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To Greece

The Rearguard at Volos

The Rearguard at Volos

By then Anzac Corps on 19–20 April had completed its withdrawal. On the coastal route 6 Brigade Group had been informed,1 probably after Freyberg had visited the crumbling front about Tempe, that it must cover the withdrawal2 of Allen Force.

1 There is no record of this instruction nor of the means by which it was given; see p. 311.

page 348 Consequently, on the morning of 19 April 24 Battalion was astride the road at Nea Ankhialos facing Volos, and 25 Battalion was on the high ground south of and facing Velestinon. But almost immediately it was decided that the withdrawal should be continued in daylight: the Luftwaffe had made no reconnaissance, remnants of Allen Force had been collected and there were no signs of the enemy following up.

Twenty-fifth Battalion, still having the lorries of 4 RMT Company, was able to make an immediate and undisturbed withdrawal, but for 24 Battalion it was not so simple. The vehicles in which its companies had been withdrawn from Elasson were now 70 miles away in the divisional area at Molos. Uncertain that any transport could be sent back, Lieutenant-Colonel Shuttleworth ordered his battalion to prepare for a long march. At 10 a.m. the companies, loaded with arms and equipment, were on the road to Lamia but they had covered only about 12 miles before they were halted. Shuttleworth had decided that it would be wiser to take up a defensive position just north of Almiros and there wait for the first to come, the enemy or the expected transport.

The brigade rearguard,1 commanded by Major Williams and supported by the Divisional Cavalry Regiment and C Troop 5 Field Regiment, had remained astride the road north-west of Volos directing to Molos the remnants of Allen Force which were coming in from the Tempe area. But about midday it was instructed to withdraw immediately to cover the withdrawal to Molos of 6 Brigade. Outside Almiros it became the rearguard for 24 Battalion, with the Divisional Cavalry Regiment towards the hills in the north-west and the main body in a defensive position supported by C Troop 5 Field Regiment. Meanwhile Regimental Headquarters, Divisional Cavalry Regiment, had wirelessed back to Divisional Headquarters asking for transport. About 6 p.m., as a result of this message, or more probably because Lieutenant Carnachan,2 the intelligence officer of 24 Battalion, had gone back to Divisional Headquarters, the lorries of 4 RMT Company came up from Molos. The battalion crowded aboard and the convoy hastened towards Lamia. As the Germans were known to be advancing towards that junction town the rearguard led the way, leaving the Divisional Cavalry Regiment to cover the withdrawal. There was an almost immediate delay because of an air raid, which resulted in parts of Lamia being in flames when the convoy went through, but by dawn next morning the battalion was safely at Thermopylae.

2 Capt J. L. G. Carnachan; Auckland; born Waihi, 4 Dec 1903; school-teacher; p.w. 30 Nov 1941.