CHAPTER 5 — To the Defence of Greece
To the Defence of Greece
Meanwhile, in Cyrenaica, preparations were going ahead for the capture of Tobruk and Benghazi, while at General Headquarters Middle East Forces plans were being prepared for a rapid advance to Tripoli. There was negligible Italian opposition and Germany had not yet advanced across the Mediterranean. In Tripoli the precarious position in which the Italian garrison was likely to find itself was causing consternation and alarm.
Suddenly, however, the strategic situation took on a totally different appearance. North Africa was to be spared a minimum of men and equipment, and the main Allied effort switched to Greece. Because of their lack of resources, the Allies were not in a position to commence any extensive operations in the Balkans and, therefore, would not be in a favourable position to exploit any successes based upon a firm lodgment in Greece. The Treaty of Alliance with Greece, however, was a compelling factor and when the Greeks accepted the offer of British aid, albeit with some hesitation and trepidation as to the storm that acceptance might bring about their own ears, the die was cast and Lustre Force was born.
Lustre Force was the designation derived from the code-name by which the preliminary negotiations between the British and Greek Governments were known, and under which 1 British Armoured Brigade and the New Zealand Division moved to Greece as the advanced guard of an Imperial force. Major-General Freyberg was informed on 17 February that his Division had been given this task. The New Zealanders were to disembark at Piraeus or Volos and move by road and rail to take up a line along the mountains in Macedonia.
General Freyberg and his staff embarked at Alexandria on 6 March in HM Ships York and Bonaventure and arrived in Athens at midday the following day. Shortly before his departure for Greece the GOC published a special order in which page 79 he made some brief but incisive observations on the forthcoming operations. This order, which was not communicated to the troops until after they had sailed from Alexandria, said:
SPECIAL ORDER UPON SAILING FOR GREECE
Before leaving Egypt for the battlefront I had planned to say a last word to you. I find that events have moved quickly and I am prevented from doing so. I therefore send this message to you in a sealed envelope to be opened on the transport after you have started on your journey.
In the course of the next few days we may be fighting in defence of Greece, the birthplace of culture and of learning. We shall be meeting our real enemy, the Germans, who have set out with the avowed object of smashing the British Empire. It is clear, therefore, that wherever we fight we shall be fighting not only for Greece but also in defence of our own homes.
A word to you about your enemy. The German fighter is a brave fighter so do not underestimate the difficulties that face us. On the other hand, remember that this time he is fighting with difficult communications in country where he cannot use his strong armoured forces to their full advantage. Further, you should remember that your fathers of the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force defeated the Germans during the last war wherever they met them. I am certain that in this campaign in Greece the Germans will be meeting men who are fitter, stronger and better trained than they are. I have never seen troops that have impressed me more. You can shoot and you can march long distances without fatigue. By your resolute shooting and sniping and by fierce patrolling by night you can tame any enemy you may encounter.
A further word to you, many of whom I realize will be facing the ordeal of battle for the first time. Do not be caught unprepared. In war, conditions will always be difficult, especially in the encounter battle; time will be against you, there will always be noise and confusion, orders may arrive late, nerves will be strained and you will be attacked from the air. All these factors and others must be expected on the field of battle. But you have been trained physically to endure long marches and fatigue and you must steel yourselves to overcome the ordeal of the modern battlefield.
One last word. You will be fighting in a foreign land and the eyes of many nations will be upon you. The honour of the New Zealand Division is in your keeping. It could not be in better hands.page 80
On 3 March J Section moved with Headquarters 4 Infantry Brigade to Amiriya, and on the same day Headquarters Divisional Signals received orders to move to Amiriya on the 5th. Most arrangements for the projected move were complete, but attention to last-minute preparations and detailed inspections of all section personnel, transport, and equipment occupied what might have been a lull in the frenzied pace of the last few weeks.
Some of the incidents that occurred during Lieutenant-Colonel Allen's inspection of the transport on the day before the move provided some light relief for the men, but on most of these occasions the Colonel was not amused. During his inspection of an A Section wireless truck manned by Signalmen Tweeddale1 and Bradley2 he found a camp stretcher stowed away in an inconspicuous cranny under the canopy. In the Colonel's eyes, that camp stretcher hidden away for the surreptitious comfort of an other rank was a shocking sight, and, if not evidence of downright indiscipline, at least it could be a hint of incipient insubordination. He demanded of Tweeddale what the thing was. Tweeddale, a quiet-mannered soldier who habitually wore a lazy, good-natured smile and a permanent expression of surprise caused by his sandy and almost invisible eyebrows, stammered for a few seconds in speechless confusion. Finally he burst out: ‘It's a camp bed, sir.’ At this remarkable disclosure the Colonel, still stamping about furiously and delivering heavily caustic remarks, roared: ‘Get rid of it!’
On 4 March a reinforcement party consisting of Lieutenant Wilkinson, Second-Lieutenant Hill,3 and twenty-two other ranks marched in from Composite Training Depot. Hill had just passed out from Middle East Officer Cadet Training Unit. He and Wilkinson and a number of the new arrivals were posted as first reinforcements to accompany the unit to Greece.
Signals moved on the morning of the 5th and, after a night's page 81 bivouac near Halfway House on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road, arrived and settled in at Amiriya on the evening of the 6th. E Section, with 4 Field Regiment, and L Section, with Headquarters 6 Infantry Brigade, arrived at Amiriya the same day.
While Signals was at Amiriya awaiting embarkation there was very little for the troops to do as all equipment was stored away in the vehicles. There was some route-marching and, to vary the monotony, most men attended lectures on the Bren light machine gun and Thompson machine carbine, both of which at that time were more or less novelties to Signals.
One evening Lieutenant-Colonel Allen arranged an informal sing-song for the men, assembled on a small sand dune. The moonlight lent enchantment to the scene by dispelling the grey drabness which the dreary wastes of Amiriya displayed to such disadvantage in daylight. The Colonel's pleasant personality emerged at this type of informal gathering. He was a great hand at parties and always enjoyed himself with the spontaneous enthusiasm of a schoolboy. One or two of the men who were accustomed to singing at gatherings of this kind were quickly persuaded to lead the show off. Another man had a guitar. Later the Colonel announced that he and his batman, Signalman Charlie Clark,4 would sing a duet. After some demurring on Charlie's part, he and the Colonel had a whispered conference and the latter announced that they would sing ‘I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby.’ The men roared with delight. It was a song with which most of them were familiar. Many a time in Maadi Camp its strains had floated unmelodiously across to the men's lines as the Colonel greeted the morning during his ablutions.
