ARCHIVED READS > 2017 - February - Theme Read on any WW2 Battle/Campaign from the Defeated Perspective

Comments Showing 1-50 of 167 (167 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3 4

message 1: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (last edited Jan 28, 2017 08:59PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments This month's theme read is on any book or books of your choice that cover any WW2 Battle/Campaign (land, air or sea) from the defeated perspective.


message 2: by fourtriplezed (last edited Jan 28, 2017 11:09PM) (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Good timing for me Rick. Started this afternoon and as said previously will go with

The Fall Of Crete by Alan Clark The Fall Of Crete by Alan Clark.

Chapter 1. Policy and Fact in the eastern Mediterranean. Clark starts by discussing the opposing view of Hitler and Raeder in mid to late 1940. Hitler that Russia must be crushed and Raeder that they must address British naval strength in the Mediterranean first and foremost. Hitler made half-hearted attempts at a diplomatic approach to Raeder’s ideas with discussions with Vichy France and Spain’s Franco. Both Petain and Franco had issues with each other and the fact that the British were still in the war despite the fall of mainland Europe.

This lead to focus on the Balkans where Stalin had already annexed a couple of “unstable” states and with that Hitler knew that he had to keep the peace there as it also supplied Oil. The author covers the fragile Balkan issues with territorial guarantees given to Rumania by Germany as the fore. Moscow accused them of violating Article III of the non-aggression pact and the author claims that Hitler found this “trying”. Though he was keen for war with the USSR eventually he was not keen for it to start in a Balkans shooting match. He made amends with Moscow and recommended to Mussolini that the status quo be maintained “for the time at least”.

Mussolini was not happy with the “strongly worded text”. The machismo of Mussolini considered this “humiliating” a war won without Italian involvement was his view. But the Luftwaffe then lost The Battle of Britain and with that Hitler and Mussolini met to discuss Italy in North Africa and the advance on the Suez. The Germans a fortnight prior to the meeting sent a military mission to Rumania to protect oil and to bolster the crumbling Rumanian military with a view to eventual war with the USSR. Mussolini was not happy and was quoted as saying he would pay in kind and occupy Greece and the invasion was launched. The Italian army suffered, their navy got thrashed by the Air Fleet Arm and as far as the heel of Italy the sea was controlled by the British.

By Christmas 1940 Italy was in dire trouble military. Hitler and Ribbentrop met with Molotov to try and bring the Soviets into an alliance that would liquidate the British Empire. In the end Stalin asked too much for Hitler’s liking, Hitler called Stalin a “cold blooded blackmailer”, and from this Hitler decided that he would attack the USSR sooner than later. One last attempt was made to get Franco involved but he was aware of British victories and was even less keen than before to get involved. At this point after Battle of Britain and the Greek success over the Italians aid to the Greeks by Britain was “……unimpeachable, the manner of the British intervention, its planning and execution, must be closely examined – for they were to have reactions of exceptional importance to the Mediterranean and the far east for years to come” writes the author in a very good first chapter.

message 3: by Jonny (new)

Jonny | 1778 comments Fantastic timing! I'm starting Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind  by Sean Longden Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind.

message 4: by Dimitri (new)

Dimitri | 1319 comments I've got an itch that can't wait until June, if nobody called dibs. Most clearly defeated title on my TBR pile:
The Germans in Normandy by Richard Hargreaves The Germans in Normandy by Richard Hargreaves

message 5: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 499 comments My book is STRANGE DEFEAT by Marc Bloch, which is about the fall of France in 1940.

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Chapter 2. The Greek Decision.

Prior to a final decision on what to do about Greece there were various conferences etc. with various changings of mind. The only individual to hold firm in his belief that military support was a must was Anthony Eden who wrote to Churchill saying as such. Churchill made it clear that he supported this with the halting of the North African campaign with the British looking to send troops to prop up Greece on its mainland. Wavell was opposed for military reasons and Churchill wrote a strongly worded letter to him suggesting he get on with it and that there were larger interests at stake. Thee being showing faith in an ally such as Greece and that destruction of Greece would eclipse victories in North Africa. The Greek Commander in Chief made it clear at conference with Wavell and Longmore that he actually disagreed with this policy as he thought the British troops were more useful in North Africa. Wavell supported the Greek position though was overrode by London. In the end though this did not seem to matter as the Greek PM died and the new one, Koryzis, sent a message to the British government suggesting the size of the force.

The author writes that he has little doubt that Eden believed that a military presence in Greece would act as a hold on German designs based on the numbers alone that included both Yugoslavian and Turkish numbers. But each were essential to the other. In the end though the British seem to be prepared for a worst case scenario of losing mainland Greece when Churchill writes to Wavell that Britain “We must at all costs keep Crete and take any Greek Islands which are of use as air bases…..But these will only be consolation prizes after the classic race has been lost”

Eden attended a conference with the Greeks and presented far too an optimistic figure of what the British would supply and also Colonel de Guingand, with the British mission, was not persuaded by the final agreement and said as much in correspondence. To add to this within a fortnight neither Yugoslavia nor Turkey had made any move to join the alliance, and when the first troops, mostly New Zealand and Australian arrived, Churchill was having second thoughts. This also had consequences as to the reaction by the Australian government as their troops had been sent without that government’s knowledge or consent. Later Churchill told Menzies that the expedition was “…overwhelmingly moral” with there being “…..political repercussions of abandoning Greece”

The final couple of pages of this chapter are a little confusing. The author makes an interesting point that the allies lost the view of the “immense strategic importance of Crete. He then describes its physical limitations, lack of infrastructure and communications and an inability to take too many troops due to this. He also begins to discuss the first troops arriving on April 25th with no reference to what was happening on the Greek mainland. I have had to refer to other books I have to marry the dates up. The author covers 3 reasons for the final Cretan defeat. The deadlock between military principle and political necessity. Secondly the lack of preparation and finally state of the garrison including morale and command attitude. This seems a little early in the book to discuss in a few sentences for me.

For those last couple of pages apart this is an easy read and I think I will be finishing it quickly.

message 7: by Jonny (new)

Jonny | 1778 comments I'll be interested to see how Clark's perspective contrasts with Beevor's

message 8: by Shawn (new)

Shawn D. | 40 comments As often as I can I recommend to people Colonel Yahara's book on the defense of Okinawa.
The Battle for Okinawa by Hiromichi Yahara

One can set the book next to any account from the American side (e.g. Eugene Sledge) and see how the perspectives line up. Yahara's work was highly influential on my own, as it showed in detail:
- the ability of the Japanese commanders to maintain order, communication, and coordination even after severe losses and under duress,
- the effectiveness of pick-and-shovel work in making troops immune to artillery of all calibers, and
- the willingness of local Japanese commanders to veer from strategic orders, adapting to the situation.

