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51 of 54 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

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19 of 21 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...
Published on 2 Sep 2009 by catholic reader


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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clarity brought to a Complex Story, 12 Dec 2001
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.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to his later standard, 2 Sep 2009
This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Paperback)
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
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Defeat from the jaws of victory?, 27 Mar 2012
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GJ Rumble (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Paperback)
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.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He has produced better..., 30 Aug 2006
By 
J. Bloss "jethrox1" (Buckingham,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Paperback)
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.
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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, 2 Mar 2013
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?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good short history of a complex subject, 19 July 2008
By 
D. Halliday (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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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.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 18 Feb 2009
This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Paperback)
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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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Singularly shallow, 7 April 2010
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This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Paperback)
Beevor is one of the most gifted among mainstream historians and the success of his books reflects his ability in weaving compelling narrative with independent and stimulating points of views. The controversies created in Russia by his previous books Stalingrad and the Battle for Berlin amply prove this. I am afraid that no such discussions will originate from this early work.
The book is singularly shallow, heaping together a string of facts mostly unconnected and avoiding to create a convincing broader picture of this pivotal battle, where against all odds German troops managed to win an already lost battle. The average reader remain with the bittersweet taste of an imperfect book, occasionally entertaining but mostly limping in a heavy style that fails to describe in a balanced way the struggle for the island. I found especially disturbing the author's double standard in respect of the numerous war crimes committed by British and Greek troops and irregulars against wounded and surrendering German soldiers. He glosses over them in a way similar to the one portrayed by Sebag Montefiore in the similarly failed Dunkirk. Added to this the description of British officers invariably as gentleman sportsmen, Germans as thick, senseless murderers, Greek as chivalrous bandits, only adds to the general sense of unsatisfaction.
I cannot recommend this as a serious piece of historical work while I am open for suggestions for the definite book on Operation Merkur.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heroism, missed opportunities on both sides, and tragic human loss, 5 July 2014
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This is the definitive book on the German invasion and occupation of Crete. It is a story of heroism and muddled planning on both the German and British Commonwealth sides. Rarely has a general received such good intelligence prior to a campaign as the NZ General Freyburg. But he failed to look at this information with the clarity it needed. Of course this is easy to say in retrospect but then that is one of the lessons to be drawn from what happened. The other aspect of this terrible battle which I personally find difficult is the massacre of the German paratroops who landed so often on top of Allied positions. Some of the killing was like gratuitous hunting just to watch the prey drop. But the German response too became vicious, especially against the civilian population. The battle left both German and British troops with traumatised guilt because of the ferocity of the engagements and the ruthless treatment sometimes meted out. One German paratroop officer whp served in Crete and later at Monte Cassino who later became a Catholic priest said that whatever the heroics on both sides in the end it proved the wastefulness of war.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 30 Jan 2014
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I purchased this book as I was always aware of the battle of crete but knew little detail about it. The fate of the fallschirmjager was also of interest. The book did a superb job of setting the scene, describing the battle and importantly the aftermath. Anecdotes which can only be passed on by individuals who were actually there and often missed from official histories also added personal colour and humanity to the tale. Well researched and logically structured. Highly recommended.
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Crete: The Battle and the Resistance
Crete: The Battle and the Resistance by Antony Beevor (Paperback - 12 Sep 2005)
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