Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The 20th Battalion on 22 May 1941

Interestingly enough, the New Zealand 20th Battalion was formed in 1939 by the later to be famous Howard Kippenberger. The battalion was formed in New Zealand and was transported to the Mediterranean Theater. After arriving, they participated in the ill-fated Greek expedition under General Maitland Wilson's command. In Greece, the 20th Battalion was included in the 4th Infantry Brigade. The brigade attempted to defend the Aliakmon line. They were moved from the Aliaikmon line to the Servia Pass, which was a more defensible positiion. They were able to hold their position for three days before withdrawing. They were evacuated from Greece and transported to the island of Crete. Very quickly, after the German attack on 20 May 1941, when the battalion was pushed out of their position at Maleme, the second-in-command took control for the remainder of the campaign. The 20th Battalion had been in positions a ways away and was only able to participate in the attack on Maleme after being relieved  by Australian troops. Due to the last minute relief, the 20th was late arriving at Maleme. While the late arrival hurt the chances of success, the German strength was such that they were able to rebuff the attack. While the Germans suffered heavy losses, their control of the airfield at Maleme meant that more troops and supplies could be brought in to strengthen the defenses. This is based on the account in the New Zealand official history.

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