Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The rearguard withdraws while under attack

As the sun set on 18 April 1941, the 24th New Zealand Battalion was withdrawing as a German attack was mounted on the road to the Menexes Pass. The German force had tanks in the lead until they ran onto mines in the road. They were followed by motorized infantry. The infantry dismounted and attacked, but they were held up long enough for the 24th Battalion to withdraw. The Australian field guns withdrew by troops and left only some New Zealand artillery. They slipped away at about 11:30pm. They had arrived at Larisa by 3am. The 26th New Zealand Battalion had traveled to Larisa by rail, but the other two battalions traveled by road to Volos. All this occurred as Brigadier Savige's force had an adventure on 18 April. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 6th New Zealand Brigade on the defence: 18 April 1941

By late morning on 18 April 1941, a German attack was underway against the positions held by the 6th New Zealand Brigade, south of Elasson. A combination of medium and field artillery was able to inflict damage on the advancing German tanks. At this time, the 6th Brigade was not attacked by air, except by one Stuka. The medium guns eventually had to withdraw after they fired off all of their remaining ammunition. Fortunately, the Australian field artillery was well-supplied with ammunition. This was due to the work of the 5th New Zealand Regiment's drivers who moved the entire ammunition dump from Ayios Dimitrios to the 6th Brigade's positions. The 2/3rd Australian regiment fired some 6,500 rounds at the Germans on 18 April. There was an abundance of targets with the artillery observers spotting the large groups of targets. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, December 23, 2011

6th New Zealand Brigade on 18 April 1941

The 6th New Zealand Brigade was deployed as a blocking force south of Elasson. They were across two roads that led to Larisa. The 25th Battalion was on the west side and the 24th Battalion was on the east. The 26th Battalion was in reserve. The brigade had heavy artillery support:
2/3rd Field Regiment   20-25pdrs
one troop 64th Medium Regiment
two groups of the 5th NZ [Field] Regiment 8-25pdrs (in the anti-tank role)
one battery of the 5th NZ [Field] Regiment in reserve at Domenikon 12-25pdr
7-2pdr anti-tank guns dug in and 4 mobile with the 25th Battalion

The 24th Battalion was in mountainous terrain with no artillery. They had performed demolitions and laid mines to aid the defence. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The rearguard units on 18 Apil 1941

There were three rearguard units that would have to withdraw through the Larisa bottleneck. The three were positioned on roads leading south. April 18 saw the New Zealand Divisional Cavalry, with anti-tank guns sitting on the junction of roads from Servia and Katerini. The illustrious Colonell Kippenberger, with a small contingent, were all that remained of the 4th New Zealand Brigade rearguard. One cavalry squadron had 2pdr guns on portees with their guns pointed up the roads. The men guarding the road from Katerini were surprised to see German tanks and motorcyclists coming down the road. They had assumed that demolitions would have delayed their advance. As they were being attacked repeatedly, the men finally withdrew behind the 6th New Zealand Brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Two battalions cut off

By 5:45pm on 18 April 1941, Brigadier Allen could tell that the 21st New Zealand Battalion and the 2/2 Australian Battalion were cut off by advancing Germans. Brigadier Allen had collected a large number of carriers from the various units in his brigade. He was extremely low in infantry strength, however. They had endured bombing and strafing through the day. There were five German tanks advancing up the road. They were met by 25pdr fire and two tanks were knocked out. They lost one gun and had to pull back. The men were forced to pull back to their trucks for a withdrawal. The withdrawal was covered by New Zealand armoured cars. The column ran into a German ambush and took casualties along the way. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Things get dicey on 18 April 1941

The New Zealand 21st Battalion withdrew at about 11am on 18 April 1941. They left the Australian 2/2 Battalion to fend for themselves. They lost contact with General Macky during this period. The 2/2 Battalion had several hours where they were not hard-pressed by the Germans. By 3pm, the battalion was attacked on the ground and by air. They were being overrun by German tanks. There was a concurrent infantry attack on a different part of the defensive front. A mortar team of the 2/2 Battalion fired some 350 rounds on the advancing Germans. The unit was also able to mount heavy Bren gun fire which slowed the advance. The tanks, however, continued to move up the road. Two companies of the 2/2 were able to withdraw and reached their trucks, which transported them to the brigade headquarters. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

18 April 1941 in the Pinios Gorge

The units defending the Pinios Gorge on 18 April 1941 included the 21st Battalion, the 2/2 Battalion, and the 2/3rd Battalion. Early on 18 April, German troops could be seen advancing towards the defenders. It was apparent that the Germans were working their way around the left, trying to outflank the defenders. A platoon of carriers was sent out to intercept the Germans. The carriers came under heavy fire and were forced to withdraw. There was a great deal of mist in the morning that reduced visibility. A tank attack developed in front of the 21st Battalion. There were 2pdr anti-tank guns defending, but they were overrun by advancing tanks. By 11am, troops from the 21st Battalion (New Zealanders) had started to withdraw. The Australians were still able to hold on for the present. By 3pm, a bigger attack was mounted. The attack included about 35 aircraft that commenced bombing. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The fateful conference in Athens on 17 April 1941

General Papagos had suggested that the British force exit Greece. General Wilson exchanged cables with Winston Churchill who stated that they should not stay in Greece against the wishes of the Greek government. General Wilson attended a meeting in Athens on 17 April 1941 where Mr. Koryzis told the King that he felt like he had failed the country. He then commited suicide. Churchill ordered on 18 April that they must both withdraw from Greece and keep on fighting in Libya. The battle in Libya had priority over the Greek operation, however. The island of Crete seemed to be a close location to which they could go after leaving Greece. The troops in the field were unaware of the events of 17 and 18 April, and they were fully occupied with resisting a German advance. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The rearguard at Domokos

Brigadier Lee's rearguard was gathered at Domokos on 17 April 1941. Two battalions arrived from the north: the 2/4th and 2/8th. the 2/8th still had 533 men, but with fewer weapons than they should have had. At least the men of the 2/1st Field Regiment arrived by train from Larisa. They had come back to Domokos to be with their guns. The 2/6th Battalion had arrived by train on 16 April. The British troops had been able to move under cover of rain and mist. Four of the seven brigades were at Domokos or Thermopylae. The others would be harder to safely move. Greek resistance seemed ready to cease by 18 April. The general consensus was that the Greeks liked the Germans and would like to work with them. By then, the Macedonian armies had dispersed. The remaining Epirus army was in dire straits. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brigadier Savige

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 Pinios Gorge-17 April 1941

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

The Victorian railwaymen

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 withdrawal on 17 April 1941

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

By 16 April 1941, the Greeks were ready to surrender

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

The Armoured Brigade

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

The NZ protective force

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 4th NZ Brigade on 16 April 1941

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.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The dispositions late on 16 April 1941

On the left, the 5th Panzer Division, with a detachment from the 9th Panzer Division were pushing down towards the Aliakmon River and then south towards the Pinios. The 1st Armoured Brigade was withdrawing ahead of them, and was not south of the Aliakmon River. To their right, the main body of the 9th Panzer Division was attacking the 4th New Zealand Brigade at Servia. Near the coast, to their right, the 2nd Panzer Division was attacking the 5th New Zealand Brigade. Further south, right on the coast, the 6th Mountain Division, with a portion of the 2nd Panzer Division, was attacking the 21st Battalion near Rapsani. The NZ Division HQ and the ANZAC Corps HQ were still at Elasson,. Far to the southwest, Savige Force was still holding Kalabaka. The 6th Australian Division HQ was far to the southeast, at Larisa. This was to be a difficult period in the face of attack by armoured forces and experienced mountain troops. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Elaborate plans were made to withdraw to Thermopylae

Generals Mackay and Freyberg were to closely coordinate the withdrawal from the north to Thermopylae. At the beginning, the 5th NZ Brigade was on the north slope of Mount Olympus. This was some twenty miles from where "Allen Force" was to move toT the south bank of the Pinios. The 4th NZ Brigade was to leave the Servia Pass the same night (17/18 April 1941) that the 5th NZ Brigade was to leave Olympus. The 6th NZ Brfgade was to leave Elasson in the night of 18/19 April. Savige and Allen, and the 1st Armoured Brigade all had to be moved south in the process of withdrawing. One concern was that some of the trails might provide a route to German mountain troops to outflank them. As early as the night of 15/16 April, the New Zealanders broke up a German attack and destroyed two tanks and 14 other vehicles. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, October 24, 2011

17 April 1941: a scratch brigade is formed

Brigadier Allen was put in charge of a scratch brigade formed of two of his battalions (the 2/2nd and 2/3rd) and the 21st New Zealand Battalion. They were to move to the Pinios Gorge in an attempt to block the advancing Germans. He had a mixed force of infantry, along with most of a field artillery regiment, some anti-tank guns, and carriers. He was to defend Larisa from the east. Allen's 2/1st Battalion was put under the command of the division commander at Olympus. The plan was still to withdraw to Thermopylae, the site of the famous battle in antiquity. General Mackay would have responsibility for protecting the flanks of Freyberg's NZ division. The commanders could only hope that the Germans could be delayed long enough for their withdrawal plans to be executed. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The situation turns increasingly desperate

Anthony Eden had a lot to answer for over the Greek debacle. Serious military men, such as General Blamey, could see before the commitment was made that going into Greece with a threat of an impending German intervention would be a serious mistake. At least Anthony Eden was a politician. Winston Churchill had aspirations to military expertise, so he had no excuse for being a part to what would be an obvious opportunity for a military disaster.

