Thursday, October 31, 2013

The attack on Perivolia early on 28 May 1941

One company, commanded by Captain Jackson, commenced their move on Perivolia at 3:20am on 28 May 1941. They had moved forward some 400 years when the Greeks had opened fire on the church. The Australians came under heavy fire. They pushed onwards anyway and reached the crossroads. They pushed further into the wadi in the direction of the sea. Wood's company took heavy fire from grenades and mortars. Wood was wounded as were his two platoon commanders. Wood was mortally wounded, but told Lt. Scott to fire two Very lights. This was the signal that they were withdrawing. The two companies that lay just east of Perivolia started receiving machine gun fire. They were able to withdraw before daylight, but Wood's company only had 43 men left. Jackson did not see the signal and thought that it was too late to withdraw before light. He decided to take some houses just west of the crossroads in Perivolia and wait until darkness to withdraw. Sandover, the battalion commander, guessed that Jackson and his men would attempt to leave Perivolia once it was dark. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Knocked out tanks at Retimo airfield

The two tanks had been moving forward at dawn o9n 27 May 1941. They were both commanded by Ausralian infantry officers. Lt. Lawry's tank on the left was the one hit by a shell and set on fire. Lawry and one of his crew managed to escape the tank, although they had wounds and burns. The other crew, where Bedell had lost fingers due to a mortar bomb hit, stayed in the tank until darkness fell. Honner had decided that without the tanks, he should not attack Perivolia. What changed his mind was that he was missing Robert's platoon. The platoon was either in trouble or had succeeded in breaking into Perivolia. In either case, Honner decided to attack, knowing that there would be losses. There were, and they ended up going in with a Red Cross flag to get the wounded out. Most were killed, it turned out. Campbell decided that the 2/11th should attack Perivolia in the dark. They immediately had a problem when the Greeks started shooting at St. George's church. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Campbell's tanks: 24 May to 27 May 1941 at Retimo airfield

As we saw, Lt-Col. Campbell's troops had been able to recover the two lost tanks by 24 May 1941, after securing Hill A and the ground stretching north to the beach. Lt. Mason drove the tank east to the Olive Oil Factory and then past to a house which the Germans had occupied. Eventually, at 9 O'Clock on 26 May, the Australians used the tank to help capture the Olive Oil Factory. They took 80 Germans prisoner, 40 wounded and 40 unwounded. They now had 500 German prisoners. The attack to the west towards Perivolia was strongly resisted and the tank used there had its turret jammed. By late on 26 May, they had repaired the second tank. Campbell provided the tank to Sandover to support a planned attack towards Perivolia at dawn on 27 May. When the attack started, one tank was hit and set on fire. The other fired on some Australians who had gotten farther than expected and caused some casualties. The remaining tank then moved forward and hit a mine that broke the track, stopping the tank. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More action near the Retimo airfield on 23 May 1941

When the Greeks had promised to take the Church of St. George in Perivolia, the Australians had used a captured German anti-tank gun (presumably, a 37mm) to shell the churchyard. They succeeded in forcing the Germans from the church, but the Greeks did not follow up with an attack. During the afternoon, the Australians were attacked by some 50 aircraft. The Germans from Perivolia had planned and carried out an attack right at sunset on the Australians. They were driven off by the forward Australian troops who stood up and fired with good effect on the attackers. They had heard about the Rangers being headed for Retimo, but they did not appear. In any case, when the Australians were able to recapture Hill A and the surrounding area, they were able to recover the two tanks, which proved to be in running condition. The carrier crewmen found them and figured out how to drive them. They had plans for the next day on 24 May 1941. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

