Charles Bennett on the campaign in Crete


Intelligence Officer Second Lieutenant Charles Bennett speaks about the campaign in Crete from their Garawi camp near Helwan (Egypt) on June 3rd 1941.  He acknowledges the Cretans' hospitality and the British Navy who made possible the occupation and evacuation of Crete.  He also pays tribute to the Māori Battalion and speaks of lessons learnt from this campaign. (See also the Battalion diaries for May 1941 and June 1941.)


The Commanding Officer and members of the Māori Battalion wish first of all to extend their heartfelt sympathy and their condolences to the relatives of those who were lost in the campaign in Crete.  Secondly, we remember with gratitude the kindness with which our Cretan allies welcomed and supported us in their beautiful island home.  Thirdly, we wish to pay a tribute to the British Navy for its efficiency, self sacrifice and courage which made possible the occupation of Crete and finally its evacuation.  During this short but bitter campaign the Māori was transformed from a practically inexperienced soldier to a veteran.  At Maleme, at Platanias, at Suda Bay, he measured his strength with the finest troops of the German Reich, the Jaegers of their mountain divisions and proved himself a match in the fierce hand to hand fighting that took place.  It is to their credit that after days of continuous dive bombing and machine gunning of the most severe kind, followed by night after night of mountain marching when rations were on the ebb that both Pākehā and Māori could still call upon their inward courage and at the supreme moment draw their bayonets and close with the enemy.  Our short experience in Crete has taught us three things, first of all aerial bombardment inflicts few casualties on people who take the proper precautions, no matter how horrible and intense the bombing may be.  Secondly, the German scheme of attack appears to aim at spreading terror among the defenders by creating an inferno of noise and metal in the hope that the defenders will flee or surrender without fighting.  And the last point is that determined and alert troops who endure this ordeal without flinching can, if they act vigorously inflict terrible casualties on parachuters and airborne troops who at the moment of landing are practically at their mercy.  If Hitler were to walk through the valleys and hillsides of Crete today and were to see there the ghastly wreck of his aerial division he would surely pause before ever launching a similar attack again.  That so many of our troops have survived maybe attributed to their discipline, their thorough training, their strong loyalty to each other and to the Battalion and to the kind providence which was undoubtedly watching over them. May I conclude with a few words to our own Māori people.  E ngā marae maha o Aotearoa, kia ora koutou katoa.  Tangi mai rā i o tātou aituā.  Heoi rā, nā te wā āna mate.  Kei konā, kei te kainga, kei a koutou o mātou whakaaro, o mātou aroha.  Mā te Runga Rawa tātou katoa e manaaki, e tiaki.  Kia ora, kia ora.


Sound file from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, ref: 12608. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright.

Detail of Officers at Katerini
Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: DA-14231
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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