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Crete – D+2 22nd May 1941

Relief Collumn setsout for HERAKLION from RETHYMNON Airfield 22MAY1941 0800h

Relief Column sets out for HERAKLION from RETHYMNON Airfield 22MAY1941 0800h General Süssman is somewhere under the explosion

As light dawned on the 22nd of May 1941 General Freyberg had sent his mobile reserve from CANEA down the coast road to HERAKLION. En-route, they had fought a brisk action at the RETHYMNON bridges with a battalion of Fallschirmjäger that had dropped fortuitously off course, but close to the bridges, and had been rallied by General Süssman.

Sussman's Last Stand at RETHYMNON 22MAY1941 0500h

Sussman’s Last Stand at RETHYMNON 22MAY1941 0500h

The last troops of Kampfgruppe Mars on the RETHYMNON airfield were rounded up overnight. Süssman was last seen rallying his command staff on the perimeter of the field, trying to find a boat to escape back to GREECE, or it might have been in a bar in RETHYMNON – accounts differ!

The morning of the 22nd saw the relief column fight its way eastward down the coast road,  despite continual harassment from the air, to arrive at about the same time as heavy weapons were landing on the airstrip at HERAKLION.  Ju 52s were landing, accepting damage and casualties, to reinforce the hard-pressed spearhead on the ground.

HERAKLION Airfield 22MAY1941 0800h

HERAKLION Airfield 22MAY1941 0800h

The Greeks, who had conducted such a determined defence, had reached their limit by midday, and too few of the relieving column had survived to dislodge the Germans from the airstrip. Accepting the inevitable, Freyberg ordered a fighting withdrawal to the ports of SUDA and the south of the island.

heraklion-airfield-22may1941-1200h

HERAKLION Airfield 22may1941 1200h

The game had lasted from 10:00 to 16:00 with an hour off for a relaxed lunch at Chateau Trebian. Each move had taken about an hour, with the land, sea and air phases each taking about 20 minutes.

A Famous Victory Completed

A Famous Victory Completed – The Cast from L-R comprised Chris Kemp (Umpire), Will Whyler (Brig Chappel), Tim Merry (Brig Kippenberger), Graham Evans (Gen Freyberg), Steven Churchus (Oberst Bauer), Phil Steele (Gen Meindl) and, rescued from a watery grave, Richard Lindley (Gen Süssman)¹, all sans Chapeax this time.

Historically, two Panzer IIs made it ashore. By sheer perseverance , Gen Meindl achieved the same result in the game.

5 Panzer finally makes it ashore on 22MAY1941 1200h5 Panzer finally makes it ashore on 22MAY1941 1200h

Thanks to Graham Evans for hosting the event at Shedquarters, and to the participants, who were all kind enough to profess to enjoying the game.

  1. Due to my awesome Photoshopping skills, it is hard to tell who took the photo and was added afterwards. Thanks Richard!

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Crete – D+1 21st May 1941

Central Foothills South of RETHYMNON 21MAY1941 0100h

Central Foothills South of RETHYMNON 21MAY1941 0100h

Confused minor actions continued through the night as dispersed groups of Fallschirmjäger attempted to form up, Cretan local forces pounced on isolated groups, and allied battalions looked to their perimeters or mopped up local incursions.

Kriegsmarine 21MAY1941 0500h

Kriegsmarine 21MAY1941 0500h

The Royal Navy was still patrolling aggressively overnight, and suffering as daylight revealed skies full of the Luftwaffe.  Cunningham might have been horrified at the losses his ships were taking, but his nerve remained steady. Historically, the Gebirgsjäger only managed one attempt at the crossing, but Meindl (Phil S) wanted to keep trying. With each attempt, Kriegsmarine losses mounted.

 

Wave 3 HERAKLION Airfield 21MAY1941 0800h

Wave 3 HERAKLION Airfield 21MAY1941 0800h

On the morning of the 21st, the third wave dropped over HERAKLION.  Oberst Bauer (Steven C) took an aggressive line with his battalions that resulted in one being dropped into the sea, but the remaining three bracketing the airfield. Allied AA fire continued to be sub par but Brig Chappel’s (Will W) troops steeled themselves for the inevitable onslaught, and the air assault was not unscathed.