Although there was little for the men to do during the wait at Amiriya, owing to the virtual immobility of transport which was rapidly being prepared for shipment, the tide of expectaion ran high and all ranks lived from rumour to rumour with a zest which on less exciting occasions might have been put to more profitable use. There was no telling what new speculation might arise from day to day. Among the men the possible page 82 destination of Tripoli, where (it was said) the Division was to make a landing behind the enemy's lines, became overnight a probability which was earnestly debated for two days—a long time for even the most robust of rumours in early 1941. Suddenly, however, the troops' imagination veered sharply to Greece which, according to the ‘best authorities’, the Germans had already invaded.
The next phase, in which rumour was completely forgotten for the time being, consisted of the laying-out of kits in readiness for the expected move to the docks. On two successive days the men were instructed to assemble their ‘marching order’ kits, and each time were told to return them to their tents as the move would not take place until the following day. ‘Everything is SABU’,5 complained the men, among whom a few of the less complacent came to believe that these things were done specially to test their temperamental endurance.
In the meantime Signalmen W. T. Johnson6 and Jackson had discovered a decrepit 30-cwt truck abandoned in the unit's lines and, by stripping working parts from other wrecks on a nearby salvage dump, had contrived to make it run after a fashion. Old Boanerges—the name given it by the Colonel because of the dreadful noise it made as it lurched drunkenly about the lines on various errands—was a useful acquisition. No task, however menial, was spurned by Boanerges and its proprietors. No one quite knew where the petrol came from, and the Colonel was curiously oblivious to the proprieties—or the lack of them—which permitted an unauthorised vehicle to roam at will within his unit lines. Doubtless his reflections in the matter were tempered by the knowledge that Boanerges could not accompany the unit, which would hand the relic over to the ‘proper authority’ when it embarked.page 83
On the same day a skeleton Divisional Headquarters had been opened alongside Lustre (or W) Force Headquarters in the Acropole Hotel in Athens in readiness for the arrival of the New Zealand troops. The 18th Battalion was already in Greece and moving northwards towards the area north of Katerini, where the Division was to take up its first positions. Divisional Signals' transport moved out from Amiriya to the docks on 11 March in preparation for shipment, and E and H Sections' transport moved to the docks the same day. Divisional Signals' vehicles were in the charge of Captain Smith, who was senior officer on the ship which took them to Greece. This ship, the Bratdal, was a Norwegian vessel and carried the transport of a number of other units. The drivers, who had to sleep with their vehicles in the hold, had an uncomfortable trip, and some were seasick when the ship encountered a heavy swell one day out from Alexandria. Piraeus was reached late in the evening of the 17th. The vehicles were unloaded next morning and moved to Hymettus Camp, on the pine-clad slopes above Athens.
Just before midday on 20 March the main body of Divisional Signals arrived at Piraeus, where the men were disembarked immediately and taken in British transport to Hymettus. A more complete and delightful change of scene could not be imagined. Three days ago they had huddled in their tents at Amiriya to escape the stinging fury of a raging sandstorm which had filled their eyes, ears and noses with fine dust and their souls with blasphemy. Here the fragrance of the pines caressed their nostrils and breathed reminders of New Zealand's green-clad hills and river valleys. Below them, Athens, the birthplace of beauty and culture, nestled beneath the ageless crags of the Acropolis. It was not long before groups of soldiers were hurrying down the steep tracks of Mount Hymettus to see for themselves some of the beauty which, they had noticed, still graced the streets of the city. From the inner fastnesses of the pine groves the untuneful voice of a hidden soldier smote stridently on the evening air, a blithe spirit freed for a few short weeks from the tyranny of Egypt's sands, raising his voice in song.page 84
‘Twas as fine a war as I recall—Parley Vous!
‘Twas as fine a war as I recall—Parley Vous!
‘Twas as fine a war as I recall
Still it was better than none at all
Inkey Pinkey Parley Vous!
On 15 March an advance party of L Section sailed from Alexandria with Headquarters 6 Infantry Brigade and arrived at Piraeus four days later. L Section's rear party disembarked at Piraeus on the 22nd after having been attacked at sea by enemy aircraft. There were no casualties in the section. E and C Sections both embarked on the 18th and arrived at Piraeus on the 21st without incident. By the 18th G and H Sections were at Amiriya awaiting embarkation, but F and K Sections had not yet left Helwan.
Signals' stay at Hymettus was very brief. Hardly had the men settled down in their new and pleasant surroundings when orders were received for a move. The main party left by road on 23 March and bivouacked that night near Cape Knimis, opposite the north-western extremity of historic Euboea Island. On the next night a bivouac was made south of Larisa. The unit arrived in its new camp area at Kalokhori, a couple of miles west of the town of Katerini, on the afternoon of the 25th. Meanwhile, a rail party consisting of all the unit's motor-cyclists and their machines had arrived at Katerini, where they were billeted in a large building in the town until the arrival of the main body.
Advanced Headquarters New Zealand Division was established at Kalokhori on the 25th and a signal office was opened there that afternoon. A party of W Force Signals, from a Royal Signals line-of-communication unit at Larisa, had for some days been bringing a D Mark VIII cable from Larisa through the precipitous mountain pass south-west of Katerini, and their arrival at Kalokhori coincided with that of Advanced Headquarters. A party from B (cable) Section assisted this line detachment to carry the cable through to Headquarters 4 Brigade, which had been established in the small village of Palionellini, some seven miles to the north of Katerini, since 21 March.
J Section had already established communication with Headquarters W Force in Athens in accordance with orders issued page 85 by the Chief Signals Officer W Force immediately the section had arrived in Greece with Headquarters 4 Brigade on the 15th. These orders were that, as soon as the brigade arrived in the Katerini area, OC J Section was to run a cable to the Katerini post office and join it to a civil circuit to be provided by the postal authorities. Captain Borman found that the distance from Brigade Headquarters at Palionellini to Katerini would expend most of the ten miles of cable which his section carried, and would leave insufficient to take lines forward to the three battalions of the brigade. The problem was solved by taking the village telephonist's line to Katerini to connect the brigade exchange to the post office there. The local telephonist, bewildered and dismayed, found himself willynilly a subscriber on the brigade exchange. Unfortunately Nikolaus, the postmaster at Katerini, had no knowledge of any arrangement to provide a circuit to Larisa for military purposes, and some time elapsed before his official reluctance was overcome sufficiently to accept not only the requisitioning of his Palionellini line but the immediate need for surrendering one of his precious circuits to Larisa.
