Vintage Saturday: UD-42s on Crete

SOE adbuction team on Crete with UD42 SMGs
SOE adbuction team on Crete with UD42 SMGs

When you need to sneak onto an enemy-occupied island, kidnap the governor and escape over the mountains, accept no substitutes! Get your UD-42 now!

(if you’re not familiar with the SOE abduction of General Kreipe, check it out – it’s a heck of a story – thanks to reader Matthew for sending the photo)


  1. I have never seen an UD-42 in the flesh, but I have seen a lot of their magazines. They are just what you need to convert a Thompson SMG to 9mm. In 9mm, the Thompson is actually a pleasure to shoot.

    The Brit in this photo almost looks like Montgomery. Must have been the style back then!

    • Not quite on the topic ,but close, .. Years back I saw a photo of a driver for a German gereral officer ambushed by British Para’s durning the Arnhem opp. The weapon intrestingly enough issuded was hanging out of the car next to him was a6.5 Mann. Sch carbine. (REMF,what do you expect)

  2. Mr Dingell-I think that the “Brit” you refer to may not be British. I think that there are only two British SOE officers in the photo, sitting center and identified only by initials.

  3. There is a book based on this that I read a few years back called “Ill met by moonlight” by W. Stanley Moss. My copy has this picture with the same caption, as well as a few others showing other UD-42s. Its a book worth reading if you come across a copy….

  4. The most heroic part obviously was murdering his driver because he was considered to be not important enough.

    • The British plan was to not kill anybody, to avoid any reprisals on civilians, for which the Germans were famous. Unfortunately the Greek guerillas along on the mission had a more vengeful attitude (they were the occupied country, after all), and they killed the driver on their own. And yes, it idd lead to reprisals on civilians.

  5. One should take that lesson to heart: you chauffeur Nazi generals around at your own peril. Did they actually kill him? I haven’t read the book, but the accounts I have read said they conked him on the head and tossed him out of the car, without mentioning if that treatment was fatal (if it wasn’t he got off a lot better than Bin Ladin’s driver).

    • The poor fellow (kraipes driver) was slautered by the locals, they cut his head off…… The two british fellows are Patrick leigh Fermon and Billy Moss .

  6. By the way, ‘Ill Met by Moonlight’ was put to screen in the 1957, with Dirk Bogarde starring as ‘Philedem’ (Maj. Patrick Leight Fermor, DSO) – or PML-F in the caption above. This movie was re-released on DVD several years ago in the UK, to be had for peanuts from eBay. Definitely worth seeing (if only for the last airworth Savoia-Marchetti bomber), even though the abduction gang in the movie has Stens instead of UDs.
    And the driver was not there for pleasure, he was a conscript soldier carrying out his orders. You don’t have to appreciate a Nazi doing his duty, but this “chauffering on his own peril” comment was a bit of an hyperbole. He was an enemy combattant though, and dispatching of him to avoid capure was a legitimate kill.

  7. The driver, Alfred Fenske, seems to have been shot against orders by two of the Cretans working with the abduction team. The raid was supposed to have been “bloodless,” meaning specifically deaths. It was also supposed to appear as if it were wholly the work of British commandos. These two key points, no deaths and just British operatives was designed to limit the possibility of German retribution on the inhabitants of the island. The driver was hit on the head to subdue him at the moment of kidnapping, but his death was totally unplanned and appears to have been a source of distress and conflict for the team members later on.

    The work of the British to keep the raid as decent as possible was a little use in the end. The Germans decided later on that the village of Anogia should be leveled for its participation in this event as well as others. In July-August 1944, the town was wiped out, and a number of inhabitants were shot to death. 50 during that event, and somewhere over a hundred total during the war. Nearby Damasta had a similar experience, was a mass shooting And then there is Kandanos, where the whole town was burned, leveled, the livestock all killed, and 180 or so civilians shot. So yea…

    This link has one of the better discussions of the driver’s death:

  8. This is great stuff, and right up my alley both ways (as a weapons guy and a retired special operations guy). The two most interesting theaters for special ops in WWII were the Adriatic and Norway, and the most interesting country in the Adriatic was Greece.

    The problem with the Nazi practice of mass reprisals is that, while there’s a sort of band in which that’s effective at subduing resistance, it only works until would-be resisters decide that odds are they’re going to be killed anyway. At that point, the whole country rises up (c.f. Greece). Czech Section SOE agents had a very hard time getting help from frightened civilians before Lidice. After Lidice, the situation paradoxically improved.

    There are lots of good resistance memoirs in all these countries, and if you read the languages incredible stories open up to you, that have only been hinted at in English.

    The UD-42 was widely used by OSS as well as SOE, and was often in canisters dropped to the Resistance. I honestly think the main reason is that a quantity of them were available, no one else wanted them, and they were in the common European caliber.

