The Royal Navy and the Evacuation of British Troops from Crete – Part 1

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The Disaster of Trying to Help Greece

German artillery firing during the advance through Greece. They are firing an 149 mm K-series artillery piece made by the Skoda Works in Czechoslovakia. When Prime Minister Chamberlain of Great Britain allowed Hitler to occupy much of Czechoslovakia, what the Germans really, really wanted was the Skoda Works, one of the largest and for the time most advanced manufacturer of arms in the world. As you will note from the photo above, the Germans wasted no time in placing orders for Skoda products.

One of the worst military disasters to befall the British Empire in World War Two was their brave yet completely disorganized and futile effort to assist Greece in beating back the German invasion of that country. While everyone knew a German attack was imminent, Greece continued to maintain their neutrality while inviting the British to send armed forces to their country. But their neutrality compelled them to continue diplomatic relations with Germany so as not to give the Germans any excuse for accusing them of hostile acts. (Such as expelling German diplomats.)

This allowed German military and naval attaches to stand in full view of the British ships debarking troops and equipment into Piraeus, the main port for Athens. And the Germans counted all these soldiers to the last private and all the equipment to the last tank and all the supplies to the last cartridge.

A portrait of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet in April 1941. He is dressed in ‘whites’, or Royal Navy tropical dress. Rescuing British troops from Greece and subsequently Crete was to prove far more difficult than Cunningham or anyone else could have imagined.

[Images courtesy of Wikipedia and the UK Imperial War Museums.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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