WWII German attack on Greece (operation Marita)

Greek drama. The combat spirit of the Greek army was high, but it had to perish before the technical superiority of the invaders.

While the Army Eastern Macedonia and the forces of the 3rd Military District, deployed on the Bulgarian frontier, were falling apart under the blows of the German 12th Army, the troops commanded by Gen. Henry Maitland Wilson were still organizing defences along the line Aliakmon valley – Vermion mountains – lake Vegoritis – Kajmakcalan. The news about the Yugoslav debacle on the Vardar caused that Gen. Wilson began to worry that the enemy troops could reach the rears of his left wing. Upon an agreement with General Aléxandros Papagos it was decided that the left wing of the Greco-British troops would be evacuated from the sector Vegoritis – Kajmakcalan to the area of the pass Kirli Derven near Klidi, where they would build new defences blocking the northern approaches from Bitola. While the troops were already on the move, the news came that the enemy took Bitola. It meant that the Yugoslav defence in that area was broken, and the German command got an opportunity to engage more forces in Greece. Συνέχεια

Battle of Greece – Operation Marita

 The Battle of Greece (also known as Operation Marita, German: Unternehmen Marita) was a World War II battle that occurred on the Greek mainland and in southern Albania. The battle was fought between the Allied (Greece and the British Commonwealth) and Axis (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Bulgaria) forces. With the Battle of Crete and several naval actions, the Battle of Greece is considered part of the wider Aegean component of the Balkans Campaign of World War II.

The Battle of Greece is generally regarded as a continuation of the Greco-Italian War, which began when Italian troops invaded Greece on October 28, 1940. Within weeks the Italians were driven from Greece and Greek forces pushed on to occupy much of southern Albania. In March 1941, a major Italian counterattack failed, and Germany was forced to come to the aid of its ally. Operation Marita began on April 6, 1941, with German troops invading Greece through Bulgaria in an effort to secure its southern flank. The combined Greek and British forces fought back with great tenacity, but were vastly outnumbered and outgunned, and finally collapsed. Athens fell on April 27. However, the British Commonwealth managed to evacuate about 50,000 troops. The Greek campaign ended in a quick and complete German victory with the fall of Kalamata in the Peloponnese; it was over within twenty-four days. Nevertheless, both German and Allied officials have expressed their admiration for the strong resistance of the Greek soldiers. Συνέχεια

Εκθεση περί της δράσεως των Ευελπίδων 1940-1945


1. Παραμονές του Πολέμου
Λίγες μέρες πριν από τον ύπουλο τορπιλλισμό του Καταδρομικού «Έλλη» από ιταλικό υποβρύχιο, στο λιμάνι της Τήνου (15 Αυγ. 1940) κι’ ενώ τα σύννεφα του πολέμου συσσωρεύονταν απειλητικά στον ουρανό της Ελλάδος, 289 απόφοιτοι Ευέλπιδες ορκίστηκαν (10 Αυγ. 1940) ως Ανθυπολοχαγοί ενώπιον του τότε βασιλιά Γεώργιου Β΄. Ήταν η τάξη του 1940. Δυόμηση δε μήνες αργότερα (παραμονές του πολέμου) φοιτούσαν στη ΣΣΕ τρεις (3) Τάξεις, σύμφωνα με τον ισχύοντα τότε Οργανισμό της:
– Η νεοπροαχθείσα ΙΙΙη Τάξη (από το φθινόπωρο του 1938).
– Η νεοπροαχθείσα ΙΙη Τάξη (322 μαθητές) από 29 Οκτωβρίου 1939.
– Η μόλις εισαχθείσα Ιη Τάξη (326 μαθητές) από 2 Οκτωβρίου 1940.
Υπόψη ότι σε κτίριο της Λεωφόρου Αλεξάνδρας λειτουργούσε ταυτόχρονα και η «Στρατιωτική Σχολή Αξιωματικών Σωμάτων και Υπηρεσιών» (ΣΣΑΣΥ) με 109 συνολικά μαθητές των ειδικοτήτων: Υγειονομικού, Διαχειρίσεως, Στρατολογίας και Αυτοκινήτων. Επίσης δε στις εγκαταστάσεις της Σχολής στρατωνίστηκε από τον Νοέμβριο του ‘40 ο Ουλαμός Εφέδρων Αξιωματικών. Συνέχεια

