Battle of Crete

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Sgt Hawk, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. spider

    spider Very Senior Member

    A little bit off topic, but a quite good DVD to watch is The Fall of Crete (The German Paratroopers Costly Airborne Assault), which is part of The War File DVD series. It includes archive footage prior to the battle, including the lead up to the fall of both Yugoslavia and Greece, interviews with two of the four German commanders that led the military operations and with soliders that were involved in the assaults. It also contains footage from the paratroopers, air-landed infantry, the Naval forces and the Luftwaffe, plus hand to hand infantry battles, sea warfare and aerial dogfights.

    The German footage shows the attack on Hill 107 Maleme.
  2. AirbusCaptain

    AirbusCaptain Junior Member

    I apologize for the belated response as I don't regularly visit the forum.

    Thank you spider and phylo for shedding some light on my grandfather's UD M42. It is very much appreciated.

    Thanks to all Veterans

    - Airbus Captain
  3. geoff41

    geoff41 Junior Member

    Dear Members,

    This is my first post on the Forum and thank you for the useful links on this thread which have thrown up some photographs which I hadn’t seen before.

    My interest is in my late Father’s Second World War service, specifically his time on Crete. He was a Padre in the 64th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery. Having been evacuated from Greece he arrived at Souda Bay on HMS Carlisle in late April 1941. From his diaries I have been able to trace his movements from just outside Chania, following the huge trek south to try and pick up a boat to Egypt from Sphakia. Although no names are mentioned I recognise Askifou, the Imbros Gorge and the village of Komitades. It was here, on a plateau above the Libyan Sea that he spent his last two nights of freedom sleeping in caves but unable to make further progress. On the 1st June he was captured by German soldiers and subsequently spent 4 years as a POW. Its my understanding that the Allied surrender was made here by Colonel Theo Walker.

    It is these last two days that I am particularly fascinated by and am keen to build up as accurate a picture as I can. He specifically mentions hundreds of men hiding in caves, a donkey being slaughtered and eaten by ravenous Australians, the presence of Spanish commandos and a church in the village being used as a hospital for British officers. All the time, my Dad was in constant fear of aerial bombardment and literally starving.

    If anyone knows of any good documentation or material on this period I would be very grateful to know about it. I have read the Anthony Beevor book, seen the Gavin Long account and looked at some documents in the National Archives.

    Many thanks for any help anyone can give me.

    Geoff Simmons
  4. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Hello and welcome to the forum.

    Good luck with your research.

  5. South

    South Member

    On the 1st June he was captured by German soldiers and subsequently spent 4 years as a POW. Its my understanding that the Allied surrender was made here by Colonel Theo Walker.

    Hi Geoff, I haven't looked too much in to that period so I can't be much help but just wanted to say that my husbands Grandfather was also captured on 1st June 1941 in Crete and spent four years as a POW too. He was in Stalag IV-A.

    Lovely that you have your Fathers diaries, my husbands Grandad never spoke of his time on Crete so we know very little about it.

    Good luck with your research.
  6. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    the presence of Spanish commandos

    Geoff, can you go deeper into this subject? Sounds fascinating enough to deserve some digging into :D
  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

  8. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    This link may be of help.

    Spaniards in British Service During WW2 | Balagan


    Interesting stuff, Tom. Thank you.

    Now, to find out if Geoff's dad was referrring to individuals or entire units. Could he be talking about D Coy of 50 Commando?
  9. wtid45

    wtid45 Very Senior Member

    Interesting stuff, Tom. Thank you.

    Now, to find out if Geoff's dad was referrring to individuals or entire units. Could he be talking about D Coy of 50 Commando?

    Going by the info on the above link and this snippet, I would say individuals.Middle East Commando - John Garcia. My Great Uncle, John Carrion Garcia, who was Spanish and volunteered for service with the British Army, was eventually captured at Crete as part of the ME Commando. He eventually ended up as a POW in Stalag Luft IV F and I was wondering if you have any information on him, his unit, any knowledge of Spanish in the ME Commando, any fellow soldiers from his unit and or POW's from that camp. I think he was originally cap badged Pioneer Corps and volunteered for Combined Service when they were forming the ME Commando. Sav Kyriakou. (7/04) NOTICE BOARD - VETERANS East Commando - John Garcia.
  10. geoff41

    geoff41 Junior Member

    The reference in my Dad's diary for this is as follows - Friday 30th May 1941...

    I missed my way getting back to the gorge, but a few hundred yards away in another direction was a ravine. It cut across the plateau in the direction of the sea. Into this I scrambled & was delighted to find it full of caves. One of these was a particularly big one & inside it troops were lying round, sleeping, smoking, talking eating. One party of 5 were cooking over a fire. Perhaps I had a hungry look, perhaps there was an unspoken appeal in my face. In any case one of them handed me a dixie of rice. I can't express my feelings about that rice. I haven't the necessary superlatives. The party were Spaniards, & belonged to a Commando unit. Pretty tough chaps they probably were.

    He later refers going back to sleep in the Spanish Commando's cave that same evening.

    Anthony Beevor also mentions their presence in his Crete book - there is something about them deciding to try and avoid being sent back to Franco after the surrender by pretending to be from Gibralter. I also seem to remember Evelyn Waugh referring to them somewhere.

  11. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Looking at Charles Messenger's book on the of 1940 when No. 50 Commando was first raised in the Middle East, it had some seventy Spaniards in it - Spanish Civil War veterans who had fled to france and then found themselves serving in Syria! After the fall of France they had escaped to Palestine.

