Thursday, April 27, 2023

The terrain at Retimo

 The area near Retimo  had olive trees with many leaves. This gave the defenders good cover. The sides of the hills were terraced with the steps being as high as 20 feet, Someone higher up would notbe able to see men "moving around". The 2/1st Battalion had arrived at Retimo on 30 April. The took the place of Greek soldiers, More British soldiers arrived over time. On 19 May, the defense of Retimo was equivalent to a brigade group. The Australians were equipped with "small arms" but they were short of ammunition. They had about five rounds per anti-tank rifle and some 80 mortar bombs per 3-inch mortars. Tthe Vickers machine guns were limied o 16-belts of ammunition per machine gun. Uniforms and boots wee showing wear. There were no anti-aircdaft guns at Retimo. They also lacked armor-piercing ammunition for small arms.

The 2/1st Battalion had but three telephones and some cable that the gunners had brought to Retimo. The 2/11th Battalion had a telephone for each company but little cable. Communication relied on runners. They had about ten days of food. The 2/11th Battalion relied on goats milk from goats they had hired. . The men were Weat Australians. so they were apparently used to living that way and kept goats in their positions. The also bought "pigs, vegetables, and goat's milk from nearby farms and villages, 

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Defending Retimo from 19 May

 Retimo had an airfield. Retimo was a town of some ten thousand population. The airfield was about five miles to the east and ran along the beach. behid the air field was a ridge that varied from 100 to 200 feet. 

Lt. Col. Ian Campbell had been appointed the commander of the soldiers defending Retimo. What the Australians had named "Hill A" ran from the ridge to within 100 yards from the sea. "From one thousand yards east of Hill A lay "a small village named Stavromenos". Stavromenos was home to an olive oil factory with a tall chimney. Between the ridge and the mountains was a valley. The valley had the villages Pigi and Adhele. To the west, the ridge ended at the village Platanes. To the east, the ridge joined the mountains. At Platanes, the roaqd that ran from Kirianna through Adhele connected to the coast road. 

On the south, Hill D overlooked the air field. Hill D lay "between the Wadi Bardia on the east and the Wadi Pigi on the west. The ridge continued on from the Wadi Pigi and another wadi, the Wadi Adhele. Hill B was past the Wadi Adhele. Hill B was wider at the west and overlooked Platanes. 

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

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Continued German action on 27 May

 A German soldier climed that ever German wounded soldier ha]d been killed by being shot or stabbed. There was a report that some German dead had been stabbed or had "broken skulls". A German officer had reported not seeing any Australian or New Zealand soldiers that had been stabbed or hit in the head by a rifle butt. 

Lt-Col. Walker wrote about this incident in 1952. He said tat the Germans had a large number of "automatic weapons forward.".These were overrun and captured and used against the Germans.  There had been a wall that been rushed by Germans who were not able to climb the wall, but they were running away and did not surrender. Col. Walker thought that could be an explanation.

There was "close fighting in the olive trees". Any machine gun fire would be fatal as would bayonet wounds. The New Zealanders only captured three German soldiers. You would imagine that many wounded Germans escaped to the German lines. Cpl. Walker said that no wounded German soldiers or unwounded Germans trying to surrender were shot. 

At 10am on 27 May, the 3rd Parachute Regiment had reached the "wireless station". The entered Canea at 2pm, along with 100th Mountain Regiment, along with Ramcke's unit. They captured some 40 guns and a thousand prisoners.

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

German plans on 27 May

 General Ringel lntended to keep trying to surround Canea. After that, they would push east towards Retimo. There wee now five German columns moving East. One column that was the furthest south was moving towards the Ayia Marina. Tis was to the south of 42nd Street. The 141t Mountain Regiment was the next column to the north. North of that was the 3rd Parachute Regiment. North of that was the 100th Mountain Regiment. Finally, on the coast, was Ramcke's group. 

The 141t Mountain Regiment "had fought the 19th Brigade in Greece", which had been acting as a rearguard. This was at Brallos. in Greece. They were also the unit which had been engaged at 42nd Street. At 6:45am, they were ordered to move to "the head of Suda Bay". The idea was to block the British retreat. J Battalion had been at the front. After 11am, the commander had the impression that the lead battalion had been scattered by a counter-attack. The  commander ordered the following battalion to stop. 

The 1st Battalion commander came to the regiment headquarters and reported that had been surprised by British soldiers some 2.5km west of the village at Suda. WThis was in a rather thick olive area. The Germans had run into a minefield and had taken casualties.The British were close to surrounding the battalion.He ordered the German soldiers to pull back.

