Stories and Photos of the 2/1st MEN

ANZAC Day 2010

NOTES ON 6th COMPOSITE BRIGADE DURING

CRETE CAMPAIGN MAY 1941

On or about 10 May 1941, I landed in Crete ex. Greece, via the islands, with seventy (70) all ranks.

We were moved from HERAKLION to the 6th. Div. Camp Area at KALIBES near SUDA BAY, there personnel were moved to their respective units, and I reported to Lt. Col.Cremor on about 13 May, and, with other personnel reported to 2/2 Bn Group, which was then under command of Major Caldwell. I brought with me Capt. Goslett, Lieuts Dunlop, Loftus and Baird, and other ranks. This brought the strength of the 2/2 Bn details in the camp to approximately 150 all ranks.

Tentage and bedding were very scarce, and camp accommodation stores non-existent. Shortly after my arrival, it was decided to form units of 16 Brigade, less 2/1 Bn, into a composite unit, to be known as 16th. Composite Bn. This was done, and I was placed in command. The unit had a strength of approximately 300 all ranks. The unit was known as the 16th. Composite Bn. Similar action was taken in regard to the 17th. Brigade details, and similar action in regard to the remaining divisional units.

Efforts were made to arm the 16th. Bn: first with .303 rifles, then partly with .303 and partly with American Springfields. Some Brens and “Tomny” TSMGs were issued, two Vickers guns without tripods, and some Mortars 3″ without base-plate. Improvised tripods and base-plates were obtained, and, if necessary, our weapons could have been fired. In addition, the men had several automatics brought from Greece.

The first position which was occupied was on the high ground overlooking KALIBES VALLEY and including the KALIBES BEACH. A valley ran to the south from KALIBES, and a couple of miles down the road was an Australian Fd. Coy, which came under command for operations.

The ground occupied had previously been occupied by a British unit some weeks previously, I think the “York and Lancs”. However, some tools had been received, and the position was improved.

Part of the responsibility consisted of the protection of the coastal battery of six-inch guns just west of the village, and accordingly the high ground above the battery was occupied.

After two days fresh orders were received to occupy the area at present occupied, and, in addition, that the Composite Bn was respon­sible for the beach defences of the area extending eastwards to the point of SUDA BAY (name forgotten). This meant a front of 4 miles, which was impossible, and accordingly protest was made to Maj Gen. Weston, G.O.C. commanding SUDA defences, who visited the area and agreed that the position was beyond the capacity of the unit to hold, and decreased the area of responsibility until it was more compact.

The area then occupied included the hill referred to pre­viously including KALIBES BEACH included the headland East of KALIBES beach just to the East. This position which was in our capacity to hold against any but a well prepared battalion attack, and was consider­ed satisfactory by all ranks.

Lieut. Dunlop had been appointed Adjutant, and Coy Comdrs were Capt. Caldwell, Capt. Guslett and Lieut. Jaye. Other officers present Included Lieuts. Hill-Griffiths, Tilney and Barclay (2/1 Bn). Lt Adler, Roderick and Derbyshire (2/2 Bn) and an officer from the Guard Bn.

The day following the general inspection, Major Starr of 17 Bde was evacuated to hospital, and I was appointed to command 6th.Brigade Group. The next day Col. Cremor was appointed to command the group, and all the units were added to the 6th. Div. Group. Col. Cremor kept me on as his 2 I/c, and the 6 Bde Headquarters were made in the old Turkish fort overlooking SUDA BAY. It remained in this position generally until the evacuation, although the following, changes in disposition were made. The high feature overlooking SUDA BAY,and directly south of the Turkish fort, was occupied by the A/A Battery, and accordingly a Company was sent up their under command of Capt. Bleeby of 2/3 Fd Regt to occupy the area as an anti-parachute force. Two days prior to the evacuation we were warned that we might have to defend our area from the West as MALEME was cracking. Accordingly, reconnaissance was made with Lieut. Jaye for his Company to be prepared to move from our Eastern area, and to occupy a position overlooking the Western approaches and astride the main road. That afternoon CREFORCE HQ moved into a little gully under an enormous plane tree within our 6th. Bde area, and to the West of our fort.

Dispositions were ordered to be changed and Jaye’s Coy was ordered to move up to occupy the position he had recced during that day. His Coy moved, but on the way was turned back to take part in the evacuation. I was then ordered to revert to the 16 Composite Bn, and given the task acting as flank protection to the force engaged in the withdrawal to SPHAKIA. Accordingly, the 16 Composite Bn dispositions were ordered as follows:- Capt. Goslett’s Coy was to move back to SPHAKIA to hold that area against parachutists, and to assist generally in the evacuation. Capt. Caldwell’s Coy and Lieut. Jaye’s Coy were given the task of cover­ing the two roads leading from RETEMO to the main KALIBES-SPHAKIA ROAD.They were ordered to hold these positions until 1700 hours the follow­ing day. Accordingly, they moved and did occupy the positions until the time stated, when they withdrew.

Lieut. Jay’s Coy was at this time being commanded by Lieut. Loftus, as Jaye became ill and subsequently died in PALESTINE within a week of his return from heart failure.

The orders to the Battalion were to withdraw independently by companies to SPHAKIA, and accordingly BHQ removed to a point down the road after inspecting both flank Coys areas during the day, and made preparations for a check point. The dis-organisation of personnel being evacuated, however, was so great that Coys were unable to keep to the time programme, and got mixed up in between various other units moving South along the road. Whilst waiting at that point, BHQ came under control of Col. Strutt, who had been placed in command of the Traffic Control, and the HQ carried out this duty just South of the little village with the watering point, which is approximately ten (10) miles North of SPHAKIA by road or three (3) miles as the crow flies. Maj. Gen. Weston took over from Col. Strutt on the 30 May, and 16 Composite Bn HQ remained under command of Gen. Weston, who dismissed them at 0600 hrs on 31 May 41 as by that time the whole of the troops, including the rearguard, had passed through our traffic control point. BHQ then proceeded to SPHAKIA and rejoined Capt. Goslett’s Coy and succeeded in collecting two platoons of the other Coys, One of them commanded by Sgt. Dooley, 2/2 Bn Tpt Sgt.

During the night the company was beach guard and controlling evacuation and eventually BHQ, Capt. Goslatt’s Coy and two Platoons, were evacuated by the Destroyers “Napier” and “Nizam” on the night 31 May / 1 June.

Paul Cullen Lt.Col.
Comd. 2 /1 Aus t. Inf. Bn.
21 June 43

The origional document is signed and dated and is held by Mike Waldron.

THESE PHOTOS AND MORE ARE ON THE AWM SITE

NX2484 Reg Paul 2/1st battalion at the Victory Parade in London 8/6/1946 and during the 1950s.

Reg fought with the battalion in the Battle of Crete and spent years in German POW camps.

Photos from his son, David

On the 9th September 1942, while on the way to New Guinea, a bren gun was accidently discharged while cleaning. A five round burst killed Pte Anthony Murphy, Pte M N Bannerman and wounded L/Cpl D Mackay. The two soldiers were buried at sea with full military honours.