On 12 April 1941, Brigadier Vasey insisted that the 1/Rangers were still in position when they had infact withdrawn. The Australian battalion 2/8th were in position, holding "the heights". They had been attacked on their left, however. The 1/Rangers were as far back as two miles, sitting on the road. The dangerous situation was that five of six anti-tank guns were left without protection. The 2/8th Battalion's position was in fact a "salient". Without the Rangers in front of the 2/RHA, there was only a platoon of New Zealand machine gunners. For whatever reason, the 19th Brigade headquarters kept saying that the Rangers were still in position when they were not. "It was at 3pm that Vasey told the Rangers to hold until dark. That was then the Rangers were far to the rear" from the 2/9th Battalion. "It was soon after this that the Rangers withdrew to the position at Rodona." Somewhere about this time, the Germans attacked. By then, the Dodecanese Regiment had left the area. By then, the 2/8th Battalion was taking heavy machine gun fire. "This was coming from the heights on the right". The battalion headquarters, "ammunition dump and aid post were taking German machine gun fire. It was coming from the left side." It was by about 4:30pm that the telephone to the brigade headquarters stopped working. Without the Rangers being in position, that the "main road was cut". The 2/8th was now planning on withdrawing if possible. They would "withdraw to the southeast since the German tanks were in motion on the road". Things had deteriorated to the point that all the Australians could do was to move fast and keep to the hills. This si based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
The withdrawal from Vevi in the face of the German attack
General Mackay was working the withdrawal from the Vevi position. He found out from the "last Greek staff officer" that the Dodecanese regiment had more men than he expected. General Mackay learned that the Greek regiment had about 4,500 men, not 3,000. "He ordered the Greeks to start withdrawing at 3pm". He gave the Greeks some 30 3-ton vehicles to use to move their "sick and wounded". They thought that they had some 1,200 sick and wounded men. General Mackay issued orders to ther Australian 19th Brigade. The 2/4th and 2/8th Battalions were ordered to be picked up by vehicles "behind the Vevi position". The plan was for the Australian battalions to "start thinning out at 7:30pm on 12 April". They would load on vehicles at 8pm. The Rangers were sitting across the road. They would block the road to protect the withdrawing men. All the men were to be on vehicles by 4am on 13 April. Part of the armored brigade and "a company of the Rangers" would move to a place at Radona and Sotir. The aim was to be on the road to the south to protect "the main withdrawal". "The rest of the armored brigade was to a spot about three miles south of Ptolemais." "The force at Sotir then would withdraw through Ptolemais. "The plan was that command of the 1/Rangers, the 2nd RHA, and the New Zealand machine gunners" would be commanded by Brigadier Charrington, the armored brigade commander. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
The withdrawal starting on 12 April 1941
General Wilson issued "an instruction" about withdrawing to the Olympus-Aliakmon line. He thought it should be "as soon as possible". The Greek 20th Division was supposed to be to the west of the road "by 2pm on 12 April". Wilson placed the Dodecanese Regiment under General Mackay's command. He wanted the Australian 19th Brigade to move to the Kerasia area. They would be north of the Aliakmon river. He wanted the British artillery to move south across the Aliakmon river. The armored brigade would move to Grevena. The plan was for the armored brigade "to be south of the new line by 8pm on 13 April". By this time, the New Zealand infantry brigades had traveled to the Olympus passes. Back on 11 April, General Blamey had ordered that one battalion from the Australian 16th Brigade should start withdrawing from Veria.
By early on 12 April, the Australians under General Mackay's command had been able to hold without being "seriously attacked". By this time, however, they began to expect a strong German attack. It was also a fact that the men were having a lot of trouble with fatigue and the cold weather. Me were being withdrawn due to "fatigue and frost-bite".
By late on 11 April, General Mackay that "the commander and staff from the Central Macedonian Army had left Perdika for Vateron without having warned the Australians". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Overlapping the rearguard at Vevi post
We may have already mentioned that two battalions of German infantry attacked along the road, late in the afternoon. British artillery fire stopped the German advance. The Germans had gotten within a half mile of the defending posts. The 2/4th Battalion at this point lacked a proper artillery observer, so an Australian captain had to fill the role using a telephone. From about 5pm until about 9pm, the Germans still tried to move forward against the Australians. Guns from the Royal Horse Artillery that were dug in delivered well-aimed fire against the Germans. The guns were dug in, in front of the Australian line.
At this point, the snow was getting deeper. On Hill 1001 there was now six inches to a foot of snow. This was the hill where the 2/4th Battalion was located. From 10pm, the Germans attacked the 2/8th Battalion, but the Australians were the ones taking prisoners.
After one fight, two wounded German prisoners were found to be from the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler SS motorized division. Fighting in night in the "intense cold" pushed the men of the 2/8th Battalion to the limits of what they could handle. No one had any blankets and the men were not able to heat their food.
The Germans to the northwest were pressing against the Greek Cavalry Division, The Greeks were able to hold their position. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Rearguard action at Vevi
German tanks were seen approaching during the morning of 11 April 1941. Several were seen to rurn onto mines in the field in front of the Rangers. British field artillery started firing at German infantry that was unloading from vehicles. This was happening near Vevi. They could also see German infantry digging in along the road to Kelli. This also drew British artillery fire, "By late morning and early afternoon, German artillery arrived". They also started to take machine gun and heavy mortar fire from weapons sited along the Lofoi ridge. While the infantry were considering their options, they heard of German tanks that were threatening the 20th Greek Division. There was enough concern that tanks from the 3rd RTR and guns from the 102nd Anti-Tank were moved towards the Pandeleimon. While trying to travel over plowed vineyards, six tanks broke their tracks. In the event, the Germans didn't continue their flanking movement. The British tanks and anti-tank guns were pulled back.
At close to 5pm, about two battalions of German infantry attacked along the road. They were stopped by fire from British artillery. The 2/4th Battalion had to rely on improvised artillery observation. The Germans continued to press the Australians. They were fired on by well-aimed fire from the Royal Horse Artillery. They had dug in front of the infantry. Hill 1001 now had six inches to a foot of snow. This was where the 2/4th Battlion was sited. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, December 08, 2020
In the Florina Valley on 11 April 1941
On 11 April 1941, in the Florina Valley, the weather was fine, but the weather "on the heights" was not so fine. The men "on the heights" were getting snow on them. With the mist, the men were wet and cold. The snow and mist greatly reduced visibility. The men of the 2/8th Battalion were in bad shape. They had been made to march all day and only reached their position "at dusk". The men were "asked to link up with the Rangers". That left them in "exposed positions on the forward slopes". When they had tried to dig in, they found that the ground was too rocky to dig. They "could only dig shallow trenches". soon, they heard German patrols calling, trying to get men to show themselves. Before they realized who was calling, some Australians, New Zealand machine gunners, and Rangers were captured. They had encounters with the German patrols all night and that interrupted their sleep. At dawn, there was no sign of the Germans. At 3pm, one Ranger company had been pulled back on the right of the Rangers.
After a awhile in the morning, they saw German tanks. Another German tank was mined in front of the Rangers. British field artillery opened up on German infantry that were unloaded near Vevi. They could also see German infantry "digging in along the road to Kelli". This si based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Friday, December 04, 2020
The rearguard action at Vevi
There had been an effort to work with Greek troops, but roads and bridges were blown "in front of the British line". That meant that "some Greek troops were cut off". They could see "Greek troops and refugees passing through the British lines all day". There was concern that the Germans might employ paratroops in Greece the way that they had in Holland. There was also nervousness about troops disguised as refugees.
On 11 April 1941, the weather was fine in the Florina Valley. They could see, though, that "there was snow on the heights". The men were in the middle of snow and mist. That meant that they were wet all the way through their clothes. Not only were the men wet but they were cold. The snow and mist also reduced visibility to some "50 to 100 yards". The plans as executed were very hard on the men. The 2/8th Battalion had been forced to march all day on the 10th. They "had only reached their positions at dusk". They were supposed to meet up with the men of the Rangers. That put then "in exposed positions on the forward slopes".
