Attack and counter-attack on Crete

German paratroopers go forward over the rocky terrain in the blazing heat, Crete 1941

British soldiers are forced to surrender their position .

On Crete Brigadier Kippenburger was organising the defence of the village of Galatas. The Germans had been ejected from the village by a bayonet charge from New Zealand Maori troops accompanied by Cretan villagers. Some of the villagers had attached old knives onto their hunting rifles and shotguns before they joined in the assault. Now the the Germans were attempting to retake the village. Roy Farran was a tank commander with just two remaining tanks able to assist with defence of the village:

I said to Kippenberger that I’d like first of all to go through the village on my own, so that I could go through at full speed and without infantry with me. And I drove through the village very fast firing on each side of the street and it was just chock-a-block full of Germans – and in coming out my second tank was hit and two of the crew members were wounded, but the tank was still serviceable.

So I called for volunteers for the second go, when I had to go in with the infantry, and some New Zealanders who’d never fired machine guns or operated tanks before volunteered. So we went in then again with, I think, Sandy Thomas’s battalion and I tried to drive slowly so that I didn’t get too far ahead of them. But I got about a hundred yards ahead nevertheless and my tank was suddenly knocked out in the village square, my gunner was badly wounded, I was badly hit. My driver was hit in the shoulder. He pulled the tiller too hard and the tank swayed broadside.

I then pushed everybody out through the driver’s seat from the front and crawled out myself, and I was hit in both legs and my arm and hid behind a stone wall praying for the New Zealanders who were behind me to come up, and they were having tough fighting as they came through.

They came in with fixed bayonets into the square. I remember shouting to them ‘Come on New Zealand, clean them out’, and Sandy Thomas, who eventually became a General, was wounded just at the entrance to the square on the other side of the street from me and we shouted at each other and he brought the German I think who probably got my tank, down from the roof with an incredible shot with a pistol, because it was dark. And then having taken the village, suddenly the orders came to withdraw. I was left behind and so were a lot of the other wounded.

See Crete 1941 Eyewitnessed.

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