Operation Mercury

Operation Mercury

The Battle for Crete


Operation Mercury

The Battle for Crete


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Tour Introduction

Operation Mercury is the fascinating story of a high risk operation fought across a stunning Mediterranean landscape. Crete has to be one of the most beautiful Greek islands, and some would argue that there is no other place like it. To the modern mind it is known primarily as a beach holiday destination, however the landscape is wonderfully varied. From beaches and bays, to green coastal plains, imposing mountains and gorges, sleepy hillside villages to bustling, vibrant towns. Not to mention the warm, friendly, hospitable locals, a rich ancient and modern history and culture.

All of this can be explored throughout the tour as we follow the landings and hard fought actions along the dramatic coast lines, the towns of Chania, Rethymnon and Iraklion, the White Mountains and down to the crystal clear waters of Sfakia.

We are staying at two superb hotels in Chania and Heraklion, with time available in the evenings to soak up the delightful atmosphere of tavernas and family restaurants. What a comfortable way to experience exciting history!


Operation Mercury was the first and only time in history that a strategic objective has been taken by airborne forces alone. Despite being forewarned by 'Ultra' Luftwaffe intelligence decrypts that an attack was pending, General Freyberg's Commonwealth mix of British, Australian and New Zealand forces, recently evacuated from Greece, was overrun by Hitler's elite Fallschirmjaeger (Parachute) regiments.

The tour will chart and examine how successive waves of German parachute, glider and air-landed mountain troops managed to seize the island, vastly outnumbered and in the face of crippling losses. Our guide Colonel Robert Kershaw is an experienced former Parachute Regiment officer, who has also served with German airborne forces. He wrote Sky Men the history of airborne forces and has extensively walked the ground.


  • Accompanied by Col Bob Kershaw
  • The battles for Heraklion and Rethymnon
  • The airborne landings at Maleme and Prison Valley
  • The evacuation route

"We loved Bob Kershaw and we were very happy we had read his book beforehand, his maps were great as were his descriptions of battle. He has a great sense of humour and entirely approachable too."


Day 1 - Travel to Crete

Fly London to Chania and check- in to our hotel for four nights.

Day 2 - Maleme Airfield, Prison Valley and Galatas

We drive to Maleme and visit the German Assault Regiment gliding and parachute landing areas around the Tavronitis Bridge and the RAF Memorial. After climbing up Point 107, the vital high ground, we examine the costly German glider and parachute landings and the subsequent air landings under fire by the Mountain Troops to take the airfield, before visiting the German cemetery. The landings and attacks in Prison Valley and Galatas by the German Gruppe Mitte and the Commonwealth defence is covered from the Oassi Cretan Memorial, Lake Agia and Cemetery Hill. We visit the Allikanou Citizen Memorial to 108 villagers executed during German reprisals, as well as Galatas village, memorial and museum.

Day 3 - Chania and Souda Bay

The fighting around Chania and Souda Bay is covered with visits to the German Assault Regiment Memorial, 42nd Street and the Commonwealth War Memorial Cemetery. At the Venizelos Memorial we discuss General Freyberg's command on the Island against the German General Student, based in Athens. The afternoon is free to explore Chania or relax at your hotel.

Day 4 - The Allied Retreat and Evacuation

We drive the Allied retreat over the White Mountains to Chora Sfakia via the withdrawal route through Megali Horofia, Apterra Stilos, Neo Horia, Vrysses and Askifou. There is an optional walk through the Imbrou Gorge to the memorial which marks the evacuation point (weather permitting).

Day 5 –The battle for Rethymnon

We check out of our hotel and travel to Rethymnon via Frangokastello and the monastery of Prevalli. Near Stavromenos we discuss the 19 Australian Brigade fight to repel the landings from German Gruppe Mitte. Afterwards we drive on to Heraklion and check-in to our hotel for two nights.

Day 6 – The battle for Heraklion

We visit the Historical Museum of Crete and explore the fighting around the Heraklion area. During the afternoon we will visit the Minoan Palace at Knossos and explore some of old Heraklion.

Day 7 – Return. Fly Heraklion to London.

Recommended Reading List

Photo Gallery

  • View of German gliders crash landed around the Travonitus bridge in 1941.
  • Travonitus Bridge in 2018
  • Travonitus bridge in 1941
  • The 'two charlies' (hill tops) overlooking the airfield at Heraklion
  • The submarine evacuation beach near the Monastery of Prevalli
  • The straggling retreat across the White Mountains in 1941
  • Souda Bay under attack by the Luftwaffe in 1941
  • Souda Bay 2018
  • Chania Minaret in 1941 & 2018
  • A surviving 22nd Battalion Command Post

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