Historical Memorial Site of Maleme – Battle of Crete 1941



Historical Memorial Site of Maleme – Battle of Crete 1941 situated at Maleme, in Platanias municipality, in Chania regional unit, Crete.


115 Combat Wing


The mission of the Maleme Memorial Historical Site is the collection, preservation and exhibition of war relics, the study, documentation and promotion of the Battle of Crete in 1941. It was designated as “Maleme Historical Memorial Site for the Battle of Crete 1941”.

Its goal is to create a pole of attraction for a large number of visitors who will be able to actively participate in its activities.

This historic place encourages visiting its premises, especially the younger generation, who can have an exciting first contact with the field of aviation technology.


Maleme Airport, which was the first airfield in Chania, was built by the British army, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. In May 1941, during the Battle of Crete, the sky was filled with German paratroopers that landed there.

When the war ended, the space was used as the main public airfield of Chania. In 1959, this activity was transferred to Souda military airport. Since then and for many more years, this historic airfield remained in its extension of fields without great economic value.

Shortly before World War II, the British persuaded the inhabitants to grant land to build a military airport.

Maleme Airfield was identified by the German army in 1941, when they decided on an airborne invasion of Crete under the code name Operation Mercury (Fall Merkur). The Germans wanted to capture the airfield of Maleme in order to ensure the possibility to land their planes on Crete and offload their troops, heavy guns and vehicles.

On the first day of the battle, the planes were constantly dropping paratroopers, but they were killed by the brave Cretans, minimum amount of Greek Army and their English, Australian and New Zealand allies, using any means necessary.

The defenders condemned many aircrafts, using heavy guns. The Hill 107, in the neighboring village of Vlacheronitissa, has gone down in history because of the heavy casualties Germans suffered by its strategically location.

During the Occupation, Maleme was abandoned by the inhabitants, who went to Kissamos, Dere and other villages. They returned to the area after liberation, to rebuild their bombed-out village and get their lives back to normal.

The 115 Combat Wing in its effort to honor all those who fought in the battle of Crete in 1941, formed a historical memorial site at Maleme Airfield. In early 2021, from a group of 115CW personnel, the shaping of the surrounding area started with the Monument Square and its total reconstruction while the following year, the building that would host the exhibits was renovated, in order to highlight and maintain its historical value.

The idea of the current monument was based on the work of Alexandros Drugakis, while it is worth noting the important contribution of Stylianos Tripalitakis to finding historical relics.

The opening of the exhibit area took place on May 21 of 2022.

The Battle of Crete and its significance

Battle of Crete, is the name given to the occupation of Crete by the Germans during World War II, and specifically from the morning of the 20th of May 1941, when the Germans launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code name “Unternehmen Merkur” (Operation Mercury), until the 1st of June.

With this operation, the Germans managed to occupy the island by the Greek-British allied forces, though this success caused them heavy casualties, preventing them to attempt further airborne operations during the war.

Today, the Battle of Crete is considered the first major airborne operation and remains unique in the perspective that it was captured entirely from the air. The Battle is also considered very important for the Cretans, because of the surprisingly strong resistance they put up against the numerically superior Germans and because of the big cost of the attack and the following occupation had upon the population of the island.

Fields of Interest

The German paratroopers who lost their lives during the Battle of Maleme, they are buried in the German Cemetery located on the hill above Maleme. The German Cemetery takes place under the auspices of the German Ministry of Culture, as well as of many other entities and non-profit organizations.

Of interest is the training unit of the Greek Special Forces, which has been operating for years, in front of the German Cemetery.

Outside Maleme, near the Tavronitis Bridge, there is also the monument of fallen RAF airmen killed.

Moreover, a Minoan tholos tomb has been discovered in Maleme.

Aviation Collection

The Aviation Collection of the Maleme as well as the exhibits of war relics are housed within Maleme airfield.

Maleme’s exhibit section area has three (3) rooms:
a. Room about events and situations from German’s Perspective
b. Experiences of Allies
c. Recreation area with the ability of showing historical documentaries of short duration related to the Battle of Maleme

Inside, the visitor will have the opportunity to see weapons that were used at the time, impressive exhibits that will travel him through time, as well as a photo exhibition of this historic one Battle. Opposite the exhibit area, dominates the Monument of the Fallen of the Battle of Crete in 1941.

Future Perspectives

The program for the immediate future includes the following goals:

  • Increase the aviation collection and with aircrafts that were used by the Air Force, but played an important role in global Aeronautical History.
  • Enrichment of Aviation Archeology and vehicles collections with more exhibits, able to attract the visitors’ interest and imagination, thus making a visit desirable for a wider audience.
  • The effort to find materials that will constitute the future exhibits of this space. Looking for photographs of all kind, technical manuals, aeronautical relics and memorabilia, staff uniforms of all ranks and specialties, etc.

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