This service remembers the men and women from Australia and Greece, who fought and fell in the Battle of Crete.
In early April 1941, Germany moved to support the stalled Italian invasion of Greece. Outnumbered on two fronts, Greek and Commonwealth forces had no choice but to retreat south. By the end of the month, both Athens and 7,000 Australian, New Zealand and British troops were captured.
Many Allied troops were either sent or escaped to Crete, where they faced another German attack. On 20 May, the Germans began an airborne invasion in the first-ever use en masse of paratroopers. Despite a promising start, the Battle of Crete became a costly loss for the Allies. With insufficient supplies and not enough ships to evacuate them all, Allied troops could only surrender or try to escape. Many chose the latter, running to the mountains where the local population helped them survive, despite risking death if caught.
The Battle of Crete cost the Allies 23,000 casualties, with over 4,000 killed in action. A further 17,000 became prisoners of war. Axis soldiers would also execute over 500 Greek civilians.
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- Shrine Governor Squadron Leader Steve Campbell-Wright
Reviewed 06 April 2021