This is a classic account of the battle of Crete, the first airborne attack on a defended island, and a narrowly won German victory in which they suffered such heavy loses that their paratroops were never used in the same way again.
Hall Spencer has managed to combine this eye-level account of the battle with a good account of the background to the battle, starting from the moment Italy invaded Greece and the British decided to help the Greek government. The image of the British involvement in Greece is of a panicked reaction to the German invasion of 1941, but in fact it began earlier, when the Italians began their own unsuccessful invasion. Hall Spencer traces the relationship between the Greek and British governments and military, then moves on to look at the early British involvement in Greece and the eventual evacuation of Allied troops to Crete. We then look at the reasons for the German attack on Crete, before moving on to the battle itself.
Hall Spencer researched and wrote this book at the start of the 1960s, only twenty years after the events described. As a result most of the survivors of the battle were still alive, and many contributed to the book. Hall Spencer's text is thus supported by a well chosen selection of eye witness statements, from both Allied and German participants in the battle. Some of the most compelling of these accounts are the minute-by-minute accounts of the fighting on the ground around the crucial airfields on Crete, where the Germans came close to defeat.
This is one of the best accounts of an individual battle that I have read, combining a look at the background to the battle, an overview of the events and the ground level memories of the participants with great skill.
Author: John Hall Spencer
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books
Year: 1962 originally, 2008 reprint