The barge from Crete by Peter McIntyre, 1941

<em>The barge from Crete</em> by Peter McIntyre, 1941

The barge from Crete, painted by Peter McIntyre, New Zealand’s official war artist, in July 1941. 

McIntyre’s painting illustrates the epic journey of a group of escapees who sailed an abandoned landing barge from Crete to Egypt. The 137-strong party, mostly Royal Marines, set out on 1 June. Nine New Zealanders were thought to be among this party, although the only one known by name was Private W.A. Hancox. He had been picked up 3 km off shore, paddling along on a plank of wood. 

After the barge’s fuel ran out blankets were rigged as sails. To make sure these caught the breeze the men often had to jump into the water and push the nose of the barge in the right direction. Conditions on board were tough. Food supplies were rationed to half a tobacco tin of water and a teaspoon of bully beef per day. During the voyage one soldier died of exhaustion and another died by suicide. On 9 June, eight days after leaving Crete, the barge drifted ashore 24 km west of Sidi Barrani in Egypt.

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Patrick Robb

Posted: 28 Apr 2014

In 2008 I found relations of mine in UK. One of these persons I found out was my "half " brother. He was a member of the Royal Marines who escaped Crete on the said barge. My " new "sister in law posted to me a copy that was in the local paper re my brothers escape to Sidi Barrani. A interesting story. He was a Sergeant. Unfortunately he died in 2006, aged 86. He revisited Crete when he turned 70....Patrick R