Wednesday, October 05, 2022

The second day of the attack

 The 5th New Zealand Brigade had four battalions. The 22nd Battalion had been in the "most important ground". The 22nd Battalion had taken serious losses and had mostly withdrawn. There were ony small groups of men left near the air field. At this point, the entire brigade had not launched a counter-attack, Because of the numbers of German aircraft overhead and because of unreliable communications, meant that it was not possible to organize a counter-attack. 

 To the east, the 10th Brigade, commanded by Colonel howard Kippenberger was defending a wide front. That front reached into the foothills that were to the west of Canae. The Composite Battalion defended an area extending from the coast to the foothills. They were protecting a line that was some 3,200 yards wide. In the south were the 6th and 8th Greek Regiments. With them were the New Zealand Division Cavalry, although the were reduced to fighting as infantry. The Greek regiments and the cavalry reached quite far into the foothills in the south-west. the Composite Battalion were al gunners and drivers that were not trained as infantry, although the needed to do as best they could. the 2,400 Greeks soldiers were raw recruits not well-armed and lacked training. 

This is based on the account in Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Checking on the 22nd Battalion

 When the 23rd Battalion tried to "get in touch with" the 22nd Battalion, they were unsuccessful. Two companies were sent to help the 22nd Battalion, One comany was sent from the 23rd Battalion and another was sent from the 28th (Maori) Battalion. The Maori company had a fight with some Germans and killed about thirty. The 23rd Battalion provided cover for the22nd Battalion  The Maori company found where the 22nd Battalion headquarters has been located, although it had been abandoned. When the Maori company pulled back, they encountered the remains of one 22nd Battalion companies with Lt-Col. Andrew. The time was about 2am. 

The 21st Battalion had been given some options. They could replace the 23rd Battalion if that battalion tried to help the 22nd Battalion. They could also just hold theie ground, which is what their commander decided to do. Allen sent men to clear Xamoudhokhori and Vlakheronitissa. They clearedthe first but the second was too strong. 

New Zealand engineers were grouped into an improvised infantry unit, the N.Z.E. detachment. There was also an improvised artillery unit, the 27th Battery. They had "two English" 3.7in howitzers, three Italian 75mm guns. and four French 75mm guns. Para troops who landed near the engineers and the guns "were mopped up".

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

More action as the fight at Maleme progressed

 Lt-Col Andrew, the 22nd Battalion commander, had been awarded a Victoria's Cross in 1917. had two infantry tanks available and decided to use them. on one tank, the crew found that he gun did not work. The second tank drove to the "river flat" where the crew abandoned the tank. 

At 9pm, the Germans had some control of the western edge of the airfield as well as an another area. They also had taken hill 107 that overlooked the airfield. At this point, Lt-Col Andrew decided to withdraw the 22nd Battalion to the rear company. They would be located to the east of two ridges. By doing this, the 22nd Battalion was evacuating from a strip of land that was about a thousand yards wide "east of the Tavronitis". By dawn the next day, the remnants of the 22nd Battalion along with gunners and air force personnel were in groups moving to the east. 

East of the 22nd Battalion was the 23rd Battalion. They looked down on the main road. The 21st Battalion looked down on the 23rd Battalion. Gliders and para troops had landed in the 23rd Battalion, but they "were soon killed or dispersed". They estimated that they had killed some 400 Germans in the air or on the ground. They continued to control their area and their machine guns and mortars were firing at the beaches and the east side of the airfield.

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, September 26, 2022

More of the 22nd Battalion fight

 Part of a rifle company from the 22nd Battalion was in place, defending the airfield at Maleme. The platoon on the far left. They had to hold a line that was 1,400 yards long. fourteen German gliders landed on that line followed by German Para troops.  The anti-aircraft gun crews were overcome. The platoon fought on until the middle of the afternoon. By dusk, the platoon commander was wounded as were the last of his men. The survivors were captured. 

The other units in the 22nd Battalion were holding on "at the eastern side of the airfield and the slopes on the south side of the main road". The main road was on the south side of the airfield. There were small enemy groups between, to companies and between the 22nd Battalion and the 21st Battalion. 

