As a result, Freyberg was forced to deploy troops along the coast that could have been used elsewhere. Armed with this knowledge, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was convinced that the defenders of Crete stood a good chance of repelling the invasion and achieving a morale-boosting victory over the Germans. Battle of Crete summary. Despite heavy losses, enough troops landed safely to secure tenuous footholds west of Maleme (an area mistakenly left unguarded by Freyberg) and in the Prison Valley, south-west of Canea. The majority would spend the rest of the war in prisoner of war camps – initiallly in Italy and later in Germany and Poland. Air Officer Commander-in-Chief, Middle East - Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur Longmore 1. This operation was championed by the Luftwaffe as the Wehrmacht sought to avoid further engagements prior to commencing the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) in June. The Battle of Crete, codenamed Operation Mercury, was a battle fought between Fallschirmjäger (German paratrooper) forces and supporting Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica units against British Commonwealth ground forces, Greek militias and the Royal Navy. Over 12 days in May 1941 a mixed force of New Zealanders, British, Australian and Greek troops desperately tried to fight off a huge German airborne assault. Fresh troop reinforcements and the dominance of the Luftwaffe (German air force) above Crete left the defenders facing impossible odds. The Luftwaffe lost more than 350 aircraft. Pushing forward a plan calling for the mass use of airborne forces, the Luftwaffe gained support from a wary Adolf Hitler. German forces had surged into the Balkans, quickly defeating Yugoslavia and outflanking Greek border defences. Geography also made the job of defending Crete tough. In the fighting for Crete, the Allies suffered around 4,000 killed, 1,900 wounded, and 17,000 captured. Parts of Creforce pulled back to Sfakia on the south coast, and from here about 10,500 troops left the island over four nights. Crete. This force included the bulk of the New Zealand Division (7700 men). After their successful conquest of Greece in April 1941, the Germans turned their attention to the island of Crete . German forces had surged into the Balkans, quickly defeating Yugoslavia and outflanking Greek border defences. Ammunition and stores were in short supply, and a lack of tools saw troops digging defensive positions with steel helmets. As the day progressed, German forces landed near Rethymnon and Heraklion. Heavy weapons – tanks and artillery – were few and far between. German casualties mounted quickly. Although the airfield was still under artillery fire, the Germans wasted no time flying in reinforcements which tipped the balance of the battle in their favour. Yet the British were unwilling to destroy them – the port at Suda Bay was essential to the supply of Creforce, and it was still hoped that the RAF could operate from the island in the future. In one notable stand, the 8th Greek Regiment held back the Germans at Alikianos for a week, allowing Allied forces to move to the port of Sphakia. Second World War Mod based on real historical event during WW2 between May 20 and June 1 1941 as known as "Operation Mercury". It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the … Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The invading force suffered badly during the first day, with a company of III Battalion, 1st Assault Regiment losing 112 of 126 men. Armed with only pistols and knives, many German paratroopers were cut down as they moved to recover their rifles. Edward Howell, OBE, DFC) - Gloster Gladiator, Hawker Hurricane … sector during the battle for Crete – the small airfield at Maleme and Hill 107 where you can appreciate. MT StJ Prattle/Sqn.Ldr. Kennedy Hickman is a historian, museum director, and curator who specializes in military and naval history. Poole, H. C. (2009). Bay, Crete (May 23, 2006)- Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Commanding Officer, Capt. The battle began in the morning of 20 May when German paratroopers began Operation Mercury. More than 6000 Germans were killed or wounded. No. After six days of hard fighting Freyberg received the order to evacuate his weary forces. Student's attack force planned to land the bulk of its men near Maleme in the west, with smaller formations dropping near Rethymnon and Heraklion to the east. Battle of Crete Memorial Committee Perth WA Battle of Crete Memorial Committee The Battle of Crete Memorial Committee WA (BCMC WA) was established in 2016. Those Germans arriving by glider fared little better as they immediately came under attack as they left their aircraft. Evacuated across the Aegean Sea to the island of Crete, they fought again in the Battle of Crete in May 1941. Further reading. Greek and Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island. The Battle for Crete The overall plan was to conquer Crete as part of Operation Merkur, with German Paratroopers landing in three main areas, Heraklion, Maleme and Retimo.The operation relied on German airborne troops, both paratroopers and in gliders. The Battle of Crete was one of the most dramatic battles of the Second World War. On 30 April command of ‘Creforce’ – the designation for the Allied troops on the island – was entrusted to Major-General Bernard Freyberg, who led the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). Though a victory, the Battle of Crete saw these forces sustain such high losses that they were not used again by the Germans. ...