Wednesday, October 05, 2022

The second day of the attack

 The 5th New Zealand Brigade had four battalions. The 22nd Battalion had been in the "most important ground". The 22nd Battalion had taken serious losses and had mostly withdrawn. There were ony small groups of men left near the air field. At this point, the entire brigade had not launched a counter-attack, Because of the numbers of German aircraft overhead and because of unreliable communications, meant that it was not possible to organize a counter-attack. 

 To the east, the 10th Brigade, commanded by Colonel howard Kippenberger was defending a wide front. That front reached into the foothills that were to the west of Canae. The Composite Battalion defended an area extending from the coast to the foothills. They were protecting a line that was some 3,200 yards wide. In the south were the 6th and 8th Greek Regiments. With them were the New Zealand Division Cavalry, although the were reduced to fighting as infantry. The Greek regiments and the cavalry reached quite far into the foothills in the south-west. the Composite Battalion were al gunners and drivers that were not trained as infantry, although the needed to do as best they could. the 2,400 Greeks soldiers were raw recruits not well-armed and lacked training. 

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

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Checking on the 22nd Battalion

 When the 23rd Battalion tried to "get in touch with" the 22nd Battalion, they were unsuccessful. Two companies were sent to help the 22nd Battalion, One comany was sent from the 23rd Battalion and another was sent from the 28th (Maori) Battalion. The Maori company had a fight with some Germans and killed about thirty. The 23rd Battalion provided cover for the22nd Battalion  The Maori company found where the 22nd Battalion headquarters has been located, although it had been abandoned. When the Maori company pulled back, they encountered the remains of one 22nd Battalion companies with Lt-Col. Andrew. The time was about 2am. 

The 21st Battalion had been given some options. They could replace the 23rd Battalion if that battalion tried to help the 22nd Battalion. They could also just hold theie ground, which is what their commander decided to do. Allen sent men to clear Xamoudhokhori and Vlakheronitissa. They clearedthe first but the second was too strong. 

New Zealand engineers were grouped into an improvised infantry unit, the N.Z.E. detachment. There was also an improvised artillery unit, the 27th Battery. They had "two English" 3.7in howitzers, three Italian 75mm guns. and four French 75mm guns. Para troops who landed near the engineers and the guns "were mopped up".

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

More action as the fight at Maleme progressed

 Lt-Col Andrew, the 22nd Battalion commander, had been awarded a Victoria's Cross in 1917. had two infantry tanks available and decided to use them. on one tank, the crew found that he gun did not work. The second tank drove to the "river flat" where the crew abandoned the tank. 

At 9pm, the Germans had some control of the western edge of the airfield as well as an another area. They also had taken hill 107 that overlooked the airfield. At this point, Lt-Col Andrew decided to withdraw the 22nd Battalion to the rear company. They would be located to the east of two ridges. By doing this, the 22nd Battalion was evacuating from a strip of land that was about a thousand yards wide "east of the Tavronitis". By dawn the next day, the remnants of the 22nd Battalion along with gunners and air force personnel were in groups moving to the east. 

East of the 22nd Battalion was the 23rd Battalion. They looked down on the main road. The 21st Battalion looked down on the 23rd Battalion. Gliders and para troops had landed in the 23rd Battalion, but they "were soon killed or dispersed". They estimated that they had killed some 400 Germans in the air or on the ground. They continued to control their area and their machine guns and mortars were firing at the beaches and the east side of the airfield.

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

Monday, September 26, 2022

More of the 22nd Battalion fight

 Part of a rifle company from the 22nd Battalion was in place, defending the airfield at Maleme. The platoon on the far left. They had to hold a line that was 1,400 yards long. fourteen German gliders landed on that line followed by German Para troops.  The anti-aircraft gun crews were overcome. The platoon fought on until the middle of the afternoon. By dusk, the platoon commander was wounded as were the last of his men. The survivors were captured. 

The other units in the 22nd Battalion were holding on "at the eastern side of the airfield and the slopes on the south side of the main road". The main road was on the south side of the airfield. There were small enemy groups between, to companies and between the 22nd Battalion and the 21st Battalion. 

Paratroops had landed at Pirgos. They were "in the streets and on the flat roofs". The paratroops were not doing well. The men i the first to arrive were shot before they landed. THe second group suffered the same fate. There were only small groups of Para troops in the open drains and in the vineyards, trying to combine with others so thy could get organized. 

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The 22nd Battalion fight

 Some o the paratroops were to the southwest of Pirgos. The seem to have overrun a platoon of the headquarters company. The real concern was men who had landed out of the battalion, but that was all. 

A few had landed in the 22nd Battalion. They stopped runners involved in communications. 

The west riverbank was the center of the landing. About six gliders as well as twenty paratroops landed in Campbell's company. Most in the gliders were killed. The Germans who were on the west river bank crossed the bridge over the river. They went into the RAF "offices and camp." British non-combatants had to pull back towards the 22nd Battalion headquarters. 

Men from Campbell's right platoon were forced to fall back. That caused a gap to open between Campbell's company and Johnson's company. Campbell's men managed to hold. When Campbell realized that the battalion headquarters had withdrawn, he decided that he should also withdraw.The withdrawal started at 3am. The platoons moved separately. One platoon that was moving alongside the river ended up being captured. 

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

19 and 20 May 1941 on Crete

 British fighter strength on Crete was disappearing by 19 May 1941. That was when the enemy started the attack on Crete. A larger than normal number of German fighters and bombers hit the Suda Bay and Malema area. The airfield at Maleme was bombed, as was Canea and the anti-aircraft guns. They succeeded in destroying many anti-aircraft guns. Freyberg was observing the action and could hear transport aircraft and could see them flying in from the sea.

After the bombing had stopped, some 75 gliders were seen to have landed. Of these, perhaps 45 were to the west of the airfield. There were actually small groups of gliders. They were south and east of the airfield and were scattered between Suda and Maleme.

One effect of the bombing was that al signal wires fro the New Zealand Division headquarters were broken. The lines to Freyberg's headquarters were only repaired by 11am. The 22nd New Zealand Battalion was located at the air field. If the Germans could take the airfield, they would be able to land transport aircraft with soldiers.  Some 400 to 600 paratroops landed near the 22nd Battalion. There were also some gliders in the area defended by the battalion.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Ready for the attack on Crete

 Heavy bombing of Crete defenses commenced on 13 May 1941. Every night, British fighters flew to the airfield at Retimo to escape bombing of Maleme and Heraklion. British intelligence warned of an attack on Crete on 17, 18, or 19th May. There could be 25,000 to 35,000 by air and some ten thousand by sea. It was expected that the Germans would try to take Maleme, Canea, the valley to the south, and Retimo. It was thought that the initial strike would include one hundred bombers an fighters followed by 600 aircraft "dropping waves of paratroops. 

All the soldiers on the island were ready for the invasion, but the ant-aircraft guns were in almsot constant action. The aircraft were concentrating on the ships in Suda Bay. Starting on 19 May, guns fired an umbrella of exploding shells over the pier where cargo was being unloaded. That plan was effective in protecting ships and the jetty. 

The fact was that there were not enough guns to protect against heavy air attack. Retimo had no anti-aircraft guns. Heraklion had 4-3in guns and ten Bofors 40mm guns "initially". fortunately, up to 20 May, only 6 gunners were killed and 11 were wounded. All guns damaged up to 20 May were repairable.

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

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Retimo sector in May 1941

 The Australian Brigadier Vasey commanded the force defending Retimo. The priority was to protect the harbor nd the airfield. He also needed to prevent the Germans from landing in Georgioupolis Bay. This was some seven miles to the west. There were two Australian battalions at Retimo. Two more Australian battalions were at  Georgioupolis Bay. Heralion was defended by a larger force. The force consisted of four British battalions, one Australian battalion, along with three Greek battalions. 

Maleme had the New Zealand Division with Brigadier 

Puttick. That included the 5th Brigade with 3,156 soldiers. There was also the 10th Brigade. The 10th Brigade had 1,989 New Zealand soldiers, 2,498 Greek soldiers along with a group of 36 New Zealand soldiers. The New Zealand 20th Battalion was nominally in the 10th Brigade, but wasactually controlled by the New Zealand Division. They had 10-75mm guns and 6-3.7in howitzers along with two infantry tanks and ten light tanks. 

The 4th New Zealand Brigade was the "Force Reserve". They had 1,563 soldiers.

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

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Deployment plans for a larger force

 As we might expect, plans were made to defend the island. Near Maleme, they wanted to defend the airfield and the beach, which was quite long. The 5th New Zealand Brigade was positioned to protect Maleme and the beaches, which ere close. The 10th Brigade was set to hold a position that faced to the west and that sat on the"coastal plain". The 4th Brigade wasto the east of Galatas. They needed to be ready to move in whatever direction they were needed. 

To the west was a Greek regiment, the 1st. They had 1,030 recruits, with only 600 rifles, with a weak group of officers. They also had a New Zealand battalion aong with some New Zealand officers and NCO's. There were also 45 police and a good home guard unit with a mixture of weapons including shotguns.

General Weston had the Suda Bay-Canea defense force. They were to protect the harbor and base. To the east of "Duda Point" were some improvised Australian battalions and other improvised units.

They were to guard against paratroops and try to keep them from moving into the town. A group was also positioned on the Akrotiri Peninsula.

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

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Events in April to May 1941 involving Crete

 A ship policy was created as a result of air raids. They would only use fast ships that could arrive at night, unload, and be underway, out of danger by morning. That meant using cruisers and destroyers capable of 30 knot speed. They would arrive, ready to unload, by 11:30pm. They would leave by about 3am. 15 ships were used from 29 April to 20 May. The brought in 15,000 tons of "stores". 8 of the ships were sunk or damaged. This amount was not sufficient to meet the needs, but it was what was possible.

