Battle of Crete
Overview
 
The Battle of Crete was a battle during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 on the Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 island of Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 launched an airborne invasion
Airborne forces
Airborne forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and 'dropped' into battle. Thus they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have an ability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning...

 of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur ("Operation Mercury
Mercury (mythology)
Mercury was a messenger who wore winged sandals, and a god of trade, the son of Maia Maiestas and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is related to the Latin word merx , mercari , and merces...

"). Greek and Allied forces
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island.

After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered very heavy casualties and none of their objectives had been achieved.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Crete was a battle during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 on the Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 island of Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 launched an airborne invasion
Airborne forces
Airborne forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and 'dropped' into battle. Thus they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have an ability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning...

 of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur ("Operation Mercury
Mercury (mythology)
Mercury was a messenger who wore winged sandals, and a god of trade, the son of Maia Maiestas and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is related to the Latin word merx , mercari , and merces...

"). Greek and Allied forces
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island.

After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered very heavy casualties and none of their objectives had been achieved. The next day, through miscommunication and the failure of Allied commanders to grasp the situation, Maleme
Maleme
Maleme is a town and airport to the west of Chania, in North Western Crete, Greece. It is located in Platanias municipality, in Chania prefecture....

 airfield in western Crete fell to the Germans, enabling them to fly in reinforcements and overwhelm the defenders. The battle lasted about 10 days.

The Battle of Crete was unprecedented in three respects: it was not only the first battle where the German paratroops
Fallschirmjäger (World War II)
The Fallschirmjäger of Nazi Germany were the first German paratroopers to be committed in large-scale airborne operations. They came to be known as the "green devils" by the Allied forces they fought against during World War II...

 (Fallschirmjäger) were used on a massive scale, but also the first mainly airborne invasion in military history; the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from the deciphered German Enigma
Enigma machine
An Enigma machine is any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used for the encryption and decryption of secret messages. Enigma was invented by German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I...

 code; and the first time invading German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. Because of the heavy casualties suffered by the paratroopers, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 forbade further large scale airborne operations. However, the Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to build their own airborne divisions.

Prelude

Allied forces had occupied Crete when the Italians
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 attacked Greece
Greco-Italian War
The Greco-Italian War was a conflict between Italy and Greece which lasted from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. It marked the beginning of the Balkans Campaign of World War II...

 on 28 October 1940. Though the Italians were initially repulsed, subsequent German intervention drove 57,000 Allied troops from the mainland. The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 evacuated many of them; some were taken to Crete to bolster its garrison
Garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

.

Possession of Crete provided the Royal Navy with excellent harbours in the eastern Mediterranean, from which it could threaten the Axis southeastern flank. From the island, the Ploieşti
Ploiesti
Ploiești is the county seat of Prahova County and lies in the historical region of Wallachia in Romania. The city is located north of Bucharest....

 oil fields in Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, which were critical to the Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 war effort, were within range of British bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

s. Given its strategic value, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 would later quote a telegram he sent to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 4 June 1940: "To lose Crete because we had not sufficient bulk of forces there would be a crime."

The German army high command was preoccupied with the planned invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

), and was against involvement. However, senior Luftwaffe commanders were enthusiastic about the idea of seizing Crete by a daring airborne attack. The desire to regain prestige after their defeat by the Royal Air Force over Britain in 1940
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

 may have played a role in their thinking, especially before the advent of the much more important—and army controlled—invasion of Russia. Hitler was won over by the audacious proposal, though the directive stated that the operation was to be in May. The secondary priority of the attack was underlined: Crete was under no circumstances to be allowed to interfere with the upcoming campaign against the Soviet Union. In advance of the land battle, the Germans launched frequent bombing raids against the island in order to establish air superiority. This air campaign eventually succeeded in its objective, forcing the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 to move its planes to Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

.

At the outset of the land battle, the Allies had the advantage of numerical superiority and naval supremacy, while the Germans had air superiority and greater mobility, which allowed them to concentrate their forces more effectively.

Order of battle

Allied forces

On 30 April 1941, a New Zealand Army
New Zealand Army
The New Zealand Army , is the land component of the New Zealand Defence Force and comprises around 4,500 Regular Force personnel, 2,000 Territorial Force personnel and 500 civilians. Formerly the New Zealand Military Forces, the current name was adopted around 1946...

 officer, Major-General Bernard Freyberg VC
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

 was appointed commander of the Allied forces on Crete.

By May, the Greek forces consisted of approximately 9,000 troops: three battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s of the 5th Division of the Hellenic Army
Hellenic Army
The Hellenic Army , formed in 1828, is the land force of Greece.The motto of the Hellenic Army is , "Freedom Stems from Valor", from Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War...

, which had been left behind when the rest of the unit had been transferred to the mainland to oppose the German invasion; the Cretan Gendarmerie
Cretan Gendarmerie
The Cretan Gendarmerie was a gendarmerie force created under the Cretan State, after the island of Crete gained autonomy from Ottoman rule in the late 19th century...

 (a battalion-sized force); the Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 Garrison Battalion, a defence battalion made up mostly of transport and logistics personnel; and remnants of the 12th and 20th Hellenic Army divisions, which had escaped to Crete and were organized under British command. There were also cadets from the Gendarmerie academy and recruits from the Greek training centres in the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

, who had been transferred to Crete to replace the trained soldiers sent to fight on the mainland. These troops were already organised into numbered recruit training regiment
Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

s, and it was decided to use this existing configuration to organize the Greek troops, supplementing them with experienced men arriving from the mainland.

The British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 contingent consisted of the original 14,000-man British garrison and another 25,000 Commonwealth troops evacuated from the mainland. The evacuees were the typical mix found in any contested evacuation—substantially intact units under their own command, composite units hurriedly brought together by leaders on the spot, stragglers without leaders from every type of unit possessed by an army, and deserters. Most of these men lacked heavy equipment. The key formed units were the New Zealand 2nd Division
New Zealand 2nd Division
The 2nd New Zealand Division was a formation of the New Zealand Military Forces during World War II. It was commanded for most of its existence by Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg, and fought in Greece, Crete, the Western Desert and Italy...

, less the 6th Brigade and division headquarters; the Australian 19th Brigade Group
Australian 6th Division
The 6th Division of the Australian Army was a unit in the Second Australian Imperial Force during World War II. It served in the North African campaign, the Greek campaign and the New Guinea campaign, including the crucial battles of the Kokoda Track, among others...

; and the British 14th Infantry Brigade
British 14th Infantry Brigade
The British 14th Infantry Brigade was a British Army formation during both the First World War and the Second World War.- World War I :In 1914 this brigade was part of the 5th Division and moved over to France...

. In total, there were roughly 15,000 combat-ready British Commonwealth infantry, augmented by about 5,000 non-infantry personnel equipped as infantry, and one composite Australian artillery battery
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

. On 4 May, Freyberg sent a message to the British commander in the Middle East, General Archibald Wavell, requesting the evacuation of about 10,000 personnel who did not have weapons and had "little or no employment other than getting into trouble with the civil population". However, few of these men had left Crete by the time the battle started.

Axis forces

On 25 April, Hitler signed Directive Number 28, ordering the invasion of Crete. The Royal Navy's forces from Alexandria retained control of the waters around Crete, so any amphibious assault would be quickly decided by the nature of an air-versus-ship battle, making it a risky proposition at best. With German air superiority a given, an airborne invasion was decided on.

This was to be the first truly large-scale airborne invasion, although the Germans had used parachute and glider
Military glider
Military gliders have been used by the military of various countries for carrying troops and heavy equipment to a combat zone, mainly during the Second World War. These engineless aircraft were towed into the air and most of the way to their target by military transport planes, e.g...

-borne assaults on a much smaller scale in the invasions of Denmark
Battle of Denmark
The Battle of Denmark was the fighting that followed the German army crossing the Danish border on 9 April 1940 by land, sea and air. The German ground campaign against Denmark was the briefest on record in military history.-Motivation for invading Denmark:...

 and Norway
Norwegian Campaign
The Norwegian Campaign was a military campaign that was fought in Norway during the Second World War between the Allies and Germany, after the latter's invasion of the country. In April 1940, the United Kingdom and France came to Norway's aid with an expeditionary force...

, Belgium
Battle of Belgium
The Battle of Belgium or Belgian Campaign formed part of the greater Battle of France, an offensive campaign by Germany during the Second World War...

, the Netherlands
Battle of the Netherlands
The Battle of the Netherlands was part of Case Yellow , the German invasion of the Low Countries and France during World War II. The battle lasted from 10 May 1940 until 14 May 1940 when the main Dutch forces surrendered...

, France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 and mainland Greece
Battle of Greece
The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion and conquest of Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941. Greece was supported by British Commonwealth forces, while the Germans' Axis allies Italy and Bulgaria played secondary roles...

. In the last instance, German paratroops (Fallschirmjäger) had been dispatched to capture the bridge over the Corinth Canal
Corinth Canal
The Corinth Canal is a canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland, thus effectively making the former an island. The builders dug the canal through...

 which was being readied for demolition by the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

. German engineers were landed near the bridge in gliders, while parachute infantry attacked the perimeter defence.
The bridge was damaged in the fighting, which slowed the German advance and gave the Allies time to evacuate 18,000 troops to Crete and an additional 23,000 to Egypt, albeit with the loss of most of their heavy equipment.

The intention was to use Fallschirmjäger to capture key points of the island, including airfields that could then be used to fly in supplies and reinforcements. The XI Fliegerkorps was to co-ordinate the attack by the 7th Flieger Division, which would insert its paratroopers by parachute and glider, followed by the 22nd Air Landing Division once the airfields were secure. The assault was initially scheduled for 16 May, but was postponed to 20 May, with the 5th Mountain Division
German 5th Mountain Division
The German 5th Mountain Division was established in the Austrian Tirol in October 1940, out of regiments taken from the 1. Gebirgs-Division and the 10. Infanterie Division. Its first action was in the 1941 Balkans Campaign, when it took part in Operations Marita and Merkur ; in the latter it was...

 replacing the 22nd Division.

