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Layforce 'Spanish Company' - E Company, D Battalion in Crete 1941  XML
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Joined: 17/09/2018 18:13:31
Messages: 2


As part of some family history work, I?m looking for some insights into the movement of the Layforce ?Spanish Company? in Crete 1941, where most personnel were ultimately captured.

As far as I can ascertain, this would be E Company of D Battalion Layforce, comprising 63 Republican fighters exiled from Spain by 1939. They originally joined the newly formed 50 ME Commando after being recruited (via the Free French?) in French refugee camps.

I?m visiting Crete this autumn and would like to get a sense of the locations of the Company?s actions.

My understanding so far is that E Company was part of Young?s rearguard covering the southward route that the retreating NZ Battalions followed from Chania to the embarkation point in Sphakia.

I?m trying to find exact positions of engagements and make sense of where most members of E Company were captured. Drawing on maps available in various (online) publications, I think I can see that the position they were defending near Beritiana is just off the main Chania ? Retimo road, north of (and downhill from) what is today called Megala Chorafia.

Accounts of the company?s action here vary. It appears there was an engagement with motorised elements of Wittman?s Advance Guard. At this point, Lt. Col. Young suggests that the Spanish Company had ?disappeared? and a reserve Company from the 28th Battalion (Maori) was brought up to fill in.

While one of the ?Osprey? histories bluntly suggests that the Company ?deserted?, Davin?s history (?Crete?, 1953) suggests that E Company may have joined Layforce A Battalion, which passed through the position on its retreat from Souda Bay. Davin also acknowledges that Laycock was unhappy about the defensive position at Beritiana and assumed forces there would be cut off. However, Orton & Beckett?s history (?Jiggered about beyond belief ? Layforce 1941?, 2013) suggests that the Spanish Company ?hastily fell back? on Babali Hani, but this seems at odds with other sources.

Further maps available online suggest that a part of Layforce was captured somewhere along the road south toward Stilos, either by further Wittman forces coming overland from the West, or by the 85th Mountain Regiment en-route to Kalami. Did this include E Company? It certainly seems to be consistent with Danvin?s account that Young was a Company short in his defence of Babali Hani (nowadays called Agii Pantes?) and there?s no mention I can find of Spanish Company in subsequent actions during the retreat (e.g. Askifou; Sphakia).

I?d be grateful if anyone with a better grasp of the Battle of Crete can help me unravel the fate of E Company and its men on Crete.

Many thanks!

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