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To Greece

New Zealand Division during 25 April and Night 25–26 April

New Zealand Division during 25 April and Night 25–26 April

The movements of 4 and 6 Brigades were immediately adjusted according to these changes in the plan of evacuation. From the north, where 4 Brigade1 was preparing its defences at Kriekouki, the units for Isthmus Force2 went south to the canal area. The same morning, 25 April, 6 Brigade and the three artillery regiments came through from Thermopylae. The artillery, on orders from Brigadier Miles, continued to move south, following the twisting and winding highway through a world of pine-clad ridges to Elevsis and then following the highway eastwards into Athens. There the convoy was given a wonderful reception; the populace was charged with emotion, the men cheering and the women showering the trucks with flowers and saying ‘Thank you for your help’ and ‘Come again’. To the east of the city in the ‘Marathon area’ inland from Rafina and Porto Rafti, the column was halted by the embarkation staff and the units were directed to lying-up areas, where they were to remain that night and all the next day, 26 April.

With 6 Brigade the withdrawal was one of successive adjustments and changes of plan. At daylight the rear of the convoy was still north of Thebes, but German air activity was not intense and the convoy passed through the village of Kriekouki, over the steep ridge now held by 4 Brigade and south beyond the dusty village of Mazi. Here in a dry, rock-strewn countryside cloaked with an extensive forest of young pine trees the battalions took cover preparatory to moving to the neighbourhood of Tatoi to cover the beaches at Rafina and Porto Rafti. In fact the Brigadier and his staff had been on their way to study the new positions when they met General Freyberg returning from Athens with the news that the embarkation plans had been changed. The brigade was that night to go to the Peloponnese and spend the following day, 26 page 408 April, under cover a few miles to the south of the canal. The units under command were to continue on their way to the Porto Rafti area.

The battalion commanders and the Brigade Major then went south to select positions in the canal area. The route over the hills to Elevsis was uneventful but the journey westwards to the canal was disturbing. The view across the bay to Salamis was enchanting and the road above the cliffs was remarkable from an engineering point of view, but it was a death-trap for any large unit which attempted to use it during daylight. For miles it was strewn with wrecked trucks and discarded equipment.

That afternoon the brigade's role was changed once again. The battalions would hasten some 70 miles south of the canal to Tripolis, a town in the centre of the Peloponnese at the junction point of roads from Patrai, Corinth and Monemvasia. If the whole brigade could not get there by next morning, 26 April, detachments at least were to be sent forward to block the western approaches. So, as soon as it was dark, 6 Brigade was on the move. About midnight, 25–26 April, the battalion commanders were met at the Corinth Canal, the altered orders were explained to them and the long convoy carried on southwards towards Argos.

The same night Advanced Headquarters New Zealand Division moved south, going through Argos to the village of Miloi at which General Wilson had set up his headquarters.

1 See pp. 43341.

2 See pp. 400, 41516.