All of these elements can be seen in other places the contemporary Japanese military was fought, but here it is from the own words of one of the highest ranking front-line officers to survive the war.

On that note, the last section of Yahara's book is an interesting and entertaining story of how he slipped in with the locals and lived in a work camp with them while trying to plan an escape north to Kyushu. This story tells more than I've seen anywhere else about the aftermath of the battle, in particular the civilian situation and how they were dealt with during the occupation.

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Jonny wrote: "I'll be interested to see how Clark's perspective contrasts with Beevor's"

Have your read Beevor? This is my first in depth read on Crete and I will try and read something similar eventually to compare.

message 10: by fourtriplezed (last edited Jan 29, 2017 10:38PM) (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Chapter 3. ‘The Problem of Crete’

About 20,000 troops arrived between 25th and 28th April in Suda. The spelling of Suda seems to be of Commonwealth origin as the Greek spelling is Souda. In fact looking at the spelling of some of the names mentioned they differ from the maps I look at such as Google as just one example. The military authorities were having issues from the start as the harbour was partially blocked by a hit tanker that caused difficulty with navigating into the harbour. The men also had not only no accommodation but there were no tents and many lacked coats for the cold evenings. Many also foraged in the country side for food. In fact the ill-discipline was a problem caused curfews in some areas and even Court Martials. The fall down in the chain of command at the top level does not seem to help.

At this point I would like to say that I am slightly frustrated with the presentation of this book. The author seems to presume that I the reader would know who General Weston is and what his position in the chain of command is and also General Wilson his nominal superior. I don’t. I have read about Crete as overviews in a couple of my histories so if this is book is going to be an in-depth coverage the author needs to understand that there is a readership out there that requires guidance. I have had to look up via search engine who each of these generals are viz a viz their relationship to each other. I can find Wilson but hardly anything on Weston. Me, having to look up full names etc. is disappointing and the index is of minimal help. Thinking back to the Menzies comment in the previous chapter the author presumed that the reader knew who Menzies was. Am I being too hard on these type of books? This is a Cassell reprint in 2004 from 1962. This is a good story to tell but the presentation is beginning to test me.

Onwards. Basically from what I can ascertain Weston had been island commander until the arrival of Wilson from the Greek mainland evacuation who became his nominal superior. Both sent to Wavell differing views of the defence of Crete. Wilson it seems wrote that he was concerned about the defence of the island. Churchill at the same time made it clear that there was a German attack coming and with that “The Island must be stubbornly defended.” Wilson was replaced by Freyberg. Freyberg also showed slight misgiving to the task at hand but accepted the position anyway. Over the coming days Freyberg’s misgiving grew and he telegraphed the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who he represented, know as such. He made it clear either more troops had to be supplied or they should vacate the island.

I will now quote the author. “Now comes a strange turn of events. The date of Freyberg’s telegram to the New Zealand Prime Minister was 1st May. No record has been made public of any communications to, or by, him until May 5th. On that day he sent Churchill a telegram that began ‘Cannot understand the nervousness; am not in the least bit anxious about airborne attack; have made my dispositions and can cope adequately with the troops at my disposal.’”
The author discusses possibilities as to why the volte-face. Old friends who met in 1914, Churchill secured him a commission, Freberg was a very brave individual and held in high esteem by Churchill. Freyberg himself was aware of the high esteem that his old friend held for him. He also knew that if he was successful he had glory and if he failed he at least had let others know the issues.

The author discusses the supply difficulties and also what was supplied. He says that it would have been difficult for the Germans to land by sea and be supplied by air. He writes that there is a chance that a well-directed defence “…..might administer” “the first clear cut defeat since The Battle of Marne” Also Churchill wrote to the NZ PM t say that an airborne attack would be easily handled as NZ troops were used to close quarter fighting in mountainous terrain. The lack of clear plan to defend against airborne attack is then discussed. It was decided that the forces where to be broken into 3 masses and positioned, as turned out correctly, where it was thought the airborne landings would come. The author goes on to discuss his opinion as to the contradictory opinions given the NZ defenders and also the now complicated command structure. He also in depth into the various defence structures and their apparent weakness and makes note of regions of vulnerableness being unguarded. Air defence is also limited with what came from Greece “completely worn out” and the majority of the fighters in a poor state of service. Joint Planning in London is optimistic that another fighter squadron from Egypt will be enough so Air Marshall Longmore inspects on the island itself and he concludes that they needed 100% serviceable aircraft with 100% serviceable reserves. At this point, I the reader, is wondering what the commanders, be they in London or at the front, are actually thinking considering the many reports that seem to imply defence issues that are not able to be logistically assisted with. Chief of Air Staff also makes comment on May 5th , calls it in fact “dangerous” to “maintain active air defence over the island.” On May 8th Longmores final report to London says the Cretan airfields are such that casualties would be high due to lack of repair facilities. All this discussion was happening while the remaining craft were being reduced by German attack. By May 19th the airfleet was reduced to 3 Hurricanes and 3 grounded Gladiators. These and their crews were sent to Egypt.

At this point the author makes criticism of Portal for “….ambiguous directions…” and Freyberg for “….insistence on whatever Headquarters Middle East could sare him….” As all this meant that in the entire sphere almost half of the Hurricanes had been destroyed while decions were being made. This meant that training was never suitable for if and when an airborne attack came and nor were mines laid to obstruct the three landing fields available. The author also makes criticism of the fact that no tanks were discussed in the defence of the island considering the Germans lack of weaponry to curtail them. He says that there was the possibility that Wavell thought he was short of tanks at the time. This is on page 39 and goes into the strengths and weakness of both the British and the Germans if anyone has any questions on this. Considering the terrain of Crete I am a bit surprised by the authors argument here. Maybe I am missing something. (EDIT) refer page 18/19 to road infrastructure. (END EDIR)

The author then goes to state that he thinks that if Wavell had had personal command of the entire island it would not have been lost as he was “…an absolutely first class soldier with great strategic acumen and flair.” He goes on to say that if Wavell was “personally convinced” that Crete was not worth saving “…..then his reluctance to supply the garrison with modern weapons was understandable”

