Events In History
11 May 1945Upham presented with VC
New Zealand's most-decorated soldier was recognised for his outstanding gallantry and leadership in Crete in 1941 and Egypt in 1942. He remains the only combat soldier to have been awarded a Bar to his Victoria Cross. Read more...
20 May 1941German paratroops assault Crete
The Battle for Crete raged for 12 days before the Allies were driven off the island. Casualties were high on both sides. More than 650 New Zealanders were killed and 2000 taken prisoner. Read more...
It remains the most dramatic battle ever fought by New Zealand forces. Over 12 brutal days in May 1941 the Allies opposed a massive German airborne assault on the Mediterranean island of Crete. They almost succeeded.
Page 2 – Overview
The Battle for Crete in May 1941 is the most dramatic battle in which New Zealand forces have participated. For 12 days, with British, Australian and Greek troops and Cretan
Page 3 – The battle: days 1-3
On 20 May 1941 the German attack began, focusing on the airfield at Maleme and the Canea area. Landing among or near concealed Allied defensive positions, the German glider-
Page 4 – The battle: days 4-6
On 23 May New Zealand forces retreated from Maleme to the new line at Platanias. Troops stationed in the Galatas-Canea area had a relatively quiet day. So did those at Retimo
Page 5 – The retreat: days 7-9
The Germans continued to advance eastwards across the island. British forces withdrew to a line east of Galatas. Freyberg realised that the loss of Crete was inevitable and
Page 6 – The evacuation: days 10-12
The first ships left Sfakia for Egypt. The Germans finally entered Retimo, leaving the Australian defenders stranded. The garrison at Heraklion was evacuated by sea. Evacuation
Page 7 – Capitulation and capture
The remnants of Creforce surrendered to the Germans. Those taken prisoner at Sfakia were marched back over the White Mountains to a prison camp near Galatas. Others escaped and
Page 8 – The controversies
The Battle for Crete is the most contested event in New Zealand's military history. The nature of the battle, with a relatively clear sequence of events leading to an
Page 9 – Kiwi stories
Selected audio extracts of New Zealanders involved in the Battle for Crete.
Page 10 – Further information
This web feature was originally written by Megan Hutching and Ian McGibbon and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team. In 2011 it was revised by Gareth Phipps. Links
Cox, Geoffrey Sanford
Just how did a boy born in Palmerston North come to witness first hand the impact of Stalinism, the rise of Hitler and the Spanish Civil War?Read more...
Freyberg, Bernard Cyril
A First World War hero and commander of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Bernard Freyberg proved to be a charismatic and popular military leader who would later serve a term as Governor-GeneralRead more...
Upham, Charles Hazlitt
Charles Upham is probably New Zealand's most famous soldier. His actions in Crete in 1941 and Egypt in 1942 led to his becoming one of only three people – and the only combat soldier – ever to win the Victoria Cross twice.Read more...
Kippenberger, Howard Karl
Leader of the 5th New Zealand Infantry Brigade in the North African desert campaigns of 1942 and 1943, Kippenberger was New Zealand’s most popular military commander, and perhaps its most talented.Read more...
- north african campaign
- howard kippenberger
- italian campaign
- battle of cassino
- charles upham
- victoria cross
- roadside stories
- oral history
- geoffrey cox
- spanish civil war
- edward puttick
- maleme airfield
- peter fraser
- bernard freyberg
- war art
- peter mcintyre
- wellington city
- royal navy
- alfred hulme
- denny hulme
- maori battalion
- sonny sewell
- helen clark
- maori in war
- field ambulance
- commonwealth war graves commission
- dan davin
- prisoners of war
- air transport
Main image: King George II - The Battle for CreteGeorge II was king of the Hellenes from 1922-23 and 1935-47. The king was on Crete in April and May 1941 because he and the British government thought it was important that while there was still a part of Greece unoccupied by the Germans, a Greek government should remain on it.