Paratroops had landed at Pirgos. They were "in the streets and on the flat roofs". The paratroops were not doing well. The men i the first to arrive were shot before they landed. THe second group suffered the same fate. There were only small groups of Para troops in the open drains and in the vineyards, trying to combine with others so thy could get organized. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The 22nd Battalion fight

 Some o the paratroops were to the southwest of Pirgos. The seem to have overrun a platoon of the headquarters company. The real concern was men who had landed out of the battalion, but that was all. 

A few had landed in the 22nd Battalion. They stopped runners involved in communications. 

The west riverbank was the center of the landing. About six gliders as well as twenty paratroops landed in Campbell's company. Most in the gliders were killed. The Germans who were on the west river bank crossed the bridge over the river. They went into the RAF "offices and camp." British non-combatants had to pull back towards the 22nd Battalion headquarters. 

Men from Campbell's right platoon were forced to fall back. That caused a gap to open between Campbell's company and Johnson's company. Campbell's men managed to hold. When Campbell realized that the battalion headquarters had withdrawn, he decided that he should also withdraw.The withdrawal started at 3am. The platoons moved separately. One platoon that was moving alongside the river ended up being captured. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

19 and 20 May 1941 on Crete

 British fighter strength on Crete was disappearing by 19 May 1941. That was when the enemy started the attack on Crete. A larger than normal number of German fighters and bombers hit the Suda Bay and Malema area. The airfield at Maleme was bombed, as was Canea and the anti-aircraft guns. They succeeded in destroying many anti-aircraft guns. Freyberg was observing the action and could hear transport aircraft and could see them flying in from the sea.

After the bombing had stopped, some 75 gliders were seen to have landed. Of these, perhaps 45 were to the west of the airfield. There were actually small groups of gliders. They were south and east of the airfield and were scattered between Suda and Maleme.

One effect of the bombing was that al signal wires fro the New Zealand Division headquarters were broken. The lines to Freyberg's headquarters were only repaired by 11am. The 22nd New Zealand Battalion was located at the air field. If the Germans could take the airfield, they would be able to land transport aircraft with soldiers.  Some 400 to 600 paratroops landed near the 22nd Battalion. There were also some gliders in the area defended by the battalion.

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Ready for the attack on Crete

 Heavy bombing of Crete defenses commenced on 13 May 1941. Every night, British fighters flew to the airfield at Retimo to escape bombing of Maleme and Heraklion. British intelligence warned of an attack on Crete on 17, 18, or 19th May. There could be 25,000 to 35,000 by air and some ten thousand by sea. It was expected that the Germans would try to take Maleme, Canea, the valley to the south, and Retimo. It was thought that the initial strike would include one hundred bombers an fighters followed by 600 aircraft "dropping waves of paratroops. 

All the soldiers on the island were ready for the invasion, but the ant-aircraft guns were in almsot constant action. The aircraft were concentrating on the ships in Suda Bay. Starting on 19 May, guns fired an umbrella of exploding shells over the pier where cargo was being unloaded. That plan was effective in protecting ships and the jetty. 

The fact was that there were not enough guns to protect against heavy air attack. Retimo had no anti-aircraft guns. Heraklion had 4-3in guns and ten Bofors 40mm guns "initially". fortunately, up to 20 May, only 6 gunners were killed and 11 were wounded. All guns damaged up to 20 May were repairable.

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Retimo sector in May 1941

 The Australian Brigadier Vasey commanded the force defending Retimo. The priority was to protect the harbor nd the airfield. He also needed to prevent the Germans from landing in Georgioupolis Bay. This was some seven miles to the west. There were two Australian battalions at Retimo. Two more Australian battalions were at  Georgioupolis Bay. Heralion was defended by a larger force. The force consisted of four British battalions, one Australian battalion, along with three Greek battalions. 

Maleme had the New Zealand Division with Brigadier 

Puttick. That included the 5th Brigade with 3,156 soldiers. There was also the 10th Brigade. The 10th Brigade had 1,989 New Zealand soldiers, 2,498 Greek soldiers along with a group of 36 New Zealand soldiers. The New Zealand 20th Battalion was nominally in the 10th Brigade, but wasactually controlled by the New Zealand Division. They had 10-75mm guns and 6-3.7in howitzers along with two infantry tanks and ten light tanks. 

The 4th New Zealand Brigade was the "Force Reserve". They had 1,563 soldiers.

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

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