Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The New Zealand Division in late April 1941

The New Zealand Division was withdrawn from Greece in late April 1941. The division commander, the famous General Bernard Freyberg was instrumental in supervising the withdrawal of many of the troops from Greece. The division was split during the withdrawal. The 4th and 5th New Zealand Brigades were withdrawn to the island of Crete between 24 and 27 April 1941. The 6th Brigade was withdrawn to Egypt on 28 and 29 April. On 31 April, General Freyberg was appointed to command the force on Crete, dubbed "Creforce". About 1,850 New Zealanders were left behind and were taken prisoner by the Germans. Some of the personnel taken were sick and wounded, along with staff from the 1st NZ General Hospital. There were six New Zealand medical officers and 92 orderlies. The hospital had been ignored by General Wilson's staff during the withdrawal and were "put in the bag". Given the disorganization experienced in the last few days, as Wilson's staff were overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation, the capture of the hospital is not surprising. General Wilson and his staff were put in the position of having to perform above their level of experience. The Commonwealth officers and staff were much more experienced, even if from the Great War, and could have done a more creditable job.

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