March – April 1941
|METHOD OF DEPARTURE
|N/K, but must have been evacuated from somewhere|
|IN OCCUPIED EUROPE
1 Ex-South Africa test cricketer, mid 1930s.
2 Author, dilettante, rake, self-publicist, friend & rival of Paddy Leigh Fermor in post-war Mani (Greece).
3 Same Unit as Jock Watt.
From Wikipedia: “Crisp served during World War II in the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, later writing two books documenting his experiences: The Gods Were Neutral and Brazen Chariots. These books covered his combat during the early part of the war, first during the British retreat in Greece, then the victory that followed in North Africa. He was decorated for his bravery during the North African campaign, and was also wounded there, nearly dying several times from shrapnel in his skull as well as subsequent infection. Bernard Montgomery, commanding, intervened to restrict Crisp’s decorations given the latter’s issues with authority. Crisp ended the war with a Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order, and four “Mentioned in Dispatches”.
He was also noted for his serial womanising and “crooning in the nightclubs” of Alexandria, and his wide ranging travel – including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (he is the only Test cricketer to have climbed it twice) and swimming Loch Lomond. He went on to a career as a journalist, writing for Wisden and several newspapers. He helped found Drum for black South Africans. He sailed Greece, farmed minks in England, and wrote for the East Anglian Daily Times.”
Relevant excerpt from his obituary in “The Guardian”, 5th March 2013:
The life of the most extraordinary man to play Test cricket
From Kilimanjaro to war escapades, via Fleet Street and a wild century, the remarkable story of Major Robert Crisp, D.S.O, M.C.
Greece was little more than a rout, one long retreat from the border with Yugoslavia back to the bottom tip of the country. Along the way Crisp had three tanks blown up underneath him, hijacked a New Zealand officers’ Mess lorry, and shot down a low-flying German Heinkel bomber with a burst from his machine gun while it was in the middle of a strafing run. The beating he took seemed to fuel his thirst for action. He found it at the battle to lift the German siege of Tobruk, where he fought continuously for 14 days, on an average of 90 minutes sleep a night. He won his DSO at Sidi Rezegh, where he led his tank in a single-handed charge across an airfield that temporarily checked an advance of 70 German Panzers.
Crisp later told the cricket writer David Frith that his courage was a “reaction to the shame he felt at being afraid”. But his modesty concealed a darker truth, as he once confessed to Jonathan. To his shame, Crisp admitted to his son that he actually “loved the war. He enjoyed it. He thought it was fantastic”.
MacDonald Fraser, who also served in North Africa, writes brilliantly about men like Bob Crisp. They epitomise, Fraser says, “this myth called bravery, which is half panic, half lunacy”. After the attack on Sidi Rezegh, Crisp seemed to catch a fever for fighting. The next day, stranded on foot, he commandeered a signals tank whose crew had “never even fired their gun before”, let alone been in battle. Crisp hauled their officer out of his turret, and with a cry of “Driver advance! Gunner, get that bloody cannon loaded!” led them in a surprise attack on a group of German anti-tank guns. Afterwards the driver was so shell-shocked by this startling turn of events that he started running around in small circles with a wild look on his face. The poor chap hadn’t the faintest idea where he was or what he was doing.” Crisp cured him with a “tremendous kick up the backside”.
Jonathan Crisp says he has it on “very good authority from a lot of different people” that his father was recommended for the Victoria Cross, but Field Marshal Montgomery refused to allow it because Crisp was so ill-disciplined. He was demoted three times. But then he was also mentioned in despatches four times. Crisp was awarded the Military Cross instead. He was presented with it by King George VI, who asked him if his cricket career would be affected by the wound. “No sire,” Crisp replied. “I was only hit in the head.”
In fact Crisp was too injured to play cricket again.