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Second World War History > Invasion of Crete Timeline

Invasion of Crete Timeline

With Greece under German control, Hitler sets his sights on the nearby island of Crete.

Authored By Staff Writer

Once again the German war machine jumped into action - literally - as thousands of German paratroopers took part in landings around the island of Crete. Allied air defenses proved deadly at first, where some 50% of German transports were being destroyed in the air before dropping their cargo of troops. However, any Allied victory chant was short-lived as German forces quickly engaged strategic points.


Valiant British, New Zealand and Australian troops all battled it out with modest successes until eventually being forced on the run. By the end of May, the Allies were forced to evacuate and give control of the island to the Germans. Additionally, several important Royal Navy ships were also lost in the fighting. At the very least, the Allies didn't make it an easy campaign for the Wehrmacht.

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Total Invasion of Crete Events: 25

1941
Friday
April 25th

Fuhrer Directive No.28 is issued by Adolph Hitler, calling for the invasion of the island of Crete through Operation Mercury led by General Kurt Student.

1941
Saturday
April 26th

Allied codebreakers intercept word of the impending German invasion of Crete.

1941
Wednesday
April 30th

Allied forces based on Crete receive a new leader in the form of Major-General Bernard Freyberg.

1941
Monday
May 19th

In advance of the Crete invasion, RAF fighters are relocated to Egypt for safe-keeping.

1941
Monday
May 19th

Allied codebreakers intercept word that Operation Mercury will commence the very next day. The Allies begin preparations.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

Allied flak teams destroy as many as 50% of the invading German transport planes in the first few hours of the operation.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

Operation Mercury is officially launched.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

At approximately 7:00 AM, the first German airborne troops land at locations near Maleme and Khania.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

At least 500 Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft are utilized in the first wave of airdrops over Crete.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

Between 1:30 and 2:00 PM, the second wave of German airborne troops take off from Greece towards drop zones in Crete.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

In-air losses for the second wave of German paratroopers is nearly equal to the first thanks to the stellar Allied flak defenses on Crete.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

At about 2:00 PM, the second wave of German paratroops land around Heraklion and Rethymnon.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

The first day of the German invasion of Crete sees little progress as many strategic positions are not under German control yet.

1941
Wednesday
May 21st

A German offensive against Heraklion is pushed away by at least 8,000 dug-in Allied soldiers.

1941
Wednesday
May 21st

German Army troops making their way to Crete via the sea are intercepted and pummeled by elements of the Royal Navy. Just 60 of these German soldiers live to see another day.

1941
Thursday
May 22nd

The HMS Greyhound, a British destroyer, is downed by German bombers.

1941
Thursday
May 22nd

New Zealand troops are repelled from an attempt to retake the airfield at Maleme from the Germans.

1941
Friday
May 23rd

German dive bombers destroy the HMS Kelly and HMS Kashmir, two Royal Navy destroyers.

1941
Friday
May 23rd

German dive bombers destroy the HMS Gloucester and the HMS Fiji, two Royal Navy cruisers.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

The German Army takes Heraklion and her all-important airfield.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

Allied forces retreat to defensive positions at Galatas.

1941
Friday
May 30th

The brave defense of Rethymnon by Australian soldiers finally falters under intense pressure from the German Army.

1941
Saturday
May 31st

By this date, Crete is firmly entrenched under German rule.

1941
Wednesday
May 28th

Heraklion in the north and Sphakia in the south of Crete will serve as major evacuation junctions for the Allies.

1941
Wednesday
May 28th

The evacuation order is given by Major-General Freyberg for the gradual withdrawel of Allied troops from the island of Crete.
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