52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clarity brought to a Complex Story
This is a splendidly-written account of the British Campaign in Greece and Crete in 1941, and to a lesser extent, of the resistance to the Germans during the occupation. The account of the defence against the German airborne invasion is masterly, and though many units are involved, the writer has the knack of keeping them distinct in the reader's mind such that there is...
Published on 12 Dec. 2001 by Donal A. O'Neill
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Defeat from the jaws of victory?
Much like Maj Gen Freyberg's performance commanding the allied forces during the German airborne invasion of Crete I would say that overall this book was somehow a defeat where victory should have been assured. Reading some of the reviews above I was relieved to see that I was not alone in finding that the book's narrative did not always flow due to an obsession for...
Published on 27 Mar. 2012 by GJ Rumble
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clarity brought to a Complex Story,
This is a splendidly-written account of the British Campaign in Greece and Crete in 1941, and to a lesser extent, of the resistance to the Germans during the occupation. The account of the defence against the German airborne invasion is masterly, and though many units are involved, the writer has the knack of keeping them distinct in the reader's mind such that there is no difficulty in following the actions at four separate but simultaneous landing points. Stories of heroism and of initiative, and also sadly of failure of will, abound on all sides. The aspect of the knife-edge that separated success and failure is very well conveyed. Bernard Freyberg emerges as a tragic figure, a man of magnificent personal courage and a Homeric hero of an earlier war, and in the same general theatre, but sadly out of his depth in the Cretan operation. One is reminded poignantly of the merciless revelation of John Bell Hood's weakness as a commander during his invasion of Tennessee in late 1864. The only fault I found with the Resistance part of the book was that it was too short, and I would have enjoyed a more extended account of individual actions. Inspired by this, I am now keen to locate "The Cretan Runner", so favourably mentioned by the author. Given the prominent role played in the Resistance story by Patrick Leigh-Fermor, those who enjoy this book will be entranced by his two books detailing a foot journey he made as a youth from Hook of Holland to Istanbul in 1934. In Crete, he and small band of heroes, British, Commonwealth and Greek, faced terrifying consequences for any failure when they faced a ruthless and merciless foe. This book underlines how high was the price paid for freedom in the 1940's, and how dreadful were the consequences of disarmament and pacifism in the democracies in the two previous decades - a lesson we forget at our peril.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Defeat from the jaws of victory?,
Much like Maj Gen Freyberg's performance commanding the allied forces during the German airborne invasion of Crete I would say that overall this book was somehow a defeat where victory should have been assured. Reading some of the reviews above I was relieved to see that I was not alone in finding that the book's narrative did not always flow due to an obsession for peripheral detail as individuals' entered or departed the scene or re-entered or re-departed...or re-re-entered.....with a dog. At times I found his attention to detail for the, shall we say, 'members of the establishment' quite cringe-worthy at times. I don't really care that Nancy Double-Barrell, sister of Nigel Double-Barrell who went on to captain Oxford's lacrosse team, was one time lady in waiting to Princess This-or-that! Give that rubbish an asterisk and let those that care read it in the appendices. I agree too that the lack of maps was frustrating. I gave it 3 stars though as when it was good it was very good. The final chapters were especially very hard work as he seems to have attempted to ensure everyone who needed a mention got one? I do like accuracy and detail but ultimately save a lot of it for the appendices as who can remember all that (now pointless) detail two pages later? No one, but we do try to remember the flow of narrative. I would recommend this book when all is said and done especially as there is a dearth of such topics appearing on the shelves (or web pages) nowadays.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to his later standard,
Sometime between writing this and writing his later, excellent 'Stalingrad' and highly regarded 'Berlin', Beevor seems to have changed his style, improved his research and 'blossomed' as a popular historian - perhaps this accounts for the rework of his (previously) disappointing book on the Spanish Civil War. As one of the few books on the war on Crete this is a disappointment. the narrative fails to 'flow', and there are too many asides, unimportant comments that detract from the main subject. When giving his account of the Battle, well before we get on to the resistance phase after the German victory, there is far too much about the undoubtably brave, obvioulsy colourful, but questionably relevant 'characters' from SOE - at the expense of information and details about the fighting by more conventional Forces. Too much 'gossip' and not enough fact and evaluation, and the maps are woefully inadequate in helping explain the story. He does give a very sympathetic but nonetheless crtical view of General Freyburg. Worth reading because there is little else on the subject available, but nowhere near the standard of his later, deservedly more popular books
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He has produced better...,
I am a big fan of Antony Beevor, enjoying every book that I have read by him. However, this account of the invasion and resistance on Crete during WW2 falls a bit short compared to his epic works on Berlin and the Spanish Civil War.
