Thursday, May 08, 2014

Lessons from Crete

The problem with British policy in early 1941 was that they were trying to operate with little or no prior planning or preparation. Once the decision to go into Greece had been made, they could have appointed a commander on Crete with authority to plan a defense and to accumulate supplies. Instead, General Freyberg, fresh from commanding the rearguard in Greece, landed on Crete on 29 April 1941. He was fatigued and had no staff. What staff he could gather was by taking men that were needed for the New Zealand Division. The situation was set up to be a problem where supplies would be exhausted, but there had been no accumulation prior to the landing of men from Greece. Worse yet, Crete had been a dumping ground for men who were non-combat and were not in organized units. All they did was to consume supplies. The Australian Official History suggests that warships could have been used, prior to the attack, to remove men and move them to Egypt, thus reducing the supply drain. Instead, nothing was done and the defense was fortunate to have done as well as they did. The only bright spot was that the Germans refrained from using airborne forces to take Cyprus which was defended by just one brigade. Things are put in perspective when you realize that in the Atlantic, from 23 to 27 May 1941 and had sunk the battle cruiser Hood had damaged the battleship Prince of Wales on 24 May. It was not that the commanders were without distractions. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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