To make matters worse, they found that the ground was rocky so that they were not able to do a good job of digging in. After a while, they could hear men speaking in English, trying to get the men to answer and let the enemy know their positions. A variety of men were taken prisoner, including New Zealanders, Rangers, and Australians. By daylight, they could not see the enemy troops. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Thursday, December 03, 2020
Bad stuff ordered by General Wilson in Greece
General Wilson told General Blamey that the 12th Greek Division would be on the north side of the Aliakmon River, not the south side as General Blamey had wanted. General Blamey's staff protested that it would be very difficult to have the Greek division on the north side of the river. They only way to cross would be over improvised foot bridges. The 16th Australian Brigade was negatively affected by the change in plans. The brigade was to have sent their vehicles across the river. That left the men to have to march "across mountains". They would be "to the right of the New Zealanders in the Servia Pass." Since the men did not have their vehicles, they were put into a bad position having to climb up and then back down mountains in a march that would be very difficult for the men involved. The brigade commander, Brigadier Allen, didn't think that the move was a good idea. If the men had been allowed to use their vehicles, what was being asked of them would be very doable. Brigadier Allen thought that the plan was meant to "reduce traffic congestion". I was done at the expense of hardship for the men involved. The Australian historian says that the real explanation was that General Blamey was afraid that Mackay's force at Vevi "could not withstand a powerful blow". He was concerned that an enemy breakthrough at Vevi would hit the 16th Brigade while they were trying to withdraw "along the main road". He believed that they were safer "marching over hills" despite being hard on the men. When planned, they were trying to mount a defense on the "Olympus-Aliakmon line". The planners assumed that the men would be able to rest before they had to fight.
While the other events happened, the New Zealand Division successfully moved to the Olympus passes. They carried their supplies with them. The only forces left on the Aliakmon line were the Greek cavalry. The 5th New Zealand Brigade was now at the main Olympus pass. To their rear was the New Zealand 6th Brigade. Meanwhle, the 21st Battalion was ready to "demolish the Plantamon tunnel". That was located "in the pass between Olympus and the sea". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Churchill's friends and the affect on the war
A feature of Winston Churchill is that he liked to appoint officers who were friends of his or at least men he knew. Because of that, Churchill kept appointing Henry Maitland Wilson to various posts. We suspect that Thomas Blamey might have done better then General Wilson. The problem with General Blamey Churchill was that Blamey was an Australian and not a regular army officer. But what we know of his background, he performed better than we expected.
We saw, then, General Blamey making plans as corps commander. Then we saw General Wilson make plans without consulting General Blamey that totally undercut Blamey's plans. We can see now that General Wilson worked independently, since he was army commander, he figured that he could just go ahead and make plans without consulting his subordinates. We see that the Australian historian didn't like the command structure with Wilson issuing orders without consulting Blamey. The Australian historian felt that Blamey should have been the army commander, and in fact, Blamey would have been the logical choice.
Another Churchill choice, in choosing Bernard Freyberg to command the defense of Crete was also a mistake. By the time Freyberg reached Crete, he was in bad shape due to exposure and lack of rest. Freyberg seems to also have lacked the necessary experience to have commanded the defense. If we wanted to defend Churchill's choice of Freyberg, it would have to be on the basis of the immense prestige of Freyberg. Unfortunately, prestige was not enough to successfully command the defense of Crete.
As it was, Wilson's plan was a bad plan. Blamey's staff disagreed with the plan to split the force between the north side of the river and the south side. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
The British command structure only created confusion
By 10 April 1941, you had the Australian general Blamey making plans, because he was commander with responsibilities. Then you had General Wilson, who figured that he was the British commander and should be making decisions. Wilson had a meeting with General Mackay and the Greek general Karassos. They had decided to take three nights to withdraw from the Vermion-Veria position. they wanted more time since the Greeks didn't have "motor vehicles". Wilson's plan was for the Greeks "to withdraw across the valley and occupy the passes". Mackay would move south . This left the Greeks on the left. This seemed to simply the setup so that the Greeks would only touch the British in one spot. One issue was that Mackay was left to hold the line for "three nights and two days".
General Blamey had made plans in term of his corps. He was concerned with the Olympus-Aliakmon "position". He expected to receive orders to pull out from Veria. He notified the Australian 16th Brigade and the Greek 12th Division about Blamey's plan. Blamey planned to pull vehicles to the south, "ready for protracted defense". His plan for the Greek division was to cross the Aliakmon on a foot bridge to be built. Blamey's plan was affected negatively by Wilson's orders. The Australian historian thought that Blamey should have been the overall commander. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Friday, November 20, 2020
Preparing to withdraw in the face of the German advance
On the night of 9 to 10 April 1941, as much as 3 to 4 inches of snow fell on the men who were resting near the Vevi pass. Men watching the pass could see Yugoslav and Greek refugees. Mixed in, they could see some Yugoslav soldiers and Greek police. As mentioned, several New Zealand armored car patrols had seen German forces moving south. They had exchanged fire but had not taken any damage. British aircraft could see a large mass of German vehicles "on the north bank of the Crna River". They were stopped by the blown bridge. By then, they had seen German vehicles. They decided that all the Greek artillery that would be able to move south had been seen, so they decided to blow the road "ahead of their minefield". The demolition had been conduced by the Rangers.
After 1pm, "British and Australian guns fired at long range on German vehicles". A first salvo by the 64th Medium Regiment got a lucky hit on a German truck. The British and Australians had artillery observers watching German vehicles moving south. British artillery was firing "intermittently". During the afternoon, they could see infantry and moving into position some three miles to the north. You had to think that the "infantry and tanks had outrun the artillery". 10 April was a strange day, because the Germans did not mount a "coordinated attack". The Australian historian thought that this was fortunate, because there were only three battalions of infantry to hold the Vevi Pass. Two of the battalions were the Rangers and the 2/4th Battalion (Australians). A third battalion, the 2/8th Battalion "were scrambling up hills to fill the gap on the right of the line".
Early on 10 April, when the artillery started firing, you would have seen infantry company commanders conducting reconnaissance in an area that at this point had no occupants. If they looked north, they would have seen the Germans moving south. If they looked to the south, they would have seen their infantry at the end of marching eleven miles, and then having to climb the steep slopes. Once they reached the top, they would need to then dig in. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Sytia" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
The initial attack and the defense circa 9 April 1941
The initial attack crossed the Yugoslav frontier with each division being a column. They moved towards Skoplje. The 73rd Division advanced towards Velos. The Germans moved into Skoplje on 7 April. The German 2nd Armored Division neared Strumica. The Yugoslav defense had collapsed by this point. 8 April saw the southern Yugoslav defenses were defeated and there were only remnants of units in existence. What I take to be the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler division turned left and moved into the Monastir Valley. The 2nd Armored Division had by this time moved through "the Axios Valley" towards Salonika.
The Metaxis Line was a very strong position with well-designed forts. They resembled the Maginot line in France. The Germans had hoped to move through to Salonika, but the forts were not a push-over. The Germans had two mountain divisions and heavy artillery. The Hellas Fort held out for 36 hours after a heavy artillery bombardment. The Ekhinos Fort "held out for days" after the Germans had bypassed the fort and left it in their rear. The Germans had broken through to Salonika, but there were Greek forts stubbornly resisting in the German rear.
By 9 April, the 2nd Armored Division had reached Salonika. On the left side, two German divisions had succeeded in passing the "frontier forts" and had reached the sea. The Germans had collected some shipping, including Italian destroyers and had "occupied the islands of Samothrace, Thanos, Lemnos, Mytilene, and Chios".
"During the night of 9 April, British infantry found themselves covered in snow. There were refugees moving through the pass. They observed some Yugoslav troops and Greek police accompanying the refugees. The Greek police were well-dressed in contrast to Greek soldies who were not.
New Zealand armored cars had driven north and had seen two German columns. One column was at Vevi and a second was at Sitaria. They were lucky to not be damaged, since they had "exchanged fire" with German forces. British air reconnaissance had seen many vehicles sitting north of the Crna river. They were stopped by blown bridges. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
The German attack has started in April 1941
The Germans hastily regrouped after they heard of the Yugoslav coup. The armored group commanded by Kleist was to attack north from Sofia in the direction of Belgrade. This was an armored group in name only, as it had but one armored division. It also had one mountain, one motorized and two infantry divisions. A corp would move into "southern Yugoslavia", hoping to break up a Yugoslav army and join up with Italians. Another corps would push through the "Metaxas line' The plan was operating under the assumption that there some sixteen Yugoslav divisions located near Nish, Skoplje, and Velos.