| The Battle of Crete: Important or Insignificant?| The Battle of Crete began May 20th, 1941. 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In May, Freyberg was informed via Ultra radio intercepts that the Germans were planning an airborne invasion. Having swept through Greece in April 1940, German forces began preparing for the invasion of Crete. The Germans planned to begin the invasion on the 15th, but supply problems in Greece delayed the assault by a week. Capturing Crete would have its advantages. Departing their aircraft, the German paratroopers met fierce resistance upon landing. Crete was occupied by the Allies when Italy attacked Greece in 1940. In studying the German experience in Crete, American airborne planners, such as Colonel James Gavin, recognized the need for troops to jump with their own heavy weapons. Over 12 days in May 1941 a mixed force of New Zealanders, British, Australian and Greek troops desperately tried to fight off a huge German airborne assault. On the waves, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham worked tirelessly to prevent enemy reinforcements from arriving by sea, though he took increasingly heavy losses from German aircraft. Their situation was worsened by German airborne doctrine, which called for their personal weapons to be dropped in a separate container. There are two nations in the game presents - British Commonwealth and Germany. Near Maleme, German troops gathered and began attacks against Hill 107, which dominated the airfield. The invasion began on the morning of 20 May. For the Greek Secretary Tsouderos, still on the spot, the situation is catastrophic and there are troops. This doctrinal change ultimately aided American airborne units once they reached Europe. He faced a daunting task. Many villagers were executed for the part they played in the battle and for helping the Allied soldiers left behind after the evacuation. Nazi Germany launched an airborne attack called Operation Merkur or Operation Mercury on the island of Crete.This battle will be important because it will hold great influence over the course of the war in the means of power. The 28th (Maori) Battalion also performed heroically in covering the withdraw. Luftwaffe. No. During the course of the evacuation, around 16,000 men were rescued from Crete, with the bulk embarking at Sphakia. On the morning of 21 May it became clear that the New Zealand infantry battalions defending the airfield and the key high ground overlooking it had withdrawn. He has appeared on The History Channel as a featured expert. The BCMC WA is seeking to erect a designated war memorial in Kings Park to recognise the sacrifices made by ANZACs and Greeks in the Battle of Crete campaign. While attacks against Maleme airfield were repulsed, the Germans succeeded in forming defensive positions to the west and east towards Chania. Under increasing pressure, the 5,000 men protecting the port were forced to surrender on June 1. The Battle for Crete. A small crowd gathered in Wellington today to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle for Crete in which 2000 Kiwi soldiers were taken prisoner and 671 died. This site is produced by the History Group of the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Battle of Crete is a modification for Company of Heroes. Many paratroops died before they could reach the ground; others were mown down after landing as they struggled to release themselves from their parachutes. 1.1. The loss of any of these positions would make the defence of the island virtually impossible, given the Germans’ ability to quickly deliver men and supplies from bases on the mainland. 30 Squadron RAF (Squadron Leader RA Milward/Sqn. By the end of the day German forces around Maleme, Retimo and Heraklion had failed to secure any of their objectives. The only details that the British were not aware of were the invasion date and the comparative strengths of German sea and airborne forces. More than 1700 British, Commonwealth and Greek soldiers were killed and 15,000 captured during the Battle for Crete. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, World War II in Europe: Blitzkrieg and the "Phony War", World War II: Operation Market-Garden Overview, World War II Pacific: The Japanese Advance Stopped, M.S., Information and Library Science, Drexel University, B.A., History and Political Science, Pennsylvania State University. Recognizing the battle as lost, the leadership in London instructed Freyberg to evacuate the island on May 27. Though he shifted many of his troops to guard the northern airfields, intelligence also suggested that there would be a seaborne element. On 20 May 2019, to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Crete, families of veterans from the UK and the countries of the Commonwealth will join descendants of Cretan comrades to lay wreaths at the annual service of commemoration of the Battle of Crete at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Souda Bay, Chania. Others took to the hills, some later escaping to Egypt by submarine or fishing boat. These were unable to dislodge the Germans and the Allies fell back. Though aided by the arrival of a commando force under Colonel Robert Laycock, the Allies were unable to turn the tide of the battle. Though a victory, the Battle of Crete saw these forces sustain such high losses that they were not used again by … Determined that the Royal Navy would rescue the men on Crete, Cunningham pushed forward despite concerns that he might