British

By this time, Allied commanders had become aware of the imminent invasion through Ultra
Ultra
Ultra was the designation adopted by British military intelligence in June 1941 for wartime signals intelligence obtained by "breaking" high-level encrypted enemy radio and teleprinter communications at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. "Ultra" eventually became the standard...

 intercepts. General Freyberg was informed of the air component of the German battle plan, and started to prepare a defence based near the airfields and along the north coast. However, he was seriously hampered by a lack of modern equipment, and was faced with the reality that even lightly armed paratroopers would be able to muster about the same firepower as his own men, if not more. In addition, it should be noted that, although the Ultra intelligence Freyberg received was very detailed, it came only from decrypts of the air force code. The result was misleading information taken out of context. As an example, the German messages mentioned seaborne operations, which seriously affected Freyberg's troop deployment, as he expected an amphibious landing, consequently detracting from the defence of the main German objective of the Maleme airfield.

German

Admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

, chief of the German Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

, originally reported a mere 5,000 British troops on Crete and no Greek forces. It is not clear whether Canaris, who had an extensive intelligence network at his disposal, was misinformed or was attempting to sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

 Hitler's plans (Canaris would be executed much later in the war for supposedly participating in the 20 July Plot). The Abwehr also predicted the Cretan population would welcome the Germans as liberators, due to their strong republican
History of the Hellenic Republic
The history of the Hellenic Republic constitutes three discrete republican periods in the modern history of Greece: from 1822 until 1832; from 1924 until 1935; and from 1974 through to the present...

 and anti-monarchist feelings, and would want to receive the "…favorable terms which had been arranged on the mainland…" While it is true the late republican prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 of Greece, Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos was an eminent Greek revolutionary, a prominent and illustrious statesman as well as a charismatic leader in the early 20th century. Elected several times as Prime Minister of Greece and served from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1932...

, had been a Cretan, and support for his ideas was strong on the island, the Germans seriously underestimated the depth of patriotic
Patriotism
Patriotism is a devotion to one's country, excluding differences caused by the dependencies of the term's meaning upon context, geography and philosophy...

 feeling on the part of the Cretans. In fact, King George II of Greece
George II of Greece
George II reigned as King of Greece from 1922 to 1924 and from 1935 to 1947.-Early life, first period of kingship and exile:George was born at the royal villa at Tatoi, near Athens, the eldest son of King Constantine I of Greece and his wife, Princess Sophia of Prussia...

 and his entourage escaped from Greece via Crete with the help of Greek and Commonwealth soldiers, Cretan civilians, and even a band of prisoners that had been released from captivity by the advancing Germans (see below).

German Twelfth Army Intelligence painted a less optimistic picture, but still believed the British Commonwealth forces to be much weaker than they actually were, and also underestimated the number of Greek troops who had been evacuated from the mainland. General Alexander Löhr
Alexander Löhr
Alexander Löhr was an Austrian Air Force commander during the 1930s and, after the "Political Union of Germany and Austria" , he was a German Air Force commander...

, the theatre commander, was convinced the island could be taken with two divisions, but decided to keep 6th Mountain Division in Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 as a reserve. Events would prove this to have been a wise precaution.

German

The Germans deployed a new weapon on Crete: the 7.5 cm Leichtgeschütz 40
7.5 cm Leichtgeschütz 40
The 7.5 cm Leichtgeschütz 40 was a recoilless gun used by the German Army during World War II.-Background:Development of recoilless weapons by Rheinmetall began in 1937 in an effort to provide airborne troops with heavy support weapons that could be dropped by parachute. Both Krupp and...

 "light gun" (actually a recoilless rifle
Recoilless rifle
A recoilless rifle or recoilless gun is a lightweight weapon that fires a heavier projectile than would be practical to fire from a recoiling weapon of comparable size. Technically, only devices that use a rifled barrel are recoilless rifles. Smoothbore variants are recoilless guns...

). At 320 lb (145.1 kg), it weighed only as much as a standard German 75 mm field gun
Field gun
A field gun is an artillery piece. Originally the term referred to smaller guns that could accompany a field army on the march and when in combat could be moved about the battlefield in response to changing circumstances, as to opposed guns installed in a fort, or to siege cannon or mortars which...

, yet had ⅔ of its range. It fired a 13 lb (5.9 kg) shell over 3 mi (4.8 km). Adding to the airborne units' firepower was the fact ¼ of them jumped with a MP 40 submachine gun
Submachine gun
A submachine gun is an automatic carbine, designed to fire pistol cartridges. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun with the cartridge of a pistol. The submachine gun was invented during World War I , but the apex of its use was during World War II when millions of the weapon type were...

, often carried in addition to a bolt-action
Bolt-action
Bolt action is a type of firearm action in which the weapon's bolt is operated manually by the opening and closing of the breech with a small handle, most commonly placed on the right-hand side of the weapon...

 Karabiner 98k
Karabiner 98k
The Karabiner 98 Kurz was a bolt action rifle chambered for the 8x57mm IS/7.92×57mm IS cartridge that was adopted as the standard service rifle in 1935 by the German Wehrmacht. It was one of the final developments in the long line of Mauser military rifles...

 rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

. Moreover, almost every German squad was equipped with an MG 34
MG 34
The Maschinengewehr 34, or MG 34, is a German air-cooled machine gun that was first produced and accepted into service in 1934, and first issued to units in 1935. It accepts the 8x57mm IS cartridge....

 machine gun
General purpose machine gun
A general-purpose machine gun is a multi-purpose weapon: it is a machine gun firing a full-power rifle cartridge and which can be used in a variety of roles, from a bipod- or tripod-mounted infantry support weapon to a helicopter door gun or a vehicle-mounted support weapon...

.

The Germans used colour-coded parachutes to distinguish the canisters carrying rifles, ammunition, crew-served weapons and other supplies. Heavy equipment like the Leichtgeschütz 40 was dropped with a special triple-parachute harness designed to bear the extra weight.

The troopers also carried special strips of cloth which could be unfurled in pre-arranged patterns to signal low-flying fighters to coordinate air support and supply drops.

In contrast with most nations' forces, who jumped with personal weapons strapped to their bodies, German procedure was for individual weapons to be dropped in canisters. This was a major flaw that left the paratroopers armed only with their fighting knives, pistols and grenades in the critical few minutes after landing. The poor design of German parachutes compounded the problem: the standard German harness had only a single riser to the canopy
Canopy (Parachute)
The term Canopy is used by skydivers or parachutists to describe the actual parachute itself, as opposed to the parachute system as a whole....

, and thus could not be steered. Even the 25% of paratroops armed with submachine guns were at a distinct disadvantage, given the weapon's limited range. Many Fallschirmjäger were shot attempting to reach their weapons canisters.

Greek

Greek troops were armed with the Mannlicher-Schönauer
Mannlicher-Schönauer
The Mannlicher-Schönauer is a type of rotary magazine bolt action rifle produced by Steyr-Mannlicher for the Greek Army in 1903 and later was also used in small numbers by the Austro-Hungarian Armies.-Design Characteristics:In the late 19th century, the...

 6.5 mm mountain carbine or ex-Austrian 8 mm Steyr-Mannlicher M1895
Steyr-Mannlicher M1895
The Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 rifle is a bolt-action rifle, designed by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher that used a refined version of his revolutionary straight-pull action. It was nicknamed the "Ruck-Zuck" by Landsers...

 rifles, the latter part of post–World War I reparations
World War I reparations
World War I reparations refers to the payments and transfers of property and equipment that Germany was forced to make under the Treaty of Versailles following its defeat during World War I...

. About one thousand Greeks carried the antique Gras
Fusil Gras mle 1874
The Fusil Gras Modèle 1874 M80 was a French rifle of the 19th century. The Gras used by the French Army was an adaptation to metallic cartridge of the Chassepot breech-loading rifle by colonel Basile Gras. This rifle was an 11 mm caliber and used black powder centerfire cartridges that weighed...

 rifle. The garrison had been stripped of its best crew-served weapons, which were sent to the mainland. There were twelve obsolescent Saint Etienne
St. Étienne Mle 1907
The St. Étienne Mle 1907 was a French air-cooled machine gun which was widely used in the early years of the First World War. It was not derived from the Hotchkiss machine gun, as often stated erroneously, but was instead a distinctly different mechanical design...

 light machine guns and forty other light machine guns of various manufacture at the Greek troops' disposal. Many of the Greek troops had less than thirty rounds of ammunition, and could not be resupplied by the British, who had no stocks in the correct calibers. This affected their placement in the battle; those with insufficient ammunition were posted to the island's eastern sector, where the Germans were not expected in force. The Greeks made up for the lack of equipment with intensity of spirit; historian Christopher Buckley
Christopher Buckley (journalist)
Christopher Buckley was a British journalist and historian working for The Daily Telegraph newspaper.Buckley studied military history at Oxford before he started as a war correspondent in 1940. His reporting from multiple battles and front lines in World War II earned him international prestige...

 described their fight as one of "…extreme courage and tenacity."

British Commonwealth

British Commonwealth troops used their standard Lee-Enfield
Lee-Enfield
The Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century...

 rifle, Bren light machine gun and Vickers medium machine gun
Vickers machine gun
Not to be confused with the Vickers light machine gunThe Vickers machine gun or Vickers gun is a name primarily used to refer to the water-cooled .303 inch machine gun produced by Vickers Limited, originally for the British Army...

. The Allies had about 85 artillery pieces of various calibres, many of them captured Italian pieces without sights.

Anti-aircraft
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 defences consisted of one light anti-aircraft battery equipped with 20 mm automatic cannon, split between the two airfields. The guns were carefully concealed, often in nearby olive
Olive
The olive , Olea europaea), is a species of a small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea.Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the...

 groves, and some were ordered to hold their fire during the initial assault so that they would not immediately reveal their positions to German fighters and dive-bombers.

Allied armor consisted of nine Matilda IIA infantry tanks, belonging to "B" Squadron, 7th Royal Tank Regiment
7th Royal Tank Regiment
The 7th Royal Tank Regiment was an armoured regiment of the British Army until 1959.-History:The 7th Royal Tank Regiment was part of the Royal Tank Regiment, itself part of the Royal Armoured Corps...

