Review Blog

Jun 01 2010

Creforce: the Anzacs and the Battle of Crete by Stella Tzobanakis

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Black dog books, 2010.ISBN 9781742030821
Middle school. Non Fiction. The story of the German occupation of Crete and the evacuation of thousands of Australian, New Zealand and British troops, leaving many behind, is recreated in this easily digested book from a Greek Australia, who visiting Crete, was enthralled when she saw cemeteries with English names. Asking questions and then researching, Stella Tzobanakis discovered the little known history of the links between Crete and Australia and New Zealand, forged when the people of Crete supported those troops left on the island, and they in turn, helped the resistance movement undermine the German occupying force.
The details with which the author tells the story of the German invasion of Crete in May, 1941, is intoxicating, as we hear of the paratroopers dropping from the sky, the lack of armaments of the Anzac forces repatriated to Crete, the incredible bravery of small groups of men, the sacrifice of some of the people of Crete in trying to save their homeland. With staggering lists of numbers killed, wounded, evacuated, left on the island, in the battalions and so on, the story is lifted from the straight historical record to an exciting account of the dangers each group faced. The story of the evacuation of the allied troops is a story in itself, with a Dunkirk like flotilla of ships taking the men from Crete to Egypt. Submarines were loaded beyond capacity to get the men off, and the ones left behind fled to the hills, where they were helped by local people, or were captured by the Germans. Some allied soldiers captured were taken to the POW camps in Germany and Czechoslovakia, while others remained incarcerated in Crete. Those left on the hills harried the German occupiers, and with help from MI9, supplies were dropped to give assistance to them and the guerilla forces.
Ably supported with maps, statistics, personal stories and pictures, this book, part of black dog book's excellent series, The Drum, will find a readership amongst those students looking at the Anzacs, or Australia's involvement in war, or at the relationship between Crete and Australia. After the war several Cretan brides came to Australia to join their husbands and the post war migration boom saw 160,000 Greece-born people arrive in Australia, nearly half taking up residence in Melbourne. These included many from Crete.
Fran Knight

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