The primitive road system caused problems for the Germans. "The roads were narrow and winding". Some of the German guns were so long that they could not be towed on the road. German engineers resorted to explosives to make it possible for the guns to move. Another issue was that in Yugoslavia, there were rivers affected by the spring thaw.
Troops on the right for the Germans had been able to cross "the Mur and Drave rivers". What was helpful was that they were able to capture some bridges that were still intact. The Germans took many Yugoslav prisoners as they advanced. Another factor that aircraft from the Yugoslav air force flew to Austria to surrender. Another issue was that very few German troops were actually in the field. The German commander decided that they would follow the original plan. That meant that they would have to wait until 10 April to move on Belgrade. In Yugoslavia, "the people were shaken by the treachery of the Regent, Prince Paul. Some mililtary leaders were also involved. That meant that there was less resistance to an attack, because of knowing about the political situation. The Germans took Vardar on 6 April, Skoplje was taken on 7 April. By this point, the Yugoslav army was mostly not fighting. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Monday, November 09, 2020
The plan and move to invade Greece in 1941
<p>Hitler planned to accumulate a force in Romania from January 1941. Once the weather turned better, they would then move through Bulgaria to take the northern coast of the Aegean Sea. The coup in Yugoslavia meant that a military effort would be needed in Yugoslavia. They had hoped that a political move would be sufficient. They planned for a violent move against Yugoslavia in the new plan. They wanted to frighten Turkey into inaction and also set Greece back, to make them fear what a German attack would be like.
They would give Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria some incentives from what they take in the attack. They planned to destroy Belgrade by air attack. "They would attack in waves". Russia had already concluded a treaty with Yugoslavia, but the Germans ignored that document. The Second German Army would attack Yugoslavia, advancing out of Austria. The Twelfth Army would be assembled in Austria.
By the beginning of April 1941, the German army had some 153 divisions. They had 14 Armored Divisions and 8 Motorized Divisions, of which 3 were SS. There was also one Light Division in North Africa. They also had "124 Infantry Divisions, six mountain and one cavalry division. Field Marshal von Brautchitsch was put incommand of operations in the Balkans. The headquarters would be located south of Vienna. Belgrade was an important target of the operation.
German mountain troops were part of the plan. They would cover the western flank. Interestingly enough, the Italians were unhappy with the plan. The Italians wanted the Germans to attack Yugoslav formations near Albania. One German attack was to move northward toward Belgrade. They Germans would go ahead and link up with the Italians "at lake Ochrid". The Germans had trouble with the narrow roads. They often had to blast to widen them. There was also a problem in Yugoslavia with "swollen rivers". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Thursday, November 05, 2020
Waiting for the German attack
<p>A mixed force of New Zealand, Australian, and Greek waited for the expected German attack. "During the first quarter of 1941, the German army to attack Greece was assembled. They called the operation to attack Greece "Operation Marita". "A directive to attack Greece was issued on 13 December 1940". There was concern about "British air bases that threatened Romanian oil fields and Italy". The battle in Albania had an uncertain outcome that could threaten later operational plans.
The situation in Yugoslavia changed with the success of the coup. That caused the dates for attacking Russia to change among other operations. It also increased the forces that would be necessary for the Greek Campaign. They needed to treat Yugoslavia with sufficient harshness so that Turkey would be frightened into staying out of the war. Part of the plan included bombing Belgrade to destroy the city. The Germans assumed that Croatia would come into the war on their side when the attack happened. The Soviets had signed a treaty with Yugoslavia, but the Germans were undeterred by that event.
The German 12th Army was assigned to conduct the operation against Greece. The 12th Army had been involved in France in 1940 and was beginning to assemble in Romania in late 1940. The 12th Army would have to cross the Danube River. It would be up to the 12th Army to construct ways to cross the river. One of the challenges was that in late February, the Danube was blocked by ice. With the ice as an issue, the 12th Army only had time to build three bridges before they moved into Bulgaria. They were only able to move into Bulgaria for some days after 2 March.
HItler wanted the attack on Greece to begin on 1 April, but Field Marshal List would be the one to set the exact dates for the operation. The new requirement to occupy Yugoslavia meant that they needed to add more forces for the attack. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Wednesday, November 04, 2020
Preparing to fight the Germans on 9 April 1941
It seems that the bridge being demolished at "the north side of the River Crna" had slowed the German advance into Greece. Early on 9 April 1941, General Mackay and "his chief staff officer" met with a Greek general Karassos "at Kozani". The meeting lasted three hours, partly due to the need to rely on interpreters. General Mackay had thought that the meeting was wasted time, because he had not learned anything. The British increased their anti-tank gun support to the Greeks "from a troop to a battery". During the day, the 1st Armoured Brigade and two battalions of the 19th Australian Brigade "arrived and began deploying". The 6th New Zealand Brigade got "warning orders". Men had traveled all night in conditions that meant that there was no way to sleep. The men therefore had arrived very tired. Where they were, they had to deal with snow without any shelter. On top of that, the men then had to move to new positions at Vevi which were only accessible by marching on foot. The men were forced to carry everything they took, so that made their situation even worse.
A feature of Vevi was that the Monastir valley narrowed. To the immediate west, there were "steep hills". To the east, there were two lakes that "sat across the path over the foothills". Through the pass was a "winding course through a defile". The path was lined with steep hills with "no trees". While this was a good defensive position, the units had to be spread wide. To support each other, they would need to "patrol in the gaps". The hillsides were steep and lacked tracks. That meant that the men would have to carry "weapons and supplies". In the center were the artillery, consisting of medium guns, field guns, and machine guns. They had a platoon of New Zealand machine gunners. They were with the 2/8th Battalion (Australians). This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
In more action on 9 April 1941, British armored cars drove north. When they were about five miles north of Monastir, they saw German armored forces gathering on the north side of the River Crna. The bridge had been blown recently. When the Germans had not advanced to Monastir by 4:50pm, it was obvious that there was no way for the German armor to advance to Monastir quickly. That was a sign that Mackay's group was safe for the moment.
Mackay and his senior staff officer met with the Greek general Karassos. They met for some three hours, but General Mackay thought that they had not accomplished much. They agreed to increase British anti-tank guns in support of the Greeks. It was later on 9 April that the 1st Armoured Brigade as well as two battalions of the 19th Australian Brigade had arrived and moved into position. The Dodecanese regiment was to their right. The Australian 2/8th Battalion was in position to the left. The 1/Rangers were sitting, blocking the road. The Australian 2/4th Battalion was "on the hills to the west". The battalions had driven all night to get into position. The roads were described as being "greasy". Once they arrived, the infantry were "forced to make long marches to get into position". The men were out in the snow with no protection from the elements. During the morning of 10 April, the men had to move again to be in position at Vevi.
At Vevi, the terrain changes. The Monastir valley narrows at Vevi. West of Vevi, there are steep hills some 3,000 feet high. To the east are two lakes that block an advance "over the foothills". The pass at Vevi varied in width between "100 and 500 yards". The path is demarked by "steep, rocky hills". It was potentially a strong defensive position. The problem was that on the sides, you would have to stretch out platoons with a lot of space in between. There would be gaps that would have to be patrolled. There were not tracks to follow, so that they men were forced to carry equipment and weapons. There was no way to move men quickly from one part of the front to another. The center was where the artillery was sited and it helped to counteract the lack of infantry. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Monday, October 26, 2020
The British in Greece on 9 April 1941
General Wilson decided on the morning of 9 April 1941 to order a withdrawal to the defensive line at the Aliakmon River. When Wilson returned to his headquarters, he learned from Brigadier Galloway that General Papagos had approved the planned withdrawal. General Papagos then issued orders to the Greeks to withdraw from Albania and Central Macedonia. General Papagos wanted to meet with General Wilson on 11 April. The Greeks would remove all the supplies from Koritza. He hoped that the Greek withdrawal could be hidden behind a British defense at Kleidi. Two passes would be held by Greek divisions, while the Greek cavalry division would hold the Pisoderion pass.
