May 1941

Jun

1

1941

Waiting to surrender on Crete

British prisoners of war on Crete, pictured after the surrender, later in June, 1941

The British Navy, and some of the British Army, left the island of Crete – but I didn’t. Nor did several thousand other dejected lads. Sunday, June the first, was a black day indeed for many assorted British huddled in valleys back from the beach at Sphakia, a small village on the south coast.

May

31

1941

Dublin bombed by the Luftwaffe

The latest report which I have received is that 27 persons were killed outright or subsequently died; 45 were wounded or received other serious bodily injury and are still in hospital; 25 houses were completely destroyed and 300 so damaged as to be unfit for habitation, leaving many hundreds of our people homeless.

May

30

1941

Evacuation of Crete continues

An overview of British naval operations during the battle for Crete.

Many casualties were received amoungst these men but we did not receive any damage, and soon became known throughout the East Mediterranean as a ‘lucky ship’. On this trip especially the medical and supply branches of the ship worked night and day to look after this huge number of men.

May

29

1941

The evacuation from Crete

The destroyer HMS Imperial - her steering was damaged by a near miss during the evcauation from Crete and she had to sunk by torpedo after her crew had been taken off.

We were not really in favourable condition to evacuate some twenty-two thousand soldiers, most of them from an open beach, in the face of the Luftwaffe. But there was no alternative. The Army could not be left to its fate. The Navy must carry on.

May

28

1941

The Germans count the cost of Crete

The German parachute troop losses during the invasion of Crete were high.

On this occasion things had gone well with us, but it seemed almost a miracle that our great and hazardous enterprise had succeeded. How it did, I cannot say to this day. Success had suddenly come to us at a moment when, as so often happens in war, we had ceased to believe in the possibility of success.

May

27

1941

The end of the Bismarck

Out of a total complement of 2,200 men on Bismarck, around 800 are believed to have made it into the sea. 115 were saved by HMS Dorsetshire before a U-boat scare ended the rescue.

Finally the probability of explosion became so acute that rescue work was abandoned. Orders were given to flood and the imprisoned men were drowned. In the forward canteen 200 men also became trapped under jammed hatches. At the very moment when a hatch to the upper deck became freed, a direct hit crashed through the deck, transforming the canteen into a charnel house. According to one prisoner, not one man of this group of 200 strong survived, and in making his own escape he was forced to pick his way between “mountains of flesh and bone.”

May

26

1941

Torpedo attack on the Bismarck

The Fairey Swordfish biplane in flight with torpedo

Some torpedoes were avoided by turning the ship, but as a surviving officer explained, whichever way the “Bismarck” turned to evade one torpedo, she was constantly exposed to others. Another prisoner stated that the aircraft came down to the attack at an angle of approximately 50° and darted through the barrage like flashes of lightening, and the courage displayed by the pilots in pressing home their attacks in this fashion was beyond praise. This prisoner added ruefully: “If only Germany actually had sunk the ‘Ark Royal’.”

May

25

1941

Attack and counter-attack on Crete

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

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.

May

24

1941

HMS Hood sunk

The 'Mighty Hood' was the pride of the Royal Navy

As the AA shells continued to rocket around, Captain Kerr ordered the four-inch gun crews to take shelter and the fire and damage control parties to keep away from the area until all the ready-use ammunition had been expended. But the bursting projectiles were making a charnel-house of positions above the upper deck. The screams of the maimed kept up a strident chorus through the voice-pipes and from the flag deck.

May

23

1941

HMS Kelly sunk

After their losses in Greece the RAF were unable to maintain a presence on Crete. The Germans had total air superiority and inflicted much damage on the Royal Navy.

As we entered Canea Bay a large caique was sighted loaded with German troops steering towards Crete. Both ships opened fire and sank her very quickly, the wretched Germans jumping into the water in full marching order. In any other circumstances we would have stopped to pick them up, but even at 30 knots it was doubtful if I could get into position to carry out the bombardment in time, so I had to push on.