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Chania in the West is where we headed today to see the battle that lost the campaign. It was here that the vital ground had to be held for the success of the campaign. It wasn't so the successes at Rethymon and Heraklion didn't matter. The loss of the vital ground, the only sealed airfield was set in place before the battle commenced on the 20 May 1941.
A very poor assessment of the overall strategy and then tactics and placement of troops to task was a failure. Much of the resources available to the Commander, Freyberg were placed on or near the shore where he expected a sea invasion. As the Germans were not in position in Athens or close by to possess the landing craft/ships other than ferries and caciques. Therefore, if you knew the enemy had limited resources to put in a beach invasion but had major resources for an airborne invasion and needed an all weather airfield to bring a follow up force after the Paratroopers had established a hold, where would you put your biggest defensive effort? Not guarding the beaches.
The fight itself was a bitter affair and the paratroopers were defeated and would have had to surrender if not for the follow up force that was able to land unimpeded on the Maleme airfield. In fact many Germans were killed at sea when they tried to send a force by ferries etc. They were intercepted by the Royal Navy and all destroyed, not one soldier made it to shore.
The casualties among the Germans was extensive and after the vital ground was taken there were 450 dead Germans in the area. However, it was only a matter of time before the evacuation option had to be taken and it was from the 26 May that the order to evacuate was given.
There was still much fighting as the force started to move to Sfakia and among the actions was the charge at 42 Street that caused the Germans many more casualties and likewise the action at Galatas. Colleen's father was in the front line at Galatas and a few shots of that village area included. Adrian and Ken's father was in 2/8th Battalion and that Battalion was the flank protection in the 42nd Street action.
Following our heavy morning we headed to Suda Bay for lunch by the sea before entering the CWGC Cemetery at Suda Bay where we paid our respects for those lost in the campaign. We then headed "home" to Rethymon along the main highway that skirts the sea in many places, a very relaxing ride through that beautiful scenery following a day full of battle information.
Tomorrow we follow the retreat across the mountains.