It seemed that holding Crete was not possible in the face if this scale of air attack. As of 19 May, Suda Bay had 13 damaged ships. Aport in the south of Crete would have helped, but the absence of unloading equipment and lack of roads precluded the use of southern ports.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Division was increased. A 10th Brigade was added. Howard Kippenberger was appointed as 10th Brigade commander. Brigadier Inglis became the 4th Brigade commander.

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Weapons sent to Crete

 Because of the artillery shortage, some artillery units were armed as infantry. General Freyberg wrote about the situation. There seem to have bee, one hundred guns sent to Crete. Fewer than that arrived at Crete. Others arrived without essential items, such as sights, ammunition, some ammunition without fuses. The gunners were a variety of men  There were regular British army, Australians or men from New Zealand. There were many clever men. In one case, a man made a sight from wood and chewing gum. Other men made charts that let them "shoot without sights or instruments."  There were no complaints and everyone got involved. Of the Italian guns, some were 75mm and others were 100mm. Of the rifles and machine guns, there were American, Italian, and British. 

While all this was being done, the soldiers were constantly attacked from the air. That included ships in Suda Bay, which had started prior to the Greek withdrawal. The unloading of ships was so dangerous, that they started using volunteers. They only stopped when the ship being unloaded was being attacked. In one case, a partially sunk ship had Bren carriers on deck that were unloaded.

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

Artillery available in May 1941

 The divisions in Greece had "lost their guns". There had been three British field and medium regiments that had also left their guns. The guns had pretty much all had been disaled when they ere left. The Britsh had always been short of guns. That meant that although there were many infantry battalions in Egypt and Palestine they could be incorporated into divisions due to the artillery shortage.

The Australians had the benefit of a considerable number of "trained" artillery regiments. The 9th Australian Division had three field regiments. One regiment was in Tobruk. The other two were in Egypt "in reserve". The 7th Australian Division also had three field regiments. There were two regiments designated as Australian corps artillery, but they had no guns.

AS of 20 May, the Australian field regiments located in Egypt had guns.. There were 36 new 25pdr guns, 59 18pdrs of varying conditions. There were also 24 4.5in howitzers. By May 31, the Australian field regiments had 60 25pdrs. They might have sent them to Crete, but they did not. Some 49 French and Italian field guns were sent t Egypt. 

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Issues with Crete in May 1941

 One odd feature of the situation in Crete was that the Greeks had some 14,000 Italian prisoners captured in Albania. The Greeks were concerned that if the Italians were given to the British, they might violate international law. In the event, the Italians were still on Crete when the Germans attacked.

There were some small amounts of soldiers, equipment, and supplies arrived in Crete. As part of the naval base force, about 2,200 marines arrived. They had coast-defense artillery and anti-aircraft guns. Some 3.7in mountain guns and the artillery unit arrived. There were also 16 light tanks and 6 infantry tanks. Two infantry battalions arrived. They were intended to form a reserve at Retimo and Heraklion.

By 2 May, Wavell had mentioned that there was no field artillery in Crete, as all there had been had been left in Greece. General Blamey sent a message to the Australian government abut this situation. Churchill told the New Zealand prime minister that they would work to send equipment for theNew Zealand division. 

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

Monday, August 22, 2022

The RAF and The Greek king and government

 As well as the army there were men from the RAF who were not needed in Crete. The RAF presence in Crete included: 30 Squadron at Maleme with 12 Blenheim bombers, 33/80 Squadron at Maleme with 6 Hurricane fighters, 112 Squadron at Heraklion with 12 Gladiator biplane fighters, and 805 Fleet Air Arm Squadron at Maleme with six aircraft, including a mix of Gladiator biplane fighters and Fairy Fulmars.

The King of Greece and the Goverment were located at Canea, which was subjected to daily bombing. General Freyberg was concerned with their safety. Mr. Churchill liked having the King and Government in Crete because of the effect on the people of Greece and on neutral countries. The British government wanted the Greek King to stay as long as possible, although they were concerned with his safety.

General Freyberg negotiated with the King and government on 9 May. He agreed to leave the island with his government on 14 May. He prepared a message for the people of Greece that explained the reasoning. Despite that, the British sent a message telling Freyberg that the Greek King and Government should stay in Crete, even if the Germans attacked Crete. Freyberg disagreed, but told the King and the head of Government that they did not need to leave right then. 

Freyberg wanted to protect the King and Government, and had a platoon from the18th Battalion be guardians for the King and Government. Freyberg requested that the commanders in Cairo provide a ship or flying boat in readiness to evacuate the King and Government.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Plans for Crete in early May 1941

 There was some interest in having a Greek army in Crete. The Greek political situation meant that not much was possible. It is tempting to call the problem with officers "corruption" but that over-simplifies the situation. WE would just say that Greek society created challenges that kept there from being a Greek Crete force similar to what General Freyberg would have liked. 

The masses of unorganized Australia British and New Zealand troops would be dealt with by transporting men in ships that had brought supplies to Crete. They hoped to cut the sizes down to 4500 New Zealand 3500 Australian and British to 2000 men. Doing that would reduce the need for supplies by removing unproductive men from the island.

The truth was that so many ships had been lost in the withdrawal from Greece combined with German air attacks on Suda Bay that there was no way that all "unproductive men" could be removed from Crete. Some men were transported to Egypt. BY 17 May the men on Crete included "15,000 British 7750 New Zealand 6,500 Australian and 10,200 Greek troops.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Issues to deal with on Crete

 Brigadier Vasey was the highest ranking Australian officer on the island. There were too many unarmed men on Crete. Both General Freyberg and Brigadier Vasey wanted to transport the unarmed men to Egypt. Thee were too many unorganized unarmed and unequipped men. There seems to have been no interest by higher level authorities in dealing with this issue. The collapse in Greece seems to have created confusion and had left commanders at all levels feeling overwhelmed. 

The whole battle for Crete was very damaging. While we tend to think of Crete having been decided by airborne forces it was actually German mountain troops who won the battle. they were well-equipped and trained. The only British troops that approached the capability of German mountain troops were the best of the Australians. They proved themselves in the fighting in Syria in the mountains and fighting for the fortified positions.

The British contingent in Crete was primarily the 14th Brigade. You also had "four weak and improvised battalions from Rangers Northumberland Hussars 7th Medium Regiment and the 106th Royal Horse Artillery. There were also the base units coastal artillery and the anti-aircraft units.

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

What units were in Crete?

 One immediate problem was the lack of staffs. The New Zealand Division had Brigadier Puttick as commander. There was not good information about the units in Crete. The 14th Brigade with additional units of the "original garrison". There was the partial New Zealand Division. There were some Australian units withdrawn from Greece. There were also units from the 1st Armoured Brigade. There were some ten thousand mostly untrained new recruits from Crete. 

The New Zealand Division in Crete had two brigades and seven infantry battalions. There were also some division soldiers. The 6th New Zealand Brigade had been transported from Suda Bay to Egypt. 

There were some Australian units in Crete. The main unit was the18th Brigade fitted asa brigade group. There were 3-1/2 battalions in the brigade and a field regiment. More men arrived on destroyers. One Australian field regiment had been set with the4th New Zealand Brigade.

General Mackay and his staff seem to have been sent to Egypt. That meant that Brigadier Vaseywas the senior Australian officer in Crete. Brigadier Vasey had his brigade group and enough unorganized men for another brigade. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Monday, August 08, 2022

Freyberg told General Wavell that the forces available could not hold Crete

 The British political situation was such that they did not want to hear what was true, that they did not have a strong enough force to hold Crete. Freyberg communicated this message to the government of New Zealand. We suspect that the real problem was Churchill. Wavel was a "team player" who could not tell Churchill that he could not do anything. This is the thinking that made the Greek operation a disaster, which lost Crete, and almost lost North Africa. 

General Wavell praised the New Zealand Division performance in Greece and told Freyberg that he expected an attack in a few days, and that he wanted Freberg to command the defense. Freyberg later wrote that he did not know about the Crete geography the "characteristics of the island" or the nature of the defending force. The commanders did not know a realistic assessment of the attacking force. 

To fix the problems, it took having Alan Brooke as the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and Bernard Law Montgomery as the 8th Army Commander. "Everyone hated Montgomery", but he could win battles. Alan Brooke was the one who recommended Montgomery to Churchill. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

An airborne attack on Crete seems more likely

 Towards the end of April 1941 the Greek government was located at Canea in Crete. The Greek Prime Minister met with senior British officials. Greece had some 2,500 police, 7500 soldiers, and one thousands reserves. The men  were grouped into 11 battalions which were not well-equipped. The Greek government asked that a British general be in charge of defending Crete. The Greek government asked that the British arm the Greek defenders. 

In London, on 28 April, the Joint Intelligence Committee thought that the Germans had enough aircraft to put three or four thousand airborne soldiers on Crete for an initial attack. The Germans "were thought to be capable of conducting two or three sortees a day from Greece and three or for from Rhodes.

Churchill sent Wavell a message that they should expect quite soon an airborne attack on Crete. There were about 30,000 men from Greece on Crete. Wavell thought that there could be a surprise attack on Syria or Cyprus. 

Churchill liked Bernard Freyberg and wanted to put him in charge of defending Crete. Freyberg only arrived on Crete on 29April along with his staff and the 6th New Zealand Brigade. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

The troops and aircraft at Crete

 At some time in May 1941, General Wilson came to Crete. That made him senior officer present and reporting to General Wavell. The Australian General was at Crete for a short time. He departed for Egypt on 29 April  believing that most of his division was in Egypt. 

Most of the 14th Brigade was near Suda Bay, although the 2/Black Watch was at Heraklion. There was a small group of military aircraft at Crete. There were four squadrons that had been in Greece. There were 6-8 Blenheims from Greece. There were also six Hurricanes. Another squadron had six Gladiators. One squadron from Egypt had nine Blenheims. There was also a Fleet Air Arm squadron at Maleme. 

General Wilson thought there was little chance of a German attack any time soon from both air and sea. 

