First published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the battle, and drawing on new sources and the experiences of key participants, this book recounts for the first time the Fall of Greece, the Battle of Crete and the Resistance from 1941 to 1945.
The German invasion of the island from the air, unique in the history of
warfare, turned into the closest-run battle of the war. The slaughter of
German paratroopers on the first day by New Zealand, Australian and British
troops was so great that if just one platoon had still been in place by
Maleme airfield the next morning, General Student would have been forced
to admit defeat.
For the first time Ultra intelligence played a key role, but how General
Freyberg, Churchill's favourite hero from the First World War, handled that
information and the battle itself remains controversial. This book overturns
previous interpretations of the battle by showing how he misread an Ultra
signal at the crucial moment with disastrous consequences.
Little in Greece and Crete seems to have conformed to regulations, certainly
not the archaeologists and romantics whose approach to irregular warfare
had an air of fiction rather than serious military endeavour. One special
operations veteran compared the comings and goings of the cast list to an
Anthony Powell novel. There was Peter Fleming with his private army known
as 'Yak Mission', the archaeologist John Pendlebury with his glass eye and
swordstick, Bob Laycock the commando leader, and his intelligence officer
Evelyn Waugh, for whom the retreat over the mountains to Sphakia triggered
deep disillusionment and self-loathing.
Resistance demonstrated Cretan qualities to the full - ferociousness and reckless bravery, spontaneous generosity, and also a sense of fun - Patrick Leigh Fermor's celebrated abduction of General Kreipe 'made the whole island feel two centimetres taller', as a member of the Cretan resistance put it.
This book is far more than just a military account, it is a fascinating story of uncommon characters living at the limits of courage.