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

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Freyberg reacts to advice from Cairo

 Freyberg sent a message to Wavell about the real situation. He informed Wavell that Retimo was almost out of food. Retimo was almost out of ammunition. They had lost all the guns from Suda and Maleme because they had no gun tractors. They desperately needed food. Freyberg asked food to be sent to Sfakia at once. They needed to send the fighting force to Sfakia so it could be withdrawn. The Greek army commander sent a message to Freyberg saying that the Greek army was starting to "disintegrate". 

In the afternoon, Wavell ordered Freyberg to "abandon Crete". That morning, Wavell had asked the commanders in London for guidance, but had not received any by 3:50pm. At that point, Wavell tld Freyberg to leave Crete. Some hours later, the commanders in London agreed with that plan. Colonel Campbell at Retimo was without ciphers, and an alternate plan failed. They were forced to ask Cairo to have a plane drop the message to Campbell. 

Freyberg moved his headquarters to Sfakia. He only learned later that his attempts to communicate had failed.

From another source, we were under the impression that Freyberg was exhausted after leaving Greece, but he seems to have done well as was possible in Crete. 

The Germans were having a lot of success on 26 and 27 May. The Assault Regiment reached a point about 2 km to the west of Canea. The 100th Mountain Regiment captured Karatsos while the 3rd Parachute Regiment captured Perivolia. The Germans flew in reinforcements to replace some of their losses.

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The move to the south a retreat or a rout

 General Freyberg described the situation. There were units of soldiers that stayed to gether and marched with their guns. They were from composite groups that withdrawn from the line. Mostly it was a mass movement of men not organized imto units. They dominated the ruad and slowly moved to the south. 

There were thousands of unarmed soldiers on the road to the south. They were very diverse, as there were Cypriots and Palestinians. There were no leaders and they were without discipline. They largely were untrained as soldiers. Men had heard Sfakia mentioned and that gave them direction. Lt. Stephanides later wrote that he was aware that they were part of a retreat. He thought that it bordered on a rout. Soldiers moved quickly along the road. Many soldiers had dropped their rifles. The road and ditches had items abandoned by their owners. You would occasionally see officers valises and open suit cases.

Someone Cairo replied to Freyberg's pessimistic message from 26 May. Yhe reply said that General Evetts would arrive to function as a liaison officer. Te reply suggested that force from Suda and Maleme should travel to Retimo with the aim of holding the eastern end of Crete.

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

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Continuing events on 27 and 28 May

 During the 27th, Hargest and Vasey had met with one of Laycock's battalion commanders, as we had already said. That was when Hargest and Vasey had decided to move toNeo Khorion during the night. They hoped that the commandos of Layorce would cover them. They decided to send the 5th New Zealand Brigade to Stilos. They would send the Australian 19th Brigade to Neo Khorion, alon with the 2/8th Battalion to occupy the road junction at Kalives with the 2/7th Battalion in contact with the New Zealand force at Stilos. At the 42nd Street, the rearguard was supposed to pull out and start the march to Stilos. At 9pm, it was light,so they waited until 10pm. The lead soldiers had marched the 14 miles to arrive at Stilos. They reached Stilos at 3:30am on May 28th. 

Weston ordered Laycock and his D Battalion to the Babali Innin the south. They would function as a rearguard. Laycock had only recently landed. added two infantry tanks along with three carriers. 

It seems that General Weston had traveled south to see the route that they would use to withdraw. Weston had tried to turn back, but the route was crowded by vehicles, soldiers, and civilians moving along the road towards the mountains at Sfakia.

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

Monday, April 03, 2023

More charges on 27 May

 The Maori's, along with the 19th and 21st Battalions, charged the Germans as had the Australians. The New Zealand charge went for about 699 yards. The Germans ran when faced with the charge. The Maoris saw about 80 German dead. Tghe Australians counted some 200 German dead and they had captured three Germans. The Australian 2/7th Battalion had ten men killed and 28 men wounded. That was from the charging. 14 Maori's had been hit in the charge. 

The Australians were stopped because of the scarcity of cover from air attack. Lt. Bolton brought a Vickers machine gun forward. He fired on the retreating Germans and caused casualties. The Germans did not attack on the 27th. In the afternoon, the Germans were close by along the whole front. DCuring the 27th, they could see Germans around the hills in the south. They were effectively encircling the Australian ans New Zealand soldiers. 

Weston was nominally in command of the rearguard, but no one had any communication with him. May, they were in contact with a battalion commander from Laycock's group. Weston had ordered him to sit on the road to Sfakia. After hearing that, Hargest and  Vasey decided to move to Neo Khorion. That was south of Stilos. 

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

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