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British naval operations around Crete, 20 May-1 June 1941


Timeline detailing the evacuation of Allied forces from Crete by the British Mediterranean Fleet, 22 May – 1 June 1941.

22–23 May – Ay Roumeli
Destroyers HMS Decoy and HMS Hero embarked King George II of Greece, other ‘important personages’ and a platoon of 18th Battalion, 4th (NZ) Brigade.
23–24 May Suda Bay
Destroyers HMS Jaguar and HMS Defender landed stores and ammunition. Embarked 60 non-essential personnel and wounded.
24–25 May Suda Bay
Minelayer HMS Abdiel landed 200 men of Layforce and 80 tons of stores. Embarked about 50 wounded and four Greek cabinet ministers.
26–27 May Suda Bay
Abdiel and destroyers Hero and HMAS Nizam landed 750 men of Layforce and stores. Embarked ‘930 merchant seamen, some naval people and others not needed’.
28–29 May Heraklion
Force B under Rear-Admiral Henry Rawlings – cruisers HMS Orion, HMS Ajax, HMS Dido, and destroyers Decoy, HMS Jackal, HMS Imperial, HMS Hotspur, HMS Kimberley and HMS Hereward – embarked British garrison. Imperial and Ajax damaged by near misses on outward voyage – Ajax returned to Alexandria. Imperial broke down on return voyage and was sunk. Hereward sunk by direct hit. Orion received several hits and near misses. Dido severely damaged. Heavy losses included crew of Hereward and Captain Geoffrey Back of Orion. About 600 evacuated troops killed or captured (picked up by Italian torpedo boats); 3486 troops landed in Alexandria.
28–29 May Sfakia
Destroyers Nizam, HMAS Napier, HMS Khandahar, and HMS Kelvin embarked 724 troops plus 20 miscellaneous persons, ‘including Greeks, women, children, and a dog’ – report of Captain Stephen Arliss (Napier).
29–30 May Sfakia
Cruisers HMS Phoebe, HMAS Perth, HMS Calcutta, HMS Coventry, destroyers HMS Jervis, HMS Hasty and HMS Janus, and Landing Ship HMS Glengyle embarked members of Creforce. Perth sustained a direct hit and several near misses; four crew and nine soldiers killed; 6029 troops landed at Alexandria.
30–31 May Sfakia
Destroyers Nizam, Kelvin, Khandahar and Napier sent to Crete. Khandahar broke down, Kelvin was damaged by a near miss on the outward voyage and both returned to Alexandria. Napier was damaged by a near miss on the return voyage; 1510 troops landed at Alexandria.
31 May – 1 June Sfakia
Cruiser Phoebe, destroyers Kimberley, Hotspur and Jackal, and minelayer Abdiel embarked members of Creforce. Not attacked; 3710 troops landed at Alexandria. Sunderland flying boats evacuated 54 senior officers, including Major-General Bernard Freyberg and Major-General E.C. Weston.

Allowing for men killed on passage and for probable miscounting on disembarkation it is believed that about 17,000 troops were evacuated.


Map from D.M. Davin, Crete, War History Branch, Wellington, 1953

How to cite this page

British naval operations around Crete, 20 May-1 June 1941, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated