Allies hold the island of Crete


Based on the "Second World War" channel, the British could have hold Crete, but due to "stupidity", they lost the island to the Germans. But what if they have hold the island, what use could it be made for the British (and Americans later) for the Army/Navy/Air Force?
 
This thread covers this pretty extensively.

The gist of it, as I understand it is that it would not likely make a great base to attack from, other than minor raids but would have shielded allied shipping in the eastern Med and reduced axis shipping lanes to North Africa, either wrapping that up faster or forcing the Germans to somehow get a hold of Tunis, with the butterflies that would bring.
Additionally, The Greek government is set up on Greek soil with greater post war legitimacy and increased moral for Greek resistance. Possibly with some Aegean island grabbing here and there.
There is an argument on wether the allies would have been able to stay or wether they would have evacuated anyway but the consensus seems to be that they would hold. Probably shifting more responsibility over to the Greek government as much as possible to free up men for elsewhere.
 
Sorry to quote myself, but I couldn't upload this map otherwise.
This map handily shows both the Axis shipping routes to North Africa and the range of the tactical aircraft based in Malta. Many of these convoy routes were beyond the range of the Swordfish based in Malta and only had to worry about daylight wavetop bombing by Blenheims, however if Crete held Swordfish from there could close that gap and Blenheims could operate from both Malta and Crete.

On the defensive, if the Axis hold the Benghazi bulge the Commonwealth can route Malta convoy right up to Crete to avoid Axis air attack, making Malta's position far less tenuous.

By late 1941 Allied material superiority was really coming into play, so Crete could begin to be loaded up with aircraft and dominate the Aegean and lower Balkans.
 
Perhaps as a POD the Greek government keeps the 5th Division there to oppose any landings by the Italians. This extra division is more then enough to stop the Germans.

The extra coverage could seriously help the Royal Navy and RAF in interdicting supplies and lead to a earlier conclusion of the North Africa campaign with fewer losses for themselves. It would also make it easier for the Greek government in exile in facing off against the communists and also give them a division or two when they go back to the mainland.

How would this effect Cyrpus though?
 
AIUI most of the oil that the Italians did have came from Romania which was transported by sea via the Bosporus and Aegean.

If the Allies hold Crete it will have to go through the Corinth Canal because going around the tip of mainland Greece would be suicidal or require a very strong escort. And it would be easier to bomb the Corinth Canal from air bases in Crete than air bases in Egypt.
 
Perhaps as a POD the Greek government keeps the 5th Division there to oppose any landings by the Italians. This extra division is more then enough to stop the Germans.

The extra coverage could seriously help the Royal Navy and RAF in interdicting supplies and lead to a earlier conclusion of the North Africa campaign with fewer losses for themselves. It would also make it easier for the Greek government in exile in facing off against the communists and also give them a division or two when they go back to the mainland.

How would this effect Cyrpus though?
While an extra division would be helpful, there were plenty enough men to hold Crete if they were used well. The defence of Crete has some .... shall we say questionable decisions attached to it.
 

Based on the "Second World War" channel, the British could have hold Crete, but due to "stupidity", they lost the island to the Germans. But what if they have hold the island, what use could it be made for the British (and Americans later) for the Army/Navy/Air Force?
You have to consider or think of Crete as being effectively 3 large Islands - connected by pretty poor land bridges as far as the geography goes

While on paper the 'British' and Greeks have far more troops etc than the Germans they have a few problems

The Greek forces a mixed bag of about 10000 men had just 52 odd LMGs between them - the Ammunition they used was one that the British did not and while they had just about enough rifles (and a mix of types and calibre at that) for the fighting units many of the Infantry had less than 30 rounds a rifle and some had none which seriously limited their effectiveness.

The NZ division - the principle fighting unit - while it had suffered some losses in Greece it had retained its cohesion but the biggest issue was the loss of much of its MT and heavy equipment including most of its artillery when it was evacuated.

So its and the various Infantry Brigades and composite 'infantry' units ability to move around (remember consider the place to be 3 islands) and respond to the invasion was severely constrained.