Wilson thought that holding Crete was a commitment beyond what was possible with the forces currently available. There were problems with lack of equipment and the difficulties in supplying the island. The civilian population of Crete that was greater than 400,000 needed to be supplied with food. 

Supply ships would have to travel to unsuitable harbors on the north coast. 

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

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Responsibilities in April 1941

 The Australian historian puts the blame for lack of preparation on the higher commanders of which the most obvious man to blame was General Wavell. We would be tempted to blame the man at the top, Winston Churchill,

The lowest level commander General Weston, had very immediate issues to deal with. There were about 50,000 men who had been evacuated from Greece. They needed accommodated and fed. The first soldiers from Greece along with "civilian refugees" came to Crete starting on 23 April. Larger numbers arrived on Crete starting on 25 April. They often needed basic supplies, such as blankets and tents. Men were forced to sleep on the ground. They had their clothes and "great coats". The men were taken to areas in groves of olive trees. There was nothing for the men to do but rest. The men were used to drinking beer. The strong Greek wine was a problem. Combat units landed as complete organizations, had no tools to use to dig "field works". They had to use petrol tins for cooking. There was an intent on having new arrivals join other men from the same organization. 

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Crete became more important by early 1941

 From Decemder1940 until April 1941 there were many command changes for Crete. A maor decision was made on 1April to make Suda Bay a fleet base. Because of that decision "the Mobile Naval Base Defence Organization" was sent to Crete. In the event, only 2,000 of the8,000 men in the organization actually were in Crete, before the invasion. 

By late May 1941, Crete had16-3.7in, 16-3in, 36-40mm light AA, and 24 search lights. This waslessthan what the authorities thought was needed. Because of the collapse in Greece, Crete was the main strong point opposing the German advance in the Balkans. "Troops from Greece were being hastily landed". 

The thinking was that two brigades were needed in Crete and all units from Greece should  be sent to Egypt. The new Crete commander was making decisions, while General Wavell was independently making decisions about Crete. Wavell's staff thought that they needed three brigades in Crete. Theywanted to immediately send supplies for two brigades to Crete. 

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

British and Greek forceson Crete

 The island of Crete was not easily defended. There were three air fields,  located near thr towns. Suda Bay was the only port that could handle large ships. My ship anchored in Suda Bay in 1977. Ourship was a thousand-foot long aircraft carrier. 

In 1941, there was only one road for motor vehicles and it ran east-west and ran along the north shore. There were also five roads that ran north-south. 

The British had put forces on Crete in November 1940. There were two infantry battalions and many anti-aircraft guns, About the same time, the Greeks sent their division from Crete to fight in Albania. There had been a proposal to put an Australian brigade on Crete, but it didn't happen. There was a British commando unit temporarily located on Crete. Winston Churchill talked about hiring Crete citizens to expand and improve the air fields. 

In February 1941, the14th Brigade had three battalions. Greece, howeve, rhad pulled most of their soldiers from Crete..

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Events in April to May 1941

 The advance of Rommel's force in North Africa in early 1941 was a serious problem for the British. Mr. Churchill liked to be seen ordering actions. What he ordered necessarily were actions that he could understand. His first idea was to interfere with Rommel's supply line. He ordered the Mediterranean Fleet to make the hsrbor at Tripoli unusable. Atypical Churchill suggestion was to sink thebattleship Barham to block the harbor entrance. Instead, the fleet bombarded Tripoli. 

Churchill's next idea was to send a convoy with tanks through the Mediterranean Sea. The convoy sailed and arrived in Egypt. One ship with tanks was lost, but the rest arrived. This was the Tiger convoy. General Wavell anticipated Churchill and on 10 May ordered six infantry tanks and 15 light tanks sent to Crete. 

Crete is notable for a mountain range on the south coast that touches the sea. In the northare three flat areas used for agriculture.  One area is near Suda Bay and the  capital Canea in the west. Another area is some30 miles east of Canea at Retimo. In the east is Heraklion, a port and the largest town. 

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Iraq in May 1941

 The German effort in Iraq seemed to be greater than it actually was. The German air force was concentrated against Crete.  The Germans were only sending weaponsfrom Syria and using minimal air power. When the Germans tried to send an agent to Iraq who was to be in chargeof sending suppliesto Iraq, his plane was shot down by Iraqi antiaircraft fire and the agent was killed. A German major was sent to Damascus to look at airfields both in Syria and Iraq so that two German squadrons could be sent. 

After May 13, German aircraft operated from Erbil and Mosul. Eventually, some Italian aircraft took part. Operations included an attack on Habbabiyah. By 28 May, there were only one fighter and one bomber still operational.  The Iraqi's allied with Germany and Italy were angry at the meager support the had received. The French weapons sent from Syria were worthless to the Iraqi's. The Iraqi's especially needed gold to buy support, but the Germans did not send any gold. General Halder wrote on 30 May that due to lack of preparation and the German inability to provide "effective support", the Iraqi "show" would "peter out". The only good that cae of it for the Germans was that the British "were spread critically thin".

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

Monday, July 11, 2022

Disturbances in the Middle East fromApril 1941

 One piece of good news for the British was that the war in east Africa ended with the Italian surrender. That meant that units freed up could be moved north. The next issue was that Iraq would be destabilized. In response, the Germans would ship arms to Iraq. 

The Pie Minister hoped to arrest the regent. The regent escaped to Basra and then to Transjordan. In response, an Indian brigade was sent to Basra. General Auchinleck was the commander in India. He now was in charge of the forces sent to Iraq. The government in Iraq tried to forbid any mor units besent to Iraq as long as the brigade was in Basra. The British ignored that order and added more soldiers at Basra. 

The Iraqi government decided to make trouble at Habnaniya, an RAF training base. The Iraqi's laid siege to Habbaniya. The British were able do enough to put the Iraqi force on the defensive. As the situation heated up, General Wavell was put in charge of operations in Iraq. A force was brought to the H.4 pumping station. 

Eventually, the Iraqi's were pushed back to Baghdad. A friendly government was installed and the unfriendly elements were forced to go yo Persia. The whole 10th Indian Division was now at Basra. 

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

Monday, July 04, 2022

Events that would drive future action

 While the fighting was happening in Greece, Rommel's army was pushing to the east. This action kept any further units from being shipped to Greece. The 2nd Armoured Division lacked effective leadership. The division commander was captured at Mechili. The Indian motor brigade mostly broke out of Mechili and headed towards Tobruk. The armored brigade from the 2nd Armoured Division managed to reach Tobruk. The 9th Australian Division also reached the former Italian fortress at Tobruk.

The Australians were able to secure the perimeter at Tobruk and proceeded to onduct a tenacious defense. 

In the chaotic conditions following the German capture of Mechili, you had British Generals driving in the dark, unsure of where they were. Generals Philip Neame and Richard O'Connor made a wrong turn and drove into a German ambush, where they were captured. Previously, at Mechili, General Noel Beresford-Peirse had surrendered to the Germans during collapse of the defense. 

East of Tobruk, both Salum (or Sollum) and Halfaya Pass were occupied by Rommels forces. The Germans set up an eastward facing defensive position that included 88mm guns used in an anti-tank role, with 50mm PAK38 and 37mm anti-tank guns

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The larger picture in April 1941

 The Germans were seriously considering an airborne attack on the island of Crete. They had considered a purely seaborne attack on the island, but didn't think that the Italian navy was reliable enough for that to be an option. They had seen success with airborne troops in Holland and Corinth, so they were planning on an airborne attack. They had a relatively large airborne force, including Para troops and glider-borne soldiers. 

The British were aware that they could face an airborne attack on Crete. Staffs in both London and Cairo were planning for a defence of Crete from an airborne attack. The overall situation was so desperate that defending against an airborne attack on Crete did not get the attention that was needed.

There was a lot of action in Aril 1941. General Cunningham, the admiral's brother conducted a brilliant campaign in East Africa defeating the Italians and their colonial allies.  The 2nd Armored Division was defeated and the 9th Australian division was pushed back, eventually being isolated in Tobruk. The Germans captured three British generals, including Richard O'Connor, who had defeated the Italians and who had captured Cyrenaica. AS early as 11 April, the 9th Australian Division, one 7th Australian Division brigade, and the 3rd Armoured Brigade were defending the former Italian fortress at Tobruk. 

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The next fight was to be for control of the island Crete

 The island of Crete was a valuable prize. The Germans wanted to deny Crete as airbases within striking distance of Rumania. Crete was also well-located to allow interfering with sea traffic to Malta and to North Africa. 

Crete also seemed like an obvious location to use German airborne troops. On lesson learned was that the German airborne force was not a very effective fighting force. Instead German mountain troops were much more effective

Another issue was the rapid advance of a German mechanized force to the east. This force was under the command of General Rommel, who was an expert on infiltration as a means to break through and advance. Rommel learned the technique in the Alps against the Italians. Rommel was also an innovator in applying infiltration to mechanized warfare. Rommel was able to do some amazing things in North Africa against some rather mediocre British leadership. 

Infiltration tactics were the greatest innovation to come out of the Great War. The concept was tested against the Russians with considerable success. It also was tried in Western Europe by the Germans, but the Americans also adopted the ideas, at least on a small scale. Sergeant York's exploits were the best example.

Rommel's success caused the the 7th Australian Division and the Polish Carpathian Brigade to be kept in North Africa rather than being sent to Greece. 

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The British withdrawal from Greece in 1941

 British organizational failures were excused by blaming the Greeks. The Australian historian credits the Greek army with fighting well against the Italians and Germans. An example of General Wilson's failures was the delayed planning of the withdrawal and loading onto ships. A contributing factor was that Wilson had ordered two commanders and their staffs that could have helped "plan and control" the "withdrawal and embarkation of British soldiers". Base troops that should have been withdrawn were instead left in Greece. 

When there has been a failure of command there will be recriminations. That is what happened in Cairo after "the evacuation". The air force and army each blamed the other for the failure in Greece. There was also a tendency to blame German air attacks for failures. In fact, the German air force in Greece largely failed to be a major factor in the outcome. 

After the withdrawal from Greece, there was a discussion about British equipment quality. The opinion of the Australian historian was that British and German equipment quality was comparable. "British" infantry performed well, at times functioning as improvised mountain troops, performing creditably against specialist German mountain troops.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

British and Greek communications in 1941

 In early 1941, the British and Greek commanders did not trust each other. It also seems that the British and Greek commanders had problems communicating in that communications were often misunderstood. 

In early 1941 the British wanted to be able to cooperate with Yugoslavia and the Greeks agreed with this goal. 

General Papagos the Greek leader in early 1941 decided to hold Salonika at least until they had learned what the Yugoslav intentions were Salonika was the port that could be used to supply Yugoslavia. After the British commanders saw how the Greek army was deployed, they decided to hold a line along Olympus and the Vermion, as it seemed to be very defensible. 

Once the coup happened in Yugoslavia the British considered trying to defend Salonika. They gave up that idea after being unable to cooperate with the Yugoslavian army. 

Before the Greek campaign even started, the British commanders had no confidence in the Greek army. That was partly influenced by General Wilson's lack of understanding of the situation. He thought that the Greeks on the left had "disintegrated" when the real problem was to the right of the ANZAC Corps. 

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Communications and Politics involving Greece

The principal commanders involved n the Greek campaign decision-making were the GIGS, General Dill, General Wavell and Admiral Cunningham. They all had doubts about undertaking the campaign but understood that te politicians thought that the right thing to do was to support Greece. The Prime Minister,  Mr. Churchill, so dominated his cabinet and military staff that no one was prepared to oppose what Mr. Churchill wanted to do. It was also true that Churchill was more knowledgeable than his peers in any government involved in the war. One thing that created Churchills dominance was his prestige. 

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, was surprised at how Churchill had established his "dominance over his cabinet". There was no one in early 1941 who was able to tell Churchill when he was wrong. When Alan Brooke arrived on the scene, he made it his responsibility to attempt to keep Churchill from doing things which would cause trouble. 

The "Dominion Governments" might decided to block the Greek campaign, but the way that Churchill operated in early 1941, he withheld information from the Dominion governments that would have made it possible for the governments to be part of the "strategic decision-making process". General Blamey was told that Mr. Menzies had agreed to the Greek campaign while Mr. Menzies was told that General Blamey had agreed. This seems like a general lack of respect for the Dominions.

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

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Monday, June 13, 2022

More thoughts on the conduct of the Greek campaign

 The British forces in Greece had little confidence in the capability of the Greek army. The reality was somewhat different. General Wilson and his staff tended to Blame the Greek army when the failure was due ro General Wilson and his staff. General Wilson ordered a withdrawal from the Aliakmon Line while saying that the Greek army had "disintegrated" when the truth was that the real problem was to thr right of the ANZAC Corps. The corps seems to have been too weak to hold their position in the face of the forcs that the Germans had ready. 

By the time that the ANZAC Corps occupied the Thermopylae line, the Greek army in Epirus had "surrendered to the Germans. That German force made no move against the Thermopylae position. Again, the truth was that the weakened ANZAC Corps was not strong enough to hold against General List's army. 

As for the withdrawal, General Wilson and his staff had waited too long to bein planning. It was also true that General Wilson had sent to commanders and their staffs to leave Greece when they should have been used to plan the withdrawal. General Wilson and his staff lacked the judgement and experience needed to command the Greek campaign. Wilson's main qualification to command in Greece was that Churchill knew him. 

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

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

German planning in early to mid-1941

 By 6 April 1941, the Germans had a plan for occupying Yugoslavia, That allowed the Germans to fix the invasion of Russia as 22 June 1941. They now had 17 armored divisions and 106 non-armored divisions for the Russian operation. The countries subservient to Germany also had deployed their units for the Russian operation. 

The Greek General Papagos believed that the British should focus on taking Libya rather than defending Greece. The British General O'Connor had thought he could have captured Tripoli if he had not been stopped and the units sent to Greece. 

By the time that the Greek government had accepted British aid in defending Greece, the British army in North Africa was withdrawing from Rommel's advance to the East. 

The Australian General wrote that ignoring military considerations because of political factors was asking for trouble, as the outcome in Greece showed. The outcome in Greece was pre-determined due to wishful thinking  and ignoring real military considerations. As we have seen, the motivation for the Greek operation was strictly political. 

General Dill, the CIGS, General Wavell, and Admiral Cunningham all realized that the chances of success on Greece were small. They went ahead with the operation because they knew that they were expected to make the effort.

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

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Greece and the German attack on Russia

 We have already expressed the opinion that the formation of a Balkan Front was simply a fantasy held by Winston Churchill. The two potential participants were Yugoslavia and Turkey. There was at least one faction in Yugoslavia that was ready to join Germany. Turkey simply was skeptical that the British could field an effective force to fight the Germans. As for Greece, they were already fully engaged with a stronger Italian army in a war in Albania. The Greek government was also of the opinion that the British lacked the means to be able to fight against a German attack with any chance of success. British professional military opinion opposed going into Greece, but Churchill ignored their advice because he was determined to do what he wanted regardless of expert opinion. The eventual results showed that this was a valid concern. The British were thought to be able to provide four infantry divisions and one armored brigade. Their armor consisted of rather delicate cruiser tanks with fragile metal tracks and machine-gun-armed light tanks. The British also were equipped with a substantial number of infantry armored vehicles that they called "carriers".

One wildcard was the German plans to invade Russia after they took Greece and Yugoslavia. While the Germans moved into position to attack Greece and Yugoslavia, no date had been set for the attack on Russia. 

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Comments on the British effort in Greece

 The idea that a Balkan Front could be established was simply a fantasy that had no real prospect of success. It was the sort of unrealistic thinking by Churchill that when Alan Brooke became the CIGS, he worked to squash, because that was a prime example of how Churchill would cause trouble. The British "moral obligation" to help Greece to fight the Germans was a real factor. During the British retreat in Greece, we saw that the Greek populace really appreciated the  British aid. 

The  British government had  a real concern about the American reaction if they ignored the plight of Greece in the face of a German attack. General Metaxas had opposed the British entry into Greece because he thought iy would weaken the British, which it did. General Metaxas died suddenly, and the new government welcomed British help. The Geek government wanted the British to wait to enter Greece until the Germans had moved into Bulgaria. The problem with that condition was that the British had little time to transport a force that was large enough to effectively oppose the Germans. 

The new Greek government understood the political importance for the British to help defend Greece against a German attack. The Allied side needed to see British soldiers fighting alongside Greek soldiers. Greek republicans accused Greek monarchists of being pro-German. When the British took a position at Thermopylae, "where Leonidas and his 300 Spartans fell", the British fought without any Greek help.

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

Monday, May 30, 2022

Escaped Prisoners

 A number of British soldiers escaped from the Germans. An Australian, Warrant Officer Boulter, was one of those escaped prisoners. Warrant Officer Boulter had been captured at Kalamata on 29 April. He was sent by train to a POW camp near Corinth. This was a camp that was said to house some ten thousand British prisoners, of which about 350 were officers. Oddly enough, the Germans had take four to five thousand Italians as prisoners and put them in the camp. Apparently due to poor sanitation, there was a dysentery problem. 

Since the prisoners were at Corinth, they were able to watch aircraft take off for Crete and return with battle damage. On 5 June, the prisoners were starting to be moved to Germany. So many railroad bridges had been destroyed, the prisoners were marched to Lamia. This provided Warrant Officer Boulter with a chance to escape. He hid in scrub next to the road until it was dark. A Greek gave him clothes. He "worked in the fields in exchange for "food and shelter".  After a few days, they sent him to "a remote mountain village" with other fugitives, "two more Australians, a British pilot, and a Pole". They started walking, went across the rails and "the main road". The crossed the mountains and arrived at the coast on 22 June. 

A greek fisherman took them by boat to Euboea. They were with Greeks and could hear the BBC, where they learned that Germany had invaded Russia. Most of the fugitives decided to stay where they were, with Greeks. Boulter had started to learn "qite a little Greek". He had arrived at a monastery. He was treated well and the bishop found a fisherman to take Boulter to Skyros. He met a Greek who had been paid to ferry fugitives to Smyrna. 

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

From 10 May 1941 after Greece

 Some soldiers had traveled to the island of Lamia. A small group of 16 men, including Sergeant Peirce. They had learned of Lt-Col. Cullen's escape as part of a large Group. The group with Sergeant Peirce had traveled to Skyros, taken there by a Greek sea-captain. Greek civilians, such as fishermen and peasants, treated the soldiers very well. The Greek people really appreciated the British help in fighting the Germans.

A Greek soldier had "told them that a boatload of Germans had landed". Fortunately, they were actually Colonel Chilton and his companions. He was now part of a 16 man group. The "combined group" arrived at Turkey near Smyrna. At Smyrna, they met two old Turkish colonels who "had been wounded by Australians in the first war and were quite proud of it". The Turks spoke admiringly of tje Australians of the First War. 

Eighteen men, including Sergeant Tanner, were already at Smyrna, under Colonel Hughes supervision. The men were told to wear civilian clothes and to tell anyone who asked that they were "English civilian engineers". A train took the men to Alexandretta. A Norwegian tanker then carried the men to Port Said where they "arrived on 24 May. This story gives a much more positive view of Turks tan you would get from the current news.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The aftermath in Greece from late April 1941

 The end of loading soldiers onto ships in Greece was followed by Germans taking prisoners. The prisoners were mostly taken at Kalamata and Navplion. Evenaftyer that, there were still many British soldiers remaining in Greece. At least hundreads of British soldiers managed to escape. A large Australian group from the 2/2nd Battalion had been "trapped" in the Pinios Gorge. It qas on the night of 18-19 April that they had been pushed "into the hills above Tempe". They ended up scattering into small groups. Lt=Col. Cullen gave men 200,000 drachmae. Most villagers gave food without taking any payment. 

