Monday, December 26, 2005
The withdrawal from Greece in April 1941
The British continued to use covering forces (or a rearguard) to protect withdrawals. A unit would move to a dispersal area on a night. They would hide through the next day, and then destroy equipment to be left behind. They would be called to "the beach by the embarkation staff". The ships would arrive "one hour after dark and leave not later than 3am". The RAF planned to fly out as many personnel as they could fit into aircraft. They used Bombays, Lodestars, and flying boats (Sunderlands?) to carry out men as well. Some had been carried by Blenheims to Crete. Those left would try to embark from beaches with the soldiers. The tentative plan was to leave starting on 28 April 1941. German advances disrupted this plan. The result delayed the withdrawal, as more time was needed to reach beaches in the Peloponnesus. On 25 April, the Ulster Prince was bombed and caught fire, becoming a total loss. The transport Pennland was bombed and sunk. Destroyers took her place, and all but 500 troops were withdrawn from Megara. On 25 April, General Wilson was forced to leave Athens for an embarkation area. This meant that he was out of contact until he arrived. Units were cut off and plans had to be changed. The 4th NZ Brigade had to be redirected to Porto Raphti. General Wilson was able to fly to Crete on 26 April. General Fryberg was left in command in Greece. There were many unfortunate losses, such as the Dutch transport Slamat, which had tried to embark more men, and was caught at daylight. The destroyers Diamond and Wryneck had tried to save men, and were sunk as well. On about 50 men, total, were ultimately rescued. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.