Thursday, 25 May 2017

Battle of Crete .... 21 may

Third and final post for 21 May

 Battle of Crete  May 1941. 

40,000  New Zealand, Australian and British troops fought beside the Cretans to repel an airbourne invasion of their island by the  German army.  Thousands of elite German paratroopers were parachuted in and more came in by glider.   

In beginning the Germans suffered huge losses as the all the islanders, men and women, put up a fierce resistance.  Many parachuters died before touching the ground.  But slowly the invaders took a foothold as more German troops landed at the the ports of Heraklion and Rethymnon.

A german officer noted later "apart from the stones, all else rose up against us in Crete.  All living things fought to the last moment".

Crete surrendered on 31 May and a series of brutal reprises began against the Cretan civilians. Many villages were razed and their courageous inhabitants massacred.

16,000 Commonwealth troops were evacuated to Egypt, 5,000 surrendered but many more just took to the hills, hiding out and fighting with the Cretan resistance forces.

4,000 Allied and Greek soldiers died during the assault
1,900 wounded

6,000 German soldiers were killed or wounded

Travel writer and friend of the Greeks, Patrick Leigh Fermor, then Special Operations Executive (SOE) for the British, worked with the Cretan resistance and his great moment was the capture of the German General Kreipe and his removal to Egypt.  The retaliation however was the complete destruction of the mountain village of Anogia.

Leigh-Fermor and Kreipe met again in the 70's on a Greek television programme and relived the episode.  Fermor apologised for what had happened.

It is surprising how many German soldiers came back to visit Crete after the war and how many Germans now live there.  The Cretan people remember the invasion and brutality but the anger is not personal ...... well, except for the present German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble and maybe Angela Merkel.  The feeling is that now Germany is trying to conqueur Crete again, this time by economic means.

We lived on Crete for three years very close to one of the big Allied cemetaries at Souda Bay.  My father visited one year but refused to visit the memorial.  He said he had enough of wars. He was Captain of a Torpedo boat and worked alongside Greek troops as they expelled German invaders from the islands.  His memories of Greece during the war are of the friendly and sometimes chaotic people, their hospitality, their zest for life and their love of Greece.

2017 is the 76th anniversary
There were a number of ceremonies in Crete from May 19th to May 22nd attended by many of the descendants of those who fought or died in the battle


  1. I find so much about Greece absolutely fascinating. The history, ancient and not so ancient is not only enchanting but a real education on culture and really family life. Greece soldiers on, with extreme austerity, but still the people have festivals and 'dance on the tables'. It shows real spirit. We could all learn from the Greek people.

    I have just read that the ex prime minister, Lucas Papademos has been injured in an explosion in his car. How awful.

  2. Im watching the news right now. Why they picked on him I have no idea. Internal violence and terrorism happen quite often in central Athens. If the Greeks aren't celebrating theyre letting off steam in some other way!

  3. It's horrid to think that humanity hasn't learnt a thing
    We are heading down the path to war again and it feels like there is nothing we can to do stop it
    The generations of old were truly amazing
    Lest we forget

    1. The world is a fragile place. Just hope things don't get worse

  4. Similar reprisals were vented against defending villagers here in France. There are memorials to their barbarity all over the area.

    1. Many of these memorials all over Greece too. Giant crosses on hillsides.

  5. It is hard to comprehend such battles now, such a relatively short time ago, when we know now that battles of this nature of weaponry and of a very manual nature (parachutes) would not take place but have not gone away, just replaced with technology and equally horrid weapons.