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New Zealand Searcher Party's Inquiries

New Zealand Searcher Party's Inquiries

After the war the New Zealand Searcher Party in Crete followed up every lead in an attempt to find out what had happened to missing New Zealanders. There were no survivors of the Battle of Crete still in hiding, and all the evidence collected on missing soldiers convinced the Searcher Party that they must have died.

In the case of Gunner W. Hodgson (5 Fd Regt) the party did not have much to go on. In 1941 there were rumours that Hodgson was alive in Crete, though when escapers from Crete were questioned they said they had never come across him in the hills. Never at any stage was he reported as a prisoner of war. Further inquiries drew a blank and Hodgson was listed as presumed dead.

Escapers from Crete in the early part of 1942 said that Private J. H. McGill (19 Bn) was a prisoner of war. In June 1942 another escaper, Private G. M. Orr (19 Bn), reported that McGill had escaped twice but had been recaptured. Private A. R. Grant (27 MG Bn), who escaped from Crete in May 1943, was with him for a while shortly before he left.

After the war the New Zealand Searcher Party, having made exhaustive inquiries, was convinced that McGill was dead. It was known that in 1943 the enemy combed the hills very thoroughly for escaped soldiers in hiding and shot or captured nearly all of them. It was then that McGill must have lost his life.

Staff-Sergeant W. G. Penney reported in Egypt that he had met Driver J. N. Campbell (ASC attached 5 Fd Amb) and Sapper M. F. Little (7 Fd Coy) in December 1941 at the village of Sata. Campbell had been suffering from shrapnel wounds in the back but Penney said he had completely recovered. Another successful escaper, Private D. M. Catherwood (HQ 4 Inf Bde), reported that he had talked with Little in September of the same year.

At the end of the war there was no sign or trace of either Campbell or Little. The Field Searcher Party visited Sata but was unable to find any clue. The people of the village, a very small one, could not pick them from the four hundred soldiers who had passed through on their way to Tymbaki. The villagers took out their treasured photographs, letters, notes and souvenirs given them by the passing soldiers, but there was no page 519 trace of these two men. The Searcher Party appealed through the two Heraklion newspapers for information and assistance but again without success.

It was known that the Germans had been ruthless in hunting escaped soldiers about the time (December 1941) the two New Zealanders were last seen, and it seems most likely that they were killed then.

This appendix does not give the names of all soldiers who were free in Crete. So many escaped prisoners moved around the island and so much happened to them that it is practically impossible to trace all of them or relate all their adventures. Lack of records and passage of time are yet further bars. This list of escapes has been made as complete and accurate as possible. Enough has been written to mark these soldiers as men of hope and courage.