20 May 2011

Battle of Crete veterans honoured 70 years on

6:50 pm on 20 May 2011

New Zealand veterans have been honoured at the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Crete commemorations.

New Zealand troops faced a massive attack by German soldiers arriving on gliders and by parachutes on the island on 20 May 1941.

The battle was the scene of one of the most dramatic clashes of World War II and a major defeat for the Allies.

Eight-thousand New Zealanders took part alongside British, Australian and Greek troops and Cretan civilians. Some 671 New Zealanders were killed and more than 2000 taken as prisoners of war.

On Friday, more than 100 people stood at the National War Memorial in Wellington while the Royal New Zealand Air Force brass ensemble played the Greek national anthem.

Many dignitaries, including Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, attended the wreath-laying ceremony.

Veterans Affairs Minister Judith Collins thanked the 16 men present who took part in the battle and told them their courage would never be forgotten.

Harry Smith, a platoon sergeant in the 22nd Battalion, attended the commemoration in the capital.

"I lost some of my very good friends there, it was probably one of the most notable battles we fought in. Communications were so very bad, it was almost unbelievable."

About 200 New Zealand veterans and family members travelled to Crete to take part in commemorations.