Lack of Radio and reliance of wire communication and runners resulted in the confusion that was the Kiwis abandoning the defence of Maleme Airfield and allowing the FJs to recover from their fucked up failed 4 LZ plan (and failed seaborne landings) and concentrate the follow on waves at a single point (Maleme).

The failure to immediately counter attack by the 2nd NZ is again down to poor comms and inexperienced staff officers (who believed that a sea landing must naturally follow and had deployed accordingly - to be fair they would have been aware of the navys attempts at intercepting them) as well as the armys inability to recognise the importance of the Airfield to the campaign allowing the Germans to establish an Airhead.

So how is all of this addressed?

Well I have a POD for that.

The Australian and New Zealand Commanders drag their feet over the Greek deployment and rather than simply accepting the command at face value about their respective governments being happy about this adventure instead demur and seek political guidance.

This kicks off a bit of a crisis between the various heads of government and by the time permission is given its too late and the Germans have already stolen a march

Realising that it is too late to deploy the expeditionary force to Greece - combat loaded forces (Principally the New Zealand Division) are deployed directly to Crete - while the ships intending to deploy the Commonwealth forces are instead used to evacuate the Greek forces from the mainland.

Many of the Greek combat units are landed on Crete and it is decided to rearm them with weapons, equipment, AFVs and some artillery taken from the Italian's during Compass until such a time as Commonwealth equipment can be used to rearm them.

In time it is hoped that they will be able to take over the main responsibility for the defence of the islands

The 2nd NZ Division as well as the other principle Commonwealth forces ITTL has all of its ToOE including its full allocation of MT and Artillery and other equipment making it much more mobile than OTL and having better communications.

Far more units of the Greek army have been evacuated and these units lack of equipment is rectified in some part with Italian equipment, ammunition and supplies - everything from Carcano rifles to Brixa mortars and Brida Machine guns as well as several dozen L3/33 Tankettes and enough artillery to form several battery worth of artillery

The additional sealift allows for more of the 'useless mouths' to be evacuated than OTL.

The upshot being that the Greek forces are able to make a far greater showing and the Commonwealth formations have far greater mobility and cohesion and are able to more readily react by concentrating greater forces at any LZ.

The 4 principle LZ are effectively snuffed out but unlike OTL there is no mistake at Maleme and after several days of trying to force through seaborne it becomes clear that the first waves have been destroyed and the German commanders reluctantly call it off.

Losses to the FJ in terms of dead and wounded are lower than OTL but POWs are much higher with the first and in some cases 2nd wave formations of the Principle fighting formations of the 7th Flieger Division and Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1 being totally wiped out and in many cases those units being reduced to cadre.

The Luftwaffe Falshirmjeager units are effectively disbanded following the Crete Disaster with the manpower used to form the core of several Luftwaffe field Divisions

Years later it is suggested that Admiral Canaris head of Abwehr had deliberately mislead the German high command by claiming that there was in addition to the lightly armed and 'disorganised' Greek troops only 5000 mostly Lines Of Communication (RAF etc) commonwealth troops on the Island which explains the somewhat foolhardy very optimistic 4 wildly dispersed Landing zones rather than one concentrated one which 'might' have had some chance of success.

ITTL with no desperate attempts to relieve and then evacuate the Allied forces the RN suffers fewer losses.
 

Errolwi

Monthly Donor
The Australian and New Zealand Commanders drag their feet over the Greek deployment and rather than simply accepting the command at face value about their respective governments being happy about this adventure instead demur and seek political guidance.