General Wilson referred to a "rear defensive line". This included the Olympus "defiles via Servia to the escarpment". They needed to hold "Vevi" to give the Greeks time to move their divisions. There would be three parts to the Aliakmon line. General Blamey would command the right part. His forces included "the New Zealand Division, the 16th Australian Brigade and part of the 12th Greek Division". General Mackay's force was the north part of the line. He now had the entire 1st Armoured Brigade under his command". Blamey now was responsible for holding in the Veria area until the 20th Greek Division and Mackay's force had arrived. Wilson ordered that the Greek divisions would surrender their vehicles and would be dependent on pack animals. He ordered the British forces to help supply the Greek needs.
It was during 9 April that the New Zealand Division began to shift its forces. The 21st Battalion now was located at the Platamon tunnel "in a narrow pass between Olympus and the sea". The 6th Brigade received orders to "withdraw into reserve". The New Zealand Division headquarters would move to Dolikhe. The 4th New Zealand Brigade arrived at Servia late on 9 April. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Sorting out the British command structure in April 1941 in Greece
<p>General Mackay had heard that the 1st Armoured Brigade was to move to Amindaion "before dawn". General Mackay might well have expected that the 1st Armoured Brigade would fall under his command. The General put Brigadier Vasey in charge of defending the Gap. He would get the 1/Rangers, 2/1st Australian Anti-Tank Regiment, and the New Zealand Machine Gun Battalion. The rest of the 1st Armoured Brigade would be held in reserve. He had a brigadier, Brigadier Herring, who was in charge of all artillery, several field regiments and the medium regiment. General Mackay's force was short of infantry, but strong in artillery, where the Germans might well be short. Mackay had a problem, that he and his staff lacked an interpreter. When I spoke with the Greek commander of the 12th Greek Division, they were forced to communicate in French, which did not go particularly well.
The situation got worse on 9 April when the Greek army in eastern Macedonia surrendered. The campaign in Eastern Macedonia only lasted for four days. The Germans had moved through Yugoslavia and went around a strong line. The Greek commander lacked the strength to act against the armored force that "outflanked his organization". By the Greeks trying to hold Salonika, they paid by losing four of six divisions.
General Wilson ordered a withdrawal to the Aliakmon line. This happened on 9 April. Wilson met on 10 April with General Mackay and the Greek commander of the Central Macedonian Army. They heard that the Greek General Papagos had approved the withdrawal. A famous man, Brigadier Galloway, was a member of Wilson's staff. General Papagos wanted to meet with General Wilson at Pharsala on 11 April. They learned that General Papagos had ordered a withdrawal by stages. There was apparently a third line of defense. They were apparently going to give up territory in Albania and Macedonia. "In an instruction from 9 April", General Wilson had "defined a rear defensive line". They would "offer a protracted defense". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
The command situation in Greece in April 1941
The British command organization in Greece had become rather problematic. The Australian general Blamey was now a corps commander with his headquarters at Gerania. He commanded the New Zealand Division, the Australian division, and the 12th Greek Division. The Central Macedonian Army had a Greek commander. General Mackay now reported directly to General Wilson. Wilson had an advanced headquarters near Blamey's. Wilson also had a rear headquarters in Athens. The independent British air commander had a headquarters in Athens, as well. Athens also had a British independent naval staff. For some reason, there was also a British Military Mission in Athens.
Your ordinary British army officer generally thought that Wilson should have been "supreme commander of British forces in Greece". Apparently, they thought that the air officer should have been Wilson's deputy. They also thought that Wilson should have stayed in Athens for easy communication with the British ambassador and the commanders of the various organizations. There should not have been any British Military Mission and "the Military Attache should have been part of Wilson's staff". You would then have Blamey's corps headquarters command "all British and Greek troops in the Aliakmon position". The British had "public school knowledge of French". That and an interpreter should have been adequate for communications with the Greeks. The Australian General Mackay arrived at Sotir, at Lee's headquarters, shortly before midnight on 8 April. He was to command the Vevi Gap position, which conveniently enough had no infantry in place. The Australian brigadier Vasey, who commanded the 19th Brigade, but his battalions were absent. One was moving forward still, and another was near Veria. The third had not arrived in Greece, yet. All that Lee had under his "command were the 64th Medium Regiment, the 2/1st Australian Anti-Tank Regiment", and "the New Zealand Machine Gun Battalion". It seemed possible that Lee might add the 1st Armoured Brigade to his group of units. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Response to the German advance into Greece and Yugoslavia
8 April 1941 saw the Greek army in Albania resume an attack. The Yugoslav army also attacked, but without much success. The Greek commander ordered the attack to stop, because of the concern about what was happening in southern Yugoslavia. General Papagos was concerned that a German advance into the Monastir Gap would pose a threat to the rear of the Greek "Western Macedonian Army" in Albania. It might even threaten General Wilson's army in the rear. General Papagos ordered the troops in the mountains "north of the Edessa Pass" to move to Lake Vegorritis. That would put them close to the British. The left of the British army could be linked to the right side of the Western Macedonian Army. The Greek Cavalry Division would be the link. The Greek Commander was trying to send orders to the British commanded by General Wilson, but Wilson "made his own plans and issued his own orders".
As early as 11am on 8 April, Wilson held a meeting at Blamey's headquarters. He planned to assemble a force to try and stop the German "blitz" "down the Florina Gap". The Australian General Mackay would command the new force. He would be "directly under Wilson's command". At the beginning, he would have the Australian 19th Brigade (of two battalions), the 2/3rd Field Regiment, a detachment that included the 3rd RTR, 27th New Zealand MG Battalion, the 2nd RHA, the 64th Medium Regiment, and the 2/1st Australian Anti-Tank Regiment. The Australian historian thought it was inadequate force to try and stop the main German attack.
In this meeting, they decided that the 6th Australian Division needed to not to replace the 12th Greek Division at Veria. They would treat the Olympus-Vermion-Amindaion as simply a rear-guard position. Blamey would command the New Zealand Division, the 16th Australian Brigade, and the 12th Greek Division. They would go ahead and send the 4th New Zealand Brigade "to the Servia Pass". The New Zealand Division would keep their strength south of Katerini. They 6th New Zealand Brigade would "withdraw through the 5th New Zealand Brigade in the Olympus Pass". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Monday, October 12, 2020
From 8 April 1941 in Greece
<p>There was a mix of rain and snow on 8 April 1941. That meant that there was very little British air reconnaissance. Still, in the Greek and British headquarters, news came in about the German advance into Yugoslavia. A British patrol that had moved north from Monastir reported back that the "southern Yugoslav army had collapsed". The report was that "both Veles and Skoplje had surrendered". The story was that three Yugoslav divisions had surrendered. They said that "fugitive yugoslav staff officers were collecting at Florina". The patrol brought back three Yugoslav tanks and four anti-aircraft guns. German armor was pushing through the Doiran Gap, pushing back the 19th Division and were nearing Kilkis. The Greek commander asked that the 1st Armoured Brigade help in the Doiran Gap. The historian notes that it was too late for such actions. When the 4th Hussars saw German tanks, that triggered pre-planned demolitions. They included the rail bridge, a road bridge over a river, they pulled back to Kozani. Men from the Canadian Kent Corps Troops destroyed the oil stored at Salonika. This was included in the secret plan that was followed. After the 4th Hussars pulled out, the New Zealand Divisional Cavalry blew up the bridges over the Aliakmon river. The 6th New Zealand Brigade blew up the bridges in its area.
