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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

A Paratroop Attack on Galatas is Repulsed

A Paratroop Attack on Galatas is Repulsed

The battle at Maleme on the 22nd attracted most of the attention of the Luftwaffe and the day started quietly at Galatas. Aircraft dropped supplies in the prison area in the morning and the captured 3.7-inch howitzer began to fire on 19 Battalion. Worries about the enemy cutting in between the Maleme and Galatas fronts caused Lieutenant Clark of the 4th Field, who had been commanding an RMT platoon, to set up an OP for F Troop, 5th Field, to gain observation along the coast road westwards. He was given two assistants and some telephone wire was brought up for him. The position he selected was some 200 yards north of the chapel which was the chief landmark on Red Hill. There he and his men dug a slit trench, installed the telephone, and by dawn on the 22nd were ready for business. No targets appeared, however, and all he could do was to report to 10 Brigade Headquarters that nothing was happening on his front.

The 5th Field on Wheat Hill, supported by two Vickers guns with inadequate sighting equipment and mountings, drew some fire from the direction of the prison; but that was all. Divisional Supply on Ruin Hill received rather more attention from the enemy, and Divisional Petrol just behind Pink Hill at long last received picks and shovels and got busily to work improving their positions.

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The afternoon was more eventful for two reasons: the Luftwaffe reappeared in great strength and attacked the whole area and the same danger which caused Clark to set up his OP was the reason for a policy of active patrolling westwards. Patrols from the 4th Field worked their way towards Ay Marina and the hamlet of Stalos. One of three RMT patrols clashed with an enemy party and brought back four prisoners. Two strong patrols from the 4th Field, under Captain Nolan and Lieutenant Dill, went into the hills west of Red Hill and stayed until dark, but met no enemy. A further patrol, Carson's, went as far as the reservoir, disposed of slight opposition, and duly returned.

As part of the same belated policy of aggression two companies of 19 Battalion attacked southwards in the afternoon, supported by F Troop and the infantry mortars. Requests for support from F Troop, however, were coming in at that time from several quarters and only one gun could be spared. This one gun, under Lance-Sergeant Williams,38 was dragged forward about 100 yards to the top of a ridge from which it could be fired over open sights. Captain Duigan went with it and the adjutant of the battalion indicated targets to him. Williams had fired only a few rounds, however, when the gun came under heavy mortar fire. The unseen enemy were evidently observing from close at hand and made it impossible to continue from this position or even to bring back the gun until after dark.

F Troop nevertheless had some success this afternoon. A mortar had been plaguing Divisional Supply from the south-west and Bevan from his OP on Wheat Hill engaged it and scored a direct hit. Bevan also conducted fire on mortars in the Prison Valley, silencing them from time to time. Bevan was an exceptionally good shot and even under these adverse conditions he produced effective fire.

Air attack on the southern approaches to Galatas reached a crescendo late in the afternoon in preparation for an attack by the paratroops from the prison area. Towards dusk they attacked on a wide front west of the road. Divisional Petrol Company met the brunt of this. Pink Hill, which had not been occupied since 20 May, again fell into enemy hands. But Divisional Cavalry fired heavily into the flank of the attack and Greeks counter-attacked with immense vigour—soldiers, civilians, even women. Some men of Divisional Petrol and Supply joined in. Once again Lieutenant MacLean's 4th Field patrol was page 139 called for and it advanced readily against Pink Hill from the road leading into Galatas. With MacLean were some Greeks and some of Divisional Petrol. A Divisional Cavalry detachment, also with Greeks, rushed the crest of Pink Hill. MacLean thrust down towards some cottages occupied by Germans and his men disposed of the few who remained to meet the charge. Then he turned round to clear Galatas of any enemy remaining. None in fact remained and the action, thus ended. The surviving paratroops retreated at top speed to the prison, leaving many of their comrades behind. They had still not been reinforced from the Maleme front and a quick follow-up of this success might have had highly beneficial results for the defence. But the only result, apart from the losses inflicted on the attackers, was that the defence of the southern approaches to Galatas was tightened up and Major Russell of the Divisional Cavalry was given command of the Divisional Petrol and a platoon of 19 Battalion.

Mortar bombing on Ruin Hill had become troublesome, two platoons of Divisional Supply were slightly withdrawn because of it, and after dark Dill's 4th Field platoon was sent there to reinforce the position. Late in the afternoon Captain Bliss was asked to send some gunners to reinforce the depleted gun crews of 27 Battery at Maleme. He chose a dozen men from those who volunteered and they were taken westwards by truck, reaching a point near C Troop late at night. It was too late, however, for them to take part in the Maleme battle. By then 5 Brigade was already withdrawing.

38 WO II E. A. Williams, MM; Auckland; born NZ 28 Jun 1913; timber worker; p.w. 1 Jun 1941.