Monday, May 27, 2013

The New Zealanders in action on 22 May 1941 at Maleme

The New Zealand 20th Battalion only arrived near Maleme at 2:45am on 22 May 1941. There were only two companies at first. The attack started at 3:30am with the Maoris and 20th Battalion together. The Maoris had some tank support in the dark and they made good progress. As the sun came up, the tanks were stopped with one being hit. The 20th Battalion was able to get near to the airfield, but were stopped by heavy gunfire. The daylight had made them very vulnerable and they came under attack from both the ground and air. The 21st Battalion was able to capture the wireless station, but then was heavily opposed. By the afternoon, the troops were forced to give ground. With the 20th Battalion withdrawing behind the Maoris, they were forced to hold two fronts. Australian machine gunners in platoon strength were sent forward late in the day but were annihilated. While some other plan might have done better, such as to use the Australian battalion to attack, the Germans were now too strong at Maleme, with two brigades and part of another. Everyone had taken heavy losses, but the Germans had an advantage over the Australian and New Zealand troops. The Germans were able to fly in supplies while the Australians and New Zealanders were starting to run short. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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