Missed Flight

May 05, 2020
Missed a flight? Yes I am sure we all have, but let me tell you about this one, it must of happened about 14 years ago.

Pat and I were driving along in our rental car, enjoying the last day of our holiday on the island of Crete. We had an amazing trip, I had studied "The Battle for Crete" for years and now I had the opportunity to walk in the footsteps (Tank tracks) of Roy Farren in the  Tavrionites River. Climbing many hills and studying many maps and trying to understand how close the Battle for Crete really was. What a marvellous island and what rugged country to fight a war in. In my opinion, if anyone ever deserved to stop the invading Germans it surely must of been the people of Crete. Their army was overseas yet these people, even woman, attacked the invading German paratroops with anything they had, even kitchen knifes. We fell in love with Crete, the people, the food, their wine and beer and the raki! Oh I wish I could purchase raki in Manitoba.

Suddenly Pat cried out "Look", nothing behind me so I hit the brakes. "Read that sign" I reversed so I could read the road sign. It was for a WW II monument but this one was not marked on our maps and nor had I ever read about it. By now the back seat was covered in my maps and books, a few I had brought with me but many more I had found in Crete. We turned off the main road and after a few miles we found ourselves in a little village. Across the road from the Village store was the entrance to a monument. I parked in the shade and we walked up to the wrought iron gates. I was appalled that a modern telephone kiosk was installed beside the gate.

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We opened the gate and walked in, it was very moving, suddenly we both realized we were in a very special place. We instinctively held hands and slowly walked down the paved pathway flanked by a mixture of old palm and fir trees. At the end was a stone monument flanked by two 40 mm Bofors AA guns. (These are scattered all over Crete) I checked them out, like all the others, the sights were missing, a sheet metal cover was padlocked over the action, but the action was greased as were the sight bases and levelling jacks. I stood up and looked around, where were the sights hidden? In which house? And I would bet anything there is a cache of ammo close to.

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To one side was a bronze plaque commemorating an Australian gun crew who had all been killed on this spot. I looked up into the beautiful, bright blue, peaceful sky and tried to imagine standing beside my 25 pdr while a JU87 Stuka dive bomber hurled down on to me. Better men than me I thought.

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Then we realized the whole place was a mess, garbage everywhere, we couldn't walk away. We crossed the street and entered the store, the girl spoke no English, I finally found a role of garbage bags; that was a start. Pat and I were studying the brooms and trying to decide what would work best when the manager approached us. He spoke fair English so I explained what we needed for our required task. The manager led us outside and unlocked a door, this opened into an Aladdin's cave of tools, a giant janitors closet. We selected a couple of brooms and a shovel, paid for our garbage bags and headed back to the memorial

I think we filled 4 or 5 bags with old coke bottles, cans, paper and general trash. I looked up and there was my dear wife dusting a 40 mm Bofors as if it was the best Sunday china. So I decided to sweep the whole site of dust, sand, leaves and pine needles. Little did we realize that at this time our booked flight was departing from Crete.

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We left the garbage bags beside the awful telephone kiosk outside the gate, I assume somebody took them away. By now several locals were taking a keen interest in our activities, we were given lots of smiles. We returned the brooms and headed away. We stopped at a beach side restaurant where we had previously had one of the most memorable meals of our life. The special was little fishes, we had a Greek salad, a tomato salad, a heaped plate or rather platter of "Little fish" that at 6 to 7 inches where larger than expected and a bottle of local wine, we were stuffed. Followed by raki, the surf was getting rough no swimming this evening I thought.

We arrived at the hotel, close to the airport, we had only reserved our first two nights and our last night, the rest of the time we just went where we fancied, no schedule, no time table. While I checked in Pat picked up a newspaper, I was in no hurry to go back to the real world. We went up to our room, Pat looked at the newspaper, "It's the twenty seventh"... I replied that I had no idea of the date, it is Wednesday. "We fly home on the twenty seventh". Now we finished our holiday with a blazing row, this is not possible I thought. We went down stairs for supper, I made some phone calls, things were not looking good. No answers about tomorrow's flights. We went back to the room, time for a swim, I opened the balcony doors, the surf was roaring, no swimming tonight, "Let's go for a walk" I said. Our last night on Crete, the sand was great, the surf was really thundering in, after a long walk we went back to the hotel. No chance of checking flights until 8 am, I was assured that there would be room on the morning shuttle to Athens but my concern was what would happen after that, as we were a day late.

We parked up the rental car, Pat directed me so that the rim I dented when I hit a rock (I was studying a local goat on a mountain road) was at 6 o'clock, hopefully it would be missed. We boarded the regular shuttle flight, the fact the ticket was a day late was of no concern. In Athens we were lucky to get a flight to Frankfort, now we were running about 28 hours late. In Frankfort we lucked out as the flight out had been cancelled due to mechanical problems and we got lumped in with these passengers, given some vouchers and bussed off to a beautiful little hotel in the German woods, all courtesy of Air Canada. We had a great supper, and room, all it cost us was the wine!

Next day wasn't so good, priority was understandable given to the previous cancelled flight. After about 6 hours the girl at the check in (Lufthansa) called me up, I have found you two seats, but I am afraid they are "First Class". I was expecting to have to pay some huge fee but she saw my concern, gave me a great smile, "No problem sir, there is nothing extra to pay". The Gods were smiling on us, what had we done to deserve this, was it possible that the "spirits" of some Aussie Gunners were saying thank you to us.

We flew back to Toronto in style, I certainly took full advantage of everything that First Class had to offer.

We cleared customs in Toronto, when we went to check in our bags for the last flight to Winnipeg the Air Canada girl looked at my ticket. "This is all wrong, why did you miss your booked flight? Who's fault was that?" I looked at her and replied "My fault, mine alone". "How much extra did you have to pay?" I thought to myself, what business is that of yours, I looked at Pat "About 40 Euros I think". The pissy Air Canada girl replied, "I should charge you more, but I won't", we moved on. I thought to myself "Welcome home" right then I knew why in WW II some of our troops choose to stay behind in Crete, I wished I could have.

Keep your powder dry,
Mr Wolverine

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