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.

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