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Episodes & Studies Volume 2

Appendix I — Stott and Morton

Appendix I
Stott and Morton

AT the beginning of October 1943 Stott and Morton were ordered to organise sabotage attempts on German aircraft on the Tatoi, Kalamaki, Megara and Elevsis airfields. The Germans, however, attacked the party's secret headquarters, and the men had to scatter quickly without even time to save their stores of ammunition and explosives. Stott and Morton then led their small party page 30 into Athens by hard marching, relieved at one stage by commandeering a lorry at pistol point. They spent a week reconnoitring the neighbouring aerodromes and decided that it was not the time to attack: the party's stores had vanished, the German guards had increased and were more alert, and there were no inside agents to help. Stott and Morton then started building up an efficient network of agents who would help them when the time was ready.

While Stott was in Athens a representative of the Quisling mayor told him that the Germans wanted to meet him and discuss a local peace proposal for Greece. At first Stott refused to meet them, but later changed his mind as he thought a lot of useful information could be obtained. When Mutch was in the Gestapo prison at Salonika* he heard from Stott's interpreter, who was also imprisoned there, how Stott met the Germans in Athens:

‘A German general and a high up Gestapo official called at the Mayor of Athens house and asked him if he could get someone to go to the guerrilla area and get one of the British officers to come and meet them about something of vital importance to Greece. At that time Don Stott was in Athens. He told the Mayor to tell the Germans in a week's time that a British officer would meet them two days later at the corner by the gardens at the foot of University Street at dusk. On the day Don in full British uniform with Bob Morton and a Greek in civvies, with tommy guns under their overcoats, walked down the road to the meeting place. On the way he was saluted by German soldiers. There was a group of four at the meeting place. They held up and took a general, called a taxi and told the others that if Don wasn't back somewhere in one hour, the general would pay the penalty.’

The man who Stott met was Colonel Loss, Chief of the Gestapo in South-East Europe. The conference took longer than was expected and Loss had to go away in the middle of it to consult his superior, Noebacher. The end came when Loss said he would have to go to Berlin for further instructions and more authority. He arranged to see Stott again on his return. Mutch said that Germany's Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, was in Athens that day but this cannot be confirmed.

The mayor's house was given the status of neutral territory and Stott's safety was guaranteed. But Stott wanted to look at the defences round the Corinth Canal, so he persuaded the Germans, on the pretext of having to get a message to Cairo, to take him by car to Corinth and thence by caique across the Gulf of Dobraina. He went into the hills to a secret wireless station, found the set out of order, returned to the German escort and came back to Athens. On this conducted trip Stott took particular note of the roads, railways, and defences around the canal. The information was useful later when British planes attacked enemy installations in the area.

On 21 November Loss came back from Berlin and asked Stott to return to Cairo with ‘agreement feelers’ for a local peace in Greece. Stott agreed to do this. He chartered a caique in which he hid several people who wanted to escape from Greece, but unfortunately the engine broke down and he had to use another boat. On 23 November he left Greece, reaching Chios the following day. The German commander of the island was very courteous and arranged Stott's move into Turkey, and he arrived in Cairo a few days later. Nothing is known of what happened to the peace overtures. No doubt they were rejected on the spot by the British.

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It is not known what the authorities thought of Stott's action in negotiating with the Germans. Two special service agents, both New Zealanders, who know of the incident, say that when the British authorities heard of the negotiations they immediately cancelled them. This version is also mentioned by Colonel C. M. Woodhouse in his book on Greek politics, Apple of Discord:

‘Capt. Stott, a New Zealand officer, entered Athens in the autumn of 1943 to carry out sabotage. His courage and originality soon involved him in other, far more perilous, activities, in the process of which his political associations were largely of the extreme right. One of them was Gen. Papagos, Chief of the General Staff of the Greek Army under Metaxas in 1940-1; another, far less inoffensive, was the Mayor of Athens installed by the Germans. Through the latter he found himself entering into negotiations of a complicated nature with the German occupation authorities. These communications were abruptly severed when they came to the notice of higher British authorities, who had not at first understood their gravity.’

On the other hand, Stott was officially commended for what he did and was awarded a bar to his DSO. This account is taken mostly from the citation to the decoration; there is no other official source of information. It would appear that the results of Stott's initiative and courage in these almost fantastic happenings were of considerable value to the Allies.

Operation in Borneo

In 1944 Stott and Morton were seconded to the Australian Army for special service work in the Pacific. On 20 March 1945 Stott and a small party were taken by submarine to a point off Balikpapan, Borneo, where they were to land and make a reconnaissance for the projected landing of Australian forces. Stott was in one of the two rubber dinghies—the first section of the party—which left the submarine. The dinghies became separated and this was the last that was seen of him. Immediately after the end of the war in the Pacific a search party questioned the natives and the Japanese in the locality but none had ever seen or heard of him. All the evidence indicated that he did not land but must have been drowned on the night he left the submarine.

Morton landed on 22 March and took over leadership of the party, now numbering eight. The Japanese knew that they were ashore and sent strong forces to capture them. For the next six weeks Morton carried out his reconnaissance in spite of being constantly pursued by the Japanese. On one occasion his party successfully fought a pitched battle with a large enemy force. In May he managed to buy an old boat from the natives, and in it he and the remainder of his party sailed for several hundred miles before being picked up by a passing plane.

Morton was awarded the MC. The last part of the citation to his award reads: ‘Although costly, this operation resulted in a vast amount of reliable intelligence being obtained which proved of great value in the subsequent landing.’

* Mutch was recaptured on Chios Island in November 1943 while en route to Egypt for return to New Zealand on furlough.