Friday, November 20, 2020

Preparing to withdraw in the face of the German advance

 On the night of 9 to 10 April 1941, as much as 3 to 4 inches of snow fell on the men who were resting near the Vevi pass. Men watching the pass could see Yugoslav and Greek refugees. Mixed in, they could see some Yugoslav soldiers and Greek police. As mentioned, several New Zealand armored car patrols had seen German forces moving south. They had exchanged fire but had not taken any damage. British aircraft could see a large mass of German vehicles "on the north bank of the Crna River". They were stopped by the blown bridge. By then, they had seen German vehicles. They decided that all the Greek artillery that would be able to move south had been seen, so they decided to blow the road "ahead of their minefield". The demolition had been conduced by the Rangers. 

After 1pm, "British and Australian guns fired at long range on German vehicles". A first salvo by the 64th Medium Regiment got a lucky hit on a German truck. The British and Australians had artillery observers watching German vehicles moving south. British artillery was firing "intermittently". During the afternoon, they could see infantry and moving into position some three miles to the north. You had to think that the "infantry and tanks had outrun the artillery". 10 April was a strange day, because the Germans did not mount a "coordinated attack". The Australian historian thought that this was fortunate, because there were only three battalions of infantry to hold the Vevi Pass. Two of the battalions were the Rangers and the 2/4th Battalion (Australians). A third battalion, the 2/8th Battalion "were scrambling up hills to fill the gap on the right of the line". 

Early on 10 April, when the artillery started firing, you would have seen infantry company commanders conducting reconnaissance in an area that at this point had no occupants. If they looked north, they would have seen the Germans moving south. If they looked to the south, they would have seen their infantry at the end of marching eleven miles, and then having to climb the steep slopes. Once they reached the top, they would need to then dig in. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Sytia" by Gavin Long.

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