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By the morning of 27 April, some 39,000 men had been withdrawn.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.

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