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To Greece

The German Advance from Thermopylae

The German Advance from Thermopylae

AT 2.30 a.m. on 25 April the advanced guard of the German forces had entered Molos soon after 6 New Zealand Brigade Group had left the Thermopylae line. Units from Baacke Group hastened along the coast road, reaching Atalandi by midday and then continuing either along the coast or inland to Levadhia, where they were halted by a demolished bridge.

Next day, 26 April, there were clear-cut orders from General Stumme.1 Fifth Panzer Division was to advance beyond Thebes, the main body approaching Corinth and a small force entering Athens and the ports of Piræus, Lavrion and Marathon. Units of XVIII Corps were to occupy the country north of Athens and east of Amfiklia; away to the west elements of SS ‘Adolf Hitler’ Division were to advance to the Gulf of Corinth, cross to Patrai and enter Corinth from the west.

The forward elements of I/31 Panzer Regiment, a unit of XXXX Corps, thereupon advanced beyond Thebes and came under fire from 4 New Zealand Brigade Group at Kriekouki. The artillery with this reconnaissance force then went into action but no immediate attempt was made to approach Athens by this route. The main body of I/31 Panzer Regiment turned eastwards along the Khalkis road to the Spaidhes area, beyond which there was no further movement by tanks. But 8 Reconnaissance Unit and the motor-cycle platoon of 47 Anti-Tank Unit,2 using armoured cars, continued southwards and by nightfall were at and even beyond Malakasa, a village east of Thebes and north of Athens. In the same area there were 2 Motor Cycle Battalion and elements of 8/800 Brandenburg Regiment. After landing on the northern shores of Euboea they had moved south to Khalkis and returned to the mainland by boat or across the bridge, which they had repaired late that afternoon. As they had orders to approach Athens and not the

1 Commander of XXXX Corps and, temporarily, of XVIII Corps. See p. 417.

2 From 6 Mountain Division.

page 433 country to the east, it would seem that XVIII Corps had disregarded its orders1 from General Stumme and was determined to have one of its own units make the first entry into the historic city.

1 See pp. 417, 439.