The next problem to be solved was that of security. All the traffic between Headquarters 4 Brigade and Headquarters Line of Communication at Larisa was being handled by civilian operators at the Katerini exchange, so Borman, in the interests of security, decided to install there two of his men, Signalmen Helm and Gaze,7 to handle military traffic. Poor Nikolaus was a little startled by this fresh impertinence, but by this time his resistance had melted considerably and his attitude suggested pathetically that it would probably pass unnoticed in the enormity of the irregularities which he had already condoned. With this encouragement, Borman then proceeded to install coils in his newly acquired circuits at the Katerini post office to provide a more secure means of communication to Larisa without the need for switching. By the time these arrangements had been successfully engineered, Divisional Signals had arrived at Kalokhori. The unit opened the circuit to Larisa and so provided itself with a line to Headquarters page 86 Line of Communication, and one to Headquarters 4 Brigade. Everyone was happy, except Nikolaus, while Borman wondered what would have been the reactions of a New Zealand post office engineer whose circuits and equipment had been flagrantly seized by a foreigner.
E Section arrived on 26 March and bivouacked with 4 Field Regiment in a dispersal area near Kato Melia, about seven miles from Katerini. On the following day L Section, with Headquarters 6 Infantry Brigade, arrived at Sfendhami, and C Section was in bivouac with Headquarters Divisional Cavalry at Gannokhora, a few miles north of Katerini. Until the establishment of Headquarters 6 Brigade at Sfendhami, where it was to take over a defensive position held by 19 Greek Motorised Division, the principal divisional communications lay between Advanced Headquarters New Zealand Division at Kalokhori and Headquarters 4 Brigade at Palionellini. So far line and despatch-rider services comprised the only means of communication, a rigid wireless silence having been imposed over the whole area. An improvised service was provided by the civil telephone system, the use of which demanded the most stringent security precautions because of enemy agents in the neighbourhood. A place-name code for use on civil telephone circuits was brought into use to conceal movements and locations of units as much as possible. Athens, for example, became Aldershot, and Katerini became Kent.
With all wireless unusable for obvious reasons of security, and with only one or two lines to 4 and 6 Brigades, the despatch riders at Divisional Headquarters had few idle moments. The country in which they had to manoeuvre their motor-cycles was vastly different from the open stretches of sand and gravel desert on which they had trained in Egypt. It was most unusual for a despatch rider to complete a run without having to ford at least two streams, and it was not long before the first casualty occurred. Signalman Marriott8 fractured a knee cap on 29 March.
Road conditions in Greece were very bad. There were few main roads, and most of these passed through mountainous page 87 country. There were often sheer drops on the outside of hairpin bends and deep ditches on the inside, leaving only the crown on which it was safe to ride. The surface of most roads was generally poor, especially away from the main towns, and the verges were often built up of soft, lightly rammed earth. Even main roads varied in width from as little as ten feet to as much as thirty, and approaches to culverts and bridges usually narrowed dangerously. In the area around Katerini, where despatch riders did most of their riding, the roads were often merely clay tracks which followed the easier contours of the rolling country between Divisional Headquarters at Kalokhori and 4 Brigade at Palionellini, and 6 Brigade at Sfendhami, farther away to the north-east.
In the area forward of Palionellini, where slopes densely wooded with slender oak saplings rose to a sharp ridge across 4 Brigade's front, J Section was intent on running down enemy agents suspected of tampering with the lines to 18, 19 and 20 Battalions. A number of interruptions to line communications had led to the discovery of several breaks plainly made by pounding the wire between two heavy stones. On two occasions the stones were found beside the break with the stains of bruised cable insulation still adhering to their surfaces. The Field Security Section was entrusted with the task of laying the saboteurs by the heels. With tremendous zest it organised a system of line patrols, and in two days brought the culprit to book, although not altogether in the way expected. The exchange operator reported that 19 Battalion's line was ‘out’, and in a short time away went two field security men, one with a D Mark V telephone slung over his shoulder, followed by the other, who nursed in his right hand an enormous pistol which looked like a young 18-pounder without wheels—a Webley. 455 service revolver. In due course a report came back from the man with the telephone. The break and its cause had been found. The culprit was a Greek shepherd who had cut out a section of cable from the line and used it to tether a bell-wether to keep the rest of his flock from straying while he slept in the sun.
By 27 March the Division, less 5 Brigade, was deployed in its positions to the north of Katerini. The general defence line, page 88 of which the coastal sector was held by 19 Greek Motorised Division, extended from Skala Elevtherokhorion, on the coast near the head of the Gulf of Salonika, through Paliostani, in 6 Brigade's area, through Mikri Milia and Radhani, where 4 Brigade lay in prepared positions, to Elafina, where the sector held by 12 Greek Division on the left nominally commenced. From there the Aliakmon line, which was the name by which the system was known, passed through Polidhendri and then north-west towards the Yugoslav frontier. Sixth Brigade was preparing to take over the coastal sector on the right from 19 Greek Motorised Division, which was to move to the north-east, where it was urgently required to reinforce the Greek garrisons in eastern Macedonia.
The New Zealand Division's front from Radhani to Paliostani consisted of 16,000 yards of rough spurs and re-entrants, on which the laying of line communications presented tremendous difficulties. By 30 March there were two good line circuits between Divisional Headquarters and 4 Brigade, and both had been strengthened and secured throughout their length. In addition there was the civil-line route between Katerini and Palionellini, but this circuit was not expected to survive long under air and artillery bombardment.
The country between Divisional Headquarters and Headquarters 6 Brigade, at Sfendhami to the north-east, was unsuitable for building a good field-cable route in the limited time available, so a line was started immediately from 4 Brigade to 6 Brigade and made as secure as possible. The country through which it passed was still very steep and difficult, but the length of circuit was reduced to less than half. Later, when this cable had been made reasonably secure, the long field-cable route from Kalokhori to Sfendhami was commenced. The coastal sector on the right held by 19 Greek Motorised Division, however, was open country, and as it was expected to be taken over by 6 Brigade, the difficulties of carrying lines forward would be eased considerably.
