Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Plans for 26 May on Crete

 Freyberg tpl Puttick that Wesyon would be giving him orders Puttick checked with the Australian Vasey and that was when he decided on the move we already mentioned to move tp the head pf Suda Bay. Puttick had told Weston about this move. The 5th Brigade would be in position on the left side. They would send the 4yh Brigade to Stilos along the road to Sfakia. The orders were given at 10:30. Vasey ordered his men to withdraw. Vasey tol the Greeks and nearby British of the planned moves. 

Freyberg and Weston met twice. That was at 7:30pm and 10:15pm. In the earlier meeting, Weston informed Freyberg that the New Zealand Division would not be able to hold their positions for one more night. Freyberg then ordered the Composite Brigade to relace the New Zealand Division. The Comosite Brigade was told to be ready to move by 8:30pm. Weston gave inaccurate information about the Australians. Hs said that the Australians were pulling back, which was wrong. Freybergordered Vasey to hold avposition in the wadi until nightfall on 27 May. Vasey received thev order too late, He had already ordered a withdrawal. H learned that the New Zealand Division had not been ordered to hold and the division was moving back. Vase decided that his units would be captured if they did not also pull back. 

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Events on 26 May

 The New Zealand Division was to proceed to a position along the creek that was located something like 1.5 miles to the west of Canea. the 21st Battalion group would be on the right side of the line. The center was held by the 19th Battalion. The left end was held by the 28th (Maori) Battalion. They would connect with the 19th Brigade, which was just a battalion and a half. The boundary between brigades would be the Prison Road. The 5th Brigade was on the new line by dawn. By then, yhe men were saidvto be "tired, hungry, and jaded". There were many small groups of stragglers. With men concealed by the olive groves and hiding from air attack, getting organized was nearly impossible. 

There were base unit men moving along the roads from Suda. They were joined by the large numbers of stragglers. By 9:30am, there was a meeting that included Freyberg, senior nval, irf force, and army officers. Freyberg sent Wavell a message indicating that he beloeved had been pressed to the limit of their endurance. Freyberg wrote that the situation was hopeless. He thought that Germans would be firing on Suda Bay as soon as in 24 hours. 

When Weston returned to Canea, he had to leave due to the heavy bombing that Canea was enduring, Plans were made and were being executed to withdraw to the "head" of Suda Bay.

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

Thursday, July 20, 2023

New Zealand fighting on 25 to 26 May

 While the Greeks were doing well against Germans, the New Zealand Division was not doing so well. The Greeks had forced the Utz Group from the area around Aliakianon. The Greeks had also out-fought the mountain regiment commanded by Krakau. General Student landed in Crete on 25 May. Airborne troops took the "heights" to the southwest of Galatas. German mountain troops actually took Galatas. More German units landed at Maleme on 25 May.  

It was 25 May that Puttick informed Freyberg that the Germans had penetrated the line at Galatas. Puttick said that he was trying to form a new line "running north to south" from the right side of the 19th Brigade.  Puttick expressed doubts that he woud be able to "hold" the Germans on 26 May. During the night, a liaison officer to the Greeks told Freyberg that the Greeks could be ready to break. 

At around 1am on 26 May, an order was issued that the New Zealand Division might be ready to withdraw. The division would move to a position along a creek west of Canea by a mile-end-a-half. The 21st Battalion would be on the right with a cavalry detachment., with an engineer company, along with a company from the 21st Battalion. 

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

More action on 25 May

 The 19th Brigade was the next unit on the left of the line. The 19th Brigade was not attacked on 25 May. There had been a plan for the Australian 2/8th Battalion to move forward about a thousand yards, The success of the New Zealand operation meant that the proposed Austrlian move was not needed. Men from the New Zealand 4th and 5th Brigades were mixed into the front line. Both Brigades had taken heavy losses. The men were very tired because the pace of the action had left little time for sleep. As we had mentioned, the constant air attacke wore down the men's spirits. 

Puttick decided that they would benefit by shortening the line. This would involve withdrawing from the area  around Galatas. They would move to a line through Karatsos, the line running north to south "from the right flank of the 19th Brigade". 

Fortunately, the 8th Greek Regiment was holding their position. The New Zealanders did not realize that the Greeks were reinforced by men from the villages. They were holding on against an attack by men from the 85th German Mountain Regiment. The Germans wanted to surround the British forces. The Greeks had also had sucess against German airborne troops. 

