Men of valour - New Zealand and the Battle for Crete

Ron Palenski

In May 1941 New Zealand’s citizen soldiers, not long removed from their day jobs, were the first to be thrust into a type of fighting that had not been seen before: a land force against an airborne invasion.

The Greek island of Crete was the prize both sides wanted. The Allies had it and the Germans wanted it. The Germans won. The man in charge of hanging on to it was Bernard ('Tiny') Freyberg, the New Zealand Division commander. With him was a ragtag army of New Zealand, Australian, British and Greek soldiers. They had to withstand the mightiest airborne invasion the world had seen. It was a German victory but their losses were almost as many as those of the Allies. The New Zealanders got away thanks to the Royal Navy or on boats begged, borrowed or stolen; many never got away at all. Beaten and bedraggled, the men made their way back to Egypt; they'd fought for the first time as a New Zealand division under the overall command of a New Zealander and been beaten. Like the British after Dunkirk, the New Zealanders rose again. Freyberg led them through North Africa and Italy striking fear and respect into the hearts of enemies.

Soft cover, photographs, 224 pages.