This book is another in James Holland's fictional WW2 series, featuring Jack Tanner, the Wiltshire NCO serving in the Yorkshire Rangers. This instalment is set in Crete during the German invasion in 1941.
As with others in this series, you get an overview of the campaign by occasionally shifting the focus to General Fryberg's HQ. He faced several challenges in defending the island, not least poor communication due to the shortage of radios. However, Fryberg's fatal error was not counterattacking when the Fallschirmjager landed, particularly at Maleme. The chances of the Germans reinforcing by sea were slim, and the lightly armed and outnumbered Fallschirmjager were allowed to consolidate.
This is reflected in Jack Tanner's battalion based in Heraklion. The Fallschirmjager attack the town but are repulsed, and then they simply sit behind the walls in defensive positions. There are some entertaining subplots involving a new officer and the Cretan Andartes. Even some love interest for the bold Jack. The running theme is a tussle with a Fallschirmjager officer. Holland sticks closely to the actual history, although there are gaps in our knowledge of the campaign. British war diaries were written up later, and as Holland puts it, 'Paratroopers carried little with them into battle – typewriters, paper and pencils were not a top priority.'
Along with the rest of the Empire forces, the Yorkshire rangers are evacuated by sea, only to have their boat sunk. This means a march across the island to be evacuated on the southern coast, with the Germans doing their best to catch them and the Andartes. I won't spoil the story, but the focus is on small unit actions, which are well-researched and described.
I really enjoyed this book, and I have already started the next in the series, which is set in the Western Desert.
|The German cemetery at Maleme. Most units suffered between 50% and 70% casualties.
|German Gebirgsjager in 15mm were flown in to reinforce the Fallschirmjager.