Thursday, July 19, 2012

The focus on the island of Crete at the end of April 1941

Prior to 30 April 1941, there was already an island commander and British troops on Crete. With the close proximity of Crete to Greece, the island was a natural place to take troops evacuated from Greece. They were transported by sea to Suda Bay, in the northwest corner of Crete. The troops from Greece were practically unarmed, as those who were armed had only their personal weapon and many had been embarked on destroyers and cruisers without any arms.

The string of disasters that started with the battle in Greece, the battle for Crete, and then the disastrous Operation Battleaxe in June 1941 eventually cost General Wavell his job as theater commander. The British had great culpability in the string of disasters, as they had lied to the Australian Prime Minister, saying that General Blamey had approved of the operation and then liked to General Blamey, telling him that the prime minister, Mr. Menzies, knew of the operation and approved of it. This seems to have been the standard operating procedure, and it deserves to be condemned. The CIGS in Britain had opposed the operation and was overruled by Churchill. On story puts the blame for Greece squarely on Churchill. He was said to have ordered Anthony Eden to Greece to make the arrangements, while the Australian Official History tends to blame Anthony Eden and would say that Churchill went along with his young foreign secretary.

As we continue the story, we will shift the focus to Crete, where even before the end of operations in Greece, Hitler had ordered that Crete be taken. He gave the order, apparently, on 25 April 1941. The battle for Crete was pivotal, as it sold the Allies on the use of airborne troops while it discouraged the Germans from any further airborne invasions.

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