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"What if Crete had held out?" Topic

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Tango0113 May 2022 9:40 p.m. PST

"I know this will probably devolve into a ton of "well HOW could that have happened?!" stuff, and that's fine, but I don't think i will take part in that.

The actual question is; What if the slap-dash German assault on Crete had resulted in the loss of that German Paratroops Division and a Regiment of Alpine troops trying to raft their way out there… what happens then?

Could Crete have been used as a springboard for the re-capture of the Aegean, and altered Western Allied plans for a 2nd front (meaning, a link up with the Red Army instead of hitting Western Europe) ?…"

More of this Thread here…



emckinney13 May 2022 9:43 p.m. PST

Dumb question. The Brits were evacuating Crete before the German attack. It was utterly exposed to air attack and to Axis coastal forces.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian13 May 2022 10:23 p.m. PST

The Brits on Crete had very limited supplies and ammo.

Tango0113 May 2022 11:25 p.m. PST

As many "What if"… dumb is on the line…

But I understand that the question is not about if the British could sustain in Crete… the author tries to outline a historical variable where Crete holds against the Axis and so… what would be the tactical and strategic implications of it… especially on the African front.


Major Mike14 May 2022 5:34 a.m. PST

It eventually falls to a more proper German assault. It might cause Barbarossa to kick off with fewer troops.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP14 May 2022 7:37 a.m. PST

I put some " what ifs" on here also and it is like some cannot comprehend a "what if?"
You get all the answers as "TO WHY THERE COULD NOT HAVE BEEEN A WHAT IF" ---- attempting to completely nullify the " WHAT IF" possibilities.
What if the Alamo had not fallen?
Most of us know why it fell and all the causes to it -- but we must assume the "WHAT IF" changes some of those reasons ???
So part of your " WHAT IF" here --- the reasonable person would assume the Brits were obviously not low on ammunition, etc. as just a part of the "WHAT IF."
They just can't.

For me, not considering "WHAT IFs" almost nullifies the purpose of wargaming.

Russ Dunaway

14Bore14 May 2022 9:07 a.m. PST

Played a few times 40 years ago a board game of Crete, British never win though seems they should be able to.

Gus Fring14 May 2022 10:06 a.m. PST

"What if" Churchill had never withdrawn those British divisions to throw away in Greece and Crete and instead had used them to throw the Italians out of North Africa?
I think that's a much more valid question.

emckinney14 May 2022 10:46 a.m. PST

+1 Gus Fring

OTOH, the Greeks were holding against the Italians, so it seemed as though there was a possibility for useful action. Possible German reactions clearly weren't thought through.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP14 May 2022 1:49 p.m. PST

Could Crete have been used as a springboard for the re-capture of the Aegean, and altered Western Allied plans for a 2nd front (meaning, a link up with the Red Army instead of hitting Western Europe) ?

As my very distant cousin states above, the British high command had no intention of holding Crete. It was just a staging area on the withdrawal from yet another idiot Churchillian scheme. Not knowing this, the Germans may have organised a more traditional force to take the island if the airborne & air-landing force was defeated, but whether that had an effect on Barbarossa is open to debate- they may have used the forces that were already earmarked for garrison duties around the Aegean.

The Germans got lucky on Crete. It wasn't just depleted materiel and under-strength units that plagued the Empire forces. There was a fractured and unworkable command structure which was unable to coordinate the available forces, and itself made mistakes. The "mistaken understanding of an order" that led to 22NZ BN abandoning Maleme may actually have been a wrong decision from 2NZ DIV or higher HQ- but disguised to protect the guilty idiot who sent the order. With DIV and higher HQ that operated more competently, and were able to coordinate resistance, then the Germans could easily have failed.

What a German defeat may have done is made the Allies seriously reconsider the time and effort that they were putting into developing their own airborne forces. There was already opposition to them in the HQ of both the US and British armies, so a German defeat may have been all the ammo' that the anti-airborne senior officers needed. If so perhaps there would be no, or reduced, Allied drops on Scicily and D-Day, no Market-Garden and no OP Varsity. How would that have affected those campaigns and the Allies' efforts towards defeating Germany?

Tango0114 May 2022 3:28 p.m. PST



42flanker14 May 2022 3:40 p.m. PST

Perhaps Wavell would not have been fired (for being right). What effect would that have had on the defence of India and the internal politics? Perhaps MOntgomery would not have been appointed GOC 8th Army..

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP14 May 2022 5:39 p.m. PST

There is a case to be made that the Germans made a mistake by spreading themselves out too thin and that a plan for massing main force at a key spot – Heraklion or Maleme airfield spring to mind – they could have suffered less casualties and been better able to bring over reinforcements; might have made the Germans less reluctant to use airborne forces later in the war (for instance, in Russia)

Nine pound round15 May 2022 5:09 a.m. PST

Evelyn Waugh's "Officers and Gentlemen" might have been a very different novel.

Murvihill15 May 2022 6:04 a.m. PST

Typical response to a "What if" question, rejecting the premise instead of responding in good faith.
Let's assume the Germans did just a little worse in their air assault and got their butts kicked in Crete before being ejected.
First, Hitler would have disbanded all German para units. He basically did anyway but this would have been worse for the luftwaffe and the cadre for all the para divisions that fought on the west front would have been disbursed and Luftwaffe field divisions didn't have the same combat reputation as para divisions.
Second, the Greeks may have rallied there as a government in exile.
But, if you draw a straight line from all the nexus of power on the Allied side to all the nexus of power on the axis side you'll find that Crete is nowhere near any of them. It was a sideshow during the war and if allied held, would have continued to be a sideshow. It might have given Churchill more ammo for his Balkans campaign idea, but that would have been stupid and he probably would have been talked out of it anyway.
So I expect strategically it would have ended up like a poor man's Malta, holding on desperately but without being astride anyone's supply lines.

Tango0115 May 2022 3:21 p.m. PST



Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2022 8:18 p.m. PST

I agree with Russ.

To the original question, which I think was a real possibility, I think the Brits would have been forced out eventually because they didn't have the resources to defend the island so close to German airfields. Had they been able to hold despite the difficulties, I think it would have become a backwater that sucked significant German resources away from other theaters making an invasion from there too difficult.

Zephyr115 May 2022 8:56 p.m. PST

If that British archeaologist had had more time to organize the locals, the German effort would likely have been contained & put under seige…

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