The Opening Teaser.
So. I was at this conference on medieval stuff, and, afterwards at the pub, my friends and I happened to start talking to this white-haired fellow. I mentioned that the finger-food at the conference lunch had been rather good, far superior to any such nibbles found at events that I had previously attended. The man before us casually noted that the food offered by the German Ambassador to Ireland did not achieve such delicious heights. Off he goes for a pint, leaving me and my friends rather puzzled as to who our suddenly esteemed guest might be.
The plot thickens…
Upon his return, me being me, I quite bluntly asked, how on earth did he manage to get to meet the German Ambassador? He replied that he organised a small event, to which he invited the Ambassador, and in return he was granted access to the halcyon inner-chambers of international relations. We had to know; what had he organised that attracted the attention of the Teutonic plenipotentiary. It turned out that our new friend had researched a rather interesting event, and organised a memorial for it.
The opposite of Peace.
Not long after that great butchering of men known as the Second World War began, a German U-boat caught sight of a Greek ship carrying iron-ore to the UK. Identifying it as a legitimate target, the captain of the U-boat informed the Greeks that he was going to sink their ship, gave them time to abandon, and then blew the vessel to smithereens. Some of the Greek sailors fell in to the grasp of the sea, so the captain of U35, being a decent human-being, gathered them up. A spotter-plane launched from Land’s End forced him to order the ship to dive. Now he was stuck with a bunch of Greek soldiers his claustrophobic domain. What ever was he to do with them?
To The Kingdom They Go.
Off they head to Ireland, where they drop the Greek sailors off at Ventry Bay, to the great surprise of the locals, who alert the police. By the time the illustrious officials, owners of inconceivable boxes of ever decreasing dimensions, arrived on their bicycles, all that they could do was watch as the U35 sailed away into the Atlantic. The Greeks were cared for in Ireland, and eventually made their way home. The German captain, in return for his good deed, was demoted by his less than noble superiors.
Unforeseen Plot Twist.
Some time later, Lord Mountbatten was sailing about the North Atlantic when he came upon a U-boat, and dropped some depth-charges to encourage it to the surface so he could have a chat with it occupants. Rising to the surface, the men abandoned their ship, and the captain, being the captain, was the last to leave. After a brief dip in the ocean, they climbed up a rope onto the British ship; the German captain couldn’t hold the rope as his hands were by this time crippled by the cold, since he had allowed his men to ascend before him and had to be hauled out of the water. Carried off to England, they were imprisoned in the Tower of London. The officers were a bit miffed that they were being treated as rank and file (war has rules, strangely), but their guards did not care. They demanded to see a Naval officer, and one eventually appeared. He said that he would take their grievances to his superior. And he did. It just so happened that his superior was Lord Mountbatten, who remembered the German captain that he had plucked from the sea. He sent a limousine to collect them from their prison, convey them to the fanciest restaurant in town for some decent food, and return them to prison. The guards, having seen this treatment, recognised that these were important men, or at the very least were clever enough to grasp the simple fact that to irk one of the most senior officers in the British military would not have been the wisest of career choices, treated the German officers with all due deference. Sometime later the war ended and the Germans were let go home.
Meanwhile, in the 21st Century…
There we sat listening to this remarkable story. The man who was telling it remembered the Greeks, but was not there on the day of their arrival, though his father was. The local community decided to memorialise the occurrence, and he invited representatives of Germany, Greece, and Ireland to attend. Our new friend managed to track down descendants of the Greek sailors, and they came to the unveiling. Sometime after that, the German Ambassador proffered second-rate finger-food. Later this remarkable man told us of the time he was in Moscow during the meeting of the Supreme Soviet, where he got to chatting with one of the representatives…
Some of the story can be found here, but it really is all in the telling. In a pub. By the man who did all the work. And who, with humility, didn’t seem to think that his efforts were extraordinary, but simply appropriate.