Major Donald John Stott, DSO & Bar (23 October 1914 – 20 March 1945) was a New Zealand soldier and military intelligence agent during the Second World War.

Donald John Stott
Don Stott.jpg
Stott aboard a ship in the Mediterranean during his time with SOE in Greece
Born(1914-10-23)23 October 1914
Birkenhead, New Zealand
Died20 March 1945(1945-03-20) (aged 30)
Balikpapan Bay, Borneo
AllegianceNew Zealand
Years of service1939–1945
RankMajor
Unit5th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery
Special Operations Executive
Z Special Unit
Commands heldRobin 1
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsDistinguished Service Order & Bar

Born in Auckland, Stott volunteered for the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. Serving with an artillery unit, Stott took part in the Battle of Greece, and the subsequent Battle of Crete. Captured by the Germans on Crete, he successfully escaped from a prisoner of war camp after several months of internment. Making his way back to Egypt, he joined the Special Operations Executive in 1942 and was dispatched to Greece to support the local resistance efforts against the Germans. In 1944, he transferred to the Z Special Unit, which was based in Melbourne, Australia as part of the Services Reconnaissance Department. Appointed commander of Robin 1, a small team formed to collect intelligence in the Southwest Pacific, he disappeared, presumed drowned, on 20 March 1945 while leading his team on a reconnaissance mission to Balikpapan Bay, Indonesia.

Early lifeEdit

Born on 23 October 1914, Stott was the son of a butcher in Birkenhead in Auckland. Educated at Northcote Primary School and then at Takapuna Grammar School, Stott was a keen sportsman. Upon finishing his education, he was employed at the New Zealand Herald as a rotary machinist.[1]

Military careerEdit

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Stott enlisted in the New Zealand Military Forces in December 1939 and volunteered for the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). Posted to 5th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery,[2] he was quickly promoted to sergeant. In 1940, he embarked with the 2nd Echelon of the 2nd Division,[1] which had been formed from the personnel of the 2NZEF, for Egypt. However, during transit the ship on which he was traveling, the Aquitania,[3] was diverted to England.[4]

In March 1941, Stott was shipped with the 2nd Echelon to Egypt to join up with the 1st Echelon of the 2nd Division, which had been in the country since February 1940,[5] and then onto Greece to take part in the defence of Greece. The New Zealanders, together with other Allied forces, were forced to retreat to the island of Crete following the German intervention in Greece. He was wounded and captured during the subsequent Battle of Crete.[2]

Stott described the wound in a letter home as being '"not at all severe. I was hit by a bullet just above the knee (right) on the inside of the leg and it did not strike a bone so I was lucky",[3] and it was not so serious as to prevent him escaping a prisoner of war camp in Greece. Together with another New Zealander, Bob Morton, Stott vaulted the fence of the camp in broad daylight and successfully evaded the German guards with the help of Greek police who led the pursuing Germans astray. After spending several months in and around Athens,[6] Stott and Morton were eventually able to get to Egypt, crossing the Mediterranean by sailboat.[7]

Special Operations ExecutiveEdit

Following recuperation from his adventures in Greece, Stott was posted to Officer Training School (OTC). It was during his time at OTC that he was asked to conduct sabotage missions in Greece for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a request he gladly accepted.[8]

GreeceEdit

Stott, by now commissioned as a captain, returned to Greece with his fellow escapee, Bob Morton, in 1942. Stott was to utilise his knowledge of the country, accumulated during the several months that he and Morton spent on the run from the Germans following their escape from captivity, to join the British Military Mission that was then based in Greece and co-ordinating the Greek resistance efforts.[9]

In 1943, Stott, together with fellow SOE operative Geoffrey Gordon-Creed, destroyed the Asopos Viaduct. This was an important operation, as it resulted in the diversion of German troops destined for the frontlines to occupation duties in Greece. For his exploits, Stott was awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO),[10] after the commander of the British Military Mission in Greece, Brigadier Eddie Myers originally recommended Stott for a Victoria Cross (VC). Myers considered that the VC would have been awarded had a shot been fired during the Asopos mission.[11] Remaining in Greece and continuing his sabotage operations, Stott received a head wound when blowing up a bridge and was forced seek medical help from acquaintances in Athens.[12] Stott's relations with EAM (Ethnikó Apeleftherotikó Métopo-National Liberation Front) were very difficult as he accused EAM of seeking to hinder his work and described his EAM liaison as "violently Bolshevistic and anti-British".[13]