Most of this group headed south. By 25 April, m

ost were transported by Greeks to Skiathos. They were eventually taken to Chios in luggers. A Greek "shipowner" loaned the two senior officers another 150,000 drachmae. Some men sailed in a ship that carried 400 Greek soldiers. In a couple of days, they met a ship that had some 280 men/ They all arrived at Heraklion on Crete on 5 May.

A group of 133 men had come to Chios. The men eventually reached Chesme in Turkey. An Australian, Col. Hughes was an old Turkey hand and handled negotiations for the escaping prisoners through a neutral country. 

Col. Chilton and several men headed southwest. They found some British vehicles that were "bogged down". The found some bully beef tins that they took. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Summary of the Greek campaign in 1941

 The German forces in Greece in 1941 were from the Twelfth Army. There were official figures for losses announced at the end of the operation:

"1,160 killed,

3,755 wounded,

and 345 missing."

The British forces in Greece included the following:

"British army 21,880

Palestinians and Cypriots 4,670

RAF 2,217

Australian 17,125

New Zealand 16,720"


"British 146 killed, 87 wounded, 6,489 prisoners"

"RAF 110 killed, 45 wounded, 28 prisoners"

"Australian 320 killed, 494 wounded, 2,030 prisoners"

"New Zealand 291 killed, 599 wounded, 1,614 prisoners"

"Palestinian and Cypriot 36 killed, 25 wounded, 3,806 prisoners"

When the "ANZAC Corps pulled back from Thermopylae and Brallos, the Germans were slow to advance towards Athens. The first Germans to reach Athens had come from Corinth. This was "on the morning of April 27". The "Adolph Hitler" Division had been at Yannina. They only advanced by 26 April. They were in a position where they could "outflank" the Anzac Corps. By 27 April, the "Adolph Hitler" Division had reached Patras and sat there while the British withdrawal was accomplished.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

At Kalamata on April 28-29 1941

 The soldiers at Kalamata were divided into four groups, hoping to be loaded onto ships on the night of 28 to 29 April 1941. There was a plan to guide the loading of men. The first group were the wounded and stretcher bearers. The second group was called Pemberton Force. They were about 1,400 men, mostly base troops. The third group was Harlock Force, including both Australian and New Zealand soldiers. Then there was Lister Force, a mixed group of men. They had 2,400 British depot soldiers. There were some "100 Indian mule drivers". The rest were laborers. About 2,000 were Palestinian and Cypriot. The last 2,000 were also laborers in this case, Yugoslav and Lascar. 

The 4th Hussars were patrolling towards the north. They had seen no Germans so far. But there was a surprise, because two ours later, Germans had run over the Hussars and went "through the town" and drove tot he quay. The captured the beach master. The "British" started fighting. Officers gathered soldiers and led them "to the quay". A New Zealand battalion "fixed bayonets and charged towards the quay. The fighters had very few weapons left. The quay had been recaptured by 9:30pm. The captured two German field guns and took about 100 Germans prisoner. During the fighting, two cruisers and six destroyers were headed for Kalamata. The Germans had disrupted withdrawal plans for Kalamata. Destroyers had succeeded in loading some 399 soldiers.

Admiral Pridham-Whippel sent destroyers to see if they could pick up soldiers from the coast south of Kalamata. They succeeded in picking up somewhat more than 900 soldiers. 

After this, one Australian hospital unit remained in Greece. They gradually were controlled by the Germans. They eventually took in wounded from Crete, after that battle had started.

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Last minute developments in Greece from 28 April 1941

 By 28 April 1941, the Germans were said to be advancing into the Peloponnese. German paratroopers were thought to be jumping in an area near Navplion. The senior officer at Navplion suggested that everyone should "head for the hills", 

At the beach at Tolos, the rear-guard was an "Australian Composite Battalion". They were soldiers from the area around Athens. They had reached Argos early on 26 April. They were ordered to travel to Kalamata and to be ready to fight as a rear-guard. When they had passed through the Tripolis Pass, German bombers and fighters attacked the group. They took action to make the road unusable and half of the battalion move into a defensive position "near Tripolis". Brigadier ordered them to protect the loading soldiers from Navplion and Tolos. These were referred to as the "Argos beaches". About 130 men from the battalion moved into a position to protect the beach at Tolos. The decision had been made to not use Navplion to load soldiers onto ships. By early on 28 April, the soldiers at Navplion were told that if they wanted, they could try to "break away". Miller and Jackson chose fight to keep the Germans from moving into the beach that night. The two groups set up on either side of the road into Navplion. By the afternoon, they fought a German group riding in trucks and captured British carriers. The battle lasted some three hours, the Australians were forced to surrender. Most soldiers had surrendered to the Germans, but many small groups escaped from Tolos. Some used boats they found while others found Caiques that were functional.

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

Monday, May 09, 2022

British soldiers at the "Argos beaches" 29-29 April 1941

 By 28 April 1941, there was only fairly strong "group" left in Greece. This was a New Zealand brigade that was still at Monemvasia. They had no artillery with them, but they were still a good fighting force. The plan at this point was to send a cruiser and four destroyers on the night of 28 April. 

They also thought that there were some 7,000 soldiers at Kalamata, although there were actually more than 7,000 at Kalamata. Two cruisers and six destroyers were to be sent to Kalamata. They would also send three sloops to Kithera load about 800 soldiers. The operation at Kithera was successful. Landing craft took the soldiers from the beach to the sloops. They carried the soldiers to Suda Bay, a place that is familiar to me (Spring 1977). 

One sloop, the Hyacinth, towed the landing craft. Loading soldiers went well at Monemvasia. The first ships, the Isis and Griffin arrived at 10:30pm on 8 April. At about 1am on 29 April, aa cruiser, the Ajax, and the destroyers Hotspur and Havock appeared, The soldiers were carried to the ships on barges and fishing vessels. All the men, including General Freyberg and Rear-Admiral Baille-Grohman were loaded and were underway. 

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

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

more embarkations on 27-28 April 1941

 During the night of 27-28 April there about 2,000 men, with groups of stragglers still arriving. Thesewere the "Argos beaches", namely Navplion and Tolos. There were German aircraft firing machine guns and dropping bombs. An attemt was made to provide a "rearguard". Men were collected from the "Australian REinforcement Battaliom" along with some 200 men of the 3rd RTR (Robert Crisp's unit). They expected to see destroyers, although there were none seen. By 3am, the men were sent back into hiding. 

There was a fund with Greek money. They hoped to hire small Greek boats, but none were available for hire, with the Germans expected to appear soon.

Of some 8,000 men still at Kalamata, there were largely unorganized "base troops" without weapons. There  some 800 New Zealand soldiers and 380 Australian soldiers. During the day, some 300 men from the 4th Hussars arrived. While men were preparing to move to the beach, they were bombed by about 25 German aircraft. After that, the got organized and waited for ships. No ships arrived, so the men went back into hiding. The men of the 4th Hussars were to defend Kalamata. The New Zealand battalion was to provide cover for an embarkation, if it happened. 

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

Monday, May 02, 2022

More embarkation on 27-28 April 1941

 No men were loaded onto ships in the Peloponnese on the night of 27-28 April. The transports used the night before were now at Alexandria. Their escorts had been four of the cruisers and 12 of the destroyers. 

The Bew Zealand 6th Brigade was at Miloi and Tripolis. They saw German aircraft but no ground troops. General Freyberg ordered the brigade commander to sit where they were until darkness fell and then move to Monemvasia as quickly as they could. My the middle of the day, the brigade started to "thin out". One battalion travelled south, seemingly under constant air attack. The rest of the 6th Brigade travelled at night. Freyberg moved his headquarters with the brigade. By 28 April daylight, they had moved some 120 miles. After that, the brigade was incorporated into the "defensive line" located at Monemvasia. 

Lee's force was already included in the defenses at Monemvasia. There was a Greek destroyer run aground in the harbour. New Zealand engineers took some depth charges from the destroyer and planted them in the road. 

The Group W headquarters "Rear Party" was setup close by. The went looking for Caiques that could be used to evacuate soldiers. They asked the people who lived in the area to move to villages "in the hills". That would create the illusion that the "town would look deserted". 

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Events from 27 April 1941 in Greece

 On 27 April, there were still some 800 men of the armored brigade located at Rafina, which was about ten miles north of the action we have been following. They had no artillery left, since all the guns were destroyed. During the day on 27 April, the men of the armored had gotten into defensive positions close to the beach whch kept them hidden. The group included about 250 Rangers at the left end. There were also some anti-tank gunners in the middle, along with the New Zealand cavalry. Early on 27 April, they observed German aircraft bombing the vehicles that had been wrecked. These were "in the hills at Rafina". The German aircraft also bombed the village. They flew over the hidden men, but did not see them. Some men from the anti-tank regiment took charge of a Greek caique that lay in the harbor. Their lieutenant spoke "classical Greek". They expected that the caique could carry about 250 men. The other 600 men would head for Porto Rafti. There was a planned embarkatiom planned for Porto Rafti "that night". 

There were Germans blocking the route to Porto Rafti to Rafina. The men headed for Rafina instead. The caique's engine had been sabotaged, but they could see a destroyer approaching Rafina, which proved to be the Havock. The destroyer's captain hard that there men at Rafina, so he headed there. They were able to load all 800 men onto the destroyer. They sailed from Rafina to Crete. 

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

Monday, April 25, 2022

Near Markopoulon from 27 April 1941

 After the air attack on 27 April 1941, the New Zealand 18th and 20th Battalions were positioned forward while the 19th Battaluon was held in reserve. They were supported by the Australian 2/3rd Field Regiment. Some their guns were pulled forward, to act in      the anti-tank role.

