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Copy of THE BATTLE FOR CRETE
Transcript of Copy of THE BATTLE FOR CRETE
What was the background of the Battle for Crete?
How did the Battle for Crete affect the lives of people?
What happened during the Battle for Crete?
Why is the Battle for Crete significant for New Zealanders?
The Battle for Crete began just after dawn on 20th May, 1941. The Germans - finished their invasion through Greece during April, 1941- launched an airborne invasion on the island of Crete, under the codename -
The skies above the island of Crete were suddenly filled with hundreds of German transport aircraft and thousands of German paratroopers descending from the sky.
Map showing the location of Allied forces on Crete
9 ships sunk and 18 damaged
Two days after the German paratroopers and glider troopers descended from the sky, the
, along with the allies to seize control over the key Maleme airfield . The Maori Battalion used bayonets in a night attack, but were forced to retreat from the Battle as daylight approached once again. They left 33 dead behind.
Give me the Maori Battalion and I will conquer the world.
By Andrea Tejada
Many New Zealanders were evacuated from Crete during the battle, but thousands were still left behind: more than 2000 were taken prisoner and 671 died.
"Some villages were burning after being bombed (by German planes and the people must have known we were leaving. I felt ashamed to desert such gallant people. People who were poor, were risking their lives for freedom and helped so many British, Australian, and New Zealanders who remained behind in Crete..."
- George Weelink, New Zealand soldier
In the Battle of the Mediterranean, Crete was a notable base as it was at a strategic position to strike the German supply convoys heading towards North Africa, which were supplying to the Afrika Korps. There were German-owned oil wells in Ploesti, Romania and the British Aircraft on Crete was prime range of these oil wells, the Germans saw that this threatened them and so they drafted plans to occupy the island of Crete.
The island of Crete is prime strategic position in the Mediterranean as it has a central position in the Aegean and it is the largest of the Eastern Mediterranean islands. Suda Bay, a harbour in Crete, was an ideal base for Naval operations, this made Crete very desirable to both the British and the Germans.
The island of Crete would give the British better control of the Mediterranean and amalgamate their control over the northern end of the Suez Canal. The British could also use the airfields to bomb the oil plants owned my Germany in Romania.
Germany could use the island to attack the British shipping in the area and disrupt Britain's use of the Suez. The Germans could also be used
Hitler gave permission to the Luftwaffe to invade Crete as long as it did no interfere with Operation Barbarossa and the already utilized forces in the region.
Germany had known that the British Royal Navy had control over the waters surrounding Crete, so they decided to attack from the air.
On May 20th, 1941, German Paratroopers glided own to the island of Crete after the Luftwaffe aerial assault which took out the anti-aircraft guns on land. When the German troops landed, they were faced with the New Zealand and Australian divisions, both divisions fought efficiently and were rather effective against the Germans.
Germany's ships were intercepted by Britain's naval division.
The Allied prisoners of war on Crete were first detained at a transit camp close to the Galatas islands before being transferred to Greece's mainland.
The conditions for the prisoners within the overcrowded camp were poor. There were food shortages, little to no medical supplies and underdeveloped sanitation to accommodate the POWs.
"The conditions in the camp were shocking. It was dusty and dirty and there was only sandy ground, with a few tufts of grass. The toilet facilities were shocking. All they had was a trench in the ground, dug in on the outside, the edge of the camp. Out in the open. Everyone had dysentery. It was nothing to see a hundred all lined up along the trench, and more waiting to get there. Chaps couldn’t make it. If you soiled your clothes, all you could do was go down to the beach and get in the tide. There was only one well, and the water used to get muddy in that."
- Private Colin Burn, 18th Battalion
On 25th of April,1941, the Allies withdrew from Greece.
Some evacuated to Alexandria but most troops were ordered to reinforce the garrison in Crete. Most of the troops were fatigued from battle and many left their supplies behind.
The supplies (munitions and other material) on the island were insufficient to resupply the army.
The Allies had to face the enemy that had little trouble sweeping across Europe with limited ammunition and little to no air or naval support.
When the Germans first landed on land, they suffered severe casualties. Many of the men were killed before they even had the chance to exit their aircraft.
Despite this, the Germans eventually managed to take control of a landing field and were able to land large numbers of reinforcements safely.
From here on, German forces were able to advance across the island of Crete, fighting all the way.
The men and women of Crete resisted the Nazis with whatever weapons they could find. The Germans had never before experienced such a strong resistance from a civilian population.
The British Royal Navy had managed to evacuate approximately 16,000 troops to Egypt, but had to leave many others behind. Among those left behind were 9000 Australian and New Zealand troops, and thousands of other Greek soldiers. Those that were left behind had surrendered to the Nazis and went to prisoner-of-war camps, others went into hiding and fought with the citizens of Crete, and others had managed to make their own escape from the island.
Men of the Maori Battalion
Despite having suffered severe losses, the Germans still had complete dominance over the air space and left the Allies facing almost impossible odds.
By May 27, 1941, New Zealand's 5th Brigade was thinning and had fallen back to dirt road named 42nd Street, near Suda Bay. As the Germans advanced, the Maori Battalion had fought against them with bayonets, managing to maul a battalion of crack German mountain troops.
The Maori men alone claimed to have killed over 80 Germans for the loss of four men of their own brigade.
Although the Battle for Crete was lost, 42nd Street and other rearguard actions helped the Allies withdraw from Battle through the mountains of Crete to Egypt.
More than 16,000 NZ, Australian, British, and Greek soldiers had been evacuated by 31 May, 1941. However, another 12,000 soldiers had been left behind - among them were 71 Maori were left behind as POWs. The Maori Battalion had lost 74 men.