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To Greece

The Australian Withdrawal

The Australian Withdrawal

In the Australian sector the right flank was not threatened and 2/1 Battalion had, by the late afternoon, been withdrawn to the main highway. West of Brallos Pass, however, there were three attempts by the Germans to turn the left flank. In the 2/11 Battalion area 55 Motor Cycle Battalion had been held up in the gorge west of Kalivia by artillery and machine-gun fire. But II/141 Mountain Regiment had completed a left hook across the rough country west and south of the defences about Skamnos. Fifty-fifth Motor Cycle Battalion renewed its advance and with mortar fire and subsequent attack forced the withdrawal southwards of the forward companies to another line at which there was the reserve company, and from which the machine-gunners could cover the vacated territory. A second and wider move to the west by two companies of II/141 Mountain Regiment was apparent about 6 p.m. and until dusk the company from 2/1 Battalion about Gravia was under fire.

With these threats of encirclement and the possibility of 2/11 Battalion being in serious difficulty, Brigadier Vasey decided about 6 p.m. that the withdrawal of 19 Brigade must be advanced by half an hour: 2/1 and 2/4 Battalions and attached troops to 8 p.m. and 2/11 Battalion to 8.30 p.m.

Meanwhile the Germans were struggling to cut off the withdrawal of 2/11 Battalion. Nos. 6 and 7 Companies from 141 Mountain Regiment appeared to the south-west of Skamnos but they were soon held up by ‘heavy shellfire’. No. 7 Company and 1 Company, which had been following it, were then ordered to cut the main road by moving through the scrub and over the ridges to Paliokhori, but by the time they reached it the Australians had withdrawn. And away to the south 8 and 9 Companies approached Gravia but had to halt just short of Evangelistria.

At 9 p.m. 2/11 Battalion and the company from 2/1 Battalion had moved back to the embussing area near Brallos, from which by 10.15 p.m., when the last trucks were moving off, the German page 395 flares could be seen rising away to the south-west. Later in the night the 2/5 Battalion group which had been covering the road from Delphi withdrew and moved south through Thebes.

The German attempt to turn the left flank of W Force had failed. The country had been too rough, food had been short and the supporting artillery could not be brought within range. The Australian defensive fire, particularly that of 2/2 Field Regiment, had been most effective.1 And now on the morning of 25 April 19 Brigade was through the New Zealand rearguard south of Thebes and moving back to the olive groves at Megara and the beaches from which it was to embark that night, 25–26 April.

1 Jais Battle Group had 3 killed and 23 wounded; no casualty return for 55 MC Battalion is available.