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Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 20

The Battle of Crete was fought during the Second World War on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany began an airborne invasion of Crete. Greek and other Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island.

After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would defeat the invasion. The next day, through communication failures, Allied tactical hesitation and German offensive operations, Maleme Airfield in western Crete fell, enabling the Germans to land reinforcements and overwhelm the defensive positions on the north of the island.

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 21

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 22

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 23

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 24

Allied forces withdrew to the south coast. More than half were evacuated by the British Royal Navy and the remainder surrendered or joined the Cretan resistance. The defence of Crete evolved into a costly naval engagement; by the end of the campaign the Royal Navy’s eastern Mediterranean strength had been reduced to only two battleships and three cruisers.

The Battle of Crete was the first occasion where (German paratroops) were used en masse, the first mainly airborne invasion in military history, the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from decrypted German messages from the Enigma machine, and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population.

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 25

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 26

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 27

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 28

Due to the number of casualties and the belief that airborne forces no longer had the advantage of surprise, Adolf Hitler became reluctant to authorise further large airborne operations, preferring instead to employ paratroopers as ground troops. In contrast, the Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to form airborne-assault and airfield-defense regiments.

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 29

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 30

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 31

On Saturday, May 18, there was a commemoration ceremony at The Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney, Australia, with a Remembrance Service and Wreath Laying Ceremony, remembering those who fought in the war.

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 32

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 33

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 34

Conducted by the joint committee for the Commemoration of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign, President James Jordan, Secretary Nick Andriotakis and Chief Marshal Dr Michael Bendon, were joined by The Royal Australian Navy Catafalque along with Her Excellency The Honourable Margaret Beazley, as well as many other officials and dignitaries.

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 35

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 36

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 37

Commemorating the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign 38

After prayers of remembrance, officials laid wreaths and the Royal Australian Navy Band of Sydney along with the choirs of All Saints Grammar, St Euphemia College and St Spyridon College and the Maori Choir sang the national anthems of Greece, New Zealand and Australia.

Lest We Forget.

*Images by Nick Bourdo Photography (Copyright) 

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