Σύντομο Ιστορικό της Ελληνικής Εποποιίας του 1940

Όταν τον Οκτώβριο του 1940 η Ιταλία επετέθη κατά της Ελλάδας, είχε μόλις τότε τελειώσει η Μάχη της Αγγλίας και τα Βρετανικά Στρατεύματα είχαν υποχωρήσει από την Ευρώπη στην Δουνκέρκη. Μεταξύ Γερμανίας και Σοβιετικής Ενώσεως ίσχυε από το 1939 Σύμφωνο Φιλίας. Η Μάχη της Ελλάδας κατά των απρόκλητων Ιταλικών αρχικά από 28 Οκτωβρίου 1940 επιθέσεων αργότερα δε από και των 6 Απριλίου 1941 Γερμανικών, διήρκεσε συνολικά 216 ημέρες. Αυτό προκάλεσε παγκόσμια κατάπληξη και αιτία πολλαπλού γενικευμένου θαυμασμού και εγκωμίων. Ήταν κάτι το μεγαλειώδες, το οποίο δικαίως θεωρήθηκε ως Ελληνικό θαύμα. Όπως αναφέρει ο Peter Young στο βιβλίο του “WORLD ALMANAC BOOK OF WW II”, για την κατάληψη της Γαλλίας ο Άξονας χρειάστηκε 45 ημέρες, παρά τη στρατιωτική βοήθεια που της εδόθη με την εκεί παρουσία ισχυρών Αγγλικών δυνάμεων, του Βελγίου 185  μέρες, ενώ η Δανία υπέκυψε σε  ώρες και οι Βουλγαρία, Ουγγαρία, Ρουμανία και Αλβανία προσεχώρησαν ή παρεδόθησαν αμαχητί. Συνέχεια

German Invasion to Greece Timeline

The German armies invade Greece.
The German 164th Infantry Division captures Xanthi.
German troops seize Thessaloniki.
The German 72d Infantry Division breaks through the Metaxas Line.
The Greek Second Army capitulates unconditionally.
The Germans overcome the enemy resistance north of Vevi, at the Klidi Pass.
General Wilson decides to withdraw all British forces to the Haliacmon river, and then to Thermopylae.
Elements of the Greek First Army operating in Albania withdraw toward the Pindus mountains.
Hitler issues his Directive No. 27, which illustrates his future occupying policy in Greece.
The spearheads of the 9th Panzer Division reach Kozani.
After fighting at Kastoria pass, the Germans block the Greek withdrawal, which extends across the entire Albanian front.
Wilson informs General Papagos of his decision to withdraw to Thermopylae.
Rear admiral H. T. Baillie-Grohman is sent to Greece to prepare for the evacuation of the Commonwealth forces.
After a three-days struggle, German armored infantry crosses the Pineios river.
The 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler—which had reached Grevena— overwhelms several Greek units.
German troops enter Larissa and take possession of the airfield.
German troops capture Ioannina.
The commander of the Greek forces in Albania, General Georgios Tsolakoglou, offers to surrender his army to the Germans alone.
The Bulgarian Army invades Thrace.
The final decision for the evacuation of the Commonwealth forces to Crete and Egypt is taken.
The Germans capture the port of Volos.
Official surrender of the Greek forces in Albania to both the Germans and the Italians after a personal representation from Mussolini to Hitler
The Germans attack the Commonwealth forces at Thermopylae. The British rear guards withdraw to Thebes.
5,200 Commonwealth soldiers are evacuated from Porto Rafti, East Attica.
The few RAF squadrons leave Greece. Some 10,200 Australian troops are evacuated from Nauplion and Megara.
The Germans stage an airborne operation to seize the bridges over the Corinth Canal.
The first Germans enter Athens.
Italian troops start occupying the Ionian and Aegean islands.
5th Panzer Division units reach the south coast of Peloponnese, where they are joined by SS troops arriving from Pyrgos.
The evacuation of 42,311 Commonwealth soldiers is completed. The Germans manage to capture around 7-8,000 Commonwealth troops.

2nd World War: The Struggle of Greece (28th OCTOBER 1940)

1940 leaving for the front

Greek soldiers leaving for the front

 Άσβεστον κλέως οίδε φίλη περί πατρίδι θέντες
Αμφεβάλοντο νέφος κυάνεον θανάτου.
Ουδέ τεθνάσι θανόντες επεί σφ’αρετή καθύπερθε
κυδαίνουσ’ ανάγει δώματος εξ Αίδεω. Θουκιδίδης, Περικλέους Επιτάφιος, 431 π.Χ.

By wrapping round themselves the dusky cloud of death these men clothed their dear country with an unquenchable renown.
They died, but they are not dead, for their own virtue leads them gloriously up again from the shades. Thucydides, Pericles Epitaphy, 431 BC


Italy has annexed Albania in 1939. Thus Greece was the next, seemingly easy, target.

  • 1940 August 15: The Greek cruiser Helle is torpeoded and sunk, lying at anchor in Tinos harbour. Fragments of the torpedo reveal that the armament was of Italian manufacture.
  • October 15: The Italian War Council decides on the attack on Greece.
  • October 28: Greek Prime Minister Metaxas rejects an ultimatum from the Italian ambassador in Athens, demanding the passage of Italian troops to unspecified points in Greece. Italian troops poor over the Greco-Albanian frontier into Greece. Briatain immidiately promises help.