On 30 March E Section opened a signal office at Headquarters 4 Field Regiment, at Sfendhami. The regiment's role was to cover the divisional front until the arrival of 5 and 6 Field Regiments. Lines were immediately laid out to batteries page 89 and communications established. The country was extremely difficult and E Section's linemen had to take all cable out by hand.
At this time only two units of 5 Brigade had arrived in the Katerini area—23 Battalion and 28 (Maori) Battalion, both of which were quartered in Katerini Park. Two days later Brigade Headquarters and 5 Field Regiment arrived by rail and road in the divisional area, and the former was established at Kalokhori. Next day, however, the brigade moved into its battle positions on the pass road 12 miles from Katerini, where F and K Sections commenced immediately to lay out regimental and brigade communications.
Meanwhile G and H Sections had embarked at Alexandria, G with 6 Field Regiment on SS Cameronia on 25 March, and H with 7 Anti-Tank Regiment on SS Corinthia the following day. On their arrival in Greece both sections went to Kifisia, from which G Section moved with 6 Field Regiment on the 29th to join the Division at Katerini. H Section followed on the 31st. On its arrival in the forward area 6 Field Regiment took up positions near Palionellini in support of 4 Brigade, and within a short time G Section had laid out cable and established communication with batteries.
On the arrival of 7 Anti-Tank Regiment in the divisional area, H Section immediately established a signal office, but the regiment moved the same day to Ay Ioannis, five miles north of Katerini. H Section again set up its signal office, and communication with Divisional Headquarters was established. The regiment remained at Ay Ioannis until 10 April, when it moved back into the pass area in the vicinity of Ay Dhimitrios. In the meantime, however, the three batteries of the regiment had been dispersed to brigades, and with each went an H Section wireless detachment.
In the days that followed these wireless detachments were to have a particularly trying time endeavouring to maintain communication with the regimental headquarters at Ay Dhimitrios. None of H Section's sets was provided with high-power units, and the abnormally long ranges over which the low-power No. 11 sets attempted communication during the April battles for the northern passes considerably exceeded the equipment's rated performance. In an anti-tank regiment wireless page 90 was the only means of communication; the half mile of D Mark III cable which the signal section carried on its war equipment scale was provided for the installation of short internal lines at regimental headquarters.
In April 1941 the strategic situation in the Balkans was not promising for the Allies. In the north-west the Greek Army was waging a heroic fight against the Italians in Albania. Conditions on that front were appalling. The Greeks were dreadfully handicapped by lack of equipment, but were making a magnificent effort and achieving great successes. These advantages on the Albanian front, however, were overshadowed by the darkening outlook in the east, where Thrace stretched narrowly between the sea and the ever-increasing threat of attack from the north, where German infiltration was already complete in Bulgaria. The signs of preparation for a rapid German thrust into Thrace and eastern Macedonia were unmistakable. Although the Greek Army had sustained enormous losses in the long winter campaign in the north-west, its morale remained high. The Greek garrisons at the Rupel Pass, in eastern Macedonia, and at other places in Thrace, were also in good heart, and when the storm broke they gave a good account of themselves. German gains there were not won cheaply.
The Allied forces mustered to aid the Greeks in northern Greece were woefully thin on the ground; nor were they equipped with modern implements of war, the most disquieting shortages being in tanks, aircraft, and anti-aircraft guns. The weather and the reports of Intelligence on the stage to which German preparations in Bulgaria had progressed brought the probable trend of events in April into closer perspective. There was a tremendous amount of defensive preparation still to be achieved, and so little time in which it might be done. The limitations imposed on the supply of men and war material by the dangerously vulnerable lines of communication passing close to enemy bases in the Dodecanese Islands were intensified by insufficient shipping and the limited capacity of Greek ports, of which Salonika, the principal and certainly the most useful, was now eliminated because of its accessibility to the expected page 91 German drive from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. In no circumstances was Salonika considered to be a secure base into which to bring men and equipment.
By the end of the first week of April the New Zealand Division's line extended from Skala Elevtherokhorion on the coast to Elafina, a front of 28,000 yards. To the south, covering the passes east of Mount Olympus, was 5 Brigade. Forward of 4 and 6 Brigades' defensive positions north of Katerini, the Divisional Cavalry maintained a covering position by active patrolling just south of where the Aliakmon River took a wide, semi-circular sweep to the north. Strict limitations on the use of wireless were still in force, so that all communications continued to be provided by line circuits and despatch riders.
On 2 April Divisional Signals went forward to Ay Ioannis, where Advanced Headquarters New Zealand Division had opened and set up a forward signal office. The original office at Kalokhori became Rear Signals. This signal office was closed when Rear Headquarters joined Advanced Headquarters four days later, but the majority of Rear Signals remained at Kalokhori owing to the lack of suitable space for dispersion at Ay Ioannis, and also because of the usefulness of the buildings occupied by M (technical maintenance) Section and 14 LAD at Kalokhori.
By this time about 65 miles of ground cable were laid between Advanced Divisional Headquarters and 4 and 6 Brigades. Numerous interruptions to these circuits were caused by the heavy volume of tracked and wheeled traffic which passed along the narrow and tortuous roads beside which the lines lay in several places. Owing to the ease with which these lines could be tapped by enemy agents, they were regarded as non-secret from the security point of view. Accordingly, a system of unit and place-name codes similar to that introduced at the time the Division first arrived in the area was employed in all telephone conversations. There were also special codes for appointments, guns, ammunition and vehicles. The telegraph components of the line circuits in most cases were superposed channels provided through coils in the universal call ten-line switchboards at terminals, and were operated by Fullerphones Mark IV, thus enabling a considerable amount of traffic to be page 92 transmitted in Morse in clear. The strictly enforced wireless silence was broken for brief and infrequent test calls between the control station at Advanced Divisional Headquarters and the terminals at brigades.
