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22nd Battalion 2NZEF
"Vrai et Fort"
Crete Commemoration 2016
The Battle of Crete 75 years on
Galatas is a small village in the hills south of Chania. In 1941 it was held by a half-strength 18th Battalion. On 25th May the German forces attacked and took the village. The 23rd Battalion and any other troops available, (including the Kiwi Concert Party) were rushed in for a counter-attack. Two light tanks from the British 7th Royal Tank Regiment arrived. Brigadier Kippenberger quickly formulated plans for a counter-attack. He later reported "Lieutenant Farran stopped in his tank and I told him to go into the village and see what was there. He clattered off and we could hear him firing briskly, when two more companies of the Twenty-third arrived. I told the two company commanders they would have to retake Galatas with the help of the two tanks… . The men fixed bayonets and waited grimly." The New Zealanders raced through the village to the main square. There they found the tanks: one was knocked out, the other damaged. Under heavy fire from the other side of the square, the men charged. Much of the fighting was at close quarters with bayonets and rifle butts – and the Germans withdrew in disarray.
In 2016 we walked up the road followed by the New Zealand troops, passing the school in which New Zealand nurses had sheltered. The road is still too narrow for a small coach. Part of the town square is now a memorial to the New Zealanders and the local Crete people who lost their lives in the battle and in the German suppression of ongoing local resistance. Here we attended the next commemoration ceremony.
Cemetery Hill and Prison Valley
The hill behind Galatas became known as Cemetery Hill (owing to the local cemetery near the top). Today the top of the hill is dominated by a partly constructed ediface, the beginnings of a large, permanent war memorial. As with many things in Greece, the idea was great but the funding did not exist, so the idea has faded away. There is however, a good model of the building in the maritime museum in Chania.
From Cemetery Hill you get a good view north and south along the valley that runs south from Chania. Southwards is known as "Prison Valley" due to the location of the local prison. In 1941 the prison was captured by the German forces and used as the local headquarters.
Suda Bay War Cemetery and the Commonwealth Commemoration Service
The Commonwealth War Cemetery at Suda Bay is the only one on Crete. It was the site for the main Commonwealth Commemoration Service on the afternoon of Saturday 21 May 2016. The Service started late in the day at 6pm. The sun was low but the wind had risen and this gave some of the wreath bearers a few problems. One large gust carried many of the wreaths away. The ever-present Australian Warrant Officer chased them down and returned them to the base of the Cross.
The programme for the Commonwelath Service is reproduced here.
Suda Bay Cemetery and the Commonwealth Service
Last updated: 24/07/16