For all my grumbles this is an interesting book so far.

message 11: by Scott (new)

Scott Bury (scottbury) | 26 comments I hope I'm not breaking any rules here, but my book, Army of Worn Soles, is a first-person POV about a Red Army soldier in 1941.Army of Worn Soles

The USSR's lack of preparation for the invasion by Germany in June 1941 has come into questions. This memoir of a man who was there, however, proves that. The anti-tank weapons the subject of the book commanded, for example, were inadequate against the sophisticated, sloped-armour Panzers. The Red Army Air Force was nearly completely wiped out in the first few days after the invasion, leaving ground troops without air support or defence against German dive-bombers and strafing.
The Red Army soldiers had inadequate food, ammunition and other supplies. The title of the book comes from the fact that when the Red Army soldiers' boots wore out (after retreating hundreds of kilometres), there were no replacements. Men wrapped their feet in newspapers.
This is a book that brings the reader into the action, showing what it was like to be on the front lines of the Eastern Front in 1941.

message 12: by Marc (new)

Marc | 1420 comments Dimitri wrote: "I've got an itch that can't wait until June, if nobody called dibs. Most clearly defeated title on my TBR pile:
The Germans in Normandy by Richard HargreavesThe Germans in Normandy by ..."

This is a good one. First book I read of Richard Hargreaves, and well worth it.

message 13: by Geevee, Assisting Moderator British & Commonwealth Forces (new)

Geevee | 3796 comments Scott wrote: "I hope I'm not breaking any rules here, but my book, Army of Worn Soles, is a first-person POV about a Red Army soldier in 1941.Army of Worn Soles

The USSR's lack of preparation fo..."

Hi Scott, Sounds interesting and plse feel free to put the info about your book in our author thread too.

message 14: by Boudewijn (new)

Boudewijn (boudalok) | 327 comments I have recently bought
D DAY Through German Eyes - The Hidden Story of June 6th 1944 by Holger Eckhertz (both volumes)
which I will start after I have finished An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943

message 15: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments Some pretty decent books being mentioned here for the theme read!

I am enjoying your chapter summaries a great deal 4triplezed, thanks for taking the time to post the details. I will be keen to hear your final thoughts on Clark's book as I don't think I have read his account.

However you have got me interested in Crete so I am thinking if this book for my theme read:

The Battle for Heraklion. Crete 1941 The Campaign Revealed Through Allied and Axis Accounts by Yannis Prekatsounakis The Battle for Heraklion. Crete 1941: The Campaign Revealed Through Allied and Axis Accounts by Yannis Prekatsounakis

message 16: by Jonny (new)

Jonny | 1778 comments 4triplezed wrote: "Jonny wrote: "I'll be interested to see how Clark's perspective contrasts with Beevor's"

Have your read Beevor? This is my first in depth read on Crete and I will try and read something similar ev..."

Yeah, although it was back in the 90's, and I recall the Invasion part being a better read than the Resistance bit. I probably need to dig it out again....

message 17: by fourtriplezed (last edited Jan 29, 2017 02:49PM) (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "However you have got me interested in Crete so I am thinking if this book for my theme read:

The Battle for Heraklion. Crete 1941 The Campaign Revealed Through Allied and Axis Accounts by Yannis PrekatsounakisThe Battle for Heraklion. Crete 1941: The Campaign Revealed Through Allied and Axis Accounts by Yannis Prekatsounakis


Very keen to read your thoughts Rick. I have Thompson's Anzac Fury for next month so should make very good comparisons all round.

message 18: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments I forgot about Anzac Fury, I might change my mind on books :)

Anzac Fury The Bloody Battle Of Crete 1941 by Peter Thompson Anzac Fury: The Bloody Battle Of Crete 1941 by Peter Thompson

message 19: by Scott (new)

Scott Miller | 4 comments Its a bit obscure, but check out Call Me Coward by Eugen Dollmann. He was a German diplomat and SS officer who was involved in Operation Sunrise, an OSS scheme to secure the surrender of German forces in Italy in the closing months of the war. Dollmann's observations about the Americans, and his complaining about how they treated him are pretty entertaining.

message 20: by fourtriplezed (last edited Jan 29, 2017 11:30PM) (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Chapter 4. The Flower of the Reich

In 1941 the British believed that there were “up to four” parachute divisions in the German air Corps when there was only one. “Hitler was obsessed by the idea of parachute troops” writes the author who goes on to say further that Hitler saw them as “…… the original martial flair that characterised Hitler’s attitude to military affairs” He adds though that even though Hitler was hesitant to use them due to the fact there was only one division and the thought of them being risked held him back in their use. It was thought that the Italians would take Crete prior to any British landing there and once Italy had been knocked out by the British the Germans had to give serious consideration to not allowing the island to be held by the allies.

At this point the author claims that (and I presume this is at the time of writing in 1962) that “Nowhere in documents captured, since the war is there any evidence of a properly worked out scheme, delineated stage by stage at staff level, for a campaign in the eastern Mediterranean ans Asia Minor” and goes on to say that the main game in terms of focus was the USSR. In other words a “blitz in isolation” with no follow up if checked.

2 major factors to take Crete was the defence of the Plosti oil fields and the other was Goering who had a similar enthusiasm as Hitler for Paratroopers and the opportunity to send these troops into Crete was one too good to missed considering the recent setback in the Battle of Britain. A plan was conceived and presented to Hitler on April 17th and Hitler took 5 days to consider the plan. Initially rejected a couple of days later he directed the operation to occur. Planning gathered and the forces required brought together. The German campaign estimate was 10 days from an attack on May 20th. German intelligence was poor as to enemy troops and they severely underestimated the quantity. They also thought that the locals would be at worst neutral. British intelligence was very good and they knew what to expect in terms of material and men from the attackers with one exception. Men from an elite glider 1st Assault Regiment were transported in with great secrecy. This regiment was the first in. The famous boxer Max Schmeling came in with this Regiment. Interesting chapter.

message 21: by James (new)

James Martin (albacore) | 49 comments I started Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II a couple years ago, and never finished. Although this deals mostly with post-war Japan, would it not be relevant for this read?

I also have In the Ruins Of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia .

message 22: by fourtriplezed (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Chapter 5. The Attack on Maleme

A chapter with a lot of detail as to how the attack on Crete’s largest Maleme Airfield unfolded. The problem I have is what I mentioned before, frustration at presentation of the detail. Presumption I know the names of individuals and also what regiment is what. Lack of maps don’t help either. I don’t think modern historians can get away with this.

