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To Greece

Situation at Last Light, 14 April

Situation at Last Light, 14 April

On the other sectors of the front there was more confidence. Emphasis was now being given to the fact that Australians and New Zealanders were once again fighting together. A suggestion that the two Dominions should provide a corps had already been made in March 1940, but there had been problems of administration and general policy which had made the authorities hesitate and eventually allow the proposal to lapse. On 6 April, when the different units in Greece had been united to form 1 Australian Corps, the romance of combined action in another April and in a country adjoining Gallipoli had caused General Freyberg to tell his Prime Minister, Mr Fraser: ‘We are now linked with the 6th Australian Division; thus the Anzac Corps is again in being.’2 He seems to have suggested that the official title should be changed from 1 Australian Corps to Anzac Corps, for the cable from Australia to New Zealand announcing the change stated that it was ‘at the request of the New Zealand Division and with Blamey's full agreement.’3

The announcement to the divisions had been made on 12 April by General Blamey:

As from 1800 hrs 12 April 1 Aust Corps will be designated ANZAC CORPS. In making this announcement the GOC ANZAC CORPS desires to say that the reunion of the Australian and New Zealand Divisions gives all ranks the greatest uplift. The task ahead though difficult is not nearly so desperate as that which our fathers faced in April twenty-six years ago. We go to it together with stout hearts and certainty of success.

page 223

The message with this information had been taken to Headquarters New Zealand Division by Captain Morrison1 of 25 Battalion, whose Bren carriers had been dispersed as part of an anti-parachute force about Corps Headquarters. His story is more natural than the text of the message. He had been asked by Brigadier Rowell to wait while the message was being prepared. The Brigadier had then said: ‘I'll let you know what is in it. It will save you opening it on the way home!’ He read it and General Blamey said: ‘There you are, sonny, you have only got to live till 6 o'clock to-night to be a—-Anzac.’

There had been, so far, relatively little fighting for the new Anzacs but every effort was being made to complete the defences before the storm broke. The New Zealand Divisional Cavalry Regiment, having withdrawn2 from the plain about Katerini, was by nightfall behind 5 and 6 Brigades. Sixteenth Australian Brigade3 had arrived in the mountains to the west; 4 New Zealand Brigade was established about Servia Pass; and 19 Australian Brigade4 was still farther to the west adjoining the right flank of the Greeks. No orders for the withdrawal to the Thermopylae line had been issued, but the assembly of rearguards through which these forward brigades would eventually be withdrawn was already under way. General Freyberg had been asked to ‘expedite the withdrawal of NZ Div Cav’ to positions covering the western approaches from Dheskati to Elasson. His 6 Brigade Group, which was moving to positions between 16 Australian Brigade and 5 Brigade, was that night recalled5 to form a rearguard covering the two roads between Elasson and Tirnavos.

2 Documents, Vol. II, p. 7.

3 Acting PM, Canberra, to acting PM, Wellington, 22 Apr 1941.

1 Maj R. Morrison; Lower Hutt; born Wellington, 10 Jul 1902; company representative.

2 See pp. 2357.

3 See p. 270.

4 See p. 238.

5 See pp. 2378.