, and sixteen Mark VIB Light Tanks
Light Tank Mk VI
The Tank, Light, Mk VI was a British light tank, produced by Vickers-Armstrongs in the late 1930s, which saw service during World War II.- Development history :...

 from "C" Squadron, 4th Queen's Own Hussars
4th Queen's Own Hussars
The 4th Queen's Own Hussars was a cavalry regiment in the British Army, first raised in 1685. It saw service for three centuries, before being amalgamated into The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars in 1958....

. In common with most British tank units at the time, the Matildas' 2-pounder (40 mm) guns
Ordnance QF 2 pounder
The Ordnance QF 2-pounder was a British anti-tank and vehicle-mounted gun, employed in the Second World War. It was actively used in the Battle of France, and during the North Africa campaign...

 had only armour piercing rounds which were not effective against infantry (high explosive rounds in such a small caliber were considered impractical).

The tanks had numerous maintenance problems. The engines, especially, were worn and could not be overhauled with the limited resources available on Crete. Most of the tanks were therefore used as mobile pillboxes to be brought up and dug in at strategic points. One of the Matildas had a damaged turret crank that allowed it to turn clockwise only. In the end, many of the British tanks were lost to the rough terrain, not in combat.

The Allies did not possess sufficient Universal Carrier
Universal Carrier
The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. Produced between 1934 and 1960, the vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War...

s or trucks, which would have provided the extra mobility and firepower needed for rapid-response teams to attack paratrooper units before they had a chance to dig in.

Operation Mercury

Hitler's directive authorising the operation, Directive Number 28, made it very clear that the forces used were primarily airborne and air units already in the area. Hitler's order was that the preparations for the operation must not conflict with Operation Barbarossa. Further, units committed for the attack on Crete but earmarked for Barbarossa were to conclude operations before the end of May at the latest. Barbarossa was not to be delayed by the attack on Crete. This meant that the planned attack had to be launched within the allotted period or else it would be cancelled. Planning had to be rushed, and much of the German operation would be improvised.

Though the German planners agreed on the necessity of taking Maleme, there was some debate over the concentration of forces there and the number to be deployed against other targets, such as the smaller airfields at Heraklion and Rethymnon. The Luftwaffe commander, General Alexander Löhr, and the naval commander, Counter Admiral
Counter Admiral
Counter admiral is a rank found in many navies of the world, but no longer used in English-speaking countries, where the equivalent rank is rear admiral...

 Karl-Georg Schuster, favored a heavier concentration against Maleme, to achieve overwhelming superiority of force. By contrast, Major-General Kurt von Student
Kurt Student
Kurt Student was a German Luftwaffe general who fought as a fighter pilot during the First World War and as the commander of German Fallschirmjäger during the Second World War.-Biography:...

 wanted to disperse his paratroops more widely, in order to maximize the effect of surprise. As a primary objective, Maleme offered several advantages: it was the largest airfield, capable of supporting heavy transports bearing reinforcements; it was near enough to the mainland to allow air cover from land-based Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109
The Messerschmitt Bf 109, often called Me 109, was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid 1930s...

 fighters; and it was near the northern coast, so seaborne reinforcements could be brought up quickly. A compromise plan was forced by Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 and the final plan heavily emphasized securing Maleme first, while not ignoring the other Allied assets.
The final plan was codenamed Merkur, after the swift Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 god Mercury
Mercury (mythology)
Mercury was a messenger who wore winged sandals, and a god of trade, the son of Maia Maiestas and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is related to the Latin word merx , mercari , and merces...

. German forces were divided into three battle groups, Center, West and East, each with a special code name following the classical theme established by Mercury. A total of 750 glider troops, 10,000 paratroops, 5,000 airlifted mountain troops, and 7,000 seaborne troops were allotted for the invasion. The largest proportion of the forces were in Group West.
Operation Mercury battle groups
Group name Mythical codename Commander Target
Gruppe Mitte (Group Centre) Mars
Mars (mythology)
Mars was the Roman god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions...

Major General Wilhelm Süssman Prison Valley, Chania Souda, Rethymnon
Gruppe West (Group West) Comet
Comet
A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

Major General Eugen Meindl
Eugen Meindl
Eugen Meindl was a highly decorated German Fallschirmjäger and general during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

Maleme
Gruppe Ost (Group East) Orion
Orion (mythology)
Orion was a giant huntsman in Greek mythology whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion....

Colonel Bruno Bräuer
Bruno Bräuer
Bruno Bräuer was a German paratrooper from Willmannsdorf, Prussian Silesia. In 1905 he joined the army cadets and started his military career. In World War I he received the Iron Cross first and second class whilst serving in the 7th West Prussian Infantry regiment...

Heraklion


German airborne doctrine was based primarily on parachuting in a small number of forces directly on top of enemy airfields. This force would capture the perimeter and any local anti-aircraft guns, allowing a much larger force to land by glider.

Freyberg was aware of this after studying German actions of the past year, and decided to render the airfields unusable for landing. However, he was countermanded by the Middle East Command
Middle East Command
The Middle East Command was a British Army Command established prior to the Second World War in Egypt. Its primary role was to command British land forces and co-ordinate with the relevant naval and air commands to defend British interests in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region.The...

 in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. They felt the invasion was doomed to fail now that they knew about it, and possibly wanted to keep the airfields intact for the RAF's return once the island was secure, in what is held by some to have been a fatal error. It is not clear whether this is the case, for the Germans proved they were able to land reinforcements without fully functioning airfields. One German pilot crash-landed his transport on a deserted beach; others landed in empty fields, discharged their cargo and took off again. With the Germans willing to sacrifice some of their numerous transport aircraft to win the battle, it is not clear whether a decision to destroy the airfields would have made any difference to the final outcome. The gliders were designed to be expendable and consequently their pilots were even more daring in their landing choices.

Day one, 20 May

Maleme-Chania sector

At 08:00 on 20 May, German paratroopers, jumping out of dozens of Junkers Ju 52
Junkers Ju 52
The Junkers Ju 52 was a German transport aircraft manufactured from 1932 to 1945. It saw both civilian and military service during the 1930s and 1940s. In a civilian role, it flew with over 12 air carriers including Swissair and Deutsche Luft Hansa as an airliner and freight hauler...

 aircraft, landed near Maleme airfield and the town of Chania
Chania
Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

. The 21st, 22nd, and 23rd New Zealand Battalions defended Maleme airfield and its direct surrounding area. The Germans suffered heavy casualties within the first hours of the invasion. One company of the III Battalion, 1st Assault Regiment, lost 112 killed out of 126 men; 400 of the battalion's 600 men were killed before the end of the first day.

Of the initial forces, the majority were mauled by New Zealand forces defending the airfield and Greek forces near Chania. Many of the gliders following the paratroops were hit by mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 fire within seconds after landing. Those glider troops that did land safely were wiped out almost to the last man by the New Zealand and Greek defenders.

A number of German paratroopers and gliders had landed off-site near both airfields by accident, as is common in airdrops, and set up defensive positions to the west of Maleme airfield, and "Prison Valley" in the Chania area. Although both forces were bottled up and failed to take the airfields, they were in place and the defenders had to deploy to face them.

Greek police forces and cadets were also in action, with the First Greek Regiment (Provisional) combining with civilians to rout a detachment of German paratroopers dropped at Kastelli
Kissamos
Kissamos is a town and municipality in the west of the island of Crete, Greece. It is part of the Chania peripheral unit and of the former Kissamos Province which covers the northwest corner of the island. The city of Kissamos is also known as Kastelli-Kissamou and often known simply as Kastelli...

. Meanwhile, the 8th Greek Regiment and elements of the Cretan forces severely hampered movement by the 95th Reconnaissance Battalion on Kolimbari and Paleochora, where Allied reinforcements from North Africa could potentially be landed.

Rethimnon-Heraklion sector

A second wave of German aircraft arrived in the afternoon dropping more paratroopers along with several more gliders containing heavy assault troops, with one group attacking Rethimnon at 16:15 and another at Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 at 17:30. As with the earlier actions, the defenders were waiting for them and inflicted heavy casualties.

Heraklion was defended by the British 14th Infantry Brigade
British 14th Infantry Brigade
The British 14th Infantry Brigade was a British Army formation during both the First World War and the Second World War.- World War I :In 1914 this brigade was part of the 5th Division and moved over to France...

, augmented by the Australian 2/4th Battalion
2/4th Australian Infantry Battalion
The 2/4th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Raised on 3 November 1939 at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, New South Wales for service during World War II as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force, the battalion was initially attached to the 16th Brigade, 6th Division...

 and the Greek 3rd, 7th and "Garrison" (ex-5th "Crete" Division") Battalions. The Greek units were sorely lacking in equipment and supplies, the Garrison Battalion especially, as the bulk of its matériel
Materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

 had been shipped to the mainland with the division, but they would fight with distinction nonetheless.

The Germans pierced the defensive cordon around Heraklion on the first day, seizing the Greek barracks on the west edge of the town and capturing the docks; the Greeks counterattacked and recaptured both points. The Germans dropped leaflets urging surrender and threatening dire consequences if the Allies did not surrender immediately. The next day, Heraklion was heavily bombed. The battered Greek units were rotated out and assumed a defensive position on the road to Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

..

As night fell, none of the German objectives had been secured. Of the 493 German transport aircraft used during the first day's airdrop, seven were lost to antiaircraft fire. The risky plan—attacking four separate points to maximize surprise rather than concentrating on one—seemed to have failed, although the reasons were unknown to the Germans at the time.

Towards the evening of 20 May, the Germans slowly pushed the New Zealanders back from Hill 107, which overlooked the airfield. The Axis commanders on Crete decided to throw everything into the Maleme sector the next day.

Among the paratroopers who landed on the first day was former world heavyweight champion boxer
Boxing
Boxing, also called pugilism, is a combat sport in which two people fight each other using their fists. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of between one to three minute intervals called rounds...

