Friday, 25 May 2007

New Zealanders and war crimes

Not too sure what to make of this bit of history.

The battle of Crete was one of the three memorable campaigns Kiwis were involved in (the other two being North Africa and the battle for Monte Cassino). During this invasion, the Germans dropped their vaunted paratroopers on Crete, only to find them carved up before they reached the ground and while organising, before they could seize the airports and bring in reinforcements. Eventually they pushed the British forces out (Freyberg pulling off an excellent example of the difficult, if greatly underappreciated, military problem of a strategic retreat under fire), but the Germans never again used their paratroopers in large numbers.

During this battle, Clive Hulme earned himself a VC.

I've just come across a description of his deeds. Notably, he served as an anti-sniper sniper. One action during this battle involved him dressing in the uniform of a German paratrooper he'd shot, taking a vantage point behind the Germans, and wiping out the snipers firing on his brigade. When the Germans looked around to see what the hell was going on, he did precisely the same thing. And when they turned back to the main fight, he continued to snipe. He killed five snipers.

This is, of course, a war crime. It was also pretty clever, and done in a context of open warfare against a superior enemy. He won a VC for it and other acts of courage.

So should it be condemned?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You say ' This is of course a war crime.' I dont agree. There is the case of Major Skorzeny who was tried at Nuremberg for the same offence, and was aquitted. There was no dispute there that he was in a full allied uniform. On the other hand Hulme only wore a paratroop blouse and then largely for camoflague. We have only one occassion where we know he might have used it to deceive (the one you quote) - and even then it is not clear cut if you read Hulme's version of this incident. And that doesnt include the action that Harper made up in his book to support his claim of perfidity.