This, for me at least, was one of the real highlights of this remarkable series of islands. For me a real joy was our visit to the Castle of Pantelli, in fact three castles built one around the other, reviewing the history of fortification from the early works of the Knights of St John through to the arrival of gunpowder. And bastions.
While we were there, Michael did a tour de force presentation on the battles that raged across the island in October-November 1943, as the British were outwitted and Leros passed from Italian to German hands. Strong elements of Louis de Bernières’ Captain Correlli’s Mandolin lay in wait for some of the captured Italians.
The Greek curator of the castle, not a happy camper for other reasons, mentioned that the father of Ginger Baker, drummer with Cream, was among the British and Commonwealth forces killed. Their last signal: “Situation desperate.” Later, we visited a Commonwealth cemetery: hugely poignant.
Earlier, we had walked around Lakki Town, into which we had sailed that morning, once called Porto Lago, and a major Italian military town in the 1930s. The architecture is eerie. As Peter Sommers’ brochure put it: “built in the style of ‘Razionalismo’, an odd combination of fascist aesthetics, Bauhaus modernism and Art Deco eclecticism.”
One link to the books that I have been devouring as we sailed was that the Italians used seaplanes as a key means of scouting and communications at the time – and we saw the crane that used to list the seaplanes into and out of the water. On the flight across to Bodrum I had finished Graham Hoyland’s powerful Merlin.
One link here was the speech that my father, Tim, did at the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby back in 2015, to thank them for all their engines he had flown behind.
After the castle and cemetery, we had a glorious lunch at a small winery, the Hatzidakis Winery, in Smalou. I thought their dry white wine exquisite – indeed bought a couple of bottles to take home. Fell in love with the co-owner, Haridimos, and we said goodbye with an embrace.
Then we set sail for a cove off Kalymnos, en route to Kos.