 Max Schmeling
Max Schmeling
Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling was a German boxer who was heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932. His two fights with Joe Louis in the late 1930s transcended boxing, and became worldwide social events because of their national associations...

, who held the rank of Gefreiter
Gefreiter
Gefreiter is the German, Swiss and Austrian equivalent for the military rank Private . Gefreiter was the lowest rank to which an ordinary soldier could be promoted. As a military rank it has existed since at least the 16th century...

 at the time. Schmeling survived the battle and the war.

Civilian uprising


Everywhere on the island, Cretan civilians – men, women, children, priests, monks, and even nuns, armed and otherwise – joined the battle with whatever weapons were at hand. In some cases, ancient matchlock rifles which had last been used against the Turks were dug up from their hiding places and pressed into action. In other cases, civilians went into action armed only with what they could gather from their kitchens or barns, and several German parachutists were knifed or clubbed to death in the olive groves that dotted the island. In one recorded case, an elderly Cretan clubbed a parachutist to death with his walking stick before the German could disentangle himself from his parachute lines. In another, a priest and his son broke into the village museum and took two rifles from the era of the Balkan Wars. While the priest shot a paratrooper with one, his son re-loaded the other. The Cretans soon supplemented their makeshift weapons with captured German small arms taken from the dead bodies of killed paratroops and glider troops. Their actions were not limited to harassment—civilians also played a significant role in the Greek counter-attacks at Kastelli Hill
Kastelli Hill
Kastelli Hill is a landform at the city of Chania on the island of Crete in the present day country of Greece. The Minoan city of ancient Cydonia was centered around Kastelli Hill, which later was selected by the Romans as the site of an acropolis.-References:...

 and Paleochora, and the British and New Zealand advisors at these locations were hard pressed to prevent massacres. Civilian action also checked the Germans to the north and west of Heraklion, and in the town centre itself.

This was the first occasion in the war that the Germans encountered widespread and unrestrained resistance from a civilian population, and for a period of time, it unbalanced them. However, once they had recovered from their shock, the German paratroopers reacted with equal ferocity, killing many Crete civilians. Further, as most Cretan partisans wore no uniforms or identifying insignia such as armbands, the Germans felt free of all of the constraints implied by the Geneva conventions and killed both armed and unarmed civilians indiscriminately. In his book The Lost Battle, MacDonald argues that battlefield mutilations (attributed to the torture of injured Germans by civilians and vice versa) were more than likely a result of carrion birds and physical decay of corpses left in the extreme heat.

The escape of the king

The majority of Cretans were Venizelist Republicans
Venizelism
Venizelism was one of the major political movements in Greece from the 1900s until the mid 1970s.- Ideology :Named after Eleftherios Venizelos, the key characteristics of Venizelism were:*Opposition to Monarchy...

—as were a significant number of mainland Greeks. In 1924, George II, King of the Hellenes
George II of Greece
George II reigned as King of Greece from 1922 to 1924 and from 1935 to 1947.-Early life, first period of kingship and exile:George was born at the royal villa at Tatoi, near Athens, the eldest son of King Constantine I of Greece and his wife, Princess Sophia of Prussia...

 had been deposed and exiled to Romania, only to return in 1935 after the collapse of republican government. The Germans regarded George as a hopeless Anglophile and an obstacle to their conquest of Greece, which they believed to be mostly anti-monarchist. After the king had escaped to Crete on 22 April and issued a defiant memorandum to the Germans, Hitler responded by attacking the king in a speech on 4 May. The British feared a propaganda coup if a sovereign monarch under their protection were to be captured.

The king was staying in a Venetian villa, Bella Capina, two miles southwest of Chania. Warned by British intelligence of the coming airborne invasion, he left for the house of Emmanouil Tsouderos
Emmanouil Tsouderos
Emmanouil Tsouderos was a political and financial figure of modern Greece, serving as Prime Minister of the Greek government in exile during World War II.-Early life:...

, the prime minister, in a nearby village of Perivolia, on the day before the invasion began, but was forced to flee Perivolia the next morning. His entourage narrowly escaped capture. From the garden of Bella Capina, German paratroopers were seen landing in the area of the villa. As it turned out, they were members of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Parachute Rifle Regiment, which was assigned to the Galatas sector, and had been dropped near the villa by mistake. An evacuation by the Royal Navy had already been arranged, with Colonel J.S. Blunt, the British military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 to Greece, acting as liaison. A platoon of New Zealand infantry under Lieutenant W.H. Ryan was assigned as a bodyguard, along with a complement of Cretan gendarmes. The king was accompanied by his cousin, Prince Peter; Colonel Dimitrios Levidis
Levidis family
Levidis is the name of a family of old Byzantine aristocratic origin, hailing from Constantinople and with a distinguished role in the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, Wallachia, and modern Greece....

, Master of Ceremonies; Prime Minister Tsouderos; and Kyriakos Varvaressos, Governor-in-Exile of the Bank of Greece
Bank of Greece
The Bank of Greece is the nationalcentral bank of Greece, located in Athens on Panepistimiou Street, with several branches across the country. Founded in 1927...

.

The party had several close calls with both Germans and native Cretans. A detachment was sent back for some papers left behind by Mr. Tsouderos; they returned to report the house was already occupied, meaning the Germans were by now aware of the king's presence nearby. Lieutenant Ryan had the king remove his Greek general's uniform, which was adorned with gold braid and other ornaments that were bound to attract attention. At one point, the group were pinned down by the rifle fire of Cretan mountaineers. Prince Peter shouted to them in Greek, and they replied "Germans also speak Greek and wear Greek uniforms". Eventually convinced that the royal retinue were not German spies, they let them pass. That night, the evacuees rested in the village of Therisso. There, they were startled by a clamour at the doors, which turned out to caused by prison escapees released earlier in the day. Patriotism apparently overwhelmed any sympathy for their German emancipators and antipathy to the monarchist constitution, and the escapees left to forage for weapons instead of betraying their fellow fugitives.

Though forced to abandon their pack mules, and lacking proper clothing and equipment for mountain climbing, the entourage arrived safely at their rendezvous point. There, joined by members of the British diplomatic corps, they signalled and were plucked from the shore, arriving in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 on the night of 22 May.

Day two, 21 May

The next morning, it was found that the New Zealand infantry battalion defending Hill 107 had mistakenly withdrawn at night, although they continued to pour artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 fire into the area. This gave the Germans control of the Maleme airfield, just as a sea landing took place nearby. That evening, Junkers Ju 52
Junkers Ju 52
The Junkers Ju 52 was a German transport aircraft manufactured from 1932 to 1945. It saw both civilian and military service during the 1930s and 1940s. In a civilian role, it flew with over 12 air carriers including Swissair and Deutsche Luft Hansa as an airliner and freight hauler...

 transport aircraft
Military transport aircraft
Military transport aircraft are typically fixed and rotary wing cargo aircraft which are used to deliver troops, weapons and other military equipment by a variety of methods to any area of military operations around the surface of the planet, usually outside of the commercial flight routes in...

 started flying in units of the 5th Mountain Division. These troops moved into the line as soon as their planes landed, many of which were hit by artillery fire and littered the airfield.

First landing attempt

Before midnight, Rear-Admiral Irvine Glennie
Irvine Glennie
Admiral Sir Irvine Gordon Glennie KCB was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, America and West Indies Station.-Naval career:...

's Force D, consisting of three light cruisers and four destroyers, intercepted a flotilla of reinforcements, escorted by a single Italian torpedo boat
Spica class torpedo boat
The Spica-class were a class of torpedo boats of the Regia Marina during World War II. These ships were built as a result of a clause in the Washington Naval Treaty, which stated that ships with a tonnage of less than 600 tons could be built in unlimited numbers...

, the Lupo, successfully preventing their landing. The convoy, comprising around 20 caïque
Caïque
A caïque , is the term for a traditional fishing boat usually found among the waters of the Ionian or Aegean Seas, and also a light skiff used on the Bosporus. It is traditionally a small wooden trading vessel, brightly painted and rigged for sail...

s, was fiercely defended by the Italian ship. About 2/3 the 2000+ strong German force was saved due to the aggressive maneuvers of the Italian naval commander, Francesco Mimbelli
Francesco Mimbelli
Francesco Mimbelli was an Italian Naval officer who fought in World War II.-Crete:Mimbelli was a commander of a Torpedo boat destroyer flotilla which fought in the Battle of Crete he was responsible for defending a convoy to Crete in the face of superior British forces.-Black Sea:He was also the...

, against an overwhelmingly superior Allied naval force. About 800 German soldiers and two Italian seamen died in action, as well as two British sailors on .

Day three, 22 May

Realising that Maleme was the key to holding the entire island, the defending force organised for a counter-attack by two New Zealand battalions, the 20th Battalion of the 4th Brigade and the 28th Maori Battalion of the 5th Brigade on the night of 21/22 May. Fears of a sea landing meant that a number of units that could have taken part in the attack were left in place, although this possibility was removed by a strong Royal Navy presence which arrived too late for the plans to be changed.

The force attacked at night, but by this time, the original paratroops had set up defensive lines and the newly-arrived mountain troops proved difficult to dislodge. The attack slowly petered out and failed to retake the airfield. From this point on, the defenders were involved in a series of withdrawals to the eastern end of the island, in an attempt to avoid being out-flanked by the advancing German forces.

Second landing attempt

Admiral Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope
Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope KT, GCB, OM, DSO and two Bars , was a British admiral of the Second World War. Cunningham was widely known by his nickname, "ABC"....

, determined that no German troop transports should reach Crete, sent Admiral King's Force C (three cruisers and four destroyers) into the Aegean through the Kaso Strait, to attack a second flotilla of transports escorted by the Italian torpedo boat Sagittario. The force sank a caïque separated from the main flotilla at 08:30, thus saving itself from an air attack that struck the cruiser at this time. The German pilots were trying to avoid killing their troops in the water. King's squadron, still under constant air attack and running short of anti-aircraft ammunition, steamed on toward Milos, sighting the Sagittario at 10:00. King made the "difficult" decision not to press the attack, despite his overpowering advantage, due to the shortage of ammunition and a torpedo charge executed by the Italian warship. He had succeeded, however, in forcing the Germans to abort this seaborne operation. During the search and withdrawal from the area, Force C suffered heavy losses to German bombers. Naiad was damaged by near misses and the cruiser was hit. Admiral Cunningham later criticized King's decisions.

