Item of the Month

Wirksworth Letters recall a forgotten Cold War incident.

The early years of the Cold War saw several flash points that are largely forgotten today. One of these occurred in the narrow body of water separating Albania from Corfu, and was recorded in letters from Peter Marsden (of the family who owned the ironmongers in Wirksworth Market Place), and who was serving aboard the destroyer HMS Saumarez at the time.  This was one of two Royal Navy ships which were severely damaged by underwater mines laid off the coast of communist Albania, with considerable loss of life. 

Official reports reported that the British presence (at the time of a bloody civil war in Greece) was to ensure free passage of ships through international waters.  Peter’s more candid account suggests that the Royal Navy vessels were acting as ‘agent provocateurs’, deliberately trying to provoke an Albanian response which could then be used as justification for a bombardment.  Amazingly, these letters remained untouched by any censor – and this issue remained a point of contention between the two governments until 1992.

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