75 Years since Battle of Crete

Crete is a large Greek island, south of the Greek mainland. The battle in Crete took place during World War II between the German army and the Allied soldiers. The Allies included New Zealand, Australia, Greece and Britain. The battle began on May 20th, 1941 and continued for 12 days before the Allies were defeated. 7,700 New Zealand soldiers out of a total of 42,000 Allies took part in the battle. 671 Kiwi soldiers died, 2,180 became prisoners of war (POWs) in German camps until the end of the war in 1945. Most of the other Kiwi soldiers were evacuated to Egypt but some continued to live in the hills and caves in Crete for the rest of the war, supported by local people. People in Crete still remember New Zealand soldiers.

Why did the Allies lose the battle? The Germans had more soldiers and more weapons. When the Allies had to withdraw from the Greek mainland, they could not take their heavy machinery or transport with them. After German soldiers won on the Greek mainland, they were flown over Crete and they jumped from the planes using parachutes. Their tanks and other machinery came by ship.

Our Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mataparae, is in Crete for a memorial service. He is accompanied by Education Minister, Hekia Parata. Her uncle, grandfather and other members of her extended family were part of the Maori battalion who fought very bravely in Crete.


• battle – fight during a war
• mainland – larger part of Greece, attached to the European continent
• Allies – supporters, during WWII it means the countries which supported Britain
• defeated – lost, did not win
• evacuated – taken to a safe place (also used for floods, fires and other emergencies)
• caves – deep holes in the hills
• withdraw – leave
• memorial – a time to remember a sad event
• extended family – wider family, other relatives
• battalion – a large number of soldiers together with a leader (the Maori battalion became famous for their bravery and skill)


The third part of the verb to fly is flown: fly, flew, flown. Here it is part of the passive –they were flown (by plane…)

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