Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The 21st New Zealand Battalion at the Pinios Gorge

There is a good article about the 21st New Zealand Battalion in Greece in the Sunday Star Times newspaper (online). 21 Battalion had arrived in Greece in late March 1941. They arrived under German air attack that had set a nearby ammunition ship afire. The New Zealanders had put the fire out and saved the ship and themselves. From there, they were sent forward to Platamon. They were attacked by two German armoured divisions on 15 April 1941. The Germans attacked and broke the New Zealand line on 16 April, causing them to retreat after a desperate battle that lasted for some 36 hours. From there, they pulled back to the Pinios Gorge, where they defended the western end of the gorge. They were supported first by the 2/2 Australian Battalion and subsequently, by the 2/3 Battalion. They had destroyed the railroad bridge and blocked the tunnel. The New Zealanders had four anti-tank guns (2pdr) and two mortars that were inoperable by the time of the action at the Pinios Gorge. The Germans attacked starting at 5pm on 17 April and then by the morning of 18 April mounted a larger attack. They had gotten tanks across the river, by fording almost turret high water. The 21st Battalion was supported by Australian artillery, and together they stopped the initial attack. The Germans, with tanks, finally broke A company at about 4:30pm on 18 April. They were forced to retreat at that point. The commander, Colonel Macky, was treated shabbily, as he was relieved of his command and sent home after the fight. General Freyberg tried to apologize, much later, but Macky would not see him.

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