Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The impact of the evacuation from Greece on Crete

In early March 1941, before the Greek situation had unraveled, commanders had foreseen the need to accommodate in Crete as many as 50,000 troops evacuated from Greece. By 17 April, the command in Crete had requested 30,000 "tents, clothing and blankets" for evacuated troops. Troops and civilians brought from Greece started to arrive by 23 April. By 25 April and immediately after, there were 25,000 troops brought to Crete at Suda Bay by warship. There were no tents or even coats for them. Because of the lack of preparation for what many had anticipated, time was lost to prepare defences on Crete. Men sat around, even in organized units that had arrived. There were no tools or any of the normal essentials. After the disaster in Greece, the men relished the time spent doing nothing but resting in Crete.

Once more senior officers arrived on Crete there was more serious consideration about how to prepare for the expected invasion. The existing garrison was positioned. There was a small air condition on the island. There were four squadrons withdrawn from Greece with six or eight Blenheim day bombers, six Hurricane fighters, six Gladiator biplane fighters, one squadron that flew in from Egypt with nine Blenheim bombers, and a Fleet Air Arm squadron.

General Wilson thought that if they wanted to defend Crete, they needed to increase the strength to a greater degree than General Wavell and the other commanders wanted. General Wilson thought that it was a mistake to try and defend Crete with inadequate resources, which was probably true. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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