Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
417 — General Freyberg to General Wavell
General Freyberg to General Wavell
The following is a report on the situation as at 10 p.m. GMT, 22 May. The position is clear at Heraklion and also at Retimo, but the enemy have withdrawn at the flanks and have blown the road. Heraklion is now in touch by road with the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders1 and I have ordered them to concentrate a battalion and tanks at Heraklion preparatory to reinforcing the Suda garrison, if possible by road. Enemy action has prevented road communication between Force [Headquarters] and Retimo and also, I believe, between Retimo and Heraklion. Retimo has no transport. I have ordered the two garrisons concerned to clear up the situation and they will do so provided the enemy do not carry out any further landing against them.
1 A battalion of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders had landed at Tymbaki on the night of 18–19 May and had moved inland to guard the Messara Plain, with its potential landing grounds, against capture.
Small ships landed Germans on the peninsula behind Canea today and this may become a problem. Parachute and beach landings can cut any of our routes at any moment.
All these questions have to be considered and I have decided firstly, that I cannot continue to chance all the rear areas and coastline, and, secondly, that the troops cannot fight without a rest. Therefore I am taking up a line which will lessen my responsibilities. The enemy is now approaching equality in numbers. We shall continue to fight here and at other points in Crete, and we can fight on as long as maintenance does not break down. Everything depends on maintenance in the finish. In my opinion we must continue to use Suda. The only southern ports open are Tymbaki and Sphakia; the road to the latter is not completed and both must be protected, while further transport is essential before they can be used.
Later: 4.30 a.m. GMT, 23 May. Reference your telegram of 22 May (No. 414). I have already cabled you regarding Maleme and the air assistance required. A cable from my AOC, No. A.35,1 deals with landing grounds and re-fuelling. Our approximate line runs north-west and south-east 200 yards west of Galatas. I consider that RAF help, especially fighters, may alter the outlook and it is for very deep consideration whether this help can be made available and maintained for the next few days, which are critical. Enemy troop-carriers continue to arrive today.
1 Not published. Group-Captain G. R. Beamish (later Air Commodore; CB, CBE, commanded the Royal Air Force in Crete.