Germany declared war on Greece and Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941. German troops attacked the Greek line in eastern Macedonia, but the fortifications withstood the initial assaults and the enemy sustained serious losses and was obliged to slacken his frontal attacks. Unfortunately, however, owing to the political seesawing which had engrossed Yugoslavia in the tense period just before Germany's declaration of war, the Yugoslav forces were in a state of almost complete unpreparedness and in no shape to withstand the German attacks which engulfed them in the first day's fighting. The Germans very soon swept down into Greece east of the Axios River, and so outflanked the Greeks' eastern Macedonian defences. This penetration also constituted a serious threat to the strong defensive line running in a semi-circular pattern from Neon Elevtherokhorion, near the coast above Katerini, to the Yugslav frontier. This defensive system—the Aliakmon line—utilising as it did the precipitous mountain country of the Vermion and Olympus ranges, was a natural fortress barring the way to a German drive from Bulgaria through eastern Macedonia and the narrow way between Salonika and the Yugoslav frontier. Along this line the road passed through Edhessa and Veroia, the only points of entry by which the enemy armour could move onto the Aliakmon defences, of which the right flank covered the road pass skirting the northern slopes of Mount Olympus from Katerini to the northern threshold of the plain of Thessaly.
Meanwhile renewed German attacks had overwhelmed Greek resistance along the Bulgarian frontier, and by 9 April all of western Thrace and Salonika were in enemy hands. Farther west German penetration had opened the way for their armour to pass down the main highway from Yugoslavia to Florina and Kozani, threatening the Aliakmon line from the rear. Immediate adjustments were made to the Allied positions. The Aliakmon line was abandoned and temporary positions occupied while an effort was made to regroup all Greek page 93 and British forces on new permanent defensive positions. Fourth New Zealand Brigade was sent to Servia to hold the pass there and to act as a pivot for the move from the temporary to the permanent positions. The left flank of the Aliakmon line was withdrawn from the Yugoslav border to link up with the hastily formed force south of Florina, while 6 Brigade was withdrawn behind 5 Brigade's positions on the Olympus Pass for use there or elsewhere as circumstances demanded. Only Divisional Cavalry remained in the New Zealand Division's sector of the Aliakmon line, patrolling and preparing to offer sufficient resistance to allow the temporary positions time to settle down. First Australian Corps, redesignated Anzac Corps on 12 April, now commanded all British troops on the new temporary line, the Olympus-Aliakmon River line, which ran from the coast at Platamon through the Olympus and Servia passes, along the Vermion range, and astride the pass at Vevi to the south of Florina.
The afternoon of 9 April brought to an abrupt end the pleasant activities in which the men of Divisional Signals had spent their brief hours of leisure during the preceding fortnight. There had been much work to do, but most of the men had found a little time in which to move around the town of Katerini and the surrounding villages. They watched the Greek peasant folk going about their daily occasions, and spent many a pleasant half hour drawing water from village wells for the Greek women. They wandered through the narrow cobbled streets, inspecting the quaint dwellings and accepting shyly the wine and oat cakes which the peasant women brought forth from their cottages for the ‘English’. Here and there in the cobbled lanes groups of soldiers and children stood deep in study of the English-Greek phrase books which the men had eagerly sought on their arrival in Athens.
There were many incidents which brought home to the New Zealanders the quality of the Greeks' war effort. There was no highly organised publicity machine to tell these people of their country's prodigious efforts against the invader, but they were content that this was so because few of them were even dimly aware that the noble art of self-glorification had become such an important ingredient of martial ardour. In 1941 that page 94 other great invader, ballyhoo, had not yet reached the shores of Greece. In the fields and in the towns and villages women and young boys were doing the work of men, while in the homes young girls had become the nation's ‘little housewives’. It was all a wonderful example of national fortitude and a source of sober reflection to many thoughtful New Zealanders who watched these women, ranging in age from sixteen to the middle forties, bent in toil over their roadmaking implements from dawn to dusk.
From 9 April pleasant excursions were lost in the hurry and tumble of preparations for sudden moves to take up new positions to meet the enemy threat approaching from the north. At 8 p.m. that day a Divisional Battle Headquarters was established at Sfendhami and connected to 6 Brigade's exchange. In the afternoon OC A Section, Captain Smith, had gone forward to Sfendhami to spy out suitable sites for wireless detachments and the signal office, and to find a house to serve as headquarters' office and quarters for the GOC and his staff. He was joined later in the day by two wireless detachments and a number of despatch riders, and in the evening by Lieutenant-Colonel Allen, who had moved up from Ay Ioannis with G staff. The next day, however, 6 Brigade was withdrawn from its positions in the Aliakmon line to divisional reserve at Dholikhi. Battle Headquarters closed at Sfendhami and withdrew to Dholikhi, where Advanced Divisional Headquarters had moved the night before from Ay Ioannis.
Shortly before midnight on the 9th Advanced Signals moved back with Advanced Divisional Headquarters over the pass road to Dholikhi. Rear Signals joined the convoy on the road at Kalokhori. It was atrocious weather for a night move in which the darkened convoy had to negotiate the tricky hairpin bends and slippery road surfaces up to Ay Dhimitrios near the summit of the pass and then down to Dholikhi.
Immediately on arrival at the new area Signals set up Advanced and Rear Signals camps about half a mile apart. Only one signal office, that at Advanced Divisional Headquarters, was established, and from there a network of lines soon spread out to the Division's battle positions where 5 Brigade was firmly ensconced across the northern end of the pass, page 95 where the road began to reach steeply towards the summit at Ay Dhimitrios, the ‘Christmas Card’ village of grey slate roofs, cobbles, and storks. The brigade's position faced east, with 23 Battalion on the right of the road at Yabadi, on the north-western slopes of Olympus, 22 Battalion in the centre astride the road, and 28 (Maori) Battalion on the left in the Mavroneri valley. K Section had run out cable from Brigade Headquarters to 22 Battalion and established there a forward exchange or signal centre, from which lines extended to 23 and 28 Battalions and to 4 and 5 Field Regiments. This signal centre, manned by K Section men under Lance-Corporal Davis,9 continued to hold the brigade's forward communications in the sharp fighting that later raged in the pass. At each battalion headquarters there was a No. 11 wireless set detachment, but these sets had little use during the battle.
Meanwhile 6 Brigade had come into its reserve positions above Dholikhi and about two miles south of Ay Dhimitrios. From this position a civil permanent line ran westwards along a secondary road for about a mile and a half and continued around a steep mountain spur to the village of Livadhion, from which L Section took a field cable down the valley of the Smixi River northwards for about five miles to Headquarters 24 Battalion, in the rear of 28 (Maori) Battalion's positions in the Mavroneri valley. It was 24 Battalion's intention to run a line along the road, on which its foremost defended localities were sited, to the Maori Battalion. This arrangement would have given lateral communication between the two brigades, but was never completed because of the probability of 6 Brigade moving from its reserve positions within a few days to prepare for a new task.
