Op Order
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There is a good file in the PRO giving a lot of analysis by the British of the events on Crete in May 1941.  File is AIR 40/1402 German Airborne attack on Crete
The section below deals with some of the Intelligence Briefing that was in a captured German Operation Order.

In the archives at the PRO there is a very good file1 giving in-depth coverage of the German invasion of Crete, and including some original German documents, one of them is the Operation Order that was captured by the Allies during the battle.  Because of time constraints I did not have time on my last visit to spend too long with the file, but I did copy part of the Op Order and also the diary of one of the glider pilots (reproduced elsewhere on the site).


Germans who were captured during and after the invasion [link to page] commented on the poor intelligence they were given before they left Greece, so I have lifted a few of the intelligence comments from the Op Order.


Although the invasion was in May 1941, much of the information in the summary is from December 1940, before the Allies had had to withdraw from Greece, many of them to Crete.  The summary is headed “Intelligence Summary, Information on the Enemy: Summary No. 4”, the paragraph numbers are from the original document.


“IV. Units and Strength.

The Troop Strength (on 20 Dec. 40) is said to be 5,000 men (one Brigade) of which 400 at IRAKLION (three Coys.), the rest in and around CANEA.
The following units have been mentioned:
2 Bn. Black Watch
2 Bn. Yorks (sic) and Lancs.
1 Bn. of 50 Inf. Regt. Iraklion.
War Material;

30 light tanks, 30 A.A. – MGs, 2 heavy coastal guns, 7 light coastal guns, 300 M.T. of all kinds.”


The information from which they are working is 6 months old, and considerably out of date.  There is a second section of the summary which is headed as “Further Confidential Reports and Interrogation Reports of Escaped Greek Sailors; Generally Speaking, the Statements are Reliable.”  However, these updates have not helped them on the number of troops they would find on the island.  Taking para 5 as an example.


“5. There are NO Greek troops in CRETE.  The British troops are a permanent garrison.  The British troops which fled from the PELOPONESE have been brought to ALEXANDRIA.”  By the time that they invaded there were indeed Greek troops on the island, particularly near Canea and Iraklion [CHECK **].  It is also interesting that the information they were getting has indicated that all the troops from Greece had gone back to Egypt when in fact a large part were on Crete.  It is surprising that they could have missed such a large force element.”


The Germans were aware that the Allies were expecting an attack;

“2. The enemy seems to be expecting an attack in the NORTH ……….”


It is apparent that the Germans were also expecting to come up across Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), in spite of the comment in Colonel Burkhardt’s report.  In the paragraph on War Material they refer to 30 light tanks, which I believe is an over estimate, and in para. 3 they comment that “A.F.V’s are distributed all over the island, especially in the plains.”  Again I think this is an over estimation, and Burkhardt says that if he had expected to meet AFVs or Tanks he would have had anti-tank weapons.


A large part of the summary is taken up with a detailed listing of the POW camps on the island which were holding Italian POWs.  There is a lot of information on the numbers of Italians at each camp, plus details on the number of guards, broken down by officers and other ranks.  They summarise these camps as holding “600 officers and 15,000 O.R’s, with 25 Medical Officers amongst them.”  There is also an interesting comment relevant to when they expect the invasion to succeed; “ Apart from the officer and troop camps listed below, there are possibilities of accommodation which are being used as Transit – Disposal – and Reception Camps.  They will not be in use at the time, but may perhaps be suitable for the provisional accommodation of British P.O.W’s.”


1. AIR 40/1402 Germany: German air-borne attack on Crete