This kicks off a bit of a crisis between the various heads of government and by the time permission is given its too late and the Germans have already stolen a march

Realising that it is too late to deploy the expeditionary force to Greece - combat loaded forces (Principally the New Zealand Division) are deployed directly to Crete - while the ships intending to deploy the Commonwealth forces are instead used to evacuate the Greek forces from the mainland.
Good overall, especially the bit about lack of radios. Minor point, given the lies told OTL by the British to the other parties in the discussion and the realities that will become apparent with the slightest investigation, the AU and NZ Governments aren't going to give permission to deploy to the mainland regardless of timing. Supplying substantial forces on Crete in the face of presumed Axis airpower is also going to be a problem (taking off useless mouths will help). The War Cabinet may know that Barbarossa is imminent (drawing off the Luftwaffe), but they aren't going to tell Freyberg and Blamey that when they query maintaining the garrison for months.
Also, there is a good chance that the Axis won't attempt to take Crete if they think it has a good garrison.
 
Keeping Crete will also influence Axis defensive deployments later in the war. Invading Italy through Sicily or invading through Greece will be debated. The Germans will also have to invest heavily in air defences in Greece.

Keeping Crete will also severely limit Axis chances of suppying the Dodecanese. I suspect that the Allies may try to land there in 1942, depending on how the N. African campaign goes.
 
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Good overall, especially the bit about lack of radios. Minor point, given the lies told OTL by the British to the other parties in the discussion and the realities that will become apparent with the slightest investigation, the AU and NZ Governments aren't going to give permission to deploy to the mainland regardless of timing. Supplying substantial forces on Crete in the face of presumed Axis airpower is also going to be a problem (taking off useless mouths will help). The War Cabinet may know that Barbarossa is imminent (drawing off the Luftwaffe), but they aren't going to tell Freyberg and Blamey that when they query maintaining the garrison for months.
Also, there is a good chance that the Axis won't attempt to take Crete if they think it has a good garrison.
The Germans OTL did not appreciate how strong the Allies where on Crete that is unlikely to change

They certainly would not have diluted their strength over 4 unsupported LZs had they had a full appreciation unless they were deliberately trying to fail

In fact OTL everything else being equal had the Kiwis not abandoned Maleme prematurely its fairly clear the invasion would have failed on day 1
 
Many of the Greek combat units are landed on Crete and it is decided to rearm them with weapons, equipment, AFVs and some artillery taken from the Italian's during Compass until such a time as Commonwealth equipment can be used to rearm them.
In otl, the greek troops were recruits straight from the boot camps in Peloponnese with only a few weeks of training and cadet schools along with a few gendarmes. Place a veteran greek division such as the 5th (cretan) or perhaps a 2nd one as well and you are done. These fellas knew how to use italian captured guns from the albanian front.


If the Allies hold Crete it will have to go through the Corinth Canal because going around the tip of mainland Greece would be suicidal or require a very strong escort.
The beauty is that the canal is prone to landslides. A 4000 lb cookie once in a while would keep it closed. The RAF had these cookies since 1941.
 
The beauty is that the canal is prone to landslides. A 4000 lb cookie once in a while would keep it closed. The RAF had these cookies since 1941.
True although expect lots of 109's and AA guns surrounding it as much as possible. That likely means night bombing and we know how accurate that was. A near miss with a cookie probably will collapse the canal but they might need fifty or so to land that hit.
 
True although expect lots of 109's and AA guns surrounding it as much as possible. That likely means night bombing and we know how accurate that was. A near miss with a cookie probably will collapse the canal but they might need fifty or so to land that hit.
Just get Leonard on the case he loved those jobs
 

Marc

Donor
A very aside note: One of the most daring stories out of WW2 was the kidnapping of a German general on Crete. Leigh Fermor's exploit is quite literally still the stuff of legend, but then he really was a living legend in his time.
Well worth the read:
'Patrick Leigh Fermor: an Adventure' by Artemis Cooper
 
In otl, the greek troops were recruits straight from the boot camps in Peloponnese with only a few weeks of training and cadet schools along with a few gendarmes. Place a veteran greek division such as the 5th (cretan) or perhaps a 2nd one as well and you are done. These fellas knew how to use Italian captured guns from the Albanian front.
Yep - I am quite unashamedly keeping the other British Commonwealth units in Egypt and Cyrenaica awaiting the blooming of a sunflower.....
 
