War Cemeteries
Home Up War Cemeteries Derek Twigg

 

The Allied and German War Cemeteries on Crete

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You should visit if you go to Crete.

Allied cemetery

German cemetery

Oberjager Hamann

   

Crete cemetery cross small.JPG (17414 bytes)

Photo J Dillon

This photo was taken by Bernard Lewis in 2007, along with the one below.  Souda Bay is worth a visit if you are on the island.

The British and Commonwealth War Cemetery on Crete is at Suda Bay, which is on the northern coast of Crete.  The cemetery is at the north-western corner of the Bay, 5 kilometres east of Hania, and 3 kilometres north of the Hania - Rethymnon - Heraklion road.  Drive through Suda town past the ferry terminals, then the road forks to the right towards the Akrotiri peninsula and the airport.  Follow that road, then before the road climbs the hill from the Bay, on the right is the cemetery in a lovely secluded spot.  It is in an olive grove right by the sea.  In the photo above, Suda is to the right at the foot of the large slope, the Akrotiri peninsula is off picture to the left.

Buried in the cemetery are those who were killed during the operations in Crete, many of whose graves are not identified.  This is due to the fact that the German occupying forces moved many of the remains from their graves in the fighting areas into four large burial grounds, which they called British Military Cemeteries, and in so doing lost the identities of the casualties.  The graves were moved into the war cemetery by 21 and 22 Australian War Graves Units from burial grounds and other sites in various parts of the island.  The special memorials commemorate men known to have been buried in certain groups of graves but whose actual graves within those groups cannot be exactly determined.  The memorials therefore are inscribed "Buried near this spot".  The other special memorial bears the inscription "Believed to be".  Those whose graves are not identified are commemorated by name on the Athens Memorial to the men of the land forces of the British Commonwealth who lost their lives during the campaigns in Greece and Crete in 1941 and 1944-1945, in the Dodecanese Islands in 1943-1945 and in Yugoslavia in 1943-1945, and have no known grave.  This stands in Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens.  (This paragraph is from the War Graves Commission web site).  The German War Cemetery is on a hill behind the airfield at Maleme, where many of the young paratroopers died.

However, those who visit may notice a headstone for a German soldier.  See the section at the bottom of this page.

Like all cemeteries maintained by the War Graves Commission, it is beautifully kept.  You are struck not just by the hundreds of white headstones, but by the ages of the young men buried there.  I would urge all who go to Crete on holiday to give just 1 hour of their time to visit the cemetery, the lads there deserve it.

Crete cemetery graves small.JPG (26361 bytes)
 Photo J Dillon

  

German War Cemetery

It is a tribute to the people of Crete that they help to maintain the cemetery of those who invaded them in the May of 1941.  Like the Allied cemetery, this is also beautifully maintained.  To find it you drive out to Maleme, and look for the turning on your left as you drive West.  It is on one of the hills over-looking Maleme airfield, where many of them died as they came in by parachute.   More than 4000 German troops are buried here.  The headstones are in fact tablets laid flat on the ground, one tablet for two men.   At intervals there are also small stone crosses as you can see below.  The photo below also shows Maleme airfield and the two runways.  There is also a small visitor centre on the path up to the cemetery.  When he was alive George Psychoundakis (The Cretan Runner) tended the graves at the cemetery.

German cemetery1.JPG (22120 bytes)

Photo J Dillon

Photo above by Gianni Avalle from Italy

Oberjager Hamann
When I visited Souda Bay I noticed the headstone for a German soldier, but at that time I had not started the site, and did not think too much about it.  However in November 2002 I was contacted by Allan Richardson who had also noticed the grave, and contacted me to see if I knew why he was buried at Souda Bay rather then the German cemetery at Maleme.  I had no answer, but contacted the German equivalent of the War Graves Commission.  I received the reply below in German, which Allan then translated for me.
Three dead Germans are laid to rest in the British soldiers’ cemetery at Souda Bay on Crete - two civilians as well as Alfred Hamann, whose rank was that of a corporal. The fact that he is buried in Souda Bay is the result of a mistake. His mortal remains were discovered near Maleme in 1956 while building work was being carried out. At the request of the local police chief, his identity tag was removed from the body, and his remains were again buried provisionally in a garden in Maleme.  

In 1960 his remains were recovered by the re-burial service of the Volksbund. The only thing that was found on him was a watch which had been made in England. For this reason, the body was held to be that of a fallen British solder and was handed over to the British War Graves Commission, which had the remains buried in Souda Bay.  

Only later was it discovered that in fact it was the following German soldier:  

Alfred Hamann

Rank: Corporal

Born: March 12, 1918 in Berlin-Treptow

Unit: 10th Sturm-Regiment

Died on: 20.05.1941 

Following an agreement reached between the Commonwealth War Grave Commission and the Volksbund, a decision was taken not to transfer the remains again from Souda Bay to the Maleme cemetery. The two German civilians - Carl Wagner and Johann Troyer - were buried in Souda Bay as a result of a mistake made by WGC staff. After details of their nationality were clarified, their mortal remains were left in the British soldiers’ cemetery.