23 May 1941 at Retimo

On 23 May 1941, the Australians captured the German medical aid post and the personnel. After that, the Australian and German medical staff treated everyone. A truce was declared so that the wounded could be recovered and treated from the area between Hill A and the Olive Oil Factory. It was towards the end of the period that a blind-folded German officer appeared who demanded that they surrender, since everywhere else, the Germans were winning. Lt-Col. Campbell had the artillery reply by firing some of their few artillery shells on the factory after the truce ended. The Greeks had promised to capture the Church of St. George, but did not follow through. The two western Australian companies were bombed by German aircraft apparently requested by the Germans in Perivolia. Honner's company and the mortar platoon took the most casualties. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, October 21, 2013

On the left end of the position at Retimo air field on 22 May 1941

Sandover's battalion, the 2/11th, benefited a number of times from Sandover's ability to read and speak German. On 22 May 1941, Captain Honner was able to call in German bombers to hit the village of Perivolia that was occupied by German paratroops. During the precious night, the Germans that had been in the rear of the battalion withdrew. In the afternoon, Captain Honner's company was able to advance and capture some of the houses that had been held by Germans. The company stopped at the point where the land slowed down and would have exposed the men to German fire. Perivolia was a strong position due to the many stone buildings, including the church and walled yard for the Church of St. George. Captain Jackson's company of the 2/11th was to advance in support of Honner's company. Honner was concerned that they might accidentally encounter Greek forces again in the night. He decided that the two companies would stand where they were and dig in. During the night, they heard gunfire and other noise from near Perivolia. The Greeks had apparently attacked, taken some prisoners, and then had withdrawn. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

At the Olive Oil Factory east of Retimo airfield on 22 May 1941

The forty Australians who had moved up a wadi to be close to the Olive Oil Factory east of the Retimo airfield were supposed to have support from Greek troops. The plan was that 200 Greek troops would move up another wadi to be close to the factory. The Greeks did not arrive, but the forty Australians, led by Captain Mann, made a desperate charge at the factory. They took many casualties, including Mann, who had been previously wounded at Bardia during the victory over the Italians. With Lt-Col. Campbell right there, directing operations, he told the Australians to wait for the Greeks. There were further communication, after Lt-Col. Campbell realized how badly the attack had gone, told them to hold off any further action. After dark, the Australians were able to pull back from the position near the factory. Lt-Col. Campbell ordered the remains of his two companies to withdraw back to their positions above the airfield. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The plan for the Retimo area on 22 May 1941

Lt-Col. Campbell's plan for 22 May 1941 near the Retimo airfield was to attack the two strong groups of German paratroops. One was located in the east by the Olive Oil Factory and by the road to Heraklion. The other, in the west, was near Perivolia and the road to Suda Bay. The two Australian battalions would attack. The 2/11th would attack to the west and two companies of the 2/1st would attack to the east. The eastern attack included Greeks moving up from the south. The Olive Oil Factory had buildings with thick walls, so it made a strong defensive position. Campbell had ordered an attack at 10am, but the officers for the attacking company were killed or wounded, so the attack never happened. Lt-Col. Campbell planned another attack on the factory at 6pm. Some 200 Greeks would go through a wadi, under cover while 40 Australians would crawl through another wadi. As Campbell watched, the Greeks did not move and the Australians took heavy losses. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The situation near the airfield at Retimo from the evening of 21 May to morning of 22 May 1941

As we saw, the German commander at the Retimo airfield had been captured by the Australians of the 2/11th Battalion. The German plan had been to drop one battalion of paratroops east and one west of the airfield at Retimo. By mistake two companies that were intended to be dropped west of Hill B were dropped east of Hill A. Greek battalions were sent to the west and east ends of the airfield. Major Ford was the liaison officer with the battalion that had moved to the ridge south of Perivolia by late on 21 May 1941. There was a large group of Germans near Perivolia that were only partly contained by the Australians on Hill B and the Greens to the south. There was also a group of 800 Cretan police at Retimo that had taken the town and blocked the road to Perivolia. There were two strong German groups left that needed attention. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Germans on the prowl after Hill A at Retimo airfield was recaptured

