Canea

Canea is the second largest town on Crete and is located on the north-western coast of the island. Five kilometres from the sheltered harbour of Suda Bay, 16 kilometres east of the airfield at Maleme, and at north-eastern end of a broad, open valley, the Canea area was vital to the defence of Crete in 1941. As a result, it was the most heavily defended area when the German airborne invasion began on 20 May 1941. The various Australian composite units and the 2/8th Battalion formed part of the force defending Canea and the 2/7th would later be committed to the fighting as well. The German paratroops that landed in the immediate vicinity of Canea were quickly defeated but those that landed in Prison Valley and around Maleme airfield were able to establish footholds, which allowed them to be reinforced from the air. The loss of Maleme airfield on 21 May was particularly critical and effectively spelled the end, not only of the defence of Canea, but that of Crete. By 25 May the Allied forces were falling back on Canea from the west and south-west and on the night of 26 May the town, described as a 'smouldering dust heap' was abandoned. A rearguard position was then occupied to the south-east of Canea, along a dirt road known as 42nd Street, to allow the rest of the Allied forces in the area to begin withdrawing south across the island. The rear guard temporarily halted the German advance with a wild bayonet charge on the morning of 27 May and withdrew in the early hours of 28 May leaving the Canea-Suda Bay area to the Germans. The Commonwealth War Graves cemetery on Crete is located five kilometres east of Canea and contains 196 Australian graves.