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Crete: Hania Prefecture Overview Page Seventeen

West of Hania on the Coast continued

German paratroopers suffered heavy losses in the first ever airborne invasionCrete's defeat by the Germans during the horrific Battle of Crete in 1941 has been attributed to the loss of the crucial airfield at Maleme by the Allied forces stationed on this part of the northern Cretan coast. Inability to defend this airfield gave the Germans the advantage, (though they had at first suffered terrible losses when their airborne divisions of parachutists and gliders were almost totally wiped out).

The possession of this airfield enabled the Germans to bring in troops and supplies, and on the fourth day of the battle, German fighter planes were taking off from the runway there. The tide of the battle turned at this point, and some 18,000 Allied soldiers (mostly British, Australian and New Zealand troops) fled through the mountains to the sea to be evacuated, while perhaps 2000 were killed. There were also 12,000 taken prisoner. Strangely, the Australian commander Freyberg knew where the attacks would come (having cracked the German codes), and Allied troops could have been redeployed to retake the airfield. Why they weren't, is attributed by some to some form tragic incompetence.

The German WarII Cemetary in MalemeDuring the evacuation Cretan resistance fighters aided the foreign troops, often risking their own lives (see above about the Allied cemetery near Souda Bay), and many Cretan villages suffered reprisals for having hidden either Cretan or foreign fighters (something which happened throughout the war, all over Greece, with an estimated thousand villages burned by Hitler's armies). Needless to say, the Cretan resistance was just getting started with this defeat and the beginning of German occupation of Crete, the Cretan guerillas aided by Allied undercover agents and supplied from North Africa. A well-researched book,about the battle, which includes many first-hand accounts is Crete: The Battle and the Resistance by Anthony Beevor; The Cretan Runner, by Yiorghios Psychoudakis, is another. Present-day Maleme is a military zone, and hence restricted. Before the airfield is the German war cemetery (photo above), where all of the parachutists who were shot before they reached the ground (and those in crashed gliders) are buried. Very ironically, there was a Late Minoan Tomb discovered here in 1966, dated back three millennia, reachable by a downhill path from the modern cemetery.

Tavronitis is a farming village, with pontoon bridges from the war and is the junction with the road to Paleohora.on the south coast.

Kolimbari (left) is a quiet and very undeveloped place, perhaps because its beach, though offering great views back along the coast, has no sand. There are, however, some rooms, and tavernas along the waterfront which the village itself a little further in. You can walk from here to the base of the peninsula.

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