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Battlefields of Crete

Listed under Battlefields in Chania, Greece.

  • Photo of Battlefields of Crete
  • Photo of Battlefields of Crete
  • Photo of Battlefields of Crete
  • Photo of Battlefields of Crete
  • Photo of Battlefields of Crete
  • Photo of Battlefields of Crete
  • Photo of Battlefields of Crete
  • Photo of Battlefields of Crete
Photo of Battlefields of Crete
Photo by timsaunders
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Crete is not just another sun kissed Greek holiday island. It is also the location of one of the Second World War's most remarkable military campaigns; the German airborne invasion. Here it is possible to combine a holiday with visits to a wealth of historical sites ranging from the ancient to the twentieth century.

Mounted in the spring of 1941, to round off Hitler's victories in Greece and the Balkans, the invasion of Crete was very much in the shadow of preparations for Operation BARBAROSSA; the attack on Russia. Holding the strategically important Mediterranean Island that the German paratroopers were to attack was an ad hoc, force of New Zealand, British and Australian troops.

The German’s intelligence was faulty and, consequently, a relatively small force of elite paratroopers was committed to battle against a numerically stronger but very poorly equipped and supported Allied force. None the less, throughout much of the two week campaign, the result could have gone either way and the fighting included some of the most remarkable incidents in Commonwealth military history, such as the charges at Galatas and 42nd Street. Even though they were ultimately victorious, the German’s heavy casualties ensured that they were never to conduct another major airborne operation.

Crete in the spring is beautiful and visits to the battlefield along the northern coast and through the mountains to Hora Safakion on the southern coast can be easily combined with either relaxed or more active holiday pursuits, making this a good compromise location! For example, alongside the Minoan ruins of Knossos, was the attack on Iraklio (Heraklion) airport and the scene of the abduction of General Kreipe (Ill Met by Moonlight). For those seeking a more active visit, a walk down the spectacular five miles of the Imbros Gorge, from the mountains to the sea, follows the route that the Allied soldiers staggered along to evacuation by the Royal Navy. In the evening, relaxing over a fine meal in a taverna on the key side of the Venetian harbour in Chania, it can be hard to imagine that this was also the scene of fighting and bombing.

Crete can sustain a full week of intense battlefield study or gentler holiday battlefield touring. The island is strongly recommended for its history, sun and scenery.

Written by  Major Tim Saunders MBE.

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