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Editorial – After Crete

7 June 1941

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 07 June 1941

After Crete

For the fourth time the Nazis have thrust us into the sea. Our expulsion at Crete is the bitterest experience of all because for the first time we were driven out by frontal attack from a vital stronghold which we thought we held in sufficient strength.

The Germans proved their incredible thesis that air power, as they have developed it, can effect invasion in the face of sea power and in the absence of naval support; provided that air mastery is established. Our air resistance was brushed aside and banished and thereafter, after terrible initial losses by air and sea, the Germans poured troops on to the island until the garrison was out-numbered and overwhelmed, mainly by divebombing.

The Germans used the aeroplane in this historic action in every conceivable way, and with the highest degree of skill, daring, and resolution the whole supported, as usual, by faultless staff work in which they have risen superior not only to our own military leadership but to all known standards. It would be easy to comment bitterly on obvious faults and shortcomings in our handling of the battle for Crete, but it would be worse than unprofitable to do so at present. We can only hope that the lessons have been seized and are being applied as rapidly as possible.

The Germans will not find Cyprus so easy to take but that will not deter them from the attempt assuming that to be necessarily the next move in their eastern approach to Egypt. They will meet stronger air opposition but they will use stronger forces to overcome it; nor must we assume that they will repeat their Cretan tactics precisely. It is said that the parachute attack was so vulnerable even to rifle fire and so dependent on incessant protection from the air, that invasion by this method against effective air power is out of the question.

That can hardly be gainsaid, and we must assume as a prelude to any attempted invasion of this country that Germany will once more attempt, as they did last summer, to put the R.A.F. out of action. This they signally failed to do then, though the attack was pressed dangerously both for them and for us, and was delivered with many subtle variations. Bombing of aerodromes was attempted on the grand scale but even the mighty Luftwaffe could not bomb all our aerodromes all the time, and we never had more than half a dozen out of action at any tune. What he did not attempt then, but may now if he can get sufficient air superiority however local and temporary, is air-borne seizure of vital aerodromes.

He may be encouraged to attempt this by his success in Crete and by our own ineptitude in fortification and defence of our aerodromes there. He will be arguing very dangerously from his Cretan experiences for he has no right to assume either that we can learn nothing and • forget nothing, or that he can endure and survive crippling losses simply because of his inhuman indifference to casualties.

Nevertheless it has to be admitted that so far the difficulties he has not been able to circumvent by cunning and treachery he has stolidly trampled over by suffering and sacrifice and sheer indifference to slaughter. Let no one therefore imagine that if and when the hour strikes for the invasion of Britain it will be attempted in any faint-hearted or half-hearted way, or delivered at “half-cock.”

The immediate gains from the heavy price we paid at Crete in men and materials for the experience purchased there, are the recovery of British control in Iraq and the general improvement of our situation in that vital area; and the insight we have been given into the technique of air-borne invasion—not quite full scale, for the campaign was finished without the introduction of armoured elements either by air or sea—but on a fairly advanced scale.

The Germans were obliged to show us in Crete something of the method on which they must rely if they attack Britain, but Crete was worth an exposed hand and in any case was a useful rehearsal. Moreover we are still left guessing the maximum combined weight of ships, planes, artillery, novelties, secret weapons, devilish devices, and fifth-column that they will seek to employ against us.

We know that they must presently decide whether to press their advantage in the Mediterranean or remembering the time factor, endeavour to hold the position there while turning suddenly against these islands and delivering the knock-out blow which has to be got in before the United States can either rescue or use Great Britain.

If Hitler shirks that supreme risk then it is because he hopes to exhaust British and American opposition to his new order, and to win by stalemate. Britain cannot win by not losing, but Hitler believes that he can, and that if he can force a temporary peace he can presently complete his task by the disintegratory methods most congenial to him. The initiative is still, alas, with him, for we are everywhere on the defensive, though formidably entrenched. He has two main aims—to destroy us in Britain and to destroy us in the Mediterranean—and it is possible that he may tentatively essay both at once, but he will immediately switch to that which promises the best results, for he does nothing by halves and never divides his power if he can concentrate it.

Happily we have been given abundant time to prepare and it remains only to be seen whether we have made better and more intelligent use of it than we did in Crete.