Thursday, February 13, 2014
More thoughts on the defense of Maleme at Crete in 1941
When we review the events at the beginning of the German attack on Crete, we can see what seems to indicate a failure of command at the highest level. In the west, at Maleme in particular, there seems to have been an opportunity to defeat the initial attack. That the defense failed was due to the lack of experience or expertise of the New Zealand commanders on the spot and the lack of oversight by General Freyberg. Lt-Col. Andrew, who commanded the western-most battalion lost control of the situation and his battalion was beaten and driven from the battlefield. The other commanders were not even aware of what was happening at the time. The 5th New Zealand Brigade commander was a civilian without very much experience and was more of a political appointee. They were the commanders at the spot at Maleme, and the Germans applied sufficient force and resorted to operating Ju-52 transports from the beach and from dry river beds until they took control of the airfield at Maleme. Instead of knowing that the situation was in doubt and sending reinforcements, the higher commanders were slow to respond, and General Freyberg was particularly hands-off at this time. Only during the withdrawal to the south was General Freyberg very involved in operations. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History. There is apparently a book that criticizes General Freyberg's performance in the Battle for Crete.