Force C met up with Rear Admiral Rawling's Force A1 at the Kithera channel where more air attacks inflicted damage on both forces. A bomb struck and then the destroyer was sunk. King sent and to pick up survivors while the cruisers and provided anti-aircraft support. "The Rear Admiral Commanding, 15th Cruiser Squadron was, however, not aware of the shortage of A.A. ammunition in Gloucester and Fiji...", which were down to 18 and 30 percent of their AA ammunition, respectively, four hours before they were detached to support the destroyers. Gloucester was hit by several bombs at 15:50, several hours after being detached, and had to be left behind due to the intense air attacks. 700 ratings and 22 officers from this ship lost their lives.

The air attacks on Force A1 and Force C continued. Two bombs hit the battleship (with Lieutenant Prince Philip of Greece
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

 on board) and later another hit the still detached Fiji, disabling her at 18:45. A Junkers 88 flown by Lieutenant Gerhard Brenner
Gerhard Brenner
Gerhard Brenner was a German World War II Luftwaffe bomber pilot and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross ....

 dropped three bombs on Fiji, sinking her at 20:15. Five hundred survivors were rescued by Kandahar and Kingston the same night. The Royal Navy lost two cruisers and a destroyer sunk, but had managed to force the invasion fleet to turn around. In total, Royal Navy AA gunners shot down 10 Luftwaffe aircraft and damaged 16 more, some of which crash-landed upon return to base, on 21/22 May.

23–27 May

Fighting against a constant supply of fresh enemy troops, the Allies began a series of retreats working southward across Crete.

The 5th Destroyer Flotilla, consisting of , , , , and , under Captain
Captain (Royal Navy)
Captain is a senior officer rank of the Royal Navy. It ranks above Commander and below Commodore and has a NATO ranking code of OF-5. The rank is equivalent to a Colonel in the British Army or Royal Marines and to a Group Captain in the Royal Air Force. The rank of Group Captain is based on the...

 Lord Louis Mountbatten, was ordered to leave Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 on 21 May, to join the fleet off Crete. It arrived in the area after Gloucester and Fiji were sunk. They were first sent to pick up survivors, but were then diverted to attack some caïques off the Cretan coast and then shell
Naval artillery
Naval artillery, or naval riflery, is artillery mounted on a warship for use in naval warfare. Naval artillery has historically been used to engage either other ships, or targets on land; in the latter role it is currently termed naval gunfire fire support...

 the Germans at Maleme. Kelvin and Jackal were diverted on another search while Mountbatten with Kelly, Kashmir and Kipling were to go to Alexandria.

While the three ships were rounding the western side of Crete, they came under heavy air attack from 24 Stuka dive bombers. Kashmir was hit and sank in two minutes and Kelly was hit and turned turtle soon after. Kelly succeeded in shooting down one of the attacking Stukas immediately, while another was badly damaged and crashed upon returning to base. Kipling survived 83 bombs aimed at her, while she picked up 279 survivors from the two ships. The Noel Coward
Noël Coward
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy...

 film In Which We Serve
In Which We Serve
In Which We Serve is a 1942 British patriotic war film directed by David Lean and Noël Coward. It was made during the Second World War with the assistance of the Ministry of Information ....

 was based on this action.

After air attacks on Allied positions in Kastelli on 24 May, the 95th Gebirgs Pioneer Battalion advanced on the town. These air attacks enabled the escape of German paratroopers captured on 20 May; the newly-liberated paratroopers killed or captured several New Zealand officers assigned to lead the 1st Greek Regiment. Despite this setback, the Greeks put up determined resistance, but with only 600 rifles and a few thousand rounds of ammunition available for a force of 1,000 ill-trained men, they were unable to repel the German advance. Fighting with the remnants of 1st Greek Regiment continued in the Kastelli area until 26 May, hampering German efforts to land reinforcements.

Despite the dangers posed by roving British naval forces, the German Kriegsmarine had not entirely given up on attempts to ship heavy weapons to the struggling paratroopers. On 24 May Oberleutnant-zur-See Österlin, who had led the ill-fated Maleme Flotilla, was given the task of transporting two Panzer II
Panzer II
The Panzer II was the common name for a family of German tanks used in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen II...

 light tanks over to Kastelli Kisamou. He quickly commandeered a small wooden lighter at Piraeus and arranged for the tanks to be lowered into it. At dusk the next day, the lighter, towed by the small harbor tug Kentawros, left Piraeus and headed southwards towards Crete. But reports of British naval units operating nearby convinced Admiral Schuster to delay the operation and he ordered Österlin to take his charges into the relative safety of a small harbor on the German-occupied island of Kithira.

At a meeting in Athens on 27 May, Luftwaffe Generals Richtofen, Jeschonnek and Löhr pressed Schuster to somehow get the tanks delivered before "...the Englander claws himself erect again". One of Richtofen's liaison officers had returned from the island on the 26th with ominous news. The paratroopers, he stated, were in poor condition, lacking in discipline and "at loose ends". He stressed the "absolute and immediate need" for "reinforcement by sea shipment of heavy weaponry if the operation is to get ahead at all."

Schuster issued Österlin new orders via radio to set sail for the Gulf of Kisamos where a landing beach had already been selected and marked out. Upon nearing the shore on 28 May, the lighter was positioned ahead of the tug and firmly beached. A party of engineers then blew the lighter's bow off using demolition charges and the two tanks rolled ashore. They were soon assigned to Advance Detachment Wittman, which had earlier assembled near the Prison Valley reservoir the day before. This ad hoc group was composed of a motorcycle battalion, the Reconnaissance Battalion, an anti-tank unit, a motorized artillery troop and some engineers. General Ringel gave orders for Wittmann to "strike out from Platanos at 03:00 on 28 May in pursuit of the British 'main' via the coastal highway to Retimo" and thence towards Heraklion.

Although they did not play a decisive role, the newly-delivered panzers did perform useful work in helping round up British troops in the Kisamos area before speeding eastward in support of the German pursuit column.

On the night of 26/27 May, a detachment of some 800 men from No. 7
No. 7 Commando
No. 7 Commando was a unit of the British Commandos and part of the British Army during the Second World War. The Commando was formed in August 1940 in the United Kingdom No. 7 Commando was transferred to the Middle East as part of Layforce...

 and No. 8 Commandos, as part of Layforce
Layforce
Layforce was an ad hoc military formation of the British Army consisting of a number of commando units during the Second World War.Formed in February 1941 under the command of Colonel Robert Laycock, after whom the force was named, it consisted of approximately 2,000 men and served in the Middle...

, landed at Suda Bay. Their commander, Colonel Robert Laycock
Robert Laycock
Major General Sir Robert Edward Laycock KCMG, CB, DSO, KStJ was a British soldier, most famous for his service with the commandos during the Second World War...

, had tried to land his force a few nights before on 25 May, but had been turned back due to bad weather. Although lacking any indirect fire support weapons and armed mainly with only rifles and a small number of machine guns, they were tasked with carrying rearguard actions in order to buy the garrison enough time to carry out an evacuation.
"Awful news from Crete. We are scuppered there, and I'm afraid the morale and material effects will be serious. Certainly the Germans are past-masters in the art of war—and great warriors. If we beat them, we shall have worked a miracle."
Alexander Cadogan, end of diary entry for 27 May 1941


In a ferocious bayonet charge
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

 on the morning of 27 May, the New Zealand 28th (Māori) Battalion
Maori Battalion
The 28th Battalion, more commonly known as the Māori Battalion, was an infantry battalion of the New Zealand Army that served during the Second World War. It was formed following pressure on the Labour government by some Māori MPs and Māori organisations throughout the country wanting a full Māori...

, the Australian 2/7th Battalion
2/7th Australian Infantry Battalion
The 2/7th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Raised on 25 October 1939 at Puckapunyal, Victoria, it was raised as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force for service during the Second World War...

 and the Australian 2/8th Battalion
2/8th Australian Infantry Battalion
The 2/8th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army that served during World War II. Raised as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force at Puckapunyal, Victoria on 15 April 1940, the 2/8th was initially attached to the 17th Brigade, 6th Division. It was later transferred to...

, cleared a section of road between Souda and Chania which was under threat from troops of the German 141st Mountain Regiment.

Command in London decided the cause was hopeless after General Wavell informed the Prime Minister at 0842, 27 May, that the battle was lost, and an evacuation was ordered. Major-General Freyberg concurrently ordered his troops to begin withdrawing to the south coast to be evacuated.

Italian landing

On the afternoon of 27 May an Italian convoy departed from Rhodes
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

 with the intention of landing a Brigade from the 9th Infantry Division, supported by 13 light tanks. The escort was made up of the destroyer Crispi
Sella class destroyer
Sella class destroyer were a group of destroyers built for the Italian Regia Marina in the 1920s. Two of these ships fought in World War II and both were sunk after the Italian capitulation to the Allies...

, the torpedo-boats
Spica class torpedo boat
The Spica-class were a class of torpedo boats of the Regia Marina during World War II. These ships were built as a result of a clause in the Washington Naval Treaty, which stated that ships with a tonnage of less than 600 tons could be built in unlimited numbers...

 Lira, Lince and Libra, two MAS torpedo-launches, while the amphibious force comprised four fishing vessels, two steamships, one river boat, two reefer ships, three tugs and three tankers. The Italian commander in the Dodecanese
Dodecanese
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades island group...

 had volunteered the services of his men as early as 21 May, but the request had to pass through German channels to Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

, who finally authorized the move when it became clear that the German effort was not moving ahead as quickly as planned. At 13:30 of the 28th, the Italians learned that three cruisers and six destroyers of the Royal Navy were steaming up towards the northern coast of Crete to support their troops. They would be off Sitia
Sitia
Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

, the planned site of landing, by the 17:00. It was decided that the slowest ship of the convoy would be taken in tow by the Lince, in order to increase speed. The destroyer Crispi was detached to shell the lighthouse at Cape Sideros
Sideros
Sideros , also known as Strongylo , is an uninhabited Greek rock, in the Aegean Sea, close to the northeastern coast of eastern Crete. The rock lies just north of the island of Kyriamadi. There is also a Cape Sideros on the island of Kyriamadi. Administratively it lies within the Itanos...