The Greeks living in Markopoulon came out to watch the soldiers move up to their positions. The Greeks knew how the battles had gone, many Greeks showed support to the New Zealand soldiers. Greeks threw roses to the soldiers and left roses in the road. "women and girls" took water in cups to the soldiers. Old men flashed "thumbs-up" to the soldiers from the road-side. There was a smoke cloud from burning trees and crops.

At 3pm, a line of vehicles, mostly German light tanks, drove into Markopoulon. The Australan artillery did not fire on the village, butas the vehicles drove out, "guns and mortars" opened fire. German tanks sheltered in the village, knowing that they were safe there. Many of the German "vehicles" drove to "the little port of Loutsa". There was never an attack while the soldiers prepared to be loaded onto ships. By 6pm, the soldiers began destroying trucks. At 8:45pm, they destroyed guns. The 19th battalion made a perimeter "about a thousand yards from the beach. By 9pm, thr forward soldiers moved into the perimeter. Men were loaded onto ships from Porto Rafti. The ships were the cruiser Ajax and "the destroyers Kimberley and Kingston". 

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

Thursday, April 21, 2022

From 26-27 April 1941

 During the night of 26-27 April 1941, some 19,000 soldiers were loaded onto ships. Of the purpose-built transports, two were sunk. Of these, the Slamat was lost with almost everyone aboard. The other, the Costa Rica was sunk, with no losses of men. No cruisers were lost and two destroyers were sunk. 

There were still many British and commonwealth soldiers left in Greece. There was still the 4th New Zealand Brigade Group. This near the beaches at Athens. Part of the 1st Armoured Brigade was also near the beaches near Athens. Another 2,500 soldiers were located "at the Argos beaches". The 6th New Zealand Brigade Group "was at Tripolis". There were also some units or groups located at Monemvasia. there were also a large group, more than eight thousand,  located at Kalamata. 

It was thought to be wise to move the 4th New Zealand Brigade into a suitable "defensive position" some five hundred yards on the east side of Markopoulon. This was on the road that ran from Athens to Porto Rafti. They were overflown by 23 German aircraft around 11am. The aircraft noticed the brigade and "machine-gunned the soldiers". Ammunition from the 2/3rd Field Regiment exploded, and caused other, secondary explosions. There was widespread chaos, with ammunition exploding, burning vehicles, along with burning crops and trees.

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

more details from 26 April 1941 at Kalamata

 By 10pm on 26 April, the men could see lights from approaching ships. The men started forward "in threes". They could see approaching destroyers. Two destroyers tied up with gangways "at bow and stern". The men walked aboard. When a destroyer was filled, the men waited for the next ship. There was only one incident where Cypriots and Palestinians tried to push forwardonto the destroyer Hero. Some soldiers from the 2/2nd Battalion pushed them back with "rifle butts".

Brigadier Savige praised the men were well-behaved and they showed "complete confidence in their officers and N.C.O.'s. Naval OOfficers who had been at Dunkirk were surprised that men were "carrying their weapons and Equipment, and spare boxes of S.A.A." One of Savige's battalions had gotten pushed back, so they were "led forward and embarked". 

They eventually found that some of Allen's "force" were still on the shore. They had managed to remove more than 8,000 men, "the most embarked from a single beach on one night". 

By 27 April, the navy was hard-pressed. Suda Bay, at this point was "packed with ships carrying soldiers. All the regular transports were filled with soldiers. They would probably haveto load soldiers onto cruisers and destroyers. All transports were sent to Alexandria with escorts. 

When there was an air raid, soldiers came on deck with weapons to fire at the aircraft. Some seven attacking aircraft were destroyed. The transport Costa Rica was damaged. Destroyerscame alongside to remove men. The Costa Rica was Dutch and the officers from the Costa Rica with twenty soldiers jumped onto the destroyer Hero. 

At this point, there were still men on beaches near Athens, at the Argos beaches, at Tripolis, at Monemvasia, "more than eight thosand men at Kalamata". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria", by Gavin Long. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Loading troops at Kalamata

 At Kalamata, about one-third of Allen Group was assembled. Some "18,000 to 20,000" soldiers were present from the Australian 16th and 17th Brigades along with "corps troops"). There were more units heading to Kalamata, including the remnants of the 4th Hussars and the "New Zealand reinforcement battalion". 

Brigadier Parrington was put in charge of Kalamata. Brigadier Allen recommended to Brigadier Parrington that they should load combat troops first. Later that day, Brigadier Parrington ordered taht the men should be put into four groups. The first group would have Allens two brigades. The second group would have all men to the northeast from Kalamata. Everyone who arrived at Kalamata were n the third group. Everyone else were in the fourth group. Each group was subdivided into small groups of fifty. Each small group was assigned a number. The men were told to move "to the beach or quay" and report to a "control post". The control posts assigned small groups to ships. 

The leaders of the Australians desired that their men should leave Greece "as a disciplined force". One of the challenges was that the men were largely without officers. Allen ordered that steps be taken to keep men other than Australians and British soldiers under Allen's command off the ships. They would not let any "stragglers" on the ships.

By evening, there were men engaged in burying or damaging their kits. Allen and Parrington decided that they would destroy vehicles by draining oil and water and then running them until "they seized up". Allen was instructed to not destroy his vehicles until Parrington gave the order. They were concerned that they might need need to transport AQllen's forcr to another location. 

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Loading troops from Greece on 26-27 April 1941

 The Stuart was a British-built flotilla leader serving in thr Australian navy. The Stuart had sailed to Tolos to load soldiers from the beach. Loading started at 11:15pm. The men walked in the water out to a landing craft. There was a sand bar some thirty yards from the beach. The "naval beachmaster" had recommended the army "area commander" not to use Tolos, but it was too late to change. 

The Stuart filled up and transported the soldiers to the cruiser Orion. They sailed back to Tolos with the Australian cruiser Perth. By 4am about two thousand men had been taken from the beach. That left about 1,300 soldiers on the beach at Tolos.  They had loaded four Australian "embarkation staff", which meant that there just four officers left. 

The operation at Navplion had gone badly. The transport Ulster Prince had been bombed and burnt. That blocked the harbour at Navplion. At 4:30am, the ships had left Navplion carrying 2,600 men. That meant that there 1,700 men still on the beach. One of the ships that left Navplios was bombed and sunk with few survivors rescued.

Two destroyers had rescued survivors, but they ere sunk eventually. Some from Navplion were loaded on a laning craft and were transported "down the coast". Some 700 men went to Tolos and went into hiding. The German aircraft did not see the hidden men.

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

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Troops loaded onto ships at three locations on 26-27 April in Greece

 There were ambitios plans to load troops onto ships at three locations in Greece: beaches at Athens, beaches at Argos, and at Kalamata. Porto Rafti counts as "Athens beaches". Brigadier Miles commanded a large group composed of artillery. The remnants of the 1st Armoured Brigade were at Rafina. Porto Rafti was not well-organized. They had just one landing crat to move many men. There wasa group of men at KeaIsland that hd to be moved before anyone else. 

It was obvious to Brigadier Miles that they had a big problem. He aent two units to Rafina. Brgadier Miles ordered that all the equipment be loaded onto ships, but this was not possible, 

The loadng at both Rafinaand Porto Rafti were well-executed. They loaded the Glengyle and Salween and put about 2,720 onto the little cruiser Carlisle nd two destroyer, the Kington and Kandahar. There was a problem, though, because the men of important units were lwft on the beach. 

At 1:30am, they found that the 4th New Zealand Brigade would need to travel to the beaches at Marathon "on the next night". While men were traveling in the direction of Athens, Germans entered Athens at 9:25am. 

There had been plans to send the Glenearn to Navplion to load troops on the night of 26-27 April. Instead, the Glenearn had been bombed and disabled. "Vice-Admiral Pridham-Wippell" sailed to Navplion with his ship, the cruiser Orion and with the Australian cruiser Perth. HMAS Stuart sailed to Tolos. Again, there was a problem with the landing craft. This is based on the accoumt in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

A nearly final battle in Greece on 26 April 1941

 It was from 11am on 26 April that the 100 vehicle German column was seen traveling from Thebes. When Australian artillery had the entire column in range, well-aimed artillery fire caused the column to scatter. The German infantry quickly dispersed before the climbed onto their vehicles and drove back to Thebes. Something like eight vehicles were knocked out and left on the road. 

Somewhat later, they were attacked by German aicraft, an attack that the veterans expected to see. That was followed by German artillery firing after about 1pm. The afternoon was spent with German and Australian artillery trading shots. They ocasionally noticed German tanks darting forward.

Later in the afternoon, artillery hit a tank. About the same time, German infantry moving forward drew machine gun fire, which caused the infantry to disperse. The range was some 3,000 yards. Through the afternoon, they could see German vehicles driviv to the east on the road to Skhimatarion. It was at abot 2pm that the got word of German paratroopers at Corinth. The men got orders to travel to Porto Rafti to board ships at 7pm. By 9pm, the men boarded vehicles and started to drive down the road at some 30mph. Enineers left cratrs behind them as they traveled. It was Puttick led his men along the road through Eleusis and Athens while moving towards Porto Rafti. Thisis based in the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Events progress in the final days in Greece

 By the beginning of 27 April, Freyberg would have a force about equal to one division. That was the case if they were able successfully load troops onto ships. There would betwo New Zealand brigades (the 4th and 6th) as well as the remain of the 1st Armoured Brigade, The fact is that there were so many more unorganized bace forces, deciding to dissolve W Group headquarters seems ill-considered. We would point to this as more evidence that General Wilson lacked the experience and skills to be W Group commander. The other evidence that this was true was the decision on 24 April to remove Generals Blamey and MacKay from Greece.

By the morning of 27 April, some 39,000 men had been withdrawn. The Australian historian noted that this number only had about one third of the men from the New Zealand Division. Failure to remove the other two-thirds would greatly damage New Zealand and would worry the Australians. The New Zealand forces had been instrumentalin protecting the Australian withdrawal. 

There were some events that were important during 26 April, The 4th Hussars were on shore in the Gulf of Corinth. They were located at Patras from which they left at 2pm. They had to cross mountains traveling near Kalavrita. 

