|The following is an extract from
'Crete Eyewitnessed'. It is a recollection by Arnold Ashworth of
the main paratroop drop as he saw it. It does not say which unit
he was with, or where on the island, so I have assumed the Maleme area.
|Almost simultaneously with the awareness of a
heavy droning in the distance, I noticed one of our number frantically
pointing out to sea, and agitatedly drawing our attention to something
which at first I could not discern. Automatically the sound of droning engines
caused me to look toward the unfriendly skies, but I quickly noted that
my comrade's finger was not indicating anything skywards, but rather
something toward the far horizon of the encircling sea.
|My momentary fears were of an invasion by sea,
and I half expected to see an armada of invasion ships approaching our
shores, but what I saw was probably unprecedented in any previous
operation of war.
|I saw them crawling like noisome giants
towards us, their undercarriage appearing almost to be sweeping the
|They were coming in waves, the blackness of
them added the sinister to the fantastic, they were easily the largest
planes that we had ever seen.
|I felt myself muttering the two fatal words
through my clenched teeth, "troop carriers", it was quite
obvious to all of us now that the invasion of our short-lived sanctuary
was to be made from the air.
|Very slowly the great heavily laden troop
carriers drew ever closer to the island, every eye was glued onto them
like a cat would watch a mouse, but then there was a difference, for
they were the cats and we were the mice.
|Instinctively rifles and machine guns were in
our hands, spare bandoliers of ammunition were thrown over our
shoulders, the strange fight with these men from the skies was about to
|Then the signal for the big drop took
place. It was a magnesium flare that suddenly appeared, and even
in the bright sunlit morning sky, the super brightness of it as it
slowly floated toward the earth, left us in no doubt at all that the
battle was on.
|The paratroops must have jumped at the first
show of the flare, but it seemed a while before the mushroom-shaped
parachutes began to appear all over the sky. In actual fact it was
only a matter of seconds. It was a revelation in modern warfare,
but for those who were guarding that land strip it must have been a most
demoralizing experience. There were men and equipment falling
everywhere. The sky was alive with the descending attackers.
|The glider troops trying desperately to get
their heavy machine gun into action, and our new rifles so hot with
rapid fire that little warm rivulets of grease were running all over our
hands and bare arms. I remember too a pathetic looking German
trying to drag his bullet-riddled body behind the glider for refuge
which it could not offer and a field grey uniformed arm which kept
managing to raise itself a few inches from the ground to wave a white
handkerchief - a token of surrender.
|......There was one man still alive. We
were about to continue to the glider was down to our left (the one which
had shown most fight) when we heard a most agonizing voice panting over
and over again, "shotten, shotten", which translated into
English means, "shoot me, shoot me".
|We moved into the direction of the voice, and
we found him, he had crawled into a little grassy hollow a few yards
away from his comrades. I don't know how he had got so far, for
half his hip was shot away, he had been hit with the heavy calibre
bullet of the anti-tank rifle.
|I gazed down into his tormented countenance
and felt great compassion. A short while before he had been a fine
specimen of manhood, as of course were all these airborne troops, all
specially chosen men with a high standard of physical fitness, and now
here he lay at my feet pleading with me to put an end to his horrible
suffering and wasted life.
|More however was I touched when I stood over
one of the grotesque shapes of the dead German soldiers and examined the
photographs which had been taken from him. I saw him in civilian
clothes in what looked like a German park or garden, a smart young man
smiling at what appeared to be his two children picking flowers. I
could not help looking down at his horribly distorted form, and
wondering if maybe tomorrow someone else would be standing over me
gazing at the few photographs which I carried. It was a sobering
thought and it didn't cheer me up at all.