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To Greece

The Germans enter Athens; 12 Army issues Further Orders

The Germans enter Athens; 12 Army issues Further Orders

The reconnaissance units of XVIII and XXXX Corps had meanwhile been hastening southwards. At a demolition south of Malakasa they were held up until it was partially repaired, but the motorcyclists had then, very unsportingly, raced ahead, leaving the armoured car groups to complete the task. The motor-cycle platoon of 47 Anti-Tank Unit and elements of 8/800 Brandenburg Regiment entered Athens at 8.10 a.m. and hurried to raise the swastika on the Acropolis. The two officers then sent an unauthorised telegram to Hitler informing him of the capture of the city. Months later the commander of 5 Panzer Division was still protesting that the work of his unit had been disregarded. As it was, the armoured car group had arrived shortly after the motor-cyclists and the city had been officially surrendered to its commander. The leading elements of 2 MC Battalion also reached the city, but the commanders of XXXX Corps and 5 Panzer Division, Generals Stumme and Fehn respectively, arrived about the same time and soon sent them out of the city and south-eastwards towards Lavrion.

That afternoon, 27 April, 12 Army issued further orders and cleared the situation: XVIII Corps would occupy Athens; the SS ‘Adolf Hitler’ Division would move down the west coast of the Peloponnese towards Pirgos; XXXX Corps would despatch the advanced guard of 5 Panzer Division as fast as possible towards Lavrion and the main body through Corinth to Argos, Tripolis, Sparta and Kalamata.

The day was therefore notable for the occupation of Athens and page 440 the brief engagement at Markopoulon between the force moving south-east towards Lavrion and 4 New Zealand Brigade waiting to embark that night from Porto Rafti. Fifth Panzer Division reached Corinth, took over the area from the parachute units and constructed a bridge across the eastern end of the canal. Away to the west at Patrai III Battalion SS ‘Adolf Hitler’ Division crossed the Gulf of Corinth and captured any detachments from 3 Royal Tank Regiment which had not been able to withdraw with the main body. Assembling two trains and acting on its original orders, the battalion then went to the canal area only to find 5 Panzer Division alread established.

Second Motor Cycle Battalion, the German force detailed to occupy Lavrion, left Athens at 3 p.m., and when the commander approached Markopoulon he was surprised to be told by his advanced party that ‘between Markopoulon and Porto Rafti there were English troops who were abandoning their vehicles and fleeing on foot towards the coast.’ Troops were immediately sent to investigate, but once through the village they came under the accurate fire of ‘at least 6 guns, mortars and MGs.’ A fighting patrol which was then sent forward reported the strongly held positions between the village and Porto Rafti. The German commander, having no artillery, sent his adjutant to ask XXXX Corps for a Stuka attack and ordered his own troops not to advance east of the village. Fortunately for 4 Brigade it was then too late for this attack to be arranged and too late when the adjutant returned for the battalion to move forward. The brigade group was therefore able to make its undisturbed withdrawal, a German patrol reporting next morning that all the British troops had gone.