We headed over the island today following the route of the to the evacuation beach at Sfakia. This evacuation was due to the battle being lost at Maleme when the Germans took the airfield. If Freyberg had put another battalion on or protecting the vital ground the airfield would have been held, then there would not have been any reinforcements for the paratroopers who were on their last legs losing 4500 killed on the first day. It seems that Hitler was about to pull the pin on the attack as there had been too many casualties, but, as he heard that the airfield was now in German hands, he allowed the reinforcements to be sent. A close thing that Freyberg lost.
In the Askifou valley, known as the cup as it is surrounded by huge mountains we were able to place the position of the 2 battalions forming the rear guard, 2/7th and 2/8th and had a brief discussion of their actions there where they really stopped the German vanguard by causing many casualties. 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.
We had the customary Raki and then moved on for morning tea at the 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, 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. Colleen, Adrian and Ken went on to the small beach, much smaller than one would believe would be required to evacuate over 12,000 men. They were there because their fathers had been successfully evacuated from that very spot. Colleen's father a driver in the NZ 4 RMT and Adrian and Ken's father a member of the 2/8th Battalion and had been fighting in the rear guard at the Cup. A very moving moment for them all.
Continuing on our way east we passed through many villages and how John, our driver, was able to squeeze the big coach through those small roads right within the villages had us all in awe.
Lunch was at a new spot from previous years, above the breakers not far from the Frankish castle. Ken took the opportunity for a swim in the Libyan Sea while we consumed a local cuisine. 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 600 or so over the next 2 years with the assistance of the Preveli Monks.
A good, long day and we headed home for dinner and to prepare for tomorrow as we up anchor and head further east to the area of Knossos Palace and the site of the Battle of Heraklion before boarding our Ferry to return to the mainland.