Anthony Eden had portrayed the British operation to be in g force than was available in order to gain the acquiescence. The Greeks, on the other hand, were in a much worse condition than was understood. Not only were their troops poorly equipped, but their leadership was suspect. In particular, General Tsolakoglou was not only incompetent, he proved to be a traitor, as well. He abandoned his troops in the Western Macedonia Army, and then signed an armistice with the Germans when given the opportunity. The situation became so intense, than when confronted with a possible British withdrawal, the Greek prime minister committed suicide on 18 April 1941.

Diggers and Greeks

We cannot leave Greece in the lurch

Monday, October 17, 2011

A critical situation from 16 April 1941 in Greece

The ANZAC corps had expected to be able to hold the Olympus passes against the German advance, but by 16 April 1941, they realized that the Germans were a threat to the right flank. Lt-Colonel Macky, commander of the 21st NZ Battalion reported an attack being pressed by 150 German tanks at the Platamon tunnel. On the 15th, they had fought off an attack by motorcycle troops. Late in the day on 15 April, a German armoured regiment had moved into position. The Germans actually had assembled an all-arms force and planned to attack the New Zealanders in the morning on 16 April. By 9am, Col. Macky ordered a withdrawal. General Blamey had sent his artillery commander, Brigadier Clowes, forward to the 21st NZ Battalion with authority to order whatever he thought necessary. When they had retreated to the gorge mouth, they had to cross by ferry. They had brought across a large flock of sheep and two shepherdesses before sinking the ferry. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The British are treated to a view of the worst of the Greek army

By late on 15 April 1941, the Greek general Tsolakoglou's army was disintegrating. The remnants were reduced to two divisions near Grevena. The other units had disintegrated and the men from the units were scattered along the roads in Brigadier Savige's force. Tsolakoglou had owed his appointment to his family connections, and he was both incompetent and had the aura of corruption. During the period of 13 to 15 April, the German staff had believed that the three ANZAC divisions and the 2nd Armoured Division units were in retreat. That was not actually true at the beginning of the period. During 15 and 16 April, the British forces were greatly outnumbered and were going to be outflanked unless some move was made. They were still holding, though. During 16 and 17 April, the situation was rapidly deteriorating. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Savige Force and the 1st Armoured Brigade

On 14 April 1941, General Wilson ordered the 1st Armoured Brigade to move to Kalabaka and to join Savige Force. There was concern that the Germans might be close by, but a 4th Hussars patrol found that the Germans were on the other side of the Aliakmon River at this point. On 15 April, General Wilson informed Brigadier Savige that some 3000 Greek troops would be arriving in his area. All they did was to clutter the roads and make life more difficult for the Australians and 1st Armoured Brigade. The British liaison officer, Lt-Colonel Barter informed Brigadier Savige that the Greek commander was politically well-connected and they just couldn't move his troops out of the area. Brigadier Savige bitterly remembered the events that followed. By this time, the Greeks were living in a fantasy world where they considered that they were stubbornly resisting, not disintegrating, which was the reality. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The 19th Brigade's withdrawal went poorly

Again, there was difficulty in communicating with all the companies in the 19th Australian Brigade to inform them of the order to withdraw on 14 April 1941. They had assumed that they would be able to take their Bren carriers with them. They found to their dismay that the bridge could not hold them and the one raft they had was unequal to the task and overturned. They were forced to destroy the carriers as best as they could. One company became separated, but they were reduced to sixty men, so they were able to transport them across the river using a small boat. While all this was happening, the Germans were pressing the Greeks defending the mountain passes to the north. The armoured brigade was caught in the mess. They attempted to withdraw along congested roads. In the process, the 3rd RTR had seven tanks break down. This was Robert Crisp's unit and he was present. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Germans press forward against the 19th New Zealand Battalion

The Germans continued to press forward late on 14 April 1941. During the night of 14/15 April, Major Sampson, commander of the 19th NZ Battalion, realized that his unit was almost surrounded by the advancing Germans. In the dark, he had his men pull back, further up the slope. He had two platoons stage an attack that drove back some Germans that had advanced near to Prosilion. Early on 15 April, General Blamey ordered General Mackay to pull the 19th Australian Brigade across the Aliakmon. The day was already late, with little light left. Communications were poor and there was no bridge across the river. The engineers made an amazing achievement, in that in a few hours they had built a wooden bridge over the Aliakmon, so that the 19th Brigade could cross at 9pm. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History,

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Servia Pass from 14 April 1941

The 4th New Zealand Brigade had been holding the Servia Pass. From 14 April 1941, they came under increasing air attack from German divebombers. The brigade was positioned high above the river, looking down steep mountain slopes and then down an escarpment. During the afternoon, the men could see the advancing German troops headed their direction. The Ju-87's were equipped with the noisemaker that was intended to shake the morale of their victims. They proved to be disquieting to the New Zealanders who were having their first taste of this sort of attack. As the sun set on 14 April, the German artillery started firing ranging rounds towards the New Zealanders. By early on 15 April is when they noticed the Germans pretending to be retreating Greek troops and who were trying to infiltrate the New Zealand lines. That was when they had opened up with machine gun fire and had decimated the Germans. They killed, wounded, or captured some 400 men in the process. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The situation deteriorates further in Greece

As events progressed on 14, 15, and 16 April 1941, the Germans were pressing forward. The mountainous terrain had made even communication difficult. One battalion of the 16th Australian Brigade found on 16 April 1941, that they should have withdrawn the night before. No one had been able to find them earlier, so that was not possible. By 14 April, General Wilson had ordered a withdrawal from the Aliakmon line. The Germans were using infiltration tactics to penetrate the New Zealand and Australian lines. They pretended to be retreating Greek troops to gain entrance to the positions. The New Zealanders recognized what was happening and opened fire with machine guns, doing dreadful execution on the Germans. They then rounded up many prisoners, some of them being Austrians. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Zealanders in action

The situation on the night of 13-15 April 1941 was that the New Zealand troops on the left could hear the Germans advancing towards them. The next day saw the Germans moving past the demolitions and probing the New Zealand positions. The Germans only started replying to artillery in the late afternoon on 15 April. The 16th Australian Brigade, which was to position themselves between two New Zealand brigades only crossed the Aliakmon on the night of 13 April. The Australian battalions became separated and were faced with mountainous terrain. On the morning of 15 April, the troops of the 2/3rd Battalion that they had been cut off by German troops during the night. They eventually all got themselves into what they believed were their intended positions. When the decision was made to withdraw to Thermopylae, the commanders wondered how they could let the 16th Australian Brigade know. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Greek army 13 and 14 April 1941

On 13 April 1941, the Greeks were hold several passes and were staging an orderly withdrawal. At noon on 14 April, the 20th Division was pushed out of the Klisoura Pass. The remnants of the 20th Division were ordered south to the Grevena road. Other Greek divisions were able able to stage an orderly withdrawal into other positions to the south. By 14 April, German units had reached the Aliakmon line where the ANZAC Corps was deployed. Demolitions were started, but the troops in Greece lacked the equipment necessary for adequate demolition in mountainous terrain. The New Zealand brigades had seen German units approaching by late afternoon on 14 April. During the night, the New Zealanders could see the Germans bringing troops forward for use in the morning. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The move back to Thermopylae

The plan for the retreat was to put the New Zealand Division on the east of Thermopylae and the 6th Australian Division to the southwest. They would occupy the Bralios Pass. The move would be made by vehicle, so that the men would not have to march the whole way. As long ago as 13 April 1941, Admiral Cunningham was told of the intent to evacuate Greece. General Wavell's staff was planning for the embarkation of the forces. At this point, the Germans caught the small British air contingent on the ground and destroyed ten Blenheims. What was left of the RAF in Greece was withdrawn to Athens, too far away to support the troops. The Germans mounted air attacks in increasing intensity from this time onward. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The next phase of withdrawal: from 16 April 1941

General Freyberg, the commander of the New Zealand Division, would command the next phase of withdrawal in Greece starting on 16 April 1941. The 5th NZ Brigade Group would be the first, withdrawing from the Olympus Pass. The 4th NZ Brigade would move out of Servia at the same time, starting overnight on 17 to 18 April 1941. Brigadier Savige's force was exposed, far out on the left. He would also withdraw his troops on that same night. The rearguard would also withdraw on the following night. That would leave the 1st Armoured Brigade to move across the plain during the day on 19 April. The New Zealand Division would move south along the coast road, while the armoured brigade and 6th Australian Division would move on the main highway through Pharsala. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

