Albania 1937

The bearded stranger’s grandfather travelled widely and had some interesting adventures. Here’s another.

As a soldier under orders from our King, Zog, I was escorting the stranger through the mountains of Northern Albania. We were using what the stranger called the Albanian telephone. At the top of each mountain pass one of us would yodel a message down to the village in the valley. This was normal communication for us: there were so many blood feuds between Albanians in the North that most of the stranger’s escort would not go into a different valley from where they lived. So at each pass we waited for men and mules to arrive from the village ahead and then the men and mules we had been travelling with would head back to their own valley. The new men and mules would take the stranger through their own valley to the next pass, where the telephone would be used again.


At the top of one pass I felt really ill and as I was the only soldier this was a problem. It was my duty to keep the Englishman alive until he got through from the Shala to Scutari. But I couldn’t continue the journey.

One of the men who was with us yodelled a message into the next valley. The message was relayed on to Prekali. We waited. The messages went back and forth until the police captain in Prekali ordered the next valley’s policeman to join us. He would escort the stranger until the next pass and hand him over to another policeman. I wrote a note and, when he joined us, I  gave it to the policeman, with my instructions. The Albanian telephone couldn’t convey this important message that the escorts would need to get signed at each pass and bring back to me. The note read ‘Received, one Englishman - alive.’