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.

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