Paratene Kohere in the Battle for Crete

In this letter home Lance Corporal Paratene Kohere describes the counter-attack in Crete.

"I was one of the lucky ones to escape from Greece when so many of my friends were taken prisoners. The New Zealand Division, instead of going across to Egypt and safety, stayed on the island of Crete. We thought then we were in Paradise. After we had been on the island for about a month a message was received from Greece that the Germans would attack the island within ten days. Sure enough, the Germans came in about that time. The Royal Navy prevented the enemy's landing on the island, but they took to the air. Handicapped as we were for the want of aeroplanes, tanks, etc., we were helpless. I really think that the olive groves everywhere saved us. They gave us cover. The Germans came on thick and fast, and the only thing we could do was to make bayonet charges. The New Zealand Division would have been overwhelmed if not for a grand bayonet charge by the Maoris. It was a fearful thing to hear the shouts and shrieks of the Maori Battalion. The Germans could not stand it, and so they took to their heels. If they only had had the courage to stand their ground and turn on their machine-guns the Maoris would have been wiped out. The result of the charge gave the Division respite. I met with my first wound during the bayonet charge. A German officer suddenly confronted me, and, raising his revolver, fired point blank at my head when he was only about ten yards from me. Luckily I had also raised my rifle. The bullet entered my wrist and later came out below my shoulder. My arm deflected the bullet which was meant for my head and I am alive to-day. Before the German could fire again he was dead.

"The next day at the dressing station I was once more hit in the same arm by shrapnel. Two of my fingers were hanging by the skin and I tried to pull them off. Again I was lucky, for some white soldiers were killed outright by the bomb. I tried to walk across the island when a truck overtook me. An officer, revolver in hand, made the driver take me. With Bluejackets and a doctor fussing about us on a destroyer, attending to our wounds, supplying us with hot coffee and cigarettes, we began to forget our troubles.

"I must say something about the German paratroops. It was a pathetic sight to see such brave men descending only to be riddled with bullets. When a parachutist suspected danger he looked below and felt in a bag for his hand grenade. Before he could use it he was riddled with bullets, his head drooped and legs dangled stiff."

Tene was reported missing, and this caused intense grief at home. He was amongst the earliest casualties and one of the first to come home.


Reweti T. Kohere, The Story of a Maori Chief, Reed Publishing, Wellington, 1949, pp. 82-83.


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