After the successful recapture of Hill A overlooking the Retimo airfield on the morning of 21 May 1941, there were only small groups of German paratroops left in the area between Hill A and Perivolia. Those small groups often caused trouble, however. One group of Germans captured everyone at a dressing station at Adhele. They started off towards the 2/11th Battalion position, but were captured by a force of West Australians, who set the prisoners free. Two of the Germans in this case were killed while changing into Greek uniforms. Another group had taken Lt. Willmott. Lt. Willmott had been sent by Lt-Col. Campbell to help motivate the Greeks to action. He was released when the group ran into the "engineers and transports sections". In the cleanup after the initial attack, the Australians had captured Colonel Sturm, the commander of the attacking paratroopers. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Early on 21 May 1941 at the Retimo airfield

At dawn on 21 May 1941, Captain Channell led his company in an attack on Hill A overlooking the Retimo airfield on Crete. To the Australians, it seemed like the Germans had planned a simultaneous attack. The Germans let loose an barrage of mortar fire on the Australian company. Channell and his lieutenant were both wounded in the attack and their company was pushed back just on the western side on the hill neck. A company from Hill D arrived to support the attack. They quickly found out that the attack had failed. The company commander, Captain Moriarity, called Lt-Col. Campbell for help. Campbell brought a company through a route that kept them under cover across a wadi, and joined Moriarity. Captain Moriarity organized his new force into four groups and led an attack northwards that "succeeded brilliantly". Some of the Germans escaped to the beach and sheltered there. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The night of 20/21 May 1941 and the morning of 21 May at Retimo airfield

We need remember that Lt-Col. Campbell, the commander at the Retimo airfield, was a very new battalion commander who now commanded a brigade-sized force at the Retimo airfield. He had almost no staff, because he did not want to take officers from the fighting units. By the first evening of the attack on Crete, Campbell was left with no information about what was happening elsewhere on Crete. This was largely due to the abysmal British communications equipment and the scarcity of what they had. Campbell had sent a wireless message to General Freyberg asking for reinforcements. He also planned attacks in the morning at Hill A and to clear the enemy from the low ground near the sea. He planned attacks with the Australian battalions paired with Greek battalions. The Greek battalions had officers with them to help. In one case, it was the Australian Major Hooper and the other case a Welch Regiment officer. During the night, the Germans tried to overrun the remaining Australians. This was when they captured the crews of the two stranded tanks near the airfield. Only one section, commanded by Corporal Johnston, was still holding out on Hill A. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The 2/11th on Hill B at Retimo

Sandover had commanded the 2/11th Battalion since Greece as a Major. He organized the defense of Hill B overlooking the Retimo airfield. There were Germans along the lower side of Hill B, outside the wire, that Sandover hoped to be able to deal with, but when night came, that became more difficult. Prior to darkness falling, the Australians had done well killing or capturing Germans. They were forced to quit when in the dark, the Germans were able to ambush the Australian patrols. They took 84 Germans prisoner. Sandover spoke German, so he talked with the prisoners and examined their documents. In the morning, he put out the signal asking for mortar bombs to be dropped which a German aircraft obligingly did. Not only did they take the prisoners, but they also collected a good number of weapons, which were needed. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The next events at Retimo on 20 May 1941

The Germans on Hill A anticipated an effort to push them off the hill, and they pressed the remaining Australians. They also captured the crews of the two Matilda tanks, which were from the 7th RTR. On the left, they had effectively dealt with all the paratroops which fell near their area. The 2/1th and 4th Greek Battalions were still in control of their area. The wired area controlled by the 2/11th Battalion on Hill B was also able to kill or capture all the paratroops who descended. There were 500 paratroops that were able to concentrate and move on Perivolia. The 2/11th tried to push north to clear the low area. Once night fell, the Germans were able to put any stop to Australian activity. The 2/11th pulled its men back into their wired area, once they realized that they would not be able to make progress in the darkness. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Amazon Ad