The attack is made in three groups called Centre, West and East. The airfield was defended by 3 New Zealand Battalions. German losses are heavy as the New Zealanders defend spiritedly initially. This was an attack by Group West. The author then discusses the issues with Group Centre who failed to attack at the same time due to various issues, landing too far apart, becoming scattered for example. The author I will quote on his opinion of the German soldiers when the command structure was non-existent. “It is interesting to note that the German Soldier, for all his qualities, was not at his best under these conditions. The undoubted bravery and endurance, the imaginative training and tactics of the German infantry were at a discount. Why? Because, it may be suggested, the orderly structure, the conventional military pattern which, however adverse, would evoke these qualities was absent. The same men who fought with such incredible and heroic obstinacy at Cassino, Avranches, Stalingrad and Walcheren seemed by some alchemy of military circumstances to be altered in character – by the ingredients of a situation where the chain of command, the concept of the battle as a whole, existed in only in obscurity. One observer wrote ‘They do not run to form at all. Some were so tough that they just never gave in, and having assembled in small parties, fought on hopelessly until we killed them. Others appeared to be very resentful of the reception they had had on the way down (they had been told to expect no opposition) and after wandering helplessly for 48 hours, more or less gave themselves up with cries of “give me water’” The author footnotes that to page 176 Christopher Buckley, Greece and Crete, 1942, HMSO. He writes a bit more about the parachute troops being “hardly a match” for New Zealanders and Greek defenders because of their youth and the defenders being “grizzled and bomb blasted” from prior experience on the mainland. Intriguing comments in this reader’s opinion considering this chapter is about the first day in only one sector of the attack.

We also come across the first atrocity recorded in this book when a Lieutenant Commander Plimmer and 20 patients were shot by the 10th parachute Company who landed on an undefended 7th General Hospital and 6th Field Ambulance. They used the survivors as a screen on an attack on 18th Battalion positions.

All in all a tough first day for the invaders on the western side of the attack. But then why should it have not been I ask. I am enjoying this book, I know little about the detail of the invasion of Crete and like all things new it is fascinating but I am not enthralled by the presentation at this point. I suppose that when one reads some exceptional to great history anything a bit below par stands out for the wrong reasons.

message 23: by Marc (last edited Jan 30, 2017 11:58AM) (new)

Marc | 1420 comments This might be a bit of a stretch, but I started this one last night:

The Forgotten Highlander My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East by Alistair Urquhart The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East

The author was there when the Japanese invaded Singapore, and after his surrender he spent several years working on railways in Thailand, survived the sinking of a "hell ship" on the way to Japan, and then ended up in Nagasaki before the second atomic bombing. Being Scottish on my mother's side, I always knew we were a tough lot.

message 24: by H (new)

H Singh | 1 comments I started and finished Unlikely Warrior A Jewish Soldier in Hitler's Army by Georg Rauch

message 25: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments James wrote: "I started Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II a couple years ago, and never finished. Although this deals mostly with post-war Japan, would it not be relevant for this..."

That should be fine for the theme read James.

message 26: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments Great accounts there 4triplezed, thanks for posting the details. Your book sounds like a mixed bag but you are enjoying it although with some frustration :)

Two links of interest in regards to Lieutenant Commander Plimmer:

message 27: by fourtriplezed (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "Great accounts there 4triplezed, thanks for posting the details. Your book sounds like a mixed bag but you are enjoying it although with some frustration :)

Two links of interest in regards to Lie..."

Thanks Rick.
Very good resource Trove. It has come up in my searches before.

I will quote how Clark presents this case in it's entirety.

"It is satisfactory to record that the same fate overtook the 10th Parachute Company, who landed directly on the undefended area of the 7th General Hospital and 6th Field Ambulance. Here they forced the Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Plimmer, to surrender, and then shot him. They also shot about 20 of the patients and forced the remainder out of bed, using them as a screen in their advance against 18th Battalion positions at Ethymi.(1) However, they were completely isolated from the rest of their battalion, and as this became apparent during the afternoon many of them surrendered while, of those that attempted to fight their way across the the Prison Valley, the majority was killed.(2)"

Footnote (1) For a comprehensive discussion of culpability in this incident see Appendix III to the New Zealand Official History.
Footnote (2) On the coast road at this spot the Germans, with characteristic lack of tact, have erected a memorial to the dead of 11 battalion.

Clark's presentation is a little to ambiguous after that Trove cutting. I took it to be an atrocity but the trials are reported differently as early as 46 and this book is released in 62. And I don't have access to the NZ Official History, 50 volumes I think I just read. The second footnote is just nonsense in my opinion. Historians need to write with out as much bias as possible and Clark let his heart go before his head there with a pointless generalisation.

message 28: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (last edited Jan 30, 2017 05:06PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments Here is a link to the volume covering Crete from the NZ Official History:

I found the relevant section on this incident if your interested:

In the morning, about the same time as the air attack broke out elsewhere, 7 General Hospital and 6 Field Ambulance were both subjected to a severe bombing and strafing attack which lasted for about an hour and a half. At the end of it, about half past nine, paratroops had been landed and suddenly appeared in the two areas.

In 6 Field Ambulance the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Plimmer, and his second-in-command, Captain Lovell, were both ordered to surrender. Unarmed, they were both shot at. Plimmer was hit and died soon afterwards. The staff, which numbered about a hundred, and the patients, of whom there were about forty, were then rounded up and put under guard in the MDS clearing with its Red Cross flag.

Meanwhile 7 General Hospital, which had had several tents destroyed in the bombing, was similarly attacked. Patients—some of whom, perhaps as many as twenty, were killed—and staff were driven out and herded over to 6 Field Ambulance. Among them were some bed patients—although a number of bad cases were allowed to remain, the choice probably depending on the temper of the individual parachutist.

At 6 Field Ambulance patients from both places were held under guard. By this time they numbered about 300 in all. Permission was given for the burial of Lieutenant-Colonel Plimmer. Food from a small dump was distributed. Some water was also given out. Once during the morning a carrier—no doubt from 18 Battalion—appeared but, unable to effect anything in the confusion of enemy and prisoners, turned back again to report. Not long after a tank came on the scene. But it too withdrew.

