|The following is an extract from a report in WO 231/3
in the National Archives. It was titled "Data collected by
interrogation of prisoners, and general observation." I
have not commented on parts of the report, some do not ring true, but
this is as the report was submitted.
PWs state that they
left from many different aerodromes in Greece, among others TOPOLIA,
BLEUSIS, CORINTH, SCARAMONGA and TATOI.
They were fetched by train from their respective depots two or at
most, three days before leaving for CRETE.
The majority were told that they were leaving for Crete one or
two hours before the actual departure.
Others were only informed after taking off, having thought they
were destined for Malta or elsewhere.
They received no orders and many, even on the ground, were
unaware of the name of the town they were to attack.
W.Os were supplied with marked maps and a rough outline of what
tactics to adopt. They were informed that their objectives should be taken and
exploited within 40 minutes of landing, taking the British garrison,
which was oddly underestimated in numbers, by surprise, and profiting by
this, carry all before them by shock tactics.
It is interesting to note how the map accompanying this report
and captured from the Germans, defined the exact sphere of operations.
Enemy troops landed
amount, by all accounts, to 2 Regiments, that is to say, 6000 men.
There is some doubt about this, many greater figures being
quoted, but none less. It
is thought by P.W.s that no more parachute troops will be sent.
One or two say that no more available parachute troops are left.
They were trained all over Germany at various depots: Berlin,
Hamburg, Munich, Brunswick, Dresden, Tangemunde, Saltzweder and
especially Stendhal. All
had done 5 or 6 practice jumps at their depots, but none of the ones
interviewed had ever done it on active service.
Maps show that the plan was roughly to take the aerodrome and
barracks, the power station, the port, and another point approximately 1
km. West of the harbour, probably as a second beach for landing sea
borne troops, preventing egress from the west of the town by investing
the Western wall and gates. Contact
was to be maintained by flares, and their positions and situation
reports to be told to recce planes by flares and ground strips.
Large swastika flags spread out on the ground secure immunity for
them from their own aircraft. Only
comparatively few of the ground strip keys have been found, so their
distribution was probably limited to officers and senior W.Os.
A considerable number of W/T sets were landed: each set appeared
to have a crew of one Sgt. Major and 6 or 7 men.
consist of two distinct types: young men of 18 to 20 who are fresh from
several years’ intensive propaganda in the Hitler Youth Movement, and
regular soldiers who for some reason wanted to change their normal
units. There were several
cases of men who had had enough of the army, and have a grievance
against it, usually for excessive punishments inflicted by court martial
for trifling offences, e.g. half a year’s imprisonment for a very
minor security offence, one and a half years for 12 hours absence
without leave. These
embittered cases are not rare. The
remainder consist of young peasants probably brought up in rural
districts away from political influences and who feel great
disappointment at the length of the war in general and their own mishaps
in particular. All
parachutists are volunteers. There
is little doubt that they are kept in ignorance of the danger of their
work and are launched in masses in the hope that, if large enough, the
objective will be attained in spite of very heavy losses.
Their morale was extremely shaken by the reception they got from
our A.A. fire and they reached the ground in a state of complete
disorganization. The whole
plan of attack was put out of joint; men were separated from their
officers and N.C.Os and wandered about with nor orders or inkling of
what to do. The result was
that the morale of the detached bodies broke, and most of them sought
the first opportunity to give themselves up.
Many were shaken by bad landings and unnerved by the sight of
their comrades landing on telephone wires or being shot on landing, a
possibility they had not reckoned with.
Most of the prisoners examined were in a state of inertia and
despair, and above all, of self pity; many were drugged.
Many declared they did not care about the outcome of the war, as
long as it ended quickly and permitted them to rejoin their families.
Others said that if Germany did not win by December, she had lost
On an average, 16 parachutes were discharged from each plane.
12 would be personnel and four carriers with equipment.
Field and A/Tk guns were landed with two or three parachutes.
was hard to get firm facts as to the object of the various coloured
Medical were definitely pink, stores generally white, and
personnel white or part-coloured.
Many prisoners asserted that the parachute colours had no object
other than camouflage, e.g. parachutists landing on sand would have
yellow parachutes, green for grassland, red-brown for soil, white in a
town consisting of modern buildings, etc., to make a less conspicuous
German attitude as to the Cretans.
|Parachutists were told that they would be welcomed with open arms.
They were horrified at the opposition put up by the local
civilians. The latter, men,
women and children, turned out to deal with the invader.
Undoubtedly their behaviour as ‘franc tireurs’ will lead to
severe reprisals. In this
connection, copies of pamphlets dropped from the air on 25th
and 26th May are attached in original (one copy only to G.H.Q.
Violations of International Law by the Germans.
Use of civilians and
prisoners as shields to advancing troops.
21st May, the Germans advanced against the town with Cretan
men and women in front of their troops.
The local Greek Comd. Sent an ultimatum by a prisoner that all
German prisoners would be shot unless this practice ceased, and women
and children were released.
This was done.
On May 21st the Germans entered the town.
They shot many unarmed men of No. 1017 Docks Coy. and used the
others as a shield in an attack against a post on the mole.
26th May, they advanced against a position held by A &
S.H. with a body of British prisoners in front: later they shot the
26th May, a few wounded of 2 Leicester Regt., who had shammed
dead, reported that the Germans had machine gunned other prisoners,
after disarming them.
This statement is borne out by the large proportion of dead to
wounded in that particular attack.
German doctors, who
passed through our hospital at KNOSSOS on 26th May, were
surprised that we had not advertised its presence by a large Red Cross.
They could not understand why we preferred concealment to
reliance on the Red Cross.
They stated that parachutists always had to rely on enemy
hospitals for treatment in the early stages.
Actually a large proportion of doctors seem to have been landed,
local German R.A.Ps were often established, medical equipment landed was
good and most useful to us.
It is hard to reconcile the above attitude of German doctors, and the
fact that our wounded were still allowed to be despatched to KNOSSOS,
with the mortar and machine gun attack on the hospital on the 28th
|This latter may, or may not have been due to their feeling that the
accuracy of our arty. Fire was due to an O.P. in the hospital.
It was actually due to a report by a returning lorry driver,
while the W/T set in the hospital had received orders that it was only
to be used for medical work.
'Crete Eyewitnessed David Hunt commented on his interviews of
paratroops; "I interrogated several German
prisoners in Crete. They were fit and well trained but did not
differ from the other German prisoners that I had met at the Western
Desert. They had all been stunned by the resistance they had
encountered on the island. Before the invasion they had been told
that there were very few allied forces on Crete. This was not
concocted to encourage them but rather what the German Military
Administration really believed. The German Information Service was
really terribly uninformed." This is also backed up in
'Sandy' Thomas's book where he says that "the few parachutists that
we took alive expressed their astonishment at our presence. They
told us that they had expected to land unmolested, form up and advance
as a unit to the aerodrome. They even dropped the Quartermaster
and the unit clerks, so sure were they that there would be no fighting