Friday, June 18, 2021

Continued action from 14 April 1941 in Greece

 During 14 April 1941, you had the 5th New Zealand Brigade sitting in the Olympus Pass.  The Katerini-Elasson road ran through the Olympus Pass. The brigade was deployed with the 23rd Battalion to the right of the brigade. The 22nd Brigade was sitting in the center of the front. The Maori's of the 28th Battalion were on the left. The 28th Battalion was located at Skoteina. The brigade had some artillery in support. They had the 5th Field Regiment and an anti-tank battery. 

There was a plan to move the 6th Brigade into a spot on the left of where the 5th Brigade was located. They saw some German vehicles "at 5pm on 14 April. By the time the artillery was given permission to fire on the vehicles, they had moved out of sight."

During the night ofo 14 to 15 April, the New Zealand troops could see German vehicles bringing troops forward. Sometime around 11pm, German motorcycles drove up the pass. They drew machine gun fire, and the next morning they found five motorcycles lying next to the road. 

During 15 April, there was more German vehicle traffic. They drew artillery fire, but were not fired upon by British artillery. It was only by 4:30pm that the Germans started to return artillery fire. The Germans did not make any attempt to attack on 1`5 April. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Events in Greece from 13 to 15 April 1941

 We now look at the Greek armies during this period in April 1941. During 13 April, "the Greeks were holding the Pisoderion and Klisooura Passes". You had the Western Macedonian Army moving to the Venetikos Position during 13 April. The Epirus Army move started that night. "At noon on 14 April, the Germans drove the 20th Greek Division from the Klisoura Pass". The remnants of the 20th Division were ordered to "block the Grevena Road father south". 

During the 14th and the night ofo 14 to 15 April, divisions of the Western Macedonian Army were able to withdraw. 

The 11th Division had been sent to the Metsovon Pass and were able to move into their positions. 

It was on 14 April that the Germans "began probing the Anzac Corps positionns oh the Aliakmon line." We note that he New Zealand Division was now holding passes "on either side of Olympus. Some New Zealand engineers were given the task of "demolishing the tunnel and road at Platamon. The demolitions "were blown on 14 April, but were not successful". 

As a last resort, the engineers laid an anti-tank minefield on the "road over the saddle". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Events proceed in Greece from 16 April 1941

 All British men who were not in mobile units and who otherwise were considered "marching units" were provided with motor transport.

Staff in Athens were doing advanced planning for a withdrawal of all British forces from Greece. As early as 13 General Wilson's staff told the naval staff that the army would soon begin to withdraw their forces from Greece. The naval staff were informed that the withdrawal could begin as soon as 15 April. 

In Egypt, General Wavell's staff did preliminary planning for a withdrawal. Around the time that General Wilson's withdrawal order was sent, the Germans had achieved virtual air control over the forward areas

The Germans made a dawn attack on airfields in the Larisa area and were able to destroy ten British Blenheim bombers on the ground. The British air commander witnessed the artack and ordered the surviving aircraft be flown to Athens  After their success, the Germans bombed the Larisa air field durin the day. 

The Germans also bombed Elasson, site of General Blamey's headquarters. British troopa loar their air support and only saw German aircraft in action. British aircraft had been operating effectively, often wthout their soldiers seeing them in action. 

During this period, Greek unts were able to hold the Germans in the "Pisoderion and Klisoura Passes. The "Western Macedonian Army moved into the Venetikos Position. It had "been about noon on 14 April when the 20th Greek Division had been driven out of the Klisoura Pass". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

The situation from 16 April 1941

Brigadier Clowes warned Macky that it was critical that they be able to hold the "gorge" until 19 April 1941. He also told Macky that support would eventually arrive. He also ordered Macky to sink the ferry boat once all of his men were across. 

The priority was to hold the western end of the gorge/ Macky was told that it was especially important to defend the high ground in the north. 

The "first moves ordered were intended to put the 6th Australian Division troops behind the passes on 16 April.

General Freyberg was a personal friend of Churchill, and Churchill had complete confidence in Freyberg. It is unclear that he was actually capable of performing the task of commanding the withdrawal. 

The New Zealand 5th Brigade was the initial rearguard force. In additiion to the 5th New Zealand Brigade, you had the 6th New Zealand Brigade group, and the left flank guard of the 6th Australian Brigade Group. 

The British armored brigade "covered the withdrawal across the plains of Thessaly." This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

By 16 to 17 April 1941, the situation is both uncertain and needed to be resolved

 By late afternoon on 16 April 1941, Lt-Col. Macky's men had been transported across the river. The four guns had been taken across with difficulty. Before the ferry was sunk, they transported "a large flock of sheep and goats with their two  shepherdesses" across. 

As we learned, Brigadier Clowes had been sent to take command of the right flank. The Anzac corps staff and commander then had to deal with finding a force to use. 

Brigadier Savige's brigade was already used as a "flank guard at Kalabaka". They also were used as part of Lee's battle group sitting on the road at Domokos. 

Blamey's staff was trying to deal with their situation. Brigadier Rowell issued an order that "the first battalion of the 16th Brigade should be used at Pinios Gorge. 

The 2/2nd Battalion was stopped on the main road at about 10am. The battalion commander was ordered to report to the corps headquarters. He was told at the corps headquarters that "the 21st Battalion might well have been wiped out". 

Brigadier Clowes had been ordered to find out what had happened, but they had not heard from him yet. 

This is  based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

The German superiority from 16 April 1941

 Field Marshal List commanded the German army that the British would face. The Germans had "three corps", three armored divisions, two mountain divisions, and five infantry divisions. He also had two infantry divisions as reserves. There was also another army that lay to the north that included some fourteen divisions. 

The particular situation facing Wilson's army was that when you look at what lay to the east of the "Pindus watershed", there were six Greek divisions in serious trouble. There were also the two ANZAC divisions. There was one Australian division and the New Zealand Division. 

By early 16 April, the commanders of the Anzac corps became aware that the eastern flank was what was most vulnerable. They had assumed that they would be able to hold the Olympus passes as long as was needed. 

They received a report of some 150 German tanks that posed a threat. They were receiving reports from the 21st New Zealand Battalion. By 1am, General Blamey ordered his artillery commander to travel to the 21st Battaliion and do what ever he thought necessary. 

The New Zealand battalion needed to hold until 19 April, and do whatever it took to do that, including with great risk. Brigadier Clowes gave orders to drop back to where the "road and railway crossed", some seven miles away. 

This  all left General Blamey and his staff to find more units to "stop the gap". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The German effort from 13 April 1941

 On 13 April, the German objective was the Servia Pass. They wanted to cut through Grevena outflank the Aliakmon position "from the west". You had the 9th Armored Division moved through Kozani and patrol-sized units had crossed the Aliakmon river. That had happened as early as 14 April. 

The German assessment was that the 6th and 7th Australian Divisions and the New Zealand Division were "in full retreat", along with the 2nd British Armoured Division. They saw the British movements as being "withdrawal moves". 

The 11th German Infantry Regiment staged an attack at Servia. Their losses were limited to "36 killed, 72 wounded, and 190 missing". It was the Adolf Hitler Division that had arrived at the "Kastoria-Grevena" road. They had blocked the supply line for the Greek army that was pulling out of Albania.

The German 73rd Division was sent to protect the "40 Corps flank". The Germans thought that the Greek army was still fighting well. In fact, though, the Greek army commander had abandoned his troops. 

The German mountain corps that had been at Salonika on 9 April were to attack Edessa Pass, but the situation was fluid and in fact the attack was unnecessary. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Withdrawal under extreme duress

The order to withdraw came by 5pm on 15 April 1941. The engineers had managed to build a timber trestle bridge. One group was also ordered to build a road to the bridge. The bridge was completed by 10pm. By the time the bridge was completed, the men of the 19th Brigade were assembling "on the opposite bank". They found out that the bridge could not support vehicles. 

The men had to make the vehicles unusable and then abandoned them as well as their artillery. The machine gunners were able to carry their guns across the river. The 26th New Zealand Battalion were the rearguard. They held until the Australians were able to cross. 

There was a missing company which seems to have never arrived. The Greeks were being hard-pressed by the Germans. They were in the passes to the north of the river. The supporting anti-tank guns were within some 200 yards of the Germans. The British armored brigade was located in the Grevena Pass. 

The road was packed with Yugoslav and Greek vehicles and men as well as horses and ox transport. They fully expected to be bombed and strafed by German aircraft. 

There was a British liaison team that included an officer who spoke fluent Greek. There seemed to be many unarmed Greek troops loitering in the area.  

By about 6pm on 15 April, the German column had come to the Kastoia-Grevena road. That apparently had cut off the Greek army that was now withdrawing along the tracks to the Pindus mountains. The Greek general approved of the British withdrawal to Thermopylae.The Greek general apparently did not realize that the British were then withdrawing. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

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