Epilogue

The battle was finally over and the survivors from all three sides continued with their lives: some by fighting on other battlefields, and others by returning home to their families. The dead soldiers of this battle – most of them aged 18 or 19 – never had the opportunity to have children and enjoy a long and happy life. They remained the beloved sons and brothers who, as time passed, became uncles and distant relatives – and finally, just names and numbers on memorials and casualty lists. The personal stories behind each soldier, fighter or civilian have now been largely forgotten, but these are precisely what will help us to understand the tragedy of war and the immense misery and destruction that it brings upon humanity.

Heraklion today is a modern city – and the battle is a very distant event which has now passed into history. People walk by and live in the places where bitter fighting took place, but very few of them know the history hidden in these surroundings. Buildings with traces of the conflict on them still exist even in the centre of the city, where many lives were lost. Today, no one can imagine the tragic moments of history which occurred in each building or field. Defensive positions and the remains of graves can still be found around the city and, from time to time, human remains or unexploded ammunition are discovered. Some of the planes that were shot down during the battle are still lying at the bottom of the sea near Heraklion. After so many years of research, I was astonished to discover these remains and relics still present around me; I had been totally ignorant of their existence for many years. Veterans kept visiting the battlefield for years afterwards, but many of them were unable to tell the bitter stories of the fighting and the loss of their comrades. Those stories haunted them for the rest of their lives.

Now that most of the veterans have passed away, or are too old to visit Crete, it is our duty to preserve the story of the battle and make every effort to keep alive the memory of such an historic event. I hope that with my work, I have contributed to this story and also that I provide the visitor to Heraklion with a better understanding of the history of what occurred there in May 1941. I hope that I have also assembled both an analysis of the battle and a solid framework of historical data that will be of use to historians and researchers who wish to explore the story more deeply.