The best thing about this work is that it does flow well and is written in a very readable style, so you don't get bogged down and I believe it gives a good overview with what was going on from beginning to end.
There are quite a few things which would improve it though. There are not enough maps for a start and the work is so skewed towards a British viewpoint that I would have loved to have found out a bit more about the Cretans and the Germans. The Italians hardly get a mention so I really have no idea what they did on the island ( maybe nothing?! ). Whilst I think the story of the invasion is covered pretty well, covering parallel actions in different areas the occupation/resistance seems a bit bitty. We hear too much about some SOE agents, but only tantalising titbits about others, or about other soldiers left behind after Crete fell, for instance the handy trio of Australians that crop up every now and again...I am assuming they must have had a good story to tell but they are not even named!
One other item that I feel would be really interesting is covering what happened to some of the characters after their involvement in Crete came to an end...what happened to Captain Forrester after he led that amazing charge of Cretan men, women and children!
Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy this book but feel it could have been a lot better.
5.0 out of 5 stars Mayhem in the Med,
Anthony Beevor is one of my favourite writers of War and conflict. He brings to life what could be a dry historical analysis with anecdotes of humanity, gleaned from letters, personal accounts and interview with people who were actually there.Greece and Crete were total disasters for the British Army and the commonwealth troops , another whimsical idea of Churchill rather like the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War base more on sentiment than strategic planning.The main strand running through this campaign is the breathtaking incompetence of the Officer class who hadn't seemed to change very much since the First World War. Public school educated, well connected and aristocratic. It reads like a "school boys adventure": diplomatic bags filled with , not information concerning the War, but the latest cricket scores from Lord's! S.O.E is more like an outward bound trip for schoolboys than a serious behind the lines sabotage unit.Privates are referred to as "soldier servants" attending to the every need of their officers. Laying out picnics in the Balkans admiring the scenery blissfully unaware of the approach of crack SS battalions led by brilliant German generals.Trying to communicate in Classical Greek learnt at Public school and University,more interested in Greek archaeology and the Classics than the realpolitik of the situation.
And at the end the unseemly scramble to leave the island of Crete, officers before men in contrast the the Royal Navy where the Captain is the last to leave a sinking ship.The Australians and the New Zealanders emerge as the real soldiers in this debacle, brave and rowdy, laughing at the colonel Blimp affectations of the British Officer class with their monocles and stiff upper lips.Even the British Tommy Atkins, physically inferior to the Commonwealth troops, pointing to bad diet and housing in England emerges as good natured and plucky unaware of the shambles around them.Even the Cretan "andartes" and civilian resistance emerge as tough, brave and above all loyal to the British Expeditionary Force in the face of a series broken promises and bad faith.
What is shocking is the slaughter of wounded and helpless German troops as they parachuted into the island. For once the Germans appear not as Nazis but honourable,disciplined soldiers obeying the Geneva Convention as best they could. But however this is dressed up by British History it surely must go down as one of the most shameful and pointless strategic episodes of the Second World War.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview,
It is best to review this book in two sections (in the same way it has been written);-
The first part of the book which deals with the fall of Greece and the subsequent Battle for Crete has some superb writing - at times it is as gripping as any thriller (I expected nothing less from the author of the brilliant Stalingrad). Beevor captures the blase arrogance of the British top brass, fully aware of the invasion plans due to the cracking of the German codes (his depiction of Freyberg blithely eating his breakfast while German paratroopers landed all around him is priceless) but entirely lacking the strategic or tactical nous to be able to do anything with that information.
However, it suffers from the pitfalls of many works of military history in that it assumes the general reader has a good working knowledge of the command structure of an army - how large is a division compared to a regiment? or a regiment to a company? Without understanding the amount of men involved its difficult to get a grasp of what was at stake when the two sides were pitted against each other. It also lacks any decent maps (a more criminal omission in a work of military history) so the disposition of forces becomes confusing and the course of the subsequent fighting hard to follow.