The enemy must have used this pause to consider their position. It could hardly have seemed cheerful. Whether they were able or not to communicate with the rest of their battalion, they must have realised that something was wrong. They were isolated and had probably already begun to feel pressure from 18 Battalion. They had a large body of sick and wounded prisoners on their hands. In this situation their best course was to try and make their way back to the main body near Galatas, taking their prisoners.

Accordingly, not long after midday, they began to shepherd their charges in the general direction of Galatas. But this was also the general direction of 19 Battalion's right flank. On the way the column was fired on. One of the guards was wounded. Three members of 6 Field Ambulance staff were killed and one wounded. A party from D Company was soon encountered and in the engagement that followed most of the guards were killed. A few patients were also wounded, but by 5 p.m. the survivors were all rescued and they spent the night with 19 Battalion.

Not all the patients and staff had gone with this party. Captain Lovell and Lieutenant Ballantyne and two NCOs had been escorted to 7 General Hospital to treat a wounded German. Meanwhile 18 Battalion appeared on the scene and rescued the others. A new dressing station was set up, with equipment salvaged from the old one, in a culvert under the main road. The General Hospital was also re-established by officers and orderlies who had escaped or remained hidden. The new location was in caves by the shore. Operations were carried out all night by Major Christie and Captain A. Gourevitch, and next day the rest of the patients and staff returned. By 23 May faith in its protection had recovered sufficiently for a Red Cross to be displayed, and the enemy did not molest either ambulance or hospital any further.

message 29: by fourtriplezed (last edited Jan 30, 2017 05:27PM) (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Well found Rick and greatly appreciated. I am generally OK at finding info on the www but have to admit that that one was a bit beyond me. I have read that back a couple of times now and taking into the newspaper cutting and what the NZ official history says into account it is hard to understand clearly what happened. A bit of jumpiness on the part of some of the Germans I would suggest. And it seems that the patients were not used as a "screen" as Clark made comment.

This discussion, I suppose, is just a small part of the entire picture but it does show that the historian that is writing a book such as this has to express clearly and be easy to understand when making a point.

message 30: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments Very good point about how historians present history and their obligation to be as accurate as possible, I suppose there is always two sides to every story.

message 31: by Scott (new)

Scott Miller | 4 comments Joseph Goebbels' secretary, Brunhilde Pomsel, died today. I haven't seen it, but a documentary was made last year of her work with the propaganda minister. Its called "A German Life." Its not a book, I know, but thought some of you might be interested.

message 32: by fourtriplezed (last edited Jan 31, 2017 06:17AM) (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Chapter 6. The Chain of Command.

This chapter begins with a discussion on NZ 22nd battalion being the focus of attack and that the NZ 21st and 23rd would be required to counter attack. Apparently both of these battalions failed to see the distress flare that the 22nd fired “in spite of the fact that this manner of communication had been decided on many days before the battle” Even when light reconnaissance was sent and was able to see the strength of the Germans no information was supplied back to Brigade Headquarters. Both the 21st and 23rd let HQ know that all was Ok in their own sectors. HQ in fact supported them by saying that they “Will not call on you for counter attack unless position very serious.” The author obviously finds this “odd”. The 23rd was to be used for counter attack and HQ has thought the situation “satisfactory”. Reports from the battle itself made this a strange position for HQ to take as they knew that the Germans were getting stronger and that the 22nd was under immense pressure. As the afternoon wore on the 23rd became desperate and asked for the 23rd to counter attack as it got a bit darker. 23rd declined as they claimed they were engaged against the enemy themselves. The author writes that this goes against everything they had reported about relative inaction on their area a few hours before. Based on what they had reported they had slaughtered the German III and were mopping up snipers.

With the lack of assistance the 22nd counter attacks on its own and uses the 2 ‘I’ Tanks at their disposal. This is where the author’s criticism becomes very apparent. The lack of infantry for the counter attack left weakness in specific areas, with that the few troops. “They advanced strung out in a line with their right resting on the 2nd tank, and almost immediately came under withering fire from the parachutists……” But the tank stopped after it was found that ‘its two pounder ammunition would not fit the breech block, and its turret was not traversing properly’ Clark writes that how this was not discovered earlier in training or prior to the attack is not made clear. The leading tank unaware of all this went forward and eventually became bogged in a gully. The crew discovered the same defects and abandoned the tank. The only tanks in the entire sector were out of action. Various miscommunication between the 22nd and HQ makes things worse and they withdraw back to perimeter outside the eastern side of the airfield. After further setback the 22nd withdrew to the line where the other 2 battalions were and with that the airfield was lost. The author is very critical of this “timid and premature” decision and says that in this “…….one move the whole balance of force on the island was altered.”

A fairly lengthy discussion ensues about the strength of the other battalions against the loss that the German attackers had suffered and the fact that they were somewhat scattered takes place. The NZ chain of command comes in for criticism. He also makes criticism of C-in-C Freyberg who “……seems correctly to have appreciated the pattern of the German attack,” but “there is no evidence that his grasp of the situation was firm enough to co-ordinate his subordinates, with their differing qualities.” At this point another plan was put forward to dislodge the Germans by Colonel Kippenberger, who went on to hold command of the NZers the following year but it seems that inaction, rejection NZer Brigadier General Puttock put paid to that when Freberg rejected it. Again the author is very critical of not taking this chance. Kippenberger was very much in the dark about the rejection of his counter attack plan and pushed later in the afternoon for some form of attack. Puttock only allowed half the troops he had “almost eliminating” their effectiveness. Kippenberger was not even informed that this counter attack was happening. Once he realised he had these troops and had them in position is was dark and they realised they were too weak and called of the attack.

Chapter 7. An Isolated Incident.

West of the previous chapters fighting at a very small port town called Kisamos was a 1,000 Greek and Cretan defenders with some NZ officers to put up nominal defence of there was a landing there. Very under armed the 1st Greek regiment made up for this with some spirit. 74 parachutists were dropped in with the aim of denying the defenders an attack on the German rear. This detachment was dropped at 8.15am and by 11.00am all but 17 were dead. The survivors in the local jail. They got dropped into the A battalion unluckily and got shot out of the air. Those that survived that got stalked down and clubbed and knifed to death after the ammo had run out. The other survivors had their own captured weapons turned on them and in the confusion shot at each other. At this point the few survivors had got their act together and clustered around a farm house. But…… “Bedding (NZ commander) advised against a direct attack on the position owing to the firepower of the enemy, but the officers of the gendarmerie overruled him, and at half past ten the Greeks made a wild charge, chanting a Evzone war-dry. ‘Casualties were heavy’ Bedding wrote in his report, ‘largely owing to the failure to use cover.’ But the position was carried and the few unwounded survivors made prisoner” Bedding put them in the local jail for their own safety.

