Fred Baker reflects on the Battle for Crete

Captain Frederick Baker reflects on the performance of Māori and other New Zealand soldiers during the German invasion of Crete in May 1941:

The old Kiwi is a great bloke and I have never felt prouder of being a N.Z’er than now. Until the war broke out I would have said that we as a race had slipped so far as the younger generation were concerned but this and many other things I now take back. There is still something very solid in our fellows when the screw is put on. No men could have done more and the acts of unselfishness & manliness which I saw there have revived my faith in human nature. Talking of that sort of thing I am yet to meet a more generous hearted fellow than the Aussie. Tough & uncontrollable he may be but he is a great fellow to meet up with when in trouble.

The greatest surprise of all of course was the Maori. Even though I was with them before the show I was probably one of the greatest doubting Thomases of all. I expected them to go in to a thing like a bayonet charge of course because it was in their nature, as we knew it, to show that flash of spirit. With the rigid discipline we have maintained in the main body I expected that we would be able to control them in those situations. Both of these surmises proved correct. What I definitely did not predict however was the almost stoical way they sat down under the strafing that he gave us, in our trenches & when out on the move. There was no one to compare with them & and other units are the first to admit it.

Furthermore, as long as they had confidence in their leaders (& fortunately this was fairly general) they would follow anywhere, even if they knew it meant certain death. I had always intended to get out back to my old crowd until this show but I am not so sure now. I believe quite a few officers from other Bns. are looking for a job with us now. See how we are honoured!


From a letter dated 26 June 1941

Alexander Turnbull Library

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