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July 04 , 2009

Men of Valour

New Zealand and the Battle for Crete


For a time in the Second World War, Crete was the prize both sides wanted. The Allies had it and the Germans wanted it. The Germans won. The man in charge of hanging on to it was Bernard ('Tiny') Freyberg, the New Zealand Division commander. With him was a ragtag army of New Zealand, Australian, British and Greek soldiers. They had to withstand the mightiest airborne invasion the world had seen. It was a German victory but their losses were almost as many as those of the Allies. Beaten and bedraggled, the men made their way back to Egypt; they'd fought for the first time as a New Zealand division under the overall command of a New Zealander and been beaten. Inquiries followed: was Freyberg at fault? Did he make mistakes that allowed the Germans to make advance? Were Freyberg's officers disloyal? Like the British after Dunkirk, the New Zealanders rose again. Freyberg led them through North Africa and Italy striking fear and respect into the hearts of enemies.

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