Crete 1941: The Bloody Cauldron

A lecture by Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Rod Cooke

Following the occupation of Greece by the Germans in April 1941, 26,000 weary Allied soldiers, including large numbers of ANZAC troops, were evacuated to Crete. In May Nazi Germany launched Operation Mercury, what proved to be a bloody and gruelling airborne invasion of the island, killing 1,750 allied troops, wounding 1,730 and marching 12,250 into captivity for the rest of the war. For their part, allied forces and Cretan civilians killed or wounded more than 6,000 Germans, in some cases before their feet hit the ground. The outcome could have been different.

It was the first time the Nazis used paratroopers en masse, the first time the British made extensive use of intelligence from Enigma coding machines and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from civilians. Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Rod Cooke will discuss the Battle of Crete and its implications for the course of World War Two.

Rod has an extensive background in leadership and management in the Australian Army, business and the not-for-profit sector including several positions of CEO.

Rod is active in the community and has significant not-for-profit and community experience in board and volunteer roles for over 30 years and is currently on eight boards including Sydney Community Services and Rural Futures.

His military experience was gained in 16 years in the regular Army graduating from the Royal Military College and serving in Armoured Corps, with postings at 2 Cavalry Regiment, ¾ Cavalry Regiment and the Armoured Centre. He transferred to the Army Reserve and served a further 21 years including postings at the 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers, at HQ 5 Bde, HQ 2 DIV, HQ Australian Theatre and HQ JOC.

Rod has a long-term interest in military history and hopes to visit all the places Australian troops have served overseas.