Parachutes over Crete:
Scenario Preview, Part Three
I crafted the Panzer Grenadier game system as an infantry-centered game, and I still think it plays best when the opposing sides are high-quality infantry forces. So when I saw the submission that became Parachutes Over Crete, I knew that we needed to publish this game.
The infantry is about as elite as it gets in World War II: German airborne and mountain troops against New Zealanders (including the Maori Battalion) and Australians. Adding to that is the deep sense of desperation for both sides: the Germans have dropped from the skies, with no means of retreat. The Allies will ultimately be out-gunned and destroyed if they let the Germans get a footing on the island. Both sides must attack, and they must do so immediately.
Let’s take a look at the second Prison Valley chapter (Chapter Three), in which the New Zealanders and Australians make their first attempts at a counter-attack.
20 May 1941
Brigadier Edward Puttick, temporary commander of 2nd New Zealand Division, ordered Brigadier Lindsay Inglis of 4th New Zealand Brigade to attack and seize the prison and the airfield the Germans were believed to be constructing nearby. Inglis detailed just one battalion and a handful of tanks to the task, arguing that his other battalions did not know the ground and might become lost in the gathering darkness. The battalion commander in turn sent only two of his companies forward.
“A small two-man tank cautiously nosed its way into view,” von der Heydte wrote later. “The sight of this tank removed half the terror. The sound of its tracks while it had remained invisible had been infinitely more frightening than its appearance now that it had materialized. It attracted all out fire, like a tin roof under a hail storm; nevertheless it kept coming toward us. It had advanced within fifty yards when there was a sudden, ear-splitting detonation. The little tank swerved violently, pulled up with a jerk in front of a telephone pole, and remainder there motionless.” The New Zealand infantry hesitated to go forward after the tank’s destruction, and the attack quickly fell apart.
It’s a pretty weak effort by the New Zealanders, considering the stakes, but then they don’t have to accomplish a whole lot - just find the German airfield (which did not actually exist) and put it out of operation. It will eventually become a night action, making it that much harder for everyone.
20 May 1941
With the rest of his force under pressure, Heidrich ordered Maj. Egon Liebach of the 7th Airborne Division’s Engineer Battalion to send one of his companies to reinforce the parachute infantry. Liebach didn’t believe that a single company could break through the Greek and New Zealand troops infiltrating between his battalion and the German troops around the prison, so he attacked with a much stronger force the assure that the reinforcements would reach his commander.
Liebach spearheaded the attack with two of his companies, which broke through the Greeks to reach Heidrich with minimal losses. His remaining companies disengaged and followed through the opening they had torn in the Greek lines. By dawn Heidrich had collected all of his forces together.
This is fun. It’s a night attack, with the Germans barreling ahead at full speed past a mob of Greeks trying to stop them. The Germans have morale and firepower on their side, while the Greeks . . . well, there are a lot of Greeks. And it’s all in the dark.
21 May 1941
While the New Zealanders made only tentative counter-attacks, an Australian battalion arrived during the night, dispatched by Creforce headquarters to spearhead the assault on Perivolia. The poorly-armed but enthusiastic Greeks would provide support. The Germans for their part had already begun to run out of ammunition and sought out the canisters dropped by Ju52 transports with fresh supplies.
The “Rosary Paratrooper” had his men turn the Church of Ayios Giorgios in a miniature fortress from which they defied repeated Australian attacks. Most of the Germans retreated, but the paratroopers in the church had been cut off and faced attacks from all directions for days, finally emerging when the battle for Crete had been won. The building’s marble pillars are still riddled with bullet holes.
We see the Australians in action for the first time, joining the Greeks to push the Germans back in a small (one map) scenario. Neither side has much in the way of support (no artillery or air power, and very few heavy weapons) so it’s going to be an infantry fight.
You can order Parachutes over Crete right here.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold. Leopold is not parachute-capable.