The Eastern Macedonian Army was still holding "from the Struma eastward". There was this German column that was moving south in the Axios valley. They reached Kilkis during the night of 8 April. The 19th Greek Division (very weak) was pushed away so that there was nothing between the Germans and Salonika. During the night of 8 April, the Greek commander of the Eastern Macedonian Army sent an envoy to the Germans and proposed an armistice. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Disturbing information on 7 April 1941
<p>At Greek Army Headquarters, they heard that German forces in Yugoslavia were driving south in the direction of the Doiran Gap. That would put the Germans on the Greek flank, heading south to Salonika. The Greek 19th Division received a small reinforcement and to cover a larger area towards Axios. The leading German units had reached Doiran "by the evening of 7 April". At that time, a Greek offensive in Albania started, but did not have much success. There had been a Yugoslav division that was supposed to have "cooperated" but didn't. The commander said that "he would be ready the next day".</p>
<p>General Wilson now had the 19th Australian Brigade under command. The plan had been to put it to the left of the 16th Brigade, but ordered the 19th Australian Brigade to Kozani, with several possible assignments. At this point, the 16th Brigade began to move into the Veria Pass. The Australians were to dig in "above the snow line". This was a bit of a change from Cyrenaica. The brigade was on a peak, some three thousand feet above sea level. There were other mountain peaks in sight above their position.The Australians on the heights had to borrow donkeys from the Greeks to carry their possessions up the slopes. From 8 April and beyond, the Australians saw falling snow. Sometimes in the morning, the men saw fog that didn't clear until after ten am. The Australians could see in the distance battles being fought "in the mountains of Yugoslavia". The Australians only had a few tents and they lacked interpreters to help them communicate with their allies. The Australians were surprised at the Greek equipment and how primitive it was. One Greek company only had one automatic weapon, but did have piles of stones to push down on the Germans. The rain and snow on 8 April pretty much made air reconnaissance impossible. Wilson's army had just a small amount of information about events happening. They heard that "the southern Yugoslav army had collapsed". Canadian commandos destroyed oil stocks at Salonika. British mobile forces blew up bridges. The 6th New Zealand Brigade also blew up bridges in their area. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Friday, October 09, 2020
The German attack in the balkans
<p>The German attack started on 6 April 1941, early in the morning. While the Australian general Blamey considered the situation in Greece to be critical, General Wavell was thinking about North Africa, not Greece. The German 12th Army were what moved into Greece and Yugoslavia. It was the Yugoslavian army and Greek units on the Bulgarian border that were hit by the Germans. There were two fortresses that were being held in Thrace by the Greeks, apparently for political reasons. The Eastern Macedonian army was holding the Doiran-Nestos line. The Greeks surprisingly held the forts on 6 April. 7 April still saw the forts holding out. It turned out that Nimphaea fell late on 7 April, after an attack using flame throwers. Enkhinos continued to hold. The forts protected the Nestos brigade. The 7th Greek Division was holding out on 6 April. On the 6th and 7th of April, most Greek forts held out against attack. German mountain troops would prove to be tough fighters in Greece and Crete. German mountain troops advanced north of Salonika. The Greek 19th Division was ordered to this area. By the end of the day, there was a gap between the 19th Division and the 18th. There had been an agreement between the Greeks and Yugoslavs to attack in Albania, but the Greeks were not ready. </p>
<p>When General Blamey heard of the German attack, he asked for the New Zealand Division to move to the Olympus passes. It turned out that Wilson disagreed with the plan. Wilson wanted the New Zealand division to cover Katerini. Wilson did order Freyberg to send troops to the passes, dividing his division. The German air force inflicted extensive damage at the Pireaeus. A freighter with TNT exploded and inflicted considerable damage. The port took heavy damage and was out of service for two days. During the afternoon of 7 April, they received the news of German armored forces moving south "towards the Doiran Gap". They might well move so quickly as to take Salonika.</p>
<p>The Australian 16th Brigade "was moving forward". They were described as "perched" on the mountain. On 8 April, snow fell "on the mountains" and it "rained in the valleys". The Australians had to use captured Italian telephone equipment for communications. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
The British situation in early April 1941 in Greece
<p>An interesting situation involved General Wilson's communications. General Wilson mainted a headquarters in Athens and another in "a village in Thessaly". That complicated his communications, although he had "an independent signal squadron equipped with the best available equipment". They had a station located "with the Greek command in Salonika". They had another station with the Greek general Kotulas's headquarters. They had another one ready to "join the Yugoslav army".</p>
<p>5 April saw just two brigades, the New Zealand 4th and 6th Brigades, in a line near "the northern foothills of Olympus". The third brigade, the 5th, was sitting "stride the Olympus pass". They were holding a 15,000 yard front at an elevation of three thousand feet. On their left was the 16th Australian Brigade. The Australians had been in the Servia Pass for 11 days. The plan for for the Australians to move forward the next day. They were to occupy the Veria Pass. The allied staff expected that the Germans would be able to attack with 23 to 25 divisions.</p>
<p>One surprise showed that the 7th Australian Division would not be going to Greece. In the March to April timeframe, the Germans took El Agheila and then Agedabia. General Wavell had ordered the 18th Australian Brigade to Tobruk. That left the 2nd Armoured Division remnants and the 9th Australian Division moving eastward under pressure. The Australian General Blamey sent a message complaining to General Wavell, saying that Libya was not important, but the situation in Greece would be in trouble if the force were not built up sufficiently. General Wavell thought that the 7th Australian Division had to stay in Libya. At the point where Blamey learned that the 7th Australian Division would stay in Libya, he learned that the German attack into Greece and Yugoslavia had started. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
The Australians move into Greece in early April 1941
<p>General Mackay was the 6th Australian Division commander. The Australian 16th Brigade was the only Australian unit that was forward. The 19th Brigade had two battalions in the process of moving forward. The third brigade, the 17th, was still in Alexandria, not having sailed yet. The British had the problem that there was not much shipping available. That slowed the 6th Australian Division move to Greece. The lack of shipping meant that the British had to resort to using cruisers to transport Australian troops. One convoy was delayed by storms. The next was delayed by the Battle of Cape Matapan.</p>
<p>The individual Australian units were well-equipped, but Wilson's army was short of armor and aircraft. The British had some eighty aircraft in Greece, but they were expected to face some 800 German aircraft at the invasion. The Italians had some three hundred aircraft either operating over Albania, or else based there. The British had one "army cooperation squadron, having but one Hurricane fighter and the rest were Lysanders. They were not suitable for employment in the face of strong enemy air power.</p>
<p>The British would probably have to defend 100 miles and only had one medium regiment to support that defense. The Australians lacked their cavalry regiment and other "technical units". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
General Wilson's plans that differed from what Generals Blamey and Freyberg wanted
<p>Apparently on 5 April 1941, General Blamey had "opened his headquarters at Gerania, a poky village just off the main road on high ground south of the Servia pass." Two Greek divisions were deployed "in the Vermion mountains north of Veria".</p>
<p>General Wilson had his own plans for how his army should be postioned. He called his army "W Group". He wanted to have the New Zealand Division north-east of Servia. A Greek regiment would be located in the Pieria mountains. An Australian brigade would be hold the Veria pass. The other Australian brigades would be at Kozani and Servia. The 16th Australian Brigade was where Wilson wanted it to be. The New Zealand brigades were all located "forward". The 6th New Zealand Brigade had taken over from the "little 19th Greek division". The 4th New Zealand Brigade was on the left, and "the 5th went into reserve at the Olympus Pass." The road went through the pass and "joined the main road near Elasson. The New Zealand cavalry was sitting on the the "line of the Aliakmon river". </p>
<p>The Greek General Kotulas told General Wilson that he would like to see the Australians take over the Veria Pass, so that the Greek 12th Division could sit on the left of the Australians. The Greeks would be in very rough country that would need pack animals to supply. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Monday, September 21, 2020
Plans in Greece
General Wilson wanted General Blamey to establish his headquarters at Gerania and take command of the New Zealand Division plus other troops at the Veria Pass. They got a surprise after this meeting, because Wilson's chief of staff informed Blamey and Freyberg that Freyberg could "be sure of the passes on either side of Mount Olympus", but that General Wilson didn't believe that the New Zealand division would be attacked while the forces in the north would be. It almost seems like Galloway had gotten involved in the process. Freyberg was expecting an order to pull back to the passes. That deviation pretty much blew apart what Blamey and Freyberg had planned. Issues that only Wilson knew about, involving the Greek army and Yugoslavia are thought to have been involved with what Wilson had done, circumventing Blamey and Freyberg. They might have to advance to support Yugoslavia. There was also the concern about the railroads needed to carry supplies for the Greek army.</p>
