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Thread: Officer breaks rank over the Battle of Crete

  1. #1
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    Hiding from the Dreaded Burrito Gang

    Default Officer breaks rank over the Battle of Crete

    While a snapshot from a Big War, there's some useful insight here -

    Major General Sandy Thomas says poor leadership shown by Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force commanders on Crete directly led to the loss of the battle for the Mediterranean island in May 1941.

    Mr Thomas, 91, has waited 70 years to tell his version of the battle, which involved German General Kurt Student's paratroopers and soldiers from many countries including Kiwis out of respect to the descendants of the two New Zealanders he believes contributed significantly to the loss of the battle.

    The two men in Mr Thomas's sights are Colonel Les Andrew, VC, the commanding officer of the 22nd Battalion, entrusted with the defence of Maleme Airfield, and Brigadier James Hargest.

    Brigadier Hargest was a Southland politician turned soldier who commanded the 5th New Zealand Brigade on Crete.

    He (Thomas) said the troops on the ground slaughtered paratroopers in their hundreds in the first few hours of fighting and knew they had the battle won by 10am on May 20.

    "The problem was the commanding officers responsible for the defence of Maleme Andrew and Hargest did not recognise what was happening on the ground," Mr Thomas said.

    "In our first major battle [of World War II] our commanders were fighting a war which they did not understand."
    A scrimmage in a Border Station
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail

  2. #2
    Council Member
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    Nov 2007
    Near the Spiral, New Zealand.


    He not exactly breaking ranks on much as this is not news down here. I studied military history here (NZ) in the early 90s and the weaknesses in command in 2 NZEF during the Crete campaign were well known and discussed then.

    Crete was one of three bloody punches in the nose that forged 2 NZEF into what it was in the Desert and Italy...

  3. #3
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    May 2009
    Latitude 17 5' 11N, Longitude 120 54' 24E, altitude 1499m. Right where I want to be.


    "In our first major battle [of World War II] our commanders were fighting a war which they did not understand."
    Hardly unique to Crete, of course... the early stages of WW2 show numerous examples of Allied commanders and forces not understanding what they were up against... Kasserine Pass might serve as an analog on the American side.

    To their credit, they adapted pretty quickly.

  4. #4
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007

    Default Not really news, I'm not a Kiwi

    and I've been aware of the claims about Andrew and Harget for over 40 years. As well as those about Allen, Leckie and Puttik (sp?). Even Saint Freyberg has been criticized for Cretan errors *...

    In any event, the Maori Battalion and the Black Watch made up for most erros by the bosses -- as usually happens, the Troops will pull it out given half a chance...

    Dayuhan's right about the Kasserine and there were other worse errors by US Commanders even later in the war -- the battle for Schmidt or Peliliu are but two examples. Schmidt can tar everyone from Bradley and Hodges down -- only Gavin took one look and said "You guys are nuts, you're killing people for no reason -- I'm not going to commit to this..."

    Of course, when one adds in the US race to the Yalu, Hamburger Hill and few others...

    * So has Student, who at least jumped with his troops. Errors in wartime abound. Always. Both sides...

    Addition: Not being familiar with the battle for Schmidt I found it was part of the Hurtgen Forest clash:
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 05-15-2011 at 08:37 AM. Reason: Addition and link

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