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.

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