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The Battle for Greece & Crete

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The Italian and German Invasion in Greece and Crete on 1940-1941

Text of The Battle for Greece & Crete


Matt Walsh

Table of content Topic Preface Background The Greek approach The British perspective -What was originally agreed - What was provided The Australian view Dissentions about the Campaign The German reasoning Operation Marita The build-up by the Allies The Australians - The Anzac Traditions - Volunteers The Invasion The Greek involvement - Recollections of a Greek Youth - The Evacuation - Casualties Diary of a Greek Tragedy How the situation developed The Players - The Australians - The New Zealanders - The British - The Greeks - The Germans - The Italians A brief history of the Greek Forces 1940-1944 - The Greek Sacred Middle East Raiding Company - The Hellenic Navy - The Royal Hellenic Air Force Map of Greece April 1941 German Aircraft Greece 1941 The RAAF in Greece The Battle for Crete - The importance of Crete - The Battle was unique The plan to capture Crete - The attack on Crete Defence of Crete - Order for Capitulation - Evacuation The British perspective for Crete The Navy Casualties The German perspective - Operation Merkur (Mercury) The Invasion of Crete Page 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 5 6 7 8 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 11 11 11 11 11 12 12 12 12 13 14 14 15 15 15 16 18 18 19 19 20 20 20 20

The German Invasion Force - Strengths & Casualties - Ju 52 and paratroopers The Players - Australia - New Zealand - Britain The Cretans - Cretan Casualties The Preveli Monastery The unacknowledged - The Military Police (Provost) - Military Police and the evacuation - Military Police casualties - The Military Police & their relationship with the Digger - Rearguard action - War Diary of 7th Division Provost Company - Award of Military Cross to Captain John Grimshaw - New Zealand Military Police Sgt Clive Hume VC - Nurses - Weary Dunlop - Recollections of a Greek Nurse Australian Corps of Signals Profile on Major Paul Cohen (Cullen) The kidnapping of General Kreipe 42nd Street The aftermath - Phaleron War Cemetery Athens - Sunda Bay War Cemetery- Crete - Australian-Hellenic Memorial Canberra Australian Units engaged in Greece and Crete Units/Formations other than Australian engaged in Greece and Crete Ships involved during the Battle for Greece and Crete Royal Air Force Service details of Military Police in Greece Casualties Australian Military Police buried Phaleron War Cemetery Athens Greece Plaques in Memorial Walkway Australian War Memorial Canberra Nominal Rolls of Provost Corps Greece/Crete - 1st Australian Corps Provost Company - 6th Division Provost Company - Colour Patches worn by Provost Companies Greek/Crete Campaign - 7th Division Provost Company - Recruiting Poster by Sir William Dargie of Sgt. Tom Osborne MM The Recollections of Sgt. Mick Doulis Bibliography The author

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This booklet is an initiative of the Defence Reserves Association (NSW) Inc. and the Military Police Association of Australia Inc. as part of their Schools Military History Program. Written and compiled by Matt Walsh JP MLO ALGA (MCAE) Dip Bus & Corp Law (CPS) 2005: second edition 2006: third edition 2007.Published by Matt Walsh 115 Leacocks Lane Casula 2170 Australia

