King George II - The Battle for Crete

Group at an afternoon reception given by His Majesty the King of Greece to New Zealand soldiers who acted as bodyguard to the Greek Royal party during their evacuation from Crete. From left to right: Lieutenant W. H. Ryan, Princess Katherine, youngest sister of King George II; Princess George (Marie) of Greece; her husband, Prince George of Greece; their son, Prince Peter; his cousin, George II, King of the Hellenes, and Colonel J. S. Blunt (British military attache to the Greek Army).

The King of Greece and the Battle for Crete

King George II, 1890–1947

George II was king of the Hellenes from 1922—23 and 1935—47.

The king was on Crete in April and May 1941 because he and the British government thought it was important that while there was still a part of Greece unoccupied by the Germans, a Greek government should remain on it.

As time passed and the German invasion of the island became imminent, the king and his party became an additional problem for Creforce commander, Major-General B.C. Freyberg. Should he stay as a symbolic gesture that the Greek government was still governing Greece or should he be evacuated before it became unsafe for him to be there? The king himself felt that it would be better to leave before the German attack as this would look less like flight. Freyberg agreed, but was over-ruled by the British Foreign Office, which felt that his departure might have a bad political effect.

The king was staying in a house near Suda until 19 May, guarded by B Company of 18 Battalion. On 19 May, 12 Platoon of B Company accompanied the king and his party to new quarters in a house near the village of Perivolia. This was fortunate because a party of paratroops landed near the former house on 20 May and there was a fair bit of fighting in the area, B Company acquitting themselves well.

It was a narrow escape and Freyberg realised that the king would have to be evacuated. The royal party, which included the Greek Prime Minister (Tsouderos), were sent overland towards the south coast under the escort of 12 Platoon. It was quite a trip—the climb was steep and the sun hot. Although German aircraft flew low overhead, they did not attack, despite the number of people in the party and the fact that the king was wearing a conspicuous beribboned tunic which he was eventually persuaded to change.

The party reached the village of Therisson during the night and continued up through the White Mountains. The next night was spent above the snowline on a western shoulder of the White Mountains. It was a cold and miserable one for the men of 12 Platoon, who had left Perivolia with the king so hastily that they had not had a chance to bring blankets or groundsheets.

The next day (22 May) the party reached Samaria and travelled on to Ay Roumeli, where everybody, including 12 Platoon, embarked on HMS Decoy and were evacuated to Alexandria.

Community contributions

2 comments have been posted about King George II - The Battle for Crete

What do you know?

David H

Posted: 10 Sep 2016

The identifications on the photograph are incorrect.
They are - from left to right - W.H. Ryan; Princess Katherine, youngest sister of King George II; Princess George (Marie) of Greece; her husband, Prince George of Greece; their son, Prince Peter; his cousin, George II, King of the Hellenes; J.S Blunt.

Lynn

Posted: 30 Aug 2013

Do you know the names of the 12th platoon who accompanied the King to Egypt? Thanks