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.

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