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.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Deployment plans for a larger force

 As we might expect, plans were made to defend the island. Near Maleme, they wanted to defend the airfield and the beach, which was quite long. The 5th New Zealand Brigade was positioned to protect Maleme and the beaches, which ere close. The 10th Brigade was set to hold a position that faced to the west and that sat on the"coastal plain". The 4th Brigade wasto the east of Galatas. They needed to be ready to move in whatever direction they were needed. 

To the west was a Greek regiment, the 1st. They had 1,030 recruits, with only 600 rifles, with a weak group of officers. They also had a New Zealand battalion aong with some New Zealand officers and NCO's. There were also 45 police and a good home guard unit with a mixture of weapons including shotguns.

General Weston had the Suda Bay-Canea defense force. They were to protect the harbor and base. To the east of "Duda Point" were some improvised Australian battalions and other improvised units.

They were to guard against paratroops and try to keep them from moving into the town. A group was also positioned on the Akrotiri Peninsula.

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

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Events in April to May 1941 involving Crete

 A ship policy was created as a result of air raids. They would only use fast ships that could arrive at night, unload, and be underway, out of danger by morning. That meant using cruisers and destroyers capable of 30 knot speed. They would arrive, ready to unload, by 11:30pm. They would leave by about 3am. 15 ships were used from 29 April to 20 May. The brought in 15,000 tons of "stores". 8 of the ships were sunk or damaged. This amount was not sufficient to meet the needs, but it was what was possible.

It seemed that holding Crete was not possible in the face if this scale of air attack. As of 19 May, Suda Bay had 13 damaged ships. Aport in the south of Crete would have helped, but the absence of unloading equipment and lack of roads precluded the use of southern ports.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Division was increased. A 10th Brigade was added. Howard Kippenberger was appointed as 10th Brigade commander. Brigadier Inglis became the 4th Brigade commander.

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

Amazon Ad