Joe Angell with Ned Nathan and whānau

Back row: Joe Angell, Ned Nathan & whānau

Angell whānau collection. Not to be reused without permission
Submitted by ANGELL on

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MAORI'S HARDSHIPS - SURVIVOR OF CRETE (Special P.A. Correspondent.) LONDON, October 13 There must be many stories of experiences of the New Zealanders in Crete, but few can have been more exciting than that of Company Sergeant-Major Edward Nathan, of the 28th Maori Battalion, who comes from the small village of Maropiu. North Auckland. Sergeant-Major Nathan was one of the defenders of Malemi airfield, and while there he was wounded in the right eye and the left hip by a bullet and a shell splinter. He subsequently lost the sight of the eye. He was put on board a  ship bound for Egypt, but as it was beginning the voyage and only 300 yards from shore it was sighted by three stukas. Sergeant-Major Nathan was lying on the forward deck. He saw the attack develop and the bombs released. It was obvious to him as he lay on his back that there would be a direct hit, so he immediately dived overboard. It was lucky for him that he did, because the ship soon sank. With a few survivors he began to swim to the shore, and there they found Germans forming a reception committee. But the Maori was not to be caught again. He ran away round the rocky coast and, alternately running and swimming, managed to dodge the Germans. Then he found a cave and rested there till nightfall. It was a dark and moonless night, and he set out on a long swim, resting from time to time on rocks, past the position where the Germans were camped. ENGAGED TO A GREEK. Three hours later he had covered five miles or so, and then he struck inland. He knew that the evacuation of the New Zealanders was at Spakia and with the aid of Greeks he set out on a 50-mile trek, aided by a donkey to ease his wounded hip. They travelled at night for two and a half days. Five miles from Spakia the Greeks left him, taking the donkey, and Sergeant-Major Nathan limped on till he reached a hill overlooking Spakia. As he looked down he was overwhelmed with disappointment, for by now the capitulation was announced and the Germans were rounding up the remaining troops. His strength exhausted, he fainted. He returned to consciousness a fortnight later, suffering from malaria and gangrene. He was in a doctor's house. For four months he was an invalid. During that time he learned to speak fluent Greek—which he found very much like Maori—and there he became engaged to Kathleen, a Greek schoolmistress who nursed him back to health. During the next eight months he roamed round Crete, sometimes eating grass and snails, and not staying long in any place, to avoid the Germans, till eventually he was betrayed—whether by Greek or German he is still uncertain.  Taken hefore the Gestapo, he denied that he was British, and, speaking fluent Greek, he bluffed the Germans. But they had suspicions, and for ten days he was kept in prison and twice beaten up with a rifle butt, two burly Germans holding his arms while the other applied the butt, and sometimes a bayonet, about his back and knees. They demanded to know where he lived and with whom he lived, but the Maori told nothing. DECLARED HIS IDENTITY. Eventually the Gestapo told him that if he was not British he must be a spy and would be shot. He decided to declare himself British, but he had left his Army identification disc in the village. The Greeks, however thinking he might need it had it smuggled into the prison through a warder whom Nathan knew. Soon he became ill in prison with malaria, and the Germans summoned a doctor, who turned out to be the same doctor who had found him at Spakia. Nathan recovered in hospital and had intended to escape, but just as he was making his plans his cousin. Corporal J. T. Angell of Helensville, was brought in. He was reported to be dying of malaria, and therefore Nathan resolved to stay with his cousin. Eventually the Germans flew them both to Athens. Nathan escaped in Athens and spent a fortmght at liberty, till the Gestapo found him once again. He was sent to a camp in north-east Germany near the Pohsh border. There he made several other attempts to escape, but details cannot at present be given. Because of his wounds and blindness he was repatriated to England but his cousin is still in Germany.Soon Nathan will be returning to New Zealand.  He is fit and well, but there is one problem on his mind. How will he get his Greek fiance to New Zealand?  When he knows the answer he will consider all this hardship was well worthwhile. 'Maori Hardships - Survivor of Crete'. The Evening Post,  16 October 1944.  URL: