This year for UNESCO World Book Day, Cataloguing Librarian Nina Whittaker highlights an extraordinary ANZAC story of courage, and the fight to print a newspaper against impossible odds. 

While the Crete News from our collections may look like an unassuming newspaper, it is anything but. Look closely, and you’ll see that something is amiss: the lowercase w is either an upside-down m or a lowercase Greek omega (ω)It’s this small typographical detail that tells the story of the courage of a Kiwi journalist and his team, who risked their lives to get reading material to troops during the Battle of Crete. To enrich our collection records, we reconnected Crete News to its place of origin, and to local experts who live in Crete today. Yiannis and Eleni Garedaki from the Museum of Typography in Crete, and Elia Koumi, a journalist from the local newspaper Hanoitika Nea, helped us research this remarkable story.

The editor of Crete News was Geoffrey Cox, a lieutenant with 2NZEF. On 5 May 1941, he was brought before General Freyberg (Commander of the Forces in Crete) and ordered to create a newspaper to boost troop morale. It was to look like something from home – and needed to be ready in just a week. With the help of a refugee journalist from Athenssome printers, and a local typewriter and his two daughters, Cox immediately began to work.  

Crete news: the first British newspaper published in Crete.

[Cox, G.] (1941, May 16). Auckland War Memorial Museum. D766.7.C7 CRE. More information ›


Peter McIntyre. The Blitz, Canea Crete area defended by NZ'ers, May 1941. Archives New Zealand: licensed under CC BY 2.0.

More information ›


There was a catch: the local printers only had Greek type, and the troops needed English. Determined, Cox found an Athenian journalist with half a dozen cases of French type, which had been imported with the aim of creating a French propaganda newspaper. Cox soon discovered that the French w is infrequently used, and so his new type sets had nowhere near enough ws for the newspaper. With scarce resources and intense time pressure, the team made it work using a mix of the upside-down m and Greek ω. With this cobbled-together set of Greek and French type, the first Crete News was printed on 16 May – just eleven days after General Freyberg’s command.

The first two issues of Crete News, dated 16 and 19 May, were printed in the four days before a massive German airborne invasion, which began the Battle of Crete. The intensity of the fighting saw 671 New Zealanders lose their lives and over 2000 more taken captive. However, Cox and his team managed to print two further issues during the fire of battle, on the 22nd and 24th of May. These latter issues were printed using materials rescued from a bombed-out paper shed, and typeset in caves where troops and locals hid from the bombing. In the chaos of evacuation and fire, the team sprinted to print six hundred copies of the final issue – finishing just moments before bombing and fire took down the printing house. 

Detail of Crete News.

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Elia shared with us what the team would have gone through to produce the final two issues: 

“If letterpress printing is hard to begin with, imagine the compositors composing the text of the newspaper with steady hands, while German bombs set Chania (Crete) city on fire. And then the printers trying to print it in the dark, in a basement, while the surrounding buildings were collapsing from the bombardment. It was really fascinating for my colleague Eleni and myself to read about the story, find the copies of the paper at the local library, learn more about the people involved in it, and find the locations where all that took place.” 

Medical staff in a cave at Canea (Chania), Crete, during World War II. The Crete News team sheltered in Chania’s caves as they finished their final issue of the newspaper.

Thomas Joseph Foley, 1914-2008 : Photographs of the Battle of Crete. Ref: PAColl-6677-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. More information ›

The newspapers were circulated among all units defending the island, and brought them much-welcome news from New Zealand, Britain, Australia and the Middle East. Some copies were even discovered in the pockets of captured German soldiers. The bravery and dedication of Geoffrey Cox and his production team – troops and locals, young and old – is told quietly on the pages of this newspaper.  

This World Book Day, let’s celebrate reading – and remember the remarkable sacrifices that journalists, typesetters, printers and others made on the front lines, to share the comfort of reading with ANZAC troops. Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou. 

Geoffrey Sandford Cox.

Andrew, Stanley Polkinghorne, 1878-1964. Ref: 1/2-C-22830. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. More information ›


Do you have a newspaper or material that may have been printed in Crete during World War Two? Get in touch with us here.



Koumi, E. (2020). Η περιπετειώδης έκδοση μίας συμμαχικής εφημερίδας στα Χανιά κατά τη Μάχη της Κρήτης (The adventurous publication of an allied newspaper in Chania during the Battle of Crete). Χανιώτικα Νέα (Haniotika nea) 

'The Battle for Crete', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Aug-2014.  

Cox, G. (1986). A Tale of Two Battles: A Personal Memoir of Crete and the Western Desert 1941. HarperCollins Publishers.  

Bennett, M. (n.d.). Shelter from the Storm. Publisher not identified.  


With thanks to Yiannis and Eleni Garedaki from the Museum of Typography, Chania (Greece), Elia Koumi from Hanoitika Nea, and to New Zealand director/producer John Irwin for his passion in sharing this story.