Advanced Signals established a signal centre at the summit of the pass on 12 April to strengthen the communications forward to 5 Brigade. Meanwhile 4 Brigade Group had moved to 1 Australian Corps' command, first to corps reserve at Kato Filippaioi and then to a defensive position on the general line Kastania-Servia-Prosilion to prevent enemy penetration from the north and west. Actually, the brigade did not pause at page 96 Kato Filippaioi, but passed straight through to the Servia positions, so rapid were the changes in tactical deployment at that time. As the brigade had passed from the command of New Zealand Division, Advanced Signals had no communication with it except by line through Headquarters 1 Australian Corps at Yerania, in the low-lying country near the main highway running north from Elasson, through the road junction at Elevtherokhorion to Servia.
An extensive system of permanent civil lines radiating out from Advanced Divisional Headquarters served as alternative means of communication to the cable circuits. Two of these poled lines went to Katerini and Neon Elevtherokhorion, and from the latter place another permanent circuit ran on to the village of Kolindros, from which C Section had put out cable to Headquarters Divisional Cavalry at Kitros, above Katerini. From Katerini another civil route ran south on the railway along the coastal plain to the east of Olympus and then on to Larisa.
On 12 April a direction went out from Advanced Divisional Headquarters to 5 Brigade, Divisional Cavalry, and Headquarters New Zealand Engineers that all civil-line installations forward of the Division's battle positions were to be destroyed. The demolition of aerial circuits was to be the primary task. Later, if time and circumstances permitted, poles were to be felled or damaged so as to deny the use of the circuits to the enemy. On the morning of 13 April Lance-Sergeant Pierce,10 Lance-Corporal Hanrahan,11 and Signalmen McIvor12 and Pemberton,13 under orders from Advanced Signals, reported to Headquarters 5 Brigade in the pass, where they were given detailed instructions for destroying the poled lines forward to Katerini, Palionellini and Sfendhami, and from Katerini for a distance along the railway towards 21 Battalion's positions at Platamon.
Pierce, McIvor and Pemberton, in their 15-cwt cable truck page 97 and accompanied by a Bren carrier from 5 Brigade, worked along the road towards Katerini, destroying the lines as they went. Hanrahan, with Sergeant Jay,14 a sapper from 5 Brigade, worked along a secondary civil circuit to Katerini and joined up with Pierce and his party there. At Katerini they created havoc and destruction by hooking the carrier to the overhead circuits at junction poles and wrenching them to the ground. Hanrahan was then sent off to destroy the line running south along the railway. For a distance of about six miles towards Headquarters 5 Brigade Pierce and Jay set charges at the feet of selected poles and brought them down.
While Jay was still busy on this exhilarating task, Pierce, McIvor and Pemberton pushed on towards Palionellini, wrecking the lines as they went. Two days later they arrived at Headquarters Divisional Cavalry, near Kitros, after destroying circuits at Sfendhami, Aliki, Stavros, and Koukos.
At Kitros, in circumstances best known to themselves, they encountered some good cheer in the shape of three bottles of champagne and a quantity of fresh eggs, which fortified them sufficiently to send them back hot-foot to Stavros to see if by some mischance any portion of the civil lines there had escaped destruction. During their depredations at Stavros a despatch rider sent from Divisional Cavalry came to tell them to clear out quickly as enemy armour had penetrated to within a mile of the village. They moved back to Katerini and spent some time there with Captain Pryor and Second-Lieutenant Stevenson, who were busy smashing the telegraph and exchange installations at the post office. That night they bivouacked near Kalokhori with some Maoris from a carrier platoon of 5 Brigade. Next morning they picked up Sergeant Jay again and some sappers who had been sent down from 5 Brigade to mine culverts and bridges in the approaches to the pass.
Near Neokaisaria the party halted while Jay and his sappers prepared to blow the bridge. Jay told Pierce to wait five minutes for him but no longer. After the five minutes had elapsed there was still no sound of Jay's demolition, but German armour and infantry were clearly visible pushing up the road from the direction of Kalokhori. The last of the Divisional page 98 Cavalry was then passing through to withdraw behind 5 Brigade's positions farther up the pass, and one of its officers instructed Pierce to move back. They did not see Jay and his sappers again.
Fighting commenced early on 15 April, when advanced elements of the enemy penetrated right up the pass and attacked 22 Battalion's positions astride the road. A few hours later 28 (Maori) Battalion on the left and 23 Battalion on the right were in contact with enemy armoured fighting vehicles and infantry. The 5th Field Regiment was putting down a steady, accurate fire on the German concentrations. Enemy transport continued to move up during the night, and next morning (16 April) dawn revealed a large force deploying for an attack along the road and across the flat country at the entrance to the pass. The guns of 5 Field Regiment opened a fierce bombardment, which continued throughout the day as the fighting intensified. During the afternoon a light drizzle and mist enabled the enemy to achieve some penetrations of 23 and 28 Battalions' positions on both sides of the road, but by evening the area had been cleared by fierce bayonet fighting and small-arms fire. Throughout the heavy fighting on the road, where 22 Battalion beat off a number of determined attacks, Lance-Corporal Davis, with his two exchange operators and two linemen, continued to man the forward exchange near Headquarters 22 Battalion, in a gully about fifty yards off the road. This small party laid the ground cable to both 23 and 28 Battalions by hand, and made it as secure as possible from damage by shellfire and bombing. Fortunately there were few interruptions to the circuits, probably because of the limited wheeled and tracked vehicle movement in the area where the lines were laid. From the forward exchange two lines ran back two and a half miles to Brigade Headquarters, where the remainder of K Section's linemen kept them in operation throughout the battle.
By this time fighting had broken out at Platamon tunnel, where German armour and infantry were attempting to force a passage through the narrow gap between Olympus and the sea. On 9 April an A Section wireless detachment, consisting page 99 of Signalmen Laurie15 and Leary16 and equipped with a No. 11 wireless set and a spare set of batteries, had been sent to Platamon by train from Katerini to provide communication between 21 Battalion and Advanced Headquarters New Zealand Division. With them went Signalman ‘Bully’ Hayes,17 equipped with a wireless set No. 9 remote control unit, with which he was to attempt to establish communication with Advanced Divisional Headquarters by ringing on the permanent line running along the railway at Platamon.18 The small party made an inauspicious start to its journey. After the men had settled themselves and their gear in the train they sat down to await its departure. When nothing had happened after a longish spell, Laurie made some investigations, only to find to his consternation that the carriage in which they had installed themselves had not been coupled to the rest of the train, which had moved off without it. The party left in the next day's train.
