of a hero” as he tells his tales in Batemans Bay library.
I’m always interested in search and the paths it leads along. Bendon connected with Sutton (who died recently at 95) via the internet, a neighbour of a neighbour. He found plans of the landing craft and took meticulous measurements to compare with the plans. He talked to locals, who actually witnessed the bombing and knew the site of another wreck. He delved into official archives.
Now he’s on a mission to publicise what he’s discovered, and a side mission to acknowledge the 646 Anzacs still on Greek soil. He’s talking to clubs and libraries, anywhere he can get a hearing and expenses.