Battle of Crete. How did allied forces lost?

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by vashstampede, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    In May 1941, German paratroopers landed on the island of Crete. Their initial assault on several strategy points had failed. Most paratrooper units took extremely high casualty, one unit lost over 110 out of 128 men. High casualty of paratrooper landing from this battle caused Hitler to cancel all the future operations of paratroopers.


    However, after some miscommunication on the allied forces part, one of the island's airfield was lost to the Germans. It enabled the Germans to fly in some reinforcement by planes. But all the units were really in poor condition and they had no heavy weapons because they were all flied in.

    British Royal Navy had repeatedly stopped German attempts to ship in troops.
    In one case, about 20 German troop transporters escorted by only a single Italian torpedo boat was attacked by 7 warships of British navy. They would all be dead if wasn't for the Italian torpedo boat commander's insane maneuver trying to save his allies. 800 German soldiers were sunk along with their ships, but 2/3 of the total forces were saved thanks to the Italian torpedo boat.

    Multiple other attempts to bring in reinforcement by sea had failed (turned back) back Royal Navy.

    However, the British started to evacuate common wealth troops from the island instead of bring in more troops. The Greeks held out for a little longer before most of them surrendered. Some took to the mountains and kept the resistance going.

    Here is the part I don't quite get it.
    Since the British navy had the total control of the sea in the area, the Germans had trouble to bring in reinforcement by sea (which means no heavy weapon even if they keep fly in troops), why were the British the one to retreat instead of the Germans? Couldn't British bring in moretroops by ships with heavy weapons?
    By the way, why did Luftwaffe have the air superiority over the island while there are multiple airfields on the island?
  2. R Leonard

    R Leonard Active Member

  3. Domoviye

    Domoviye New Member

    This is a big question. Here is my attempt at answering it.

    Lack of materials and resources.
    The British were still trying to rebuild their supplies of weapons and materials after the fall of France.
    They were also trying to build up their army to eventually retake France and take the fight to Germany.
    There was the fear of a German assault of Britain, which had to be defended against.
    The Japanese were becoming more aggressive in Asia, and that had to be defended against.
    The U-boats in the Atlantic required a lot of attention from the British navy, sucking up ships and resources.
    North Africa was sucking up resources, as Rommel had at that point fought the British to a standstill.

    The Greek defenders were even worst off, as most of their heavy weapons were lost on the mainland.

    German Air Superiority.
    Yes Crete had several airfields, but the British had to keep the majority of their planes in Britain to defend against the Luftwaffe. There were also a substantial number in Egypt fighting the Italians and Germans. Egypt was considered more important than Crete.

    Inferior Allied Leadership.
    There were miscommunications a lack of organization between the officers and the sectors, and this allowed the Germans to achieve several victories, as troops were moved to the wrong areas, and weak points weren't defended.
    Combined with a lack of transportation, the Germans were able to exploit several minor problems and gain footholds and victory.

    German and Italian reinforcements.
    Yes it was difficult for the Germans to land on Crete, but it wasn't impossible. Using their air superiority, and for once impressive attempts by the Italian navy, there was a small but steady stream of reinforcements by air and sea.
    This helped pin down several Allied units, as they had to watch the harbours and beaches rather than counter attack against the invaders already there.

    The Allies should have won the battle. With better communication they would have won, especially at the start. But the bad communication along with the other problems snowballed, until the Allies suffering from low morale retreated and a lack of supplies retreated.
  4. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    @ Dom,
    Thanks for your opinion that you think allied forces in fact had a chance to win on Crete. I thought so too, because it is an island after all where the Axis doesn't have the advantage at sea. I also believe UK wasn't fighting as hard as they could. Lets say if Germans made a force landing in England, wouldn't the British fight to death instead of leaving their allies (the Greeks) to die like on Crete?

    You made a good point on the fact that UK also had too many places to worry about. Their forces also spread too thin due to multiple fronts.

    One thing though, UK already won the Battle of Britain, Germans have stopped bombing. Did they still afraid of second German attempt on mass bombing England? Is that why they still keep majority of air force in UK?
  5. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    Th UK expected the Germans to lick their wounds,build up the Luftwaffe, and have a second go at defeating Great Britain and invading the British Isles. Churchill had huge problems getting british units sent to the Middle East, the chiefs of staff wanted to keep nearly all UK army units at home to defend the homeland and leave the middle east to Australian, New Zealand and Indian formations.

    Only at the end of 1941 with the Germans bogged down in Russia could Great Britain be sure that there would be no Battle of Britain II (the sequal) in the near future. That's why in 1942 more army units went oversea's, Spitfires and other modern aircraft finally went to Malta and Egypt.
  6. FMAlanbrooke

    FMAlanbrooke New Member

    Another reason why the British should have won - they knew exactly where the paratroops were going to land and when. They had broken the Luftwaffe Enigma code but they didn't want this to be too obvious so they didn't tell the lower level commanders all the information.
  7. georgew

    georgew Member

    Losing the airfields was the problem. When you look at the initial troop dispositions and how the allies had numerical and naval superiority then you can't quite believe the Germans won but I think we miss the point that the allies had yet to beat the Germans in a big land battle in the war. This may have given the Germans (especially paras) an aura of invincibility that may have contributed. That and the usual chaotic allied leadership..
  8. Watson

    Watson Member

    When the Commonwealth forces may have had airfields, but there weren't any aircraft on them. The obsolete aircraft that had been available had been pulled back to Egypt to help in the fight there. Always wondered how the ground troops felt when they saw the last of their aerial support head for a healthier climate. It couldn't have helped their moral any.
    The defenders fought well, but when they lost control of the airfields, they lost the battle. With control of the airfields, the Germans were able to bring in the reinforcements that they couldn't by sea.
  9. StephenM1066

    StephenM1066 New Member

    Airpower, airpower, airpower. Had the Brits destroyed the airfields on the island, I believe the battle would have lasted longer. Once the Germans got control of airfields they could pour in enuf troops to overwhelm Brits and Greeks.

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