Thursday, April 29, 2021

Events from 14 April onwards

 There was a plan to move the 6th New Zealand Brigade into position on the left of the 5th New Zealand Brigade. During the night, the New Zealanders could hear many German vehicles moving with their lights on, bringing infantry "forward". 

At about 11pm, some German motorcyclists drove up and were fired don by machine guns. The next morning, they found five motorcyclists in the road. 

All day long on 15 April, German tanks and other vehicles were moving towards the front. One thing they were doing was to try and get past the demolitions. 

British artllery fired on the Germans. By 4:30pm, they started to see German artillery returning fire. 

The 16th Australian Brigade was to be in position between the 4th and 6th New Zealand Brigades. Late on 13 April, the brigade rear crossed the Aliakmon River. 

With the moon out, two battalions climbed up the Moshkhokori. Early on April 15, got orders to climb five or six miles to the right side of the brigade front. The next morning, the men heard that the Germans had crossed the river behind them. 

That morning, the 2/3rd Battalion had arrived at Moshkhokori. The men were tired and now were without food. It was by 9am on 15 April that the 2/1st Battalion arrived at their new position. This is base on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The situation in Greece from 13 to 15 April 1941

 Back on 13 April, "the Greek army was holding the Pisoderion and Klisoura Passes".  During the night of 13-14 April, the Western Macedonian Army was able to withdraw "to the Venetikos position". The "Epirus Army" withdrawal started during the night. By noon on 14 April, "the 20th Greek Division was driven from the Klisoura Pass". The remains of the 20th Division was ordered to block "the Grevena Road further south". During the rest of the day and during the night of 14-15 April, "the 9th, 10th, and 13rh Greek Divisions were able to withdraw. 

It seems that on the 15th, "the 11th Greek Division was ordered to the Metsovon Pass and in fact moved into that position".

During 14 April, "the Germans were checking the ANZAC Corps positions on the Aliakmon line". By that time, the New Zealand Division was holding passes on "either side of the Olympus Pass". New Zealand engineers were tasked with destroying the "tunnel and road at Platamon". They made the attempt to demolish on 14 April, but the demolition failed. They attempted another demolition, which although it was better, it still did not complete the demolition. 

The engineers laid an anti-tank minefield "over the saddle". 

The 5th New Zealand Brigade wqs at the Olympus Pass. They had a field regiment and anti-tank guns there to support them. Some Germans had made a reconnaissance, but then left. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Plans for the withdrawal

 One piece was that the troops protecting the coast "east of Olympus" were supposed to withdraw during the night of 18 to 19 April. The 1st Armoured Brigade was going to "cover the final withdrawal across Thessaly". 

The New Zealand Division would get to use the coast road. They would travel from Volos to Lamia. 

The 6th Australian Division and the 1st Armoured Brigade would take the main road via Pharsala. 

The plan was for marching soldiers to be carried on "motor transport". 

The planners in Athens were moving ahead quite quickly. As early as 13 April, they had told Admiral Cunningham that "the evacuation of Greece was imminent". 

The next day, General Wavell's staff had made a plan for "embarking the entire British force".

One factor affecting the withdrawal was that the Germans had now control of the air "in the forward areas". On the 15th, the Germans staged an air raid that destroyed ten Blenheim bombers on the ground. This had happened in the Larisa area. 

The Germans also bombed Blamey's headquarters. The aircraft had been moved after the attack so that they were no longer available to provide support to the ground forces. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The first moves in the withdrawal from Greece

 It turns out that the 19th Australian Brigade would be driven to Domokos. They would then become part of the force commanded by Brigadier Lee. We saw that the 6th New Zealand Brigade was to be the first rearguard. At thsi point, a second rearguard was gathered. They were to cover the withdrawal to the new line.

The 16th Australian Brigade was the left flank guard. They had to walk to the main road, where they would be mounted on vehicles. They were to be driven to Zarkos. 

The aim of the first moves was to bring the 6th Australian Division brigades "behind the passes by 8am on 16 April." The second phase would have General Freyberg command for both the front and withdrawal. 

One component would see a withdrawal through the 5th New Zealand Brigade Group "from the Olympus Pass". There would also be a withdrawal through the 4th New Zealand Brigade "from Servia". This would be during the night of 17th-18th April. The caviat was given: "subject to ability to disengage". The Australians of Savige Force would "withdraw through the left flank guard". The 16th Australian Brigade was the "left flank guard". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Leading up to the withdrawal from Greece

 With the command of the withdrawal being given to the ANZAC Corps commander, the W Group "Advance Headquarters" would be sent "south of Larisa". Demolitions to slow the German advance were given a priority. 

The four groups that were to "cover the withdrawal" were the 1st Armoured Brigade, now under Blamey's command, Savige Force, the 6th New Zealand Brigade, and the 19th Australian Brigade. The 1st Armoured Brigade would be near Grevena and Kalabaka. Savige Force would also be near Kalabaka. The 6th New Zealand Brigade would be near Tirnavos. The 19th Australian Brigade would be near Pharsala. 

Given his instructions, General Blamey issued orders in great detail for the planned withdrawal. He planned for two phases. The first phase started in the rew hours left of 15 April. 

The 6th New Zealand Brigade would form "the first rearguard:". They had been in the Olympus Pass, They would now move to a "line covering the two roads between Tirnavos and Elasson". They would be supported by the 2/3rd Australian Field Regiment. The 19th Brigade would be sent in vehicles to Domokos, south fo "south of Pharsala". An informal group commanded by Brigadier Lee would form a "second rear guard". They were to provide cover to the move to the new line. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, April 12, 2021

15 April 1941

The British decided to make the withdrawal as quickly as they could, starting at 15 April 1941. The British units were well-equipped with vehicles, so they could move rather quickly. General Wilson told the ANZAC corps to keep the Greeks from traveling routes that would slow the British movement. They could see that the Germans were massing forces "on the lower ground forward of the three main passes". The Greeks were able to still hold two the three passes that were near the Grevena road. 

The Central Macedonia Army was retreating along the Grevena road. The Central Macedonia Army and the Epirus Army were still being allowed to withdraw. The German air force was attacking both the Greek and British formations, though, on the Grevena road. 

 The British were now seriously considering a withdrawal to the coast so that their troops could be picked up by ships and carried to Crete or Egypt. It was unclear just how long the British and ANZAC Corps could have held on the "Aliakmon and Venetikos" lines.

As it was, the British withdrawal started just in time to have a chance of success. The order was given at 9:30am on 15 April 1941. The responsibility for the command was given to General Blamey. That shows just how much confidence that the British had in General Blamey, thanks to how well he had done up that point.  This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Consequences of abandoning the Greek army

 By moving to the new line at Thermopylae, they would be ceding Greece to the north to the Germans. They would still hold a peninsula that was some 35 miles wide. This was between Lamia and Athens. They would lack the ability to cooperate with the main Greek army. The Germans would have the ability to base their fighter aircraft within range of Athens. 

Of course, the British were well-equipped with vehicles, unlike the Greeks. The Greeks would be forced to march for weeks to move so far. 

General Wilson ordered the British to move against the Greeks to keep them from getting in the way of British movement. He was ordering the Anzac Corps to keep the Greeks out of the way. 

When the order was given, the Anzac Corps was not in combat with the Germans. German aircraft were now attacking Greek and British forces along the Grevena road. 

The situation was strange, in that there were secret plans by the British to withdraw from Greece. Wilson's orders were given early on 15 April. The British could not afford to wait to begin withdrawing. 

Demolitions by the British were planned to try and slow the German advance. The British had four forces ready to provide cover for a withdrawal. They were the 1st Armoured Brigade, Savige Force, the 6th New Zealand Brigade, and the 19th Australian Brigade. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Withdrawal to the Thermopylae line on 13 April 1941

 General Wilson decided on 13 April 1941 that the British would not rely upon the Greek army for anything. Wilson checked with General Blamey and then decided to "withdraw to the Thermopylae line". The German air power was now very much in evidence. The Germans bombed a town and that did away with the civilian government along with theh police and telegraph. The railroads were also showing the influence of German bombing. 

The British air power in Greece was now showing the effects of the German attacks. The British air force in Greece was losing its effectiveness. They faced losses in the air and on air fields.

Reports now suggested that the Greeks on the left were losing effectiveness. The British now worried that the Germans might push south along the Pindus towards Grevena and Yannina. 

The British heard that Greeks from Albania did not want to join the line being formed and instead were heading for Athens.The British were thinking of heading for Thermopylae where they could hold a position that didn't need Greek support. Thermopylae was about one hundred miles south. 

The proposed new line would include the Thermopylae, Brallos, and and Delphi passes. The plan had problems. One being that the Germans would be able to position air power within range of Athens. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The tasking for the 17th Brigade (Australian)

 The 17th Brigade was actually a collection of units and troops. One order said that they would be sitting at the junction where the Pindus and Grevena roads joined. Brigadier Savige committed to holding an area near the road junction. He would also be ready to move north to support the armored brigade. He would have four battalions and some artilley. 

They would eventually receive 7 cruiser tanks from the 3rd RTR (Robert Crisp's unit). They expected to have the 2/5th and 2/11th battalions that were expected to arrive by rail. 

They would expect to have the tanks, some medium artillery,  and some other artillery units. Savige did not finally receive the written order behind all the movements until early on 15 April. 

Savige only got the order when Lt-Col.Garrett arrived from Blamey's headquarters. Wilson got reports early in the day on 14 April. Greek divisions were said to be spotted on the left, including the Cavalry Division. 

They soon learned that the Germans had taken Kilsoura Pass. This was a threat to the Greeks, including the 9th, 10th, and 13th Divisions. These were part of the Western Macedonian Army.

Generals Wilson and Blamey agreed that the Greeks in the north seemed to be disintegrating. One interesting point was that the RAF had been tracking the Germans and hitting them hard. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

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