There were some units to the north of Athens. They were to load onto ships during the night of 26-27 April. A group assembled at Rafina during the night. 

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Freyberg in charge in Greece

 The German paratroop attack at Corinth had the effect of dividing the British force into two pieces. The "main force" was located from Argos and to the south. There was also the rearguard, consisting of the 4th New Zealand Brigade and a group from the 1st Armoured Brigade. They sat on the "roads north-west of Athens."  There were also "artillerymen" waiting at the beaches near Marathon. They were waitng to be loaded onto ships. Freyberg had ordered troops to block roads that came from the north and west to keep Germans from entering the south part of the Peloponesse. Freyberg used radio to order the 4th New Zealand Brigade to head for the Athens beaches to be loaded onto ships from 27 to 28 April.

General Wilson told Freyberg that he, Wilson, would leave by ship the night oh 27 April. Freyberg would be commander for all British soldiers in the Peloponesse until he left by ship on 28-29 April. That meant that Freyerg would be the only British general in Greece for those two days. 

There were still two brigades trapped north of Corinth. One of those was fighting Germans while the other was waiting to load onto ships. There was the 6th New Zealand Brigade at Tripolis and the 16th and 17th Australian brigades at Kalamata. There were a mass of men, not organized, at Kalamata or else enroute to Kalamata. There were about 6,000 more men near Argos.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The situaton in Greece on 26 April 1941

 On 26 Apil 1941, the men of the 4th Hussars were located on "the south shore of the Gulf of Corinth." They moved as a group "by midday" to Patras, where they arrived by 2pm. Their next movewas to go over the mountains. On the way, they passed through Kalavrita. 

There were men still north of Athens. At Rafina, here were the remnants of the 1st Armoured Brigade. and also some artillery. They were to move into position so as to be loaded onto ships during the night of 26-27 April. Therewasa erroneous rumour circulating that Germans were in Athens. That prompted orders to the Rangers to block the road "from Athens to Kephissia and Porto Rafti". 

During the night the rest of the Rangers with the New Zealand cavalry drove along the road to Rafina. The rearguard also arrived at Rafina during the night. 

The 4th New Zealand Brigade was in hiding at Erithrai. German reconnaissance aiecraft did not see the men of the brigade. At 11am, they noticed a German column driving from Thebes. He column included some 100 tanks and cars, probably with trucks. 

When the artillery could reach the entire column, the Australian artillery egan firing, causing the vehicles in the column to scatter. The German infantry got back on their trucks which drove them back to Thebes. 

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Embarking troopson 26-27 April 1941

 On 26 April, both Wilson's and Freyberg's headquarters were located at Miloi. They knew little about the attack at Corinth. The attack at Corinth was made by part of the "2nd Parachute Rifle Regiment". They took some casualties in the attack: "63 men were killed, 158 were wounded with some 16 missing". That succeded in capturing 21 officers and abut 900 men. Thosewere British, Australian, nd New Zealand soldiers. About 1,450 Greek soldiers were also captured. 

It seems that on 27 April, General Freyberg was in charge. Wilson was preparingto leave Greece, leaving Freyberg in command until he was scheduled to leave. It seems clear that Wilson's decisions were ill-considered. Sending away Generals Blamey and Mackay on 24 April was a bad idea. Freyberg thought that the situation on 27 April was in chaos. There was a great deal happening. About 19,000 men were withdrawn from Greece "during the night of 26-2 April". 

By the morning of 27 April, the German attack at Corinth hadthe effect of "cutting off" a New Zealand brigade on the beaches at Marathon. There was another brigade "in the Peloponesse". Freyberg also didn't realize that there were 8,000 more soldiers at Kalamata, of which about 800 were New Zealand reinforcements. .There were also about twothousand soldiers near Navplion. 

So far about 39,000 men had been withdrawn, but that only included about a third of the New Zealand Division This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

An overview

 1941 was a bad year for Churchill. It started out well when Richard O'Connor captured Libya. When Rommel arrived in North Africa, tngs changed drastically. Archibald Wavell was the theater commander. He was a better theater commander than his successor, Claude Auchinleck. Auchinleck excelled as a  general in the field, and he defeated Rommel twice: once in the Crusader Battle and once in the First El Alamein. Where he went wrong was to let Anthony Eden talk Chuchill into send a force to Greece. They were forced to withdraw in late April, losing equipment and men. They went into Crete and had a worse defeat. 

Churchill liked to appoint friends as comanders, so he had appointed Henry Maitland Wilson as commander in Greece, where Wilson did a poor, I would imagine that it was due to Wilson's lack of experience. Bernard Freyberg might have done better.

Wilson left Freyberg as the only General in Greece. He tried to execute the evacuation, but the Germans were pressing the as they attempted  to withdraw.

Bernard Freyberg left Greece exhausted, so when Churchill appointed Freyberg to command the defence of Crete, he was unable to do a good job. Freyberg ended up in Egypt in command of thr New Zealand Division. He led the New Zealand Division in the Crusader Battle. He struggled in the battle at Sidi Rezegh, in the Crusader Battle. Churchill begged Auchinleck to command the Eighth Army, which he eie briefly in the Crusader Battle, whe Rommel was driven back to El Agheila.

About the same time as the battle for Crete, the German battleship Bismarck broke out into the Atlantic with the cruiser Prins Eugen. The Bismarck sank the Hood and damaged the Prince of Wales. Fortunately, the Rodney intercepted the Bismarck and reduced the Bismarck to a burning wreck.

After Rommel took Tobruk, Auchinleck defeated Rommel at the First El Alamein. Churchill gave up on Auchinleck and fired him.

This is based on our generak knowledge and our opinions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

W Group being loaded onto ships

During the night of 24 to 25 April saw the  frst group of W Group loaded onto ships. Some 6th Division Australian officers were in charge. The 5th New Zealand Brgade Group  were loaded onto the amphibious transport Glengyle and the cruiser Calcutta using two landing craft. About five thousand men were in the Glengyle and seven hundred in the Calcutta. The ships got underway at about 2am. 

Other groups were loaded onto ships at Navplion and Tolos Bay. The staff at Tolos were Australian and the staff at Navplion were British. The men embarked were from base units and were not well-organized. Early on 24 April, Navplion was packed with "men and vehicles". And this was just a "small town". They had only planned for five thousand men at Nzvplion, but there were actually seven to eight thousand present. At  about 10:30pm. Then there was a major incident when the Ulster Prince grounded in the harbour entrance. Some 6,600 men were loaded onto the Glenearn, a cruiser Phoebe, destroyers Stuart and Voyager, and the sloop Hyacinth. No one got off at Tolos. 

They attempted to load men at Piraeus, but it turned out badly. "The large yacht Hellas" loaded men but was bombed and capsized. Any where from 500  to 742 were lost. 

Allen Group traveled from Megara to Argos. Some men crossed the Corinth bridge. There was concern that there could be a German attack. 

The embarkation from "Attica and Piraeus" was slowed by the perception that they needed to protect against German attacks. Because of W Groups involvement, things were disorganized. All of 19th Brigade were loaded from beaches. At Corinth, air attacks were a problem. There was eventually a paratroop attack. General Freyberg was left as the only general in Greece. 

Loading at Rafina and Porto Rafti went well. The later attemts at loading were bombed and were pretty much failures. This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria"  by Gavin Long.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Action on 24 April 1941

 The Germans were trying to move forward, but took artillery fire and then were under fire by heavy machine guns, The Cermans finally were able to approach the "British" They were on the north side of the slope on the high ground. By the middle of the day, two German units were together They moved forward, but they stopped around 8:10pm. One compnay got close to the road from Brallos to Gravia. At idnight, some Germans arrived at Palokhorion

New Zealand soldiers on the way to Molos were attacked by a nixed German force, By the afternoon, 18 German tanks attacked. Four of these were Pzkw IV's with short 75mm guns. The tanks took heavy losses. Of the 18, 12 were "total losses". 

It is interesting to realize that in an attack by German tanks 

Australian infantry supported by artllery at Tobruk succeeded in defeating a German tank force that attempted to "break into" the fortress area. This fight occurred on 11 April. The battle in Greece was near Thermopylae. Another action of the same sort happened at Tobruk on 1 May. The German attackers on 1 May ended up with even heavier losses

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

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

The situation from 20 April 1941

 As of 20 April there had been four German divisions engage along the Aliakmon line an the Olympus passes. were sitting between Elasson an Larisa. The German 5th Armoured Division. The armoured division had moved quickly from Sofia. They ha left Sofia on 7 April. They drove to the Northwest until they ha arrive in the vicinity of the Larisa-Lamia road. They then rove to Lamia where they "joined the 6th Mountain division. The next step was to move against the units near Thermopylae.  

The plan was to send mountain troops "through the hills" to the west of Brallos. The largest force would advance following the coast road. A group would attempy to "encircle" the Anzac corps. This group had arrive in the vicinity oh Kato Dhio Vouna early in the day on 22 April. The Germans  were having trouble. They were in contact with "British outposts".  The Germans pulled back to the south and east. 

Part of the German group were soldiers from an armored division motor battalion but without their vehicles. They got little rest an then were shelled uring the night. The men spent much of the next day resting trying to recover. They also thought that they neee to reorganize before being engaged. 

Their commaner decided that they neee to attack in the direction of Brallos. Early in the morning thr Germans foun that the defenders' main body had pulled out. They sent one group to cut the road south of Brallos. The rest pushed towards Brallos. By 7:30am German divebombers attacked the Australians. The 2/11th Battalion was attacked by German mountain troops. 

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

Thursday, March 03, 2022

The Australians "on the move" on 24 to 25 April 1941

 Vasey had sent his brigade major to express Vasey's concern that the Germans moving "on the west flank" might arrve at the Ano Kalivia junction before the Australians. Major Bell, the brigade major, took three carriers, hoping to block the road to the south. The last trucks drove towards the south-east at 10:15pm. The men in the trucks were kneeling with "their automatc weapons ponting outwards". They could see German Very lights "about 500 yards south of Brallos".

