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54 of 58 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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23 of 25 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 Sept. 2009 by catholic reader


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54 of 58 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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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to his later standard, 2 Sept. 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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Defeat from the jaws of victory?, 27 Mar. 2012
By 
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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19 of 22 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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3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview, 16 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Paperback)
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.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 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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5.0 out of 5 stars A most eadable book., 30 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Paperback)
Managed to keep a very fluid and confused battle clear. Fair in his criticism .Has led me to order the Cretan Runner and I have just finished the really excellent biography of Charles Upham VC. So I should be well prepared when I visit the western end of Crete in October!
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5.0 out of 5 stars What Else Can Any Historian say?, 28 Jun. 2013
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Well, they can: and they do but this book is of the highest standard and does Crete proud. What it does to the reputation of Herr Hitler's military men is to see that it was not an honorable invasion and brought out the very worst of their natures.
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13 of 18 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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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars May I opine?, 2 Jun. 2010
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C. Young (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (Paperback)
In considering Crete, and its defence, as an expatriate New Zealander now living in Blighty, I really do feel someone must speak up for the ANZACs.

The defence of Crete was led by New Zealand's Lt Gen Bernhard Freyberg VC, with NZ and Australian soldiers, and British soldiers, e.g. the Black Watch and late arrivals the RM Commandos (whose numbers included Evelyn Waugh). Naturally there were also plenty of Greek Army and Cretan defenders (and Cretan partisans who the Nazis dealt with especially severely).

Beevor's criticisms of Freyberg and subordinates are harsh, and admittedly to an extent warranted - but only to an extent. He also neglects to mention that Freyberg went on to become one of the best Divisional Commanders of WWII. Essentially Freyberg was given mere days to prepare for this onslaught of the Nazi war machine - he and his men had just landed on Crete after a fighting withdrawal from the Greek mainland. They were hardly "fresh" and Crete was hardly a fortress. Freyberg was not allowed to dynamite Maleme Airfield as he wanted to - the one act that might have guaranteed victory. He had hardly any planes - indeed the RAF was forced to depart soon after hostilities began, he had only a very few obsolete tanks and not much artillery, and almost no radios. In his excoriation of Freyberg, Beevor just doesn't seem to "get" a lot of these simple undeniable facts.

Admittedly, there is no denying that maddening mistakes were made. EG: Freyberg did misread Ultra, and seemingly gave too great an emphasis to the threat of seaborne invasion - although it must not be forgotten that the Nazis DID try that route. And, for want of reinforcements (that appalling idiot Hargest), the NZders didn't counter-attack til it was too late, and so ended up conceding Maleme airfield.

But for goodness sake, ordinary Kiwi blokes in khaki with a few rounds of ammo were doing bayonet charges with .303 bolt action Enfield riles against fanatical Falschirmjager armed with Schmeisser submachine guns and weaponry unavailable to the defenders. The German Paratroopers were the cream of Nazi soldiery and society, treated to the best of everything the Nazis had; Blucher's grandson was one of their number, and every officer seemed to be a "von" of some sort. As often as not, the scruffy Kiwi jokers gave the Nazi aristos a bloody nose.

No. The real reason the Germans won at Crete, was because Freyberg wasn't allowed to disable the airfields as he wanted to do, and the Nazis had absolute and total air superiority - why do you think the RAF were later dubbed 'Rare As Fairies' by the NZ troops? The Allies were being constantly dive bombed. And once The Kiwis had conceded Maleme (though Charles Upham VC & Bar seemingly tried to recapture it almost singlehandedly), the German's total air superiority was bound to be a telling factor; the battle could only go one way.

The Commonwealth troops in their evacuation ships were then besieged by the Luftwaffe all the way back to Alexandria. The Royal Navy suffered appallingly in the Med' through Stuka divebombing.

Still, the (unsuccessful) defence of Crete prevented Hitler from using his paratroopers as actual airborne troops ever again - which saved Malta, and therefore the Med', and therefore the British Army east of Gibraltar.

So, I don't think you can say Crete was primarily an example of bad (on-the-ground) leadership. It was an example of bad logistical planning (The allies had No Air Cover and hardly any tanks), and showed the need for modern weapons, better planned and co-ordinated defences, and modern comms (Freyberg's staff had No Radios). Above all, it demonstrated the need for air power. Beevor seems to forget this.

For my money, Beevor's book on Crete was no better than Alan Clarke's - and Beevor (writing in the 1990s) had the benefit of disclosure of Ultra secrets, whereas Clarke (writing in the '60s) did not. It is an interesting read, but it is not "the best book on Crete we have", not by a long stretch.
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Crete: The Battle and the Resistance
Crete: The Battle and the Resistance by Antony Beevor (Paperback - 12 Sept. 2005)
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