Category Archives: CRETE

Invade Crete in Ten Minutes

After a busy weekend in a shopping centre (Mall) in Milton Keynes, I am claiming victory for NQM’s first exposure to a non-wargaming public. It attracted just under fifty public contacts ranging from  fleeting “Did you make all those little planes?” to rather longer variations on the theme of  “I used to play with those, and my Grandad was in the desert“. In addition, there were a dozen plays-through almost exclusively from wargamers, but with three small to early-teenage children, who were already computer gamers, trying their luck.

As we were on a busy corner, we also spent a lot of time explaining what all the FOG (Field of Glory) and  AdlG (Art de la Guerre) Competition Gamers were doing in the middle of the concourse (“It’s like a national football league of teams of toy soldiers“). Other stands varied from historical, through the Wild West to the Peterborough Club’s Dad’s Army fighting Zombies on the opposite corner to us, which was attracting a lively crowd and which was the source of much hilarity for all concerned. Apparently everyone could outrun the Zombies except for private Godfrey!

It’s heavier than it looks in Lord of the Rings.

Most of my time was taken up on the Northamptonshire Battlefields Trust stand, which was a busy focus due to the medieval hardware on display. The commonest contact there was ” Would you like to photograph your offspring holding a sword and wearing a helmet?” with the caveat “but only if you promise not to stab your brother/sister” and then a hand-off to the parents with a leaflet and an invitation to visit Delapré Abbey if they wanted a good family afternoon out. Anyone who lingered, showing more detailed interest was handed over to Vincent, or to Alex, who has a History Masters degree and actually knows what he is talking about. We may also have recruited a speaker for our 2023 program who has an interest in the English Civil War.

YesthatPhil came along too. He had had the presence of mind to bring a couple of DBA armies along, so we all managed to fit in a game or two during the days’ quiet spots of calm. As at work, when nothing is happening and you make a coffee, it guarantees that you will be interrupted, so some of the battles were rather fragmented. I don’t know if Vincent or Alex are convinced yet, but we are working on them.

You stick them with the pointy end.

As to Crete, I needn’t have worried. Everyone who invaded Crete succeeded, with between 3:58 minutes and 49 seconds to spare, and I handed out just under twenty information sheets: Okay for a first run out. Improvements to come will be better signage, and as YesthatPhil puts it “Some Fallschirmjäger bling” to attract people in from a distance. I did have, as a contingency, the option for two players to sit down, with one player taking the Commonwealth, but in the event, no-one took up the “Would you like to be defeated by your offspring?” option, as I had weighted the scenario in favour of the Germans. Even so, it was still touch and go for them on a couple of runs-through. Forty nine seconds to spare is still a win!

HERAKLION falls to the Germans!

The key to making the game run on time was to have the player roll five dice using the traditional Risk mechanism, rather than using the Table 12 fire mechanism, and to tell the player if they were attacking or defending. Also having a timer counting down, meant that the player wanted things to move along, as they were focussed on beating the clock, rather than winning the die rolls. Telling the children that the dice only counted if they landed in the box helped too!

In other news … the Hobbit expressed disappointment at the lack of giant stompy robots in his last game. See this remedied over on Pigs in Spaaace. Link in the sidebar.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, CRETE, German Airforce, Theatres of War, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

Crete 1941 – Demonstration Game at Milton Keynes on 17-18 September 2022

As a newly-minted Gentleman of Leisure I now have time to do the sort of things that normal people do, such as going to wargames shows. The show at Milton Keynes is a bit special as it is held in a shopping centre. This means that the public is a bit more diverse than a self-selecting audience of wargamers, and most of the public walking through will be relatively new to the idea of wargaming or military history.

The brief that I set myself was to have a board that took up no more than 3′ by 3′ for convenience and would tell the story in five minutes or play through in ten. This is what I came up with for the board:

It is a five by five grid, giving enough space to visually separate the three elements of Operation Mercury – Orion, Mars and Komet as seen from east to west. A player will need about three or four minutes of orientation, leaving little time for die-rolling.

My first run-through with the Empress took 15 minutes and was too repetitive, It persuaded me that the firing mechanism using Table 12 was the wrong one for this game. Also, there was no need to use the smaller bases, as they added nothing to the story except length. I was also persuaded that giving the players choice slowed the game down too much :

Do you want your bombers to attack the anti-aircraft defences or the troops on the ground?

Each question led to a minute of to-and-fro question and answer sessions, for which I had no spare time budgeted. As with patients, wargamers will not answer a question until you have given them enough information to persuade them that theirs is the right answer.

The second run-through went much better using the close assault Risk-based die mechanism. The player still had choices to make of when to break off the attack, but was led through the historical course of action, and didn’t have to ponder overly long. I am still wondering if putting Greek troops and Italians onto the board as non-acting extras will clutter things up too much and be another distraction.

All that remains to do now is finish any last-minute painting and pack everything up. Hang on! Will W is coming round for a game of DBA this afternoon! 🙂


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, CRETE, Theatres of War, WWII

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

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!


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, CRETE, WWII

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

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


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





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.



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


None of the flights sent off over HERAKLION came back.

1.The table is set up in Shedquarters now.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, CRETE

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

Uncredited copyright Messerschmitt Bf 110 D by Robert Wasik, used without permission.



Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Air Forces, CRETE, German Airforce, Modelling, Western Desert, WWII

5th Panzer Division at Crete

Pz II AusF C

Peter Pig Pz II AusF F

5th Panzer Division appears on Nierhorster’s orbat for Unternehmen Mercur (Op Mercury), and of course, what every wargamer wants to know is; “Can I use Panzers in the invasion force?” I found this :

“Following the Balkan campaign the 5. Kompanie of Panzer-Regiment 31 with 5 Panzer II and 17 Panzer III was detached from the division to be used in the invasion of Crete where it was used to form Panzer-Abteilung Kreta. Two Panzer II from this kompanie were transferred to Crete by a small harbor tug under the command of Oberleutnant-zur-See Albert Oesterlin following urgent requests from the airborne troops fighting on the island.”


Accessed on 26/10/2019

which in turn quotes “Anton D von Plato – 5. Panzer-Division 1938-1945”

So that’s it. 1SP of a Pz II to represent the two Pz IIs that made it ashore, which is not going to stop me enjoying “what-if?” pictures of KV2s rolling up the beach at wargames shows :  It could have happened …. 🙂

  Of more likelihood though, is the possibility that the Pz IIIs might have made it ashore. For that to occur, the Royal Navy would have had to be less aggressive, or unlucky, or both. It should be a possibility in the scenario, and the British defenders certainly considered the seabourne invasion to be a more credible threat, laying out their defences accordingly.





Filed under CRETE, Orbats