battle for crete

Events In History


The Battle for Crete

  • The Battle for Crete

    It remains the most dramatic battle ever fought by New Zealand forces. Over 12 brutal days in May 1941 the Allies opposed a massive German airborne assault on the Mediterranean island of Crete. They almost succeeded.

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  • Page 2 – Overview

    The Battle for Crete in May 1941 is the most dramatic battle in which New Zealand forces have participated. For 12 days, with British, Australian and Greek troops and Cretan

  • Page 3 – The battle: days 1-3

    On 20 May 1941 the German attack began, focusing on the airfield at Maleme and the Canea area. Landing among or near concealed Allied defensive positions, the German glider-

  • Page 4 – The battle: days 4-6

    On 23 May New Zealand forces retreated from Maleme to the new line at Platanias. Troops stationed in the Galatas-Canea area had a relatively quiet day. So did those at Retimo

  • Page 5 – The retreat: days 7-9

    The Germans continued to advance eastwards across the island. British forces withdrew to a line east of Galatas. Freyberg realised that the loss of Crete was inevitable and

  • Page 6 – The evacuation: days 10-12

    The first ships left Sfakia for Egypt. The Germans finally entered Retimo, leaving the Australian defenders stranded. The garrison at Heraklion was evacuated by sea. Evacuation

  • Page 7 – Capitulation and capture

    The remnants of Creforce surrendered to the Germans. Those taken prisoner at Sfakia were marched back over the White Mountains to a prison camp near Galatas. Others escaped and

  • Page 8 – The controversies

    The Battle for Crete is the most contested event in New Zealand's military history. The nature of the battle, with a relatively clear sequence of events leading to an

  • Page 9 – Kiwi stories

    Selected audio extracts of New Zealanders involved in the Battle for Crete.

  • Page 10 – Battle for Crete commemorations

    The battle was first commemorated at the end of the Second World War when New Zealand soldiers returned to Crete in late September 1945, it continues to be remembered to this

  • Page 11 – Further information

    This web feature was originally written by Megan Hutching and Ian McGibbon and produced by the NZHistory team.


  • Cox, Geoffrey Sanford

    Just how did a boy born in Palmerston North come to witness at first hand the impact of Stalinism, the rise of Hitler and the Spanish Civil War?

  • Freyberg, Bernard Cyril

    A First World War hero and commander of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Bernard Freyberg proved to be a charismatic and popular military leader who would later serve a term as Governor-General

  • Upham, Charles Hazlitt

    Charles Upham is probably New Zealand's most famous soldier. His actions in Crete in 1941 and Egypt in 1942 led to his becoming one of only three people – and the only combat soldier – ever to win the Victoria Cross twice.

  • Kippenberger, Howard Karl

    Leader of the 5th New Zealand Infantry Brigade in the North African desert campaigns of 1942 and 1943, Kippenberger was New Zealand’s most popular military commander, and perhaps its most talented.


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