sustain heavy losses. With the help of Cretan civilians, a handful of men eluded capture on the island for years and took part in resistance fighting. Shannon) - Bristol Blenheim 1.2. Dates: May 20 to June 1, 1941, during World War II (1939-1945). During the last week of April more than 50,000 Allied troops … We have 2 events in history, 10 biographies, 16 articles, related to The Battle for Crete. New Zealand at War As the Germans moved forward with invasion preparations, Major General Bernard Freyberg, VC worked to improve Crete's defenses. Informed by ULTRA sources of these changes, Freyberg was confident that he had done all that was possible to meet it with the limited resources and time available. Crete’s strategic position, Though German intelligence wrongly estimated the island's defenders to only number around 5,000, the theater commander Colonel General Alexander Löhr elected to retain the 6th Mountain Division at Athens as a reserve force. On the morning of May 20, 1941, Student's aircraft began arriving over their drop zones. Despite these problems, the British had one major advantage – they were fully aware of German plans for an invasion of Crete. 1834, Colenso arrives with a printing press, Home The Allies managed to repel the Italians in the initial invasion but Germany provided aid to the Italian attack and they drove some 57, 000 of the Allied troops from the mainland. Battle of Crete , the most sensational event of the Second World War . Ldr. Commercial re-use may be allowed on request. It highlights the final act of the German - Greek war. Outgunned and outnumbered, it was forced to conduct a fighting withdrawal south through Greece. dead. GERMAN PLANS AND PREPARATION OF BATTLE OF CRETE. The battle began on the 20th of May, 1941 after German paratroopers jumped out of their Junkers JU 52 airplanes and the majority landed near the Kiwi defended Maleme airfield. As a result, Freyberg's forces began a slow fighting retreat towards the southern coast of Crete. Most soldiers arrived on Crete with little more than their personal weapons. The German High Command debated whether to seize the island or focus efforts on the planned invasion of the Soviet Union. It began just after dawn on 20 May 1941. The Battle of Crete (German: Luftlandeschlacht um Kreta; Greek: Μάχη της Κρήτης) was a battle during World War II on the Greek island of Crete.It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur ("Operation Mercury"). Crete became a German target following their rapid occupation of the Greek mainland in April 1941. Attention now turned to Crete. By the end of April there were more than 42,000 British, Commonwealth and Greek soldiers on the island. It saw the Germans make large-scale use of paratroopers during the invasion. Their commanders in Athens feared the operation was a failure and the prospect of a humiliating defeat loomed. There were 671 New Zealanders among the dead, and 2180 Kiwi prisoners of war. Greek and Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island The campaign also cost the Royal Navy 9 ships sunk and 18 damaged. These efforts proved successful as British aircraft were withdrawn to Egypt. The battle of Crete was a costly battle for both sides, and for the people of Crete. After being assured that it would not seriously disrupt his plans in Eastern Europe, Adolf Hitler reluctantly agreed to the invasion of Crete – Operation Merkur (Mercury). The Battle for Crete, updated 5-Aug-2014. May 1941 and is an inseparable continuity of both the Greek-Italian and Greek-German wars and the activity of the British Expeditionary Force in the wider region of Greece. A New Zealander, Freyberg possessed a force consisting of around 40,000 British Commonwealth and Greek soldiers. Conversely, many Allied leaders were impressed by the airborne's performance and moved to create similar formations within their own armies. Rallying, German forces near Heraklion managed to penetrate the city but were driven back by Greek troops. The soldiers left behind – around 6500 – formally surrendered to the Germans on 1 June. (2014). German losses totaled 4,041 dead/missing, 2,640 wounded, 17 captured, and 370 aircraft destroyed. In response to this criticism, he famously responded, "It takes three years to build a ship, it takes three centuries to build a tradition." In the course of the world, over 17,000 Australian soldiers, airmen and sailors served, with 1,001 being wounded, 5,174 taken prisoners and 646 now resting in the Commonwealth War Graves at Phaleron (Athens), Rhodes and Suda Bay, Crete. Battle of Crete book. The Battle of Crete took place on the Greek island of Crete. Meet the NZHistory.net.nz team. A separate evacuation at Heraklion rescued a further 6000 soldiers, although a number of these men were killed by air attacks on their ships during the return journey to Egypt. Shortly after 8 a.m., the men of Creforce saw gliders in the sky overhead, quickly followed by the rumbling of an approaching air armada. Some of the troops that were evacuated from the mainland were sent to Crete to increase the strength of the troops on the island.Having control of Crete was an important strategic advantage for th… Battle of Crete Losses on Crete The same time as on April 21, 1941, in Larissa the commander of the Greek forces , General Papagos, capitulated and the Balkans campaign so went almost to the end, a briefing took place at the advanced Führer Headquarter on the Semmering, which dealt with whether Crete should be conquered. Despite suffering appalling casualties, the parachutists and glider-borne troops who led the invasion managed to secure a foothold on the island and eventually gained the upper hand. The battle ended with the evacuation to Egypt of the bulk of the Allied force. Page 2. But faced with shipping shortages and the threat of German attack, the British decided to use the men already on the island for its defence. Most of the Allied troops evacuated from Greece were sent to Crete. 