. The 3,000 men of the division and their equipment were unloaded by 17:20. Meanwhile, the British squadron was badly hit by Axis aircraft, which reduced its own speed and crippled the cruiser HMS Ajax
HMS Ajax (22)
HMS Ajax was a Leander class light cruiser which served with the British Royal Navy during World War II. She became famous for her part in the Battle of the River Plate, the Battle of Crete, the Battle of Malta and as a supply escort in the Siege of Tobruk. This ship was the eighth in the Royal...

 and the destroyer HMS Imperial
HMS Imperial (D09)
HMS Imperial was an commissioned in 1937, that served with the Royal Navy during World War II until she was scuttled by HMS Hotspur in 1941.-Construction:...

. The British force, commanded by Rear Admiral Rawlings, reached Sitia by 22:00, firing their guns ineffectively on the landing area, long after the Italian ships had returned back to Rhodes. The Italian division started to advance to the west unnoposed, and linked up with the Germans at Ierapetra
Ierapetra
Ierapetra is a town in the southeast of the Greek island of Crete and a municipality of Crete region.-History:The town of Ierapetra is located on the southeast coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional...

. The Italian troops later moved their headquarters form Sitia to Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos, Crete
Agios Nikolaos is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island's capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2000, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed around 19,000...

.

Evacuation to Egypt, 28–31 May


Image:Chora Sfakion 1941 evacuation monument.jpg|thumb|right|Monument in Sphakia
Hora Sfakion
Image:Chora Sfakion 1941 evacuation monument.jpg|thumb|right|200px|Monument commemorating the evacuation during WW2 of British and ANZAC forces from Hora Sfakion in May 1941. Click on the left plaque for a closer viewrect 198 536 320 1082 rect 0 0 900 1200...

 commemorating the evacuation of British and ANZAC forces. Click on the left plaque for a closer view
rect 198 536 320 1082
rect 0 0 900 1200
desc bottom-left


Over four nights, 16,000 troops were evacuated to Egypt by ships including the light cruiser . The majority of these troops embarked from Sphakia. A smaller number were withdrawn from Heraklion on the night of 28 May. This task force was attacked en route by Luftwaffe dive bomber
Dive bomber
A dive bomber is a bomber aircraft that dives directly at its targets in order to provide greater accuracy for the bomb it drops. Diving towards the target reduces the distance the bomb has to fall, which is the primary factor in determining the accuracy of the drop...

s and suffered serious losses. More than 9,000 Anzacs and thousands of Greeks were left behind to defend the remaining territory as best they could. They fought on until they were surrounded. The cities of Irakleio and Rethymno were taken in the following days by the Germans. A small Italian force assisted the capture of Rethymno. By 1 June, the island of Crete was under German control.

The defence of the 8th Greek Regiment in and around the village of Alikianos
Alikianos
Alikianos is the head village of the Mousouri municipality in Chania Prefecture, Crete located approximately 12.5 kilometers southwest of Chania...

 is credited with protecting the Allied line of retreat. Alikianos, located in the "Prison Valley", was strategically important and it was one of the first targets the Germans attacked on the opening day of the battle. The 8th Greek was composed of young Cretan recruits, gendarmes, and cadets. They were poorly equipped and only 850 strong—roughly battalion, not regiment-sized. Attached to the 10th New Zealand Infantry Brigade under Lieutenant-Colonel Howard Kippenberger
Howard Kippenberger
Major-General Sir Howard Karl Kippenberger, KBE, CB, DSO, ED, , known as Kip, served as a New Zealand soldier in both World Wars.-Personal life:Howard Kippenberger married Ruth Isobel Flynn, of Lyttelton in 1922...

, little was expected of them by Allied officers. The Greeks, however, proved such pessimism wrong. On the first day of battle, they decisively repulsed the Engineer Battalion. During the next several days, they held out against repeated attacks by the 85th and 100th Mountain Regiments. For seven days, they held Alikianos and protected the Allied line of retreat. The 8th Greek Regiment is credited with making the evacuation of western Crete possible by many historians such as Antony Beevor
Antony Beevor
Antony James Beevor, FRSL is a British historian, educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst. He studied under the famous military historian John Keegan. Beevor is a former officer with the 11th Hussars who served in England and Germany for five years before resigning his commission...

 and Alan Clark
Alan Clark
Alan Kenneth Mackenzie Clark was a British Conservative MP and diarist. He served as a junior minister in Margaret Thatcher's governments at the Departments of Employment, Trade, and Defence, and became a privy counsellor in 1991...

.

The Germans pushed the British, Commonwealth, and Hellenic forces steadily southward, using aerial and artillery bombardment, followed by waves of motorcycle
Motorcycle
A motorcycle is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.Motorcycles are one of the most...

 and mountain troops (the mountainous terrain making it difficult to employ tanks). The Souda Bay garrisons at Souda
Souda
Souda is a town and former municipality in the Chania peripheral unit, Crete, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Chania, of which it is a municipal unit. It is an important ferry and naval port at the head of Souda Bay.Souda is 6.5 km to the east of...

 and Beritania gradually fell back along the lone road to Vitsilokoumos, just to the north of Sphakia. About halfway there, near the village of Askyfou lay a large crater nicknamed "The Saucer". It was the only spot in the rugged terrain sufficiently wide and flat enough to support a large-scale air drop. Troops were stationed about its perimeter to prevent a German airborne force from landing to block the retreat. At the village of Stylos, the 5th New Zealand Brigade and the 2/7th Australian Battalion held off a German mountain battalion which had begun a flanking manœuvre, but they were forced to withdraw for lack of air and artillery support, despite their superior numbers. Fortunately for the ANZACs, German air assets were being concentrated on Rethymnion and Heraklion, and they were able to retreat down the road safely in broad daylight.

The general retreat of the brigade was covered by two companies of the 28th (Māori) Battalion
Maori Battalion
The 28th Battalion, more commonly known as the Māori Battalion, was an infantry battalion of the New Zealand Army that served during the Second World War. It was formed following pressure on the Labour government by some Māori MPs and Māori organisations throughout the country wanting a full Māori...

 under Captain Rangi Royal. (Royal's men had already distinguished themselves at 42nd Street.) They overran the 1st Battalion, 141st Gebirgsjäger Regiment and halted the German advance. When the main unit was safely to the rear, the Māori in turn made their own fighting retreat of twenty-four miles, losing only two killed and eight wounded, all of whom they were able to carry to safety. Thus, the Layforce
Layforce
Layforce was an ad hoc military formation of the British Army consisting of a number of commando units during the Second World War.Formed in February 1941 under the command of Colonel Robert Laycock, after whom the force was named, it consisted of approximately 2,000 men and served in the Middle...

 commando detachment was the only major unit in this area to be cut-off and unable to retreat.

Layforce had been sent to Crete by way of Sphakia when it was still hoped that large-scale reinforcements could be brought in from Egypt to turn the tide of the battle. The battalion-sized force was split up, with a 200-man detachment under the unit's commander, Robert Laycock, stationed at Souda to cover the retreat of the heavier units. Laycock's men, augmented by three of the remaining British tanks, were joined by the men of the 20th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, who had been assigned to guard the Souda docks and refused to believe that a general evacuation had been ordered. After a day's fierce fighting, Laycock decided to retreat under cover of night to nearby Beritiana. He was joined there by Captain Royal and the Māoris, who took up separate defensive positions and eventually made their fighting retreat. Laycock and his force, however, were cut off by superior German forces near the village of Babali Khani (Agioi Pandes
Agioi Pandes
Agioi Pandes or Pantes , is a Greek islet, located north of the coast of eastern Crete, Lasithi prefecture close to Agios Nikolaos.-See also:*List of islands of Greece...

). Pummelled from the air by dive bombers, Layforce Detachment was unable to get away. Laycock and his brigade major
Brigade Major
In the British Army, a Brigade Major was the Chief of Staff of a brigade. He held the rank of Major and was head of the brigade's "G - Operations and Intelligence" section directly and oversaw the two other branches, "A - Administration" and "Q - Quartermaster"...

, the novelist Evelyn Waugh
Evelyn Waugh
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh , known as Evelyn Waugh, was an English writer of novels, travel books and biographies. He was also a prolific journalist and reviewer...

, were able to escape by crashing through German lines in a tank. Most of the other men of the detachment and their comrades from the 20th were either killed or captured.

During the evacuation, Admiral Cunningham was determined that the "Navy must not let the Army down". When Army officers expressed concerns that he would lose too many ships, Cunningham said that "It takes three years to build a ship, it takes three centuries to build a tradition".

Major Alistair Hamilton, a company commander in the Black Watch
Black Watch
The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The unit's traditional colours were retired in 2011 in a ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth II....

, had declared, "The Black Watch leaves Crete when the snow leaves Mount Ida
Mount Ida
In Greek mythology, two sacred mountains are called Mount Ida, the "Mountain of the Goddess": Mount Ida in Crete; and Mount Ida in the ancient Troad region of western Anatolia which was also known as the Phrygian Ida in classical antiquity and is the mountain that is mentioned in the Iliad of...

 (Psiloritis)". Hamilton himself never left the island; he was killed by a mortar round, but his men were ordered off. The consensus among the men was that they were letting their Greek allies down, and while most British heavy equipment was destroyed in order to keep it from falling into enemy hands, the men turned over their ammunition to the Cretans who were staying behind to resist the Germans.

Surrender

Meanwhile, Colonel Campbell, the commander at Heraklion, was also forced to surrender his contingent. Rethimno fell as well, and on the night of 30 May, German motorcycle troops linked up with Italian troops who had landed on Sitia.