The author praises the spirit of the villagers and then criticises the West for lack thereof the previous summer. A bit rich I think considering that they actually parachuted onto the defenders and then almost got themselves shot up in a veritable banzai charge.

Two days of not much happened and then the Germans, now in a stronger position in the east made contact via rangers, who thought that the dead comrades they came across had been killed as prisoners as they had been clubbed and knifed, called the Stukas in. The prison wall was hit and the prisoners captured the NZ commanders. 200 of A Battalion were killed in another charge and the Germans took control of the centre of the town. B Battalion on the western side of the harbour held out for 2 more days and once subdued the Germans killed 200 villagers in reprisal. This was inexcusable as Bedding made it clear that they had fought with clubs and knives due to lack of ammo but to no avail. A German enquiry actually exonerated the defenders, blaming “fanatical civilians” and emphasised the way that the British and NZers had fought and the fact they had protected captured Germans from the wrath of the locals. This area was never completely subdued.

message 33: by Mike, Assisting Moderator US Forces (new)

Mike | 2942 comments Started Dunkirk Fight To The Last Man by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore Dunkirk: Fight To The Last Man. Enjoying it. He is very thorough, down to spending almost five pages on the BEF's encounters with the French "estaminets" with "tous conforts" in the window. Some very humorous episodes related, along with the pursuit of "horizontal refreshments".

message 34: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments Damn, now I'm torn between two books to pick for the theme read, thanks Mike :)

message 35: by James (new)

James Martin (albacore) | 49 comments Perhaps Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal would be a better choice (I would at least consider The Battle of Savo Island an Allied naval defeat) as it's set during wartime and not post-war.

'Aussie Rick' wrote: "James wrote: "I started Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II a couple years ago, and never finished. Although this deals mostly with post-war Japan, would it not be rel..."

message 36: by fourtriplezed (last edited Feb 01, 2017 04:15AM) (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Chapter 8. Events at Rethymno and Heraklion.

Basically the attack on these areas further to the east of Maleme to secure the airport at Rethymno and then the force landed was to turn east and take the defenders of Suda out. The German forces in this area was larger and far better armed. This area was defended by 2 weak Australian battalions who had no anti-aircraft defence and only 7 mortars, none base plate.

I now, as an Australian, find the next few sentences to be a complete embarrassment, the usual nonsense by some historians who forget that they are writing history.
“But Australians had one great quality. They are free men. The comparison between the free and the indoctrinated regiment has been made so many times and in such differing and inappropriate contexts that today they seem a cliché with little validity. But the defenders of Rethymno were the genuine article, accustomed since birth to the independence, the quickness of reaction, the self-reliance that comes from life in range or bush” Sigh! This modern bunkum just annoys me. In fact let’s just think back to the last few chapters and the discussion of the failure of the New Zealanders who are in truth not that much different from Australians. And somehow that Australians in the military come from the Bush is really up for debate. But there’s more “Men from a young and vigorous country, with the arrogant certainty of right, of the fact that victory would be theirs in the end. The Germans have no such conviction. They have won too many battles lost too many wars. In their dark corner when the limit of endurance is reached, when surrender cannot be avoided and may even be honourable when the Valkyrian barque sinks beneath the waters of the Rhine and the souls are confined to that nether region of Grand and Mephistopheles” What in goodness is that driviel!!!!!! Is this serious historical writing? But get this! He then goes on to write in the very next sentence “These moral factors were reinforced by physical circumstance. The Australians were perfectly positioned, while the German drop was muddled and, due to confusion at the airfields in Greece and losses that morning at Meleme, it got out phase with the preliminary bombardment”.
I know that the German peoples have been around for a looooong time, but as a nation they are in fact younger than the USA. Unification of the German principalities, city states etc etc happened in 1871. Australia became an independent nation about 30 years later. So much for that silliness. And after all that uplifting rhetoric by an English historian on behalf of my nation I am now getting ready to read further about how the nonpareil diggers defeated the might of the German army, pushed them into the sea, retook Greece in a stunning attack ……….….and onwards and upwards.

So what really happened was that there was some very clever defence. Without the arms required the defenders concealed their defences in such a manner that the Germans could only see one position and thought that the area was undefended. The initial German attack therefore was more terror strafing of the locals and had no effect on the defenders. When the drop happened it took about half an hour due to timing going awry. At its height there was 161 transporters in the air at the same time all looking to unload in their zone. Being able to shoot the planes, the parachutists in the air and those that made it to the ground at almost point blank range the damage on the attackers was heavy but ammo run low. The Germans were able to land many troops and by accident many had congregated on a position called Hill A. A dusk counter-attack failed. Two other landing positions that the Germans attacked were failures die to the defence. But the one area taken was the key. In the morning the Australians and Germans met and the position became very desperate for the Australians. The last remaining reserves were called in and some very good leadership by the Australian Captain Moriarty caused the Germans to think that they were being attacked by a larger force then they were. This broke the German force. On the evening of the 21st May the Germans were now split into 2 groups.
One group of Germans held the local olive factory and it was planned to attack that the next day but as zero hour approached Captain Moriarty who was to lead the attack was killed. Also the ammunition that they had would make little effect on the factory and that meant they lacked numbers. 200 Greek soldiers joined the Australians but at the appointed time of attack only the Australians attacked and the defence of the Germans held. The other group of Germans also held defensively at a village called Perivolia. With captured codes the Australians called for a Stuka attack on the village. The Germans fell back from this but onto ground that was easy to defend against infantry and the author claims that this decided “the mastery of Crete…..” The author praises the Australians at this point for “never giving in” and “never losing the initiative” due to attempted counter attacks. Freyberg had told Wavell that the troops were at the limit of their endurance but they still retook the olive factory and on the other side of the line took a church that the Germans held. In reading this, and a report from Captain Honner from 2/11 Company there is no denying the valour and fight put up by the Australian contingent. My point is that writing a few short lines has more effect on me than some pretentious wankery that is straight out of an over wrought novel than a book that should be of historical record.