<p>Wilson and Galloway were thinking about what they might want to do if the Gemans cut through "southern Yugoslavia" and turn the Monastir Gap, catching the Greek and British in the rear. The 1st Armoured Brigade had been told look for a way to "withdraw through the Edessa Pass into the Florina Valley". The 3rd RTR (Robert Crisp's unit) "should remain at Amindaion in the lake area." "At the end of March there other units there. By 5 April General Wilson "took command of Allied forces in Central Macedonia". General Blamey took command of "British troops from the sea to the Veria Pass". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
More about General Blamey in Greece
While General Blamey did not arrive in Greece until 19 March, at least some of his staff had been in Greece since 7 March. His senior officer was impressed that trying to hold onto the open country was a bad idea. He thought that they should concentrate on defending the mountain passes. General Blamey decided to go look the land himself. On 22 March, Blamey and his "chief staff officer" drove north. They visited the Greek corps commander and two Greek divisions, as well as the New Zealand Division. General Blamey was most concerned about the possibility of the Germans driving "across the rear of the defenders position". General Blamey visited the New Zealand division. That is when Freyberg told him that his division was assigned a front that spanned 25,000 yards and he held it with but two brigades. Even when the third brigade arrived, and their anti-tank artillery, they would be hard pressed to defend their assigned front. The third brigade was also going to "go into corps reserve behind Veria pass". </p>
<p>General Freyberg told Blamey that they couldn't realistically defend his assigned front. What they should do is to pull back to the Olympus passes. When Blamey returned to Athens, he met with General Wilson, who agreed that the New Zealand Division should be employed "digging and wiring defenses in the Olympus passes. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
General Blamey gets involved in Greece
<p>The Greek commander wanted to defend a line that would protect Salonika. On the British side, General Wilson did not want to defend that line. He did send his armored brigade forward "between the Axios and the Aliakmon line". He ordered the New Zealand Division to "take over the coastal sector to allow the Greek 19th Division to move forward". Losing the Greek 19th Division made the New Zealand Division defense more difficult. The New Zealand Division now had to defend. "some 25,000 yards".</p>
<p>General Blamey only arrived in Greece on 19 March. He did have staff in Greece since 7 March. They were concerned about trying to hold "open country" instead of the mountain passes. General Blamey recognized the danger of a German advance through Yugoslavia into the Allied rear. The Australians thought that the Greek officers had little confidence and were not knowledgable about the issues. The Australians thought that the Greeks would make a good fight of it, but were hampered by lack of transport. The Australians also thought that they would have to support the Greeks with artillery, since the Greeks were ill-equipped with artillery.</p>
<p>General Blamey visited General Freyberg on 23 March. Blamey told Freyberg that the Australians were going to try to hold 25,000 yards with two brigades, "one field artillery regiment and no anti-tank guns." This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Thursday, September 10, 2020
The move into position in Greece
<p>From March to April 1941, the New Zealand and Australian soldiers were moved into position. By 27 March, the 16th Australian Brigade Group was on the grass at the Servia Pass, with Mount Olympus to the east. The Greek people were probably impressed that a larger army had moved into place, when in actuality, the army was not that large. The New Zealand Division was positioned "east and north of Olympus". They were almost all in place by 1 April. by 3 April, more Australian units arrived. They included "three Australian artillery regiments and two more infantry battalions". By 4 and 5 April, the British forces in Greece included the "1st Armoured Brigade, the New Zealand Division", and most of the 6th Australian Division.</p>
<p>General Wilson had his headquarters located in the Acropolis Hotel. General Papagos informed him that three Greek divisions would be guarding the "three main passes until the British arrived." At the point where the British arrived, two Greek divisions would "sidestep to the left". The New Zealand Division and the 19th Greek Division would be on the coast. The Australian division "would guard the Veria Pass". Two Greek divisions would sit on the Vermion Ridge. General Freyberg arrived in Greece on 7 March. After visiting the Greek divisions, he "was left with mixed feelings. After seeing the Greeks, Freyberg sent two of his brigades to the left and the right. This is based on the acccount in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Wednesday, September 09, 2020
The "British" soldiers moved north as they arrived in Greece
<p>The "British soldiers" (often New Zealand and Australian) were moved north as they arrived in Greece. The majority were transported by rail, but many were also driven north in truck convoys by road. The Greek people really were happy to see the men. They were cheered and given flowers by little girls. Greeks made the thumbs-up sign to the men as they saw them. The time was "early spring", so the country was very beautiful. In the portion of Greece that was Attica, the hills were covered by pine trees. In the north, that was Thessaly, the men saw fruit trees in blossom. The men could also see the mountains with Parnassus and Olympus. The mountains were topped by snow. In some places, the men were still plowing fields and women sowed seed. They could see "old woman hoeing the fields". There were also little girls driving donkeys that "were laden with brushwood for fires". The sheep and goats were herded by small boys that had cloaks over their shoulders. The sheep and goats all had copper bells "at their necks". One writer noted that the peasants still lived as they had for the last few thousand years. The soldiers still traveled past the same villages and passes. One convoy, on its second day, stopped "by a wide shallow stream" that allowed the men to bathe. They noted that it was the first for many in weeks. The shepherds rested and watched.</p>
<p>The 16th Australian Brigade Group setup on the "grassy slopes of the Servia Pass". Mount Olympus rose up to the east. The Aliakmon River lay to the north. There were more men arriving at Piraeus "every few days". More convoys left the Piraeus to drive to the north. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Thursday, September 03, 2020
Australians arrive at the Piraeus
<p>Australians from New South Wales were surprised by the scenary. There was "the hard light", there were "steep hills" with "grey-green trees", "and clear water". The place seemed quite like an Australian port. The Piraeus even had clear water. The Greeks were very friendly and cheered the Australians as they drove to "Daphni". The Greeks threw bouquets of flowers into the trucks that the Ausralians traveled in. The Australians were among a friendly people and a country that "was green and pleasant" as their own land Australia.</p>
<p>The reaction of the Greeks to the arrival of Australians validates the argument for sending troops in to resist the German attack that was expected. In the desert, they hda "eyes, ears, and noses full of sand". In Greece, there was "the pure, crisp air, and the smell of flowers. The Australians enjoyed being at Daphni, with "natural gardens full of shrubs and flowers". The Australians could see familiar-looking people who "dressed as we had dressed before the war". By standing on the hillside, they could see Athens "in the valley below". Some of the men were given leave in Athens, and they learned that they found the Greeks "worth fighting for" and by their side. You did not see any Greek soldiers at the 'cabarets and bars". The men of the Greek headquarters in Athens only sampled coffee. There were "no beggars or touts" the way there were in Cairo. The men ended up being transported north in packed railway cars. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Wednesday, September 02, 2020
Arriving in Greece
<p>As we mentioned, the 1st Armoured Brigade and "half of the New Zealand Division had already arrived in Greece. The 16th Australian Brigade was the next to arrive. They arrived between 19 March and 22 March. The Australians had just been at Tobruk as the first group of men from Lustre Force had arrived at the Piraeus. The Australian 19th Brigade at this time was at Tocra. This was a location in the western part of Cyrenaica. The Australian 17th Brigade had been sitting west of Agedabia. The first move by the 16th Brigade was to travel to Mersa Matruh. It was at Mersa Matruh that they were given Thompson Submachine guns (a favorite weapon in America, both by police and gangsters. After leaving Mesa Matruh, they traveled to a favorite camp at Amiriya. They gave the men a short leave in Alexandria, which they appreciated greatly. During the night of 17 March, many men were still in Alexandria, when the word was known that were to leave on ships early in the morning. The British cruiser Gloucester carried the 2/3rd Battalion. The brigade headquarters and another two battalions were carried on merchantmen. The Gloucester travelled at high speed, leaving the merchant ships in their wake. They came to the Piraeus by 19 March. There were Italian aircraft in the Dodecanese Islands. Italian dive bombers attacked the merchant ships on 21 March. The Australians fired on the divebombes with Bren guns and captured Italian Breda light anti-aircraft guns. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Thursday, August 27, 2020
The British move into Greece
<p>It seems that the only port available to carry the British into Greece and to sustain them was the Piraeus port associated with Athens. The Piraeus could handle unloading some "3,000 tons of cargo" per day. That was enough to supply the size of British force that was planned. They had given up any hope of keeping "Salonika; and Volos the only other port that could have supplied the British force" was limited to ships of 6,000 tons or less. There was one other small port, Stilis. But the Greeks wanted to keep it as a place to put rolling stock withdrawn from Macedonia.</p>
