3.6.41

Now that the evacuation of Crete is completed, there is talk of 20,000 men having been removed. Obviously, therefore, they must have begun clearing out long before this was admitted in the press, and the ships sunk were probably lost in that operation. Total losses will presumably be about 10,000 men, 7 warships (3 cruisers, 4 destroyers), [1] probably some merchant ships as well, a good many AA guns, and a few tanks and aeroplanes. And all this for absolutely nothing…The newspapers criticise more boldly than they have ever done hitherto. One of the Australian papers says openly that it is no use trying to defend Cyprus unless we are taking action against Syria. No sign of this, apparently. Reports this morning that the Germans have already landed armoured units at Latakia.[2] Together with this, vague hints that the British “may” invade Syria. Within a few days it may be too late, if it is not six months too late already.

[1] The cruisers Calcutta, Fiji and Gloucester were sunk, as were the destroyers Greyhound, Hereward, Imperial, and Juno, with the loss of 2,011 sailors on these ships and others hit but not sunk. The Allied forces lost 16,583 men (of which 8,200 were British, 3,376 Australian, 2,996 New Zealanders). The Germans lost 3,714 killed and missing and some 2,500 wounded (2194 Days of War, 2 June 1941).

[2] Latakia in Syria. The report was not correct. The British expected the Germans to ‘pounce upon Cyprus, Syria, Suez or Malta’ after taking Crete. After the war, General K. Student, Commander-in-Chief of the German Airborne Forces, revealed that Hitler was reluctant to risk the attack on Crete. After the heavy losses suffered in taking Crete (though the Allied losses were much greater), he refused ‘a further jump from Cyprus to capture the Suez Canal’ (Liddell Hart, pp. 144-45). Peter Davison

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3 Responses to 3.6.41

  1. Stephen says:

    Curious to know what Australian newspaper GO could have seen in London, in the middle of the war, that was not weeks out of date. Maybe a report from Aus carried in a London paper?

  2. M G says:

    Maybe George, being a prophetic genius and all, could foresee that one day nearly all our newspapers would be owned by an Australian, and so was referring to them.

  3. SM says:

    The “all for nothing” doesn’t seem characteristic of Orwell, who understood that its sometimes worth fighting for something even if you lose.

    I wonder if there is any contemporary documentation on the decision to launch no more parachute attacks after Crete. Hitler’s generals sometimes remembered things which aren’t quite true after the war.

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