General Blamey's withdrawal plan: 15 April 1941

The first move in the withdrawal of General Blamey's corps would be made by the 6th NZ Brigade. They would from the Olympus Pass to a position astride two roads between Tirnavos and Elasson. They would be supported by an Australian field regiment. The 19th Australian Brigade would withdraw from north of the Aliakmon River to a Damakos, where they would come under the command of Brigadier Lee. The 16th Australian Brigade would move to a road at Zarkos. They would be supported by a field regiment. General Blamey hoped to have all the 6th Australian Division "behind the passes" by the morning of 16 April 1941. By then, a second withdrawal would begin, commanded by General Freyberg. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The withdrawal to Thermopylae

After the events of 13 April 1941, General Wilson and General Blamey were in agreement to withdraw to Thermopylae. A new feature of the campaign were the frequent German air attacks. They entailed dive bombing and strafing. The British had relied upon their small air strength for reconnaissance up to then. The Australians and New Zealanders would keep the roads for themselves to the exclusion of Greek forces. This was a drastic measure for them to take with their allies, the Greeks. The actual orders for withdrawal were only issued early on 15 April 1941. General Blamey issued detailed orders for the withdrawal early in the evening of that day. He planned a quick move and to have the men start before the end of the day. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Brigadier Savige's orders on 14 April 1941

Brigadier Savige was ordered to hold the road junction of the Pindus and Grevena roads. He only received the signed orders very late on 14 April 1941. He was also to support the British armoured brigade. To accomplish his mission, he was given what we now call a combined arms force consisting of four infantry battalions, seven tanks from Robert Crisp's unit, the 3rd RTR, two troops of medium guns, one NZ field artillery battery, one Australian anti-tank battery, one MG company, a field company, and an ambulance unit. Brigadier Savige did not actually see his orders until early the next morning. When General Blamey heard that the Greeks had lost Klisoura pass, Generals Wilson and Blamey had the sense that the Greek army was at the point of collapse. This is baed on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The 17th Australian Brigade arrives

Brigadier Savige, brigade commander of the 17th Australian Brigade, arrived at General Blamey's headquarters on 13 April 1941. His three battalions and the third battalion of the 19th Brigade, were still in Athens. For better or worse, General Wilson was at Blamey's headquarters when Brigadier Savige arrived. He was immediately sent off to scout the road from Larisa and the road from Kalabaka and Grevena. That latter road was the route for the 1st Armoured Brigade and the Western Macedonian Army to use for their withdrawal. They called Brigadier Savige back to Blamey's headquarters the next day and wanted him to take the newly arrived 17th Brigade to Kalabaka. While they talked, they found out that the Germans had broken through and so they wanted the 17th Brigade to position themselves to defend the road to Grevena and the road to Pindus. We can guess at this point that the situation near the breaking point. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, August 29, 2011

More about the situation on 13 April 1941

The Australian Official History argues that General Wilson misunderstood enough about the Greek army that he assumed that the Central Macedonian Army failed in its role during the withdrawal. They admit that the Greek 12th and 20th Divisions were disorganized and had become incapable of further fighting. They argue, however, that Wilson ignored the potential of ragged Greek troops marching on roads with donkeys and farm carts. Wilson became increasingly concerned about being attacked on his right flank, the side away from the sea. Even though the 17th Australian Brigade was just arriving at the Piraeus, General Wilson ordered them to move to his right flank and provide protection. Some of the 17th Brigade had only arrived on 12 April 1941 and were still in Athens. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Greek situation

The Greek armies of the Western Macedonia and Epirus were ordered on 13 April 1941 to withdraw to the line of the Venetikos River. This runs along the western part of the Albanian border to the coast. At the time of the order, they were located in a "deep salient" back to a line that continued the British line. The orders to the Greeks would force them to cross difficult and mountainous terrain so that the Australians could use the roads. Some Greek units were expected to have to march as much as a 100 miles. At the same time, the 1st Armoured Brigade was to move to the east. The roads turned out to be jammed with Greek unit moving south. Already, the Greek units were no longer capable of organized action and were useless, as they were only intent on reaching Athens. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The defenders at Aliakmon, circa 15 Apil 1941

The force defending the Aliakmon River position was mostly comprised of battalions with Australian a few Australian battalions in a aadly depleted state. They belonged to the 19th Australian Brigade. The 4th NZ Brigade headquarters was south of Servia. Further to the southeast were the 6th Australian Division and New Zealand Division headquarters. Communication was complicated by the fact that the Australian radios did not work reliably. Still, General Blamey's corps was largely in place by 15 April 1941 at the Aliakmon line and the Olympus passes. The initial plan was to fight on the Aliakmon line for an extended period of time. That relied on their ability to stop the Germans, which was not a given. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

13 April 1941

While they had left the 1st Armoured Brigade as a rearguard at Sotir on 13 April 1941, the Australians and New Zealanders were securing the south side of the Aliakmon River defences. There was the 4th NZ Brigade and the 16th and 19th Australian Brigades on the river. By 10am, the 1st Armoured Brigade was withdrawing from their positions. The truss bridge across the river was blown by sappers, just before six British 3 ton trucks arrived. They had left a pontoon bridge intact, so the trucks were able to cross the river. The 4th NZ Brigade was positioned in the Servia pass and had been preparing defensive positions. They were supported by three field regiments positioned in the heights. This is based on the account in VOl.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The 16th Brigade's epic retreat

While the New Zealand Division withdrew to the Olympus defences, the 16th Australian Brigade staged an epic retreat over mountainous terrain. They obtained donkeys from tɨg Greek villagers to act as pack animals. After they left their positions at Veria, the engineers set off explosives in the pass to impede the German advance. Since they had too much equipment for the donkeys and themselves to carry, they were forced to destroy much of what they had accumulated. Tents were burned and ammunition was buried. They broke tools and spare gun barrels as best as they could. They burnt things like great coats and blankets and only kept one each per man. Right before they left Veria, there was fresh snow. The 2/3 Battalion moved back to the pass and took position to cover the track. The other battalions started to move back on 11 April 1941 and the rest by 12 April. One battalion, the 2/1 reached Leventes early in the morning on 13 April. From there, they marched to Lavianna and woke a villager to show them how to find the pass to the river. They marched in deep mud for four miles. The men were so tired that they had to stop. Men who were struggling were unloaded with their comrades carrying their possessions. They arrived at the top of the pass at 6am. They could see the Aliakmon River below them. They were met by sappers at the river who ferried them across. They then had to climb up to Velvendos, a village. On their arrival, they estimated that they had traveled 34 miles under difficult conditions. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Withdrawal to the Olympus-Aliakmon line

As General Mackay and the Greeks fought a rearguard action, the Australians and New Zealand Division withdrew on the Aliakmon-Olympus line. The New Zealand Division had made the move as early as 10 April 1941. They left the divisional cavalry forward, with armoured cars and bren carriers and supported by field artillery. They made a fighting withdrawal as they were pressed. They pulled back about ten miles behind an anti-tank ditch. As the Germans brought forward infantry and tanks, the cavalry regiment withdrew to Olympus. As all this occurred, the 16th Australian Brigade had been withdrawing towards Servia. As the terrain was mountainous, they were reduced to using donkeys and had to discard, burn, or otherwise destroy equipment and supplies. They marched towards the Aliakmon under very difficult conditions, with snow and mud. By 6am on 13 April, they were four miles from the Aliakmon. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The attack on Yugoslavia: 12 April 1941

As early as 6 April 1941, the 14th Panzer Division had captured bridges on the way to Belgrade. They were only utilized by the Second Army, starting on 9 April 1941. The ambiguous political situation in Yugoslavia can be gauged by the fact that Zagreb was captured by the Germans, late on 10 April, they were cheered by the populace. The 8th and 14th Panzer Divisions then drove towards Belgrade. Three groups of German units moved into Belgrade from different directions on 12 April. Their main difficulties had been caused by bad roads and blown bridges. They had generally suffered very few casualties, as Yugoslav resistance had collapsed. This points out that British hopes of Yugoslavia as a serious ally were fantasies, only, in Anthony Eden's mind. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The German forces on 12 April 1941 in the Balkans

General Stumme's 40 Corps had two panzer divisions, an infantry division, and one SS motorized division. They had connected with the Italians in Albania and then were ordered to swing south to hit the British forces in the rear. While this operation was in motion, Field Marshal Kleist's panzergruppe was rolling over the remnants of the Yugoslav army in the south. The Germans expected to find the Australians and New Zealanders aligned east-west between Kaerini and Kozani. They thought that the corps headquarters would be at Kozani and made plans accordingly. The Germans had attacked on 11 April at Vevi with units from the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler division. They were supported by armour from the 9th Panzer Division. They planned a further attack on the 12th with three kampfgruppes. There was heavy fighting where the Germans took "English" (presumably Australian) and some Greek prisoners. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The declaration of the ANZAC Corps

Generals Blamey, Mackay, and Freyberg had all fought in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Early on 12 April 1941, remembering those days in 1915 when the Australians and New Zealanders had fought together, he declared that from henceforth, the 1st Australian Corps would be known as the ANZAC Corps. This was to celebrate the reunion betweem the Australians and New Zealanders.

At this time, the German plan was to turn the British flank and catch them in the rear with armoured divisions. They had intelligence from Egypt that there were four divisions opposing them. They included the 6th and 7th Australian Divisions and the New Zealand Division, with part of the 2nd Armoured Division. This was certainly the plan, but did not accurately reflect the troops on the ground. The Germans had roared through Yugoslavia, almost unopposed, and then swept towards the British troops. They arrived on 12 April. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

British armour on 13 April 1941 in the rearguard

The Rangers, of the armoured brigade, and the 4th Hussars and 3rd RTR were involved in the rearguard on the morning of 13 April 1941. The 27th NZ MG battalion was on their left. The Germans had pushed into the Rangers, although the Rangers were supported by tanks and artillery fire. They hoped to hold the Germans long enough for the Greek 12th Division to withdraw. The Rangers were still holding in the afternoon and were backed by anti-tank guns. Some thirty German tanks turned the British left flank and were driving towards the armoured brigade headquarters. As night drew on, the remnants of the armoured brigade were forced to withdraw on Grevena. The 1st Armoured Brigade had ceased to exist as a fighting force, although they had inflicted losses on the advancing German armour. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The western Greek armies withdraw: 12 April 1941

General Papagos ordered the two western Greek armies to withdraw on about 12 April 1941. These were the Western Macedonian and the Epirus Armies. They had held an extended salient. By early on 13 April, the Greeks held the three passes to the west and the British rearguard was at Sotir, blocking the road. The 2/4 Australian Battalion was added to the infantry with the armoured brigade. By this time, they only had two companies. They were deployed next to the Rangers. They had most of the 3rd RTR and one squadron of the Hussars. They had the 2nd RHA, an anti-tank battery, and some New Zealand machine gunners. In the morning, the men could see the enemy troops and opened fire. They inadvertently killed some of their own men who had been taken prisoner during the night. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

General Papagos felt like the British had not met their commitments

Wilson's Force W was supposed to cover the Greek 12th and 20th Divisions as they withdrew. General Papagos felt abandoned, because General Mackay's force, which would have covered the Greek divisions, had started to withdraw late on 10 April 1941. General Mackay was very concerned about meeting his obligation, but the Greeks ran into trouble and ended up being partially dispersed. Only part of the force managed to arrive at their destination by the night of 12/13 April. The 12th Division was protected all during 13 April. The Greek troops actually performed a good withdrawal to new positions and fought well in their new positions. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The 2/8th Battalion on 12-13 April 1941

The 2/8th Battalion had been thrown in the gap, straight from the Desert, with raw reinforcements. They were just seven days out of Athens, and had little food or even the ability to rest. They had held out for two days, stopping the Germans, before the Germanss broke into their position with tanks. They stubbornly held the ridge a little longer, before they were forced to withdraw, leaving weapons and other equipment too heavy to carry in their weakened state. After all, they had gone for several days without sleep. They were lucky to withdraw as many men as they did. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The 2/8th was in deep trouble: 12 April 1941

The 2/8th Battalion had depended on the Rangers to form a screen in front, but the Rangers misunderstood what was happening and withdrew to the "rearguard position at Rodona". By late afternoon on 12 April 1941, the situation became desperate, as German tanks and infantry penetrated the Australian position. The men withdrew as best they could, lightening their loads by abandoning weapons and other equipment. As the night fell, the men were marching in mud, which only made matters worse. The battalion should have started a retreat sooner, but the headquarters did not realize how bad the situation had gotten. As the men assembled at Rodona, there were only 250 men from the 2/8th. They included about half the officers but only a fraction of the men. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The German attack on 12 April 1941

The Germans attacked General Mackay's Australians on 12 April 1941. They attacked on a broad front and were in close formation. They overran a platoon, but Capt. Robertson's platoon was able to stop the Germans. The Rangers below, however, had thought that they were overrun, so they started to withdraw. The Germans had trucks and tanks and used the tanks to advance with the infantry following. These were the tactics that the Australians had used, themselves, in Libya. The Australians were increasingly under machine gun fire, and the Royal Horse artillery was left in an exposed position with no infantry in front. By 5pm, the Germans had penetrated the Australian front and had advanced deep behind the lines. In order to escape, the Australians often left their weapons behind. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

General Mackay's situation

General Mackay found that the Greek Central Macedonian Army had withdrawn from their positions at Perdika. He had not been informed beforehand. Now, he found that the last of the army was to move from the right to the left, and that there were 4,500 men, not the 3,000 that he had been led to believe. General Mackay ordered the Greeks to withdraw at 3pm on 12 April 1941. He gave them thirty trucks (lorries) to help with the move. General Mackay then gave orders to the 19th Australian Brigade to be ready to move by early on morning of 13 April. He wanted them in their vehicles by 4am. After the 19th Brigade withdrew, the remaining units would revert to the armoured brigade command, under Brigadier Charrington. Plans were disrupted by the German attack that hit about 8am on 12 April. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Greek plans on 11 April 1941

Given the German threat to the left flank of the Allied army in Greece, General Papagos proposed pulling troops from Albania to reinforce the threatened area. He asked, though, for the 1st Armoured Brigade to provide support to the III Greek Corps that would be withdrawn. In the early morning on 12 April 1941, General Wilson issued oerders for a withdrawal of his forces to the line along the Aliakmon river and the Olympus passes. The New Zealand Division was already back at the Olympus passes. Late on the 11th, General Blamey had already ordered one battalion of the 16th Australian Brigade to withdraw from Veria. By early on 12 April, General Mackay could tell that his forces would be at risk at Vevi. The weather was also having a great negative effect on his troops. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Germans attack on 11 April 1941

By 5pm on 11 April 1941, the Germans launched an attack on the Australians astride the road in the Greek mountains. The attackers were about two battalions of infantry. British artillery stopped the attack before they reached the most forward Australian infantry. The Germans continued to probe and finally dug in a short distance from the Australians. All the while, the snow continued to fall. In the late evening, the snow was about six inches deep, although in places on the 3000 foot ridge, the snow was as deep as a foot. After 10pm, the Germans attacked the 2/8th, but lost prisoners. Some were found to be from the Leibstandarte Adolph Hitler SS motorized division. The Australians of the 2/8th were not well-equipped and lacked such essentials such as blankets. By then, the 2/8th was thinly spread over two miles of front. To the north, the Greek Cavalry division was able to hold their German attackers. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

11 April 1941: the Germans move forward

During the morning of 11 April 1941, some German tanks probed towards the dug in British and Dominion troops. In front of the Rangers, two German tanks ran onto mines and were disabled. During the day, the British field artillery fired on the German vehicles. The German artillery only arrived by late morning and started firing, including with heavy mortars. No direct attack had been launched yet, as there was word of a German flanking movement with tanks that would hit the Greek 20th Division. All the British could do was to send a squadron of the 3rd RTR and a troop of anti-tank guns. Six of the British tanks broke their tracks. Fortunately, the German flanking movement did not continue, so the British could withdraw. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The 10th and 11th of April 1941

By the end of 10 April, 1941, the New Zealand Division had occupied the Olympus passes. They had left behind a screen at Aliakmon, but that was all. At Vevi, things had gone wrong, as Greek units were cut off, despite the British intent to coordinate with them to prevent such an occurrence. With the retreating Greek soldiers and civilians passing through the British lines, there was increasing concern that there might be Germans among them. On the morning of 11 April, there was snow in the mountains, even though the valley had better weather. The soldiers on the mountain were wet and cold, and the snow restricted visibility to perhaps 150 yards. To make matters worse, they found that Germans were trying to infiltrate by speaking English and then taking prisoners. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A bad situation: General Wilson countermands orders from General Blamey

The early hours of 10 April 1941 saw the weakness of the British command structure. General Blamey had issued orders to divisions that he was supposed to command, only to have General Wilson countermand those orders. The 12th Greek Division was the first instance where this happened. General Blamey had ordered the 12th Division to a position that seemed possible, but what General Wilson wanted seemed to be not feasible given the conditions. General Blamey had wanted to withdraw to the south side of the Aliakmon River. The 16th Brigade was ordered to march 30 miles, instead of being carried by vehicle, with a five mile march required. The reason to send off the vehicles is that General Blamey did not expect that General Mackay's force could hold against the German forces they faced. He did not want to have the 16th Brigade caught on the road by the Germans. The New Zealand Division was able on this day, 10 April, to reach the Olympus passes. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Germans attack on 10 April 1941

The Germans started firing artillery at the British and Dominion troops at the Vevi pass on the morning of 10 April 1941. Some of the defending troops had only arrived the day before. Also on 10 April, a German force moved on the Piscadorian Pass held by the Greek Cavalry Division. General Wilson met with the Greek commanders and General Mackay to discuss withdrawal from their present positions. They hoped to have three nights to complete the withdrawal. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Action in the Florina Valley

In the morning of 10 April 1941, the men and surrounding hills were covered in a new coating of 3 to 4 inches of new snow. After the Rangers blew up the road outside their protective minefield, the British artillery commenced firing at the advancing German vehicles. A gun of the 64th Medium Regiment got a lucky hit on a German truck with their first shot. The British and Dominion troops could see the German infantry and tanks moving into positions about three miles to the north, behind a ridge line. The British artillery continued firing, but there was no answering fire from the Germans. Perhaps the advancing infantry and tanks had moved faster than their accompanying artillery. The Vevi Pass was only weakly held by three infantry battalions. They were fortunate that the Germans were not ready to attack. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The aftermath of the iGerman attack conquest of Yugoslavia

On the night of 9 April 1941, snow fell on the British and Dominion troops in the Greek mountains. Already, there was a procession of Greek and Yugoslav refugees passing through the lines. Mixed into the mass were Yuguslav soldiers and Greek police. New Zealand armoured car patrols sighted the leading German troops headed for the defensive lines. The air force was also active and reported a large group of German vehicles were stopped at the Crna River, as the bridge was being repaired. By the 10th, the Rangers blew up road at the Vevi position, where it lay outside of their minefields. In the afternoon of 10 April, the British and Australian artillery fired at the advancing Germans. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Attack on Yugoslavia

Field Marshal von Brauchitsch stuck to his plan to attack Yugoslavia on 10 April 1941. By then, the people had learned of their betrayal by Prince Paul and his followers, along with some of the military. This apparently demoralized most of the people, so there was only piecemeal resistance to the German attack. The Germans took Skopje by 7 April and had overcome resistance in the south by 8 April. One armoured division moved on Salonika, while the Leibstandarte Adolph Hitler had turned left and moved into the Monastir valley. The Yugoslav fortress troops put up a stiff resistance, unlike most of the army. The forts were gradually taken over the 6th, 7th, and 8th. Salonika fell on 9 April. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The German attack

The German plan was to send one armoured division towards Zagreb with the remainder attacking Belgrade. The plan would send the infantry towards Zagreb. From there, they would move on Belgrade. The mountains would be covered by the mountain divisions. This sort of plan made the Italians angry, as it was intended to defeat Yugoslavia at the first move. The Italians wanted help near Albania. Plans changed after the coup d'etat in Yugoslavia, so that Kleist's armoured group would attack from Sofia toward Belgrade. Another corps would move into Yugoslavia further south to join up with the Italians near Lake Ochrid. The Metaxas line would be hit by another corps. One corps was to advance into western Thrace. The Germans expected that there were 16 Yugoslav divisions and they had made their plans accordingly. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The German army in April 1941

The German army had 14 armoured divisions available in early April 1941. Of these 14, six were available for service in the Balkans. Of the 153 total divisions, besides the 14 armoured divisions, there were 8 motorized divisions (3 being SS divisions and one the 5th Light Division in North Africa). There was but one cavalry division, six mountain divisions, and 124 infantry divisions. Another two armoured division and 18 more infantry divisions were being assembled with a completion date of early June. The timing must have been driven by the plans for attacking Russia. The complete Balkans army consisted of the six armoured divisions, four mountain divisions, and 16 infantry divisions. There would be no army group commander. All the divisions would report directly to Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, based in Austria. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The forces for the attack on Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941

The Second Army was deployed in Austria for the attack on Yugoslavia. The army consisted of both regular army and Waffen SS units. The Army units included four armoured divisions, two motorized divisions, two mountain divisions, and six infantry divisions. The Waffen SS contingent included one motorized division, one Bulgarian SS division, and two SS regiments. The Twelfth Army was reduced to two armoured divisions, two mountain divisions, four infantry divisions, one infantry regiment, and the SS Leibstandarte "Adolf Hitler". There were a further two infantry divisions in reserve and one armoured division deployed on the Turkish border. Field Marshal von Brauchitsch took personal command of the operation against Yugoslavia and Greece. He moved his headquarters to Austria to be close to the action. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Twelfth Army

The German Twelfth Army had fought in France in 1940. From there, Hitler had positioned them for combat in the Balkans. They had been sent to western Romania in late 1940. One obstacle that would have to be solved was the lack of suitable bridges across the Danube for the army to move through Bulgaria quickly. Ice in the Danube river further complicated the situation. The plan had been for the German engineer units to build additional bridges, but the ice impeded that work so only three were completed. One bridge was damaged by a storm, so the movement into Bulgaria was delayed. The changing political situation in Yugoslavia necessitated additional forces to be used, so the twenty divisions of the 12th Army were augmented by the Second Army. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The German plan for the attack in the Balkans

The German attack on Greece was code-named Operation Marita. Hitler had issued his directive authorizing the attack in December 1940. He had hoped to annex Yugoslavia without a fight, but the coup changed his plans. In part, the attack on Greece was to forestall the construction of British airbases that might strike both Italy and the Romanian oil fields. He planned to attack with an army of twenty divisions. He thought that by March, the weather might be suitable for operations. The coup in Yugoslavia caused a schedule slip that not only affected the operation in the Balkans but delayed the planned attack on Russia. After the coup in Yugoslavia, Hitler resolved to be ruthless in their treatment of the Yugoslavs. This would be an object lesson to other countries which decided to resist. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The pass at Vevi in Greece on 10 April 1941

The force under General Mackay started to occupy their defensive positions near Vevi, in the mountains. There was a narrow pass at Vevi, perhaps 500 to 1000 yards wide. The position might have been a good blocking point, but the British and Australian troops were spread so thin that they were reduced to patrolling lines, rather than having fixed positions. The plan was to hold Vevi to provide time to prepare positions further back at the Aliakmon river. The 1st Armoured Brigade was part of General Mackay's force and they had arrived and deployed the previous day. General Wilson's small army was a composite force of British, Australian, New Zealand, and Greek troops. Vevi is a narrow point in the Monastir Valley. The terrain was such that the men had to carry their equipment and supplies up the mountain sides. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

9 April 1941: the New Zealand Division

From early on 9 April 1941, the New Zealand Division moved its units. The 21st NZ Battalion had only recently arrived, but it was moved to the Plantamon tunnel. The Official History says that this was between Mount Olympus and the sea. The foremost battalions of the 6th NZ Brigade were to withdraw into reserve, in the rear. By late in the day, the 4th NZ Brigade had moved to near Servia. The NZ Division HQ was moved to Dolikhe. While all this was happening, the British armoured cars reconnoitered to the north. They found the leading German units north of Monastir, heading towards General Mackay's force. They would only reach them by the 10th. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 30, 2011

9 April 1941

Early in the morning of 9 April 1941, General Mackay and Colonel Sutherland met with the Greek general Karassos. They met for three hours. Afterwards, General Mackay said that he considered that there was little accomplished by the discussions. General Mackay intended to have his headquarters near the Greek headquarters and he planned to increase the anti-tank gun support from a troop to a battery. On the 9th, the 1st Armoured Brigade and part of the Australian 19th Brigade arrived at their positions. The troops spent the night in the snow without shelter. They were already weary from their climb with heavy loads. The next day, they would advance into their positions at Vevi. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the defensive line of 9 April 1941

General Wilson's force that was to defend the Olypmus passes and the Aliakmon line was mixed Greek, Pritish, and Dominion. The plan was for General Blamey to command the New Zealand Division, the 16th Australian Brigade, and part of the Greek 12th Division. The one pure Greek force was commanded by General Karassos and consisted of the 20th Greek Division and part of the 12th. General Mackay commanded a force in the north that included the 1st Armoured Brigade, General Mackay's command and the Greek 20th Division would withdraw back to the defensive line. The British force included armoured cars which were used on the 9th to find how far the Germans had advanced. The Germans were still to the north of Monastir at 4:50pm on 9 April 1941. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 23, 2011

On the afternoon of 9 April 1941, the Greek force in eastern Macedonia surrendered to the Germans. They had stood against the Germans, but were not cutoff. The German commander commended the Greek resistance and their ability to not panic. The battle in eastern Macedonia lasted but four days. Like the fall of France, the Germans attacked through a third country and outflanked a fortified line. By holding Salonika to please the Yugoslavs, the Greeks lost four to six divisions. On the morning of 9 April, General Wilson had ordered a withdrawal to the Aliakmon line. Wilson later heard that General Papagos had approved of the withdrawal. General Papagos, after learning of the events of 9 April planned to withdraw from Albania and central Macedonia to a prepared line further to the rear. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The blocking force plan: 8 April 1941 in Greece

General Mackay's blocking force would consist of two battalions of the 19th Australian Brigade, the 2/3 Field Regiment, "Lee's Detachment" (3rd RTR, 27th NZ MG battalion (without two companies), 2nd RHA, 64th Medium Regiment, and the 2/1st Australian Anti-Tank Regiment. The main problem was that this was a token force, but they would try and block "the main German thrust into Greece". They decided to pull back the 6th Australian Division that had been trying to relieve the 12th Greek Division. Now, General Wilson was thinking about the Aliakmon line as a position to try and hold. They would send the 4th NZ Brigade to Servia Pass. They ordered the 6th NZ Brigade to pull back through the Olympus Pass, which was held by the 5th NZ Brigade. An immediate concern was that the British/Dominion command structure was ad hoc and jumbled due to General Wilson's decisions to date. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The German advance causes the Eastern Macedonian Army to stop fighting

With the Germans sweeping down through the Axios valley, they reached the point where nothing stood between them and Salonika. That news was enough to bring the commander of the Greek Eastern Macedonian Army to ask for an armistice. While the Greeks were doing well in Albania, the overall situation stopped their offensive. He decided to withdraw towards the line that General Wilson had proposed to defend. General Papagos had issued orders to Wilson, but Wilson had decided to make his own moves. General Wilson planned to assemble a force to block the Florina gap. Wilson appointed General Mackay to command the force and Wilson wanted him directly under his command. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Yugoslavia collapses on 8 April 1941

The British were not able to conduct aerial reconnaissance on 8 April 1941 due to the rain and snow. A patrol penetrated north and found that the Yugoslavian army in the south had collapsed. The Germans had taken Veles and Skoplje. Three Yugoslav divisions surrendered to the Germans. A core of Yugoslav officers gathered at Florina. Three Yugoslav tanks and four anti-aircraft guns returned with the patrol. A German thrust through the Doiran Gap pushed back the Greek 19th Division. General Papagos had hoped that the British 1st Armoured Brigade might help hold the gap, but there was no chance of that happening. The 4th Hussars, presumably with light tanks, formed a screen on the Axios plain. When they saw German tanks driving across the plain, they blew up a road bridge and damaged a railroad bridge before withdrawing. Canadian commandos destroyed the oil stored at Salonika, as had been planned. The New Zealand Divisional Cavalry and the 6th New Zealand Brigade also conducted demolitions before withdrawing. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The weather turns bad in Greece: 8 April 1941

Conditions in Greece were getting increasingly difficult for the British and Dominion troops. Not only were the Germans driving forward from Bulgaria, but on 8 April 1941, snow started to fall in the mountains. The valleys got rain at the same time. From the mountains, when conditions cleared enough, the Australians could see Salonika and Yugoslavia, where battles were being fought. The Australians had little protection from the weather, as there was only one tent per platoon. They also had great difficulty communicating with the people they encountered, due to the scarcity of interpreters. The Australians also observed that the Greeks were largely untrained. The Greeks sited their one machine gun in an unprotected position and then piled up rocks to drop on the Germans when they came. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The German sweep: 7 April 1941 in Greece

The Greek HQ at Salonika received word on 7 April 1941 that a German armoured force was sweeping through Yugoslavia, and then turned south through the Doiran Gap. They would flank the Greek force and drive south to Salonika. The Greek 19th Division was stationed at the Doiran Gap the day before, and reinforcements were rushed to aid them. The Germans were moving fast, and the leading units arrived at Doiran late on 7 April. A Greek offensive in Albania had started on 7 April, but had made little progress. The Yugoslav division that was to have cooperated failed to do so on the 7th. The 19th Australian Brigade, under General Wilson's command, was ordered forward, despite being short a battalion. The 16th Australian Brigade was to move to the Veria Pass and try and hold it. They were often above 3000 feet and had to carry equipment up the mountains, or use the few donkeys that were available. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Bad things begin to happen: 6 and 7 April 1941 in Greece

Despite the request by General Blamey to withdraw the New Zealand Division back to the Olympus passes, General Wilson still wanted them to hold more forward positions. The staff did begin to consider a move rearward to new positions, but while all that happened, there was a disaster in the Piraeus. On the night of 6 and 7 April 1941, the Germans bombed the harbour and detonated the explosives on the Clan Fraser. The explosion devastated the harbour facilities and sank 7 ships, and many lighters and caiques. The explosion drastically reduced the ability of the Piraeus to unload cargo from ships. After being closed for the next two days, when the port reopened, only five berths could be used of the original twelve. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Germans attack in the Balkans

The advance of the German 12th Army hit the Yugoslavs and the meager Greek forces on the Bulgarian frontier. Two fortresses on the frontier were left manned. A brigade was left in support, hardly a force to resist the German advance. Oddly enough, the forts on the frontier still held against the Germans on 6 April 1941. Two other fortresses in the interior of Thrace also held out against the attack. It seems that the Greeks were doing better than they should have been expected to do. Once he had heard of the German attack, General Blamey went to ask General Wilson for permission to withdraw the New Zealand Division to the mountain passes. General Blamey considered that he had been given permission 12 days earlier. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

No chance of reinforcements to Greece

While there had been plans to pull more troops out of North Africa to further build the British force in Greece, this was thwarted by new developments. In late February 1941, German units were arriving in Libya. By late March, they were in action. The Germans took El Agheila by 24 March. On 2 April 1941, they occupied Agedabia. They forced the short-handed 2nd Armoured Division and the incomplete 9th Australian Division eastward. In response, General Wavell changed his plans and sent the 18th Australian Brigade of the 7th Australian Division to hold Tobruk. In fact, now the entire 7th Australian Division was to go to Cyrenaica, not Greece. When General Blameny learned of this diversion, he complained that it jeopardized the effort in Greece. At the same time, the German 12th Army moved into Greece and Yugoslavia. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The British and Dominion forces spread thin in Greece

The British and Dominion defensive line, perhaps with some Greek help, was at least 100 miles long. They were not only thin on the ground, but lacked in artillery as well. There was but one medium regiment in Greece to support the line. The 4th and 6th NZ Brigades were on the far left, covering a front from the sea to the Olympus foothills. The 5th NZ Brigade was to defend a front of 15,000 yards. On their left was the 16th Australian Brigade. They were to move forward to defend the Veria pass. This sort of force was to face 23 to 25 German divisions, presently located in Bulgaria. Events in Libya made it clear that some of the planned troops would not be available. This was all happening in early April 1941, about the 5th and 6th. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Outmanned at every turn: April 1941 in Greece

Not only were the British and Dominion ground troops out-manned by the Germans, but the air force was in even worse shape. There were only 80 serviceable aircraft in Air Vice-Marshal D'Albiac's force in Greece. They would have to face something like 800 German and 300 Italian aircraft. The one Army Cooperation Squadron was mostly equipped with Westland Lysanders, which could not face serious air opposition. The squadron was hard-pressed to muster even a single Hurricane. The force under General Wilson's command was outmatched in every way, with no prospect of success. You have to wonder why they persisted in the operation. The only result would be what you would expect. They would be hustled out of Greece by the Germans with the loss of their precious equipment and some nearly irreplaceable (at this date) troops. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A small British armoured force would try and protect against a turning movement

The possibility that the Germans would sweep across southern Yugoslavia and then turn south, turning the British and Dominion front, was a pressing concern. The problem was that the proposed solution was to send Brigadier Charrington, with the 3rd RTR (Robert Crisp's unit), with some NZ machine gunners and some medium artillery to move into the German path. Why would they not be overrun by a superior force? Some Australian anti-tank gunners would later be added.

By April 5, General Wilson was placed in command of Allied forces in Central Macedonia. Two Greek divisions were called an army, while the Allied forces were stretched across a large distance, so that almost everywhere, there were no force concentrations. Only one Australian brigade was in position. The New Zealand Division was in forward positions. The 6th Australian Division units and the commander arrived about 5 April 1941. The troop transport convoys were disrupted by the recent Battle of Cape Matapan. The Allied army was in great disarray, but was being placed according to General Wilson's plan. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Politics has bad effects

General Wilson declined to allow General Freyberg and the New Zealand Division permission to fortify the Olympus passes. General Wilson apparently was concerned about commitments that had been made to the Greeks and the slight hope that they might still be able to draw Yugoslavia into formal cooperation. Even more troubling was the possibility that the Germans might force their way through Yugoslavia and turn the Allied line and catch them in the rear. Sadly, General Wilson now proceeded to scatter his forces across Greece, so that they would lose any advantage of concentration of their all-to-small force. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Generals' recommendation

After visiting the planned defense line, General Freyberg visited General Blamey, and they agreed that the line could not be held against an attack that included tanks. Freyberg suggested that they instead pull back and defend the passes near Olympus. That is the sort of thing that the ancient Greeks would have done and would have made more sense than being so far forward and in a position where the troops would be dispersed across a wide front. General Blamey visited General Wilson in Athens on 24 March 1941. He obtained General Wilson's agreement that the New Zealand Division would be allowed to fortify the passes, rather than occupy the forward position. However, in the event, General Wilson never granted the New Zealand Division permission to withdraw to the Olympus passes. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An untenable situation in March 1941

The Greeks wanted General Wilson to help defend a forward position that might persuade Yugoslavia to cooperate. General Wilson declined, but he did agree to position the armoured brigade forward as a delaying force. He decided to ask General Freyberg and the New Zealand Division to defend the coastal end of the Aliakmon line. General Freyberg complained to General Blamey, when he visited on 23 March 1941 that he was being asked to defend 25,000 yards of front with two infantry brigades and one field artillery regiment. They would eventually gain strength, but they were still stretched too thin on the ground. They were also concerned about the state of the Greek army, which was practically immobile, limited to pack animals and bullock teams, giving a one mile an hour speed of movement. This is based on Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