Before the storm

In the end of October 1940 a beautiful Mediterranean autumn ruled in Rome and Athens. But to the Greco- Albanian frontier running through the wilderness of the Pindus plateau came a Balkan winter – cold, rainy, even snowy in upper parts of the mountains. In that frontier, which separated Greece from Italian- occupied Albania, since some time had been freezing soldiers of both sides: Italian, who by Mussolini’s will were about to march on Athens, and Greek, who were preparing to defend their country of the invasion. Italian soldiers expected a tourist march to Athens, after which they would promptly return to their homes. The commander of the Aquila Battalion from the 3rd Alpine Division (Giulia), Major Fatuzzo, on 27 October 1940 noted in his diary: Συνέχεια

Codename MARITA

Development of the situation in Greece had frustrated Germans’ hopes for quick conquest of Greece by Italy. Quite the contrary, Berlin contemplated a possibility to face a broader anti-fascist coalition in the Balkans, including Turkey siding with the British. Also the Bulgarian government warned Berlin that Yugoslavia also might change its policy. In those circumstances Adolf Hitler decided about an intervention in Greece. However, such an intervention required additional political manoeuvres. It was necessary to attract Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to the «Axis», neutralize Turkey, obtain Romania’s consent to increase the contingent of the German troops in that country, and obtain Hungary’s consent for transporting the troops via its territory. It was also important to mask all those actions in a way that would not alarm the Soviet Union. Moreover, the military operation against Greece had to be completed soon enough to engage the participating troops against the USSR before May 1941. Hence the obvious tendency had emerged to solve the Italo-Greek conflict by «peaceful» means. Politicians in Berlin expected that merely a threat of a German intervention would be enough to force Greece’s capitulation. Συνέχεια

Fire in the Balkans

Although politicians in Rome were talking about an occupation of the whole Greece, there was barely enough troops concentrated in Albania to seize Epirus. Bigger operations had to be improvised while the hostilities were already going on. Out of 140,000 men deployed in Albania 100,000 were in combat units: five infantry divisions, one armoured, and one alpine division. Moreover three cavalry regiments, one grenadier regiment and some smaller units were used to create the Coastal Group, which more or less equalled in strength to a division. Most of those forces were concentrated along the Epirus frontier. General Sebastiano Visconti Prasca exercised the command through the Supreme Command Albania (Superalba). On 24 October his forces were divided into two army corps: 25th or Ciamuria in Epirus under the command of Gen. Carlo Rossi, and 26th in Western Macedonia under the command of Gen. Gabriele Nasci. The Ciamuria Corps had to strike with the forces of the Division Ferrara (23rd Inf.) and the Armoured Division Centauro (131st Amd.) from the area of Tepelena and Gjirokastra on Kalpakion, Yannina and Arta. The Infantry Division Siena (51st Inf.) had to force the Kalamas River, and support the advance on Yannina. Συνέχεια

Επιχείρηση ΕΡΜΗΣ (αεραπόβαση στην Κρήτη)

H αερομεταφερόμενη επίθεση των Γερμανών για την κατάληψη της Κρήτης απετέλεσε ακρογωνιαίο λίθο για την μελλοντική ανάπτυξη και διαμόρφωση των δυνάμεων αλεξιπτωτιστών έως και σήμερα. Το αλεξίπτωτο ως υλικό ήταν  γνωστό από τον A’ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο στις διάφορες στρατιωτικές υπηρεσίες, οι οποίες το Θεωρούσαν μόνον ως ένα διασωστικό μέσο και μάλιστα κακής υπόληψης, καθώς κάποιοι θεωρούσαν δειλία την εγκατάλειψη ενός φλεγόμενου αεροσκάφους! Σε κάποια ανήσυχα και διορατικά μυαλά, ωστόσο, απετέλεσε την  αφορμή για την εκπόνηση νέων στρατηγικών και τακτικών μάχης, οι οποίες σήμερα, στην πλέον εξελιγμένη μορφή τους, έχουν προκαλέσει μια πλήρη μεταβολή του σύγχρονου πεδίου μάχης, των αρχών και των μηχανισμών διεξαγωγής του πολέμου. Συνέχεια

Remarks by the Prime Minister of Canada Hon. Lyon Mackenzie King. 1 July 1941

The world had the greatest admiration for Classical Greece, but now the admiration for the same land is beyond any bounds. Italy attacked first, and then German forces came to Italy’s assistance. Greece stood up against both – a lesson of natural courage. Humanity will never forget the bravery shown by Greece at this time. The sacrifice of Greece was not vain. Canada’s efforts to alleviate famine in Greece were welcomed as was her promise to send wheat to Greece as soon as ships are available. Canada will never rest until Greece is restored and her independence secured.

Mackenzie King,

Prime Minister of Canada

Turkish-German Treaty of Friendship. Ankara, 18 June 1941

The German Government and the Turkish Republic, inspired by a desire to place relations between the two countries on a basis of mutual confidence and sincere friendship, agreed without prejudice to present obligations of both countries to conclude a treaty.

For this purpose the German Reich Chancellor appointed Ambassador Franz von Papen and the President of the Turkish Republic appointed Foreign Minister Shukru Saracoglu as plenipotentiaries, who, on the basis of full powers accorded them, have agreed on the following declaration: Συνέχεια

Falling back in Greece

British forces in Libya had been weakened because so many troops had been diverted to support the Greeks. The German invasion of Greece, also to support their Italian allies, was progressing quickly. The simultaneous invasion of Yugoslavia enabled them to outflank the Greek and British forces. Captain K.M. Oliphant was with the 2/3 Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery high in the Greek mountains, which he described as ‘making the highlands of Scotland look like a plain’. His personal diary did not manage to keep track of individual days during this period:

News comes that the position on our flanks is not good – we are to withdraw to a stronger line – we are still confident. The withdrawal takes place under cover of the darkness, and we take up our new positions.

