Tuesday, April 09, 2013
More about the first day in the invasion of Crete
As we have said, the German forces that were dropped close to the defending New Zealand troops from the 5th Brigade took heavy casualties. Many or most paratroops dropped over the defenders were shot and killed before they touched ground. Some fifty gliders were also dropped. The attack commenced at about 8am on 20 May 1941. The troops on the ground could see the aircraft towing gliders pass overhead and then saw other aircraft dropping paratroops and supply canisters. The gliders were mainly dropped near the Tavronitis dry riverbed. The defensive plan had mistakenly left this area undefended. The gliders were able to unload their troops who moved towards the Maleme airfield and attacked. The immediate area around the airfield was held by the 22nd NZ Battalion, commanded by Lt-Col. Leslie Andrew. He was a Great War VC recipient. The battle was going badly enough by afternoon that Col. Andrew requested help from the 23rd Battalion. The 5th Brigade commander, Brigadier Hargest, refused the aid, because he mistakenly thought that the 23rd Battalion was fighting paratroops dropped nearby. Col. Andrew ordered an attack by his reserve and the two tanks, but that failed when the tanks broke down. The 22nd Battalion withdrew, with the brigade commander's permission, into the area of the 21st Battalion. This is based on the account in the New Zealand Official History.