The Battle for Crete had begun!
In May each year, the island of Crete, and many Greek Communities around the World hold remembrance celebrations of the Battle of Crete - a battle which lasted for 11 days, from the 20th to the 31st of May 1941, and was one of the most significant battles of the Second World War..
Led by New Zealander, Major-General Bernard Freyberg the Allied Forces on Crete, consisting of New Zealand, Australian, and British troops, worked with Greek troops and largely unarmed but dedicated and determined Cretan civilians, to fight off a huge German airborne attack, codenamed Operation Mercur (Ermis) on the island of Crete.
To the world's amazement and to their credit, they almost succeeded. Everywhere on the island, Cretan civilians, men, women and children, armed and otherwise, fought them with all their strength, joining the battle with whatever weapons they could find - ancient rifles last used against the Turks, kitchen knives, pickaxes, sickles, sticks, walking sticks, or even clubs.
"You fought unarmed and won, small against big. We owe you gratitude, because you gave us time to defend ourselves. As Russians and as people we thank you." –
Moscow, Radio Station When Hitler attacked the U.S.S.R
Despite the fierce and deadly reprisals which were certain if they were discovered, the Cretan people did not hesitate. Each family in Crete did what they could and has a story to tell...
To this day we don't know if he made it to freedom but we sincerely hope he did...
The accounts of their encounters with the Germans during the Resistance years and the colourful tales of their experiences were all so vivid that it was almost as if they were left untouched by the advancing years...
One of the most recent books on the Greek and Crete campaigns has been written by Dr Maria Hill, Visiting Fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales and is titled
Already some of those who came from New Zealand on a pilgrimage for the 65th Anniversary are no longer with us. It was an honour and a privilege to be part of that pilgrimage, just as it is to be part of this year's 70th. This year the veterans were welcomed by a visibly moved President of the Hellenic Republic, who thanked them on behalf of the Greek people for their contibution to our freedom.
The Greek Government honoured those who came and the families of those who were unable to make it. In Athens, in 2006, they were warmly welcomed by then Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and the Mayor of Athens, Theodore Behrakis, with receptions given in their honour before going on to Crete.
Former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Minister Bakoyannis' father, himself a veteran of the Crete campaign, was also present to honour the New Zealand veterans.
LEST WE FORGET
For a full programme of the 73rd Anniversary Battle of Crete Commemorations organised by the Region of Crete see below
In Greek: Heraklion, Rethymnon
In English: Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion
Prefecture of Chania
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