Downed Ju 52 off HERAKLION

Downed Ju 52 off HERAKLION

By now the allied air strength had suffered severe attrition in fierce air battles over the airfields and in protecting the task forces. Historically, the air squadrons stationed on CRETE had flown out on the 19th, but for the game, the RAF was available for use against the German air or sea assets, and was  fought off on the 20th and 21st in sudden-death die rolls that inflicted similar levels of damage on the Luftwaffe. Once cleared, the marauding Stukas had free rein over their targets of choice.

Previously, Drop Music for MALEME had been lost in the general merriment of watching paper gliders misbehave, so I substituted this as a more appropriate representation. For the  third wave though, things were getting tense at landing zones further west, and the transport strength of the Ju-52 fleet had been severely whittled down by anti-aircraft fire. There was only one track that would do, and it was the totally cheesy Deathstars’ Last Ammunition

SUDA Bombed

SUDA Bombed as the Transports fly in to reinforce MALEME

Meindl (aka YesthatPhil) had been instrumental in switching Kamfgruppe Komet from its original target of MALEME to HERAKLION, with the larger Kamfgruppe Orion landing earlier at MALEME (I thought that this was both feasible and a valid decision).

By now, it was clear to me that I had over-egged the pudding for the local Greek Forces’ durability and under cooked the Commonwealth forces. The effect was broadly neutral though , so it didn’t need any in-game balancing.

A vicious battle was being fought between the Fallschirmjäger on the airfield at HERAKLION and the Black Watch. For the last drop of the day, the Luftwaffe had begun to drop ammunition to the sorely pressed RETHYMNON bridgehead.

maleme-foothill-battle-21may1941-0900h

MALEME Foothill Battle 21may1941 0900h

Almost unnoticed, Kippenberger (Tim M), had succeeded in eliminating the last enemy at MALEME.

outlying-fallschirmjaeger-battalion-is-overwhelmed

The Last Outlying Fallschirmjäger Battalion is overwhelmed at MALEME

RETHYMNON Airfield 21MAY1941 0800h

RETHYMNON Airfield 21MAY1941 0800h

The battle for RETHYMNON reached a peak during the afternoon and evening of the 21st. Waves of Fallschirmjäger hurled themselves at the defences on the airfield.

RETHYMNON Airfield 20MAY1941 1400h.jpg

RETHYMNON Airfield 20MAY1941 1400h

Freyberg was having none of this and took a personal hand in the defence of the airfield. As the battle raged, the Luftwaffe was dropping ammunition to their beleaguered comrades on the ground, who were resorting to picking up captured weapons and ammunition from positions they had overrun.

Trebian Takes Control

Trebian Takes Control

It was not enough, and by late evening, the allies were mopping up on the airfield and pushing reserves west to HERAKLION to aid Brig Chappel (Will W), who was being pressed hard by the desperate attackers.

  1. A bit of a personal favourite after a beer or two.

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Crete – D Day for Unternehmen Merkur 20 May 1941

 

RETHYMNON Airfield 20MAY1941 0700h

RETHYMNON Airfield 20MAY1941 0700h

Admiral Cunningham had put his five task forces on High alert for a seaborne invasion. In the early hours of the 20th/21st of May, Taskforce APPLE under Rear Admiral Rawlings intercepted the Kriegsmarine invasion fleet making the 70 mile crossing from the island of Milos in the Peloponnese and dispersed it, taking heavy casualties from air attack in the process.

The players had a number of crucial early decisions to make regarding dispositions, and where to allocate air assets. For the British, it was simpler, as their units were in historical positions, and they just had to work out where they were. Admiral Cunningham’s main decision was to follow the historical policy of aggressively attacking the seaborne invasion, and to take the knocks from air attacks as a consequence when they caught the British ships steaming back to Alexandria.

Wave 1 20MAY1941 Predawn Seaborne Action

Wave 1 20MAY1941 Predawn Seaborne Action

The first wave of Fallschirmjäger under General Süssman (Richard) landed around the airfield of RETHYMNON early on the morning of the 20th, taking lighter than expected casualties from the Allies on the way down. Determining where they landed was by the time-honoured wargames method of making tiny paper aeroplanes out of Post-it notes. This produced all the expected hilarity and groans from the audience and drop zone commander. The pictures at the bottom of the page bear witness! Smartphone Apps produced Ride of the Valkyries ….

