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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Friday 3 May 2019


I am holidaying in Crete for a week, based in the attractive port of Rethymno on the north coast of the Greek island. Probably as far south as you can stretch the Balkans!

The port is dominated by a magnificent Venetian fortress. After the Ottoman pirate Ulic Ali burned the town in 1571, it was decided to build a fort. It was started in 1573 and completed in the 1580’s. The style is similar to the many Venetian coastal forts around the Balkans with its five star bastions and other gun positions.

Prior to the Cretan War in 1645, the fortress had a regular Venetian garrison of 500 men – Italians, French, Dutch and Corsican infantry. This could be supplemented by militia.  The fort fell to the Ottomans in 1646 after a siege of only 24 days. They strengthened the defences, particularly around the gate area. They also added a mosque, which unusually remains today.

It was also used by the Germans in WW2 as their garrison for the area. In 1941, there was a small airfield to the east of Rethymno, and two battalions of the 2ndFallschirmjager were tasked with capturing the airfield and the town. The area was defended by 19thAustralian Infantry Brigade (plus two Greek regiments) who responded quicker than elsewhere and the Germans were pushed back to the olive oil factory at Stavromenos. Events elsewhere meant the town and airfield had to be abandoned and the retreat to the southern coast started. Gebirgsjager relived the paras and captured the town.

The fortress is well worth a visit, not least for the great views.

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