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  • Writer's picturecretanplaces

5 lessons learned from the battle on the Kopsas hill

Updated: May 28, 2022

The area of the chapel of the prophet Elias (Profitis Ilias, Προφήτης Ηλίας is located on the hilltop of Kopsas hill. That hill dominates the coastal area of Kokkini Chani and Gouves, and was on of the WWII battlefields in Crete. During the Battle of Crete, the Greek captain Kallinos and his men fought against a company of German paratroopers up there on May 21, 1941.

They won that battle. How did they make it? And what lessons learned can be inspirational for us today?

The northern, and lower, ridge of the hill is visible, along with the coastal strip and the sea, as well as Dia island far away. Photo taken on 20.05.2021, about half an hour before the sunset.
The view to the north - northeast from the hilltop of Kopsas hill, Anopolis, Heraklion

Battle analysis:

The fight on Kopsas hill of a Greek company versus a German one, was between a just recruited team of "militia", ill-equipped and consisting of soldiers and locally armed Greek civilians on the one side, and on the other hand a highly trained and good equipped company of German paratroopers. Both opponents had almost the same number of fighters, around 70.

The Greeks had old rifles, while the German paratroopers, with vastly superior firepower, had sub-machine-guns and machine guns, while none of the companies had any heavier equipment. Greeks were positioned on a higher place, at a ridge and a hilltop overlooking the plain strip between the hills and the seashore, and the drop zone where the paratroopers landed. The Greek officer leading the company had clear mind in his decisions, specific objectives, he was courageous and resourceful, inspiring his team and giving his inferiors opportunities for initiatives. Germans choose to attack the Greek position despite the steep slopes. Probably they were trained in mountainous warefare. They choose to start their attack in the early morning from the east and north of the Greek position, taking advantage of the night in order to their movement to be covered, while the sun rising from the east would also help them hiding from the eyes of the defenders. The Germans climbed the steep slopes in order to fight the Greek forces... but they were trapped in Kallinos' claws. This time geography and moral was on the Greek side, and their commander showed skills and virtues characterising successful men. The Germans were annihilated: they lost more than 20 paratroopers, while the rest surrendered.

5 combat tactics by Kallinos and lessons learned from the battle on Kopsas hill, Anopolis, Heraklion:

1. He took advantage of any materials were available in the place: he ordered drystone shelters - trenches to be made from stones of the rocky hill, 2. he was flexible: he positioned his troops flexibly organizing defence on the hilltops, he moved constantly and he didn't stay to fight in one place 3. he made timely decisions: making his plans according the enemy's position and taking fast choices in the right momentum, he achieved tactical movements fast, running, and in small teams, 4. he was fearless in fight: at the most critical point of the battle he stood up and fought alone the German paratroopers, 5. the appropriate position in crucial: he took advantage of the terrain, he fought according the geomorphology of the steep slopes, exposing German soldiers on their effort to ascent the hill and, finally, trapping them.

The chapel of Prophet Elias on the hilltop of Kopsas hill, Anopolis, Heraklion

👉 Visit Kopsas hill and try to figure out the battlefield and the tactics of the two opponents. Take time to relax, the view to the coastal strip is great and sunsets are amazing. Get inspired by the lessons learned of this battle!


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