It is still snowing. The Germans move down and attack again – here they employ the full weight of their Air Force against us – we suffer their dive bombing and machine gunning and await the arrival of the R.A.F. – we are still confident. Day after day the German Air force bomb and machine gun us – a terrible experience – where is the R.A.F? surely there has been no mismanagement – our confidence is shaken – as we suffer every morning and every evening these terrifying raids – we reach the stage where we long for night and quietness – all day is a nightmare, and the hours of daylight are so long.

No British are in the sky – what has gone wrong?. Men begin to ask ‘Are we to be sacrificed to the German Air Force?’

On land we hurl their attacks back in spite of their overwhelming numbers – but we can’t hold on against their Air Force. One morning three bombs landed not twenty yards from the hole we were crouching in, covering us with filth, my tent was torn in three places by jagged pieces of bomb splinters. Forty yards from my tent a huge bomb tore a hole in the ground twenty feet deep and seventy feet wide. After dropping their bombs they fly low and machine-gun us because we have no planes to chase them-off – the sky is THEIRS.

News comes of a further withdrawal – we ask what has happened – surely not another Dunkirk; – our Unit is allotted the rearguard role – we stand and fight to cover the withdrawal of the rest of the force.

SOURCE: ww2today.com

Battle of Crete 20 May 1941

Date 20 May – 1 June 1941
Location Crete, Greece
Result German Pyrrhic Victory[1][2][3]
 United Kingdom
 New Zealand
Commanders and leaders
New Zealand Bernard Freyberg Nazi Germany Kurt Student
United Kingdom: 15,000
Greece: 11,451[4]
Australia: 7,100
New Zealand: 6,700
Total: 40,000 (10,000 without fighting capacity)[5]
14,000[citation needed] paratroopers
15,000[citation needed] mountain troopers
280 bombers
150 dive bombers
180 fighters
500 transports
80 troop gliders
Italy: 2,700
Casualties and losses
Total:  23,830
3,990 dead
2,750 wounded
17,090 captured
Total: 6,698
370 aircraft destroyed or damaged
1Total Greek casualties amounted to 1,250 killed and wounded

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“). Greek and Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island.

After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered very heavy casualties, and the Allied troops were confident that they would prevail against the German invasion. The next day, through miscommunication and the failure of Allied commanders to grasp the situation, Maleme 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) 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 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 forbade further large-scale airborne operations. However, the Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to build their own airborne divisions.


Allied forces had occupied Crete when the Italians attacked Greece on 28 October 1940. Though the Italians were initially repulsed, subsequent German intervention drove 57,000 Allied troops from the mainland. The Royal Navy evacuated many of them; some were taken to Crete to bolster its garrison.

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 oil fields in Romania, which were critical to the Axis war effort, were within range of British bombers. Given its strategic value, Winston Churchill 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), 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 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.[16] 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 to move its planes to Alexandria.

At the outset of the land battle, the Allies had the advantage of naval supremacy and defending with relative numerical superiority, while the Germans had air superiority, more highly trained troops, and the momentum of an unbroken run of victories.

Order of battle

For more details on this topic, see Battle of Crete order of battle.
File:Lieutenant General Freyberg gazes over the parapet.jpg

Major-General Freyberg, Allied Commander at the Battle of Crete


Allied forces

On 30 April 1941, a New Zealand Army officer, Major-General Bernard Freyberg VC was appointed commander of the Allied forces on Crete.

By May, the Greek forces consisted of approximately 9,000 troops: three battalions of the 5th Division of the Hellenic Army, 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 (a battalion-sized force); the Heraklion 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 organised under British command. There were also cadets from the Gendarmerie academy and recruits from the Greek training centres in the Peloponnese, 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 regiments, and it was decided to use this existing configuration to organise the Greek troops, supplementing them with experienced men arriving from the mainland.

The British Commonwealth 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, less the 6th Brigade and division headquarters; the Australian 19th Brigade Group; and the British 14th Infantry Brigade. 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. 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

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 141-0816, Kreta, Lastensegler DFS 230, Fallschirmjäger.jpg

A Fallschirmjäger and a DFS 230 glider in Crete.

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-borne assaults on a much smaller scale in the invasions of Denmark and Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and mainland Greece. In the last instance, German paratroops (Fallschirmjäger) had been dispatched to capture the bridge over the Corinth Canal which was being readied for demolition by the Royal Engineers. German engineers were landed near the bridge in gliders, while parachute infantry attacked the perimeter defence.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L19017, Gebirgsjäger vor dem Start nach Kreta.jpg

Mountain troops prior to their transfer to Crete

Mountain troops prior to their transfer to Crete

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 replacing the 22nd Division.



By this time, Allied commanders had become aware of the imminent invasion through Ultra 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, although the Ultra-derived intelligence that Freyberg received was very detailed, it was taken out of context and misinterpreted.  While emphasis was placed on the airborne assault 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.