A reconnaissance for a possible road route to the Platamon tunnel had previously been made by Captain Pryor, but he had been unable to find a vehicle approach to 21 Battalion's positions. Although the tracks in this area—there were no formed roads—were fit only for horse-drawn vehicles, it was possible with care to take an 8-cwt truck over the route from Katerini down the coast to the Pinios Gorge beyond Platamon. From Katerini to the tunnel the track followed the flat coastal strip, there being no large natural obstacles until the Platamon ridge itself was reached. In wet weather, however, the muddy surface of the track was quite impassable to wheeled traffic. Even in dry weather it was impossible to take a vehicle on the seaward side of the Platamon tunnel, but some little distance to the west a low saddle offered difficult but negotiable access to the Pinios Gorge, from which a road traversed undulating page 100 country down to Larisa. Thus the Platamon railway tunnel provided a difficult obstacle to any attempt by enemy columns to reach the vitally important communications centre of Larisa and so outflank the Olympus defences from the east.
After two days had passed without communication of any sort being established with 21 Battalion at Platamon, Second-Lieutenant Foubister, now temporarily in command of A Section, was instructed by OC No. 1 Company to attempt to reach Platamon tunnel with a wavemeter and ascertain why nothing had been heard from the wireless detachment there. He set out, accompanied by his driver, Signalman Silvester,19 and managed to get his 8-cwt truck to within a quarter of a mile of 21 Battalion's headquarters. He found Laurie and Leary installed there with their set, but the CO 21 Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel Macky20) had interpreted literally the order concerning wireless silence and had not permitted the detachment to maintain even a listening watch on the divisional forward control wireless set. When Foubister had convinced Macky that contact had already been made with the enemy on the Aliakmon and that wireless silence could therefore be broken, communication was soon established with Advanced Headquarters New Zealand Division.
Foubister decided that before he began his return journey he should try to raise Line of Communication Signals at Larisa on the poled-line civil circuit which ran alongside the railway, and so get through to Advanced Divisional Headquarters. He took ‘Bully’ Hayes' remote-control unit and rang vigorously on the line. For some time he listened to a medley of answers from Greek voices, but there was no response from L of C Signals. Suddenly an English voice came on the line. It was Signalman Norwood,21 a D Section despatch rider, speaking from the Katerini post office, which he reported was deserted. He said that he had found a cipher message lying on the counter there; it was from Cairo and was addressed to New Zealand Division. Foubister took it down over the tele- page 101 phone and then instructed Norwood to deliver the original as quickly as possible to Advanced Divisional Headquarters.
At 6.30 p.m. on 14 April advanced elements of the enemy were first sighted at Platamon. Small armoured fighting vehicles and troops mounted on motor-cycles advanced right up to 21 Battalion's positions, but were turned back by artillery fire. The tunnel and road demolitions were blown immediately.
At dawn the guns on both sides commenced a duel which lasted all day. A number of tank and infantry attacks were beaten off, but early on the morning of the 16th the enemy mounted a full-scale attack with infantry and armour along the whole front. At nine o'clock messages began to come in to Advanced Divisional Headquarters from 21 Battalion, curiously enough by telephone from Headquarters 5 Brigade, which had no direct means of communication with Platamon. The first of these messages described 21 Battalion's ammunition position as serious; twenty minutes later a second reported that the battalion's left was threatened and in a precarious position where a full battalion of enemy infantry had engaged and surrounded one of its companies. Subsequent messages continued to describe the battalion's difficult situation until at 10.15 a.m. one stated: ‘Inf attack left flank. Situation serious. Am standing by WT set for your reply.’ Then, almost immediately, came another: ‘WT station 21 Bn closing down. Getting out.’
That afternoon 21 Battalion, which since the previous day had been under direct command of Anzac Corps, withdrew from the Platamon positions to the vicinity of Tempe village in the Pinios Gorge. Despite the fighting on the 15th and the morning of the 16th, it disengaged with only slight casualties and was able to withdraw to Tempe in good order. With it went Laurie, Leary and Hayes, but the No. 11 set and its batteries and accessories were destroyed because of the absence of transport to carry them and the haste of the withdrawal.
The unusual routing by which 21 Battalion's wireless messages reached Advanced Divisional Headquarters by telephone on the 16th needs some explanation. There were two faults. The first lay with the originator of the messages who addressed them to Headquarters 5 Brigade, although the battalion had page 102 been until the previous day under the direct command of New Zealand Division. None of the messages was ‘repeated’ to Headquarters New Zealand Division in the address space on the message form. They were transmitted by the only means of communication available, the wireless link to Advanced Divisional Headquarters, and from there routed by the signal office by Fullerphone to Headquarters 5 Brigade. The brigade staff, unaware of the means by which the messages had left 21 Battalion, promptly telephoned them to Advanced Divisional Headquarters' staff. The second fault occurred in the signal office at Advanced Divisional Headquarters, where the Signalmaster should have noted the contents of the messages as they passed from the wireless terminal to 5 Brigade's Fullerphone circuit and should have made a copy of them for immediate delivery to the G staff at Advanced Headquarters. In the event, little time was lost because of 5 Brigade's prompt telephoning of the messages to Division, and in due course the information reached Anzac Corps, which had left Yerania a few days previously and was then at Elasson en route to Larisa, where it arrived on the 17th.
Thus Foubister's visit to 21 Battalion at Platamon and his action in establishing wireless communication with Advanced Divisional Headquarters accomplished the transmission of vital information to Anzac Corps and enabled it to reinforce the Tempe positions to which 21 Battalion had withdrawn. Corps immediately sent 16 Australian Brigade from Larisa to the Pinios Gorge to hold the German advance, which otherwise would have reached Larisa and cut across the line of withdrawal of those formations still in the Olympus area to the north.
