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.

Amazon Ad