Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Brigadier Savige's force, an augmented infantry brigade was left unsupported on the left flank. He had been directly under ANZAC Corps command, but by 18 April 1941, he was switched back under his division. He had thought that the best plan would be to sit where they were until the night of 18/19 April. Early on 18 April, Captain Grieve brought back orders from General Mackay to withdraw that night. The orders from Mackay had apparently been written without knowing that the armoured brigade had already withdrawn. Brigadier Savige informed Captaina Grieve that they would start withdrawing. He had already ordered his artillery to withdraw. He hoped to be near Larisa by 5pm. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Friday, November 25, 2011
On 17 April 1941, the 5th New Zealand Brigade had been loaded onto trucks to move to Almiros. Their assigned road was so bad that General Mackay had them move on the Australian division's road. The withdrawal also commenced from the Servia Pass. Lt-Col. Howard Kippenberger commanded the rearguard. The artillery withdrew first and then the infantry. The demolitions effectively held up the German advance. Savige Force, to the left, was left to hold for too long. They would only get to start the withdrawal in the night of 17/18 April. They had the dubious protection of the 1st Armoured Brigade. By the afternoon of 17 April, there was no armoured brigade to provide cover. The road behind them was packed with vehicles, so any withdrawal would be difficult. Brigadier Savige only expected to be able to start a withdrawal on the night of 18/19 April. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The battalions were prepared to defend against a German attack at the Pinios Gorge. The tracks ran along the north side of the gorge and the road was on the south side. The defenders included two Australian battalions and a New Zealand battalion. They had stretched out to prevent the Germans from going around the flank. The Official History notes, though, that if the New Zealanders were not able to hold, that the position could become untenable. The three battalions were included in Allen Force and were equipped with some anti-tank guns. By late on 17 April 1941, the men could see the first Germans on the ridge. The Germans were mountain troops and got into position where they were able to fire downwards on the New Zealanders. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Friday, November 18, 2011
It was the 2/7th Battalion of the 17th Australian Brigade whose Greek train crew abandoned them. They had been heavily attacked near Larisa by German aircraft, and the Greek crew had more than they could handle. Fortunately, the 2/7th had some Victorian railwaymen in the battalion. The leader, Corporal Jock Taylor, along with Corporal Melville and Private Naismith stepped up to solve the situation. They fired up a train as a decoy, and then about 5oo yards away, they assembled a train to carry the battalion to relative safety. They were able to carry the 2/7th Battalion to Domokos. All this seems to have occurred during the night of 16 April 1941. The 17th was uneventful, as the British were executing a withdrawal plan that included demolishing roads and bridges behind them. The brigade was able to prepare defensive positions on 17 April so as to be ready for the expected German attack. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
The roads leading south were packed with vehicles, bumper-to-bumper. Men lay sleeping in the floor. There were a very few Greek vehicles. You were more likely to see donkeys with men riding or Greek cavalrymen on their horses. Early on 17 April 1941, there was rain, but it cleared later in the day and there were more German aircraft in the sky. The roads all ran through Larisa which was wrecked from a combination of earthquake and bombing. Not only were the roads clogged, but the railroads were having difficulties. The Greek railroad crews were abandoning trains due to fear of German aircraft. Australian railwaymen came forward and got a train assembled and moving with men from the 17th Australian Brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Friday, November 11, 2011
The Greek generals had been asking the Prime Minister to give up the fight. By 16 April 1941, the Bishop of Yannina made the same request of Mr. Koryzis. By 15 April, General Wavell had warned General Wilson that they should prepare to retreat further. At this point, the only place to go was to board the ships and leave Greece. The British and Commonwealth troops were in Thessaly on 17 April, where it was rainy and the skies were filled with marauding German aircraft. There were often conflicts on the roads between the supply vehicles carried supplies forward and the troop-carrying vehicles trying to withdraw. Since 14 April, the Germans had been firing in the trucks with machine guns from aircraft. The men had become extremely nervous and at the first sign of aircraft, they would jump off the vehicles to the roadside. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
General Wilson's staff had ordered the 1st Armoured Brigade to withdraw over a mountain road that no one knew anything about. The road turned out to be so rough, that most of the brigades remaining tanks broke tracks and had to be abandoned. They could easily have allowed the brigade to travel on the main road, but chose not to let them do so. The brigade had originally been planned to cover Brigadier Savige's withdrawal, but he was just left with a small contingent while the remnants of the brigade tried to withdraw over the mountain road. Sadly, this was symptomatic of how General Wilson's command functioned. The entire campaign was ill-considered and driven by politics to begin with. The British should never have gone into Greece, but Anthony Eden, Churchill's foreign minister, decided that they needed to aid Greece and try and pull Yugoslavia to the British cause. The entire enterprise was a disaster and nearly cost the British North Africa. This is some commentary in addition to information from Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
General Freyberg was concerned about the security of his forces while they were withdrawing from the Servia and Olympus passes. As a precaution, he established a force under the command of Lt-Col. Duff to cover the withdrawing units from the two passes. Colonel Duff's force included anti-tank guns, machine guns, and carriers. That measure was put in place, but an attempt to use the armoured brigade to cover Brigadier Savige's withdrawal misfired due to General Wilson already having issued orders to the brigade. He had ordered the brigade to withdraw over rough mountain roads. That had the effective of causing most of the available tanks to break down in route due to track failures. That was a constant danger with the early British cruiser and light tanks used by the 1st Armoured Brigade. That was what Robert Crisp mentioned in his book, Brazen Chariots, about the abortive and failed Greek campaign. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
The 16th of April 1941 saw a determined New Zealand fight on the left where the Maori's repelled a German attack, with the help of artillery. When the sky cleared, they could see a German column stretching far off into the distance. New Zealand artillery fire called in by the observer that broke the attack. The was the 4th NZ Brigade with the 23rd Battalion on the right in a heavy mist. By late afternoon, they were being pressed hard, but reinforcements helped them block the attack. German mountain troops had threatened to overrun the Maori's, but in the end, they held. As darkness fell, they were to withdraw south along the road, although they were late in starting. The other two battalions of the brigade were able to stage a more orderly withdrawal according to plan. In the mountainous terrain, they had to abandon their nine 2pdr anti-tank guns. They tipped these over and they fell into a ravine. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official history.