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To Greece

The Germans cross the Pinios River on the Australian front, 18 April

The Germans cross the Pinios River on the Australian front, 18 April

On the night of 17–18 April the German force assembling across the river—143 Mountain Regiment, less II Battalion, and supported by twelve 7·5-centimetre artillery guns from I/118 Mountain Artillery Regiment—had received its orders. The English ‘apparently 2 Companies strong’ and ‘without artillery’ seemed to ‘intend to resist’, so at 7 a.m. 1/143 Mountain Regiment would make a feint attack, mainly by fire, on the ‘Tempe-Parapotamos line’, the Australian right flank. Half an hour later III/143 Mountain Regiment would cross the river and encircle the Australian left flank, west of Parapotamos. And to complete the encirclement of Allen Force 2 Company1 of the regiment would, early that morning, cross the river still higher up, move west of the hills adjoining Makrikhori and attempt to cut the road to the north of Larisa.

At 9 a.m. I/143 Regiment made the first move—the feint attack into the river bend east of Parapotamos—which brought heavy fire from the Australian machine guns and mortars and several concen trations from the New Zealand artillery. Nevertheless, by 12.30 p.m. the Germans were assembling opposite Evangelismos and under fire from D Company 2/2 Battalion about Point 156.

To the west of Parapotamos a dawn patrol from III/143 Regiment had found a boat and crossed without any opposition. All through the morning the battalion progressed, advancing south-eastwards and forcing ‘the English (who were in the act of taking up positions immediately S.E. of Parapotamos) to withdraw.’2

As it happened, D Company 2/2 Battalion had watched the German files moving down from Gonnos but had not been able to observe their river-crossing. At 9 a.m., however, when grey-clad figures were seen moving out of the village, a patrol was sent to investigate, but outside the village it came under fire and withdrew. Bren carriers were then sent out to check the movement, but they too came under fire from German mortars and there were several casualties.

1 2 Company I/143 Mountain Regiment and the engineer platoon of 5 Company. See pp. 3403.

2 III/143 Mountain Regiment report on crossing of Pinios River, 18 April 1941.

page 330

The artillerymen were able, however, to give some supporting fire. The infantry officers over their line circuit sent back directions to the guns until Lieutenant Clark1 of 5 New Zealand Field Regiment arrived at Headquarters D Company. For the rest of the morning he directed the fire of D Troop2 upon any Germans moving about the flats south of Gonnos. Thereafter III/143 Mountain Regiment was content to complete its crossing and to develop an encircling movement round the left flank, where D Company 2/2 Battalion about Point 156 and C Company 2/3 Battalion to the south were attempting, with little or no equipment, to create a line.

The right flank, adjoining Tempe and the 21 Battalion sector, had seen less direct action. C Company 2/2 Battalion had observed and engaged at long range the many groups approaching the river. The 21 Battalion carriers (Lieutenant Dee3) to the south-east of the demolished railway bridge and the Australian carriers, to the left and closer to the river, had been worrying any Germans approaching the bank. Still farther to the left, A Company 2/2 Battalion had been harassing any parties moving from Gonnos towards the river bank, and the 3-inch mortar platoon by using exceptionally heavy charges was engaging the enemy at 2000 yards. The Germans in this sector were not, however, attempting to cross the river. They were making a feint attack to cover the more serious movement on their right flank. In this they were successful for about 11 a.m. Lieutenant-Colonel Chilton asked Lieutenant-Colonel Macky for the use of 21 Battalion Bren carriers to repulse the expected attack between A and B Companies 2/2 Battalion. It never developed, but because Macky had no means of communicating with his carriers they were, for the remainder of the action, under Australian command.

1 Capt J. S. Clark; Auckland; born Glasgow, 27 Aug 1917; bank clerk; p.w. 1 Jun 1941.

2 D Troop was also shelling targets for Captain Nolan, whose OP was above C Company 21 Battalion.

3 Capt K. G. Dee; born Onehunga, 6 Apr 1914; farmer; wounded 4 Jul 1942; killed in action 24 Oct 1942.