Wave 1 20MAY1941 0700h to RETHYMNON

Wave 1 20MAY1941 0700h to RETHYMNON

A number of player-umpire conversations thrashed out the likely outcomes from various plans of action, based on what happened historically. The Germans, reasonably, wanted to concentrate on one airfield only. It was umpire-vetoed as I felt that concentrating everything on one strip would reduce the already slim chances of the drops going well. The game ruling was that for a successful landing, the paper gliders had to land on clear ground. In the event, a number of crash landings were diced for as troops landed on top of obstacles or in the water:

    • 1-2 Crash landing, occupants killed.
    • 3-4 Crash landing, occupants survive.
    • 5-6 Successful landing.

The Fallschirmjägers then had to survive an uncontested round of being shot at by any allied unit that they were in contact with, representing the drops without weapons. Fortunately for them, Allied shooting was woeful.

Task Force Apple takes Hits

Task Force Apple takes Hits

On the evening of the 20th of May, the second wave landed at MALEME. Again casualties were heavy on both sides. The drops were more cautious, with some landing a considerable distance inland in the foothills.

Wave 1 Heavy Losses over SUDA 20MAY1941 0800h

Wave 1 Heavy Losses over SUDA 20MAY1941 0800h

Parachute Drops around CANEA 20MAY1941 0800h

Parachute Drops around CANEA 20MAY1941 0800h

 

SUDA Port Facilities are Bombed Heavily

SUDA Port Facilities are Bombed Heavily

 

 

 

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Air Forces, CRETE, German Airforce, Italian Army, RAF and Commonwealth AFs, Wehrmacht, WWII

CRETE – D Minus 1 Erste Welle fertig zu abfliegen!

The southern airstrips in the Peloponnese were full to bursting with troops and transport aircraft as D-Day approached. A reminder for tomorrow’s air rules can be found here.

GREECE - Eastern Operational Group

GREECE – Eastern Operational Kampfgruppe “Orion” under Oberst Bräuer

GREECE - Central Operational Gruppe

GREECE – Central Operational Kampfgruppe “Mars” under Gen Süssman

GREECE - Western Operational Group

GREECE – Western Operational Kampfgruppe “Comet” under Gen Meindl

All pigs are  lined up and ready for takeoff.

Porco Rosso -used without permission

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CRETE – D Minus 2 Tiefaufklärungsflüge

CRETE - HERAKLION 18 May 1941 0700h

CRETE – HERAKLION 18 May 1941 0700h

Early on D-2, more flights were conducted over HERAKLION.  This time they returned with photographs.

RETHYMNON HERAKLION Bridge 18 May 1810h

RETHYMNON HERAKLION Bridge 18 May 0710h

The Luftwaffe then switched their reconnaissance to low level flights (Tiefufklärungsflüge) over CRETE. These  also returned, providing useful views of the beaches for seaborne landings¹.

CRETE - MALEME to CANEA Bridge 18 May 1941 0710h

CRETE – MALEME to CANEA Bridge 18 May 1941 0710h

 

  1. Taken using Tiefaufklärungsflügezonderapparat, (special low-flying-reconnaissance cameras ) naturally!

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CRETE – D Minus 3 Aufklärungsflüge

On D-3 The Luftwaffe stepped up their reconnaisance flights (Aufklärungsflüge) over CRETE¹

MALEME 27 May 1750h

MALEME 17 May 1750h

MALEME CANAE bridge 27 May 1800h

MALEME CANAE bridge 17 May 1800h

CANAE and SUBA May 27 1805h

CANAE and SUDA May 17 1805h

RETHYMNON 27 May 1810

CANAE RETHYMNON 17 May 1810

None of the flights sent off over HERAKLION came back.

1.The table is set up in Shedquarters now.

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Crete – D Minus 4

CRETE - Allied and Axis Troops Assemble in their staging areas before heading to Shedquarters

The Axis troops are massing in their assembly areas. On the Allied side, Major-General Freyberg knows that an invasion is imminent, but has precious few troops in good order to do something about it. The most likely scenario is a seaborne invasion.

CRETE -Sturmgruppe COMET west

The layout at the top of the page is entirely schematic, and the only purpose  is to make sure that no one is left behind, or turns up without his face painted! Fitters in the various Greek airfields are fuelling, arming, and in some cases still frantically fitting propellers to aircraft!