    Apparently it was a very "mixed bag" group of Spaniards - everything from an ex-captain in the Royal Spanish Marines to a shepherd! Some had lived in france for years - some had never left their home villages until the war arrived on their doorstep! Most had never given any thought to politics - what side they eneded up on during the SCW had depended on which side breezed through their village recruiting first! More than half of them had been wounded during the war - and ALL were frightened that if captured by the Germans they'd be shot out of hand as Communists. NONE of them had any truck with religion by the time they joined the Commandos...and some had even been involved in pillaging churches and raping nuns :(

    They were all recruited into the Queen's Royal Regiment for admin purposes...and hoped they'd become british citizens at war's end.

    Quality-wise...they varied as much - from tough troops to poor. Despite the language difficulties they apparently picked up drill and weaponry very fast, beating most British-origin No. 50 recruits in competition. The British troops didn't like exercising with them at night - the British recruits were supposedly a bit noisy and cack-handed...whereas the Spaniards would move in absolute silence, and didn't fall asleep...."capturing" the British recruits time and again on exercises! :p
  12. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    You might find these pages of interest. They cover the evacuation of Greece from the RN viewpoint with an emphasis on use of 'A Lighters'.
    A lighter was the designation given to Mk1 LCTs, which were a brand new class of vessel at the time and were considered something of a secret.
    From the page titled 'Evac Greece2' you will see that HMS Carlisle only made the Greece/Suda (Souda) bay crossing once, on the 25/26th April. It is quite possible a LCT transported troops from shore to Carlisle and A16 then took them ashore in Crete.
    It is difficult to tie up particular LCTs with the designated 'beaches' and 'positions' in Greece but I am still working on that.
    Original documents found at TNA by Dr Michael Bendon.

    Attached Files:

  13. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Fascinating information about the Spaniards, I didn't realise there were any on Crete, let alone in the British forces. Guess you learn something new everyday!
  14. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  15. spider

    spider Very Senior Member

  16. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Not had the chance to read the above report yet - a quick scan highlights the usual problems too few boots over a large area, with obsolete kit and ammo shortages, some of the airfield defence gun - captured Italian without instruments or SIGHTS! Some had rounds in the low hundreds- at least three battalions equipped to light scale - rifles and light support with minor tactical training only! The bravery of the Royal Navy with no air cover and heavy losses. Has the look of the politicians trick - blame the blokes.

    Bundesarchiv - Picture database: Simple search

    Type Kreta in search box if photos do not open,
  17. marktwain

    marktwain Member

    Prev poster wrote:J., you're quite right about the contacts he must have had as liaison and vice-consul...but I doubt there was Police involvement in the "stay-behind" organisation or its training, if that's what Warlord is asking? He was after all training and arming the people who were regularly taking potshots at the Police....

    I'm asking about Police involvement in general during the campaign, and the formation of resistance parties sounded like a good place to find it, given that I didn't consider the peculiar way of handling politics in Greece... :eek:

    Fighting done by civilians (before they turn into organized guerrillas) has always been an interesting subject for me (I grew up in the middle of a civil war :(), since almost all of the times they are the weaker side when pitted against regular troops.
    The Metaxas dictatorship had a lot of 'justified inturnal enemies' - &democratic opposition to it consisted of much more than 'people taking potshots at the police".:(
  18. geoff41

    geoff41 Junior Member

    Reading Evelyn Waugh’s Diaries again, (Michael Davie) I’ve just concluded that he (and Colonel Robert Laycock) most likely crossed paths with my Father in the Spanish Republican’s cave near Komitades on 30th May 1941. Dad related being given a tin of rice by the Spaniards that afternoon. Waugh writes how on the same afternoon he received ‘a pilaf of rice, goat’s meat, a roast pig and two boiled fowls’ from ‘the Spanish socialists’. Both parties spent the night in this cave. With food in such short supply its hard to believe there were two separate caves of Spaniards dispensing sustinence so freely.

    One thing I’m confused about though is on which boat Waugh and Laycock left Crete the following night. According to the Waugh diary, it was The Nizam and he is very clear about this because he recalls he and Laycock sleeping in the Officers mess. I was surprised then to read in the War Diary of the 64th Medium Regiment (in which my Father was the Padre) that Laycock was on HMS Kimberley that evening. This Diary is among the personal papers of Lt Col H S (Mike) Hunt in The Imperial War Museum. He details leaving Sphakia in the early hours of 1st June and recounts a conversation with Laycock where the latter mentions sending a surrender signal. A number of other accounts indicate that The Nizam was damaged on its way to Sphakia from Alexandria on 31st May, so I’m just wondering if somebody got the names mixed up. Certainly both Hunt and Waugh record arriving in Alexandria at roughly the same time, 430-5pm on 1st June. If anyone has any more knowledge about these events I would be very grateful to hear from them.

  19. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Geoff, have you tried looking for the records/diaries of Kimberley and Nizam for those periods?
    A mate had a good deal of success researching navy ship movements during the evacuation of Greece and Crete using various souces including some rather obscure University archives. Some of the ship movements around the evacuation beaches at that time seem to contradict other records though.
  20. geoff41

    geoff41 Junior Member


    I had a hunt round various sources online today and it seems like both ships did sail very early that morning (1st June) and arrived safely in Alexandria late that afternoon - attached is a photo of The Nizam coming in (Australian War Memorial Archive). It sounds like this vessel attracted enemy aircraft attention on the way to Sphakia but the report that it was damaged may be incorrect.


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