Pilot's diary
Home Up General Student Ju52 A Brit's view Egon Radeck Interrogation Report Pilot's diary

 

 

The following is an extract from a PRO document, (AIR 40/1402 Germany: German air-borne attack on Crete).  It is the diary of one of the glider pilots who landed near Suda Bay.

Apr. 30  Left HILDESHEIM by train.

 

May 5 OVIDIU.  Crossed DANUBE.  Everything flooded.  Width of river about 10-12 km.  Crossed BULGARIAN frontier at 14.25 hours.  Friendly reception.  We assume we are going to the BLACK SEA, embark there and go through the BOSPHORUS to the AEGEAN.  Well it’s merely a matter of “wait and see”…

 

May 8 Arrive NISH.  The FIRst signs of devastation and war.  Next town we are making for is SALONIKA.  Uncertain when we start off again from NISH.

 

May 9  At last we set out again, but the line is terribly congested with transport trains.  Thanks to our special number we are given priority everywhere …

 

May 10  We have been in Greece about 3 days and have already had to cross bridges which had been blown up and rapidly repaired.  At 19.00 hours we arrived at SALONIKA.

 

May 11  Began unloading at 07.00 hours.  Already very warm here, about 40 degrees in the shade, and we still have 4 trucks to unload (10.00 hours).  We finished unloading at 10.45 hours and left the port to set up camp some 10 km. outside SALONIKA.  It is now 19.00 hours and we have finished at last.  We shall probably await the other transports here …

 

May 12  Reveille at 06.00 hours.  Then at 07.00 we made the gliders (LS) ready.  From 08.00 to 09.00 handball game.  N.C.O’s won 5-0.  At 10.50 hours we break camp and leave for flying field.  Here building and laying out of camp.  21.00 hours bed.

 

May 13  Reveille at 04.00 hours.  March off technical personnel for machine rigging.  All others continue building camp.

 

May 14  Reveille at 05.00 hours.  I was orderly N.C.O.  I saw OPEL again for the first time at midday.  Machines rigged and in the afternoon at 18.00 to 19.00 hours about 80 JU52s and 60 gliders (LS) landed here.  21.00 hours bed.

 

May 15  General activity.  Glider rigging and preparation for the start.  At 21.00 hours bed and detailing for the flight.

 

May 16  Reveille 03.00 hours.  Straight away get gliders ready for start.  07.50 hours start from SALONIKA with 2 men of technical staff.  Landed 09.15 hours at TANAGRA. The flight was mainly over the sea and was fantastic.  Immediately after the take off we flew past the left hand side of OLYMPUS.  Until 12.00 hours we hung about doing nothing.  Nobody knew what was going to happen.  In the afternoon we pitched our tents and 21.00 hours to bed.

 

May 17  TANAGRA.  07.00 hours reveille and breakfast.  At 10.00 hours the glider pilots are detailed for the operation.  I am to fly in the second squadron (Staffel) third flight (KETTE) at the left of the flight.  The objective is the island of CRET.  At 18.00 hours again on parade.  At 20.00 General STUDENT came and enquired personally of each glider pilot as to his past services and achievements as pilot.  A soldierly handshake.

 

May 18  Today is Mother’s Day and I have no chance of writing to Mother.  This morning there was a discussion about the operation with JU52 pilots, glider pilots, platoon (Zug) leaders and Oberjaeger of the Parachute troops.  I am carrying men of Lieut. MOHR’s platoon, Sergeant WEIN with his men.  There is a hand-grenade thrower and a heavy M.G. as well as an automatic (M.P.) and other small arms and ammunition.  I have now been told my landing place in CRETE.  It is an A.A. post with 6 guns by SUDA BAY.  Everything is clear.  Now with a little luck the operation will be 100% success.

 

May 19  Extensive and feverish preparations for the operation.  It is all too well known.  This afternoon there was a discussion on the attack once more.  In the evening the Parachute troopers came down to us on the flying field.  I am quite calm.  Tuesdat morning at 07.15 hours is to be the time of my landing on the island of CRETE.

 

May 20  Reveille at 03.00 hours, for the start is at 05.10 hours.  I have packed everything into my two rucksacks but I have written no letters.  I have the greatest confidence in my return.  After a few contre-temps we started at 05.25 hours.  At the first attempt a lorry ran into my tow-rope; at the second the towing A/C fell out of formation but I managed to get away.  So we flew for about 3 ˝ hours towards the enemy.  At 08.25 hours I landed my machine on CRETE.  The landing field was very hilly and strewn with stones and rocks the size of a man.  On landing, my glider was badly shattered but my passengers were still able to fight.  Things didn’t go as well with everybody.  For the most part there were 50% casualties.  In one machine, which landed at the dummy A.A. post (Scheinflakstellung) there were 8 dead and 2 severely injured.  On our approach there was violent A.A. fire.  There was very little fighting; we were only small squads (trupps) of five or six men.  Our leadership failed miserably.  Much could not be attempted, for the majority were disabled or dead.  That is how things went with us on the first day.  Late in the afternoon I wanted to fetch my haversack and waterbottle, but a ‘Tommy’ had them already.  In the afternoon, a tank came on the scene, but was unable to get at us among the rocks.  Thus we lay till 20.00 hours in a captured M.G. post and tried during the night to establish contact with the others in vain.  All we found were wounded and an Englishman with a lung wound.  We bandaged him up as best we could.  Finally we decided to creep past the two enemy M.G. posts and join up with the Parachutists.  Unfortunately we did not have time and were surprised by dawn.

 

May 21  Unfortunately we were lying, at most, at 150 metres from the enemy M.G. post and naturally, we immediately received their fire.  I crept for another 80 metres but had to give it up as it would have been suicide.  After a few minutes another parachutist came creeping up to us.  So we lay from 07.00 to 20.00 hours in the fierce heat without anything to drink.  And whenever anyone of us moved however slightly, the M.G.’s fired on us.  In the afternoon they even tried to ‘bump us off’ with hand grenades, but our luck held and when night fell we were still alive.  I say “we” for I had joined company with a parachutist since 4 hands and 4 eyes were better than 2.  His name is PAUL KNOTE and he is from GELSENKIRCHEN.  My name is SEPP ROETHMAER from BAYREUTH.  This was the second day without water.  I can still scarcely speak.  We must certainly get some water or we shall die of thirst.  No wonder when the day temperature is 40-50 degrees.  In the evening at 20.30 we both set out.  We had to get water.  It was Hobson’s choice.  Otherwise we could not go on.  We started out step by step in the direction of the sea.  At last at 24.00 hours we found a well.  Everything was at hand, ropes and bucket and we helped ourselves to the much needed drink.  It tasted somewhat salty but otherwise it was clean.  I hope it doesn’t make us ill.  We have built ourselves a little fortification in which we will try to spend the day.  During the night I had my first food.

 

May 22  I am lying here with my comrade PAUL in our camp (lager) and wait again for the night.  We can do nothing until German troops arrive and release us from this jam.  In SUDA BAY several ships are on fire.  It is now 06.30 and already the heat is appalling.