I Was There! - For Days We Fought the Nazi Parachutists

The War Illustrated, Volume 4, No. 100, Page 766, August 1, 1941.

How our troops in Crete tackled the Germans on the ground but were overwhelmed by their bombing planes is vividly described in this account of the fighting by a wounded Maori sergeant.

On the afternoon when the first German parachutists began to land in the Canea area, a Maori battalion and a New Zealand battalion formed a thin line stretching for some miles from the sea towards the hills to check a possible enemy thrust towards Canea.

We lay on open ground until dusk and watched, until our eyes became tired, shower upon shower of parachutists floating to the earth before us. We were unable to move owing to the unremitting bombing and machine-gunning by the dive-bombers, but when the sun sank we fixed our bayonets and immediately it was dark charged.

Our first obstacle was a solid line of machine-guns, but these we quickly overran, and after a great fight lasting until dawn we annihilated nearly every German.

But with daylight waves of German airborne reinforcements began to arrive. Eventually parachute troops began to drop behind our lines, and bit by bit we had to give ground and fall back on fresh positions. Within a few hours some 130 troop-carriers, escorted by clouds of fighters, had landed, and throughout the day we were attacked by over 200 dive-bombers.

We sheathed our bayonets and lay hidden in the rocks or drains anything giving shelter from the relentless hail of bullets and bombs while the dive-bombers had us at their mercy, as we had no air support. German reinforcements established themselves in the positions which we had cleared during the night. With darkness we again fices our bayonets and charged, and again cut the enemy to pieces. This went on for four days and four nights.

Up in the mountains dead Germans lay in clumps where they had landed and were killed by Greek soldiers. In the battle area it was impossible to walk more than three yards without stepping on dead Germans. Two men out of every parachutist section were armed with rifles for sniping. The rest were equipped with tommy-guns. All carried plenty of rations. Press Association.

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