Friday, November 26, 2021

Events on 21 April 1941

 General Freyberg positioned his reinforcements when they arrived. The ant-tank guns were grouped with the machine-gun battalion at Longos. They faced "the western end of Euboea". The tank brigade had very few running tanks, after more had been abandoned. Robert Crisp's 3rd RTR were ordered to Athens "to povide local defense" Wilson sent the 2nd RHA to join the New Zealand Division. 

After that move, the armored brigade had almost nothing left. There had been a report that the enemy had moved onto Euboea (apparently an island). They speculated that the enemy might move to the mainland at Khalkis. That might cut off the British at Thebes. Because of that possibility, the Rangers were sent to Khalkis. The way that Wilson functioned, he adjusted the "front" of the New Zealand Division.

That caused the 6th Brigade to move to the East of Molos and to take the 28th Battalion position. The 24th Battalion was now north of Molos. They now were responsible for protecting the anti-tank guns. The 25th Battalion was not to cover the road from the Alamanas bridge to Molos. The 26th Battalion was still in reserve. The 5th Brigade was adjusting battalions. They assigned the 22nd Battalion was now sitting on the left of the 25th Battalion. They were now connected with the Australians of the 2/5th. 

This based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Australian infantry from 19 to 20 April 1941

 The first Australians to reach Brallos was the 19th Brigade. The brigade had two battalions, including the 2/4th and the 2/8th. The 2/8th was mentioned as being in bad shape, with little strength. 

On the 19th, two more battalions were added to the brigade. They were the 2/1st and the 2/5th battalions. Early the next day, another battalion joined: the 2/11th Battalion. 

During the afternoon, General Mackay gave orders about "defending the new line". The 19th Brigade with the five battalions in hand would have an area from a hill to the railroad tunnel. Vasey told the 2/5th on the right to connect with the New Zealand Division. The 2/1st would sit on the "loop on the main road". The 2/4th would sit on the railroad tunnel. 

There were units sitting way forward of the brigade's assigned area. 

The 2/8th Battalion would for the reserve. They would occupy the "top of the pass". Also in reserve, he had the 2/11th Battalion, a machine gun company, along with carrier platoons. 

In the next move, the armored brigade was ordered do drive to Thebes. Their anti-tank regiment was ordered to join General Freyberg. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Australian historian points out that the retreat in 1941 was in a historic neighborhood

 There is a road that is "between the foot of the escarpment and the sea. This was the road traveled by Xerxes towards Athens. It is also close to the road taken by Leonidas and his Spartans. 

The area by "Mollos" and the "Brallos Pass" is a very small piece of  "the Peninsula". Part of this area has high (6000 feet) mountains. "A modern defender" of the pass, would "be in a position like where Leonidas stood. There were two passes that could be held, but an enemy could easily outflank them. 

New Zealand held one side. Thet could be outflanked along the island Euboea. The Australian side was vulnerable to being outflanked through the mountains, especially near Brallos but also down from Epirus. 

You had the 5th NZ Brigade along the coast road. The 4th NZ Brigade was to the right. They had become coast watchers. The third NZ brigade, the 6th, stood in reserve. 

They way that Wilson worked,  he had decided to leave on the 20th, but had not fhought to inform Blamey. 

The 19th Australian Brigade reached the Brallos The Australian Vasey picked up several battalions on 19 April. 

It was on 19 April in the afternoon that Mackay issued orders to defend the new line.

The 1st Armoured Brigade was now sent to Thebes. They lost anti-tank guns to Freyberg. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

More events from 19 April 1941 and later

 Early on 19 May 1941, commanders realized that a train of fuel and ammunition was sitting in a vulnerable position. The Australian train men were suggested as a way to get the train to Athens. In the event, it was just not possible, with the presence of German air attacks. Corporal Taylor was fortunate to survive a bombing attack that destroyed the train. The explosion was felt by men located two miles away. 

One company of men from the 2/7th Battalion along with some from the 2/6th Battalion were along the road. German troops were landed close by from aircraft. There were men from Australian rear guards located nearby. 

There were German motorcycles operating along the road. There also seem to be British tanks close by but were-concealed.

A sudden rain storm happened that allowed German mortars to be deployed near by.

Commanders realized that driving by night was problematic. They ended up sitting through the night. Another factor was the congestion on the roads that influenced decision=makers. Meanwhie Units were sitting near Thermopylae, waiting for evens to play out. they were aware of German vehicles moving towards Thermopylae. 

The plans included the New Zealanders defending the "coastal pass" and the Australians near Brallos. 