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L19017, Gebirgsjäger vor dem Start nach Kreta.jpg

Alexander Löhr and Wolfram von Richthofen (1942)

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the German Abwehr, 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 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 and anti-monarchist feelings, and would want to receive the “…favourable terms which had been arranged on the mainland…”[22] While it is true the late republican prime minister of Greece, Eleftherios Venizelos, had been a Cretan, and support for his ideas was strong on the island, the Germans seriously underestimated the depth of patriotic feeling on the part of the Cretans. In fact, King George II of Greece 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, the theatre commander, was convinced the island could be taken with two divisions, but decided to keep 6th Mountain Division in Athens as a reserve. Events would prove this to have been a wise precaution.





Wehrmacht cuff title (German: ärmelband) for the Crete campaign

The Germans deployed a new weapon on Crete: the 7.5 cm Leichtgeschütz 40 “light gun” (actually a recoilless rifle). At 320 lb (150 kg), it weighed only 110 as much as a standard German 75 mm field gun, 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 that ¼ of them jumped with a MP 40 submachine gun, often carried in addition to a bolt-action Karabiner 98k rifle. Moreover, almost every German squad was equipped with an MG 34 machine gun.

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, due to their style of exiting the aircraft at low altitude. 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, 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 Army World War 2

Soldiers of Crete and Greece World War 2

After successive meetings, the Germans decide on the occupation of Crete. The transport of Greek and British forces from mainland Greece is scheduled for the second fortnight of April.
The Greek government resorts to Crete.http://www.explorecrete.com/history/battle-crete-chronicle.htm

Further information: Fallschirmjäger (World War II)


Greek troops were armed with the Mannlicher-Schönauer 6.5 mm mountain carbine or ex-Austrian 8x56R Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 rifles, the latter part of post–World War I reparations. About one thousand Greeks carried the antique Gras rifle. The garrison had been stripped of its best crew-served weapons, which were sent to the mainland. There were twelve obsolescent Saint Etienne 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 calibres. 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 stated that “…some fought with extreme courage and tenacity.”

British Commonwealth

British Commonwealth troops used their standard Lee-Enfield rifle, Bren light machine gun and Vickers medium machine gun. The Allies had about 85 artillery pieces of various calibres, many of them captured Italian pieces without sights.[25]

Anti-aircraft 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 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.

German army World War 2

APRIL25, 1941 Landing in Crete of the New Zealand allies.http://www.explorecrete.com/history/battle-crete-chronicle.htm

Allied armour consisted of nine Matilda IIA infantry tanks, belonging to “B” Squadron, 7th Royal Tank Regiment, and sixteen Mark VIB Light Tanks from “C” Squadron, 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. In common with most British tank units at the time, the Matildas’ 2-pounder (40 mm) guns had only armour piercing rounds which were not effective against infantry (high explosive rounds in such a small calibre 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 Carriers 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.

Strategy and tactics

Operation Mercury

File:German assault on Crete.jpg

Map of the German assault on Crete


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. 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, including the use of troops who were not trained for airborne assaults.

APRIL 28, 1941 The Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Tsouderos, chairs a meeting at Chania between the leaders of the Greek forces and British officers. The meeting concluded with the issue of a reinforcement request to strengthen the defense of the island.

Allied troops arrive to Crete

Allied troops arrive to Crete for the Battle of Crete


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 Karl-Georg Schuster, favoured a heavier concentration against Maleme, to achieve overwhelming superiority of force. By contrast, Major-General Kurt von Student wanted to disperse his paratroops more widely, in order to maximise 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 fighters; and it was near the northern coast, so seaborne reinforcements could be brought up quickly.

A compromise plan by Hermann Göring was agreed and the final plan heavily emphasised securing Maleme first, while not ignoring the other Allied assets.[31] It was codenamed Merkur, after the swift Roman god Mercury. German forces were divided into three battle groups, Centre, 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 Major General Wilhelm Süssman Prison Valley, Chania Souda, Rethymnon
Gruppe West (Group West) Comet Major General Eugen Meindl Maleme
Gruppe Ost (Group East) Orion Colonel Bruno Bräuer 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 in Alexandria.[34] 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.[35] 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, particularly given the number of troops delivered by expendable gliders.

Allied troops prepare the defense of Crete

APRIL 29, 1941 The commander of the Hew Zealand Division, General Prey Berg, arrives in Crete.http://www.explorecrete.com/history/battle-crete-chronicle.htm

Day one, 20 May

File:German prisoners under British guard.jpg

Captured German paratroopers under British guard


Maleme-Chania sector

At 08:00 on 20 May, German paratroopers, jumping out of dozens of Junkers Ju 52 aircraft, landed near Maleme airfield and the town of Chania. 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.

German army prepares to invade Crete

MAY 20, 1941 German attack on Crete begins at 6:3O a.m. The Germans subject the towns of Chania, Rethymnon and Heraklion to severe bombardment prior to dropping their elite parachutists. Local confrontations take place between German paratroopers and allied forces reinforced by the local population.http://www.explorecrete.com/history/battle-crete-chronicle.htm

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 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. Meanwhile, the 8th Greek Regiment and elements of the Cretan forces severely hampered movement by the 95th Reconnaissance Battalion on Kolimbari and Paleochora, wFile:Paratroopers Crete '41.JPG

here Allied reinforcements from North Africa could potentially be landed.

