Document: letter by Pte Harold Adeney

Harold Adeney had a ringside view of the German invasion of Crete, the first such invasion to use parachute troops in large numbers.  He wrote this account to his wife once he had been safely evacuated to Alexandria.


Private Harold Adeney, letter to his wife, 7 June 1941


Accession number: MS 10868


From the State Library of Victoria's Manuscripts collection.


See the catalogue record for this item






We had an excellent view as we were camped high up on the mountain side overlooking Suda Bay.  We saw ship after shop bombed and set on fire including a vessel loaded with ammunition which after catching fire blew up with a terrific explosion and sank in a few minutes. 


Then the air raids began to increase in intensity until the air was full of German planes and word came through that German parachute troops had landed in three places around Canea, a fairly large town near Suda Bay.  We took up our positions and waited as the fighting was about 6 miles away and we were guarding a portion of the island which did not become involved in the fighting until later.  We established an observation post overlooking the scene of battle and I was sent there to signal messages back to Regimental Headquarters in semaphore which I had learned in the Scouts. 


While up there I saw intense activity around Canea and the Maleme aerodrome, the sky was full of German planes  - Dorniers, Hinkels, Stukas, Messerschmidts – bombing and machine gunning.  Parachute troops would then float down followed by dozens of huge tri-motored Junkers troop-carrying planes, and gliders which would land and unload their cargo then take off and return to Greece for another load.  After two or three day we were ordered to move up and take up a position in the second line, just behind the regular infantry.  Here we were right in the thick of it, we were bombed and machine gunned practically continuously, suffering some casualties .


NOTE: Adeney describes gliders taking off again after landing their troops, but perhaps he is mistaken.  Gliders have no engines, and can only take off by being towed behind a powered aircraft.  It is unlikely that the Germans would have been able to manage this in the heat of battle. Most of the gliders which landed at Crete were shot up by the Allied forces, and would not have been re-launchable even if the Germans had the means to do it. 


Battle of Crete