|This page is for the events and decisions
taken at Freyberg's headquarters from the 23rd May onwards. By
that time things were starting to get pretty 'tight', and Ringel's force
was moving in on the 4th Brigade around Galatas.
|I have some work to do on this page.
|To paraphrase a comment by Richard Holmes, "Amateurs
talk tactics, professionals talk Logistics", and logistics are
indeed the constant worry of a battle commander, especially when he has
no command of the air and the Navy is taking a tremendous pounding from
the enemy air force. By the 23rd Freyberg was making Wavell aware
of his problems.
|1. There were no really usable ports on the south coast
suitable for large scale supply operations; those places where there was
a small port, Sphakia and Tymbaki, required roads building to them
before they would be properly usable . This meant that
realistically he had to continue using Suda Bay with all the risks which
that entailed for the Navy.
|2. According to the New Zealand history there were
in the area of Freyberg's responsibility some half million mouths to
feed including Greek civilians, and he had only some 150 15-cwt trucks
and 117 other various carrier vehicles. All this and only one
coast road which was under constant air attack, as well as German forces
around Rethymnon and Heraklion.
|3. He estimated his supply situation in days rations
remaining as; Suda Bay 10 days, Rethymnon 18 days and Heraklion 14
days. This was assuming everyone was to be on reduced rations,
below the current level of two-thirds normal rations. He needed
|In W) 231/3 in the PRO there is an interesting
comment on the move of Freyberg's HQ; "On the 24th & 25th,
CANEA was very heavily bombed and virtually destroyed. It was
therefore considered advisable for Force Headquarters to move to a
position a few miles east of SUDA on the coastal road. The
previous Headquarters on the the heights to the east of CANEA had the
advantage of a commanding view over the whole battlefield, but this
advantage was outweighed by the depressing view that unfolded itself [my
italics J Dillon]. The continuous stream of troop pouring into
MALEME was clearly visible. Furthermore the whole sky to the west
was clouded with enemy aircraft continually diving, bombing and machine
gunning our troops. In the immediate foreground CANEA was at
intervals subjected to the heaviest bombing, the blast of which shook
Headquarters. Over the hills to the east and south east lay a pall
of black smoke from burning ships in SUDA BAY. It was a
distracting and unhealthy atmosphere for General FREYBURG (sic) and his
staff. [my italics]. I think it was somewhat more unhealthy
and distracting for the troops on the ground.
|The following is an
extract from a very large report in the PRO which covers all aspects of
the action on Crete, the report is AIR 23/6751. This particular
extract comments on reports of comparisons between WW1 and Crete.
|Last War versus
|Para 20. A
comparison is sometime made between the casualties and dangers of the
last war with those of the campaign in CRETE, seeking to show that in
the former greater losses and dangers were borne with less loss of
morale than was the case in CRETE. Those supporting this
contention hold the view that air attack has attained an importance and
effect out of all proportion to its material effect.
In my (the report writer's) opinion this
view is substantially correct but in making any such comparison, proper
weight must be given to the following considerations which I suggest
must also influence commanders in the employment of troops under
conditions such as obtained in CRETE:-
|(a) 100% enemy air
superiority will depress any troops.
|(b) Any troops, under
constant air attack of considerable intensity will soon have their
|(c) Arising out of (b)
above there are no quiet areas where troops can be rested on relief and
consequently the nervous strain is continuous.
|(d) While it is possible
to move troops by day in proper formations, without excessive
casualties, the nervous strain inflicted by doing so is so great that it
cannot be done frequently without seriously impairing morale.
|(e) Because of (d) troops
must normally move at night which results in broken or no sleep, again
|(f) In the last war
troops were usually very well protected by trenches and strongly
supported by artillery. The periods of danger were usually very
short commencing from reasonably secure trenches and terminating in good
shell hole cover or trenches. Where conditions of great danger
existed, reliefs were frequent. Troops when not actually
fighting lived in almost complete security. The enemy rarely if
ever enjoyed complete superiority in any weapon.
|(g) In the case of CRETE
almost the exact opposite to the conditions described in (f) existed,
e.g. trenches were quite inadequate and troops were inadequately
supported by other arms. The dangers from air attack were
continuous. Reliefs gave no relief from air attack, and there were
no back areas immune from attack. The enemy had complete command
of the air.
|I believe that the effect of the German air
attacks was also made worse by the experience of the troops in Greece,
where many had served before evacuation to Crete. Although the RAF
was present in the Greek theatre in some strength many of their
activities took place north of the areas occupied by the troops, in
their minds the RAF was not supporting them, and when they saw little
friendly activity over CRETE they felt again that they were being
deserted by the air force. The constant subjection of the troops
to very accurate bombing attack by the German Stukas, when they had
nowhere to hide in the rocky soil of the island, should not be
underestimated. The Navy had seen how accurate and devastating
this bombing could be when there were no friendly fighters to distract