Preface If one wishes to examine particular campaigns or battles a large amount of information can be found in the histories of the various units involved or from the sanitised official war histories of the times. Unfortunately, but understandably the unit histories concentrate on the activities of that particular unit and therefore it can be difficult to obtain an overall view of a battle or campaign. In many instances the social aspects and impacts are not discussed, nor the interrelationships of the personalities and other units involved and the overall statistics of a campaign. It is also sometimes difficult to ascertain the initial reasons for the campaign as often this can go back in history and relate to a political or other event. The following is an attempt to bring together in one place some of the many facets of the battle for Greece and Crete and its impact on those involved and finally to hopefully encourage further research and therefore an understanding of all the aspects of this campaign. Background In September 1940 Hitler achieved the bloodless seizure of Romania which gave him access to the oilfields at Ploesti. It was these oilfields which were to be part of the catalyst for the future invasion of Greece and Crete. This success by Hitler encouraged his cohort Mussolini on the 28 October 1940 to order the invasion of Greece he saw this action as a way of showing Hitler that he was an important part of the Axis Alliance. Fortunately for Greece they were able to defeat the Italians however the loss did not go well for Mussolini as Hitler was not impressed with the Greek victory that as a result of the unsuccessful attack by Mussolini the Greeks had now entered into an agreement with the British to send troops to support Greece particularly as they had rejected an earlier offer in January 1940 by the British to provide similar support. The Greek approach In early 1939 both Britain and France foresaw the possibility of Germany attacking Romania followed by Greece. If occurred then it was possible that Turkey would be next. To prevent this form occurring Winston Churchill in January 1940 offered to provide Greece with a small number of troops to be stationed in Greece to assist in the defence of the country should that become necessary General Metaxas (Greek Prime Minister) and General Papagos rejected the offer for two reasons. Firstly, it could provoke the Germans into an attack on Greece, secondly if an attack did occur the force would be too small to prevent or repel the attack. It is understood that General Mextaxas was sympathetic to the Germans. This decision was to change in 1941 and allied troops were sent to defend Greece. The British perspective Churchill in one of his many flashes of brilliance saw the stationing of troops in Greece as a way of commencing a second front in Europe. Like many of his ideas, it had no substance and this can be seen by comparing what was originally agreed too and what was eventually sent. As was usual with Churchill his enthusiasm faded and he passed the buck to some one else. -1-

What was originally planned The British War Cabinet and the Greek Government agreed that an Expeditionary Force to be known as Lustre Force would be provided and would consist of: Three Infantry Divisions, one Armoured Division (maybe a second), a Polish Brigade a total of about 100,000 troops. The troops were to be supported by 240 Field Guns 32 Medium Guns 192 AA (anti-aircraft) Guns- 202 Anti- Tank Guns- 142 Tanks- 5 RAF Squadrons These troops were to consist of: 1st Australian Corps HQ 6th & 7th Australian Divisions 2nd New Zealand Divisiona British Armoured Brigade- a Polish Brigade. The force was to be under the command of General Sir (Jumbo) Maitland Wilson, who was General Wavells trusted Right Hand Man. Wilson was known for his dislike of the Australians and they in turn were not impressed with him. General Blamey thought that he lacked enough grey matter unintelligent and Robert Menzies the Australian Prime Minister described him as tall, fat and cunning. What was provided Initially on the 1st November 1940 a British Battalion landed on Crete, this was followed on the 3rd November by eight fighter bombers at Eleusis near Athens. By the 15th November some 4,247 troops were to be stationed in Greece, these numbers included three Air Squadrons. Some of these units were medical units 26th British General Hospital- 189th Field Ambulance- 48th Field Hygiene168th British Light Field Ambulance 4th British Light Field Ambulance. By the 11th February 1941 Lustre Force consisted of 1st Australian Corps HQ- 6th Australian Division 2nd New Zealand Divisiona British Armoured Brigade and A number of British Medical Units.. The Polish Brigade remained in Egypt and the 7th Australian Division in Africa as a result of Rommels invasion of Cyrenaica. No one seems to know what happened to the five RAF Squadrons. The Australian View General Wavell informed General Blamey of the raising of Lustre Force on the 18 February 1941, the Australian Government agreed to the concept on 26 February 1941. The first allied troops reached Greece on the 7th March. Blamey argued with Wavell that as the Force consisted mainly of Dominion Troops (Australia and New Zealand) the force should be commanded by a Dominion Officer. Wavell commented that only 42,000 troops would be Australian and New Zealand. When Lustre Force was actually raised and sent to Greece it consisted of: 17,125 Australians and 16,700 New Zealanders, and they in fact made up the actual combat Infantry in Lustre Force yet he still persisted in appointing a British Officer to command the Force.


Dissentions about the campaign Many of the Senior Officers involved, particularly the Australians thought the concept to be a strategic blunder of the first magnitude. This feeling can be seen from the actions of the British Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham the Commander of the Mediterranean Fleet, and General Blamey who was actually planning the evacuation of Greece even before the campaign had started. The arrival of the troops in Greece was directed by Lt Gen. Wilson from his HQ Jerusalem, Palestine and when thing started to go bad in Greece Blamey was made Field commander. Many of the Commanders involved thought that the concept was inviting disaster. They likened it to Gallipoli- It appeared that Churchill had not learned his lesson at Gallipoli and he was trying to prove that his strategies were right by using them again in Greece. Prime Minister Menzies was always concerned about the operations and he was the only person to question Churc