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>

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