The next 5 pages cover the events at Heraklion. I have to admit that I am having a bit of trouble with the presentation of this. There is a solid explanation of the defence. That seemed to take the same tack as Rethymno and that was around the airfield. There was almost a division consisting of both British and Australian. The Greek army was assigned the defence of the town itself. The area around the airfield to the port is dominated by 2 hills. As had happened at Meleme etc the Stuka’s made attempted strafing but this time to little effect. In fact it gave notice of imminent attack by the German parachutists. They arrived that evening on 20th May at 5pm. The author then discusses the invaders suffered heavy transport losses that lead to poor landing patterns and the German attackers, after a late night attack by them, being repulsed. I am a bit lost in the detail here and will look to other sources. After the 3rd day over 1,300 Germans had been killed for only 50 defenders but it seems little happened other than patrols “in the days that followed…” The force stood idle while events at Meleme were unfolding. The author is critical of the lack of use of this force in relieving the defenders at Meleme and that Brigadier Chappel, the commander at Heraklion “…seems to have confined his own perspective to that of the orders given him before the battle developed.”

Very poor chapter.

message 37: by Colin (new)

Colin Heaton (colin1962) | 1980 comments Sounds like this historian should have interviewed some participants of the Battle for Crete like I did.

message 38: by Michal (new)

Michal | 189 comments Started Nanjing 1937 Battle for a Doomed City by Peter Harmsen Nanjing 1937: Battle for a Doomed City done with first chapter...

message 39: by Marc (new)

Marc | 1420 comments With all the talk about Crete, here's my pick for best book on the subject:

Ten Days to Destiny The Battle for Cre by G. C. Kiriakopoulos Ten Days to Destiny: The Battle for Cre

message 40: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 17743 comments Great post 4triplezed, yep I cringed when reading about our countrymen as you highlighted the type of drivel used by the author but your saved us all by the details of their fighting against the German attack.

message 41: by Jonny (new)

Jonny | 1778 comments 4triplezed wrote: "Chapter 8. Events at Rethymno and Heraklion.

Basically the attack on these areas further to the east of Maleme to secure the airport at Rethymno and then the force landed was to turn east and tak..."

Hey, that's an expensive education you're bashing!!! :D
Sadly Alan's diaries are his best work.. although Barbarossa wasn't too bad...

message 42: by Jonny (new)

Jonny | 1778 comments Making good progress on Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind  by Sean Longden Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind, having finished the first chapter.
It deals with the retreat across Belgium and France, focusing on the experiences of the men involved. There's scene setting but the only strategic overviews given are scene setting. The theme throughout was desperation and confusion, as well as total unpreparedness - one quote:
Our defensive position was dug on the same zig-zag lines of the First World War - I still remember the specifications that the parapets had to be so high - it was chaos. Do you realise I had a Lewis gun from the First World War in my platoon, instead of a Bren Gun? I think I'm right in saying we had two wireless sets in the battalion. One to Brigade HQ and brigade had two, one to battalion and one to Division. If I wanted to communicate with the platoon, or company next door I wrote it down, gave it to my runner and said "Off you go." Poor little bugger goes off and, if he didn't get shot on the way, the message would arrive. It was incredible! There was a horrible foreboding. We didn't know what was going to hit us."

And on the effects of the retreat...
"At one briefing of three officers it was found that none had been awake all the time."

Brilliant read, the second chapter deals with the fall of Calais.

message 43: by Geevee, Assisting Moderator British & Commonwealth Forces (new)

Geevee | 3796 comments Jonny wrote: "Making good progress on Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind  by Sean Longden Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind, having finished the first chapter.
It deals with the retreat across..."

Jonny does the book mention the 7th Royal Sussex Regiment? They helped to hold the German advance across the Amiens-Poix road.

Of the 581 men of 7th who were deployed from 18th May 1940 only 70 men survived to be taken into captivity. They were the only British regiment to be awarded the battle honour Amiens 1940.

* In 1949 Lieutenant Colonel R. Gethin received a letter from Oberleutnant Richter in which the writer expressed his admiration for the fighting qualities of the 7th Battalion RSR. The German war diaries for 20th May 1940 state that the enemy (the 7th Battalion RSR) had held tenaciously to its positions.

* Source Private Dan Osborne 7th Bn RSR

message 44: by Jonny (new)

Jonny | 1778 comments Geevee wrote: "Jonny wrote: "Making good progress on Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind  by Sean Longden Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind, having finished the first chapter.
It deals with the ..."

The Sussex Regiment is the main unit dealt with in Chapter one, although only in relation to the retreat, the stand at Mont Des Cats and the withdrawal to the beaches. The book takes the collapse of organised resistance as a given, so none of the more documented actions are mentioned.

message 45: by fourtriplezed (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Jonny wrote: "Hey, that's an expensive education you're bashing!!! :D
Sadly Alan's diaries are his best work.. although Barbarossa wasn't too bad......"

Had no idea who Clark was but just looked him up after your Diary reference. Other than all the rest of the career he lived in Saltwood castle in Kent!

Onto the Dunkirk book. Seems a good one so far. My fathers father was captured in Belgium and spent the entire war as a POW. (My dad is long gone and I never asked the right questions as to his regiment etc.) Very interested to read your thoughts.

message 46: by fourtriplezed (last edited Feb 01, 2017 08:28PM) (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments As is my way I tend to have a couple of books on the go and still have the very interesting A Writer at War to finish. After my rant about Clark's deification of the Australian troops on Crete I have been reading a conversation that Grossman had with Soviet commander Vasily Chuikov and the defence by the Germans at Poznan. This makes Clark's writing even more silly. The defenders at Poznan held out for an entire month and at the end were 200 kilometres behind the front. If they lacked that much spirit etc. being indoctrinated defenders of the moribund Nazi's why the heck did they fight and defend with so much endurance etc etc?

The wiki for the Battle of Poznan for anyone interested though a little of thread.

message 47: by Michael (last edited Feb 01, 2017 09:09PM) (new)

Michael (michaelbl) | 47 comments This is the read I have chosen for the February challenge:
Midway The Battle that Doomed Japan, The Japanese Navy's Story by Mitsuo Fuchida by Mitsuo Fuchida (no photo)

message 48: by happy (new)

happy (happyone) | 2231 comments Jonny wrote: "Making good progress on Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind  by Sean Longden Dunkirk - The Men They Left Behind, having finished the first chapter.
It deals with the retreat across..."

It is a good book - I hope you end up liking it as much as I did

message 49: by fourtriplezed (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Chapter 9. The Second Day at Events at Meleme.

