25.5.41

I hear privately that we have lost three cruisers in the operations off Crete.[1] Much excuse-making in the papers about our having no fighter planes there.[2] No explanation of why such landing grounds as exist in Crete had not previously been made impossible for the German troop-carriers, nor of why we failed to arm the Cretan population until it was too late.

[1] Of the more than fifty warships engaged, many in attempting to protect troops from air attack, three cruisers and eight destroyers were sunk; three battleships, an aircraft carrier, seven cruisers, nine destroyers, and some smaller ships were damaged; the Navy lost 2,261 men (The War Papers, No. 15; Liddell Hart gives slightly different figures, p. 142).

[2] It was no empty excuse. British Middle East Command lost some 200 planes in Greece. The RAF had only 21 serviceable Hurricanes to defend Libya and 14 to protect Suez and Alexandria. Hence the burden placed on the Royal Navy, and the cruel naval ditty: ‘Roll out the Nelson, the Rodney, the Hood, / Since the whole bloody air force is no bloody good.’ Hood, alas, was there only for the rhyme; it was sunk by Bismarck on 24 May 1941, on the day before this diary entry (The War Papers, No. 15). Peter Davison

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2 Responses to 25.5.41

  1. George~~
    How is your Wednesday going? Fine, I hope.

    By the way, “…failed to arm the Cretan population until it was too late…” is Brilliant!

    The impressions you are able to conjure with eye-popping precision, in phrases made up of eleven ingeniously concise words, are very interesting.

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