    The four-part series on OSS Maj. Herb Brucker in the USASOC History Magazine, Veritas, has several pictures of him with a UD-42. I’ve also seen pictures of resistance personnel with the Smith & Wesson 1940 Light Rifle. Unfortunately there are no back numbers available, and the lawyers will not let them put it on the web in .pdf.

    A couple of museums have UD-42s, including one that is not open to the public at CIA HQ (dunno if it’s on display at present). I do believe that the SF Branch Museum has one that is not on public display but will be in the new, larger building. That is on base at Ft Bragg so you have to go through the rigamarole of getting a day pass (and don’t have weapons, your car will be searched). Next time I’m there I’ll enumerate what weapons are on display… right now only half of the small museum is open to the public.

    From time to time some demilled UD-42s come up on GunBroker. A guy has about two-and-a-half guns he wants $2500 for. I’ve been very tempted, but reconstruction into a legal SBR poses technical and compliance problems. Unfortunately there’s no real regulatory guidance, you have to build the weapon first and then submit it, and if they don’t like what they did (or want it for their reference collection, this also happens) they declare it contraband and you have no recourse.

    I have some Sten gun parts that were made by an unspecified European resistance organization, I believe the Norwegian Milorg because they closely resemble the homegrown Sten in Akershus (the Resistance Museum — highly recommended, worth a side trip to Oslo if you’re in Norge).

    Funny thing about movies. I recently reviewed The Sea of Sand, about the LRDG, and I think it was a commenter on my blog who pointed out that the Stens in the movie were all wrong: LRDG actually carried Thompsons! Sten guns hadn’t got to Egypt. I was quite impressed that they were able to find 30-cwt GM trucks, and they made a half-decent mockup of a German armored car, but the German armored forces had White halftracks and Bren guns.

    As far as upset over the demise of the Nazi’s driver is concerned… get over it. Being a henchman has its consequences. One characteristic of civil and occupation wars is that blood is up and indigenous personnel are hard to control when they have would-be oppressors at their mercy. (And it’s the nature of things that the oppressor they grab is much more likely to be some drafted private than an architect of occupation policy).

    We’ve had this problem in Iraq and Afghanistan recently, we had it in Vietnam with beaten-down minorities in the CIDG and recon programs (there wasn’t enough incentive in all Asia to get some tribesman to take live Vietnamese captives), we had it with native levies in the Philippines, with Indian auxiliaries on the Western frontier and both the French and English had the problem with Indian auxiliaries in the Seven Years’ War. I’m sure Romans despaired of getting their German legionaries to be more disciplined. If you take the time to cycle the points of view of all concerned, you can understand why a Greek resistance fighter sees a German, any German, and thinks the way to improve him up to “good German” level is to bring him to ambient temperature by applied violence.

  9. Excellent point Mr. O’Brien – that’s what I meant by driver being a combattant and a fair game for SF operation. I only questioned the “chauffering around at his own peril” comment. BTW, Marlins (as UD-42s were called at the time) were staple diet in airdrops to Polish resistance, and we got quite a few of them in museums and forensic collections here as well. I must admit I have never found much liking to them, although they are a solid piece of furniture, and readily taken apart for concealed transfer, which is a big plus in underground work. “Concealed transfer”, not carry, because they had solid stocks, and had to be taken apart in two halves to get concealed, which of course denied any use of them unless reassembled. The folding stock of the MP40 or detachable one of the Sten or even a Thompson enabled self-defense with them, which the UDs did not.For some future Vintage Saturday use I can submit quite a number and variety of firearms shown used by the 1944 Warsaw Uprising soldiers, from Winchester 1895 lever-action rifle in 7.62 Russian, thru SMGs like UDs, French MAS 38 or home-grown (like Blyskawica) up to 08/15s, ZB53s etc.

  10. My friend of many years has a UD-42, which he has allowed me to handle. A very comfortable weapon to fire and I found it very easy to keep on target when firing. Seems well made and was fun to fire, all said a good design.

  11. I was told today in greek at the military museum of Chromonastirio that a Colt 45. the have on dislay with a few UD42s is the pistol used in the actual abduction. I don’t know if these weapons were signed for when they were drawn for the mission but if the Paperwork still exists somewhere in the UK somebody may be able to check Serial No. on this and the UD 42s for their authencity and use in the operation which seems feasible as I don’t think either weapon was used by the Greek military. The Colt 45 was but later.

  12. Kevin R. C. O’Brien.
    I have not heard of the Smith & Wesson 1940 Light Rifle being issued to Resistance groups in WW2. I have collected quite a bit of data on this weapon from the British National Archives in London. Are you able to post or send me a copy of the picture of the S& W Light rifle in resistance hands or let me have the source please? This is new and interesting information.


    Alan David

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