Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Friday, July 27, 2012
About three weeks separated the end of the Greek Campaign and the German invasion of Crete. New Zealanders played an important role in the latter battle. They also took losses there. 671 New Zealanders were killed in the battle and over 2,000 were taken prisoner at the end. New Zealand losses in Crete were much greater than their losses in Greece. They had lost not quite 300 killed and about 1,800 captured at the end in Greece. A New Zealander who had been evacuated from Greece, General Freyberg, commanded the Allied troops on Crete, replacing a British officer who had commanded the defenders prior to the end of the battle in Greece. He commanded a force of some 42,000 troops. Of these, about 7,700 were from the New Zealand Division. The men withdrawn from Greece had left their artillery and many other weapons there. The idea was that the weapons would only complicate the withdrawal and not having them would allow more men to be carried by small ships, which were mostly destroyers.
The battle for Crete lasted 12 days and ended with the evacuation of most of the defending British and Commonwealth troops to Egypt. At the beginning of the German attack, the battle looked to be winnable for the British. Command failures allowed the Germans to fly in enough troops to win the battle. The initial attackers were paratroops and glider-borne troops. They were strongly attacked by the defenders and took many losses. We will explore the operations in greater detail, as we proceed through the Australian Official History. This piece draws on the New Zealand history of the operation.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Prior to 30 April 1941, there was already an island commander and British troops on Crete. With the close proximity of Crete to Greece, the island was a natural place to take troops evacuated from Greece. They were transported by sea to Suda Bay, in the northwest corner of Crete. The troops from Greece were practically unarmed, as those who were armed had only their personal weapon and many had been embarked on destroyers and cruisers without any arms.
The string of disasters that started with the battle in Greece, the battle for Crete, and then the disastrous Operation Battleaxe in June 1941 eventually cost General Wavell his job as theater commander. The British had great culpability in the string of disasters, as they had lied to the Australian Prime Minister, saying that General Blamey had approved of the operation and then liked to General Blamey, telling him that the prime minister, Mr. Menzies, knew of the operation and approved of it. This seems to have been the standard operating procedure, and it deserves to be condemned. The CIGS in Britain had opposed the operation and was overruled by Churchill. On story puts the blame for Greece squarely on Churchill. He was said to have ordered Anthony Eden to Greece to make the arrangements, while the Australian Official History tends to blame Anthony Eden and would say that Churchill went along with his young foreign secretary.
As we continue the story, we will shift the focus to Crete, where even before the end of operations in Greece, Hitler had ordered that Crete be taken. He gave the order, apparently, on 25 April 1941. The battle for Crete was pivotal, as it sold the Allies on the use of airborne troops while it discouraged the Germans from any further airborne invasions.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Saturday, July 14, 2012
British army: 21,880 Palestinian and Cypriot: 4,670 British RAF: 2,217 Australian: 17,125 New Zealand: 16,720The losses were as follows:
Killed Wounded Prisoners British 146 87 6,480 British RAF 110 45 28 Australian 320 494 2,030 New Zealand 291 599 1,614 Palestinian & 36 25 3,806 CypriotThis is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.