CRETE The Airborne Invasion', By T. Saunders. An excellent account of the hard-fought battle for Crete, the world's first successful airborne invasion, in which German air superiority outweighed British Naval power. Strategically important, Crete was also a symbol of Britain's will to resist the hitherto runaway German conquest of the Balkans and Greece. As such Churchill was determined to hold it. The Australian units that formed part of the defending force were: the 2/2nd and 2/3rd Field Regiments, the 2/1st, 2/4th, 2/7th, 2/8th, 2/11th, 16th Brigade Composite and 17th Brigade Composite Battalions, a battery of the 2/3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, and several composite groups of miscellaneous Australian troops. In an operation codenamed "Merkur" (Mercury) over 9,500 German airborne troops landed on Crete on 20 May 1941, their main objectives being the three airfields. They initially suffered heavily at the hands of the defenders but, although held at bay at Retimo and Heraklion, they managed to take control of Maleme airfield by the night of 21 May. This allowed large numbers of German reinforcements to be flown in and begin pushing the Allied forces back towards Canea. On 24 May, continuing pressure from the Luftwaffe forced the British naval forces to withdraw from the waters north of Crete allowing the movement of German shipping from Greece, which had hitherto been prevented. On 27 May, orders were given to evacuate the island and the forces in the Canea-Suda Bay area commenced a withdrawal across the island to the south-coast village of Sphakia. Over 12,000 Allied troops were evacuated from Sphakia over four nights, beginning on 28 May. The withdrawal in the west sealed the fate of the garrisons at Retimo and Heraklion, which had both effectively defeated the Germans. The Heraklion force was evacuated by sea on the night of 28 May, but, surrounded by troops advancing from Canea, the Retimo force was forced to surrender on 29 May. The ill-fated battle for Crete cost the British Commonwealth forces 1,742 killed and 2,225 wounded. Another 11,370 troops were taken prisoner - persistent German air attacks and unsustainable naval losses had caused the Sphakia evacuation to be abandoned prematurely. The Royal Navy lost nine ships around Crete and over 2,000 sailors were killed. Operation "Merkur" had likewise proved costly for the Germans who suffered close to 7,000 fatal casualties.Good one for medal or genealogy researchers of Australians in the Crete battle.