|Conflict||Second World War, 1939-1945|
|Date from||20 May 1941|
|Date to||29 May 1941|
Crete's position in the centre of the eastern Mediterranean made it a key strategic asset during the Second World War. For the Allies it offered potential as a base for operations in the Balkans, and for the Germans, a base for operations against North Africa. Britain had established a garrison on the island in November 1940, but few preparations had been made for its defence by the time the German conquest of Greece in April 1941 placed it under dire threat. The garrison was hastily strengthened with troops evacuated from Greece but they lacked vehicles, artillery and other heavy weapons. The defenders' predicament was further complicated by the geography of the island - all of its major towns, airfields and port facilities were located on the north coast - and the Germans' control of the air almost completely negated Britain's naval strength in the eastern Mediterranean. The island's defence was based around three main defended areas: Heraklion and Retimo, each the site of an airfield, and the Canea-Suda Bay area, which contained the port facilities at Suda and the airfield at Maleme. The Australian units that formed part of the defending force were: the 2/2nd and 2/3rd Field Regiments, the 2/1st, 2/4th, 2/7th, 2/8th, 2/11th, 16th Brigade Composite and 17th Brigade Composite Battalions, a battery of the 2/3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, and several composite groups of miscellaneous Australian troops.