We started this morning retracing the route to Chania where the campaign was lost and then to follow the withdrawal route that would culminate at the evacuation beach at Sfakia. As we went we discussed where the rear-guard positions were located and 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 where the evacuation was to take place. The Askifou valley is surrounded by huge mountains and askifou means the cup. The 2/8th and 2/7th Battalions had caused the German vanguard many casualties at this location and others. 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 he started collecting then. Many of the pieces were actually taken from the area after the actions.
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 Greek coffee or 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.
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.
After lunch we continued on our way east passing through many small mountainside villages with 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 in order to leave the island. Submarines took off many over the next 2 years with the assistance of the Preveli Monks. The total lifted off Crete through that method and others was 869. Tomorrow we head further east to Heraklion.