The German invasion of the island from the air, unique in the history of warfare, turned into the closest-run battle of the war. The slaughter of German paratroopers on the first day by New Zealand, Australian and British troops was so great that if just one platoon had still been in place by Maleme airfield the next morning, General Student would have been forced to admit defeat. This book overturns previous interpretations of the battle by showing how he misread an Ultra signal at the crucial moment with disastrous consequences. Little in Greece and Crete seems to have conformed to regulations, certainly not the archaeologists and romantics whose approach to irregular warfare had an air of fiction rather than serious military endeavour. One special operations veteran compared the comings and goings of the cast list to an Anthony Powell novel.
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Jul 22, Nigeyb rated it really liked it I read this book whilst in Crete, and with a fair amount of prior knowledge. The conflict in Crete between the Cretan guerrillas, supported by a handful of I read this book whilst in Crete, and with a fair amount of prior knowledge. The conflict in Crete between the Cretan guerrillas, supported by a handful of British soldiers, and the Nazi occupiers was extreme.
The hated Germans behaved barbarically to the Cretans and punished acts of insurrection by torturing and destroying entire communities. The battle is brought vividly to life. Numerous errors of judgement meant the Germans prevailed when the Allied forces could and should have repelled the invasion. Bernard Freyberg emerges as a flawed commander whose failure to understand intelligence reports and inability to push home his advantage at key moments resulted in the avoidable defeat.
The latter part of the book describes the resistance and covers a lot of ground quickly. I was glad I had read more about this aspect of the conflict however I still gained helpful insights into Cretan politics and the broader Greek context.
But Beevor has difficulty maintaining his trademark readability in the face of a plethora of important historical figures, and the complex web of minor incidents and political intrigue that marked the resistance movement. The fall of Crete was one of those military disasters which bedevilled Britain and the Commonwealth in the early years of the war. There is little doubt that different tactics and better use of the Ultra intelligence that had originated at Bletchley Park might well have brought a different outcome rather than the humiliating defeat at the hands of the Germans.
That the Commonwealth troops, along with their Greek and Cretan allies, fought extremely bravely, both during the battle for Crete and during the post defeat resistance is never in doubt. Beevor manages to convey the horrors of warfare without resorting to the use of graphic violence. He also describes campaigns in understandable detail and makes a pretty good first of leading the reader through the minefield of Greek names, places and political organisations.
The author chooses to end the story with the moments that the Germans leave, wisely making only cursory reference to the civil war that raged in Greece until Crete, The Battle and the Resistance is another superb military history from a master in the field David Lowther.
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Crete: The Battle and the Resistance
Crete: The Battle And The Resistance
Crete : The Battle and the Resistance