Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
On 20 May there was the usual early-morning blitz of Maleme airfield and then all was quiet, but at ten minutes to eight the bells and sirens from Canea to Maleme were ringing again and from that moment there was no quiet for our troops on Crete. The enemy air attack was heavier than anything previously experienced. Wave after wave of bombers came in, escorted by swarms of fighters. Stuka dive-bombers, with screaming sirens, and swift Messerschmitts bombed and methodically strafed the countryside from Suda to the valley running south-west of Maleme, around Canea, over the rolling hills of Galatas and down to the sea. For almost an hour the pounding of bombs and the tearing rattle of machine-gun fire continued; over the hospital and the ambulance area they came regardless of Red Crosses, first with a line of bombs which sent up great spouts of earth with a thundering blast, and then with their deadly hail of fire, setting alight hospital wards and tentage.2 Then from the west, in groups of three, came the big Junkers 52s—group after group of them; and from underneath appeared white specks which fluttered down to earth over the olive trees. They were paratroops; hundreds of them jumped and swung to earth. Stubby, broad-winged gliders swiftly and silently floated in, and page 123 settled to earth in the Aghya Prison valley and in the valley beyond Maleme. From among the olive trees came drifts of bluish smoke and the dry rattle of Bren guns as New Zealanders opened fire on the invaders.