The battle at Chania was lost and therefore a withdrawal to the evacuation beaches began. From Chania it was over the White Mountain to Sfakia but at Rethemno it was a capitulation and a Heraklion a move to the Heraklion Harbour. Our day today was to start where the move across the island commenced and to follow the route taken, discuss where the rear-guard positions were located and the finally arrive at Sfakia, the evacuation beach. Before we commenced our climb over the mountain, we first visited a chemist as we have a few who are not at their best at present, but improvement is now assured following that visit.
As we motored up the relative new road we all realised how tough it would have been for our force as for the last days they had been involved in a major battle. We reached the Askifou valley, the last major open ground before the run down through the gorge to the area at the bottom of the mountain. This valley is surrounded by huge mountains and known as the cup. We were able to show Nicci where her grandfather’s unit, 2/7th Battalion had been located as part of the rear-guard. With the 2/8th Battalion, they had caused the German vanguard many casualties at this location. This action gave the evacuees a clean break and assisted in the evacuation over the few nights by the navy. After that discussion, we visited the Askifou War Museum run by Andreas Hatzidakis and his family. This Museum is a truly War Museum as all the artefacts within it were gathered from the actual battlefields on Crete by Andreas's father George who was 10 when the Germans came through and started collecting then. Many of the pieces were actually taken from the area after the actions. There were two other visitors there as we arrived, Bruce Hawk and Julie McAlister from New Zealand were speeding a few weeks travelling throughout Crete.
We had the customary Raki with Andreas and then moved on for morning tea at the café at top of the run down to the beach. The restaurant is actually at the start of the 11 kilometre Imbros Gorge walking track. After that break where we had the famous cheese pies and a frappe, Greek coffee of herb tea, we continued down to the beach at Sfakia to view the evacuation beach and the caves and areas around the village where the men waiting to be lifted off were congregating. David was convinced that it would be appropriate to stand in the water, as his father had done 77 years before. David's father managed to climb onto a barge and was successfully evacuated.
Lunch was taken at Loudro, a beautiful fishing village that is only accessible from the sea. We had taken quite a large water taxi from Sfakia. During the War, the Germans had set up a radio station that was the rear link bake to Germany for the Africa Corps. To do so, a special secret location, all those living there were moved to another village. Once Rommel was beaten and the Germans pushed out of North Africa, the radio station was dismantled and the people of Loudro were allowed to return to their village.
Continuing on our way east we passed through many small mountainside villages with Nic, our driver, navigating through the very narrow streets. Our next stop was the Preveli Monastery that had hid many of our men trying to stay out of the German hands and to leave the island. Submarines took off many over the next 2 years with the assistance of the Preveli Monks. Tomorrow we will visit and discuss that excellent defence of Rethymno.