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The Rock-itt : November 2011
THE ANZACS AT 42ND STREET OR THE BATTLE OF SOUDA BAY, CHANIA, CRETE Another little known engagement which was heroic in its nature and was probably more fitting to an attack in the Great War, involved infantry from Australia and New Zealand alongside a road in western Crete on Tuesday 27th May 1941 near the natural port of Souda Bay. With German and Austrian forces gaining a foothold on the western end of this mountainous island in the middle of the Mediterranean having invaded by parachute on the 20th May in “Operation Merkur”, the balance of control for the island was at a critical stage. The large well protected harbour of Souda Bay, which was still in Allied hands and full of Royal Navy vessels of various descriptions, was the final key to the Nazi determination to subjugate the British and Empire forces. On this Sunday the objective of the invader was to capture the port and effectively cut off supply to the Allied forces. W ith control of the airfield at Maleme already in German hands, and with complete control of the air, with the powerful Messerschmitt Bf 109’s and Stuka Dive Bombers, the defending forces were at a distinct disadvantage. Contact with the invaders was sporadic as the Nazi airborne force continued to probe for weakness in the Allied defensive system which was actively engaged in stalling operations to cover a full retreat. It was on this Tuesday that 6 understrength ANZAC Battalions, (2 Australian and 4 New Zealand - including one Maori Battalion), at probably no more than 50% of normal strength, were dug in alongside a dusty track known as 42 nd Street, just to the west of the port. At about 11am the Alpine troops of 1 Battalion of the 141st Gebirgsjager Regim ent (an elite battalion of German Mountain troops) were seen approaching 42nd Street. In accordance with their orders the defenders allowed the Germans to make close contact (a tactic designed to counter the involvement of the Luftwaffe as it would negate their air supremacy as it would force them to disengage due to the risk of killing their own troops) Following a successful bayonet charge at the village of Galatas two days previously, a planned and effective bayonet charge was successfully undertaken. The Germans were totally surprised to be attacked by some 300 yelling, bayonet-wielding ANZACS (especially from a retreating force which the Germans considered to be a demoralised rabble). By Simon Lyon The final resting place of over 4,000 German Fallschirmjager (Paratroopers) near Maleme, Cret e