It was one of the most dramatic battles of the Second World War--a truly epic story. For both Allies and Axis powers, Crete offered immense strategic importance for controlling the Mediterranean, with great naval harbors, level areas for airfields, and mountain anti-aircraft positions. How did it happen, then, that in 1941, German paratroopers--outnumbered 5 to 1 and with only a single airstrip for supply and reinforcement--spectacularly overcame thousands of British troops and an even larger contingent from Greece, to hold Crete till war's end? Even more shocking, all the action took place in a mere five days. An expert historian vividly explains British strategic blunders and tactical failures, along with the brazen efforts of the Germans.
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Alan Clark made his reputation as a military historian with The Donkeys, an account of the First World War, and Barbarossa, a description of the 1941-45 Russo-German conflict. In 1993 his DIARIES were published to acclaim and have now sold in excess of 250,000 copies. Before his death in 1999 he was MP for Kensington and Chelsea, and had been a Minister in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major.Review:
The epic story of one of the most bitter and dramatic battles fought between German and Allied forces during the whole of the Second World War. The decisive action took place within five days, and twice its outcome hung in the balance. By the third day, the number of German dead exceeded their losses in all other theatres since the outbreak of hostilities. The German parachutists were confined for supply and reinforcements to a single airstrip at Maleme, yet on this one foothold they managed to land over eight thousand men, who defeated an Allied army nearly five times as numerous. With its vivid and compelling description of the battle for Crete, Clark confirmed his reputation as a military historian first recognised with The Donkeys, his account of the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1914. --Olga Federkevich
I first read this book in 1993 while on holiday in Crete, the perfect book to read seeing I was also an avid reader of military history (later to study it). I have since read it again, although not recently, but the book still stands out in my mind. Alan clark is a good historian but he is an even better writer. His style is well suited to epic and tragic events: he writes with so much feeling but also with a common sense wisdom that makes his writing appeal to non-academics. But there is plenty of scholarly research and detail for it to be read by his fellow historians and those students in between. The book is more than just a narrative, it contains some succint analysis than rings true. His accounts of inept and confusing Allied leadership on the island is heartbreaking especially when reading of the efforts the British Commonwealth soldiers were mounting to deal with the German airborne invaders, already de-moralised from the Greek evacuation. Even more unsettling is the fact that they nearly, so closely succeeded. Of course the book also looks at the German plans and tactics within the narrative, and the subsequent hard fighting on landing. This is done in a typically Clark anecdotal fashion with detailed accounts of the bloody skirmishes. Also included is much detailed information on strengths and dispositions that never bogs you down, upsetting the flow. If you liked Barbarossa alot and Clark's style of writing appeals, then The Fall of Crete is a recommended read, especially if one's after something a little less demanding but still requiring thought. --Larry Petersen
I enjoy reading books which cover the factural accounts of World War II. I could not put this book down, it is a first class account of the battle of Crete and illustrates the behind the scenes battle of red tape and communications. A must for the military reader. --David Kirk
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