Bert Dyson describes transporting ammunition, Crete

Lieutenant Bert Dyson served with 4th (NZ) Field Regiment on Crete. Here he describes transporting ammunition up to New Zealand troops for the planned counter-attack on Maleme airfield, 22 May 1941.


The worst task I had was to take three truckloads of ammunition-this'd be about on the third day of the battle-up to Maleme to the guns. The ammunition was loaded into three Matadors. A Matador is a very high, heavy gun tractor designed for pulling 3.7-inch guns. Very conspicuous. Impossible to hide. There were three British drivers assigned to driving them, and like all our drivers in the war-New Zealand, Australian, whatever-marvellous. Marvellous people. I said to them, "We will go slowly. We won't go fast. We won't, if we can help it, raise any dust. We will just plod up the road. We'll stop whenever we see anything like a bit of cover we could pull in by a building, clump of trees, and just have a look around, and then go on." And we did that, and we were not interfered with. It could have been that once you drop parachutists, your air force becomes useless because there's no front line and no definition of who is what and where, and that may have been the reason why we got through it.

Megan Hutching: So once the parachutists landed, the bombing and strafing attacks lessened, did they?

They had to because they could be shooting their own men.

We got to the gun positions, put the trucks in the trees. They probably were olive groves. And started to unload with the gunners taking the stuff away. The shells for the French 75s and for the Italian 75s were all in bits and pieces. There'd be a case of fuses, a case of charges, a case of shell. This ammunition, before it could be used, had to be fused, the charges had to be put in the cartridges, according to what was needed. They were very cumbersome, and very awkward, therefore, to take a complete round up the hill to the guns.

There was quite a lot of strafing going on in the airfield because the positions were fairly clearly defined-the Germans and us. There was an overrun in one strafing run-must have been an incendiary or something, hit the vehicle, set fire to the canopy, and we had a truck on fire. We quickly put that fire out but someone must have seen the smoke and they set to to strafe us in real earnest. The truck was set afire again, and at that stage it was so bad, because they were concentrating on us, that we couldn't put it out again. On top of that, of course, the shells were bursting and the charges going up, and we just had to give it away. We lost the lot because the neighbouring trucks, with ammunition exploding, and so on-it was just hopeless. So we took shelter in a culvert nearby. Me and the three drivers. The culverts weren't very big, there was hardly even any room to wriggle. And then when it all ceased, or diminished, we then set off for Brigade-I'd been told to contact [5th] Brigade Headquarters. Well, all I could tell them was that I'd lost some ammunition.

Bert Dyson

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Posted: 07 Jul 2010

Found this video of remastered German colour footage of the battle for Crete. Pretty "frontline" stuff, bullets and bombs hitting all around the German paratroopers: