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.

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