Nicholas Geoffrey Lamprière Hammond was a prominent Classical historian, whose knowledge of Ancient Greece and Macedonia led him to a string of remarkable feats while assisting the Greek resistance during World War II.
Born in Ayr, Scotland, Hammond received two degrees in Classics from the University of Cambridge. In 1930, at the age of just twenty-two, he was elected fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. He undertook extended walking trips through the undeveloped countryside of Epirus and Albania studying inscriptions at ancient ruins, memorizing the topography, mastering the Greek and Albanian languages and getting to know the local people. Such firsthand encounters established Hammond as an invaluable recruit for the SOE.
When the Second World War came, the military authorities were quick to recognise Hammond’s unusual qualifications. After a period of training, he reached Athens in 1941, just in time to carry out demolition work at Haliartus in Boeotia before joining the retreating British Army.
In a small boat off Crete, Hammond narrowly escaped a hail of machine gun bullets from a German bomber and consequently survived to reach Cairo. He then spent a period at Haifa, training Greeks who were to be parachuted into their occupied homeland as wireless operators. He also instructed groups from the Jewish Haganah – Moshe Dayan and Yigael Yadin among others – in guerrilla warfare, in case the Germans reached Palestine.
In 1943 Hammond was parachuted into Thessaly. Making his way to Macedonia, he established himself at Pendalofos, in the Pindus range, where he was a liaison officer with the Greek resistance ELAS. His task here was to try to coax resistance forces to fight the Germans, rather than reserve their ammunition for use against their own political opponents.
It was dangerous work, which on one occasion involved Hammond paying a visit to enemy-occupied Thessaloniki disguised as a Greek peasant. He remained at Pendalofos for a year, and rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
In recognition of his service in Greece, Hammond was awarded a DSO, and twice mentioned in dispatches. In 1946, the Greek government awarded him the Order of the Phoenix. He recorded his wartime exploits in Venture into Greece (1983).