<p>General Wilson's "senior administrative officer" had traveled to Athens on 23 February 1941, He would have but one port and only limited rail service and roads. Of course, the rail lines were in use by the Greeks to supply their force in Albania. The British were unable to have any local labor, transport, or supplies. One of the first steps to take was to send what supplies were in Athens to Larisa. As soldiers arrived in Athens, they would also be sent forward to Larisa. They would attempt to create supply dumps at seven locations. They fully expected that rail traffic was vulnerable to German air attack. "By the end of the first week in April" they had succeeded in creating the supply dumps that were planned.</p>
<p>18th March 1941 saw the 1st Armoured Brigade and "about half of the New Zealand Division" arrive in Greece. Over the period of 19 to 22 March, "the 16th Australian Brigade" had been transported to Greece. Very recently, the 16h Australian Brigade had been located in Tobruk. Before traveling to Greece, the battalions of the 16th Brigade were issued Thompson submachine guns. The men of the 16th Brigade had been turned loose in Alexandria. When it was decided to ship them out immediately, they had to be rounded up, without being able to have any secrecy. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
The German attack in Greece
<p>As the German attack was about to happen, General Wilson was asking his staff to look at the options for lines of withdrawal. Plans existed at this point for evacuating the British force from Greece. The Australian General Blamey expected that they would face "over-whelming German forces". Given General Blamey's lack of background, he performed better than you might have expected.</p>
<p>General Wilson was focused on Greece that lay east of the Pindus mountains and "west of Salonika". There was one railway that connected the area with Athens. On Thessaly, the line went through a pass "between Mount Olympus and the sea". It then crossed the Aliakmon river. Past the river, the line branched. One branch went to Salonika. The other branch ended up in Yugoslavia. Another line connected Salonika with Yugoslavia "through the Doiran gap". There was one main road that connected Athens with Macedonia. The road lay west of Mount Olympus then ran to Yugoslavia "through the Monastir Gap".</p>
<p>The Athens-Florina road was not good, although it was the best Greek road. The road was largely asphalt, although some was "macadam". The road often was reduced to one lane. The rail line that connected Athens to Salonika was one track of "standard gauge". A branch line to Volos "was only a meter wide" Greece had but "1, 353 .miles of rail line. They were short of "rolling stock." This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
More preparations for a German attack in Greece
<p>The Yugoslavs thought that the British would be in the Lake Doiran-Struma area, between the Greek and Yugoslav forces. The Greeks and Yugoslavs agreed that Yugoslav forces would help with an attack in Albania that would be between Tirana and Valona. They hoped to push the Italians out of Albania. The British hoped to have three divisions and an armored brigade. At the moment they only had the armored brigade, one division and part of another. The Yugoslavs were disppointed at the news. The British suggested that the Yugoslav forces try to fight the Germans in the mountains. The Yugoslavs seemed to have a defeatest attitude. General Wilson and General Papagos agreed that they should hold the Vermion-Olympus line. They were waiting for the Australians to arrive and allow the 12th Greek Division to move forward. General Wilson was getting worried about the state of the Yugoslavs and wondered if they collapsed, that the Germans would be able to move into Greece "across the rear of the Vermion-Olympus line.</p>
<p>General Blamey arrived in Greece by 31 March, and he made a reconnaissance of the Vermion-Olympus line. Blamey sent a message to the Australian government that was similar to the concerns expressed by General Wilson. Churchill, as was his way, was a wild-eyed optimist. There was his story of a Balkan front with 70 divisions. The Germans might have six to seven divisions to fight the British armored brigade, the New Zealand Division and "two Greek divisions". By 4 April, having any useful contribution by the Yugoslavs seemed unlikely. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Consultations with Yugoslavia prior to the German attack
<p>Prior to a meeting, the British agreed to tell the Yugoslav government that they would "reinforce the line of the Bulgarian border and the Nestos river' if they would attack into Bulgaria and Albania when the Germans attacked." The Greek leader told the British that the Yugolslav army had 24 infantry divisions and 3 cavalry divisions. The Greek leader was hopeful that they could have the Yugoslav army available, because it would help the Greeks a lot.</p>
<p>General Dill, the CIGS, met with the Yugoslav government on 31 March 1941. He told them that the British were going to have about 150,000 men in Greece and had about half of them in place already. The Yugoslavs asked if the British "would be concentrated on the Doiran Gap" and Dill replied that they could not do that without assurances that the Yugoslavs would cooperate. The Yugoslavs replied that they could not agree to help the Greeks without agreement from their whole government. General Dill then replied that the British would help Yugoslavia as much as they could. There was talk of a meeting with British, Greek, and Yugoslava staff on 3 April.</p>
<p>The planned meeting was held and lasted overnight. The Yugoslav officer told them that having Salonika was "vital". He suggested that Greek forces "east of Struma and in the Metaxis Line should remain on the defensive". It turned out that the Yugoslavs "had only four divisions in the south". The British should strike at the "right flank of the German advance. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Starting the British operation in Greece
<p>You could tell what the future was thought to hold by the fact that there was interest in doing reconnaissance, looking for good places that might be used in defense during a retreat. This was happening at time when the British were talking with a Yugoslav staff officer about possible cooperation. The Yugoslavs wanted to talk about "maintaining communications with Yugoslavia through Salonika." When General Wavell's Chief of Staff arrived, Wilson and his staff wanted to talk to him about getting some help with the reconnaissance of the retreat path. While these discussions were underway in Greece, the Italians started a new offensive in Albania where they were fighting a smaller Greek force but not making much progress. While the staff officer was in Greece, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia visited Germany. Yugoslavia's leaders decided to join with Germany. In reaction to the news, a coup was staged in Yugoslavia, putting King Peter in power.</p>
<p>Churchill's natural bent was to be a "wild optimist". ?The news of the coup caused his spirits to soar." Churchill went so far as to think that there was now a good possibility of forming a "Balkan front". Churchill chose to ignore the Turkish position that "they would remain neutral except if attacked". For the Balkan front to be a real possibility, they needed to hold the roads from Greece to Yugoslavia and to hold Salonika. Anthony Eden and General Dill, the CIGS, They decided to make some promises to the Yugoslav government in hopes that they would cooperate against the Germans. The Yugoslavs, though, were not ready to promise any cooperation with Greece. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Monday, August 10, 2020
Battle of Cape Matapan
The first report received on 27 March 1941 was that three Italian cruisers and a destroyer were seen. Admiral Cunningham took that report to indicate that Italian large ships were at sea. In the dark, the British Mediterranean Fleet set sail from Alexandria. Early on 28 March, an aircraft flying off of the Formidable reported seeing "four Italian cruisers and six destroyers". A British cruiser squadron scouting ahead of the fleet saw the Italians. The Italians withdrew after seeing the British cruisers. By 11am, the cruisers saw a battleship, which we now know was the Vittorio Veneto. The Vittorio Veneto had apparently taken damage from British air attacks. The cruiser Pola was also damaged by bombs. The British battleships encountered the "Fiume and Zara". They sank the Fiume and damaged the Zara. British destroyers sank the Zara and Pola and two destroyers. The Vittorio Veneto was able to increase speed and escape. The battle probably caused the Italians to stay in port to try and protect what ships they had left.</p>
<p>The British tried to hide their presence in Greece so as to not give the Germans any excuses for action. In line with that, General Wilson was in civilian clothes and called himself "Mr. Watt". There was also an officer from the "Yugoslav General Staff" who as also using an assumed name. Yugoslavia was in a politically unstable situation. They also were very weak. The Yugoslava staff officer was thought to be collecting information to help the leader decide what course to take.</p>
<p>General Wilson was worried that the Germans might attack before the British force had landed. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.</p>
Thursday, August 06, 2020
Events at sea prior to the Greek operation
Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Arrangements for the Greek Operation
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
New Zealand and the Greek operation
The Australian and New Zealand governments both agreed that they could not abandon the Greeks in the face of a German attack. The New Zealand government lobbied for a strong escort for the troop convoys to Greece and asked that "provision be provided for subsquently withdrawing the troops from Greece, if necessary, Given what was now known, it was very likely that the troops sent to Greece would have to be withdrawn, given that the chances of success were slim. The "British Chiefs of Staff were reluctant to send such a messsage because they did not want a copy to end up in Greek hands."