Now based in Athens and tasked with the sabotage of aerodromes around the capital, Stott was able to get the various factions of the Greek resistance to work together.[2] Stott pressured all of the non-communist resistance groups to work together to prevent EAM from coming to power after the war, promising them arms and money.[14] However, the planned sabotage operations came to nothing as it was realised the targeted aerodromes were too well defended. His efforts to co-ordinate the Greek resistance meant that Stott became embroiled in the internal power struggle between the various Greek resistance groups. Reputedly a staunch anti-communist, Stott favoured working with the EDES, a rightist resistance group, rather than the communist controlled ELAS, the military wing of the National Liberation Front. Greek SOE operatives became concerned that Stott was being manipulated by his EDES contacts, some of whom were of questionable character.[15] Many of the Greek officers Stott met were ethnikophron ("nationally-minded"), an Greek expression meaning someone with ultra-nationalist views. One of Stott's principle contacts was Colonel Georgios Grivas of Organization X, a Cypriot-born Greek army officer of extreme right-wing views who later became world famous in the 1950s as the leader of EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston-National Organization of Cypriot Struggle). Many of the ethnikophron officers Stott met such as Grivas had links with both the puppet Hellenic State and the Germans.[13] Moreover, in the Athens, among the ethnikophron officers, there was what the British historian Mark Mazower called a "murky" world where those who professed to be engaged in resistance could just as easily be engaged in collaboration under the grounds that EAM was a greater danger than the Germans. Many members of the Athens branch of EDES joined the Security Battalions while the leaders of the Central Committee of EDES maintained contacts with cabinet ministers in the government of Ioannis Rallis.[14]One of the leading generals of the Security Battalions, Vasilos Dertils, was an old friend of Colonel Napoleon Zervas, the leader of EDES, with whom he had served alongside for 20 years.[16] Reflecting their still continuing friendship, Dertils tended to focus the efforts of the Security Battalions against EAM while ignoring EDES.

Matters came to a head in November 1943, when the mayor of Athens contacted Stott with back channel peace overtures from the Germans. While the approach was initially dismissed, Stott decided to explore the opportunity in order to collect useful intelligence on Germany's position in Greece. Stott met with key representatives of the Gestapo and, as negotiations became more protracted, Stott began to take them seriously. Stott's initial contacts were with Roman Loos, the Austrian policeman in charge of the Geheime Feldpolizei (Secret Field Police) operations in the Balkans, who passed on the message that Germany wanted to end the war with Britain to focus on the Soviet Union, which Loos argued was the common enemy of both Britain and the Reich.[17] On the night of 4 November 1943, Stott, dressed in the uniform of a British Army officer, met with Loos and the diplomat Dr. Rudi Stärker on a deserted street in Athens that was screened by gunmen from one of the right-wing Greek groups backed by the Germans whom Stott had talking to.[18] Stärker was a deputy of Hermann Neubacher of the Auswärtiges Amt, who played a key role in governing the Balkans.[17] Stärker asserted to Stott that the Soviet Union was the enemy of "Western civilization", and therefore Britain should join forces with Germany to save the West. The meeting went well, and afterwards Loos declared that Stott could travel around Greece dressed in his officer's uniform.[19] In message to the SOE headquarters in Cairo on 7 November 1943, Stott described meeting Loos, whom he called "Loss" and mistakenly called him "the Gestapo chief of the Balkans", saying that Loos had direct contact with his fellow Austrian Adolf Hitler.[20]

Stott asked the Germans to arrange for the Security Battalions to switch over to serving the Greek government-in-exile when it returned to Greece as Stott asserted to his German hosts that his government did not want EAM to come to power under any conditions.[21] As the talks progressed, Hermann Neubacher met with Stott to discuss possible Anglo-German co-operation in the Balkans, which might led to Britain switching sides to ally herself with Germany against the Soviet Union. Stott told Neubacher: "This war should end in the common struggle by the Allies and German forces against Bolshevism".[22] Stott apologised to Nuebacher for Britain supplying EAM with arms, and stated his belief that: "communist infiltration is already a serious threat in the Mediterranean".[22] Stott repeatedly stressed to his German hosts that he regarded the Soviet Union as the real enemy, and felt that Britain was fighting on the wrong side.[14] It became clear that any withdrawal from Greece by the Germans would be at the exclusion of the ELAS from the peace process.

