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To Greece

Adjustments to the Line, 21 April, and Night 21–22 April

Adjustments to the Line, 21 April, and Night 21–22 April

In the New Zealand sector on 21 April the troops were hastily digging in, camouflaging and preparing barbed-wire entanglements across the front. Changes were still being made to adjust the line so that each brigade should have two battalions forward and one in reserve, but this meant further movement for several units.

On the right flank 24 Battalion, which had already moved forward, was now well established about Ay Trias, a deserted village with spring vegetables and abandoned poultry. The line ran roughly north and south from the sea to the LamiaMolos road. Three companies, A, B and C, held from the coast to the road, while D Company was in reserve behind C Company and just south of the highway. Twenty-fifth Battalion now came up from the Molos area to take over the area in which 22 Battalion had been preparing positions and linking up the left flank of 6 Brigade with the right flank of 5 Brigade. All six platoons of D and B Companies were in line along the hills. A Company was at right angles to the road, with 9 Platoon astride it and 8 and 7 Platoons on the south side towards the hills.

page 360

Twenty-sixth Battalion, which had just come through1 by motor transport from the Australian sector, was in brigade reserve to the west of Molos with its Bren carriers patrolling the coast between 24 Battalion and 4 Brigade.

Farther west in the 5 Brigade sector there was similar haste in the preparation of the line and in the movement of units. Twenty-second Battalion had moved forward for the third time and was now between 25 and 28 (Maori) Battalions. The Maoris, assisted by a company from 18 Battalion, were wiring and preparing slit trenches and enjoying the bath houses alongside the upper reaches of the Thermopylae stream. And on the extreme left 23 Battalion was busily settling down. The Australians had taken over the great bend in the road below Brallos Pass, leaving D Company free to join A Company and to assist in the packing of wire and supplies up the steep slopes.

As 27 (Machine Gun) Battalion had reassembled after the withdrawal from the north, companies were allocated to support all units: 3 Company with 6 Brigade; 4 Company with 5 Brigade; 1 Company, less a platoon, with 4 Brigade; and 2 Company, less a platoon, in Divisional Reserve. The detached platoons were about the Longos headland with a beach-watching role.

In the forward areas the situation throughout the day gradually became more tense. German vehicles could be seen entering Lamia and late that afternoon the Australian artillery on the Brallos Pass road opened fire on transport moving south towards the Sperkhios River.

About the same time two motor-cyclists rode confidently up to the demolished bridge which was picketed by the carrier platoon. One German was killed, the other captured. They were from 8 Potsdam Reconnaissance Unit (5 Panzer Division), of which one company had entered Lamia about midday. The main body of the division was still strung out along the highway, but after dark the lights in the distant hills showed that hundreds of vehicles were approaching the town.

There was also much movement behind the New Zealand lines, where 4 Brigade was preparing to take over its task of coast-watching and anti-parachute defence in the rear areas. At dusk 20 Battalion moved to the stretch between Karia and Cape Knimis, 19 Battalion began to move south-east of Molos and 18 Battalion went to the south of Skarfia. These moves were being made when orders were received for one battalion to be sent immediately to a dispersal area four miles west of Levadhia. From there it would reconnoitre defensive positions in the Delphi Pass. No reasons page 361 were given and no record can be found, but it is probable that the news of the Greek surrender in Epirus forced this move to cover the extreme left flank. Whatever it was, 19 Battalion in the hastily collected trucks of the Ammunition Company was taken that night to Levadhia.

1 See p. 310.