Wednesday, December 29, 2021

continued action on 21 and 22 April 1941

 We should not be surprised that the Australians had one 25pdr gun out of action by the afternoon of 21 April. The gun had an oil leak. The young gun commander was aware that the Germans had brought up infantry. On the left, they were unloading infantry. The Australian gunners were depressing the the guns and by firing "weak charges" so that they could fire at the infantry. The Australians fired some fifty rounds down the hill.

The German medium guns responded to the Australian fire. They also came under heavy machine gun fire that caused the Australians to take cover. When they came out after a while they realize that the remaining gun was inoperable due to a trail hit. The Australians had been engaged in an eight hour gun battle. None of the men where hit at that point. 

The German medium guns now opened fire and caused casualties among the Australians. By dusk the Australians taking what they needed to take. 

Once the decision had been made to withdraw from Greece, the New Zealand 6th Brigade was ordered to defend Thermopylae Pass. The battalions involved were the 24th,  25th and 26th Battalions. They had seven artillery regiments in support. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, an Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The action from 21 April 1941

 It was after 6pm that the noticed German vehicles driving south from Lamia. The Australian gunners were ready for tge Germans. The guns were all set, accurately pointed, so with three shots fired, they could hit the first struck and stop it. The following trucks turned around, set to drive back to Lamia. The "gunners and observers" sitting up high could see what they imagined were "hundreds of vehicles" driving "south into Lamia". 

"It was early on 22 April" that what seemed to be four German medium guns started firing at long range while vehicles were driving towards Sperkhios. When the Australians thought that there were German vehicles in range of the 25pdrs, they fired. The German medium guns fired back. 

The German shells were eventually hitting just 15 feet from the 25pdr guns, It was after this that the truck carrying smoke shells was hit. Smoke covered the scene for abut a half hour. HE shells in a trailer were hit. 

They could see German infantry disembarking from trucks. The Ausstralian gunners plaed some tricks that allowed them to fire at the infantry. 

This is based in the accoun in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The fight during 21 and 22 April, south of Lamia

 The Australians watching to the north could see many vehicle lights moving into Lamia. It was early on 22 April that the Australians started taking what seemed to be German medium gun fire. The medium guns seemed to e located in the woods located to the southeast of Lamia. They were beyond the range of the Australian 25 pounders. They could see vehicles moving south on the road to Sperkhios. every time the Australians fired on the vehicles at the fron of the line the German medium guns fired. Over time, the large shells were falling closer to the Australian guns. At one point a sGerman shehh hit an australian truck loaded with "smoke shells". For the following 30 minutes the Australians were shrouded by smoke. After that a trailer loaded with high explosive rounds was hit. A dump "of charges" was hit, causing an explosion. That set the "scrub" on fire. 

The Germans next moved some field guns closer. The started a gun battle with the Australian 25 pounders. By 1pm, one Australian had a defect that kept it from firing. 

The Australian artillery commander realized that the Germans had unloaded infantry on the left. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Events in Greece from 21 to 22 April 1941

 For some reason, in lateApril 1941, the Germans did not attack the British in Greece. Brigadier Herring, the 6th Australian Division artillery commander was watching the 2/2nd Field Regiment as it was in the Brallos Pass where they were climbing higher. Brigadier Herring ordered that two guns be put in position "on the forward slope of the escarpment. They would be able to fire over and command the wreckage of the bridge that had been demolished. The guns were put 15feet apart on what amounted to a ledge. This was an area held by the 2/4th Battalion. They had a captured Italian Breda "machine gun" used in an anti-aircraft role. 

"It was at about 6pm on 21 April that they noticed German vehicles heading south from Lamia. The guns that had been put in position opened fire and hit the first German vehicle. The following vehicles turned around and headed back towards Lamia. 

The Australian gunners and observers watched many vehicles moving south into Lamia. There seem to have been hundreds of vehicles driving into Lamia. 

Early on 22 April, what seemed to have been German medium guns started firing at the 25pdrs on the escarpment. They seem to have only fired when the 25pdr guns were firing at the moving vehicles. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Greece had problems

 By 1940 to 1941, Greece was politically unstable while there aspects of Greek society that were degrading their ability to resist the German attack. The Greek Royal family were German. The Greek civilian government had fallen and had been replaced by a dictatorship. General Metaxis may have been more competent than the civilian government. 

Greece had this problem that there was a segment of society that seems to have been infected with bad ideas as well as what seems like corruption. This caused problems with armies either disintegrating or surrendering. These problems were happening in April 1941 and later. 

General Metaxis was in poor health, so when he died, they were left to cobble together a new government. You had the British theater commander, General Wavell, as well as Churchill's appointee, General Wilson. It seems that Wavell was a much better commander than Wilson. 

You also had British political instability, at least iin Australia, where Churchill's misadventures in 1940 and 1941 brought down governments in Australia, where they ended up with a Labour government, although as good a one as you could hope for.

You had been through the fall of  France and Dunkirk in 1941. They eventually removed General Dill as CIGS. Alan Brooke eventually became CIGS. He eventually saw his role as keeping Churchill from causing trouble. 

The British attempt to aid Greece

 Before the British went in to Greece, British senior officers said that the move into Greece was a bad idea. The problem with the Greek operation was that it was strictly a political demonstration. The only senior official who wanted the Greek operation was Churchill's rather young foreign secretary, Anthony Eden. Anthony Eden is also known for being Prime Minister during the Suez crisis. President Eisenhower acted to stop the British, French, and Israeli effort. 

Eisenhower seems to have been anti-colonialist as well as anti-Israelist. We also suspected Eisenhower of being anti-Jewish. While we  are not admirers of the Kennedy's, they had a view of the world and events that were more aligned with modern views than Eisenhower. We say things like that knowing that we are not experts on the topic. 

The opinions given before the event were proved by the results that were seen. The military result was of little value, Men and units were lost as well as tanks, guns, and transport. The lost material was left in Greece. We believe that the Germans ended up with much of what was left in Greece 

The British tanks that were lost were mostly due to poor design. The metal tracks proved to be very fragile. What Robert Crisp wrote in Brazen Chariots describes that problems that were present in the British tank equipment. You might be led to believe that British tanks were largely useful for providing shelter to Greek refugees in the mountains. 

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Thinking about the withdrawal from Greece

 General Wavell let General Wilson set the date for the start of the withdrawal from Greece. By lateon 20 Aoril, the men "in the field" had not heard about the planned withdrawal. Generals Freyberg and Mackay still expected that they would stand and fight, with "no more withdrawals" Mackay expected to be overwhelmed by the Germans. 

There had been a "roadside meeting" near Thebes. This was during the night of 21 April. Blamey drove to Levadia, getting there "before dawn on 22 April". General Mackay and his senior officers arrived aat Blamey's headquarters by about 8am. 

Wilson had not issued a detailed order about the withdrawal until early on 23 April. Wilson had some forces in the Athens area that he could use, if needed, to actually fight. 

As this was happening, there was a brisk artilley fight happening along the total front. The weather was clear and they could see German vehicles moving. The British realized that the "Germans were not ready to attack". British observers sitting up high could see the German vehicles driving south into Lamia. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

21 April and later in Greece

 Back on 20 April, the men in the field had not heard anything about a pendin withdrawal from Greece. General Wavell drove up to Blamey's headquarters at about 2am on 21 April. They learned that the Greeks had surrendered and that the British were going to be loaded onto ships to leave. Wavell eventually gave General Wilson a written order to withdraw using the prepared plan. He would cooperate with the navy. 

They might end up "embark some Greek troops". 

British troops would carry as much equipment that they could. British troops should not surrender but should try to travel into the Greek islands, where they might eventually be rescued. The plan might end up failing so that British troops might need to implement the option to travel into the Greek islands. One of the backup plans was to rescue British troops from the islands.  

They would embark men from the island beaches or ports. They would plan on evacuating not just troops, but also guns and transport from the islands. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Inaccurate maps

 The situation on 21 April left the units sitting on very rough territory. They also found roads on maps that were incomplete. They also found roads that were missing from the maps they had. There was also reason to think that the enemy forces were low in strength. 

The left seemed to be vulnerable to attack. 

The Australians were  also found to be in a greatly reduced state. 

New Zealand division was found to be vulnerable to shells fired from across the strait.

The New Zealand artillery were poorly positioned. 

Thebes had a plain that seemed to be perfect for landing German paratroops.

They would land in the rear of the British forces which would leave them in an inconvenient position.

The New Zealand force was left with little in the way of men and carriers to respond to attacks.

The left seemed vulnerable to attack from Epirus and the Dephi Pass.

They received news that the Adolph Hitler division was now at Yannina. They had also heard that the Greek army of Epirus had surrendered. "The area of the Gulf of Corinth seemed to be open". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Friday, December 03, 2021

More moves on 21 April and before

 On 21 April, Brigadier Savige got new guidance. He was to have the 2/11th Battalion replace the 2/5th. This would be in rough country on the right of the 19th Brigade. Savige would need to guard roads and tracks from the mountains "to the west". They would also be in position "to cover" the Lamia Brallos road.

Brigadier Savige was to take responsibility for defending the "left flank". By the time of dusk, Savige received an order from "Rowell". Would get "part of Vasey's left flank". He would also get responsibility for "covering the gorge". The railroad line ran through the gorge". 

He also now needed to be concerned with the "high ground to the west". He was also to "refuse  his left flank". He had now inherited some six miles of front to defend. 

After a conference with Wilson, Blamey, and Baillie-Grohman near Thebes, Mackay, Sutherland, and Colonel Prior, Blamey created and outline of a plan to distribute to officers who needed to know. The objective now was to get into position to withdraw from  Greece. The forces were reorganized with Anzac Corps, 80 Base Sub-area, 82 Base Sub-area and other units reporting directly to Wilson. The situation was not very tense and difficult. They were trying to keep some units available if they actually needed to fight. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Events on 21 April 1941

 General Freyberg positioned his reinforcements when they arrived. The ant-tank guns were grouped with the machine-gun battalion at Longos. They faced "the western end of Euboea". The tank brigade had very few running tanks, after more had been abandoned. Robert Crisp's 3rd RTR were ordered to Athens "to povide local defense" Wilson sent the 2nd RHA to join the New Zealand Division. 

After that move, the armored brigade had almost nothing left. There had been a report that the enemy had moved onto Euboea (apparently an island). They speculated that the enemy might move to the mainland at Khalkis. That might cut off the British at Thebes. Because of that possibility, the Rangers were sent to Khalkis. The way that Wilson functioned, he adjusted the "front" of the New Zealand Division.

That caused the 6th Brigade to move to the East of Molos and to take the 28th Battalion position. The 24th Battalion was now north of Molos. They now were responsible for protecting the anti-tank guns. The 25th Battalion was not to cover the road from the Alamanas bridge to Molos. The 26th Battalion was still in reserve. The 5th Brigade was adjusting battalions. They assigned the 22nd Battalion was now sitting on the left of the 25th Battalion. They were now connected with the Australians of the 2/5th. 

This based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Australian infantry from 19 to 20 April 1941

 The first Australians to reach Brallos was the 19th Brigade. The brigade had two battalions, including the 2/4th and the 2/8th. The 2/8th was mentioned as being in bad shape, with little strength. 

On the 19th, two more battalions were added to the brigade. They were the 2/1st and the 2/5th battalions. Early the next day, another battalion joined: the 2/11th Battalion. 

During the afternoon, General Mackay gave orders about "defending the new line". The 19th Brigade with the five battalions in hand would have an area from a hill to the railroad tunnel. Vasey told the 2/5th on the right to connect with the New Zealand Division. The 2/1st would sit on the "loop on the main road". The 2/4th would sit on the railroad tunnel. 

There were units sitting way forward of the brigade's assigned area. 

The 2/8th Battalion would for the reserve. They would occupy the "top of the pass". Also in reserve, he had the 2/11th Battalion, a machine gun company, along with carrier platoons. 

In the next move, the armored brigade was ordered do drive to Thebes. Their anti-tank regiment was ordered to join General Freyberg. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Australian historian points out that the retreat in 1941 was in a historic neighborhood

 There is a road that is "between the foot of the escarpment and the sea. This was the road traveled by Xerxes towards Athens. It is also close to the road taken by Leonidas and his Spartans. 

The area by "Mollos" and the "Brallos Pass" is a very small piece of  "the Peninsula". Part of this area has high (6000 feet) mountains. "A modern defender" of the pass, would "be in a position like where Leonidas stood. There were two passes that could be held, but an enemy could easily outflank them. 

New Zealand held one side. Thet could be outflanked along the island Euboea. The Australian side was vulnerable to being outflanked through the mountains, especially near Brallos but also down from Epirus. 

You had the 5th NZ Brigade along the coast road. The 4th NZ Brigade was to the right. They had become coast watchers. The third NZ brigade, the 6th, stood in reserve. 

They way that Wilson worked,  he had decided to leave on the 20th, but had not fhought to inform Blamey. 

The 19th Australian Brigade reached the Brallos The Australian Vasey picked up several battalions on 19 April. 

It was on 19 April in the afternoon that Mackay issued orders to defend the new line.

The 1st Armoured Brigade was now sent to Thebes. They lost anti-tank guns to Freyberg. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

More events from 19 April 1941 and later

 Early on 19 May 1941, commanders realized that a train of fuel and ammunition was sitting in a vulnerable position. The Australian train men were suggested as a way to get the train to Athens. In the event, it was just not possible, with the presence of German air attacks. Corporal Taylor was fortunate to survive a bombing attack that destroyed the train. The explosion was felt by men located two miles away. 

One company of men from the 2/7th Battalion along with some from the 2/6th Battalion were along the road. German troops were landed close by from aircraft. There were men from Australian rear guards located nearby. 

There were German motorcycles operating along the road. There also seem to be British tanks close by but were-concealed.

A sudden rain storm happened that allowed German mortars to be deployed near by.

Commanders realized that driving by night was problematic. They ended up sitting through the night. Another factor was the congestion on the roads that influenced decision=makers. Meanwhie Units were sitting near Thermopylae, waiting for evens to play out. they were aware of German vehicles moving towards Thermopylae. 

The plans included the New Zealanders defending the "coastal pass" and the Australians near Brallos. 

Wilson's headquarters was at Thebes. Freyberg was at Longos. Somone high on the mountains can look down on Lamaia, some 4,000 feet up. The road from Lamia was quite straight. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria, by Gavin Long.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Some of the last moves from 19 April 1941 and beyond

 The ANZAC force retreated in a column of some ten miles in length. They were on the road from Larisa to Lamia. Unfortunately, the vehicles were traveling "bumper to bumper". That made the vehicles very vulnerable to air attack. The men were stuck in their vehicles "and were not able to return fire". 

Progress was slow. The historian gives the example of the 2/1st Battalion. They were in position at dawn at about "ten miles north of Lamia." They drove through Lamia by 10am. Tkey ended up stopped by an air attack. The situation was rather strange because they did not see many German aircraft early in the day. 

The good news was that the column was moving to the south. By "early in the afternoon, the Domokos rearguard and the road south" were attacked. The 2/1st Battalion did not reach thr Brallos Pass until 5pm. 

Many vehicles seem to have been hit. The good news was that few of the vehicles were disabled.  

One officer in the column "only saw six vehicles abadoned along the road". That was along the stretch from Larisa to Lamia.  

This is bases on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Where things stood on 20 April 1941

 Churchill wrote about how he thought that the British evacuation from Greece should be handled. He wrote that note on 18 April. Churchill's participation in Greece had been colored by his interaction with Anthony Eden, who had been a strong proponent of going into Greece. Anthony Eden thought that the British had a strong moral obligation to help the Greeks. Anthony Eden thought that they had might have a legal oligation, based on treaties.

Churchill was encouraged by how well the withdrawal to Thermopylae was proceeding. That had colored Churchill's letter to Anthony Eden on 20 April.

The Australian historian commented that by 20 April, it was too late to think of making a stand at Thermopylae. While all this was considered, there was a change in the Greek command, where General Pitsikas was removed. 

By early on 21 April, General Wavell arrived at Blamey's headquarters and told him that he needed to evacuate his units "as soon as possible". 

Blamey would need to get his troops to the beaches by 24 April. They would need to board ships by 25 April. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Friday, November 05, 2021

The decision to withdraw from Greece

 I was interested to read that General Wilson expressed the opinion that his men could "hold Thermopylae indefinitely". My reaction to that is that the Germans should have been able to bring up a strong enough force that they could break through the line at Thermopylae. 

The British senior commanders were a strong group with great experience. Their opinion was that they should take the consequences of a withdrawal and should go ahead and execute the plan. None of what it would have taken to stand and fight was realistically available. The Greeks were in a state of collapse by late April 1941.

The British commanders thought that they "would be lucky to pull out 30 per cent of the force". I don't remember the exact figures, but I think that they did much better than that in reality.

There was a final meeting of the key players, including the Greek King. General Wavell offered to fight "as long as the Greeks fought." If the Greek government asked, the British would go ahead and pull out of Greece. 

Churchill really did not want to withdraw without further fighting. That was not possible at this point, given the facts on the ground. The Greek arm was about to surrender. There was one last battle fought by the RAF in Greece. They were hit by a German air attack, but managed to fight successfully one last time in the air. 15 Hurricanes sortied and intercepted the German attack. They lost five Hurricanes but show down many German aircraft This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

The next moves in Greece from 18 April 1941

 General Mackay gave his next orders to Brigader Savige. Mackay wanted the 2/11th Battalion moved to a new position. He wanted them to leave Zarkos and move to a spot "on the west bank of the river. They would stay there until "3am on 19 April." Savige had some concerns. There were empty vehicles sent to Larisa. They eventually realized that there was a bridge that had not been blown or even prepared for demolition. 

There was still a fight in progress at Pinios. There was a long column stopped in place but for some reason the enemy was not in a position to hit them from the air. 

It seemed that  18 April was the critical day. After that  day, with the example set by their leadership, there was no danger of panic setting in among the men. 

As it was, the German air force failed to hit the column, when it have well caused trouble. Later on, the Germsn air force operated more effectively than they did during April 1941.

It was on 19 April that General Wavell came to Athens and had a meeting in General Wilson's headquarters. Leaders in London thought that they had decided to withdraw from Greece, but the officers involved in Greece had yet to consier the issues involved. The Greek government was ready for the British to leave, to keep from  damaging the country by serious fighting. 

The British consensus favored holding and fighting longer. The commanders realized that they would probably be unable to remove equipment during the withdrawal. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Loog.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Fighting Germans on 18 April

 The Germans were moving forward as the New Zealand cavalry pulled back. Enemy vehicles were located in the "hills north of Elasson". The Germans were taking "accurate fire". The Germans also had the problem of how to put their vehicles across river. Still, by later on 18 April, the Germans were able to ready for an attack. 

Large groups of German dive bombers (forty to sixty) flew over. Only one dive bomber went after the 6th Brigade. The medium guns had fired all their ammunition and left the scene. Almost by accident, a large amount of ammunition was moved to the "pass". The 2/3rd Field Regiment did most of the firing. They were given good targets and fired some 6,500 rounds.

Late in the day, tanks were driving up a road and the leaders hit mines. The guns were firing into the mass of tanks and did damage. Infantry dismounted and moved towards the 24th Battalion. The field guns stayed in action until about 11:30pm, when they pulled back. They blew up culverts as they withdrew. By 3am, they were at Larisa. The 24th and 25th Battalions drove to Volos on the road. The 26th Battalion left Larisa by train. 

It turns out that Brigadier Savige's units were in action that day. He had a rearguard "commanded by Lt-Col. King". They were located about five miles from Kalabaka. They drove to Zarkos "by dawn". By 11am, they were blowing up "sections of the road". Some of Savige's units crossed the Pinios River using a bridge that was still intact. By 11:30, three German aircraft bombed the bridge. The bridge was already ready to be demolished. The demolition charges were fired, perhaps by the bombing. Engineers made a ferry, and men crossed using it. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The 6th New Zealand Brigade on 18 April 1941

 By 18 April, the 6th New Zealand Brigade was sitting "south of Elasson". There were two road to Larisa, by southeast and by a southwest track. The 24th Battalion protected the road to the east. The 25th Battalion protected the road to the west. The 26th Battalion was the brigade reserve. 

The 6th Brigade had artillery support. There was an Australian field regiment with 20-25pdrs. There was also a troop from the 64th Medium Regiment. There was also some New Zealand 25pdrs "operating in an anti-tank role". There were also some New Zealand 25pdrs in reserve and not so far committed. The 25th Battalion also had some supporting 2pdr anti-tank guns. The 24th Battalion lacked any guns in support. There were also some field guns in position so that they could fire into the area. 

It turns out that there were some German tanks advancing as the New Zealand cavalry withdrew. Some German tanks and motorcycles surprised the New Zealand cavalry from the road to Katerini. 

German tanks attacked again along both roads. Anti-tank guns lay in wait and knocked out tanks, an armored car, and a truck. By 10:30am, some medium guns were firing on German vehicles to the north of Elasson. 

This is based on the account in "Geece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

More ongoing action from 18 April 1941

 New Zealand cavalry was surprised to see German tanks and motorcycles driving down the road from Katerini. They had expected that the demolitions that were done would have delayed the Germans. The guns on portees starting firing. They got two tanks and drove off the motorcycles. 

Howard Kippenberger's rearguard group took fire from German tanks. They men were "driven off, were killed, or captured". Kippenberger led some men "on foot" to the 25th Battalion. 

There was another German tank attack "along both roads". The anti-tank gunners were ready for this attack and got "four tanks, two armored cars, and a truck". This rearguard pulled back when they had received word that "other troops were protected by the 6th Brigade".  The 6th (presumably New Zealand) Brigade was located south of Elasson. There were two separate roads that connected to Larisa. 

To the East was the 24th Battalion. The 25th Battalion was on the West side. The 26th Battalion was located at Domenikon, where it was in reserve. There was some artillery in support. There was the Australian 2/3rd Field Regiment. There was "part of the 64th Medium Regiment." There were also some New Zealand field artillery "in an anti-tank role". They were backing up the 25th New Zealand Battalion. There were as well seven two pounders near the 25th Battalion. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

More happening on 18 April 1941

 A German machine gun kept firing at the men near the road. A New Zealand officer decided to attack the mchine gun and asked for help. It took close to an hour to overrun the machine gun position. Thw machine gun sat "between the rails" and was protected by stones.The men eventually destroyed the machine gun after killng the four crewmen.

The attackers had taken casualties, so thy chose to not attack the second macine gun. The attackers moved back onto "flat ground" and decided to move around to Larisa,

Leaders checked vehicles, looking for their men, but there wete none. Those men present joined small groups and moved around to avoid the Germans. By dawn, Allen's men were dispersed into small groups, trying to move across country and along back roads. By then, a Germans force had moved to "block" the Larisa road. 

There were three rearguard groups on the move. It turns out that there small roads that tended to circumvent the rearguards. The men observed German troops moving into the New Zealand rear area. 

It was dawn on 18 April when the New Zealand cavalry with anti-tank guns, were guarding a critical junction. By then, the 4th New Zealand Brigade rearguard was reduced to Howard Kippenberger, "his batman and driver, with sixty sappers and three Bren carriers". The rearguard had taken time to sweep up stragglers while they moved. The rearguard had a two-pounder portee "sitting on the road to Servia" and three portees sitting on the road to Katerini. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Flagging spirits and withdrawal without orders

 The Australians felt helpless when confronted by German tanks. As a senior man spoke: "Some are going back, but we have no orders to withdraw". This one group didn't receive word "but the rest were withdrawing. At this point, Murchison, a company commander, told his platoons to move to the road and get on the trucks. Lamb had already told one company to withdraw.

When it was getting dark, Lamb ordered the vehicles to halt started to position infantrymen in a defensive position. What might have been a "line" was actually an "L". They were next to the rail line "on the left". The men were close together to be actually touching. One platoon commander thought they were at the end of the line, so to speak. 

Soon, a German tank approached. A man standing up in the turret was shot full of bullets. there was totala chaos, but the Australians managed to hold onto their position due to a certain amount of discipline  Someone wondered why the Germans did not keep going, after hitting the Australians quite hard.

The Larisa road was looking small, narrow, lined by ditches. The road was crowded with  vehicles trying to drive. They ran into Germans energetically firing. There were many casualties. 

Some New Zealand carriers drove up and the commander decided to force is way through. Soon, the leading carrier was mined and blocked the road. A grlup of men then attempted to attack a German machine gun nest with four men. Eventually, all four Germans were killed. As we saw, there were still Australians and New Zealand troops ready and able to fight and defeat Germans. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The 2/2nd Battalion continued in action on 18 April 1941

 The rear-guard for Chilton's headquarters consisted of a section armed with an anti-tank rifle and Bren gun. Once the German tanks approached to fifty yards, "the section relocated further up the hill". As darkness fell, men of the 2/2nd Battalion continued to move up the hills. 

By 5:45pm, two companies reached Allen's headquarters. They could tell that the 2/2nd and 21st Battalions must have been cut off. The New Zealand artillery that had been operating in support were also close by. Freyberg told Allrn to "hold the Tempe-Sikourion road junction until 3am."

Allen decided to order Lt-Col. Lamb, commander of the 2/3rd Battalion, to take control of the guns and use them to control the connection between the road and railway. Allen moved his headquarters to this location. Allen thought that he could hold this position until after dark. 

Between this location and Larisa, there were several good rearguard positions that they could use. In the latest position, they had some four companies arranged on the ground. They had one weak company from the 2/3rd Battalion in reserve.

By then, Allen had a considerable collection of carriers, but he was short of infantry. While they were in position, part of the New Zealand Division Divisional Cavalry joined. The position had been subjected to German air attack. While they were waiting for events to play out, some German tanks approached. This was about 7:30pm. They knocked out one German tank, lost one gun, and had to pull the other gun back. 

Allen was present and directed Lamb to a place north of Larisa. New Zealand armored cars provided cover as Allen and his staff. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Plan for continued operations on 18 April

 The Australian and New Zealand troops now had to contend with German armor and infantry on the move. They were traveling to an "area south of Evangelismos". Chilton ordered King's company to move because "they were thought to be in danger of being surrounded". Chilton followed "King's company". The withdrawal had been covered by one section with a Bren gun and anti-tank rifle. 

The section pulled back up the hill. As night fill, men from the 2/2nd Battalion moved up the hill, trying to keep under cover that the hills offered.

By 5:45pm, two companies began to join Allen's headquarters. New Zealand guns were passing by. By then, it had become evident that most of the Australian battaliion and the New Zealand battalion had a problem. They seemed to be cut off. Allen ordered the 2/3rd Battalion to take charge of the guns that had been near. He needed to use the to cover the road and railway. 

Allen went ahead and moved his headquarters to join this force. Allen was pretty sure that he could hold this position until darkness fell. :Between this position and Larisa, Allen was aware of some good spots to use to provide cover for rearguard groups. Some companies were put into position and Allen now had a large group of carriers. The carriers were from both Australia and New Zealand. 

Allen had one problem in that he had very little infantry available. Allen's force now had the problem in that the enemy was tempted to bomb and strafe the relatively large force. When trucks were hit, they tended to burn. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

What was happening with the New Zealand 21st Battalion on 18 April 1941

 As we have noted, the phone lines to Buckley's and Caldewell's companies were broken. Buckley's company was located high up on the slope above the road. By late in the afternoon, the company was firing down on German tanks on the road. The tanks were having to tow trailers carrying infantry. There were apparently German infantry trying to follow the tanks. 

Several 25pdr guns were located forward. They were in position to fire on the tanks and had some success. Perhaps as many as four tanks seemed to have been knocked out. Eventually, about ten German tanks broke into the area occupied by Caldwell's company.

General Freyberg was concerned about what was happening to the New Zealand units. He had lost communications with them. Freyberg had spoken with Allen. Chilton lost his line to Allen soon after. Given developments, Allen wrote an order to withdraw his forces. Allen gave his order to a liaison officer for delivery "to Chilton and Parkinson". Someone told the officier, mistakenly, that Chilton had been overrun. He gave Parkinson's copy of the order to the gun commander. Lt. Swinton, a liaison officer was in a carrier, but the carrier could not travel over the rough ground. Swinson drove back to the brigade headquarters. 

There had been a fight between German tanks and the 25pdr guns. The 25pdrs were eventually towed out. Later, a 2pdr was also withdrawn. German tanks firing on the carriers forced the carriers to pull back. A signals truck was hit and burned.

German infantry and tanks moved onto the road. Captain King's company was ordered to withdraw, given the situation. Chilton followed them out in leaving. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Friday, October 01, 2021

More action on 18 April

 The lead platoon from the 2/ nd Battalion was in a bad spot. A German tank drove through their position, which caused them to "fall back". The men moved up the slope on the south side. The platoon commander was wounded and then was taken prisoner. 

There were now three German tanks on the road, on the move. There was what seemed to be German battalion attacking. They moved into the river, wading as they crossed. The Australians were taking machine gun fire from the slopes, higher up. 

The German infantry were now caught in a heavy concentration of Bren gun fire. The Germans were also taking mortar fire from "two three inch mortars". The Australiand had fired some 350 mortar bombs at the Germans. The infantry attack had been broken. The German tanks still continued to move forward on the road. 

5pm saw telephone lines broken, distrupting communications. By 4:45pm, Australians were withdrawing. The Australians marched to their trucks and boarded them. They drove south to the brigade headquarters. "There were also some reserve companies from the 2/3rd Battalion".

Chilton had not seen the withdrawal orders, so he assumed that the companies had been overrun. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Fighting in front of the New Zealand soldiers on 18 April 1941

 There was heavy fighting in front of the 21st New Zealand Battalion. The platoons of the 21st Battalion were eventually forced back by the strong German force opposiong them. The men were scattered across thte many gullies. Some men that were higher up the slopes were holding onto their ground. They men were slowly being forced back due to the German strength. Just over the top lay a village named Anthelakia. 

By "11 o'clock", there were groups of New Zeland soldiers moving back through Buckley's  men Chilton talked with Macky a few times. Eventually, the wire was broken. There were New Zealand soldiers pulling back, traveling through the Australians. 

The New Zealand battalion had mostly moved upwards on Ossa. Before communication was cut off, "Allen was told that there German tans in Tempe". There had been an anti-tank gun that might have covered the "exit from the village. The gun crew had left the scene with their breech block. The Australians that remained were noto pressed "for more than two hours". 

The area was taking mortar and machine gun fire. Artillery fire had stopped the German tanks near Tempe. The Australian losses were about forty "killed and wounded". The expected German attack started at 3pm. Some 35 aircraft arrived and flew in circles around Allen's headquarters. They bombed the train station, The front platoon from the 2/2nd Battalion sat some 400 yards "forward from Buckley's headquarters." Three German tanks were moving forward". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete and Syria", by Gavin Long.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Action from 18 April 1941

 It was early on 18 April 1941 when the men saw forty German soldiers on the far bank of the river. This was on the right of the 2/2nd Battalion. The Germans were "bunched up" and this drew the Australians fire. They got all forty of the German soldiers. 

As the morning progressed, the number of Germans in front of the New Zealand 21st Battalion increased. By midday, the Germans attacked. The first thing that the Germans did was to remove the road block. That allowed German tanks to drive through. The first tank knocked out a 2pdr anti-tank gun. The next tank proceeded to drive past. More tanks were in action and there was German infantry. The New Zealand troops were sitting, in exposed positions, on Mount Ossa on the "forward slopes".

The forward men were back, while there were anti-tank guns and crews in front. Three German tanks were driving slowly along the road. When the tanks were closest, the anti-tank guns fired, knocking out two tanks and damaging the third tank. They had fired 28 rounds. 

German infantry had crossed the river and called on the gunners to surrender. One gun crew had escaped while another had some men captured or were driven off. 

At this point, field guns fired on the tanks and kept them pinned down. Eventually, the action became so intense that the men had to "fall back". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Plans from 18 April 1941

 From Churchill's perspective, he wanted to concentrate on winning in Libya as the highest priority. A withdrawal from Greece seemed unavoidable. General Wavell wanted to hold the line at Thermopylae as long as possible. Wavell saw this as a way to buy time for defending Crete and Egypt. 

The lower-level commanders in Greece were not aware of these discussions. But the weather in Greece on 18 April was good. It was described as "clear and fine". The Pinios Gorge was seen as the obvious "danger spot". They could see German soldiers descending from Gonnos towards the river. The men on the spot recognized that the Germans were a "good artillery target". They did not have any artillery observers in place yet. A company commander from the 2/2nd Battalion, Captain Hendry, used a telephone to call for artillery fire. 

A carrier force was sent out to meet some German soldiers, although this move drew German mortar fire. Australian Bren gun fire was able to stop the mortar fire. They were able to retrieve their wounded men and pull back the carriers so that they were sheltered. An Australian platoon was now guarding the this flank. 

By 11am, Captain Hendry was able to communicate with a company from the 2/3rd Battalion. Because trucks had gone astray, the company was low in strength, initially. Their strength gradually grew as the afternoon progressed. 

The Australians fired on some Germans and "wiped them out". There was German activity in front of the 21st New Zealand company until by "midday", there was an attack happening. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The withdrawal in Greece from 17 April 1941

 By 6pm on 17 April, the withdrawal "was well underway". There was a rearguard in place consisting of two infantry companies along with a troop og guns. The New Zealand 5th Brigade were on the main road, just to Pharsala. At Pharsala, they moved to the eastern road. 

The Servia Pass had no infantry fighting on 17 April. The only fighting was artillery firing periodically. The New Zealand guns were pulled out "later in the afternoon". The New Zealand infantry were loaded into trucks after 8pm. 

A famous New Zealand officer, Howard Kippenberger, was put in charge of demolition. He was to leave the pass by "3am on 18 April". The 19th New Zealand Battalion was out of there "before midnight". Their vehicles were traveling dispersed and were moving quite fast to the south. The New Zealand 18th Battalion was having problems. By 3am, two of their companies had not yet reached where Kippenberger was waiting to start demolition. One of the two only arrived right before 4am while the second company arrived soon afterward. At that point, Lt-Col. Kippenberger ordered the senior engineer to "demolish the road". Once the demolition had started, there were "cries" from New Zealand troops "on the other side". The engineers waited for the stragglers to arrive. Kippenberger only ordered the "final  demolition" at 6am. 

After the demolitions, the 6th Brigade Group now covered the road from Elasson. You now had Savige Force near Kalabaka. Savige Force was visited by Liaison officers four times. As the historia said, the bridge had been destroyed twice and repaired twice. After the Greek commander, General Papagosk thought the British should leave. When Churchill heard that, he thought that they had to leave. 

General Wavell agreed that an evacuation was inevitable, but thought that Wilson should not rush the withdrawal. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria", by Gavin Long.

 Men from the 2/2nd Battalion moved along the earth road to travel through the Gorge. They moved past the New Zealand posts. They expected that they would not see any Germans in their travels. They believed that the Germans were still "far away". When the Australians had reached a railroad tunnel, they drew fire from some 150 yards from "either side of the tunnel". Some men were wounded by the firing. The Australians found cover and returned fire. A New Zealand platoon also opened fire on the Germans. 

The firefight continued for some two hours. At dusk, the Australian leaders brought their men out. Men from the New Zealand battalion brought their men out and carried out two wounded Australians. Blamey had issued orders to the New Zealanders to withdraw following the "Larisa-Volos road". The main road between Larisa and Lamia was left for Mackay to use.  It turns out that the road "to Volos" was just a "dirt track". The road led over flat county. There had been enough rain that road was muddy. 

Sometime on 17 April, General Freyberg wrote to General Blamey, informing Blamey of an arrangement Freyberg had made with General Mckay to let the New Zealanders make use of the road that had been allocated to the Australians. The letter was slow to reach Blamey. 

Freyberg had ordered the 5th New Zealand Brigade to mount their vehicles. That put two battalions on the "top of the pass" some three miles south of "Ayios Dimitrios". A third battalion was sitting at Kokkinoplos. 

It turned out that by blowing craters in the road, the Germans were so delayed that they were not seen until 6pm. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Germans in sight from the afternoon of 17 April 1941

 Men and pack animals were seen up high "above Gonnos". They observed the Germans firing Very lights when German aircraft flew over the area. New Zealand troops were able to see that the Very lights were fired from "high ground to the east". Later, the men could see men leading mules "entering Gonnos".

When it was dark, one platoon with a punt set across to check out Gonnos and to the east "at Tempe". They could see Germans in Gonnos while there were men with animals moving "west to Elia". At about 11pm, Germans attacked men watching the ferry. In the fight, a German was killed and one Australian was wounded.

On the right, one Australian platoon moved along the earth road on their way through the Gorge. They passed the New Zealand positions. They believed that the Germans were not yet close. When they were near the railroad tunnel, they drew fire from Germans. It turned out to be German infantry with a tank. They had reached the tunnel, which had been blocked. The men fought for about two hours. At dusk, the Australians moved out. Soldiers from the 21st New Zealand Battalion were able to bring out two "wounded Australians". 

General Blamey had ordered the New Zealand Division to "withdraw along the Larisa-Volos" road. General Mackay was given the "main road between Larisa and Lamia". It was seen that the road to Volos was poor, just a "dirt track". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

From the afternoon of 17 April 1941

 Brigadier Allen had just arrived at 1pm at the critical area. The 2/2nd Battalion had been without their digging tools until sometime in the morning. The tools allowed the men to dig "weapon pits". They found that there were stone walls that were low, but were suitable for use in the defences. The battalion had brought Italian "signal wire" with them from Libya. The wire allowed communications to be established. 

The battalion did not have any barbed wire or anti-tank mines. The mines would have been especially useful. The men of the 2nd Field Company set up naval depth charges in the pass, in culverts, ready to  be blown once the men had moved out. 

Brigadier Allen had three battalions. The 2/3rd Battalion reached the road just to the south of the "Servia Pass". This had been at around midnight on 16-17 April. The men were marched for two more hours before they reached the vehicles that were waiting for them. They drove to Pinios by way of Larisa. 

One of the companies was used to patrol roads that the enemy might use. They were particularly worried about the Germans making a flanking move. They expected that the enemy might come from the "east and north east". The battalion had some under strength companies due to truck drivers making wrong turns while driving towards Larisa. 

Brigadier Allen was concerned about the left. He had the 2/3rd Battalion extend the left even further. One company was put on high ground do that they could see across the river. Allen had already had Chilton put a company on high ground to the west of the road. 

The other two companies from the 2/3rd were being held as a reserve. "They were about four miles to the south of the 2/2nd Battalion position."

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Plan for the day on 17 April 1941

 The Australian priority was to stop German tanks from exiting "the defile". He ordered a crater be made in the road. He also had the New Zealand battalion positioned east of Tempe. They would cover the exit from "the defile". The Australian battalion was put in position to "protect the left flank". They would be watching for an infantry attack across the river. 

The truth was that if the New Zealand battalion were bypassed, the German tanks would "fan out", causing the 2/2nd Battalion to be in trouble. To prepare for such an event, the New Zealand 21st Battalion was spread out so that they had a platoon "at the road block". One company would be sitting a mile "to the west" with an anti-tank gun. One company would be sitting high up to be able to see, while two companies with anti-tank guns would be "en echelon" "at the road to Tempe". A flank group would be on the slope. 

Companies belonging to Chiltion were put "at the western exit" were spread out. They would be watching the river flats, the road, and the railway. The right-most company had an anti-tank gun and was sitting on the road. They also were on the "river flats". Another company was at Evangelismos. A third company was put at the "southern edge of the village". One company supplied a platoon was put on the hill "above Ambelakia". It was able to look down on the Pinios. 

Brigadier Allen arrived at about 1pm. He suggested that Chilton stretch out and put a rifle company high up to be able to look down on the river. Carriers were set to "a 3,000 yard gap. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, August 30, 2021

A controlled retirement from 17 April 1941

 A couple battalions from the 17th Australian Brigade were being moved by train on the way from Athens to Thessaly. The train crew that were carrying the 2/6th Battalion had stopped because the crew were afraid of air attack. The train had stopped for some nine hours in the night during 14 and 15 April. The 2/7th had their train attacked and the crew left them stranded. Fortunately, there were Australians with rail experience along. The men set up one engine as a decoy. They took another engine and made a train to carry the 2/7th Battalion to Domokos.

The men actually holding the defensive line on 17 April were able to execute a withdrawal by stages. They occupied carefully chosen postions. As they moved, they blew bridges and cratered the roads. There was artillery holding the Servia and Katerini Passes. As we had mentioned, the men climbed from the foot  of the road to the top at the passes and put craters in the road to slow the German advance. 

The Germans were forced to cautiously advance, stopping to repair the road as they went forward. The Germans were not able to use their tanks so they had to rely upon their artillery. 

There was action at the Pinios Gorge on 17 April. The three colonels there were busy preparing defenses. Colonel Chilton, a relatively young Colonel, had deployed their force in the defenses. Macky had agreed to Chilton's plan for the New Zealand force. The Pinios Gorge extended for some five miles. The gorge was quite narrow and had steep walls. The river in the gorge was narrow and the railroad ran along the north side. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Continued developments on 17 April 1941

 By 16 April, General Wavell mentioned a "further withdrawal", which was thought to mean evacuating from Greece. As we had mentioned, there was rain for much of 17 April. As vehicles moved along the road to withdraw, there were vehicles with supplies trying to move the other direction on the road.

There were a very few Greek vehicles carrying refugees, moving with the dominant traffic flow. At the northern end of Larisa, there was a bridge that crossed the Pinios. The bridge was the center for a circle of bomb craters, although the bridge had so far escapes damage.

There had been a British canteen at Larisa, although it had been abandoned. Retreating British and ANZAC soldiers had taken cases of beer from the canteen. Many beer-drinkers had fallen asleep down the road. 

One thing that happened was that the defenders of the Servia and Katerini passes had moved up to the top of the passes, making the road impassable with craters along the way. 

The three colonels in the Pinios Gorge were able to prepare defences. Chilton had put the force in place. Macky agreed with the arrangements and the plan for siting the one New Zealand battalion. 

The Pinios Gorge had a length of five miles. The gorge sides were very steep. The Pinios River lay in the gorge and flowed fast. 

A railway lay on the north side of the river. The rail line crossed the river at the west end, where it turned towards Larisa. 

The Australian officer was concerned about German tanks so he had a crater blown in the road. He had the New Zealand battalion positioned to cover the crater. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The situation as of 17 April 1941

 Brigadier Savige finally received Blamey's written order by 12:30pm on 17 April. Somewhat later, Savige told Blamey that the armored brigade was already moving out. 

The armored brigade had serious problems with worn-out tanks and "defective tracks". The brigade had heavy losses due to being ordered to withdraw "over a rough mountain road rather than the main road. That was "Group W's" fault. It had been on 16 April that Wilson had told General Papagos that they would withdraw by way of Thermopylae.

The Greeks were in fact ready to give up the fight. The only viable British option was to withdraw from Greece. 

Most of Thessaly had rain on 17 April, as there had been on 16 April. 

The vehicles on the road were somewhat protected by the low clouds. At times the sky cleared and that allowed German aircraft to attack the vehicles on the roads.

Increasingly, Greek soldiers wandered along the roads. There was some signs of Greek refugees traveling in vehicles often towed by tractors. By now, Larisa lay in ruins. The damage was apparently the result of earthquakes and German air attacks.

Traffic on the roads was now bogged down. By now, the railroads were now disorganized at least partly the result of a fear of air attacks. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

New instructions for Savige

 Savige got new orders from General Blamey by way of Colonel Wells from Blamey's headquarters. Savige was to hold his position until "midnight on 18-19 April". He was told that the 1st Armoured Brigade "would cover his withdrawal'. However, the 1st Armoured Brigade had received conflicting orders from General Wilson. Wilson wanted the armored brigade to go into reserve "behind the Thermopylae line".  

It turns out that the bulk of the armored brigade had arrived at Velemistion by the evening. They had driven some 20 miles with very difficult road conditions, Because of the "rain and mist, they had been protected from air attack. 

Several parts of the road were considered "impassable". The armored brigade was forced to detour several times. By April 17 in the morning, the armored brigade was driving through Kalabaka. By early on the 17th, the conflicting orders became an issue. The 1st Armoured Brigade brigade major was ordered to remain at Kalabaka until his brigade had reached Kalabaka. He had received those orders on 16 April. 

The major was asked about the possibility of covering Savige force's withdrawal. He replied that his orders from General Wilson seemed to preclude that possibility. After more discussion, he agreed to sed a small group to guard the bridge to help Savige. Brigadier Charrington arrived and agreed to the small group to guard the bridge. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A review of the situation, particularly that of Brigadier Savige

 AS we remember, Brigadier Savige and his force were sitting at Kalabaka. He disliked the position that his force was in because he thought that it gave too many opportunities to the Germans. He decided to hold a line that was some 2-1/2 miles long with its "left on a wide stream, the upper Pinios river". 

You may also remember that General Wilson had visited Savige on 15 April. General Wilson had warned Savige that he might need to hastily abandon his position near Kalabaka. 

Kalabaka was interesting, because it had a superficial resemblence to Gibraltar. British medium artillery had been positioned east of Kalabaka, "at the foot of the Gibraltar-like cliff. At night, there were lights on the cliff that were turned on and off. The gunners began to suspect some sort of "fifth column".

It seemed that Greek troops were robbing the civilians while the civilians were stealing guns to protect themselves. 

The 1st Armoured Brigade was located to the north, and so far, Savige had no communication with the brigade A liaison officer associated with General Wilson told Savige that a 1st Armoured Brigade column would drive past Kalabaka on 16 April. They were bound for Larisa. 

Savige started to worry that someone would blow up the bridge over the Venetikos. Actually, Savige wanted to be sure that the bridge would be blown. He sent a group commanded by an British engineer officer to check the bridge and blow it if it had not already been blown. They found that the bridge was still standing and so they destroyed it. This is based on the  account in "Greece, Crete, and Sytia" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Further movements from 15 to 17 April 1941

 The 2/2 Field Regiment was ordered to move to the flank guard at Zarkos. They were supposed to go by way of the Servia Pass, but that did not happen. A New Zealand officer warned that vehicles moving along the road by Prosilion were being shelled by German artillery. The 2/2 took a long way around to get to Zarkos. General Mackay was unhappy about the detour. Still, the 2/2arrived at Zarkos during the early afternoon, so the effect was minimal. Later, after dark, the 2/3rd was sent to Elasson. They were sent there to support the 6th New Zealand Brigade. During the night drive, the 2/3rd lost a gun that fell over a cliff. That was the third gun gthat the 2/3rd had lost. 

The New Zealand 20th Battalion was sent off during the night of 16 to 17 April. They were sent to Lava to be ready to support the brigade movement on the next night.. The 19th Battalion then swung "its left flank south of Prosilion". 

Savige's men were spotted high in the mountains. They were on the "left flank". Savige disliked the area where he had been told to deploy. He decided to do something else, to hold a 2-1/2 mile long line to the west of Kalabaka. His new position had his left against the Pinios River. His right in this position was "tender" but could be "defended in depth".

General Wilson warned Savige that he might need to move quickly, and would need to have vehicles for all his men. Wilson recommended that Savige keep in touch with the convoy that was carrying Greek soldiers into his area. Savige did that and made a deal to get about 80 vehicles from the convoy. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Weather continues to be a factor on 16 April 1941

 What you had were German mountain troops against Maoris. They were now in twilight. The Germans had overlapped the New Zealand line. The ravine feature was still influencing the action. Germans were on the far side of the ravine. The Germans now had access to the road and were moving along it. German mountain troops hit the most "forward Maori section" and started to overrun them, but at heavy cost. The few German survivors were "pushed back into the Ravine". 

"British reinforcements" arrived in time to provide stability ro the situation". The night was now "pitch dark" and "the battalion was over an hour and a half late in starting to withdraw". The New Zealand troops were beginning to move out. They were stuck in trying to move through very high elevations. Nine 2pdr anti-tank guns could not be saved and the men had to push them "over the cliffs". The men were forced to abandon ten carriers and 20 trucks as well.

The cratered the road to make it less usable to the Germans. They constructed a new position at the top of the pass, some seven miles towards the south-west.

The brigade would attempt to hold the position through the next night, prior to moving to Thermopylae. General Freyberg had gathered a force tasked with covering the "withdrawal from the Servia and Olympus Passes".

They would be in position "north of Elasson". The Germans had enough trouble that they would not try and infantry attack. You still had artillery duelling and the ever-present air attacks. 

By dark on 16 April, an Australian field regiment arrived at Elasson. They were there to support the 6th New Zealand Brigade. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

The situation from 15 to 16 April 1941

 There were some dangerous possibilities available for German advances,  At Platamon, the New Zealand 21st Battalion was under attack. As for the 22nd Battalion, there had been Germans "calling in English". The New Zealand trrops ignored the German voicees. The Germans had been "lifting mines and cutting wire". 

By dawn on 16 April, the Germans made a "light attack". The attack drew artillery and mortar fire. Behind them were  tanks and "waggons". The 22nd Battalion was in the center of Hargest's brigade. During the attack, the Germans used this as cover to move mortars and infantry guns forward. These weapons made things difficult for the New Zealand troopps.

The commander of a field regiment came up and directed fire that took out a troublesome mortar.There were Maoris "on the left" could see for 14 miles and could see German vehicles as far as Katerini. The front of the column for three mile consisted of "tanks, TRcar troop carriers, and motor cycles". 

By 8:30am, the lead vehicles were moving quickly forward. A New Zealand artillery observer called in fire that stopped the German attack. The artillery destroyed 14 German vehicles, including two tanks.

Rain and mist from 11am until 3pm reduced visibility to something like "a few hundred yards". Once the percipitation stopped, the Maori troops were able to see German forces "streaming into a deep ravine at Mavroneri. This was on the left flank and was out of range.

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria", by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Planning to withdraw the Anzac Corps

 Generals Mackay and Freyberg would be involved with the move back to Thermopylae. Mackay would be responsible for protecting the New Zealand Division flanks as far as the line through  Larisa. He would also be in command of the move of Savige Force, Zarkos Force, and Lee Force. 

The 1st Armoured Brigade would protect Savige Force at Larisa as well as the 6th Australian Division. The armored brigade would be under the command of the 6th Australian Division.

General Freyberg would command Allen Foree, which would be following the route of the New Zealand Division. General Blamey took command of all of the engineers.  

He planned to have a meeting at the junction of the roads to Katerini and Servia. The meeting would include Brigadier Steele, Colonel Lucas, and Colonel Clifton. Blamey's plan was based on the expectation that they would be able to slow the enemy enough to allow the 4th New Zealand Brigade to leave the Servia Pass, the 5th New Zealand Brigade to leave the Olympus Pass, and the 6th New Zealand Brigade would then leave Elasson on the night of 18 and 19 April. Savige Force and Allen Force moves would be coordinated with Generals Freyberg and Mackay.

You had the snow-covered peak of Mount Olympus lying between Allen's force "on the south bank of the Pinios". and the 5th Brigade, some 20 miles distant in the Olympus Pass. The 5th Brigade was sitting "on the north slope". There was a fighting force at Tempe that was "in the gorge".

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria", by Gavin Long.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The next problem: finding reinforcements on 16 April 1941

 Brigadier Savige's brigade had been the intended reserve for the ANZAC Corps. The brigade had been used for two jobs: "a flank guard at Kalabaka and to help the force at Domokos".

The next crisis seems to have been to take "the first battalion from the 16th Brigade to be sent to Pinios Gorge". It was left to the 2/2nd Battalion to fight this new fire. It was Lt-Col. Chilton who would have to command his battalion in this new crisis situation. Chilton would get artillery and carriers to reinforce his battalion.

Chilton set off in a car. He found himself meeting Brigadier Clowes. He learned that the 21st Battalion still existed and was moving into the Gorge. Chilton had his adjutant "collect his vehicles" and find a way to guide the vehicles through the crowded roads at Larisa. 

Chilton set off with his carriers to Tempe. He met with the 21st Battalion commander, who said that his battalion had only lost 35 "casualties in the gorge". They mostly had lost equipment. The rest of the 21st Battalion connected with the Australians while the artillery also arrived.

Blamey, at his headquarters, sent Brigadier Allen to command th 2/2nd and 21st Battalions, the artillery, and other "detachments" that were in the Pinios Gorge. The unit would form a Brigade Group. The reality was that Brigadier Allen was in the foothills of Olympus on 16 April. He arrived at Blamey's headquarters on 17 April when he received his new orders.

Brigadier Rowell, who had been trying to sleep, used a flashlight and a map to show Allen how he was to move into the Pinios Gorge. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

From 16 April 1941 and beyond

 General Blamey wanted a man with good judgment and a lot of experience watching over the New Zealand 21st Battalion. He sent his artillery commander, Brigadier Clowes to check out the situation and take any action he thought was necessary.

Brigadier Clowes drove through the night to the New Zealand Division headquarters and then on to Larisa. Traffic on the roads was bad, so Brigadier Clowes only left Larisa at 8am to drive on to Platamon. By 11am, he reached the east end of the Pinios Gorge. He found theh 21st Battalion there heard the news that "one company and part of another were missing".

Clowes ordered the battalion commander to hold the gorge until 19 April and do so essentially "at all cost" (even if they had to fight to the last man). The battalion commander was also told that support was on the way. 

He was also told to sink the ferry boat once all his men had crossed. He was to hold the west end of the gorge "to the last". Brigadier Clowes also ordered Lt-Col. Macky to move back to a spot seven miles to the south if the Germans broke through.

By late afternoon, the 21st Battalion had crossed. They had four guns that were too heavy for the "barge". The trucks drove across the railway bridge. The guns were man-handled across. They only sank the ferry at this point. They only did that after they ferried across a "large flock of goats and sheep, with two shepherdesses. 

Clowes had done the job that they had hoped he would do. At that point, General Blamey and his staff worked to find reinforcements to send "as a stop-gap". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

 The German forces facing the British were very strong. "Field Marshall List had three corps, including armored, infantry, and mountain divisions". To the east of the Pindus mountain range, there were six Greek divisions in poor shape. There were also the Australian and New Zealand Divisions in the ANZAC Corps.

By 16 April, the British forces were seen to be vulnerable to attack from the east. They had assumed that they could hold the Olympus Passes long enough to withdraw the ANZAC Corps. It now seemed a possibility that the Germans could move quickly south to Thessaly so fast as to reduce the possibility that the British forces could move to Larisa.The New Zealand 21st Battalion "at the Platamon tunnel" reported seeing 150 German tanks and that they were pressing an attack. 

The Germans sent motorcycle troops against the 21st Battalion, which mauled the motorcyclists. At the evening of 15 April, a unit of German armor came up to the vicinity of the 21st Battalion. 

The battalion was attacked from the direction of the coast and from the inland direction. The battalion was able to hold out against the attacks they had faced so far.

The German attacking force was strengthened during the night of 15 to 16 April. By dawn on 16 April, the leftmost company of the 21st Battalion was attacked by infantry. By 9am, they were attacked by the tanks "along the coast". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Events in Greece from 15 April 1941

 The German 40 Corps was facing the Greek front. The Greeks had been abandoned by a commander and his staff, but they had not "disintegrated" and were still fighting well.

The German commanders moved up an infantry division to protect the flank of th 40 Corps. The German mountain corps that had been at Salonika was to attack the Edessa Pass as well as the Veria Pass. The British and Greek withdrawal made that unnecessary. Instead, the Germans were "to pursue the enemy south". The German 6th Moutain Division then crossed the Aliakmon River and started up Mount Olympus. This had happened back on 14 April. 

The Germans were following the 16th Australian Brigade and the armoured force. They had moved through the Olympus Pass. This was the route to take to go from Olympus "to the sea". This was on the "weak flank" of the New Zealand Division. 

By now, the Germans were in control of Yugoslavia from a line "north and west" of Zagreb, Belgrade, Nish, and Skoplje by 13 April. We hear that the Italian army had moved to Ljubljana.  The Croatians "welcomed the Germans to Zagreb". They announced that there would not be any resistance "in Croatia Dalmatia, or Bosnia". 

What little effective Yugoslav forces remained had moved into the mountains to the west. By 15 April, the Yugoslav command "had asked for an armistice". 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

General Wilson in Greece from 15 April 1941

 General Papagos had sent a message to General Wilson, asking for a meeting at Lamia at 6am on 16 April. General Wilson had left his headquarters at Soumpasi at about 1am, hoping to arrive at Lamia in time for the meeting. He had about fifty miles to travel. A German air raid made trffic on the roads even worse, so General did not arrive at Lamia until 10am. 

In the meeting, General Papagos outlined the Greek situation. A feature of the situation was that the component divisions of the Western Macedonian Aemy had "taken to the mountains." It might take a couple of days for them to arrive at "Metsovon or Kalabaka". General Papagos approved of the British units with drawing to Thermopylae.

It seemed that General Papagos did not know that the British forces were already "on the move". 

As early as 13 April, the Leibstandart Adolf Hitler had been ordered "to the Klisoura Pass". General Stumme was more interested in the Servia Pass. He hoped to outflank the British. The 9th Armored Division was on the move and passed through Kozani. .By 14 April, the Germans had patrols across the Aliakmon River. By 14 April, the Germans thought that the British were "in full retreat".

The Germans had attacked Servia with an infantry regiment and had taken losses. "The Aolf Hitler Division" had pushed to the "Kastoria-Grevena Road" by 15 April. That cut off the Greeks that were retreating from Albania. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Trouble with the Greek Soldiers from 15 April and later

 Brigadier Savige probably drove to the bridge at the Kalabaka[Pindus road. He was to meet Lt-Col. King at the bridge. King gave Savige a report prior to Savige meeting with the Greek General. There was a problem with the Greek soldiers that were present, to the pont that the Australians fixed bayonets so as to intimidate the Greeks. The Australians wanted to force the Greeks back to the mountains.

The Australians were blocking each end of the bridge. They wanted to clear the Greeks out of the way. While Brigadier Savige was meeiing with Lt-Col. King,  convoy of luxurious Greek vehicles loaded with Greek officers arrived. The convoy was planning on crossing the bridge. The third car carried the Greek general, wwho waved at Savige.

It was about 6pm on 15 April that the Germans reached "the Kastoria-Grevena road". This was at Argos Orestikon. This had the effect of separating "the Greek Cavalry Division, the 9th, 10th, and 13th Divisions. These were the bulk of the Greek Maacedonian army. The army started to move to the west, towards the Pindus mountains. 

The remains of the 12th and 20th Divisions crossed the Aliakmon River. Their were going to Neapolis and Grevena. By the time Brigadier Savige met with the Greek general, the Greek army was left with the remaina of two divisions by Grevena. There was also a mass of inorganized Greek soldiers trying to move through Savige's force.

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria", by Gavin Long.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Problems caused by Greek approach

 General Wilson visited Brigadier Savige and informed him about taking units for the new rear-guard and also told Savige that some 3,000 Greek troops would be dumped into his area. The men were unarmed and unequipped. It became evident that there was nothing that had been done to re-arm the Greeks.

Savige wrote of the Greeks: they "cluttered my forward area and added weight to the stream of refugees." The traffic on the road from Grevena to Trikkala. 

Brigadier Savige met with Lt-Col Barter, who was a liaison team leader with a Greek general with a bad reputation. The General was well-connected and that kept him out of trouble. Lt-Col Barter spoke fluent Greek, which was useful and unusual. He set up  a meeting between Savige and the Greek general.

Brigadier Savige later wrote about his experience. Savige talked about his concerns with the large number of unarmed Greek soldiers in the forward area. It is not surprising, sadly, that the Greek general suggested to Savige that he "machine gun them". Savige instead asked for some Greek officers to be sent to organize the men, 

The Greek general was assembling his army of Macedonia in the Pindus moutains. 

Savige felt that the Greek general was "double-crossing". His real opinion of the Greek general was pretty low. Savige applied pressure to get the general to remove his troops from Savige's "forwared area". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

In Greece from 14 APRIL 1941

Later in the day on 14 April, the Germans were pushing against the Greeks near the Aliakmon River. The Greeks were holdin the passes, but were under pressure. At one point, the Germans had reached within 200 yards ofr the Grevena Pass. The British armored brigade was situated  in the pass. The commander, Brigadier Charrington, decided to move "back to the Venetikos". The road was jammed with traffic and slowed the move. The vehicles were in both lanes, headed the same direction. They were moving very slowly.

By 7am, the German air force found them. There were Stuka dive bombers and probably fighters straffing the road. Considering the effort, the air attacks achieved surprisingly little results. The British force had reached the river by 5pm.

From the armored brigade, the 3rd RTR had to "abandon 7 tanks". The regiment had started with 52 tanks, but was now left with just six. The brigade still had the 2nd RHA, still in good shape. The 102nd Anti-Tank Regiment was fortunate to have only lost six guns. 

Brigadier Charrington had heard that the Central Macedonian Army was in bad shape. Tht was a worrisome report. Things were not as bad as they seemed. The 4th Hussars had sent out a patrol that found that the Germans had not yet crossed the river. The Germans also had not reached Grevena. General Wilson made a visit to the armored brigade on 14 April and ordered them to drive to Kalabaka.

It was on the night of 14-15 April that Savige Force was getting organized. They were not as strong as had been planned. They had the armored brigade headquarter squadron with 7 cruiser tanks. and a collection of other combat units. General Wilson arrived and informed Savige that he would need to supply units to a new rear-guard. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Friday, July 02, 2021

The surprise withdrawal

 The engineers had been ordered to complete the timber bridge by 9pm, but they were fortunate to finish the bridge by 10pm. The 19th Australian Brigade was to cross by 9pm. The engineers had been helped by men from the 26th New Zealand Battalion. 

As the bridge was being completed, the 19th Brigade were gathering "on the opposite bank". Vasey had only received his orders to withdraw by 5pm. He apparently had a warning at 1pm. The men were forced to abandon their vehicles at the river as there was no way to get them across the river. There was a similar problem with artillery. At least the Australian machine gunners were able to carry their 12 guns across the river.

A side effect of the failed attempt to aid Greece was that vehicles and artillery as well as other equipment was abandoned in Greece. That should not have been a surprise, as it was a forseeable situation. 

Thw 26th New Zealand Battalion acted as the rearguard for the retreating forces. The rearguard stayed in position until the two Australian battalions crossed. They waited for a missing company, but they never arrived. A guide left at the track to the river seems to have left his post. 

The company reached the river and crossed it using a boat they had found They joined some artillerymen, who gave the a ride in their vehicles, so they were able to withdraw. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

There were difficulties during the planned withdrawal to Thermopylae

 At one point, the New Zealanders took German prisoners. They captured some 147 officers and men, as well as thirty to forty wounded Austrian infantrymen. They eventually thought that the Germans had lost some four hundred men. The New Zealand units lost only eight men. 

The Australian historian pointed out that this was an unsupported frontal attack. Still, the Germans continued attacking the New Zealand troops. The enemy forces had the use of Servia, and could assemble their men in buildings. 

The British kept Servia under constant fire "from artillery., mortar and small arms fire." During 13 and 14 April, German aircraft  were divebombing the New Zealanders. The Stukas were equipped with sirens that generated enough noise to upset the men being bombed.

After dark, some of the New Zealanders pulled back from exposed positions. Some men from the 19th Battalion made a counter-attack and pushed back some forty Germans from the vicinity of Prosilion village.

"Early in the afternoon of 15 April, General Blamey ordered Mackay to reposition the 19th Australian Brigade to the other side of the Aliakmon River. There was no bridge in place. Men from the 2/1st Field company were ordered to build a timber trestle bridge. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Events on the mountain on 15 June 1941

 The 2/1st Battalion was in a position that had some two feet of snow on the ground. They could expect to be fighting German mountain troops here. The Australians could not see the New Zealand unit that was closest, as they were actually some "six miles to the northeast". The Australians had spent the time since 12 April, climbing moutains. They had little rest in that time, and had little protection from the cold weather. 

The 2/2nd Battalion had occupied Hill 1628 on the southeast side of Moskhokorri. Their fellow battalion, the 2/3rd, was serving as the reserve. They were "to the south from the village". 

Allen's headquarters now had to find a way to tell the battalions to pull back to Thermopylae. They were not in telephone communication, so the only way was to travel paths along the "slopes of Olympus". 

A staff officer road a pony to deliver the orders to the 2/2nd Battalion. They had an order to turn over their position to the 2/3rd Battalion and then march down to the "southern end of the pass". 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syia" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Events involviing the 16th Australian Brigade

 The plan being followed was to have the 16th Australian Brigade "fill the gap between the 5th and 6th New Zealand brigades. It was during the night of 15 to 16 April that the tail end of the 16th Australian Brigade moved across the Aliakmo River. 

The night of 15 to 16 April also saw the front half of the 2/2nd Battalion advanced to Moskhokhori. The next day saw the rest of the battalion joined the front half. After midnght of the next day, the whole battalion had moved to  spot past the village.

By early on 14 April, thet the 2/1st Battalion har advanced to a position past Volvendos and stopped "at the foot of the mountains". The other battalion, the 2/3rd stayed at Volvendos. 

During the night, the moon provided light from 10:15pm. Taking advantage of the moonlight, first the 2/1st Battalion managed to climb up to Moshkokhori followed by the 2/3rd Battalion.

By dawn, officers from Allen's headquarters were able to find the 2/1st Battalion and handed them ther orders where they were to climb between five or six miles into position "on the right of the brigade's front".

Some sappers who were in the village were told by villagers that Germans "behind them" had crossed the river. The sappers ans the one infantryman headed out  During the morning, the 2/3rd Battalion arrived at Moskhokori. The men were now almost out of the food they had brought from the Veria Pass. The food they had left tasted bad, almost like dog food.

The 2/1st Battalion arrived at their planned position by 9am on 15 April. They now were at something like 5,500 feet elevation  This is based on the account given in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Continued action from 14 April 1941 in Greece

 During 14 April 1941, you had the 5th New Zealand Brigade sitting in the Olympus Pass.  The Katerini-Elasson road ran through the Olympus Pass. The brigade was deployed with the 23rd Battalion to the right of the brigade. The 22nd Brigade was sitting in the center of the front. The Maori's of the 28th Battalion were on the left. The 28th Battalion was located at Skoteina. The brigade had some artillery in support. They had the 5th Field Regiment and an anti-tank battery. 

There was a plan to move the 6th Brigade into a spot on the left of where the 5th Brigade was located. They saw some German vehicles "at 5pm on 14 April. By the time the artillery was given permission to fire on the vehicles, they had moved out of sight."

During the night ofo 14 to 15 April, the New Zealand troops could see German vehicles bringing troops forward. Sometime around 11pm, German motorcycles drove up the pass. They drew machine gun fire, and the next morning they found five motorcycles lying next to the road. 

During 15 April, there was more German vehicle traffic. They drew artillery fire, but were not fired upon by British artillery. It was only by 4:30pm that the Germans started to return artillery fire. The Germans did not make any attempt to attack on 1`5 April. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Events in Greece from 13 to 15 April 1941

 We now look at the Greek armies during this period in April 1941. During 13 April, "the Greeks were holding the Pisoderion and Klisooura Passes". You had the Western Macedonian Army moving to the Venetikos Position during 13 April. The Epirus Army move started that night. "At noon on 14 April, the Germans drove the 20th Greek Division from the Klisoura Pass". The remnants of the 20th Division were ordered to "block the Grevena Road father south". 

During the 14th and the night ofo 14 to 15 April, divisions of the Western Macedonian Army were able to withdraw. 

The 11th Division had been sent to the Metsovon Pass and were able to move into their positions. 

It was on 14 April that the Germans "began probing the Anzac Corps positionns oh the Aliakmon line." We note that he New Zealand Division was now holding passes "on either side of Olympus. Some New Zealand engineers were given the task of "demolishing the tunnel and road at Platamon. The demolitions "were blown on 14 April, but were not successful". 

As a last resort, the engineers laid an anti-tank minefield on the "road over the saddle". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Events proceed in Greece from 16 April 1941

 All British men who were not in mobile units and who otherwise were considered "marching units" were provided with motor transport.

Staff in Athens were doing advanced planning for a withdrawal of all British forces from Greece. As early as 13 General Wilson's staff told the naval staff that the army would soon begin to withdraw their forces from Greece. The naval staff were informed that the withdrawal could begin as soon as 15 April. 

In Egypt, General Wavell's staff did preliminary planning for a withdrawal. Around the time that General Wilson's withdrawal order was sent, the Germans had achieved virtual air control over the forward areas

The Germans made a dawn attack on airfields in the Larisa area and were able to destroy ten British Blenheim bombers on the ground. The British air commander witnessed the artack and ordered the surviving aircraft be flown to Athens  After their success, the Germans bombed the Larisa air field durin the day. 

The Germans also bombed Elasson, site of General Blamey's headquarters. British troopa loar their air support and only saw German aircraft in action. British aircraft had been operating effectively, often wthout their soldiers seeing them in action. 

During this period, Greek unts were able to hold the Germans in the "Pisoderion and Klisoura Passes. The "Western Macedonian Army moved into the Venetikos Position. It had "been about noon on 14 April when the 20th Greek Division had been driven out of the Klisoura Pass". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

The situation from 16 April 1941

Brigadier Clowes warned Macky that it was critical that they be able to hold the "gorge" until 19 April 1941. He also told Macky that support would eventually arrive. He also ordered Macky to sink the ferry boat once all of his men were across. 

The priority was to hold the western end of the gorge/ Macky was told that it was especially important to defend the high ground in the north. 

The "first moves ordered were intended to put the 6th Australian Division troops behind the passes on 16 April.

General Freyberg was a personal friend of Churchill, and Churchill had complete confidence in Freyberg. It is unclear that he was actually capable of performing the task of commanding the withdrawal. 

The New Zealand 5th Brigade was the initial rearguard force. In additiion to the 5th New Zealand Brigade, you had the 6th New Zealand Brigade group, and the left flank guard of the 6th Australian Brigade Group. 

The British armored brigade "covered the withdrawal across the plains of Thessaly." This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

By 16 to 17 April 1941, the situation is both uncertain and needed to be resolved

 By late afternoon on 16 April 1941, Lt-Col. Macky's men had been transported across the river. The four guns had been taken across with difficulty. Before the ferry was sunk, they transported "a large flock of sheep and goats with their two  shepherdesses" across. 

As we learned, Brigadier Clowes had been sent to take command of the right flank. The Anzac corps staff and commander then had to deal with finding a force to use. 

Brigadier Savige's brigade was already used as a "flank guard at Kalabaka". They also were used as part of Lee's battle group sitting on the road at Domokos. 

Blamey's staff was trying to deal with their situation. Brigadier Rowell issued an order that "the first battalion of the 16th Brigade should be used at Pinios Gorge. 

The 2/2nd Battalion was stopped on the main road at about 10am. The battalion commander was ordered to report to the corps headquarters. He was told at the corps headquarters that "the 21st Battalion might well have been wiped out". 

Brigadier Clowes had been ordered to find out what had happened, but they had not heard from him yet. 

This is  based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

The German superiority from 16 April 1941

 Field Marshal List commanded the German army that the British would face. The Germans had "three corps", three armored divisions, two mountain divisions, and five infantry divisions. He also had two infantry divisions as reserves. There was also another army that lay to the north that included some fourteen divisions. 

The particular situation facing Wilson's army was that when you look at what lay to the east of the "Pindus watershed", there were six Greek divisions in serious trouble. There were also the two ANZAC divisions. There was one Australian division and the New Zealand Division. 

By early 16 April, the commanders of the Anzac corps became aware that the eastern flank was what was most vulnerable. They had assumed that they would be able to hold the Olympus passes as long as was needed. 

They received a report of some 150 German tanks that posed a threat. They were receiving reports from the 21st New Zealand Battalion. By 1am, General Blamey ordered his artillery commander to travel to the 21st Battaliion and do what ever he thought necessary. 

The New Zealand battalion needed to hold until 19 April, and do whatever it took to do that, including with great risk. Brigadier Clowes gave orders to drop back to where the "road and railway crossed", some seven miles away. 

This  all left General Blamey and his staff to find more units to "stop the gap". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The German effort from 13 April 1941

 On 13 April, the German objective was the Servia Pass. They wanted to cut through Grevena outflank the Aliakmon position "from the west". You had the 9th Armored Division moved through Kozani and patrol-sized units had crossed the Aliakmon river. That had happened as early as 14 April. 

The German assessment was that the 6th and 7th Australian Divisions and the New Zealand Division were "in full retreat", along with the 2nd British Armoured Division. They saw the British movements as being "withdrawal moves". 

The 11th German Infantry Regiment staged an attack at Servia. Their losses were limited to "36 killed, 72 wounded, and 190 missing". It was the Adolf Hitler Division that had arrived at the "Kastoria-Grevena" road. They had blocked the supply line for the Greek army that was pulling out of Albania.

The German 73rd Division was sent to protect the "40 Corps flank". The Germans thought that the Greek army was still fighting well. In fact, though, the Greek army commander had abandoned his troops. 

The German mountain corps that had been at Salonika on 9 April were to attack Edessa Pass, but the situation was fluid and in fact the attack was unnecessary. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Withdrawal under extreme duress

The order to withdraw came by 5pm on 15 April 1941. The engineers had managed to build a timber trestle bridge. One group was also ordered to build a road to the bridge. The bridge was completed by 10pm. By the time the bridge was completed, the men of the 19th Brigade were assembling "on the opposite bank". They found out that the bridge could not support vehicles. 

The men had to make the vehicles unusable and then abandoned them as well as their artillery. The machine gunners were able to carry their guns across the river. The 26th New Zealand Battalion were the rearguard. They held until the Australians were able to cross. 

There was a missing company which seems to have never arrived. The Greeks were being hard-pressed by the Germans. They were in the passes to the north of the river. The supporting anti-tank guns were within some 200 yards of the Germans. The British armored brigade was located in the Grevena Pass. 

The road was packed with Yugoslav and Greek vehicles and men as well as horses and ox transport. They fully expected to be bombed and strafed by German aircraft. 

There was a British liaison team that included an officer who spoke fluent Greek. There seemed to be many unarmed Greek troops loitering in the area.  

By about 6pm on 15 April, the German column had come to the Kastoia-Grevena road. That apparently had cut off the Greek army that was now withdrawing along the tracks to the Pindus mountains. The Greek general approved of the British withdrawal to Thermopylae.The Greek general apparently did not realize that the British were then withdrawing. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The German advance continues

 The German attacks were costly to the Germans. Besides the 147 "unwounded officers and men, some 30 or 40 men from the 9th Armored Division where taken. These were all wounded men. The Germans seem to have had 400 casualties. The cost to the New Zealand Division were only 8 men. The New Zealand men were in good positions, well dug in. The attacks were all frontal assaults. The attackers lacked air or artillery support.

Some of the Germans had passed the forward New Zealand positions prior to being recognized. The Germans continues to push against the New Zealanders. The Germans used Servia as an assembly point. Because of that, Servia was kept under constant fire. A New Zealand  unit ended up being almost surrounded by the Germans. The Germans were using the escarpment as cover.

One New Zealand platoon pulled back, higher up on the slope. Two platoons from the 19th New Zealand Brigade launched an attack and caused a German patrol of some 40 men to withdraw from their position "below Prosillion village". 

During the afternoon of 15 April, General Blamey told General Mackay that he needed to reposition the 19th Australian Brigade on the other side of the Aliakmon River. It was late in the day and there was no bridge in place to cross the river. At this time, communications were proving to be unreliable. 

The 26th New Zealand  Battalion had dealt with the issue of the river using an improvised ferry using folding boats. Engineers were ordered to build a timber bridge. It took a very long time to construct and water was rushing past in the river. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long,.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Germans on the move

 By 2pm on 4 April, the leading German vehicles approached Petrana. That was about six miles north of the Aliakmon. As it was getting dark, the German guns started firing to get the range. 

By about midnight, the German guns were shelliing steadily. They were targetting  the ANZAC positions. 

By 8pm, they could see the headlights of German vehicles moving west towards Gervena. This was an area of hills through which the British armored brigade had moved. 

During the night of 14 April, the New Zealand brigade moved the 20th Battalion on the left to be in touch wsith the Australian 19th Brigade. This was north of the Aliakmon River. Now the three New Zealand battalions were nominally holding 15,700 yards, but that was only an illusion because 9,500 yards were along a steep escarpment that was close to impassible. The New Zealanders only watched the area with patrols.

Early on 15 April, before dawn, forward posts from the New Zealanders saw men "straggling along the road, looking like Greeks, but they were Germans. The Germans were eventually fired upon. By 5:45pm, a German attack was turned back. Some of the Germans waved white handkerchiefs, asking to surrender. The New Zealanders eventually took 147 infantry as prisoners. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

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