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PLAQUE NO.
22 ... Rethymnon       

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The Rethymnon plaque was finally unveiled in 1998 outside the City Hall of Rethymnon by MARKOS POLIOUDAKIS OAM, a prominent local military historian. The Australians' fought their most significant battles in Crete near this site in 1941.

Battle of Crete

German paratroopers and glider-borne troops invaded Crete on 20 May 1941. Their objective was to capture the island's airfields thereby facilitating later reinforcement. These targets were defended principally by New Zealanders at Maleme, Australians at Rethimno and British at Iraklio with the Greek military and civilian volunteers supporting all three areas.

The initial landings resulted in heavy German casualties. Maleme airfield was only partially captured whilst at Rethimno and Iraklo the Germans were contained. Over the next 2 days the battle hung in the balance. After fierce fighting German reinforcements arrived at Maleme and forced the allies to withdraw east, to a line near Hania. By 26 may however the line could no longer be held thus necessitating a full allied withdrawl as the road to Rethimno was blocked the only escape rout or these forces was along the narrow tortuous track that crossed the mountainous spine of Crete to Sfakia on the south coast.

Evacuation of Crete

On 27 may 1941 the British high command in Egypt ordered the evacuation of Crete. Due to well organised rearguard actions, allied forces from Maleme and Souda were able to be embarked at Sfakia between 28 May and 1 June. At Rethimno Greek and allied troops contained the Germans but received orders to evacuate too late and with no escape route were forced to surrender. At Iraklio, the allies although in control were evacuated by sea on the night of 28 may. The allied navies controlled the sea but suffered severe losses from the German airforce which dominated the skies throughout the campaign. .
Allied losses were heavy, the German paratroopers suffered so severely they were never again used as an airborne assault force, during German occupation Crete was badly damaged and the population suffered greatly. The Cretan guerrillas harassed the enemy throughout and on 28 may 1945 the island was liberated.

 



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