Heraklion 1941

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Jonathan Ball, Aug 5, 2022.

  1. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Flying home tomorrow after a great fortnight around Heraklion. Lots to post but thought I’d start off with a Fallschirmjäger ‘then and now’ at the Chaniaporta.


    Guy Hudson, Owen, brithm and 6 others like this.
  2. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    The Attack on the Chaniaporta - Then and Now.

    The Chaniaporta is the Western Gate in the old Venetian Walls which surrounded the old town of Heraklion. As the name suggests, its the gateway on the coast road which linked Heraklion to the then capital, Chania further to the west of the Island. In May 1941 the task of securing the west gate was given to III.FJR.1 (3rd Battalion, Fallschirmjager Regiment 1) under the command of Major Karl Lothar Schultz (pictured)


    The Battalion was to drop to the west of the walls around the city. However, 11.FJR.1 (11th Company, Fallschirmjager Regiment 1) under Oberleutnant Becker (pictured) dropped immediately outside of the City walls.


    The area where the bulk of Becker's company dropped is now the location of the athletics stadium. This photo is taken from the top of the walls looking down on the Dropzone. The ferocity of the fire they came under from the walls was wrongly assumed by the FJ to be from British Infantry. In fact, it was from regular Greek Infantry and Cretan civilians who quickly armed themselves with whatever came to hand and joined in the defence of the city. As Major Emmanuel Tsakarakis, commander of the Heraklion Guard commented "The towns of Crete do not surrender, they fall"

    It's worth noting that in 1941 the land beyond the walls was a lot less built up than it was today.


    One platoon from Becker's Company was III.Zug.11 (3rd Platoon, 11 Company) commanded by Leutnant Eberhard Boerger (pictured) landed right in front of the Chaniaporta itself and came under heavy fire.


    This is Boerger’s platoon pictured just a few months before Operation Mercury. Many of the men pictured would be killed in the air or before they’d even removed their parachute harnesses.


    Below is the view today of the Chaniaporta as seen from where men from Boerger's landed.


    This is a then and now comparison from the wall above the gate. The then photo is from the excellent book on the battle for Heraklion by Yannis Prekatsounakis which I'd highly recommend.


    You can see how close some of the men dropped to the gate. Those who weren't shot during the drop (from just 250 metres) were killed almost immediately.



    The Greeks had barricaded the road through the gate with a staggered chicane made from rocks which were around 1.5 metres high. The Cretan civilians were massing at the gate wanting to charge the German positions which were being slowly established by Becker's Company. The FJ responded with concentrated MG and Mortar Fire. This is a then and now showing the Chaniaporta, Chicanes and all from just after the fighting.





    Despite the heavier firepower the FJ enjoyed they were unable to break through the city walls that day and they pulled back during the hours of darkness to try again the following day, 21 May 1941.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2022
    Guy Hudson, andy007, 8RB and 3 others like this.
  3. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Meanwhile, further east was the airfield of Heraklion, another key FJ objective. Just to the south of the airfield was a large rock outcrop with caves around it's base which was the location of the 14th Infantry Brigade HQ. It was from near the HQ that Lt. Gordon Hope-Morley, the Brigades' Intelligence Officer took a sequence of photographs that became some of the most iconic of the Battle.


    Arguably the most well known of these photos is number 6. This was a Ju-52 carrying men from III.Zug.14. The below is a then and now from the approximate position of Hope-Morley on 20 May 1941. The proximity of the airfield is shown by the Germanwings flight to Hamburg taking off from todays airport.



    The below are photos taken from the Crash site of the Ju-52 pictured by Hope-Morley going down in flames. You can see the rock in the top right of the first one. Also note the upended Pak 35/36 the aircraft was carrying and about to drop by parachute in the second photo.



    A German Memorial to the men of III.Zug.14 of FJR1 who were killed during the drop was erected near the crash site.



    Finally, a really smart piece of work by Greek Historian, Nikos Valasiadis. A composite of Hope-Morley's images from a 'then and now' perspective.

    Last edited: Aug 25, 2022
    Guy Hudson and dbf like this.

Share This Page