On 1 June, the remaining 5,000 defenders at Sphakia surrendered, although many took to the hills and caused the German occupation
Military occupation
Military occupation occurs when the control and authority over a territory passes to a hostile army. The territory then becomes occupied territory.-Military occupation and the laws of war:...

 problems for years. By the end 1941, an estimated 500 British Commonwealth troops remained at large, to say nothing of the Greeks, who were more easily able to blend in with the native population.

Aftermath

Allied commanders at first worried the Germans might use Crete as a springboard for further operations in the Mediterranean's East Basin, possibly for an airborne attack on Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 or a seaborne invasion of Egypt in support of the German/Italian forces operating from Libya. However, these fears were soon put to rest when Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, made it apparent the occupation of Crete was likely a defensive measure intended to secure the Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 southern flank.
Losses among the German paratroops were very high in Hitler's opinion, and the Germans were forced to reconsider their airborne doctrine, which eliminated this weapon from large scale use of Soviet Airborne forces. The German casualty rate was hidden from Allied planners, who scrambled to create their own large airborne divisions after this battle. Crucially, however, Allied airborne planners such as Col. James M. Gavin
James M. Gavin
James Maurice "Jumpin' Jim" Gavin was a prominent Lieutenant General in the United States Army during World War II...

 realized from the German experience on Crete that airborne troops should jump with their own heavy weapons. The lack of such equipment contributed greatly to the German losses during the invasion of the island. This realization would later allow elements of the US 505th PIR to prevent the elite Hermann Göring Panzer Division
Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring
The Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring was an élite German Luftwaffe armoured division. The HG saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and on the Eastern front...

 from mounting a counterattack on US beachheads in the opening phases of the Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied invasion of Sicily
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies took Sicily from the Axis . It was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of land combat. It launched the Italian Campaign.Husky began on the night of...

.

The battle for Crete did not delay Operation Barbarossa. The start date for Barbarossa (22 June 1941) had been set several weeks before the Crete operation was considered and the directive by Hitler for Operation Merkur made it plain that preparations for Merkur must not interfere with Barbarossa. Units assigned to Merkur and earmarked for later use in Barbarossa were to be redeployed to Poland and Romania by the end of May and, in the event, the movement of units from Greece was not delayed by Merkur. Indeed, the transfer of VIII. Fliegerkorps
8th Air Corps (Germany)
VIII. FliegerkorpsFor more details see Luftwaffe Organization was formed 19 July 1939 in Oppeln as Fliegerführer z.b.V. The abbreviation z.b.V. is German and stands for zur besonderen Verwendung . Fliegerführer z.b.V was renamed to VIII. Fliegerkorps on 10 November 1939...

 during the battle in order to reach their assigned positions in time for Barbarossa was a key reason in allowing the Royal Navy to evacuate so many of the defenders. The reasons for the delay of Operation Barbarossa owed nothing to the battle of Crete, but was because of the need to allow swollen rivers to fall and for airfields to dry out in Poland.

The loss of Crete, particularly as a result of the failure of the British land forces to recognise the strategic importance of the airfields, served as a wake-up call for the British government. As a direct consequence, the Royal Air Force (RAF) was given responsibility for defending its own bases from ground and air attack. The RAF Regiment
RAF Regiment
The Royal Air Force Regiment is a specialist airfield defence corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 32 week trainee gunner course, its members are trained and equipped to prevent a successful enemy attack in the first instance; minimise the damage caused by a successful attack; and...

 was formed on 1 February 1942 to meet this requirement.

Casualties

Official German casualty figures are hard to determine with exactitude due to minor variations between different documents produced by the various German commands on various dates. Davin has calculated an estimate of 6,698 based upon an examination of various sources. This total excludes the 8 Fliegerkorps as well as any casualties suffered by the Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 in the aborted seaborne landings. Davin also notes that his estimate might exclude several hundred lightly wounded soldiers. Other minor omissions are possible. However, Davin states in regard to the Battle of Crete:
Reports of German casualties in British reports are in almost all cases exaggerated and are not accepted against the official contemporary German returns, prepared for normal purposes and not for propaganda.


These exaggerated reports of German casualties began to appear almost immediately after the battle had ended. Taylor cites a report published in the New Zealand newspaper Press on 12 June 1941 that:
The Germans lost at least 12,000 killed and wounded, and about 5,000 drowned



Winston Churchill claimed that the Germans must have suffered well over 15,000 casualties, while Admiral Cunningham felt that the figure was more like 22,000. Buckley, based on British intelligence assumptions of two enemies wounded for every one killed, gave an estimate of 16,800 total casualties. Despite the enduring popularity of these rather fanciful estimates, the United States Army Center of Military History, citing a report of the Historical Branch of the British Cabinet Office
Cabinet Office
The Cabinet Office is a department of the Government of the United Kingdom responsible for supporting the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the United Kingdom....

, concludes military historians largely accept estimates of between 6,000 and 7,000 German casualties as correct.

The Australian Graves Commission counted a combined total of roughly 5,000 German graves in the Maleme-Suda Bay area, at Rethymno and at Heraklion. Davin concludes that this total would have included a sizeable number of deaths during the German occupation due to sickness, accidents or fighting with partisan forces.

The German casualties included a lengthy list of commissioned officers. Leading this list is Major General Wilhelm Süssman, commander of the 7th Flieger Division and Group Centre in the assault, who died in a glider accident on 20 May before reaching Crete. Also prominent on this list is Major General Eugen Meindl
Eugen Meindl
Eugen Meindl was a highly decorated German Fallschirmjäger and general during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

, commander of Luftlande Sturmregiment
Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment
The Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1 was a Nazi German Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger Regiment which captured the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael during the Battle of Belgium, assaulted Crete, and fought on the Eastern Front during World War II.-History:Research Battalion Friedrichshafen was formed at Hildesheim...

 and Group West in the assault, who was shot in the chest on 20 May and evacuated the following morning. According to Davin, the only German prisoners evacuated to Egypt were 17 captured officers.

Prominent among the German dead were a trio of brothers, relatives of the Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt , Graf , later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.He is...

 of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 fame. The first to fall was Count
Graf
Graf is a historical German noble title equal in rank to a count or a British earl...

 Leberecht von Blücher, who was attempting to resupply his brother, Lieutenant
Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 Wolfgang von Blücher, with ammunition when the latter and his platoon
Platoon
A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads and containing 16 to 50 soldiers. Platoons are organized into a company, which typically consists of three, four or five platoons. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer—the...

 were surrounded by members of the Black Watch. The 19-year old Leberecht had commandeered a horse which he attempted to gallop through British lines; he almost reached his brother's position, and in fact was shot before his brother's very eyes. The next day, 24-year old Wolfgang was killed with his whole platoon, followed by the youngest brother, 17-year old Hans-Joachim, who was reported killed in action a few days later but whose body was never recovered. For years afterward, Cretan villagers report seeing a ghostly rider galloping at night down a road near the spot where Leberecht was shot; yet until they were told the story of the von Blücher brothers, they had assumed that he was British.

The Luftwaffe also lost heavily in the battle; 220 aircraft were destroyed outright and another 64 were written off due to damage, for a total of 284 aircraft lost, with several hundred more damaged to varying degrees. 311 Luftwaffe aircrew were listed as killed or missing, and 127 more were wounded. These losses were later to impact negatively German attempts to defend Stalingrad.

The Allies lost 3,500 soldiers: 1,751 dead, with an equal number wounded, as well as 12,254 Commonwealth and 5,255 Greek captured. There were also 1,828 dead and 183 wounded among the Royal Navy. After the war, the Allied graves from the four burial grounds that had been established by the German forces were moved to Suda Bay War Cemetery.

A large number of civilians were killed in the crossfire or died fighting as partisans
Partisan (military)
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity...

. Many Cretans were shot by the Germans in reprisals, both during the battle and in the occupation that followed. The Germans claimed widespread mutilation
of corpses by Cretan partisans, but MacDonald (1995) suggests this was down to the breakdown of dead bodies in the very high temperatures as well as carrion birds. One Cretan source puts the number of Cretans killed by German action during the war at 6,593 men, 1,113 women and 869 children.. German records put the number of Cretans executed by firing squad as 3,474, and at least a further 1,000 civilians were killed in massacres late in 1944.

Attacks by German planes, mainly Ju-87 and Ju-88, destroyed a number of British ships: three cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s and six destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s . Seven other ships were damaged, including the battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s and , and the cruiser . The Royal Navy shipborne AA claims for the period of 15–27 May amounted to: "Twenty enemy aircraft...shot down for certain, with 11 probables. At least 15 aircraft appeared to have been damaged..."; from 28 May-1 June, another two aircraft were claimed shot shot down and six more damaged, for a total of 22 claimed destroyed, 11 probably destroyed and 21 damaged, during the entire campaign.
Crete Military Casualties Killed
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

Missing
Missing in action
Missing in action is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed, wounded, become a prisoner of war, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively...

 
(presumed dead)
Total Killed
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

 and Missing
Missing in action
Missing in action is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed, wounded, become a prisoner of war, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively...

Wounded
Wounded in action
Wounded in action describes soldiers who have been wounded while fighting in a combat zone during war time, but have not been killed. Typically it implies that they are temporarily or permanently incapable of bearing arms or continuing to fight....

Captured
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

Total
British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

3,579 1,900 12,254 17,733
German 2,124 1,917 4,041 2,640 17 6,698
Greek 426 5,225
Italian

See also

  • Holocaust of Viannos
    Holocaust of Viannos
    The Holocaust of Viannos refers to a mass extermination campaign launched by Nazi forces against the civilian residents of around 20 villages located in the areas of east Viannos and west Ierapetra provinces on the Greek island of Crete during World War II. The killings, with a death toll in...

  • Battle of Retimo
  • Military history of Greece during World War II
    Military history of Greece during World War II
    Greece entered World War II on 28 October 1940, when the Italian army invaded from Albania, beginning the Greco-Italian War. The Greek army was able to stop the invasion and even push back the Italians into Albania, thereby winning one of the first victories for the Allies...

