Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon



page 461


In contrast at almost all points with the situation of the defence was that of the enemy. True, his plans were laid relatively late— though from the first the Germans had seen the importance of Crete and had tried to persuade the Italians to seize the island. The inertia of the Italians prevented these persuasions from being effective and the Germans had perforce to wait till Greece was practically overrun. But, the decision to invade Crete once taken, they had much in their favour. The only straitening circumstance was that the attack on Russia had high priority and must not be delayed. That condition had little effect on the battle of Crete except to quicken the tempo of its planning and compel the use of 5 Mountain Division instead of 22 Airborne Division which had been specially trained for such actions. Enough troops and ample air forces were available—the troops of the highest quality and the aircraft in such numbers as to have complete control of the sky. Heavy weapons must be lacking till the means could be found to get them across. But since the troops had a very high proportion of automatic weapons and since their aircraft could act as mobile artillery, this was not so serious a disadvantage as it might have been if the defence were not from the first as badly off.

The fault, in so far as there was a fault, lay with the enemy's intelligence and planning. He overestimated the sympathy of Crete's civil population, he underestimated the strength and sturdiness of the garrison. Worse still, he failed to locate its concentrations and, while full credit must be given to the excellent camouflage of the defenders, it may be added for the sake of the irony that it was the enemy's very strength in the air that was to help throw out his appreciation. For with strafing aircraft never far off, the defence was careful never to expose itself to observation by day.

Even allowing for these wrong estimates on the enemy's part, however, his plan of attack can hardly avoid disparagement. For it should surely have been assumed that the points which he most wanted to seize were those most likely to be defended. Yet he chose to land his striking force directly on top of them and thus lost his finest troops on a scale which would not have been necessary had he chosen areas farther away from the airfields. Thus had he concentrated the whole of Group West in the territory west of Maleme, they could have landed and organised without opposition and could still have been able to launch a formidable assault on the airfield during the first day.

Again, he chose to try and bring across under feeble convoy his two invasion flotillas by night. So complete was his control of the page 462 sky that he could have brought them across by day under an umbrella of aircraft, and Cunningham's ships would have been unable to interfere or at least unable to survive the attempt to do so. And the flotillas could have been beached west of Maleme without opposition; or, even if they had had to try and force a landing east of Maleme, they would at least have given the coast defences a sore trial. Instead the enemy elected to take his chance of dodging in the darkness a Fleet which the same darkness permitted to operate with all its usual fell efficiency.