One of Stott's Greek contacts denounced him to the SOE headquarters in Cairo, charging that he was engaged in treasonous talks.[22] Stott's talks with the Germans had a disastrous impact on Britain's relations with EAM, who believed that was acting under orders of London.[21] It was widely believed in Greece that when the unpopular King George II returned from exile, he would pardon all of the members of the Security Battalions to use them to fight against EAM. Stott's talks in Athens had also led to much hope in Germany that the alliance of the "Big Three" powers was falling apart and that soon Britain would be switching sides.[23] In a speech on 20 April 1944 to mark Hitler's birthday, Walter Schimana, the Higher SS Police Chief of Greece, referred to the Stott mission as a sign that Germany would win the war against the Soviet Union allied with Britain.[14] Mazower wrote that the official line of the British government is that Stott was a "rouge agent" acting without orders, but he also noted that Stott remained in radio contact with the SOE headquarters in Cairo during his talks with the Germans.[14] However, on 8 November 1943, SOE headquarters in Cairo sent Stott a message stating under no conditions were SOE agents to negotiate with the Germans, and ordering him to break off his talks at once.[20] The Germans allowed Stott to leave Athens for Cairo.[22] Following a debriefing held in Cairo, Stott was awarded a bar to his DSO as a result of the useful intelligence he collected during the negotiations.[2][15] Sir Reginald Leeper, the pugnacious Australian who served as the British ambassador to the Greek government-in-exile and whose relations with the SOE had long been very difficult, demanded that Stott be banned from Greece permanently.[24] The Greek government-in-exile disapproved of resistance in Greece, and as a result all of the Greek resistance groups from EAM on the left to EDES on the right fell on the republican side on the National Schism. Leeper as British ambassador to the Greek government-in-exile had to deal with constant complaints that the SOE was supplying arms to republican groups that did not want King George II to return.

Z Special UnitEdit

 
The USS Perch, from which Stott launched his final mission

Stott was not allowed to return to Greece following his recent exploits in the country. Instead, after being offered a staff job which was declined, he opted to be seconded to the Australian equivalent of the SOE, the Services Reconnaissance Department, to undertake operations in the Far East. Stott briefly returned to New Zealand where he married Mary Snow in June 1944.[25]

The following month, Stott commenced intensive training at various bases around Australia, including receiving instructions in small boat handling and submarine insertion. In 1945, and by now promoted to major, he was appointed commander of Operation Robin 1 and tasked with conducting sabotage and intelligence missions in Southeast Borneo. A submarine, the USS Perch, transported Stott and his twelve-man team to Japanese occupied Balikpapan Bay. Arriving in the bay on 20 March 1945, Stott was to lead an initial party of four ashore in a pair of two-man[2][26] Hoehn MKIII military folboats.[27] This was followed by the remainder of his team two days later. Launching at night in heavy swells, Stott had trouble with the motor of his folboat, and he and his companion were forced to use paddles to try to get to shore. En route, the party was detected by the Japanese and were ordered by Stott to seek an alternative landing site. While the second folboat successfully made it to shore, Stott and his companion were never seen again, and were presumed to have drowned.[2][26]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b McDonald 1991, p. 6
  2. ^ a b c d e f Crawford (2010). "'Stott, Donald John – Biography'". Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b Masters (25 April 2004). "'Letters home reveal the chronicle of an extraordinary soldier'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  4. ^ Bates 1955, pp. 23–24
  5. ^ Bates 1955, pp. 8–10
  6. ^ McDonald 1991, p. 8
  7. ^ McDonald 1991, p. 9
  8. ^ McDonald 1991, p. 10
  9. ^ Field & Gordon-Creed 2011, p. 109
  10. ^ Field & Gordon-Creed 2011, p. 143
  11. ^ McDonald 1991, p. vii
  12. ^ McDonald 1991, pp. 36–37
  13. ^ a b Clogg 2006, p. 149
  14. ^ a b c d e Mazower 1993, p. 329
  15. ^ a b Clogg 2006, pp. 149–156
  16. ^ Mazower 1993, p. 330
  17. ^ a b Clogg 2006, p. 151
  18. ^ Clogg 2006, pp. 151–152
  19. ^ Clogg 2006, p. 152
  20. ^ a b Clogg 2006, p. 153
  21. ^ a b Mazower 1993, pp. 328–329
  22. ^ a b c d Eudes 1973, p. 108
  23. ^ Mazower 1993, p. 328
  24. ^ Clogg 2006, p. 155
  25. ^ McDonald 1991, pp. 46–47
  26. ^ a b Wigzell 2001, pp. 111–130
  27. ^ Hoehn 2011, p. 70

ReferencesEdit