Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Retimo and Heraklion on the first day or so

The attacks on Retimo and Keraklon (on Crete) came later in the day on 20 May 1941. At Retimo, the attackers were paratroops. They were countered and most were beaten, but one group held a ridge that commanded the airfield from the southeast. In the vicinity of Heraklion, paratroops that landed in the defended areas were beaten, although there were snipers still at work by the end of the day. The town of Heraklion was being disputed by the end of the day. There was fighting in progress there between the attackers and defenders. The quality of communications was so poor, that General Freyberg was uninformed about the status at Retimo and Heraklion. The General reported to his superiors that he thought that Retimo and Heraklion were still in British hands. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The battle for Crete was really lost on the second day

Informed opinion says that the battle for Crete was lost on the second day, 21 May 1941. By then, the Germans had secured the airfield at Maleme, west of Suda Bay. Having the airfield allowed the Germans to fly in the mountain troops from the 5th Mountain Division. The mountain troops overwhelmed the defenders and ultimately captured Crete. The original German plan may have been to bring the mountain troops in by sea, but the Royal Navy had maintained control of the seas around Crete, although at great cost, so that the mountain troops arrived by Ju-52 transport aircraft at Maleme. Maleme had been a problem since the first day, when the New Zealand battalion designated to protect Maleme had collapsed. The battalion commander, Colonel Andrew, was a Victoria Cross recipient from the Great War, but that did not guarantee success. The remnants of the 22nd Battalion straggled away from the Maleme area leaving the Germans in possession of the landing field. The 21st and 23rd battalions had done better and were left to oppose the Germans.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Near Canea and Suda Bay

On 20 May 1941, some anti-aircraft guns south of Canea were captured by the Germans who landed nearby. The 1/Rangers and some carriere from the 1/Welch were eventually reinforced with two platoons of Royal Marines and some Greek troops from the 2nd Regiment. They were able to recaptured the guns. By late on 20 May, only small groups of Germans were left near Suda Bay and Canea. By late afternoon, reinforcements arrived from Georgioupolis, in the form of the 2/8th Battalion (presumably Australians). They were in line west of Mournies with the Composite Battalion, the 2/2nd Field Regiment, and the 2nd Greek Regiment. Further west, the Greeks were holding the harbor at Kastelli. During the attack, Germans landed nearby and were attacked by the Greek unit. The Greeks were largely successful with only one small German group resisting. A New Zealand platoon that was nearby captured the remaining Germans. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Suda Bay on 20 May 1941

The New Zealand Division was located west of Suda Bay. General Weston commanded the force at Canea and Suda Bay. German paratroops had landed in the wooded area near Perivolia and were dealt with by the Composite Battalion, which had a strength of some 700 men. Paratroops actually landed in the area where the King of Greece was staying, but the New Zealanders and some armed Cretan men were able to extricate the King and keep him safe. He evacuated to the nearby hills. A glider attack had been mounted on the Akrotiri peninsula, but of the 15 gliders released over the sea, only 11 made the land. Some of the 11 were shot down, but most landed. The Northumberland Hussars were able to deal with the glider-borne troops. More gliders landed near some anti-aircraft guns south of Canea. The Germans captured the guns and gunners, but were surrounded by men from the 1/Rangers and carriers from the 1/Welch. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Late on 20 May 1941 on Crete

When they heard on late 20 May 1931 that the Germans were clearing a landing ground near the prison, Colonel Kippenberger suggested to the division commander that they attack the prison area and recapture it. In the event, the attack happened at about 7:15pm. The attack was mounted by the 19th Battalion with three light tanks from the 3rd Hussars. By 8:30pm, they were within 1400 yards from the prison, on the north. Because of the darkness, the tank commander thought that they should stop for the night. The troops formed a surrounding perimeter around the tanks. By morning, the attackers withdrew. Only after the attack was Colonel Kippenberger given command of the 19th Battalion. They thought that the attack failed by being too late in the day and without adequate command from the senior commander in the area. By the night of 20 May, the Germans were left in possession of the airfield at Maleme, although it was under fire from the nearby artillery. The Germans also held the slopes near the prison and the reservoir and would be difficult to dislodge. This force threatened to break the New Zealand Division in two parts. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Command on 20 May 1941 on Crete suffered from poor communications

The British army, in early 1941, suffered from unreliable radio communications. To compensate, they tended to rely on landlines. On 20 May 1941, wire line communications were disrupted by the German attack. That left General Freyberg and his commanders without adequate ability to communicate. We suspect that early during the German attack on Crete, the British were dependent on messengers, as that was all that they had left. Despite the communication situation, General Freyberg had learned enough to understand that the Maleme area was "the danger point". He ordered two battalions of the 4th Brigade to be put under the division commander's control. He also wanted to give him the entire reserve for use at Maleme. Brigadier Puttick, the division commander, was receiving "cheerful and confident" reports from the 5th Brigade, thought that he needed to keep the reserves to use against the expected attack by troops brought in by ship. By afternoon, he decided to attack the prison area, despite the fact that it was late in the day. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Galatas area on 20 to 21 May 1941

During the initial German attack on Crete on 20 May 1941, the 6th Greek Regiment quickly ran out of ammunition, with the remnants falling back towards Galatas. Captain Forrester, the British liaison officer, was able to rally some of the troops and linked up with the 19th Battalion and the Composite Battalion. The German attack was heading up the road by the prison and Galatas at 4pm. The defense held and the attack was repulsed for the moment. At the same time, the cavalry had arrived at Galatas. They had been out of touch, north of the reservoir. The cavalry was positioned to support the Greeks to the east, near Galatas, and were connected to the petrol company and the 19th Battalion. The 8th Greek Regiment was fighting, but was isolated. They heard that the Germans at the prison were making a landing field. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The rest of Crete on 20 May 1941

A strong German paratroop and glider force had landed in the area protected by the 10th New Zealand Brigade. They were at Galatas, Alikianon, and the Aghya prison. About 1500 Germans had landed. Colonel Kippenberger went to the small house that he planned to use as a headquarters and found a German sniper, whom he killed. The 6th Greek Regiment quickly ran out of ammunition and was useless as a unit. A British officer was able to rally 400 of them who had fallen back towards Galatas. One bright spot was that the Germans at Galatas were captured by midday on 20 May 1941. By late in the day, the Germans were thought to be in control by the prison and were clearing an landing area to bring in more troops. In the 4th Brigade area, the hospital had been captured by the Germans, but was retaken. The 4th Brigade area included the New Zealand Division headquarters. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, February 04, 2013

At dawn on 21 May 1941 on Crete

The 5th New Zealand Brigade was in a good position at the beginning of the second day of the German attack on Crete on 21 May 1941. They had four battalions, of which only the 22nd Battalion had been disrupted. The NZE Detachment (New Zealand Engineers) was sitting to the east of the others. They had the 27th Battery, which was also partly in the territory of the 21st and 23rd Battalions. The 27th Battalion had a mixture of nine pieces, including two 3.7in Mountain Guns, three Italian 75mm and four classic French 75mm guns. The guns had survived the parachute drop, as did the NZE and the 28th (Maori) Battalion. The Maoris also cleaned out a group of Germans that were in a mill in front of the NZE Detachment. The Germans maintained air superiority over the brigade, however, and could hit the troops by air. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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