There was still a rearguard at Erithrai. They were part of the 2/5th Battalion (group). They were sitting at a spot "just west of Levadia"". They were controlling a road going through Delphi. They had been ordered to move there on 23 April due to reports of German vehicles were driving along the road, coming from Epirus, moving towards Delphi. The Australian historian thought that the veicles sighted were probably Greek, It turned out that the had not started from Yannina yet. 

The 2/5th Battalion moved out by 3am. They drove to the south, hoping to meet up with the 17th Brigade. By early on 25 April, had moved past the rearguard ad Erithrai. They were protected from the Germans by "many miles of cratered roads".

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

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Plans changed on 24 April1941

 The original plan had been to destruy the guns belonging to the 2/2nd Field Regiment. The new plan was now to keep the guns operable and to take them to the south. Each gun would have thirty rounds. At this point, they couldn't take 30 rounds, because they were still firing and there were fewer than 30 rounds per gun.

To preserve some ammunition, they fired the guns less often. By 8:30pm, the guns were pulled out. They had to be taken on the main road. That road passed trhough Brallos. The engineers of the 2/1st Field company managed to make a three mile long track from Brallos to the position for the guns. The 2/2nd Field Regiment was moved along the track. After they had arrived, the engineers destroyed the track. 

One company from the 2/11th Battalion traveled along the main road. A second company moved around the right end of the Battalion. The group from the 2/8th Battalion was ordered to Brallos to load onto vehicles. One company from the 2/1st Battalion to strengthen the position. 

The "main rear-guard" was now not being pressured. The commander of the "forward companies" moved them back using leap-frogging. Loading the men on vehicles was quite slow, due to the ned to turn around on a "side track".

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Action from 24 April 1941

 5:40pm saw a gun fight where German were hit at a 30 yard range "at the edge of the scrub". After this, the companies that were furthest out were pulled back. Brigadier Sandover ordered his "reserve company" to a hill to the south, where machine gunners and the reserve company could cover the ground from which they had withdrawn. 

The 2/1st Battalion had made the planned move to the main road. They were positioned so that they could look at the "mountain road" that they had travelled. 

By 6pm, there were some German infantry on the west side of Gravia. While there was still some light, there was a gun fight between the Germans and a company of the 2/1st Battalion. 

There was now a change of plans. At about 6pm, General Vasey was concerned about the 2/11th Battalion's situation. He ordered 2/1st and 2/4th Battalions, with a groupof extra soldiers, to load onto trucks at 8pm, instead of a half-hour later. He also told Brigadier Sandover that he needed to hold his ground until 9pm, instead of a half-hour later. 

Once the 2/1st Battalion had mostly pulled out, German infantry was shooting at the right end of the 2/11th  Battalion and at a part of the 2/8th Battalion. They were on the higher ground to the right. 

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

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Fighting on 24 April 1941

 As we recall, the Australian 2/4th was sitting, blocking the road at about five miles beyond Brallos. Vasey then ordered the 2/1st Battalion to ove along the main road until they reached the 2/4th Battalion position, which they reached by about 6pm. 

The guns of the 2/2nd Regiment had come under air attack on 23 April. The regiment commander ordered that during the night, the guns should move back some 1,000 to 1,500 yards. He had them leave the camoflage nets over the old gun positions. That was in the area held by the 2/11th Battalion. The infantry stayed away from the old gun positions. 

That morning, the Germans made a dive-boming attack on the old gun positions. A captain and four men were there, acting as artillery observers. 

On the 24th, early in the day, they could see trucks driving over the bridge across the Sperkhios, which had been repaired. There were also tanks on the main road driving south. At one point, the tanks turned to the east, so as to attack the New Zealand positions.

Australian machine gunners opened fire on German infantry who were oving forward. They were on the "near side of thr rails". They would occasionally fire, during the day. Suddenly, at about 4:50pm, the Germans opened fire with motars on the Australian infantry. This preceded a bigger attack. 

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

Thursday, February 17, 2022

In Athens and back "in the hills"

 With men in Athens in battle-scarred vehicles, General Freyberg was feeling bad that the commaner's efforts had worked so badly. The vehicles driving through Athens showed damage from the last day and then "the drive through the night". Still the Greek people gave the soldiers a rousng greeting, inckuding flowers. 

Back in the hills, the Australian 19th Brigade was hit by a German attack. The 2/11th Battalion was sitting on the main road. The battalion waqs now commanded y Major Sandover. One company was located on the east side of the road and two companies on the westside. A fourth company was "in support". The battalion had only moved into its place at about 5am. They had had a long march from their previous spot in the hills "on the right". 

To their right were an officer and 48 men from the2/8th Battalion. About half of the 2/1st Battalion was protecting "the right rear" of the 2/11th Battalion. There were "tracks" that passed through Kalothronion up to the 2/11th Battalion position.

One company from the 2/1st Battalion had been sent to cover men engaged in demolition at Gravia (where there was a defile). The road which passed through the defile came from Amfissa. There had been a report of German soldiers comng from Epirus. The 2/4th Battalion was sitting across the road at a postion about five miles south from Brallos.

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Withdrawal from Molos

 One good thing was that on 24 April, German air attaack had not been a factor. Once it was dark, trucks were driven "boldly" on thr road, driving past the destroyed German tanks. The crews of the guns that were now in front of the infantry were picked up and carried out.

General Freyberg learned on the afternoon of 24 April that the ammunition trucks that he had been counting on to bring out part of the infantry were lost, or at  least were in some unknown location. Freyberg then directed Brigader Miles to use the available artillery vehicles to carry out as many of the infantry as could be carried. The rest of the infantry would have to march.

During the night, the German nfantry forward while the artillery fight continued. At 9:15pm, they learned that the ammunition trucks had been located and were on the road, moving towards Molos. After the trucks arrived, the men thinned out as they boarded the trucks. Theyeventually set about destroying the artillery.  The destroyed the medium guns and then the field guns. The last to be destroyed were the field guns of the 2nd RHA. That was completed at about 11:50pm.

All vehicles had left Molos by midnight. That meant that there was a long column of vehicles driving south. They moved through the rearguard at Cape Knimis and then on to Atlandi. The vehcles all had their lghts on as they moved on the main road. When the arrived at "the main rearguard" at Erithrai, the passed through. 

By the middle of 25 April, they had covered 100 miles. That meant that they were driving through the streets of Athens. Brigadier Miles was already in Athens, because he was arrange with the "Force headquarters" to fix the corners for easy passage and "to guide the column through". This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Fighting tanks

 At least one troop of the 5th Field Regiment sat right in front of the infantry of the 25th Battalion. Knocked out tanks were partially blocking the road. Besides knocked out tanks, smoke was becoming a factor. Some surviving tanks tried to maneuver past the blockage, but they were largely unsuccessful. 

The blocked tanks started to fire on the25th Battalion, which "suffered heavily". "By 5:15, 14 tanks had driven to the right end of the 25th Battalion." Another two tanks followed, but the first was knocked out by the field guns when it had approached "a little bridge" that formed the rightmost edge of the 25th Battalion. There were knocked out tanks for six miles on the road. The field guns apparently destroyed about fiftee tanks during the fight.  One gun and crew had knocked out nine tanks abd set them on fire. Another gun had hit two more tanks. 

Brigadier Miles, the artillery commander, ordered three artillery regiments to fire "on the road by Thermopylae". This measure stopped the Germans from bringing in any mor tanks to the battle scene,.

Later in the day, an attack to the rear of the 25th Battalion was dangerous. To counter this threat, two carrier platoons drove "into the hills". Two companies from other battalions were used to make the 25th Battalion longer.

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

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

The fight began on 24 Aprl 1941 at the Molos Bottleneck

 The fighting at "theBottleneck" started "at about 2pm" on 24 April. Two German tnks that started

across the swamp were knocked out by long-range field gun fire. Since that didn't work, they sent a force down the road.  They sent motor cycle troops first. Next came four tanks. 

The next move was sendind infantry "into the hills south of the road". The 25th Battalion then opened fire 

on the German infantry. Soon, Germans then hit the left end of the 25th Battalion with "heavy fire". 

That was enough to cause the 25th Battalion to have to pull back. 

A larger German attack started by 3pm. A column started down the road with some tanks in front.

After that were infantry in trucks with more tanks following. In response, heavy, aimed artillery frre was called in. After an hour, German tanks were near the 25th Battalion. 

An attack at 4pm was pushed back, but a larger tank attack followed. After that, tanks had reached the25th Battalion positions. The 5th Field Regiment had knocked out some of the tanks.

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

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Trying to work through the results of Wilson's errors

 General Wilson owed his position as British commander in Greece to his relationship with Churchill, not his experience or ability. GGeneral Blamey was no longer in Greece, so General Freyberg had to fill the role of wise and experienced commander. Freyberg's performance during the rest of 1941 exposed his shortcomings. 

General Blamey wasnot a professional soldier, but he performed better than many of the professional soldiers in Greece. If we would criticize Blamey, it would be for his playing Australian army politics to ensure that he was as senior as possible and ssuing orders to his chief rival, John Laverack.

The revised plan was for embarkation on dats 24 and25th (5th Brigade),

25th and 26th (19th Brigade and part of the 1st Armoured Brigade),

26th and 27th (6th Brigade as well as part of the 1st Armoured Brigade).

The plan shows that Athens beaches were to be utilized despite previous statements 

that they would not be used, 

The 4th Brikade would be embarked at Magara,

The Corps and RAF as well as some other units would be embarked from Navplion.

Some base units, Robert Crisp's unit, the 3rd RTR with the 4th Hussars would embark from 

Navplion on 26th and 27th. 

Brigadier Allen and his group would not embark at Magara, but from a distant beach, about  hundred miles away. Allen, at this point, had almost no staff.

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

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