The Chiefs of Staff would send a "personal telegram to Admiral Cunningham" about the possibility of withdrawing the troops, so that the admiral could reassure the Australian and New Zealand governments.
Admiral Cunningham replied that he had been concerned about the need to withdraw the troops by sea. He thought that what they needed to do was to retain many ships in the Mediterranean so that they would have the means to conduct a withdrawal. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Monday, July 27, 2020
British bad faith with respect to the Greek Operation
The New Zealand government had concerns and wanted to know that "the full British forces could be made available. They also wanted to know that provision had been made to withdraw the forces that were being sent to Greece. The British government didn't want to risk sending a withdrawal message, because they did not want one to end up in the hands of the Greek Goverment. This is base on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
"A piece-meal dispatch of troops to Europe"
Mr. Fadden wrote that General Blamey, as the GOC of the Australian force, should have been consulted on the Greek Operation, but was not. What was obvious was that the foundation for the Greek Operation was the desire by Anthony Eden for the British to be seen as supporting Greece against an attack by Germany. In part, the reason was to affect American and Spanish public opinion. The military capabilities were not the issue. Based on the military capabilities, the chances for success were minimal. It was Churchill's message to Mr. Menzies that the political issue was driving the operation. Mr. Menzies wrote to his colleagues in Australia that General Blamey was aware of this "powers" as the GOC of the A.I.F. and should have communicated his opinion. Mr. Menzies wrote to his colleagues that he felt that the powers that be in Britain had tried to "suppress Blamey's critical views about the Greek Operation. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Monday, July 20, 2020
Dominion input to Greek operation
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Misinformation about the Greek campaign in March 1941
When General Wavell had told Blamey about the plans for the Greek operation, he told Blamey that he had already talked with the Australian government. Wavell did not ask for Blamey's opinion, probably because he thought he would disagree. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Monday, July 13, 2020
Anthony Eden is insistent on going into Greece in March 1941
Anthony Eden was the one person who had insisted that they were obligated to go into Greece to try and stop the expected German attack. In retrospect, we have no confidence in Anthony Eden's judgment. He was the architect of the disastrous response to the Suez Crisis, although the British, French, and Israeli plan was torpedoed by Eisenhower. We don't know his reasoning, but he comes across as anti-colonialist and possibly anti-Israeli. Eisenhower seems to have been a liberal globalist, although I have no proof.
On 7 March 1941, Wavell was informed by the Chiefs of Staff that the Cabinet had decided to proceed with the Greek Operation. "The Cabinet accepts full responsibility", which seems meaningless. They would send messages to Australia and New Zealand accordingly. The Australian prime minster, Mr. Menzies informed Mr. Fadden "about the changed and disturbing situation" in Greece. Anthony Eden and General Dill, the CIGS, had just returned from visiting Turkey. It says something about the Greek operation that it was described as an "adventure" that had a "reasonable prospect of success", which seems to not be true. The Australians at least understood the truth. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, July 07, 2020
Monday, July 06, 2020
Consultations prior to the operation in Greece in February to March 1941
One question was what the British government was doing to consult and inform the goverments of Australia and New Zealand? As we mentioned, this was a period of political turmoil in Australian. Back in February 1941, Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister of Australia. Mr. Fadden was going to be Prime Minster later in 1941, and he was involved, as he was in the War Cabinet. Churchill was arguing that losses would be "mostly material", not men. He told them that the men could be evacuated back to Egypt, if they were forced to withdraw. Generals Wavell and Dill were quoted as saying that "able and cautious". There was concern that if this was a "forlorn hope" that the operation would not be executed. The problem was that with convoys of men and equipment heading for Greece, the British were committed to the operation in Greece, regardless of the wisdom of doing so. Churchill told the Australians that if the Japanese attacked, they would send "naval reinforcements", which Mr. Menzies thought "must be a little discounted". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Events in Greece in early March 1941
The British were planning on trying to defend the "Vermion-Olympus" line. The accepted that they might be forced to withdraw, and saw that there was a good possibility of successfully "staging a fighting withdrawal." 7 March was when British cruisers had disembarked several thousand troops "at the Pireaus".
You might well ask "what had been done to inform the Australian and New Zealand governments? In February, the British had met with Mr. Menzies who hd been Prime Minister at the time. Already, there was concern about a Japanese threat in the Far East, although that only turned into an attack in December. This was a time of political turmoil in Australia, where they changed governments multiple times in a short period of time.
The New Zealand government, lacking much information, had agreed in principle to the Greek campaign. They wanted to see the 2nd New Zealand Division "fully equipped with an armored brigade". New Zealand was happy to take part along with the Australians. The new Australian government was only "conditionally agreed to participate". They wanted to know that there was a plan in place to evacuate if the situation turned out badly. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Monday, June 29, 2020
The lead up to the Greek campaign in early March 1941
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Events in early 1941 regarding Greece
hold a line on the Aliakmon River". There was also a concern about the air force shrinking as they were taking greater losses than they were receiving replacements. They had not been receiving any "fighting formations since the fall of France in 1940. The only possibility was the possibility of the 50th Division arriving from Britain. In February 1941, the CIGS was still General Dill. He had not yet been switched to being in the United States as a diplomat. On 7 March, General Wavell received a message saying that the cabinet had decided that the Greek operation should proceed and that the Cabinet had taken "full responsibility for the results. What seems to have been a lie, was that Churchill had said that the Greek campaign was not being conducted because of Anthony Eden making commitments in Athens, but because the CIGS General Dill, Wavell, and others had thought that there was a "fighting chance" that the operation could succeed. The Australian prime minister, Mr. Menzies was told that General Blamey and the New Zealand commander, General Freyberg were said to have agreed. Why all this was a lie was that neither General Blamey or General Freyberg were asked for an opinion. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Planning in relation to Greece in 1940-1941
You saw the British fighting in east Africa against the Italians. The British advance to Tripoli would be stopped, so free up resources for Greece. The New Zealand Division was planned to be part of the Greek operation. The latest thinking was to send the British 6th Division to Greece and replace it in North Africa with the 9th Australian Division, which was untrained and new. He hoped to also send the Polish Carpathian Brigade to Greece. The Australian General Blamey insisted on sending the 6th Australian Division to Greece and keeping the raw 7th Australian Division in Cyrenaica. They would reorganize the Australian divisions and change which brigades were assigned to each division. The prestige of General Freyberg meant that the New Zealand division was treated as being one of the best divisions. The New Zealand Division arrived in Greece on 7 March when they were treated to cheering from the Greek people. The Greek leader assured the British that whatever happened, the Greek army would fight the expected German invasion. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
New Zealand forces to Greece
Monday, June 15, 2020
Churchill and Greece in 1940 and 1941
The immediate reaction was to fly squadrons into Greece. Fairly soon, four squadrons were operating from Greek air fields against Italian forces in Albania. By November 1940, a "weak" infantry brigade "group" was flown into Crete. Also, anti-air craft gunners and "air force ground staff and depot troops" were transported to Athens.
In late 1940, the British were mounting an defense of the island against a German invasion. This was what they called "the Battle of Britain" where the main combatants were British and Commonwealth fighter pilots and bombers operating against Germany. They were also fighting in North Africa against Italy. The Greeks successfully fought the Italian army based in Albania. There were some 14 Greek Divisions fighting Italian divisions in the Albanian border area. This is based on the account in "Greek, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long, where we are writing from the New Zealand perspective.