  • Greco-Italian War
    Greco-Italian War
    The Greco-Italian War was a conflict between Italy and Greece which lasted from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. It marked the beginning of the Balkans Campaign of World War II...

  • Invasion of Yugoslavia
    Invasion of Yugoslavia
    The Invasion of Yugoslavia , also known as the April War , was the Axis Powers' attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia which began on 6 April 1941 during World War II...

  • Battle of Greece
    Battle of Greece
    The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion and conquest of Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941. Greece was supported by British Commonwealth forces, while the Germans' Axis allies Italy and Bulgaria played secondary roles...

  • Crete order of battle
    Crete order of battle
    This is the complete order of battle for the Battle of Crete and related operations in 1941.-Commonwealth & Allied Forces, Crete - "Creforce":...

  • The 11th Day: Crete 1941
    The 11th Day: Crete 1941
    The 11th Day: Crete 1941 is a 2005 documentary film featuring eyewitness accounts from survivors of the Battle for Crete during World War II. The film was created by producer-director Christos Epperson and writer-producer Michael Epperson, and funded by Alex Spanos. Among the eyewitnesses are...

     – documentary containing eyewitness accounts of participants in battle and resistance movement
  • Massacre of Kondomari
    Massacre of Kondomari
    The Massacre of Kondomari refers to the execution of male civilians from the village of Kondomari in Crete by an ad hoc firing squad consisting of German paratroopers on 2 June 1941 during World War II. The shooting was the first of a long series of mass reprisals in Crete and was also the first...

  • Razing of Kandanos
    Razing of Kandanos
    The Razing of Kandanos or the Holocaust of Kandanos refers to the complete destruction of the village of Kandanos in Western Crete and the killing of about 180 of its inhabitants on 3 June 1941 by German occupying forces during World War II...

  • Fallschirmjäger memorial
    Fallschirmjäger memorial
    The Fallschirmjäger memorial is a Naziwar memorial for German parachutists who fell during the ten-dayBattle of Crete in World War II. The memorial, known to Cretans as the German bird or the Evil bird ,...

  • von Blücher brothers

Notable participants

David Coke
David Coke
The Honourable David Arthur Coke , DFC was a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force Reserve during the Second World War, and is considered a flying ace, being credited with 2 destroyed, 2 probables and 2 damaged...

 • Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, fighter pilot and screenwriter.Born in Wales to Norwegian parents, he served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence agent, rising to the rank of Wing Commander...

 • Roy Farran
Roy Farran
Major Roy Alexander Farran DSO, MC & Two Bars was a British-Canadian soldier, politician, farmer, author and journalist...

 • Bernard Freyberg • Clive Hulme • Robert Laycock
Robert Laycock
Major General Sir Robert Edward Laycock KCMG, CB, DSO, KStJ was a British soldier, most famous for his service with the commandos during the Second World War...

 • Patrick Leigh Fermor
Patrick Leigh Fermor
Sir Patrick "Paddy" Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE was a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during World War II. He was widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer", with books including his classic A Time of...

 • John Pendlebury
John Pendlebury
John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury was a British archaeologist who worked for British intelligence during World War II. He was killed during the Battle of Crete.-Early life:...

 • George Psychoundakis
George Psychoundakis
George Psychoundakis was a Greek Resistance fighter on Crete during the Second World War. He was a shepherd, a war hero and an author. He served as dispatch runner between Petro Petrakas and Papadakis behind the German lines for the Cretan resistance Movement and later, from 1941 to 1945, for the...

 • Max Schmeling
Max Schmeling
Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling was a German boxer who was heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932. His two fights with Joe Louis in the late 1930s transcended boxing, and became worldwide social events because of their national associations...

 • Theodore Stephanides
Theodore Stephanides
Theodore Stephanides was a Greek poet, author, doctor and naturalist. He is best remembered as the friend and mentor of the famous naturalist Gerald Durrell, featuring in Durrell's My Family and Other Animals and Fillets of Plaice, Durrell's brother Lawrence's Prospero's Cell, and Henry Miller's...

 • Evelyn Waugh
Evelyn Waugh
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh , known as Evelyn Waugh, was an English writer of novels, travel books and biographies. He was also a prolific journalist and reviewer...

 (the battle forms an important episode in his novel Officers and Gentlemen) • Lawrence Durrell
Lawrence Durrell
Lawrence George Durrell was an expatriate British novelist, poet, dramatist, and travel writer, though he resisted affiliation with Britain and preferred to be considered cosmopolitan...

 • Charles Upham
Charles Upham
Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham VC and Bar was a New Zealand soldier who earned the Victoria Cross twice during the Second World War: in Crete in May 1941, and at Ruweisat Ridge, Egypt, in July 1942...

 • Geoffrey Cox
Geoffrey Cox (journalist)
Sir Geoffrey Sandford Cox, CNZM, CBE was a New Zealand-born newspaper and television journalist. He was a former editor and chief executive of ITN and a founder of News at Ten....

 • Dan Davin
Dan Davin
Daniel Marcus Davin was an author who wrote about New Zealand, although for most of his career he lived in Oxford, England, working for Oxford University Press....

 (who wrote the official New Zealand war history of the battle)

Further reading

ISBN 978-0-8223-0224-7
  • Antill, Peter D. Crete 1941: Germany's lightning airborne assault, Campaign series. Osprey Publishing: Oxford, New York. 2005 ISBN 1-84176-844-8
  • Barber, Laurie and Tonkin-Covell, John. Freyberg : Churchill's Salamander, Hutchinson 1990. ISBN 1-86941-052-1

  • Brown, David The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean: November 1940 - December1941 Volume II, London 2002 ISBN 0714652059
  • Buckley, Christopher. Greece and Crete 1941, London, 1952. Greek pbk edition (in English): P. Efstathiadis & Sons S.A., 1984. Pbk ISBN 960-226-041-6
  • Clark, Alan. The Fall of Crete, Anthony Blond Ltd., London, 1962. Greek pbk edition (in English): Efstathiadis Group, 1981, 1989. Pbk ISBN 960-226-090-4
  • Comeau, M. G. Operation Mercury : Airmen in the Battle of Crete, J&KH Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-900511-79-7
  • Elliot, Murray. Vasili: The Lion of Crete, Century Hutchinson New Zealand Ltd., London, Australia, South Africa. Greek paperback edition (in English): Efstathiadis Group S.A., 1987, 1992. Pbk ISBN 960-226-348-2 ISBN 978-1-86176-057-9
  • Guard, Julie. Airborne: World War II Paratroopers in Combat, Osprey Publishing, 2007. ISBN 1-84603-196-6, 9781846031960
  • Hadjipateras, Costas and Fafalios, Maria. Crete 1941, Eyewitnessed, Efstathiadis Group, 1989. Pbk ISBN 960-226-184-6
  • Harokopos, George. The Fortress Crete, subtitled on cover '1941-1944' and within 'The Secret War 1941-1944' and 'Espionage and Counter-Espionage in Occupied Crete', Seagull Publications. Greek paperback edition/English translation: B. Giannikos & Co., Athens, 1993. Translation and comments by Spilios Menounos. Pbk ISBN 960-7296-35-4}}
  • Hill, Maria. Diggers and Greeks, UNSW Press, 2010. HB ISBN 9781742230146
  • Keegan, John. Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda (2003) ISBN 0-375-40053-2
  • Kokonas, N.A., M.D. The Cretan Resistance 1941-1945, forwarded by P. Leigh Fermor and others. London, 1993. Greek paperback edition (in English): Graphotechniki Kritis, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece. Pbk ISBN 960-85329-0-6
  • Lind, Lew. Flowers of Rethymnon: Escape from Crete, Kangaroo Press Pty Ltd, 1991. ISBN 0-86417-394-6
  • MacDonald, C. The Lost Battle - Crete 1941, MacMillan 1995. ISBN 0-333-61675-8
  • Mazower, Mark. Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation 1941-44, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1993. ISBN 0-300-05804-7
  • Mooorehead, Alan
    Alan Moorehead
    Alan McCrae Moorehead OBE was a war correspondent and author of popular histories, most notably two books on the nineteenth-century exploration of the Nile, The White Nile and The Blue Nile . Australian-born, he lived in England, and Italy, from 1937.-Biography:Alan Moorehead was born in...

    , Mediterranean Front, London, 1941.
  • Moss, W. Stanley. Ill Met By Moonlight: The Story of the Kidnapping of General Karl Kreipe, the German Divisional Commander in Crete, The MacMillan Company, NY, 1950
  • Nasse, Jean-Yves. Fallschirmjager in Crete, 1941: The Merkur Operation, Histoire & Collections, 2002. ISBN 2-913903-37-1
  • Nigl, Alfred Silent wings Savage death 2007 USA ISBN 1-882824-31-8
  • Psychoundakis, George. The Cretan Runner
    The Cretan Runner
    The Cretan Runner: His Story of the German Occupation is a book written by George Psychoundakis...

    : His History of the German Occupation, English translation and introduction by Patrick Leigh Fermor. London, 1955. Greek paperback edition (in English): Efstathiadis Group S.A., 1991. Pbk ISBN 960-226-013-0
  • Sadler, John. Op Mercury, The Fall of Crete 1941, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-383-5 ISBN 978-3-8132-0699-9
  • Shores, Christopher and Cull, Brian with Malizia, Nicola. Air War For Yugoslavia, Greece, and Crete 1940-41, Grub Street, 1987 ISBN 0-948817-07-0
  • Taylor, A. J. P. English history, 1914-1945, Oxford, 1965 ISBN 0-19-821715-3
  • Thomas, David A. Crete 1941: The Battle at Sea, Andre Deutsch Ltd. Great Britain, 1972. Greek pbk edition (in English): Efstathiadis Group, Athens 1980
  • Willingham, Matthew. Perilous commitments: the battle for Greece and Crete 1940-1941, Spellmount, 2005. ISBN 1-86227-236-0
  • Richter, Heinz A., Operation Merkur. Die Eroberung der Insel Kreta im Mai 1941, Rutzen, 2011, ISBN 978-3-0447-06423-1

External links



Greece°N date=June 2009°W
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