Battle of Crete
MAY 21, 1941 The German concentrate their attack on Maleme airfield. German airfield land at Maleme in the evening carrying significant forces and material for the attack. The British fleet in the Mediterranean strikes a German convoy heading for Crete. Fifteen requisitioned vessels were sunk; their losses are still unknown http://www.explorecrete.com/history/battle-crete-chronicle.htm

More German paratroops landing on Crete, dropped from Junkers 52 transports, 20 May 1941. Taken by a British combat photographer, the photo was edited for propaganda purposes to show a black smoke trail from a damaged Ju 52. Several were indeed lost by anti-aircraft fire during the airdrops but none were hit at the time this photo was taken

Rethimnon-Heraklion sector

For more details on this topic, see Battle of Rethymno.

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

Battle of Crete

MAY 24, 1941 The bombardment of the towns of Crete goes on. At Chania, the Germans gained the initiative. The allied forces at Rethymnon and Heraklion are determined “to fight to the end”.http://www.explorecrete.com/history/battle-crete-chronicle.htm

Heraklion was defended by the British 14th Infantry Brigade, augmented by the Australian 2/4th Battalion 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 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.

Battle of Crete

By May 31st the total occupation of Crete was a fact and the withdrawal of the majority of the ally forces to Egypt marked the end of the Battle of Crete.http://www.explorecrete.com/history/battle-crete-chronicle.htm

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 Max Schmeling, who held the rank of Gefreiter at the time. Schmeling survived the battle and the war.

Civilian uprising

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-166-0527-22, Kreta, toter Fallschirmjäger.jpg

Dead paratrooper, Crete, 1941


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-166-0527-04, Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten.jpg

Executed Cretan civilians at Kondomari, Crete, 1941


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 man 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 a village museum and took two rifles from the era of the Balkan Wars and sniped at German paratroops at one of the landing zones. While the priest would aim and shoot at German paratroopers with one rifle, his son would re-load 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 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 Cretan 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—as were a significant number of mainland Greeks. In 1924, George II, King of the Hellenes 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, 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 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, Master of Ceremonies; Prime Minister Tsouderos; and Kyriakos Varvaressos, Governor-in-Exile of the Bank of Greece.

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 HMS Decoy and were plucked from the shore, arriving in Alexandria on the night of 22 May.

Day two, 21 May


Overnight, the New Zealand 22nd Infantry Battalion withdrew from Hill 107, leaving the Maleme airfield undefended. During the previous day the Germans had succeeded in cutting off communications between the two western-most companies of the battalion and the battalion commander, Lt Col Andrews, who was on the east of the airfield. Andrews mistakenly interpreted the lack of communication as meaning his battalion had been overrun in the west. With the weakened state of the eastern elements of the battalion, and believing the western elements to have been overrun, Andrews requested reinforcement by the 23rd Battalion. This was denied by his superior, Brigadier James Hargest, on the grounds that the 23rd Battalion were fully committed repulsing parachutists in their sector. After a failed attempt at a counter-attack late in the day of the 20th with the eastern elements of his battalion, Andrews withdrew under cover of darkness to regroup, with the consent of Hargest. Captain Campbell, commanding the western-most company of the 22nd Battalion, out of contact with Andrews, did not learn of the withdrawal of the 22nd Battalion until early in the morning, at which point he also withdrew from the west of the airfield. This misunderstanding, representative of failings of communication and coordination in the Allied defense of Crete , cost the allies the airfield, and allowed the Germans to reinforce their invasion force unopposed. In Athens, General Kurt Student decided to concentrate his forces on Maleme on the 21st, as this was the area where the most progress had been made on the first day,and due to an early morning reconnaissance flight over the Maleme airfield that was unopposed by defending forces.. The Germans quickly exploited the withdrawal from Hill 107 to take control of the Maleme airfield, just as a sea landing took place nearby. The allies continued to pour artillery fire into the area as Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft started flying in units of the 5th Mountain Division at night. These troops moved into the line as soon as their planes landed, many of which were hit by artillery fire and littered the airfield. The Germans now had a foothold on Crete.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-166-0508-31, Kreta, Vormarsch deutscher Fallschirmjäger.jpg

Crete: Attacking Fallschirmjägers


Failure to recapture Maleme

The New Zealand commander of Creforce, Major General Bernard Freyburg, realized that the Maleme airfield was key to the battle, and ordered an overnight counter-attack to retake the airfield on the night of the 21st. This decision was reached in the afternoon of the 21st, and relied on the 2/7th Battalion moving 18 miles north to relieve the 20th Battalion, who would participate in the attack. The 2/7th Battalion did not have its own transport, and getting transport to the Battalion was delayed due to the Luftwaffe air superiority in daylight hours. By the time the 2/7th Battalion had its transport and moved north to relieve 20th Battalion for the counter-attack, it was 11:30pm. The 20th Battalion then took 3 hours to reach the staging area for the counter-attack, its first elements arriving around 2:45 AM.The counter-attack was launched at 3:30am, and failed due to German air support by the Luftwaffe during daylight hours.

