Group West
Home Up Group West Galatas front Group Centre Group East Air Force Creforce Paratroops Retreat


Maleme 20 May
21 - 25th May
Stuka Ju87
Tom Atherton
The main thrust of the German invasion was lead by Group West.

A larger tourist map of the area around Maleme is linked to this page.

Site Map

Map showing position of 21, 22 & 23 Battalions
I am currently making extensive changes and additions to the pages covering the battle itself, this is causing me to also rearrange and add to the number of associated pages.  Hopefully previous visitors still be able to find their way round.  
The whole force on Crete was commanded by General Freyberg VC who had also been evacuated from the action in Greece and was Churchill's choice for the job, he saw him as a 'soldiers General'.  The area around Canea and Maleme was held by the New Zealand Division with 4 Brigade (Brigadier Inglis) as Force Reserve and 5 Brigade (Brigadier Hargest) covering the area from Ay Marina to Maleme airfield.  Behind 5 Brigade was 10 Brigade (Colonel Kippenberger) holding a line running south from Kolimvithra on the coast through Galatas and Aghya to Alikianou.  [These place names will often have different spellings on different maps of Crete.]  The tasks assigned to 5 Brigade were laid out in their Operation Order Number 4;
a) 5 Inf. Bde. will maintain a defensive line running east and west from PLATANIAS to TAVRONITIS RIVER, with special regard to the defence of MALEME aerodrome.
b) In the event of the enemy making an airborne or seaborne attack on any part of the area, to counter attack and destroy him immediately.
c) The whole essence of the bde's work is a spirited defence.
The four battalions of the brigade were assigned their areas and roles;
28 (Maori) Battalion to remain around Platanias and prevent the enemy advancing towards Canea.
23 Battalion on the coast to the east of Maleme airfield to hold its position and be in a position to counter attack towards the coast or Maleme if required, see map below.
21 Battalion, a little south of 23 Battalion, was to be ready to defend against a possible enemy attack from west of the Tavronitis and also to replace 23 Battalion if they had to make a counter attack, and be ready to deliver a second counter attack if needed.
22 Battalion covered Maleme, their primary task was the 'static defence' of the airfield.  "It was therefore to cover the airfield and approaches with fire, withholding mortar fire until landing had actually taken place.  If a major landing were made, support and reserve companies were to be used for immediate counter attack.  The enemy expelled, the battalion would resume its positions." [Davin]

20th May

The attack on Maleme airfield was assigned to Group West under the command of General Eugen Meindle and started early in the morning with fighters and bombers of Richtofen's VIII Fliegerkorps hitting the airfield in two waves. Their attacks were concentrated on the exposed Bofors anti-aircraft guns, troops on the ground, and especially on Hill 107.  This hill, overlooking the airfield (and now the location for the German war cemetery), was an important focus for the German airborne troops, many of whom would die there.  At around 08:15 the airborne assault began, the first troops on the ground were the elite 1st Battalion of the Assault Regiment, who arrived by towed glider. 

The battle for Maleme and the area up to Canea continues on additional pages.



The map to the left shows Maleme from above, you can see the two runways, one North/South, the other East/West.  All the bottom right hand side of the photo, blow the airfield  is Hill 107.  The river Tavronitis can be see on the very left hand side of the photo. 
Photo from Karlheinz Schlaweck

This map (from shows the area from Maleme to Canea.  There is still a rusting old bridge over the Tavronitis alongside the current road bridge.  I assume this is the remains of the 1941 bridge. The German war cemetery is on the top of Hill 107.  The coast road through Pirgos goes to Hania.  The original road is still there, lined with Hotels, but the main road is now a new dual carriageway set a little further inland.  

The positions of 21, 22 & 23 Battalions on the 20 May, showing the positions of their companies as well.