Laurie, Leary and Hayes were picked up on the 17th by Lieutenant-Colonel Allen, who unexpectedly turned up in an 8-cwt truck at 21 Battalion at Tempe. He listened to their story and then took them aboard his truck, and they made their way out along the Larisa road. They halted that evening a few miles from Tempe at Headquarters 16 Australian Brigade which, with 26 New Zealand Field Battery and C Squadron of Divisional Cavalry, was designated Allen Force (from the name of the brigade commander) for the Pinios Gorge task. page 103 It was here that Lieutenant-Colonel Allen received a message addressed to 21 Battalion, and sent Laurie and Leary back to Tempe to deliver it. After a long search at 21 Battalion, Laurie found the Adjutant and delivered the message. He then returned with Leary in the 8-cwt truck to Headquarters 16 Australian Brigade. They later joined up with a New Zealand convoy on the Larisa road and eventually reached Molos, where they rejoined A (wireless) Section at Headquarters New Zealand Division.
Meanwhile, on 9 April, 4 Brigade Group had moved under the command of 1 Australian Corps to a defensive position on the general line from Kastania through Servia to Prosilion, on the left near the Aliakmon. The country was very steep and mountainous. Kastania was 3000 feet above sea level and 2100 feet above the valley of the Aliakmon, which lay four miles to the north beyond Servia. J Section's linemen, under Signalman Sinton,22 carried a line through to 18 Battalion's positions near Kastania under almost impossible conditions. The route lay across a mile and a half of undulating country from Brigade Headquarters on the road to the small village of Lava, from which it rose steeply along muddy goat tracks and steep, slippery hillsides quite impassable to wheeled traffic. From Lava onwards the heavy drums, each holding one mile of cable, had to be manhandled up the slopes. By 8 p.m. on the 10th Sinton and his men had pushed to within a little over a mile from 18 Battalion's headquarters when their cable ran out. None of the men was in a fit state to return for more, so a lineman went forward and laid some of the battalion's cable back to join up with the brigade circuit.
The line to 19 Battalion on the left of the brigade position was considerably easier to put out, although it was necessary to build it back securely into the wooded slopes on the left of the road to give it some protection from shellfire and bombing.
About two miles to the rear of Brigade Headquarters 64 Battery of 7 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, with an additional troop of six-inch howitzers, was in position on a river page 104 flat north of the narrow slit in the mountain wall where the road wound tortuously through on the way south to Elasson. All J Section's cable had been used to take 18 and 19 Battalions' lines forward, and there was none available to provide a circuit to the medium guns or even to the regimental headquarters of 6 Field Regiment, which lay on the left of the main road about a mile to the rear of Brigade Headquarters. OC J Section paid a hurried visit to Headquarters 6 Australian Division, where he begged for five miles of D VIII cable. By this time G Section had brought a line into Brigade Headquarters from 6 Field Regiment. OC J Section rallied one or two of the least exhausted of his linemen and, with the aid of a small party of drivers and some battalion orderlies, loaded up a drum barrow and started the line over the difficult route along the wooded hillsides, down over the road to the rear of 6 Field Regiment, and across the river flat towards the medium guns.
By midnight on the 10th all lines were working except that to 6 Australian Division. This was a D VIII cable laid in a ditch alongside the road and it was seldom in working order, although an Australian line detachment stationed at a test point about half-way back along its length was nominally responsible for its maintenance. J Section linemen frequently raised this test point when they rang on the line in optimistic hopes of establishing communication with 6 Australian Division, but the linemen there seemed to be quite unconcerned whether the line worked or not. One morning George Sinton was patiently calling on the line when suddenly, for the unbelievable space of two minutes, he actually spoke to the operator at 6 Australian Division. Just as suddenly, however, the line went dead again. George slowly put the handset of the telephone down and remarked to Sergeant Snow,23 ‘Something went wrong there somehow. I got through to Aust Div.’
Very much the same sort of airy detachment which prevailed at the test point possessed the Australians manning the WT set No. 109, which was attached to Headquarters 4 Brigade to provide communication back to 6 Australian Division. This set never worked satisfactorily. On the morning of the 15th page 105 an enemy aircraft flew unmolested over the Brigade Headquarters' area for about two hours spotting for German artillery, which was putting down a continuous fire on the area. The Brigade Commander was worried about this spotter and decided to break wireless silence in order to send a message to the rear for aircraft to be sent up to chase the intruder away. OC J Section took the message to the Australian set, where he was informed by the corporal in charge of the detachment that the message could not be sent because the set ‘had water in it’. The Brigadier's comments were very terse.
The first concerted enemy action against the brigade's positions was launched on 13 April, when a large formation of dive-bombers attacked the forward positions and the area in the rear where Brigade Headquarters and battery positions were sited. Fierce bomber and fighter attacks were continued on the 14th, and persistent attempts made to crater the main road. By this time enemy artillery was putting down harassing fire all over the area, and lines began to suffer. The first leg of the line to 18 Battalion sustained constant and severe damage between Brigade Headquarters and Lava village, and a party of linemen was kept at work on it continuously. Finally, in order to lessen its vulnerability, a loop was laid and joined into the line at Lava.
A formation of about thirty dive-bombers, accompanied by hordes of fighters, delivered a heavy attack on Brigade Headquarters on 15 April. After the bombers had dropped their loads the fighters raced back and forth at a low level strafing the ground viciously at any sign of movement. As the last of the planes flew away, OC J Section carefully withdrew his head and shoulders from under George Sinton's boots in the shelter of a narrow crevice where he and George had hastily joined a small party of signalmen, and stood up to survey his losses. Down on the slope on the far side of the road one of his 15-cwt trucks burned furiously, and the cable truck was leaning drunkenly forward, a large bomb splinter having torn through its forepart. At the entrance to Brigade Headquarters' area four motor-cycles lay in shattered ruins among the bomb craters, while up on the hillside Signalman ‘Gaffer’ Garrett,24 page 106 who had been wounded in the right elbow, roared his head off in pain and anger. In the signal office, which was installed in a small RD tent beautifully camouflaged against the irregular patches of snow which still lay on the ground, Sergeant Snow counted heads and the number of bullet holes in a four-gallon tin of petrol from which jets spurted out all over the interior of the tent. In a corner of the tent a lineman had already resumed his patient efforts to raise someone on the 6 Australian Division line.
5 An abbreviation not readily translatable into formal English, denoting a chaotic state of disorganisation.
18 The telephone set D Mark V, the only type of telephone instrument that the unit was equipped with at this time, had no magneto generator and, therefore, could not be used on circuits terminated with switchboards fitted with drop-shutter type indicators. A wireless set No. 9 remote control unit which had a magneto generator was taken instead.