First landing attempt

Before midnight, Rear-Admiral Irvine Glennie‘s Force D, consisting of three light cruisers and four destroyers, intercepted a flotilla of reinforcements, escorted by a single Italian torpedo boat, the Lupo, successfully preventing their landing. The convoy, comprising around 20 caïques, was fiercely defended by the Italian ship. About 2/3 the 2000+ strong German force was saved due to the aggressive manouvres of the Italian naval commander, Francesco Mimbelli, 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 HMS Orion.

Ομιλία Χίτλερ μετά τη λήξη της γερμανικής εκστρατείας στα Βαλκάνια, 4-5-1941

Βουλευτές !!

Άνδρες του ΓΕΡΜΑΝΙΚΟΥ Ράΐχσταγκ!

Εις εποχή κατά την οποίαν οι πράξεις αποτελούν το παν, και οι φράσεις έχουν ελαχίστη σημασία, δεν έχω την πρόθεση να εμφανίζομαι ενώπιον υμών, οίτινες εξελέγητε ως αντιπρόσωποι του γερμανικού λαού, παρά μόνον οσάκις παρίσταται απόλυτος ανάγκη.
Αποτάθηκα δια πρώτη φοράν εις υμάς κατά την έκρηξη του πολέμου την στιγμήν κατά την οποίαν είχε ναυαγήσει πλέον χάρις εις την αγγλογαλλική εναντίον της ειρήνης συνομωσία παρά σα προσπάθεια, ήτις θα μας οδηγεί άνευ της παρεμβάσεως αυτής εις συμβιβασμό μετά της Πολωνίας. ΟΙ πλέον ασυνείδητοι άνδρες της εποχής μας, ο( όποιοι παραδέχονται σήμερον ότι είχαν λάβει ήδη από το 1936 την απόφαση να ερημώσουν και να εξουθενώσουν ει δυνατόν δι’ ενός νέου αιματηρού πολέμου το Ράιχ, διότι εύρισκαν ότι τούτο είχε υπέρ το δέον ισχυροποιηθεί δια της ειρηνικής αναδημιουργικής του εργασίας, είχαν τέλος κατορθώσει να βρουν εις την Πολωνία το κράτος εκείνο, όπερ ήταν πρόθυμο να σύρει πρώτον το ξίφος δια τα συμφέροντα και τους σκοπούς των. Όλες οι προσπάθειες μου όπως επιτύχω, ειδικώς με την Αγγλία, τρόπον συνεννοήσεως, ακόμη και μίαν διαρκή και φιλική συνεργασία, ναυαγήσαν ενώπιον της επιθυμίας και της θελήσεως μιας ολιγάριθμου κλίκας, ή Οποία, είτε λόγω μίσους είτε και εκ λόγων οικονομικού συμφέροντος, απέρριψε πάσα γερμανική πρόταση οχυρωμένη όπισθεν της απροκάλυπτου αποφάσεως, όπως διεξαγάγει υπό οιασδήποτε συνθήκες τον πόλεμο. Συνέχεια

The last defence line in Greece

The Germans had established air superiority early in the short Greek campaign, as Captain Oliphant had experienced. As they consolidated their positions German fighters and dive bombers dominated even more.

Percy Parrymore was with the 122/13th Light Anti Aircraft unit in Greece. As the British made their withdrawal from Greece his troop was selected to remain as a rearguard on the last bridge over the Corinth canal. The eight men on his gun were reduced down to six and they were told to watch out for parachutists:

Came the dawn on Saturday, 26th April, along with scores of German fighters with machine guns blazing. The man taking cover alongside me was killed outright and I was wounded in the right hand and arm.

Then the Germans started dropping the parachutists, and it was quite evident that nothing was going to stop them. Eventually there were left only the Sergeant, Alan Ponsford, and myself (bombardier), and deciding the only course of action was to spike the gun, we threw the breech block as far as we could into a corn field.

My right arm was useless, so I told Alan I would crawl through the adjacent corn field to see if I could see any other British troops. On my return after only a few minutes Alan was dead. I had not, of course, seen any British, but found four Germans advancing towards us, at whom Alan had apparently been firing with a Greek rifle; he was just keeled over in a kneeling position. I took his rifle with my remaining hand and took one shot at the advancing Germans. This stopped them, but they started throwing grenades.

Then a very Lancashire accent voice called out ‘Nah then, daft bugger, gie thissen up’. I thought this must be a German who had lived in England, so still dodged a few more grenades. Finally, deciding ‘This is the end’, I stood up, still holding the rifle, and the Germans and I simply stared at each other. They indicated strongly that I should drop the rifle, which I did, and then walked over towards them.

They could not have been kinder, and used their own field dressings to mop up my hand and arm, and I was taken to a field dressing station, which had been dropped by parachute, and where a German doctor showed no discrimintion between German and British wounded.