During late evening into the night of May 20th Operation Mercury Commander General Kurt Student was back in the Athens HQ receiving report so the 1st day and the made grim reading. Most men were scattered and a large quantity of senior commanders leading the various attacks had been killed. One bridgehead over the River Tavronitis at Meleme was held. The author is of the opinion that Student had little choice but to concentrate all his forces in one spot. He could not withdraw as this would have been an anathema to both Hitler and Goering considering their cherished feelings towards the parachutists. With that all that was left in reserve, only half a battalion, was told to prepare to drop on Group West at Meleme the next day.

Interestingly at that moment Freyberg had a translated copy of the campaign plan. The important point about this was the Germans had underappreciated the strength of the defenders and the Germans themselves had virtually committed the vast majority of their forces to the attack already. The author writes that the chance to counter attack the remaining German forces was lost in the night because the NZ commanders on the spot “…in the words of the official New Zealand Historian ‘were caught off their judgement, forgot the policy of immediate counter-attack on which the whole defence plan rested, and thought in terms of how to hold the present position.” There is criticism of “lethargic” NZ leadership at this point. Many had seen action in WW1 and though brave, calm and experienced lacked the qualities required as to “new methods of warfare.” Sums up the entire western military leadership at this point in time I would suggest
The author writes that Freyberg was at fault for not giving the commanders below him free rein. The author makes a few points as to Freyberg conservatism considering his Churchillian reputation for “dash and vigour.” I will quote the author at this point. “A combination of circumstances suggest itself. First, there was the isolation, the vague political overtones, that go with every supreme command. Freyberg was in communication with London as well as Cairo. He had responsibilities to the New Zealand Government. It is possible that doubts that he had earlier so freely expressed concerning the feasibility of the operation still lurked.” He was also handicapped by admin, too small a staff, and the general physical difficulties of communication. He had also been appointed as commander, even though British, by the London government over some NZers who may have been the NZ governments choice. I find this an interesting observation by the author and it is known that some in the Australian Government were never happy with some of the decisions made on their behalf by the British during the war itself. Some of you may recall a recent conversation where both Rick and I mentioned that Churchill was never the revered individual in Australia that he was elsewhere.

Freyberg and his senior commanders met and devised a plan to counter attack late in the afternoon with the author making the point that this was very slow and late considering there was a German force with an airfield under its control and that the defence commanders already knew that they were being bolstered with a speed that would lead to better arms by next day and troop parity the day after, let’s not forget complete control of the air at this point in time.
As this discussion was going on the Germans began to advance on the ground and the last of the Parachutes came in. They again had the worst of it and even Student back in Athens began to worry. All that was left was the convey that left that evening that had 2,000 troops and a quantity of heavy weapons.

I am just over half way in this book the info is fascinating, I am looking forward to the next group read as I have another Crete book lined up. The presentation can leave a lot to be desired and I doubt I will read this author again.

message 50: by fourtriplezed (new)

fourtriplezed  (4triplezed) | 877 comments Chapter 10. The Sea.

A discussion on the strength and how stretched the Royal Navy was at this point. Also tells the story of the Slamat incident that caused the change to how evacuations etc where conducted. I have vague recollections of reading this many years back

The Mediterranean fleet under Cunningham was asked to “commit his fleet to maximum effort in waters north of Crete.” The island could be held against airborne attack but not a seaborne landing with the navy having to “guarantee against” that. Cunningham divided his fleet into 3 with one part, the cruisers, into a further 2 called Force C and D and they were expected to repel the invasion fleet. At night the fleet was in the north but during the day it stayed south. The book follows the movements of the various groups and any issues they had with the Juno being sunk by high flying bomber and the naval squadron bombing Scarpanto. On the 21st it became obvious that the German fleet was going to attempt to land that evening based on reconnaissance and informants.
At this point in my read I think “limited allied air cover and the author says as much. The order to go north came and the fact that the fleet was heading into what was virtually a landlocked sea could be nothing but a disaster. Force D found itself among a flotilla of enemy ships only 18 miles of shore. About 29 kilometres for those of you like of me that have no idea of imperial measurements. This flotilla consisted of 20 caiques, a few coastal steamers escorted by an Italian destroyer and 4 torpedo boats. 2,330 men plus equipment carried. Force D took them apart. The force commander took it upon himself to withdraw south as ammo was low, 70% used on one cruiser but this was criticised later by Cunningham. The author says that at least it kept the force intact for the time being. Force C eventually met the next flotilla that had, as far as they could see, 2 destroyers as escort. This flotilla was heavily smoke screened. This was a far larger flotilla than previous and orders were given that it was not to beach. At this point the commander of C called off contact as he thought that he had not enough ammo. Cunningham was appalled and ordered them to “stick it out” but too late. The flotilla scattered and 5,000 Germans landed. C went west between Crete and the mainland and was on the receiving end of constant air attack. Its low ammo did not help. The author makes comment her that “They had been cruelly frustrated at the last moment of the chance of closing with the enemy, of the chance to die in combat that would have at least been a worthy occasion.” A worthy occasion!?! I have to admit that that is another bit of writing that I find cringe worthy. Cunningham ordered a forceto meet C and assist but when they met it meant that the majority of the Med Fleet was in “the narrow and perilous Aegean.” Ships such as the Warspite, Gloucester and Fiji were lost. The fleet was reinforced from Malta but an unfortunate misunderstanding of the state of the ammunition gave the impression that the battleships had expended everything when in fact they had “plenty.” The fleet was ordered back to Alexandria to replenish. On its way to port the fleet suffered further loss of ships. Mountbatten who commanded the reinforcement fleets was aboard Kelly that was sunk but he and 279 others were rescued by the Kipling in defiance of orders. The fleet was no longer had 100% serviceable ships.

At this point admiralty reiterated that the fleet be at sea in defence against seaborne landing on Crete but Cunningham was wrote that with the air being totally controlled by the enemy the fleet had to conceded defeat. The author implies that the hand of Churchill was now behind the Admiralty suggesting that the fleet take to sea and “though considerable losses might be expected” that it was the only way that the situation of the landings could be contained. The author at this point stands by the fleet and says that it assisted in 2days grace for the forces on Crete as the Germans had Maleme Airfield no matter how much of a knife edge the situation on the island was. “It was to preserve for the solders this opportunity that so many sailors drowned” says the author with the last sentence of the chapter and with that pretentious end I now know why he went on to be a politician. I suspect Jonny that it would take a bribe for me to read those diaries you mentioned lol!

« previous 1 3 4
back to top