Wilson's headquarters was at Thebes. Freyberg was at Longos. Somone high on the mountains can look down on Lamaia, some 4,000 feet up. The road from Lamia was quite straight. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria, by Gavin Long.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Some of the last moves from 19 April 1941 and beyond

 The ANZAC force retreated in a column of some ten miles in length. They were on the road from Larisa to Lamia. Unfortunately, the vehicles were traveling "bumper to bumper". That made the vehicles very vulnerable to air attack. The men were stuck in their vehicles "and were not able to return fire". 

Progress was slow. The historian gives the example of the 2/1st Battalion. They were in position at dawn at about "ten miles north of Lamia." They drove through Lamia by 10am. Tkey ended up stopped by an air attack. The situation was rather strange because they did not see many German aircraft early in the day. 

The good news was that the column was moving to the south. By "early in the afternoon, the Domokos rearguard and the road south" were attacked. The 2/1st Battalion did not reach thr Brallos Pass until 5pm. 

Many vehicles seem to have been hit. The good news was that few of the vehicles were disabled.  

One officer in the column "only saw six vehicles abadoned along the road". That was along the stretch from Larisa to Lamia.  

This is bases on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Where things stood on 20 April 1941

 Churchill wrote about how he thought that the British evacuation from Greece should be handled. He wrote that note on 18 April. Churchill's participation in Greece had been colored by his interaction with Anthony Eden, who had been a strong proponent of going into Greece. Anthony Eden thought that the British had a strong moral obligation to help the Greeks. Anthony Eden thought that they had might have a legal oligation, based on treaties.

Churchill was encouraged by how well the withdrawal to Thermopylae was proceeding. That had colored Churchill's letter to Anthony Eden on 20 April.

The Australian historian commented that by 20 April, it was too late to think of making a stand at Thermopylae. While all this was considered, there was a change in the Greek command, where General Pitsikas was removed. 

By early on 21 April, General Wavell arrived at Blamey's headquarters and told him that he needed to evacuate his units "as soon as possible". 

Blamey would need to get his troops to the beaches by 24 April. They would need to board ships by 25 April. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Friday, November 05, 2021

The decision to withdraw from Greece

 I was interested to read that General Wilson expressed the opinion that his men could "hold Thermopylae indefinitely". My reaction to that is that the Germans should have been able to bring up a strong enough force that they could break through the line at Thermopylae. 

The British senior commanders were a strong group with great experience. Their opinion was that they should take the consequences of a withdrawal and should go ahead and execute the plan. None of what it would have taken to stand and fight was realistically available. The Greeks were in a state of collapse by late April 1941.

The British commanders thought that they "would be lucky to pull out 30 per cent of the force". I don't remember the exact figures, but I think that they did much better than that in reality.

There was a final meeting of the key players, including the Greek King. General Wavell offered to fight "as long as the Greeks fought." If the Greek government asked, the British would go ahead and pull out of Greece. 

Churchill really did not want to withdraw without further fighting. That was not possible at this point, given the facts on the ground. The Greek arm was about to surrender. There was one last battle fought by the RAF in Greece. They were hit by a German air attack, but managed to fight successfully one last time in the air. 15 Hurricanes sortied and intercepted the German attack. They lost five Hurricanes but show down many German aircraft This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

The next moves in Greece from 18 April 1941

 General Mackay gave his next orders to Brigader Savige. Mackay wanted the 2/11th Battalion moved to a new position. He wanted them to leave Zarkos and move to a spot "on the west bank of the river. They would stay there until "3am on 19 April." Savige had some concerns. There were empty vehicles sent to Larisa. They eventually realized that there was a bridge that had not been blown or even prepared for demolition. 

There was still a fight in progress at Pinios. There was a long column stopped in place but for some reason the enemy was not in a position to hit them from the air. 

It seemed that  18 April was the critical day. After that  day, with the example set by their leadership, there was no danger of panic setting in among the men. 

As it was, the German air force failed to hit the column, when it have well caused trouble. Later on, the Germsn air force operated more effectively than they did during April 1941.

It was on 19 April that General Wavell came to Athens and had a meeting in General Wilson's headquarters. Leaders in London thought that they had decided to withdraw from Greece, but the officers involved in Greece had yet to consier the issues involved. The Greek government was ready for the British to leave, to keep from  damaging the country by serious fighting. 

The British consensus favored holding and fighting longer. The commanders realized that they would probably be unable to remove equipment during the withdrawal. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Loog.

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