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

423 — General Freyberg to General Wavell

General Freyberg to General Wavell

24 May 1941

An enemy attack upon us here [Galatas] seems to be indicated. Since our move back our dispositions are on a better basis. We are in depth and more capable to withstand attack.

As I feel we are on the eve of an attack I want you to know the full picture of the last four days. The fighting has been very fierce and we can definitely say that the much-vaunted parachutists have been heavily defeated. I cannot believe that they will be used again for a similar objective.

The total casualties of Creforce since 20 May are 1909, as follows: killed 396, wounded 1118, missing 395. Three-quarters of these are from the New Zealand Division at Maleme. The German casualties are, however, much higher: at Heraklion—790 killed, 20 wounded, and 178 prisoners; at Retimo—approximately 500 dead, 300 wounded, and 50 prisoners. Maleme and the page 306 surrounding country saw the hardest fighting of all. At the: aerodrome there was a shambles of German dead and burning planes and, I am afraid, a large number of our 22nd Battalion. Estimated [enemy] killed were over 1000, prisoners 320, wounded 80 (making no allowance for wounded left in their hands). Thus the total enemy losses are in the vicinity of 3340.

As I have said, the fighting has been savage and man for man we have beaten him. I feel that you should know that the scale of air attack we have been faced with has been far worse than anything I had visualised. It has been savage. Further, our men are very tired. Indications today are that the Germans will attempt to blast their way through using 500-pound bombs. We have seen the result of this during the last two days. I know that the men will do their best but with the lack of any air support whatsoever the result with tired troops must always be in the balance. I have not discussed this question with anyone and you can count on us to do our best. Anything you can do to neutralise the air situation would help us materially.