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To Greece

Formation of the Reinforcement Battalion at Voula

Formation of the Reinforcement Battalion at Voula

At Voula there still remained the front-line reinforcements who had assembled there after the arrival of the different convoys or after the movement of the brigades to the Mount Olympus area. In March as many as fourteen different detachments from the camp had been scattered about the AthensPiræus area as anti-aircraft gunners, mine spotters and guards for the many store and ammunition dumps. Some of this work had been taken over by 21 Battalion, but after that unit joined the Division on 6 April the guard duties were again the responsibility of the group. Once there was the chance of German landings two detachments of fifty were always on call to meet paratroop attacks, and after 17 April some eighty-five men under Captain Hutchison4 were on guard duties about the Hassani airfield. At the same time officers were often detailed for special duties. On 20 April, for example, Captain Baker5 and Second-Lieutenant Porter6 of the Maori Battalion were sent to Force Headquarters in Athens. There they were told that they were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Barter, who was about to establish an evacuation point at Megara. They left immediately and were present when the New Zealand groups came in from Voula Camp.

After the Convalescent Hospital and attached units had made their sudden exodus on the night of 21–22 April there were four page 371 days of intense activity and reorganisation. Including the detachments on guard about Athens, there were some 70 officers and 800 other ranks in the group. They came from thirty-one different units, had little fighting equipment and almost no transport. Trucks, Brens, machine guns and anti-tank rifles had to be ‘collected’ from the now loosely guarded ordnance depots. All this was done, with Captain Yates1 bringing order out of chaos and organising the men into companies: Headquarters Company, with engineer, anti-tank and machine-gun platoons, and four companies of infantry.

From the camp itself there was still some movement. An officer from the remnants2 of 21 Battalion, then outside Athens prior to its embarkation, appeared and the platoon organised from that unit's reinforcements was allowed to join the main body and embark with 5 Brigade on the night of 24–25 April. Other men were detailed for duties outside Athens. Two small detachments under the command of Lieutenant Findlay3 and another subaltern were sent to guard the Khalkis bridge to Euboea Island, the plan at this stage being for a New Zealand brigade to embark4 from that area. Another detachment, with an Australian unit, went under the command of Second-Lieutenant Brickell5 to the Greek barracks in Athens and took the German prisoners captured at Servia to a transport in Piræus harbour.

The same day, 23 April, movement orders were received. The battalion became part of Force troops and was ordered to proceed to Navplion on the night of 25–26 April for embarkation from ‘T’ Beach on the night of 26–27 April. During daylight on 24 April Lieutenants Curtis and Spackman6 were sent to select assembly areas outside Navplion and after dark on the night of 25–26 April the battalion moved out, the guards from the wharves, dumps and airfield having come into camp or assembled along the highway to join the convoy.

4 Capt O. J. Hutchison; Hokitika; born Hokitika, 22 May 1904; grocer's assistant.

5 Lt-Col F. Baker, DSO, ED, m.i.d.; born Kohukohu, Hokianga, 19 Jun 1908; civil servant; CO 28 (Maori) Bn Jul–Nov 1942; twice wounded; Director of Rehabilitation, 1943–54; Public Service Commissioner, 1954–58; died Wellington, 1 Jun 1958.

6 Maj W. Porter, MC and bar; Kaeo; born Taumarere, 23 Aug 1915; taxi driver; twice wounded.

1 Capt H. S. D. Yates, ED; Christchurch; born Invercargill, 23 Apr 1911; clerk; p.w. 28 Apr 1941.

2 See p. 376.

3 Capt J. S. Findlay, ED; Dunedin; born Dunedin, 5 Sep 1909; painter; p.w. 29 Apr 1941.

4 See p. 372.

5 Capt D. R. Brickell; Dunedin; born Dunedin, 24 Mar 1915; confectionery manufacturer; p.w. 29 Apr 1941.

6 Capt F. G. Spackman; Wairoa; born Napier, 17 Jun 1920; civil servant; p.w. Apr 1941; GSO III (Int) J Force Nov 1945–Jul 1946.