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When one hears of the airborne operation that resulted in the German conquest of Crete, the first thing that usually comes to mind is Hitler’s insistence that such operations never be repeated, due to the heavy casualties that were inflicted on his Fallschirmjager. So, paradoxically the greatest success ever achieved by the German airborne service, also brought about the demise of the Fallschirmjager as a means of delivering a strike using vertical envelopment tactics. Thereafter, with the exception of very limited special operations, Germany’s Fallschirmjager were used as elite light infantry.
This is the author’s first book for Osprey, and it’s obvious that his interest in the subject runs very deep as his work bears all the marks of a “labor of love”. For this, I am extremely grateful, since I have always thought that this operation would be a perfect fit for the Campaign Series’ format, and I have been yearning to learn more about the battle. In typical fashion for this series, the author uses 75 B&W photos, one B&W and four color maps, 12 pages of color art, a chronology, a bibliography, an order of battle listing, and an index in order to tell the story. His text is concise and easily digested and consists of the usual items of information we have come to expect in this series. This includes a section on the opposing forces and their commanders, their plans, as well as the actual battle and its aftermath. There is also a section aimed at tourists detailing the locations of the battlefields and memorials, as well as the cemeteries where the combatants are interred. The text covers the entire spectrum of the operation from the grand strategy, down to personal anecdotes. Some of the latter are quite intriguing, to say the least.
The photographs the author has chosen for this book are all very well presented. Reproduction is excellent, depending upon the original source, of course. In addition, he has made a special effort to use only photographs that were either taken on Crete prior to, or during the operation. Other photos that he has used have a direct relationship to the subject as well. With the exception of a few portraits of key individuals, there are no “generic” photos of aircraft, troops or equipment, which could easily be used to illustrate a particular point in the text. In this the author is to be complimented. Captions are also well done and informative. Mr. Gerrard’s artwork depicting certain aspects of the battle, is, as usual, first rate and should prove to be an inspiration to diorama and vignette modelers. The “bird’s-eye view” 3-D CAD maps, as well as the more conventional maps are well-done and include detailed commentary where appropriate.
I only noted a couple of very minor areas where the author went astray. There were some Matilda Mk 2 Infantry tanks with 2-pdr. guns on Crete, which he misidentifies as Matilda Mk 1s. He also states that Fallschirmjager were used in the Polish Campaign in 1939, but I have never read of any such operations (although, I stand to be corrected). The author also tantalizes the reader with a brief mention of the landing of elements of Pz.Rgt. 31 towards the very end of the battle. I’d sure like to know more about this particular point!
In conclusion, this is an outstanding first effort by Mr. Antill; I hope to see more from him. Perhaps he will tackle the Balkan and Greek campaigns that preceded the operations to take Crete?
Frank V. De Sisto