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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I

413 — General Freyberg to General Wavell

General Freyberg to General Wavell

22 May 1941

The position at Heraklion is that the enemy appears to have penetrated the town but, as far as can be ascertained, the aerodrome holds. At Retimo we are still in a position to deny the enemy the page 301 use of the landing ground but the garrison is being attacked from the east. A successful counter-attack was carried out this morning. At Suda we are occupying a perimeter defence and are in full possession of all our base organisation.

The position at Maleme is less secure. The enemy has made tremendous efforts to knock us out and I am bringing in help from Georgiopolis.1 Owing to severe bombing and heavy casualties one battalion2 withdrew from the defences in the immediate vicinity of Maleme aerodrome during the night of 20–21 May. Early in the day we still commanded the landing area with machine-gun, trench mortar, and artillery fire. However, at 9.15 a.m. the enemy dropped approximately 500 parachutists just west of the aerodrome, also another lot in the vicinity of the enemy's main concentration at the prison and on the road five miles south-west of Canea. At 4.15 p.m. 500 parachutists dropped behind the aerodrome defences and our field guns were put out of action by air action. At 5 p.m. thirty planes landed on the aerodrome and others on the beaches. I am hoping to reinforce Maleme tonight but the situation is now obscure and, I feel, perhaps precarious. Everybody here is determined to fight hard. Do all you can to damage the surface of the aerodrome.

I have been informed of the Wellington raid for tonight.

1 Two battalions of 19th Australian Infantry Brigade.

2 22nd New Zealand Battalion.