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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II

The Attack on Leros

The Attack on Leros

At 6.30 a.m. on 12 November the long-awaited assault came. The British garrison amounted to nearly 4000, the Italians to about 6000. The enemy succeeded that day in establishing bridgeheads on the east coast, in the north, and in the centre of the island.

Leros falls geographically into three sectors, the centre sector being a narrow waist in which is Leros town. Parachute troops, were dropped on Rachi Ridge, in the waist between the northern and central sectors, on the first afternoon. Throughout the day bombing was severe, and our long-range fighters were unable appreciably to interrupt it as they suffered heavily under the attack of enemy short-range fighter cover. More parachute troops were dropped on Rachi during the night of 12–13 November, and the garrison was severed, with its main strength to the south. The following day the enemy reinforced his lodgements, but by night the defenders in the north counter-attacked and pushed them back towards the sea.

Early on the morning of Sunday, 14 November, a portion of the parachute troops from Rachi Ridge launched an attack to the south against our troops in the central sector of the island. This attack was resisted and beaten off and, profiting from the new situation and supported by an attack against Rachi Ridge by the troops in the northern sector, our troops counter-attacked towards the same objective. The enemy was driven from the high ground, enabling our communications to be re-established. The enemy in the area was now confined to the area south of Quaranta, at the head of Alinda Bay. On Monday our attack was renewed but, in the face of relentless and unceasing attack from the air, it was unsuccessful. That night reinforcements were landed by the enemy.