Thursday, December 12, 2013
Why the battle for Heraklion in 1941 is interesting
We have seen the unfortunate outcome at Retimo, where Lt-Col. Campbell surrendered most of his remaining force to the Germans on 29 May 1941. Lt-Col. Campbell was a newly promoted battalion commander who was thrust into the overall command role at Retimo airfield on Crete. Campbell was a regular Australian officer. He was greatly distracted from the overall command role by concern about his own battalion. To some extent, he was also the victim of the overall command problems on Crete. In retrospect, the highly respected General Bernard Freyberg did not do a very good job of commanding the overall operation. To some extent, the job was hampered by communication problems. The excuse that was used for not communicating key information with Campbell at Retimo was about ciphers. That left Campbell ignorant of what was happening on the rest of Crete. The larger force at Heraklion was commanded by a British brigadier, Brigadier Chappel, commander of the 14th Infantry Brigade. To some extent, his force was better equipped with anti-aircraft artillery which allowed them to shoot down Ju-52 transport aircraft on 20 May. We are about to examine in detail the battle for Heraklion which seems to have had a better outcome with the troops withdrawn from Crete. This is based on information from Vol.II of the Australian Official History.