Last ditch stand at Kalamata

British and New Zealand troops in Greece were now making their way to the coast to seek evacuation by the Royal Navy. Many men were got away but when the Germans caught up with them a fierce fight ensued.

It was during this action that New Zealander Jack Hinton won the VC:

On the night of 28/29 April 1941 during fighting in Greece a column of German armoured forces entered Kalamata. This column, which contained several armoured cars, some 2-inch guns and 3-inch mortars and two 6-inch guns, rapidly converged on a large force of British and New Zealand troops awaiting embarkation on the beach.

When an order to retreat to cover was given Sergeant Hinton shouted, ‘To Hell with this, who will come with me’, and ran to within several yards of the nearest guns. The guns fired, missing him, and he hurled two grenades which completely wiped out the crews. He then came on with bayonet followed by a crowd of New Zealanders. German troops abandoned the first 6-inch gun and retreated into two houses. Sergeant Hinton smashed the window and then the door of the first house and dealt with the garrison with bayonet. He repeated the performance in the second house and, as a result until overwhelming German forces arrived, the New Zealander held the guns. Sergeant Hinton then fell with a bullet wound through the lower abdomen and was taken prisoner.

Bill Flint, who was with the 18th Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, was involved with this fighting. He describes how the final surrender came about the following morning:

They were a sandbag sort of wall – a low wall, and they were sheltering behind them, but they were made of filled sandbags. I saw one bloke – I think he was ASC [Army Service Corps] or something-he’d had no training in bayonet, and he stuck his bayonet at a- obviously German who was behind a sanger – but he didn’t know how to pull it out. There’s a knack in it – you’ve got to jerk it and put your foot in. It was desperate. We realised we had to beat these Germans before we could get away. It ended up we all sorted – we had about 70 German prisoners right at the wharf edge, and we fully expected to still go – get out – and then a destroyer just zoomed past. It sort of semi-circled and turned and went away and loud-hailed us: ‘Sorry boys, it’s late. We’ve got to go.’

Not long after that we got – word circulated- word of mouth – that the brigadier, whoever he was, a Pommie, I think, had unconditionally surrendered to the Germans, who had offered him annihilation bombing if he didn’t – didn’t surrender immediately and that was something like 7:30 in the morning. We were to consider ourselves prisoners at 7:30 and in no time flat, the German tanks came in and went right round us in a circle and put swastika flags on top of their tanks and their bombers flew in at just that time and when they saw the flags, they veered off and went away but they were just going to start bombing.

Message to King Peter II of Yugoslavia, 8 April 1941

Department of State Bulletin, 12 April 1941

April 8, 1941

The people of the United States have been profoundly shocked by the unprovoked and ruthless aggression upon the people of Yugoslavia. The Government and people of the United States are witnessing with admiration the courageous self-defense of the Yugoslav people, which constitutes one more shining example of their traditional bravery.

As I have assured Your Majesty’s Government, the United States will speedily furnish all material assistance possible in accordance with its existing statutes.

send Your Majesty my most earnest hopes for a successful resistance to this criminal assault upon the independence and integrity of your country.

Μάχη των Οχυρών

Η διάψευση των ελπίδων της Ιταλίας για ταχεία κατάληψη της Ελλάδας, κατά το Β΄ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο, προκάλεσε την επέμβαση της Γερμανίας. Η εισβολή των γερμανικών στρατευμάτων στο ελληνικό έδαφος, στις 6 Απριλίου 1941, σήμανε την έναρξη της Μάχης των Οχυρών, του τετραήμερου αγώνα στα 21 οχυρά της «Γραμμής Μεταξά», κατά μήκος των ελληνοβουλγαρικών συνόρων. Η κύρια προσπάθεια των Γερμανών εκδηλώθηκε στα υψώματα του όρους Μπέλες. Η αριθμητική υπεροχή του εχθρού και ο υπερσύγχρονος εξοπλισμός του δεν κατάφεραν να κάμψουν την αντίσταση των ελληνικών δυνάμεων. Τα περισσότερα οχυρά της Ανατολικής Μακεδονίας και της Δυτικής Θράκης έμειναν απόρθητα, παραδόθηκαν, όμως, μετά τη συνθηκολόγηση της 9ης Απριλίου. Συνέχεια

Hitler’s war directive No. 25 Concerning preparations for invasion of Yugoslavia-Greece. 27 March 1941

Hitler’s war directive No. 25
Concerning preparations for invasion
of Yugoslavia.
27 March 1941

The Führer and the Supreme Commander Führer Headquarters
of the Armed Forces. 27th march 1941.
13 copies

1. The military revolt in Yugoslavia has changed the political position in the Balkans. Yugoslavia, even if it makes initial professions of loyalty, must be regarded as an enemy and beaten down as quickly as possible.

  1. It is my intention to break into Yugoslavia in the general direction of Belgrade and to the south by a concentric operation from the Fiume-Graz area on the one side, and the Sofia area on the other, and to deal an annihilating blow to the Yugoslav forces. Further, the extreme southern region of Yugoslavia will be cut off from the rest of the country and will be occupied as a base from which the German-Italian offensive against Greece can be continued. Συνέχεια