Crete - MALEME and its Associated Airstrip

The RAF is taking things easy in the sun whilst the Army continue to cobble defences together.

CRETE - Allied Central Command

Local ports are being scoured for anything that will float, and the Kriegsmarine are hoping that the Corinth Canal is cleared in time to get vital fuel shipments through to the Luftwaffe.

 

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Book Review – Britain’s Island Fortresses

britain's island fortresses. Defence of the Empire 1756 - 1956 Britain’s Island Fortresses

Defence of the Empire 1756 – 1956

Bill Clements

This book catalogues the overseas defences of the British Empire. It is a story of the conflicting demands of cost and security across Great Britain’s naval staging posts for its far-flung commercial interests. Bill Clements’ book has successfully navigated a path through a complex story, without becoming too bogged down in detail, but equally without becoming bland. The race to maintain up-to date armaments is also charted as technology made older weapons obsolete; this in a time span encompassing the Seven Years’ War through to World War II.

Readers with an interest in WWII will find the chapters on Singapore and Hong Kong to be of particular value. The book is liberally provided with plans, line drawings and photographs to give a good representative  feel for the defences. The Islands of Bermuda, Jamaica, St Helena, Antigua and St. Lucia, Ceylon, Mauritius and Ascension Island are all covered too.

The book should appeal to anyone with more than a passing interest in the subject of coastal fortifications, and perhaps even provide inspiration for a bit of “concrete sniffing” on family holidays abroad. It sheds light on a forgotten part of Great Britain’s overseas history.

My review copy was provided by Pen and Sword Publishing.

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Bf-110 and ZG 26 “Horst Wessel” in the invasion of Crete

The Messerschmidt Bf 110 started life as a heavy fighter, but was outclassed by its contemporaries and lighter opponents. It soldiered on to the end  of the war in a fighter bomber/ground attack role and found its eventual niche as a night fighter.

The Revell kit shows its age – everything fits badly and the nose profile is far  too thin, to the point that it does not look like a 110. Even my shabby modification with melted plastic sprue is an improvement. National markings are hand painted as usual, and I tell myself that their unevenness draws the eye away from the failings of the kit.

ZG 26 “Horst Wessel” was prominent in the invasion of CRETE. My colour scheme is from 1940, and would probably have been modified a bit by the time of the invasion. It is close enough.

Bf 110 ZG26 "Horst Wessel"

Messerschmitt Bf 110 D by Robert Wasik used without permission

 

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Model Review – True North YAG10 mounting an M1931 76.2mm Anti-Aircraft Gun

True North YAG10 mounting an M1931 76.2mm Anti-Aircraft Gun

The True North YAG10 mounting an  M1931 76.2mm Anti-Aircraft Gun is a beast of a model on a number of levels: It is large, measuring 75 x 40mm, tall (25mm just to the top of the cab), and it has a massive presence on the wargames table. It was also a pig to put together, with a-five piece cab and bonnet that didn’t quite fit. The flatbed needs filing and careful alignment. Despite my best efforts the end result sloped down and forwards to the cab in an annoying fashion.The spare tyre that sits under the flatbed just behind the cab is not modelled, and should be added if you care about that sort of thing.

It didn’t help that one of the door panels was missing in the kit. I know that manufacturers will send out spares if contacted, but it is quicker to fabricate one from flat. You can see which one it is in the picture as it is the door that fits properly 😦

My model came with a small seat that had no obvious point of attachment to the gun, but online photos show a shallow tractor-type seat attached to the right hand side of the gun in the gun-aimer’s position. Only 333 of these were built¹, and only 61 with AA guns at the start of the war², so even rarer than Tigers!

Despite these reservations, the end result is worth the effort. I added some Skytrex tank riders for the crew and will get around to finishing it off when it has a few battles under its belt.

True North YAG10 mounting an M1931 76.2mm Anti-Aircraft Gun

Product ID: SUE13
YAG10  76mm Anti-Aircraft Gun
True North via Old Glory UK
They make AA and Gun crews too, but looking at the US website, you find this:
Product ID: SU07
Russian AA Crews (12 figures)
15mm scale – This pack contains 4 horses, 2 mounted riders, 2 riders in process of mounting the horses and 4 foot.
I don’t imagine that this is true for one moment, but this lack of attention to detail loses sales!
2. Accessed 2.11.2019YAG-10 with M1931 76.2mm AA Gun

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