The second section of the book which follows the German occupation of the island and the Cretans' dogged resistance is well enough done - its a good introduction to a subject which was unfamiliar to me. But despite Beevor's flair for writing, I found it difficult to distinguish between the innumerable British intelligence officers who came and went from the island and the Cretans' themselves just become an endless list of Greek names. He makes a good defence of the controversial mission to abduct General Kreipe from the island (he claims that the atrocities which have been held up as reprisals for the kidnapping had nothing to do with the kidnapping itself). However, it still seems hard to believe that the Allies would have risked the possibility of such devastating reprisals when Crete had been bypassed in strategic importance by the landings in Sicily.
This is a good overview of an important episode of the war. But the two parts of this story (the battle and the resistance) are really too big and complex to be contained in a single book. The battle section is adequate but the heroism of the resistance needs more room to breathe.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good short history of a complex subject,
The author's style is fast paced and entertaining without loosing track of a strategic overview or the main operational essentials. He provides a good background to invasion, covering political situation, the Greek campaign and evacuation, the organisation of the defence and preparations for the attack. He covers the fighting adequately giving more emphasis to individual experience rather than operational details and analysis of command decisions.
The author squarely blames Freyberg for the Allied defeat, with some justification. Puttick and Hargest, as senior commanders bungling severely in the most important sector deserve at least as much blame yet he gives them relatively less criticism.
A much stronger emphasis is given to the Allied side; although the book's full of anecdotes and personal experiences of fighting men, virtually none appear from the German side. Perhaps the paucity of primary sources makes this impossible.
The last hundred pages deal with the resistance; inevitably, coverage is sketchy with some personalities accorded detailed examination and other important personalities mentioned only in passing. Nevertheless, it's an interesting narrative and the author covers a lot of ground in the short space available. His summary of the internal Cretian politics and infighting are excellent.
This book does not quite measure up to Beevor's Berlin or Stalingrad but it's a good short history of a complex subject: Crete in the Second World War.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great sweeping historical account of the importance of Crete in reducing Hitler's ability to maximise Barbarrosa,
This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Kindle Edition)
Great record of the near allied victory over the nazi paratroopers, a battle lost due to a general sticking to his battle plan without any flex. The book also explains how Hitler chose not to invade Britain with paratroopers, General Student learning many lessons for his defence of Arnheim much later in the war. The book also touches on the cultural aspects of Crete, the local humour and defiance over the years of war, ending with the Greek Civil War, possibly another book?
5.0 out of 5 stars Take this book on holiday to Crete!,
The Germans took Crete by the narrowest of margins, and we knew when and where they were coming. With the benefit of hindsight that armchair warriors have, it was largely a debacle. It is hard to understand how Freyburg and senior regimental officers lost it, even though British military kit was shocking (we didn't produce a decent machine gun or tank during the entire war). Yet in spite of it all, heroes and characters abounded, both Cretan and British, and the loyalty of the Cretans is remarkable. My favourite is John Pedlebury, the former Curator of Knossos, who left his glass eye on his desk when in the mountains, and who now lies in Suda Bay War Cemetary. Take this book to Crete as an anti-dote to the tackiness of the coastal resorts, and travel into the interior to discover the real Cretan people.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
According to the Observer on the cover "The best book we have on Crete". Unfortunately, this statement says more about the other books the Observer has on this topic than about the quality of this tedious story.
Beevor's book claims to be about the German invasion and occupation of Crete in the Second World War and the resistance from its inhabitants. In reality it describes the defense of the island by Common Wealth troops and sabotage actions of British SOE-agents during the occupation.
Partly due to the sole usage of English sources, the story is disappointingly one sided. One of the results is that participants have become caricatures: the Germans are faceless, merciless machines, the Cretans primitive mountain people with a bloodlust and the British romantic, middle-class gentleman looking for an adventure. Another result is that relationships between obscure British agents in the Middle East are described in detail, but the world famous German boxer Max Schmeling who jumped over Crete (and got wounded) is nowhere mentioned in this book.
Finally, based on the descriptions of the many small "victories" of the British during the battle it is unbelievable that the Germans won the battle at all.
It is clear that this is one of Beevor's first books. If you already have "Stalingrad" or "Berlin" on the shelf, do not buy this book unless you want to complete your Beevor collection. Otherwise you will be disappointed.
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Crete: The Battle and the Resistance by Antony Beevor (Hardcover - 2 May 1991)
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