General Freyberg arrives in Greece

After arriving in Greece on 7 March 1941, General Freyberg traveled forward to the Olympus-Aliakmon line. He visited the Greek 19th and 12th Divisions. He was dismayed to find that they were very substandard. The 19th Division only had 2,000 untrained men. The 12th Division had six battalions and three artillery batteries. He also visited the 20th Division, which was equipped similarly to the 12th Divsion, but with more guns, although only a small number more. He found that the plan for the 19th Division was to hold 12,000 yards of the line. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The German attack

British preparations for the move into Greece actually started on 23 February 1941, when Brigadier Brunskill, Wilson's senior admin officer, arrived in Athens. When the British and Dominion troops started arriving, they were welcomed by the Greek people. Some men were transported by rail, but many traveled by road. The Australians loved Greece, as it was such a contrast to the desert. The land was beautiful and the people happily greeted the arriving troops. The men could also see that Greece was a backward country, and lacked the modern conveniences that even the Australians were used to having. The 16th Brigade group arrived on 27 March at a location near Mt. Olympus and the Aliakmon River. At the same time, the New Zealand Division was moving into a position to the north east of Olympus. The entire division was nearly in place. The Australians, in contrast, trickled north from the Piraeus and towards their position. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Communications in Greece were a challenge

The road system, such as it was, in Greece was decidedly second rate. It was below the usual European standard. The best roads were just asphalt, while they often were macadam, that is, layers of broken stones. The Athens-Florina road was often not even two lanes wide. There was some 1,600 miles of railroad, with only 350 passenger coaches and about 5,000 box cars (as we call them in America). The port of Athens, the ancient Piraeus, could handle 3,000 tons a day, unloaded. Since Salonika now seemed impossible to hold, the only alternative port was Volos. That port would be limited to 6,000 ton ships or smaller. The port of Stilis might have been used, but the Greeks wanted to use the rail line to hold railroad cars withdrawn from Macedonia. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No coordination with Yugoslavia

By 4 April 1941, there was obviously no hope of the British and Greek armies operating in coordination with the Yugoslav army. By 4 April, there were only 1-1/2 British dominion divisions in Greece. They were to help hold a rearmost line with a small Greek contingent. General Wilson would command the rear force, consisting of a joint Greek-British force. We can judge the chances of success by the fact that General Wilson was already looking at possible lines of retreat. They also had formulated plans to embark the British and Dominion troops for a withdrawal from Greece. At this point, we have trouble understanding why they even considered proceeding with what now appeared to be a hopeless plan. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 11, 2011

General Blamey in Greece

General Blamey conducted a reconnaissance of the proposed Vermion-Olympus line. He sent a cable to the Australian government on 31 March 1941 outlining the weakness of the position from the north. The lines of communication were very tenuous, as well. Given the strength of the Germans in Bulgaria, 23 to 25 divisions, the token British and Dominion forces, along with the rather meager Greek army seemed hopelessly outnumbered and outmatched. Churchill, by now, had a wildly, over-optimistic view of the situation, more in line with what I had remembered from the British Official History. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

General Dill's trip to Belgrade

General Dill was sent to Belgradee on 31 March 1941. He told the Yugoslavs that the British force would be about 150,000 men and that they were about half that size at that date. He hoped that they could cooperate, but the Yugoslavs had hoped that the British would advance to Doiran Gap. General Dill told them that the British planned to defend a line that included Mount Olympus. They would only advance if they had assurances from the Yugoslavs about cooperation. The Yugoslavs countered that they would not cooperate with the Greeks without the consent of the whole of their government. A follow-on meeting was planned in Greece on 3 April. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Churchill was over-optimistic after the Yugoslav coup

While Churchill's optimism was understandable, his fantasy of 70 Allied divisions in the Balkans was totally unrealistic. In fact, Turkey was firm in not becoming involved in the war unless they were attacked. For there to be a Balkan front, the Allies needed to hold Salonika and communications with Yugolsavia. The plan for troop deployment meant that holding Salonika was a real possibility. Anthony Eden and General Dill flew back to Greece from Malta to meet with General Wilson. The Greek General Papagos told the British that the Yugoslavs had 24 infantry divisions and 3 cavalry divisions. They sent General Dill to talk with Yugoslav leaders about the Allied plans. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Yugoslavia's choice

Discussions took place in Belgrade after Colonel Peresitch returned from Greece. Those discussions lasted until 24 March 1941, when Yugoslavia decided to side with Germany in the war. A delegation went sent to Vienna, where they joined the Tripartite pact. When the news was heard in Belgrade, young officers staged a coup d'etat. Prince Paul and his family were exiled and the young prince was proclaimed king. The coup was widely backed by the Serbs in Yugoslavia. General Wilson was on a reconnaissance mission to northern Greece, prompted by news of Yugoslavia joining the Axis. Winston Churchill was greatly heartened by news of the coup. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

A fallback position

Even before the British and Dominion troops went into Greece, General Wilson was concerned about a fallback position. He seems to have little faith, by about 9 March 1941, they there was any prospect of halting a German advance into Greece. General Wilson hoped to send a team of officers to look for defensible positions behind the line that they expected to go into initially. While this was happening, the Italians in Albania mounted a new offensive in the middle of the front. The Italians used 12 divisions, but where not able to make progress against a Greek force half their size. This says a lot about the quality of Italian troops and their morale, as the Greeks were not only a smaller force, but were poorly equipped. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official history.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An assessment of the Yugoslav visit and the aftermath

The Australian Official History says that the apparent mission of the Yugoslav envoy, Colonel Perestich seems to have been to collect enough information that Prince Paul, the Yugoslav regent, could decide which side to join. The Allies certainly did not get what they desired from the Yugoslav visit. They did hear that what Yugoslavia was concerned about was that Salonika would be held, as that was vital to their supply line. The Yugoslavs, however, were unwilling to make any commitments to the Greeks and British. While this visit happened, General Wilson, the British commander-designate for the Greek operation, was becoming increasingly concerned that his force would be overcome piecemeal and would be ineffective. This, of course, was General Blamey's concern as well. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The secret meeting in Greece

On 8 March 1941, a Yugoslav colonel carried out a secret visit to Greece where he met General Wilson, the eventual British commander of the force to be sent to Greece. General Wilson was not in uniform, to assuage the concerns of the Greeks. They were concerned, of course, at a German reaction to the visit of General Wilson to meet with the Yugoslavs about possible cooperation against the Germans. The Yugoslav visit was a response, rather late, to a British request for talks. Prince Paul, the regent, decided that he would rather negotiate with the Germans and hope to forestall an invasion. Therefore, the British got nothing from the meeting. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Dominion government concerns

While both the governments of Australia and New Zealand agreed that they still backed the operation in Greece, they both asked that the promised British forces be sent to accompany the force, but that the necessary plans must be made to withdraw them if, as expected, the Greek forces would not be able to stop the German advance. The situation prompted Admiral Pound to send a personal message to Admiral Cunningham about the need to be prepared for a withdrawal of the Dominion forces. Admiral Cunningham refused, however, to commit any more than withdrawing the Australians and New Zealanders with the British when such a withdrawal happened. The Australians then raised the question whether General Blamey should command the force going into Greece, due to the majority being Dominion troops. Both Generals Blamey and Freyberg were very experienced and were qualified to command the Greek force. In the end, as the British wished, General Wilson commanded the force sent to Greece. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More about General Blamey and the Greek plans

General Blamey was very unhappy with the British plans for Greece. He considered that the Australian forces were being sent to "Europe" in small pieces, rather than as part of a larger force. He had hesitated about being too open about his opinion, but when Mr. Menzies found out the truth in late 1941, he realized that the British had misled him about General Blamey's supposed agreement with the plan. General Blamey kept up a brave front in March 1941 and said despite the plan being bad, the Australians would perform well in battle. It appears, however, that General Blamey had hesitated to express his concerns forcefully to the formidable General Wavell when they met in early March. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Churchill's reply to Mr. Menzies

The Australian cabinet were greatly distressed over General Blamey's opinion of the Greek plan. Mr. Menzies appealed to Winston Churchill for some reassurance that there was some chance of success in Greece. Mr. Churchill countered with what I had assumed all along was the driving force behind a move into Greece. The motivation was Anthony Eden's sense that they were morally obligated to go to the aid of Greece and that the political fallout was too great to risk not going into to Greece. We already suspect that the professional military opinion was that there was little chance of a successful outcome. So the British government was pushing the Commonwealth forces to go into an untenable situation for political reasons. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A negative reaction

After General Blamey had complained about his treatment by Generals Dill and Wavell, the Australian government was greatly distressed by this and by the fact that General Blamey considered the Greek operation to be very risky. The Australian government was also concerned about a refusal being viewed in a negative light by other countries. Part of Wavell's attitude towards General Blamey was that Wavell had discussed the Greek operation with Mr. Menzies, prior to meeting with Blamey, so the second meeting seemed superfluous. General Blamey was ready to be the good soldier and go to Greece, even though he saw the plan as being fatally flawed. General Blamey suspected that the international political considerations outweighed his concern about a bad plan. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stories told