33 Squadron RAF (Sqn. It saw the Germans make large-scale use of paratroopers during the invasion. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur (Operation Mercury). Later in the day, paratroops dropped into the area around the airfields at Retimo and Heraklion. The Battle of Crete was a battle fought in World War 2 between the Nazis and British Commonwealth soldiers with Greek support. The decision to concentrate on Maleme paid off for the Germans. It was decided to throw all available resources into an attack on Maleme the next day. The focus on Maleme was the result of its large airfield and that the attack force could be covered by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters flying from the mainland. This permitted the arrival of elements of the 5th Mountain Division though Allied forces heavily shelled the airfield, causing significant losses in aircraft and men. During the last week of April more than 50,000 Allied troops were evacuated from the mainland, including most of the 2nd New Zealand Division. Its capture would give them a useful base in the eastern Mediterranean and deny its use to the British. Hundreds of planes lumbered through the sky, dropping German paratroops into the area around Maleme and the township of Canea. On May 14th, Luftwaffe bombards relentlessly airports and ports of the island to deprive the allied troops of any provisioning and especially any reinforcement from North Africa. All non-text content is subject to specific conditions. Though a large force, approximately 10,000 lacked weapons, and heavy equipment were scarce. Because of the occupacion of Crete (Kriti) was considered an unrealistic military obsective, no significand … The battle of Crete is one of those war incidents. It would both give the Germans a good base in the eastern Mediterranean and prevent the British using it to mount operations in the Balkans. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. As fighting continued ashore on May 21, the Royal Navy successfully dispersed a reinforcement convoy that night. Ordering troops towards the southern ports, he directed other units to hold open key roads south and prevent the Germans from interfering. Narvik. Photos and a little of what hapen in 1941 in Maleme Airport with the Germans and the British Commonwealth - Newzeland - Australian. During the withdrawal from Greece the British had been forced to abandon their heavy equipment and transport. This information was derived from deciphered German codes, dubbed ULTRA intelligence by the Allies. Many of the 7700 New Zealand soldiers stationed on Crete were finishing breakfast when hundreds of German transport aircraft – some towing gliders – rumbled in over the Mediterranean island. Allied troops arrive in Crete, April 1941. Beginning around 8:00 AM, New Zealand forces defending Maleme airfield inflicted staggering losses on the Germans. Planning for the invasion was permitted to move forward with the restrictions that it does not interfere with Barbarossa and that it utilizes forces already in the region. We walk over the original Tavronitis River Bridge that was at the centre of much of the battle. Outgunned and outnumbered, it was forced to conduct a fighting withdrawal south through Greece. The 2nd New Zealand Division – part of a Commonwealth force hastily deployed to help the Greeks – was soon in the thick of the action. Of those left behind, many took to the hills to fight as guerillas. Defence of Maleme Airfield Crete May 1941. In this brief campaign nearly 300 New Zealanders were killed and 1800 captured. The confrontation began on May 20, 1941 and ended on June 1, 1941, resulting in a German victory. Read reviews from world’s largest community for readers. With the situation desperate, King George II of Greece was moved across the island and evacuated to Egypt. Dubbed Operation Mercury, the invasion plan called for Major General Kurt Student's XI Fliegerkorps to land paratroopers and glider troops at key points along Crete's northern shore, to be followed by the 5th Mountain Division which would be airlifted into captured airfields. A seaborne invasion ran the risk of disruption by British naval forces, but the Germans could also call on highly trained airborne forces. See more ideas about Battle of crete, Crete, Wwii. Quickly understanding the full importance of Maleme, Freyberg ordered attacks against Hill 107 that night. Stunned by the high losses sustained by Student's troops, Hitler resolved never to conduct a major airborne operation again. The Battle for Crete was one of the most dramatic battles of the Second World War. The key points on the island were the airfields at Maleme, Retimo and Heraklion, and the port at Suda Bay. 1. This crucial mistake effectively sealed the fate of Creforce. As in the west, losses during the opening engagements were high. Retimo and Heraklion, and 2180 Kiwi prisoners of War call on highly airborne. … What was the key to the island and airborne forces, along with Cretan civilians, handful! By Greek troops it saw the Germans turned their attention to the turned. 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