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

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Kippenberger's plan on 25 May

 The 23rd Battalion had just reached the critical area. Kippenberger ordered two companies from thc 23rd Battalion to recapture Galatas. The companies would move forward, one om each side of the road. Two light tanks would be in the lead. The tanks drove forward, followed by the infantry, now including groups from other units, The infantry "cheered and shouted". They arrived at the narrow, cobble-stoned area of the tow. They could see traces coming from Galatas, and there were mortar bombs fired as weel. One tank lost a tread, but the other continued forwaed. Some Germans threw grenades feom window in upper stories. The infantry oved forward to the town square. The front tank was disabled while there was an intense hand-to-hand fight in the square, The infntry were firing their rifle and Thompson sub-machine guns "from the hip". It waas the sort of fighting where rifle butts and cayoneta were used.  The Germans were forced back, which stopped their advance decisively.

The 19th Brigade was located on the left. They were not attacked on 25 May.  An advance by the Australian 2/8th Battalion was considered, but this was cancelled after the New Zealand attack had been successful. Even so, the situation still seemed serious. They had increasing casualtes hile the men were very tired. The scale of the German air attacks sapped the men's spirits.

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The situation seems desperate

 Kippenbergersent his brigade major to see Brigadier Inlis. Kippenberger had sent a request for help. &he regimental aid station had almost 200 wounded. Two trucks were busy transporting wounded men to the Advancecd Dressing Station. There were many men with serious wounds. Men were hard-pressed and were abandoning positions without orders. An example was Wheat Hill abandoned without authorization. The abandonment of Wheat Hill left the center company of the 18th Brigade without support so they dropped back.

Suddenly many men were moving to the rear. There signs of paic among the men. Kippenberger walked among the men, asking them to "Stand for New Zealand" and other words of encouragement, as he thought of them. Kippenberger plugged the gaps with the men semt by Inglis. The 4th Brigade Band lined up along a wall. The defensive linev was extended on the right side by the 20th Brigade Pioneers and the Kiwi Concert Party. One company from the 20th Brigade extended the line further to the right. The main part of the 20th Brigade were told to move back and line up with the other groups. 

The 23rd Battalion had just arrived in the area that was threatened. Kippenberger thought that patching the line would not help. They needed to attack the enemy. 

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

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Attack on May 24

 On the morning of May 24, The enemy was gathering in front of the 18th Battalion.  This was on the west side of the New Zealand position. The 18th Battalion was involved in heavy fighting. The company on the right was overrun while the cebyer company was surrounded. Colonel Fray, the battalion commander led a group from his headquarters to try and restore the battalion position, but the German attackers were too strong. 

Brigadier Inglis sent two 20th Battalion companies to help the 18th Battalion. Howard Kippenberger was in charge of the men in the forward area. He ordered the two companies to the right on the ridge next to the Composite Battalion. When they reached their assigned position, the Composite Battalion "was nearly all gone". The two companies managed to stop the Germans from moving through the gap on the right. The Germans were now oushing along the Prison-Galatas Road.

The situation was now seeming very difficult, Kippenberger kept a diary that later used to write about the battle. There were numbers of men leaving the fighting and heading to the rear.

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

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Events on 24 May, including at headquarters

 Freyberg thought that Blamey "must be officiating", based on the last communication Freyberg had received. Blamey had shown in Greece that he was more capable than you might have thought, based on his "resume". Freyberg described the communication as "clear and direct".  Headquarters was working to help the forces in Crete. Freyberg heard that the Rangers had failed to clear the road. He also learned that German paratroops had landed "west of Heraklion" and blocked the Argylls from coming from Timbakion. On the plus side, three destroyers had set sail from Alexandria with two commando battalions. The first commando battalion ("Layforce") had already landed at Suda from the fast minelayer Abdiel.

The New Zealand Division now faced two German airborne regiments and one mountain regiment,  Another mountain regiment was travelling over hills towards Suds Bay. The Germans on the north were organized into three groups. More German units were flown into Maleme. 

The New Zealand Division expected that the German attack that started on 24 May would peak on 25 May. Inglis was granted authority to pull in the reserves, the remnants of the four weak battalions of the 5th Brigade. They had been reduced to less than 1,400 men. 

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

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