General Blamey had been promised that 23 squadrons would be available to support the force in Greece. The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, was told in London that there were only 11 squadrons available. The reality was even worse: only seven squadrons were ultimately to support the force sent to Greece. Both the Commonwealth commanders, Generals Freyberg and Blamey, felt that they had never been consulted about the planned operation to Greece. They had only been instructed by the CIGS and General Wavell as to their roles. Dill and Wavell seemed to not care about either Freyberg's nor Blamey's opinions on the subject. Dill had represented to the officials in Britain that he had obtained Freberg's and Blamey's "willingness" to participate in the Greek operation, which was very far from the truth. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The crisis in early March 1941

The British, particularly Anthony Eden, were ready to steamroller the Australians, especially General Blamey. General Wavell had not even discussed with Greek operation with General Blamey, the Australian commander. It was only when Antony Eden had received the cable from Churchill that he realized that the Australians, in particular, were reluctant to participate in the "Greek adventure". Generals Dill and Wavell called General Blamey for a meeting. Was Blamey being "called on the carpet"? General Blamey spoke later of this meeting and he felt like he was receiving instructions, not being consulted. General Blamey correctly understood that the British were determined to carry out the Greek operation, so he made a plea that they include adequate forces to give it some chance of success. The actual plan only included what amounted to token forces compared with what they would face in the Germans. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Churchill loses faith in the Greek operation

By 6 March 1941, Winston Churchill had lost faith in the Greek operation. He sent a cable where he thought that they should change the plans to concentrate on taking Tripoli. That got an angry response from Anthony Eden, who pressed everyone involved to continue with the Greek operation, even though he was the only one who wanted to continue. The Australian General Blamey had already expressed jos concerns about the Australian forces to be committed to Greece. Prime Minister Menzies had already sent a cable about his concerns about the new situation in Greece. There was a claim that discounted the threat of German intervention in North Africa and they claimed that "Benghazi could be held". Apparently, Anthony Eden had wanted the operation to continue due to the commitments he had made, despite the opinions of Generals Dill and Wavell. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, expressed his unhappiness that Anthony Eden had made a written commitment of Australian forces that had "substantially" modified the proposal with which he had agreed. The Australian commander, General Blamey, requested permission to submit his concerns before the force was committed to battle. This was incongruous because the government had agreed to the original proposal with the word that General Blamey had agreed. As it was the government was now committed and any concerns would probably have to be ignored. The gist of General Blamey's cable sent from Alexandria was that the divisions committed to Greece were all just collections of smaller units that had never trained together as divisions. They would be facing highly trained and well-equipped German divisions. They would be facing the weight of German air power. General Blamey considered the Greek operation as extremely hazardous, and that proved to be correct. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Further information

On 26 February 1941, the New Zealand Government had agreed to send their division to Greece, but only on the condition that it be fully equipped and have an armoured brigade accompanying them. The Australian Government agreed to send two divisions to Greece, but conditioned on there being plans and adequate shipping to withdraw them if the operation failed. As the situation looked increasingly bad, Mr. Menzies had asked that the plan to send troops to Greece be reconsidered. The Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, also had misgivings. It was Anthony Eden who insisted that the doomed operation go forward. The government in the UK had then sent General Wavell a message taking responsibility for the Greek operation. The die was cast. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, March 07, 2011

March 3, 1941 in Greece

On 1 March 1941, after the intelligence had been received that the Germans were now in Bulgaria, the situation was radically transformed. The Greek attitude became defeatist. In actuality, the German advance into Bulgaria would only occur several days later. Still, Anthony Eden and General Dill were so alarmed by the changes that they asked General Wavell to fly to Greece. He arrived on 3 March and they had a meeting with the Greek King and General Papagos on 4 March. General Papagos proposed a compromise about how the Greek troops would be deployed. They considered withdrawing the offer of military aid, but finally accepted the compromise. The British delegation was left in an uncertain position. Anthony Eden had sent a communication to Yugoslavia, hoping for a positive response. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Germans move into Bulgaria

While the British delegation was still in Ankara, on 1 March 1941, they heard that German forces had entered Bulgaria. That prompted another visit to Athens by the British group. The British envoy in Yugoslavia, thought that the Yugoslavs might be impressed by their plans to aid the Greeks. They knew that the Yugoslavs feared the Germans, but they seem to have an inflated concept of the small force that they could send to Greece. The Greeks were hesitant to withdraw from Macedonia until they knew how the Yugoslavs would react. With the Germans in Bulgaria, the Greeks thought that the time had passed for a withdrawal to the agreed-upon line. General Papagos did not want to start a withdrawal that he calculated would take 15 days, not with the Germans already in Bulgaria. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

After Greece in late February 1941

When the British diplomatic and military group left Athens, they first stopped in Cairo. From there, they went to Turkey. The British had hoped to have Turkish agreement to come into the war on the Allied side, but the Turks refused, given that the British had nothing to offer in return. All the available troops were earmarked for Greece. The Turks considered themselves to be ill-equipped and were considered about the unreliable Yugoslav government. The Turks were more concerned about Russia, which was still cooperating with Germany, then they were the Germans. The British still had the good will of the Turkish government and people, even though they felt that they needed to stay neutral. The Turks were impressed that the Germans had beaten the British in 1940, as the Turks had been beaten by the British in 1918. They calculated that the Germans must be very powerful. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, February 28, 2011


The British delegation to Greece included the CIGS, General Dill, General Wavell, and Anthony Eden. The British and Greeks negotiated most of the night. Finally, at about 3am, the Greeks accepted the British offer of assistance. Oddly, Anthony Eden was said to be "buoyant", after the Greeks accepted. Lt. Col. de Guingand, who accompanied the delegations says that Anthony Eden asked the the number of men be inflated beyond what was possible, presumably to ensure that the Greeks would agree. Considering that there was little possibility of success, Anthony Eden's attitude towards the outcome of the negotiations is telling. He apparently was more interested in having a successful negotiation to his credit than being involved with an operation that had almost no chance of success. The British military understood the situation, but that was ignored by Mr. Eden. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Greek plan

The Greek general Papagos explained the plans to the British delegation about 22 February 1941. There were four Greek divisions east of the Axios River. That is located south of the border with Bulgaria. They formed the Eastern Macedonian Army. If the Yugoslavs decided to fight the Germans, then the Greeks should attempt to hold Salonika. That was the natural supply source for Yugoslavia. If the Yugoslavs stayed neutral, or worse yet, cooperated with the Germans, then the Greeks would leave only fortress troops in Eastern Macedonia and would withdraw to the passes at Olympus, Veria, and Edessa. That withdrawal would take the Greeks up to twenty days. The Greeks calculated that it would take eight divisions, along with a reserve division, to defend that line. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The British force for Greece

The British plan included about 100,000 men for Greece. This would include three infantry divisions and the Polish Carpathian Brigade. There would also be one armoured brigade, with another one a possibility. That would mean a force "with 240 field guns, 202 anti-tank guns, 32 medium guns, 192 anti-aircraft guns and 142 tanks." The intent was to ship the units in three groups. The first group would include one infantry division and an armoured brigade. Each group included one infantry division, with the Polish Carpathian Brigade included in the second shipment. The last might possibly include a second armoured brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Doing the wrong thing for political reasons

Even the CIGS, General Dill, had been involved in the decision to send a force to Greece, but had doubts that doing so would serve any useful purpose. Anthony Eden hoped to pressure the Greeks to take the help immediately, to increase the chance that it could be successful. All Anthony Eden hoped for was to be able to hold a line against the coming German attack. Mr. Eden thought that the lack of air power would preclude holding Salonika, which is what General Wavell wanted to do. They decided to "offer the command" to General Maitland Wilson. At the start of discussions between the Greek government and the British delegation, the Greek prime minister, Alexander Koryzis, expressed his government's intent to fight the Germans when the attacked. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, February 18, 2011

General Wavell in February 1941

General Wavell could see that for the British to hold Salonika and provide an air force to raid Rumanian oil fields would be desirable. He thought, though, that they were likely not to arrive in time to do either. Another possibility was that they could help the Greeks hold the Aliakmon River line. But Wavell had doubts about whether the Greeks would fight the Germans when the time came.

While all this was being discussed, the British air strength in the Middle East was declining. Losses exceeded what was being sent to North Africa. In the first three months of 1941, the British lost 184 aircraft and received 166. Also, there seemed to be no army units available for North Africa. The only division that had arrived from the UK after June 1940 was the 2nd Armoured Division, which was poorly equipped. There was a plan to send the 50th Division around the Cape of Good Hope, but they had not been dispatched as of February. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Australian units in the Middle East

Two Australian brigades arrived in the Middle East from Britain. They were the 18th and 25th Australian brigades. They were diverted to the 7th Australian Division since they were better equipped than other units. They joined the 21st Australian Brigade, which was already part of the 7th Australian Division. The 9th Australian Division was left with the 20th, 24th, and 26th brigades. The 8th Australian Division was in the Far East, in Malaya and Australia.

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, was in Egypt from 5 February to 14 February 1941. He met with General Wavell about the plans for Greece. After the meeting, General Wavell sent a telegram expressing his misgivings about sending a force to Greece when Greece and Turkey were hesitant to accept British aid. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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