On 20 May 1941, German forces launched an airborne assault on the island of Crete. They called it Operation Merkur, named after Mercury – the ancients' divine herald, carried aloft on winged sandals
In an aerial attack of unprecedented ambition, paratroopers and glider forces landed across Crete’s northern coast, aiming to capture key airfields. Facing them were many Allied units recently evacuated from mainland Greece including British, Australian, New Zealand and Greek units.
The Battle for Crete was a pyrrhic victory for German forces, who suffered heavy losses of around 4,000 killed or missing. They would never again attempt a major airborne assault. While around 18,000 Commonwealth soldiers were evacuated, some 12,000 were taken prisoner and a further 2,000 lost their lives. For the Cretan civilians, the occupation would be brutal and traumatic.
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