Thursday, February 02, 2006
The final evacuation from Crete
The evacuation from Sphakia started early on 30 May 1941. 6,000 men were initially embarked. The ships involved included the amphibious warfare ship Glengyle and the cruiser Perth. On 31 May, four destroyers lifted 1,500 soldiers. General Freyberg and the naval commander at Suda Bay were flown out by Sunderland, by orders from General Wavell and the other commanders. The last rearguard position protecting the beaches was commanded by Brigadier Vasey, with the 19th Australian Brigade, a few 3rd Hussars light tanks, the Royal Marine Battalion, and Layforce. Most of them were able to be evacuated, as the Germans did not press them hard. The Germans contented themselves with turning the flanks, which went slowly enough not to affect the withdrawal. 4,000 men were evacuated, but "5,000 were left behind". The navy had suffered heavily, with one aircraft carrier and three battleships damaged. Three valuable cruisers had been sunk, along with 6 destroyers. Another 6 cruisers and 7 destroyers were damaged, as well. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.