Second Lieutenant Peter Wildey served with 7th (NZ) Field Company on Crete. Here he describes shooting at German gliders and taking equipment from dead paratroopers.
Part One: Shooting at German gliders
Megan Hutching: Tell me about the 20th of May
Well, we were having breakfast. We'd just finished it, I think, when all of a sudden two gliders came in. I knew what a glider was. We'd had a gliding club in Dunedin. But everyone was looking at them; they didn't have a clue what they were. So I opened up my tommy gun. They were at a very low altitude. They were lucky to get through without hitting the Cemetery Hill area. I had a hundred-round magazine on [the tommygun], and I managed to pour the whole lot into those two. I couldn't help hitting some, just raking it from stem to stern. Eventually those gliders landed down by Divisional Headquarters [near Galaria] where Major Hanson was, and of the [Germans] that did come out, they killed the lot. That famous painting of Peter McIntyre's was one of those gliders.
After I got going, the others started joining in. Shortly after that, just right on their heels, these big transports came in, great big tri-motor things. The chaps just started pouring out of them. We fired at them as they were coming down, as hard as we could. The 19th Battalion was above us and that was the trouble. The Germans arrived amongst us, and they [19th] were firing down at the parachutists, but they were firing amongst us too, and the poor old Greeks—I think they killed a lot of Greeks because the Greeks had little wee helmets that looked something like a German helmet.
Part Two: Successful initial attacks
That first thing would be about an hour, I suppose. We were shooting, and ducking and diving. One big German was coming down right on top of me. I was getting bursts of the tommy gun into him and he took out a hand grenade, and I could see it coming right for me. I flattened out but it landed just the other side of a line of vines—it was in a little vineyard—and I didn't get a scratch. But I didn't get another squeak out of him. I think I must have killed him. Others were coming down and they were swinging in the air, from side to side like a pendulum. I think that was a ruse to make it hard to shoot them. I cottoned on, and I waited until the end of the swing and kept my tommy gun pointing there till they came back the next time and I managed to shoot at two or three. Whether I killed them or wounded them, I don't know.
It was too hot where we were with the 19th Battalion firing on top of us too, so I manoeuvred around to a place where I got into the 19th Battalion. I saw the OC of the 19th and they gave us a position in their line where we had better height and we could see around. We were just opposite Galatas. I had about 30 or 40, could have been 50, Greeks that came along with us, and they [19th] got rations for us.
We did a lot of damage, and with the 19th Battalion forced them [Germans] over the hill, and they got eventually forced down into the Aghya Valley. They were there till the end of the week, then they finally counter-attacked and came back again.
Part Three: 'Acquiring' things from dead German paratroopers
Megan Hutching: Did you manage to acquire things from the dead German paratroopers, like weapons?
Oh yes, a lot of [the troops] got Luger pistols. The [Germans] all had beautiful cameras, Zeiss cameras. Lots of them had photos in—they got the films developed later. All their gear was good. Their equivalent of the tommy gun was quite a tinny looking thing, it looked as though it had been made out of pressed metal, but it was very effective—and you could get all you wanted of those. Our troops used them, and threw them away when they ran out of ammunition for them.
When the parachutists came down, there was [also] ammunition and arms, food, everything—they were in big, round cylinders. They dropped those, and quite often there'd be a rush to get them—it'd be a race between our fellows and the Germans. [The British] captured documents which came with the troops and found that there was a flag code. You put strips of coloured material on the ground in a certain configuration, and you'd get a certain type of ammunition, or a canister of food, and things like that. Well, our chaps used this successfully for a while, but the Germans soon cottoned on, and they abandoned that [system]. Someone told me that they put one out and they got a canister of hot coffee and sandwiches!