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By Dinghy

By Dinghy

Private B. B. Carter (27 MG Bn) was caught by the Germans at Kisamos Bay, not far from where he had landed after escaping from Greece in a fishing boat. A German officer treated him kindly and gave him an easy job in his kitchen. But it did not last long; within two weeks the officer went away and Carter was removed to the prison camp at Galatas. On 1 July he slipped out of camp in the dust of a passing convoy of trucks. Next day he reached Meskla and joined Private D. N. McQuarrie (18 Bn).1

McQuarrie had had a hard time. He was lying wounded in the hospital near Suda when the Germans arrived. Had it not been for the Cretans giving them food for two weeks, he and other patients would have surely starved to death. Life was no better at the prison in the Canea hospital and he saw men dying for want of food and care. Despite the shooting of an unlucky escaper half an hour before, McQuarrie escaped through an obvious gap in the barrier on 18 June; he had not gone far when he heard the fire of tommy guns from the camp. Heading south, he reached Meskla, where he stayed with a friendly family for two weeks. He had plenty of food, sleep and care, but when he saw notices posted in the village threatening Cretans with death if they helped British soldiers, he moved into the hills where he met Carter.

The two hid for a while. They used to watch a German patrol going to Lakkoi every week in a car driven by a New Zealander; they did not worry page 492 because they knew the Germans were after eggs, not escapers. Carter and McQuarrie moved through Lakkoi and Omalo to the coast where two Australians joined them. At Suia the men found a derelict 18-foot dinghy and on 16 July they started to row across the Mediterranean.

The four escapers knew nothing about boats, they had little food, and the dinghy itself was a wreck. They patched it up as best they could: the holes were blocked with socks, but they had to take turns to sit on the biggest hole near the stern while the others bailed water. Lashed oars were the mast and tied blankets the sail. A gale blew all the way. On the fourth evening the gale stopped and they found themselves just off, Sidi Barrani; in ninety hours they had travelled 400 miles.

Soldiers waded out to help the escapers, but when they grasped the boat the top planking came away. Next day when others tried it out to find how such a broken-down craft had stood up to the long and hard voyage, the dinghy fell to pieces. Both New Zealanders were awarded the MM.

1 McQuarrie died of wounds in the Western Desert on 2 Dec 1941.