The simple fact that it would be easier to run convoys to Malta from the Eastern Med. would be huge. You probably won't need PEDESTAL in a timeline that has Crete in Allied hands and while PEDESTAL was a strategic victory (as in it achieved its aims), the butcher's bill was brutal.
 
Although you wouldn't be able to base large bomber-forces on Crete, having 2-3 squadrons would enable the mining of the Danube to begin earlier, which is likely to cause considerable inconvenience to the Germans.
 
The beauty is that the canal is prone to landslides. A 4000 lb cookie once in a while would keep it closed. The RAF had these cookies since 1941.
You may like this...

The Wellington was capable of carrying one cookie IIRC.

There were several Wellington squadrons in No. 257 (Bomber) Wing/No. 205 (Bomber) Group in 1941 and it was based in Egypt.

A flight Wellingtons operating from a forward base in Crete could make more sorties to the Corinth Canal than a squadron of Wellingtons based in Egypt because of the shorter distance.
 
Yep - I am quite unashamedly keeping the other British Commonwealth units in Egypt and Cyrenaica awaiting the blooming of a sunflower.....
If you do that the BEC forces hold Crete and Cyrenaica. Rommel will be lucky to get more than a few tens of miles past El Aghelia.

The BEC armies don't loose the tens of thousands of men that became battle casualties and POWs in the OTL campaigns, because they don't happen or have radically different endings. They don't loose 3-4 divisions worth of equipment either. The losses of British and Greek warships in the evacuations of mainland Greece and Crete are butterflied away. So are the naval losses in the siege of Tobruk, because there isn't one ITTL.

That means:
  • A stronger Mediterranean Fleet in the second half of 1941, which has the use of Suda Bay and Benghazi as forward bases.
  • It's easier to supply Malta. That allows more oil to be sent there making it possible to send Force K there sooner.
  • Hitler may think that sending U-boats to the Mediterranean isn't worth it. That may prevent the sinkings of Ark Royal and Barham.
  • The losses of Ark Royal and Barham might have been partly due to inadequate destroyer screens. Loosing fewer destroyers off mainland Greece, Crete and Tobruk means there are more destroyers to screen the fleet. That would also prevent the immobilising of Queen Elisabeth and Valiant. IOTL they should have been at sea escorting a convoy to Malta, but had to remain in port for want of destroyers to screen them.
  • The railway from Egypt to the vicinity of Tobruk will be completed sooner.
  • The 950mm gauge railways radiating from Benghazi might be converted to the standard gauge and might be extended towards El Aghelia. There won't be enough time to fill the gap between Barce and Tobruk by the end of 1941, but it might be done in the first half of 1942.
  • Richard O'Connor becomes commander of the 8th Army when it was formed. Phillip Neame may remain in command of XIII Corps.
  • Archibald Wavell remains in the Middle East and Claude Auchinleck remains in India. AIUI Auchinleck was a good man in the wrong job and it would have been much better had he been left in India, which was the job he was ideally suited to do.
  • The OTL Operations Brevity, Battleaxe and Crusader are butterflied away.
  • We probably have an invasion of Tripolitania instead of Operation Crusader. AIUI the OTL invasion of Tripolitania which was to have followed Operation Crusader was called Operation Acrobat.
Does the 8th Army enter Tripoli on New Year's Day 1942?

The effects of the reduced naval losses from the evacuation of mainland Greece to the end of 1941 on events in the Far East from 7th December 1941 to the middle of 1942 aught to be obvious. The consequences of the early clearance of Libya aught to be obvious as well.

And there would probably be an earlier invasion of Tunisia from Libya to complement Operation Torch. IOTL the 8th Army didn't eter Tripoli until 23rd January 1943. Therefore, it has a head start of about 10 weeks ITTL.
 
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This has effects outside of the region. Not losing Crete means there are over 10,000 more British soldiers to deploy elsewhere, which may well help prevent (or at least delay) the fall of Malaya. It will also significantly increase Axis losses, quite possibly more than doubling them.
 
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